Sunday, February 23, 2014

No. 3. All Cut Up!

In the Build My Guitar world, things are moving quite quickly, mainly because luthier Bruce Roper has a brand new band saw, a bad boy that has no trouble cutting through ten feet of sapele that is about three feet wide and about an inch thick.

Here's what he got!
Bruce Roper surveys the guitar sets he cut from his sapele board
He has 20 sets of guitar tops, backs and sides cut from the single board. There is not much waste in guitar building, at least not at Bruce's shop. Lots of the sets are going to be flitched, which, as it understand it, means matched top and bottom and side by side. It all amounts to a lot of lovely guitars way down the road, it not built by Bruce, then by the people who buy his sets. I am immensely impressed at Bruce's ability to cut up this wood so quickly. We only carried it into his shop on Friday, and here it is in pieces ready for use on Sunday night. He has already checked the moisture content and found it to be ideal.

This is only my third blog entry in this process of tracing the construction of a guitar from a big slab of wood to the playable product, and we are already at the point at which Bruce can start shaping my individual guitar. He has been building and repairing guitars for decades at The Old Town School of Folk Music, so I am not surprised at his skill and speed. I guess what I am surprised about is that it is aimed at me. What good fortune. Bruce would not have taken a "commission" from me to custom build a guitar. But he seems very happy just offering the instrument to me in exchange for telling its story.

Here is how my guitar looks at this stage. Okay, so that's not so impressive unless you understand the steps involved. Bruce was putting the form used to finish the sides of the guitar over the raw back of the instrument so I would see that imperfections will essentially be covered by bindings and a couple of other essential things. I told him I kind of like the imperfections, which include some tiny black wormholes, rough spots in the grain and the like.

Most of those things will disappear in the finishing process, but I hope some of them remain. I like the idea of imperfection. Being quite imperfect myself, I know that it is not so much an impediment as an identifying characteristic that separates THIS Charlie Madigan from THAT Charlie Madigan, or anyone else. This guitar will be mine when it is completed, and I want to know each of is little bumps and dimples.

But first things first. Bruce has the two sides of the back of the guitar cut out (that's what is under the form). Now he needs to run them through a drum sander to get exactly the right thickness, then through a joiner to make certain the edges are tight as can be. Then he will position them on each side of a thin strip of hardwood and use a back support to glue them all together. Something similar will happen to the top, which is made in this case from the same wood as the back.

Most modern guitars, I would guess, particularly good ones, use special spruces for the top, maybe Sitka or Engelmann, sometimes even Cedar.  Then they use mahogany or rosewood or some other hardwood for the sides and back. We talked about that. I didn't want that. Sapele is an African wood that looks a lot like mahogany (it is not) when it is sanded up, filled and finished. It will take on a nice red look when it is completed. I had a Guild Guitar that was mahogany all over, nice and red and with a spectacular bright sound and I would not mind having an instrument that could match that kind of presence. Whether this one will or won't remains to be seen. That one was a dreadnaught guitar, and this one will be built along the lines of a 1930s Nick Lucas Gibson. But I hope it has some of that voice.

One thing for sure, it will look very cool.

We're still talking about how to market this blog. Those of you who blog know how hard that is, and I would appreciate any advice on spreading the word about this. One plan is to build two of these guitars and use the second one for something quite special that I'm not talking about yet. We will see.

We're not doing this for money. Bruce just wants people to know how guitars a made, and I just want the guitar. Call me selfish. The idea is growing on me, fueling what is becoming a fond thought: "There is no such thing as too many guitars."

That would be a great epitaph!

(Coming soon...the back, the top and decorations.)

1 comment:

  1. This is exciting...watching the birth of a new voice in the world of guitars.