Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I’ve been doing lots of repairs over the summer with plenty of variety to keep things interesting;  replacing and refretting fingerboards, crack repairs, refinishing, broken necks, loose braces, fitting bridges, new nuts, setups. I love the variety of this job!

After all the repairs, it’s nice to get started on my latest guitar. A commission for an Oxwich parlour guitar. The brief was to use as many Welsh woods as possible so I’m using Walnut for the back/sides, Sycamore for the neck, bog oak for the fingerboard and bridge, figured oak for the binding and head veneer. The soundboard is from Prince of Wales island… Alaska. To continue the welsh theme I’m inlaying a celtic knotwork rosette around the soundhole.

In beekeeping news, all 3 hives are doing well, I collected 19 jars of honey from the largest hive, they’re all medicine and fed for the winter so fingers crossed for a good year next year.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Hi all, been busy doing lots of repairs and setups recently; working on enough floyd rose tremelos to last a lifetime as well as a couple of refrets (I don't just do refrets, although sometimes it seems like it). One was a classical guitar built in Nicuragua, its a nice instrument using local tonewoods; it'd be nice to have mahogany and Cocobolo growing in your back garden. The frets were a weak point of the guitar, stoned badly and made of a poor quality metal. The customer also wanted a slight camber on the fingerboard to help with those awkward classical positions. The next refret was to a tenor banjo, this refret was unusual in that the fingerboard was made of celluloid imitation mother of pearl (sometimes called mother of toilet seat) so a slightly different technique was called for. Instead of hammering in the frets as I would normally do with a wooden fingerboard I pressed them in using a caul and glued them in place using thin superglue, this stopped the fingerboard from cracking when installing the frets.

Another job, a bit out of the ordinary for me was to make a 'strat' style body with Humbucker- single coil- Humbucker routing and more exaggerated contouring. Lots of routing, sanding and rasping the outcome was very nice.

I'm off on Holiday for the next few weeks. If you are in the area at the end of the month the craft centre, where my workshop is, is showing a couple of my guitars as well as a work in progress (back, sides and front in pieces) as part of an exhibition, so if you are interested in seeing the inside of a guitar, some of my instruments and a nice cup of tea and cake then drop in.

Details on the website ( I think)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Last week was very much 'new guitar week' both for me and for my first 'student' Richard who has been coming to my workshop a couple of times a week since the autumn to build himself a guitar. Whilst his aim at the beginning was to build himself a guitar which first and foremost had good tone with looks coming a distant second, he pretty quickly succumbed to pretty woods and shiny bits of shell. He's ended up with a guitar that looks great and sounds great too, the sound will continue to improve over the coming days, weeks and months as the wood loosens up and things settle down. The soundboard is European spruce. Back sides and neck are Claro Walnut. Binding and end fillet are Very figured Koa, fingerboard and front headstock veneer are ebony while the back veneer and bridge are burr oak and Indian Rosewood respectively. Rosette is abalone, the finish is Nitro cellulose over french polish.

Well done Richard and thanks for the canoe!

My new guitar is the first of a new body shape for me, my usual long scale length and a neck that joins the body at the 14th fret. Continuing the theme of naming my guitars after places I have fond memories of from summer holidays camping in West Wales this is the Rhossili model and will be on my website just as soon as I take some flashy photos of it. This particular guitar has a sitka spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, Koa binding ( that I managed to use before Richard nabbed the rest of it) reclaimed Mahogany neck Rosewood bridge and ebony fingerboard and headstock veneer. Its a bit of a departure for me as I usually build guitars suited for fingerpicking and this is a bit more of an all rounder, the harder sitka spruce usually favours plectrum playing but we'll see as the sound opens up.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I've had a bevvie of repairs in recently, so I thought I'd share them. First up is a Martin 000-18 reissue owned by nick from the excellent blues duo with a loose bridge. Sometimes if a bridge is only a little loose on the corners, then a little glue can simply be injected and then clamped but this one was pretty loose so it had to come off. I use a variety of knives to get underneath the bridge. Its a tricky process, great care has to be taken not to slip the knife into the soft spruce of the soundboard or put a knife through the finish but after a few minutes and a loud 'pop' the bridge comes off.

Once the bridge was off, I scraped off the old glue residue from the bridge and soundboard. Its very important to have a very wood to wood glue join in order for the glue to perform. The bridge is one of the most critical glue joins on a guitar as it has to take the load of the strings. Once I glued the bridge on and left it clamped up for a day I spent some time at the buffing wheel to touch up a few lacquer cracks which had developedover time, then the guitar was restrung and sent out the door.

Another job was to refret a very nice but much used parlour guitar made by Pete Howlett. The frets were first removed. I use a soldering iron to heat the fret and a little lemon oil to soften and lubricate the wire before using special pliers to gently ease the frets out. Once out the fingerboard was prepared, sanded flat and any chip outs repaired. Then the new frets were installed. This guitar has binding, so the ends of the tangs have to be removed so that only the top of the crown is on top of the binding. Once the frets were installed I then levelled and reprofiled them prior to restringing. After this the guitar was a real beauty to play and should be good for many years yet.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The last week or so has been relativley light on repairs coming in so I've had a chance to catch up on some guitar building which has had to take a bit of a back seat recently. You can see the body ready to go and the neck being aligned before gluing on the fingerboard. Visible is the mortise and tenon I use to attach the neck. Not visible are the bolts that locate through the soundhole to secure the neck in place. Sometimes a neck will need a little adjustment left or right to ensure proper alignment, I do this by shaving slivers off the cheeks of the neck but this one was pretty good already. You can also see my new Gizmo for checking the alignment of the neck and body, it centers itself on the neck shaft and projects the centreline down onto the body. This isn't any more accurate than the method I previously used but it does save a lot of fiddling about with rulers and straight edges! I've been building this guitar alongside Richard, my 'student' who is learning to build his own guitar, his is getting very near to finishing so I'll post a couple of pics of his finished instrument when it's done, It's a figured Walnut and Euorpean spruce OM sized beaut!

This week I've had a workshop full of repairs in, finish repairs, bridge reglues, refrets setups so I'll be kept busy for the next week. Pics to follow.

Also I couldn't resist showing off a few pictures of my honeybees, the colony is very big and gathering lots of honey, I have 2 supers (boxes full of honey) on and touch wood will have a good crop of honey this year.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

New blog, new guitar

Hello, welcome to my new blog.

I thought I'd start off with a few pictures of my latest guitar, it's quite rare I get to build an archtop and this one is a little different from my usual Manorbiers. It is built using laminated woods rather than solid carved timbers. This makes building a little easier as I don't have to spend weeks carving the soundboard and back, although it is tricky and time consiming laying up all the laminates. The reasoning behind using laminates instead of solid woods is that solid soundboards and backs are prone to feedback on electric archtops at high volume.
No such problems so far, and it has been to a high volume, The woods used are laminated sitka spruce for the soundboard, maple/ poplar/maple laminates for the back and sides, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard and bridge and mother of pearl inlays on the headstock and fingerboard, finish is Nitro cellulose.

The pickups were hound wound by David of heavy air pickups and sound great!
Many thanks to the Manorbiers' new owner Bob for the lovely photos.

I will have a new guitar available soon, the prototypes are finished and sound very promising, so watch this space!