Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What will it look like?

Fred the kit builder's blog has an african mahogany guitar with dark bindings, and french polish.

It is here: http://fredkitbuilder.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/continuing-work/

These pictures are not mine! I'm just posting his pictures here. It gives you a really good idea how mine will look, however. I could always swap out to lighter binding, or color the finish darker with dark shellac. All to be determined.

I do like this, better, though...it's a Santa Cruz 00 with a figured mahogany body. It's not french polish, but if I can figure out how to tint like this while doing tests, I would be happy.

I like the dark heel plate. That's a nice touch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Making a luthier dish

I haven't done much to the guitar lately. Instead I've been making more tools. The build has suffered a couple of setbacks: I was unhappy with the evenness of the top rim after I glued it, so I removed the top. And after this happened, humidity changes in my shop caused the top and back to lose some of their shape. The problems weren't major, they are recoverable, but in my quest for perfection, I plan to back up and re-do several things.

One conclusion I've made as a result of all this is to give up on using 2"x2"s with a radius cut into them to sand the edges of the rim, or to glue bracing onto the top and back. From now on I'll used radiused dishes: a 25' radius for the top and a 15' radius for the back. So, where to acquire radiused dishes? They're not cheap.

So here is the 3/4" mdf material ($7 at Menards) after I cut two 24" circles out a 2'x4' sheet (slooooowly with a jigsaw). I'm gluing the two pieces together using a spray on adhesive. Those are weights stacked on the pieces, after applying the adhesive. 1.5" is more than enough thickness. I want my dish to be sturdy.

My jigsaw job (it was slow going!) wasn't perfect, but nothing I can't clean up later.

Here is part of the jig I'll use to cut the radius into the disc. (Don't be impressed, I borrowed it. Still, it wouldn't be hard to make, at all.)

I have two pieces that fit on top of the board, one with a 15' radius and another with a 25' radius.

Here's the attachment that fits on the bottom of my laminate trimmer. I'll use a 1/2" flat cut bit.

My trimmer lacks the power to move a large bit thru something like fiberboard, so I'll make several passes, each time lowering the bit into the material, until I have a radiused shape that is 24" across.

Here's how it looks in my go bar deck.

This was the 25' radius, and it produced mounds of dust. Next will be the 15' disc, which will make even more...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

French Polish tests

I have Crohn's Disease, which makes it pretty much impossible for me to work with toxins like denatured alcohol or nitrocellulose lacquer. The non-toxicity of French Polish is a big factor in my wanting to work with it. But besides all that, I'm really drawn to the art of it, as well as the results. It doesn't hinder the sound of an instrument like lacquer can, and is very easy to repair. It looks great, and a french polished neck feels great to play.

I'm strictly avoiding hardware store chemicals. Here's what I'm using to dissolve my shellac flakes:

It's illegal to buy or sell 190 proof alcohol in the state of Michigan. I picked up this bottle in Louisville during our Christmas trip. Don't get me started on how stupid our laws are! When poison is added to alcohol, you can buy it much cheaper. Why is that? It's ridiculous. Heck, didn't those prohibitionists realize that a few swigs really brings out the shine?

Before attempting French Polish on the instrument, I'll conduct some tests on offcuts from the back, as well as a piece of Honduran Mahogany scrap that looks a lot like the wood of the neck of this guitar.

I bought garnet shellac flakes from rockler.com, but soon after, discovered that my local Woodcraft store carried blonde shellac flakes for about half of what I paid to Rockler.

Blonde shellac flakes:

Garnet shellac flakes:

After sealing my test pieces it looks like the African mahogany from the body sealed with garnet shellac will pretty closely match the Honduran mahogany of the neck sealed with blonde shellac.

Left to right: African mahogany sealed with blonde shellac, Honduran mahogany sealed with blonde shellac, African mahogany sealed with garnet shellac.

Here's a little thrift store salt shaker I'm using for a pumice applicator.

After working on these test pieces, I'm planning on French Polishing my Esquire, as a secondary test, before working on this guitar. A few years ago, I put together this Esquire using various pieces.

The body was unfinished, and I just sprayed it with a few coats of satin nitro from a spray can. I didn't seal the wood, or fill the pores, or anything. I didn't much care about a professional finish. Now that I'm more interested in these things, it will be fun to get the Esquire looking much nicer. It might even inspire me to play it more.

Fingerboard side dots

On my first guitar I didn't have the little round plastic like Martin uses, so I used teeny birch dowels from the craft aisle at my grocery store. This kit came with side dot material so I used that this time. It looks much cleaner than what I used before.