Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Special Finishing Touches

Here's something you should see before it's finished:

It looks kind of like a bird, but it's not a bird at all. It's a spark, or maybe a special star. I don't know. It's a little design Bruce Roper decided I needed on the top of my guitar, and I completely agreed. He drew it on paper first then etched out with a wax pencil on the guitar head.
Almost all guitars have something to identify themselves up on top. But typically, it's just going to be a brand name. Gibson is distinctive. C.F. Martin is distinctive, too. The rest of them all have their look, but the common nature of them kind of diminishes them, to my mind. So I told Bruce to be as creative as he wanted to be without going outside the boundaries of taste. He already has a relief "M" in the top to identify it as Madigan's guitar. The little flash you can see here will make that even more clear.

How he does it makes it even more interesting. Were he using Mother of Pearl or any other kind of flashy insert, he would have to cut the space to the exact size then the perfect depth then inset the piece of whatever he is using. He might even have to cut the pearl in a design, which is a tedious, difficult process best done underwater because of the effect pearl dust can have on your lungs.

Bruce has found an easier way.

Dental acrylic. Yes. That stuff that gets put into teeth. It's hard as a rock once it sets, doesn't expand or shrink with humidity and looks grand when it's finished. He will mix a paste of epoxy and dental acrylic powder to create a pearl-like goo that he will dab into the impression he has made on the head of my guitar. Then it will set and he will run the top through a belt sander and what comes out looks just like a fancy inlay, but all the risk has been taken out of the process. The hardest part is drawing the symbol and cutting away some hardwood with an Exacto knife with a fresh blade.

It's not a difficult cut, but it takes a lot of pressure that has to be kept away from the outside of the blade. You don't want to disturb the fibers in the adjacent hardwood (rosewood) or the inlay will have what looks like a dent in it. Bruce works patiently with the Exacto Knife, chipping away at the wood. He lifts out tiny particles at one time. I could see myself wrecking this in a hundred ways, but as I watch, Bruce talks about inlays and masterfully slices away.

I can't show you what it looks like this time, but when we get back to it in a few weeks (vacatus interruptus!) it will be sanded down and ready to sparkle.

My lust for this instrument grows as though there were a teenage boy inside of me watching the neighbor lady wash her Thunderbird in a halter top and bikini shorts with lots of soap and water and lots of shifting around.

Wait a minute! Where did THAT come from? There is no place for the suggestively subjunctive mood in a story about building a guitar.

Or is there?

Let me just put it this way. I already love the look of this guitar. I can hardly wait to play it. I can hardly wait for you to hear it.

That's what I meant, without the halter top, bikini bottom and lots of soap.

The rest of the visit was taken up by what might seem a little tedious, but is very important. Bruce worked at sanding the neck and taking out any bumps or rough spots. Every few minutes, he handed it to me to ask me how it felt, then made adjustments.

All of that made me feel pretty special. No one has ever made a custom guitar for me and I like the process a lot. So much, in fact, that I might make one myself when this one is finished. We moved it outside before we started and took a picture with one of Bruce's other guitars for comparison.

Please come back in a few weeks when we finish this project. It needs more gun oil, more adjustment and a couple of final things.

Then, music!

1 comment:

  1. Well....just have to wait to see and hear what looks to be a fabulous guitar...have a nice time on vacation..I mean yea we will!