Sunday, 29 September 2019

#19



I tell you a story about this guitar. This is my OM model #19, finished in April 2017. I build it in a batch of three guitars and this one has not been on order so I tryed out a few things. I got this amazing top that sounded incredible and I wanted to try out some changes with the bracing. So I had high hopes for this guitar.
When I strung it up it was a desaster. I remember exactly how disappointed I was. It sounded shit. I mean it. I`m mostly on the sceptical side about my guitars especially soundwise but I was ok with all the other 18 guitars and the other two from the batch turned out good. But not this one.

And this disappointment really got me thinking. After a few weeks of coming back to the guitar and playing it and somwhow hoping that all that was wrong would mysteriously disapear (didn`t happen) I figured I should use this as a chance to grow. Because my immediate reaction was a deep doubt about what I was doing. Maybe I was a shitty guitarbuilder (I still think that sometimes)? But the most important thing was, how could I professionally offer a custom guitar to clients and not be sure it won´t be a total pratfall?!

I took a few more weeks to overcome the frustration. And with the mood changing I tryed to turn this into Motivation. I would work on the guitar and learn. I NEED to learn what made this guitar fail. And I NEED to understand how I can make sure this won`t happen again and if I cannot control that enough then how I can turn it around and make it sound.

And boy I learned from this thing.

So first I hung it on the wall and let it sit for a couple of months. I would give it a Chance to settle in and then come back and see. Maybe some of the characteristics will change. They didn`t.
During these months of waiting I constantly though about the problems. The Sound was harsh, some notes had strong a strong wolf. Chords wouldn´t sound harmonically. But what causes the Problems. Maybe the body frequencies or the the top? Maybe the neck?

I started working. First thing I did was download a Fourier Analysis app for my Smartphone. Yes, they work really well actually! I checked for Body, top and back frequencies. Body frequencie was on the G. This guitar was stiff!
I added a soundport on the side and changed the Body frequencie. That alone changed a lot! I also changed the Tuners. Schaller Grand Tune made place for Waverlys three-on-plate. More weight on the headstock improved the sustain of the notes. But the guitar still felt very inhibited and stiff. I build a small violin makers plane with a round sole and got in on the braces. I removed a lot of wood! Always measuring the frequencies. But it is amazing to see how little the effect is. It almost made me wondering that, if the effect is so Little, how big are the chances to hit the nail and build a guitar that does fail on such a big scale?! It did a Little. Opened up the guitar. Together with a changed Body frequencie and now a changed top frequencie it finally started to sing. And even though the effect on the frequencies were so little it changed the instrument so much! That was a amazing lesson to learn. Now I got a better understanding of what are the particular spots on a soundboard and the bracing where I can alter the instrument.

I left it like that for two years.

The guitar wasn´t sold and I kept it at home playing it for myself. Sometimes took it to shows.
And it changed so much over this amount of time it became a wonderful guitar. But as I decided this was my learning object I never got a 100% satisfied with it. And I had some more ideas...            



I first saw a Hand rubbed sunburst on a guitar from Dehradun Guitar Company. I immediatly loved it. Such vivid colors and the charming vintage character. It stuck with me. In 2016 I met luthier Johannes from Gris Gris Guitars and he had a guitar with a hand rubbed burst with him. A reminder of how much I liked this look. My latest sighting was a guitar from Mike Kennedy of Indian Hill guitars. That one really got me thinking I need to try this out myself.

I played my OM #19 and it it changed so beautifully. Yet it still felt a little bit on the stiff side. Still inhibited. I needed to sand the top down! The big bonus was that I could leave the Bridge on and only sand around the Perimeter. Then I could leave the strings on and hear exactly what was going on!
Actually I used a plane but anyhow.

And here is what I learned. The guitar opened up immensely. It really felt like freeing it up to move. It got so much more responsive. But the character of the instruement didn´t change at all. And it still feels stiff altough it responds beautifully. You can´t change the character of an instrument much I think. Unless you Change the top. The top character will determine the character of the guitar.
Lesson learned. Thank you OM #19.





Speaking of messing up. Above is my first attempt of the sunburst. I wanted to finish it with a French polish. Sealed the colors with a oil varnish but still ruined it with the spirit. Next try I sealed it with a spray lacquer and found a funny way to do "vintage" lacquer.









Thursday, 5 September 2019

THE JAY


More Pictures of my newest Jay model.

Actually I am so much behind on whats going on at the workshop at the moment. There is of course a lot I am not able to keep up with but let me at least try to catch up.

Also my excuse is that my laptop is not working properly. These keys"nbNB@" are not working only with pressing very hard at a very precise location on the back and therefore I am using copy and paste of this "nbNB@" everytime I need any of these letters. So you can imagine what goes into writing even the shortest text.

With starting this guitar it became clear to me that I wanted to change my model names. Something I was thinking about for a long time now but it took quite a while for the most ovious idea to strike me. Some of my earlier guitars I gave bird names like "The Throstle", "The Robin" or "The Jay". It became evident very quickly that I could not give names to all my guitars, there simply are not enough singing birds. At least if I want to avoid names like "The Little Blue Tit flying over the sunflower just before the night".
The idea landed on my concious brain like a buzzard lands on a branch to enjoy the mouse he just cought. I will not name guitars after birds but models!

And this is the first model named after the first commisioned piece.

                                                                "THE JAY".      









Sunday, 28 July 2019

The Jay is born


Actually these pictures are a little old and I am a little behind posting here. So these are the first pictures of the finished Jay. As it turns out later, it will not stay like this... 





Sunday, 23 June 2019

Finishing the Jay


Here are some pictures of the last steps for finishing my new Jay model. The always nerv wrecking Bridge glue up, putting oil finish on the neck, making the nut and saddle, Fitting the bridge pins.
And then, after weeks, probably months of labor, strings.









Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Box



Finishing one guitar means continue working on the next. Therefore the Martin Style 00 will be the next. It`s boxed up and got its binding channels routed today. I can`t wait to install the herringbone I made for this one.







Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Jay


Sometimes a customer comes to me with a very clear idea about what their guitar should be. This can be about the wood they would like or the sound of course, it can be a certain neck shape and fingerboard width or other features like a bevel, soundport, maybe an unusual model like a 12 fret small Jumbo.
They all have their different stories and I love to get to know the people and the stories and maybe be able to take a little of that story and put it into the guitar I am going to build.

The customer of this guitar told me he would like it to have a birds name (I sometimes gave bird names to some of my guitars). The name should be "The Jay".
The background for that was his first and surname begin with the letter "J". This letter is a continuing, lets call it theme, for his life and family. Obviously the bird "Jay" and the letter "J" are spelled the same but also his girlfriends name starts with the letter "Y". So the J a(nd) Y had even more dimensions to it. 

After meeting and chating and a few emails we decided that the letter J should also occur somewhere on the guitar. My immediate idea was to inlay the letter into the fretboard, maybe at the 12th fret, something like that. So when I prepared the fingerboard and cut the slots I tryed to visualize this letter. I could not come up with an idea how to incorporate it in a way it looks fitting. 
But I remembred the distinct look of the bird the jay with its characteristic feathers. An ideal image for an inlay. 
A Jay resting on a J for the guitar "The JAY".