Fall Projects 2013

October 4th, 2013:


Since my last project (the Cajón), I've taken on quite a few new projects. First of all, I have just started collaborating with a former Independence High School colleague --- a fellow English teacher who has just this year transferred over to the Woodshop Department --- to share with his students my experiences with guitarmaking. Early in the summer, he had asked me if I'd be interested in sharing my lutherie experience with his students. Since then, I have created my very first PowerPoint presentation --- a 77-slide account of the building of my Taylor-style Grand Concert cutaway guitar; its purpose is to give the students an overview of what goes into the making of a guitar. Here's a video of the PowerPoint presentation I made up:



A couple of weeks ago, I met with that teacher again, to touch bases on what we would do with the students this year. I showed him the PowerPoint presentation, and we decided we would show it to the kids and have some sort of question/answer session with the kids afer showing the presentation.


Another idea that had come to my mind was to show the kids what a guitar kit looks like, and what it would involve to build one. So....one of my good Internet friends, John Hall of Blues Creek Guitars, very generously sent me a Martin OOO guitar kit, at a very good price. What the teacher and I decided, was that the best thing to do with that would be to show the kids what a guitar kit consists of, and then have the teacher build the kit throughout the semester, as students either observed or helped him build the guitar.


Finally, since the teacher had earlier commented that many students in the high school had become interested in the ukulele, I came up with the idea of my making up a bunch of cigar box ukulele kits and having interested students build those cigar box ukuleles, with my help. So, in the last week, I started researching the Internet, to see just how cheaply I could make up a kit that the students could afford. After pricing out the variouis materials needed, I figured that the total cost of a kit would be about $40-$45. I deciided that I could offer the kits (put together by me) to the kids for around $35, something they could probably afford.

Today I started in earnest on making up a sample completed cigar box ukulele (not having in my possession the one I built back in 2006, because I had sold it to a student), as well as a kit of the components the students would get. I have no idea how many students will be interested in taking part in this cigar box ukulele build. What I will do is, on October 15th, show the students the completed cigar box uke, and the kit, and let them know what their part in building the uke would be, should they decide to participate. I've decided that the parts they would have to do would be to glue on the top brace and bridge patch (I would provide the thinned cedar top with the soundhole cut out), glue in the neck block (I would provide that with the hole drilled out for the bolt, remove the cigar box plywood top and glue on the kerfing and cedar top to the box, do the fretting and leveling of the fingerboard (I would slot and taper the fingerboard), glue the fretted fingerboard to the neck, do the carving of the neck (I would supply the rough neck blank with the threaded insert installed) and install the tuners, shape and install the nut, locate and glue the bridge, and install the saddle (I would supply the slotted bridge), and do the finishing of the top and neck. I would help them with the final setting of the action.

So far, on the two kits I am making up as samples, I have almost completed the rough neck blank --- I have glued the scarf joint for the peghead and have glued on the two extra blocks for the heel block. I have made a template for the neck blank shape and have cut out the rough neck shape. I have also made a peghead template, have drawn it on the neck blank, and have drilled out the tuner holes (for the cheap Ping geared tuners I found online). Also in the photo below are the kind of cigar box I will use, next to a thinned Western red cedar top (I received a lot of cedar long ago from another Internet friend, Kevin Pettit). I also just purchased a Stew-Mac fret slotting template for two ukulele scales (a Concert and a Soprano scale); I will use that to hand-saw the slots in the fingerboards.


Here is what I have done so far today:






Once I complete the cigar box ukulele kits, I will have some time to work on my next personal project --- a guitar with an armrest bevel!! When I was at the recent Healdsburg Guitar Festival (August 2013), I saw lots of guitars with armrest bevels. I had seen them before, but all the methods I had seen people use to build those into their guitars looked too complicated or difficult to do. But, at this festival, I purchased a DVD of Kent Everett's method of building in his "transitional bevel," and it looked much less difficult than the other methods I had previously seen.

SO...I decided I needed to build a guitar, just to try out making an armrest bevel!

(Here's a YouTube video teaser for Kent Everett's DVD; it will give you some idea of what I want to do in this project.)

At first, I was going to do another Taylor Grand Concert style (but without a cutaway). But then, an Internet friend mentioned Taylor's GS Mini guitar, which I had heard of but had never actually seen. I went to my local Guitar Showcase to take a look at one ---- and I fell in love with the size and shape of this model! It's kind of in between a Taylor Big Baby guitar and their Grand Concert size; it's a 23.5" scale guitar. When I held it, it felt just right, especially since lately I've been plagued with a left shoulder rotator cuff problem, and holding and playing a regular scale guitar is still a bit difficult for me. Holding the GS Mini felt much more comfortable, and it sounded good, too!

I looked online to see if I could find any blueprints or plans for this style guitar, and I found some plans from a luthier in Georgia. So, I ordered the plans, and, as soon as I can find some time, in the midst of these other projects, I will start on this project.

I am thinking I will use the Mayan walnut back and sides from LMI I had ordered back when I was building my first harp ukulele. For the top, I have ordered some Engelmann spruce. I am not sure yet what kind of binding I will use, or what I will use for the bevel veneer; I'll have to figure that out later, when I see how the walnut will look.

Well, that's about it for now. Gotta get back to work on all this tomorrow!!!


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