Sunday, June 14, 2009

Throw your camera in the creek & a poem for John Hayes

While I am sad to report that last weekend I was hiking on the south face of Mt. Adams and I accidentally dropped my digital camera in a creek. I was trying to jump across and thought it would be a good idea to throw my pack across first. It made it to the other side but rolled down the bank right into the creek. I dried the camera out but alas the lights are on but there's nobody home.
This means that I will be unable to post pictures of the final stages of my batch of six guitars as I will not be able to afford a replacement until I finish. I will shoot with my old Nikon film camera and I will try to get the images digitized (thats a cool word) and posted at some point.
I am just now wrapping up the carving of all these necks and will be starting finish work next week.
I did take a bit of a break from blogging this spring as i was caught up in work, teaching and parenting my son Noah on my own. But I was inspired by John Hayes's poem on "robert frosts banjo" so I thought i would try one myself. I don't pretend to be a poet but I would like to learn more. I have a lot going on right now and I do feel that poetry and music best capture the human landscape.

When you fit the dovetail
There is a certain amount of hope involved
Take one thin shaving from the cheek
Then look to see if the angle is correct

The neck must fit the body at the right angle
Or the strings will always be too high

When I said I loved you
I knew that it would take some work

If you get the angle wrong the first time
You will have to take it apart
It will never play right – if you don’t
The strings will always be too high

C. Wilson

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cascadia archtops

I am happy to report that I have completed both the Cascadia 16 archtop bodies started this spring. I am now working on finishing the necks this week and getting them ready for the finish booth. These guitars have both been incredibly satisfying to build. Yesterday found me fitting the dovetail joint, gluing the brasilian rosewood fingerboard down and cutting my pearl logo for the headplate. Today I glued the board and headplate and started roughing the neck out on the thinline.
Thurs / Fri will find me doing the same on the full depth maple / euro spruce model.
After a rather long search for figured air dried maple neck wood I decided to stick with Honduran Mahogany on both necks. This is my favorite of all tonewoods and makes great stable necks with sweet warm overtones.
I am really staying true to the vintage archtop feel of these necks with a 7-1/4 " radius on the fingerboards and a slight "V" profile with plenty of depth. I find the old "Epiphones" and "Gibsons" have really sweet necks with more depth than the more modern versions. To my mind they through the baby out with the bathwater when they started making thinner necks with a flatter fingerboard.

Teaching guitar building

This spring I was approached by a local finish carpenter with an art school background in sculpture. He had built a guitar on his own from a kit and he did a fine job. He asked if I would teach him to build another. At first I said no, I did not feel I had time or space in my shop and was unsure how to go about organizing such an endeavor.
I did teach six students at our local high school woodshop several years ago through a grant from the county but that was over the course of an entire year and was a part time project for me. I did really enjoy teaching at that time and had seriously considered going back to school to get certified to teach shop during some years of financial strife (guitar building is a tough career choice) I stuck it out on my own and I am glad I did, but teaching still has appeal. After giving it more thought I agreed to teach Ernie & developed a three week program with some more follow up days to finish and set-up.
Ernie brings a lot of skill to the process and has been a pleasure to have around. I think he is building a fine guitar and has shown a lot of attention to detail. Being forced into a framework for the sake of instruction has also helped me to re-design some out dated jigs and fixtures, and refine my process. I decided the easiest way to teach was to build a guitar alongside his so I could demonstrate each step. I am happy to report that by the end of three weeks the guitar bodies were done and the necks roughed out. We have been continuing one day a week together with final carving and getting ready to go into the spray booth.
I will be shooting these guitars at the same time I spray the rest of my spring batch. This will bring my production for 09' so far up to 6 new guitars that should all be finished this month.
Here are some photo's of Ernie building his guitar.