Sunday, 29 December 2019
One of only two guitars I have finished in 2019. That doesn`t mean it was a bad year. The opposite is the case. I learned that I can slow down and spend time at home and still get enough done to keep the shop. It was a hard lesson learned and for years I felt like I need to work more and more but I sacrifized my health and good mood for always being worried. I got better at that and that helps a lot. That`s probalbly the biggest part of keeping the balance and keeping the fun and creating better guitars at the end. Thank you 2019 for this lesson.
Monday, 4 November 2019
Choosing Ebony for one of my current builds. The customer asked for a more colorful ebony for the fretboard. I think this is a great combination because it kind of fits into the earthy and calm simplicity of the guitar.
And I found a perfect match for the headstock verneer.
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
The bracing of a guitar top. I guess it is one of the favorite jobs for many luthiers. Myself included.
About a year ago I looked through my brace stock and decided to prepare some of it by splitting the pieces. A few days later I filled a cartboardbox with quite a bit of brace stock. All split in height and sawed on the bandsaw to roughly dimension them. It will last me for many years of builds.
Now every time I start bracing a top I pull out my box with the brace stock. I can look for exactly the material I want to match the top with and I only have to plane the sides to the final dimensions. It´s a real joy.
Since I started using split braces I was able to reduce the weight of my tops significantly!
The difference is noticable even if I am just droping a brace on my benchtop. A good brace has a remarkable tabtone itself I think. And there is another benefit from having a large batch of pre-prepared brace stock. I can listen and feel and choose exactly the material I am looking for to match the top. This can be a softer spruce to compensate for a very bright top or a very bright bracing material to get it even more shiny. There are loads of variables and options.
Saturday, 19 October 2019
Talking about changes. I have posted about the remodeling of my OM #19 lately but this is not going that far.
Only a few days after my customer picked up his guitar he called and say he was very frustrated because he scratched and dented the lacquer under the strings near the soundhole. It is typicall playwear but maybe not what you want to see on a guitar that is new and you have only played it for about three hours.
I haven´t had any issues with this polyurethane lacquer but it appeared to me much later that maybe I have overestimated its strength, especially on a soft cedar top wood.
And their was another issue. It needed larger dots on the fretboard. It is funny how your own personal style of playing influences your way of dealing with the importance of certain features. Like for me dots on top of the fretboard have always been a decoration. I hold the guitar in a way I don´t look onto the fretboard at all. The only guidance I need are the dots in the side of the fretboard. But time and experience will tell you there are other people and they have different playing styles, different ways of holding the guitar. And this can result in different requirements for comfortable playing.
I am very lucky to have customers who push me out of what I am used to do!
So I got the guitar back again to do the lacquer touch up and install larger dots into the fretboard. And boy I was so happy about how that changed the guitar. Not only did it need the operation to function better as an inspiring musical instrument for my customer but also I LOVED how it changed the appearence into a more vintagy gibsony direction.
Thank you Jürgen for all the trust and patience you put into me and my work. It was an absolute pleasure to create this guitar for you!
Sunday, 29 September 2019
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.