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mattharris75

First Acoustic. Not exactly a guitar...

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Tuner holes are drilled and reamed for bushings. I was a bit nervous about getting this right. Not a lot of room for error when you're working with four on a plate tuners...

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Now I need to spend a few days reviewing top and back carving procedures before I make wood shavings out of the wrong parts of the plates... :)

 

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Thanks!

So, I decided to start roughing out the back this weekend. I used the Safe-T-Planer to rough out a 'topographic map' of the carve, then used a microplane rasp to knock off the bulk of the edges and join things together. Then I went to town with a 12mm convex sole Ibex finger plane. I also used a riffler rasp and japanese file in roughing out the scroll area. After five hours of work this is what I've got:

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Man, I have a long way to go... But it's a start. I bet I've got at least another ten hours in this. But the good news is that the top is redwood, and it should go quite a bit more quickly. 

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This is the fun part! The top is redwood and will be both easier and harder. I'd rather carve a hard hardwood because it is uniformly hard than a softwood that has alternating hard and soft areas of grain/growth rings.

SR

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Good point Scott.

It's been a busy week, but I've managed to fit in a few more hours of work. Starting to get a clearer picture of the final shapes now. Before I started carving I was trying to visualize everything and just couldn't wrap my brain around a few areas, so I just decided to start making wood chips. I figured seeing and feeling it would be the only way to make it happen. I think that was a good decision. I still have a few areas that I need to determine how I want things to be contoured, particularly how the scroll interfaces with the upper bout. But the scroll itself is starting to come together and the overall profile of the lower bout is smoother and more even. The recurve area has been moved a little further inward, and I think it will be about right. The edge of the plate is also down within a millimeter of final thickness in most areas.

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OK @Mr Natural, dusty, messy workshop pic. Wood chips all over the floor, tools everywhere. Just looking at this picture makes me slightly uncomfortable. I need order!

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I spent three to four hours working yesterday, and most people wouldn't even notice the difference...

So, I foolishly didn't accurately cut the opening of the scroll prior to the start of carving. With the tight working conditions this was quite a pain. I ended up up putting a few staples in the blocks on the rim, aligning the back and pressing it on, then adding a little tape to make sure it stayed in place. I then spindle sanded the perimeter of the back close to the rim, particularly in the horn/scroll area. I needed to get it very close because of the accuracy needed to fully carve that area before attaching the back, which will go on after the top and neck, so it will be difficult to work with later.

Once all that was close I spent hours with carving tools working on getting the inside cuts in the horn aligned with the neck block.

I also spent time hogging out more material in the carve of the horn, because even though it was starting to look really cool there were areas that made it 'unbindable'. I'm not going to bind the back, so I've got a bit of leeway. But I am going to bind the top, so I needed to get it close so that the two carves are similar. So, lots more material came off. And lots more yet to go. 

The carving really is fun, but I kind of want to get finished because in the back of my mind there's this uncertainty of whether it's actually going to turn out or if I'm going to just screw everything up. :) I imagine that will be magnified once I'm actually carving the inside of the back. Not a lot of room for error there...

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For the headstock:

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I didn't cut the shell, a buddy of mine who is a great guitar builder did it for me based on a drawing I sent him. I do plan on inlaying it myself though, so that will be interesting. :)

Work continues on the back. Not much done this weekend, been busy with other stuff. Just further refinement...

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The headstock has been inlayed. Next time I'm springing for the right tools to do this job. Took me 4 1/2 hours doing it by hand. It's a little sloppy around the 'S', but once finish is on it should look OK.

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2 hours ago, mattharris75 said:

Took me 4 1/2 hours doing it by hand.

by hand with what?!

dude- looks great btw. I was totally going to give you bonus points for cutting the inlay cause I have wasted many $$ screwing up inlay with cutting issues. really love the look of that headstock- sloppy around the S or not. bravo.

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10 hours ago, mattharris75 said:

 

X-acto knife. :)

 

Seriously? Wow is right! What blade did you use? 

I did my first two with palm gouges. Depth control was not a problem, but keeping sharp square vertical sides was. Next time I got the StewMac router base and proper bits and the edges got cleaned up but I still have trouble coloring within the lines.

I don't think inlaying is ever going to be one of my favorite things.

SR

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55 minutes ago, ScottR said:

Seriously? Wow is right! What blade did you use? 

 

I used a large fine point blade for the edges (in a medium weight knife), and scrubbed the tip in the bottom of the hole sort of as a tiny scraper, to flatten out the bottom. And I used a scoring blade (in a precision knife), which has a flat section that sticks out, as a chisel. I don't imagine I'll do it this way again, certainly not on an inlay this complex.

I also used blue painters tape on the headstock that I then affixed the inlay to with duco cement in order to trace around. Once I scored around the outline I was able to remove the tape inside of the letters and left the tape outside the letters. That gave me a really high contrast line between the inside and outside. That part worked pretty well. 

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Got a few more scratches to get out, and one or two more areas I may tweak slightly (and I'll scrape out the recurve once I have a thickness gauge), but the back, at least the outside of it, is close to complete.   There will also be a bit of a roundover on the edge once it's glued on. I'm really digging the hook/scroll. It's a bit of a unique shape.

Now I need to rig up a thickness gauge and a jig for my drill press so that I can start carving out the back side.

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The cherry is freshly sanded and still quite light. It will darken up nicely fairly quickly. I may hit it with a bit of garnet shellac as well, we'll see. It should end up a nice rich red/brown. You can see a bit of curl in it now that it's been sanded up too. It's got some character to it.

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On 5/19/2017 at 0:05 AM, mattharris75 said:

 I'm really digging the hook/scroll. It's a bit of a unique shape.

Indeed! I really like the proportions too. That cherry is going to look extra sweet once it ages a bit. Are you going to work in a burst?

SR

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On 5/19/2017 at 8:24 AM, ScottR said:

Indeed! I really like the proportions too. That cherry is going to look extra sweet once it ages a bit. Are you going to work in a burst?

SR

I have been leaning toward keeping it more or less natural, but I'm not really sure yet. If I get to that point and look at the closed up box and think it needs a bit more pop, I may do something subtle there. 

I want this to have a vintage feel, similar to my 1918 Gibson F4, in terms of the finish. So whatever it takes to get the look just right is still in play at this point. :)

 

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On 5/17/2017 at 11:22 PM, mattharris75 said:

The headstock has been inlayed. Next time I'm springing for the right tools to do this job. Took me 4 1/2 hours doing it by hand. It's a little sloppy around the 'S', but once finish is on it should look OK.

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That is sublime.  Wonderful job :)

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Thanks Andy.

Welp, moving on to the top. The redwood is finicky, but so far so good. It carves nicely going into the grain at an angle, literally peels off in chunks with the grain, and the end grain is surprisingly hard.

I bought a pair of thickness calipers and will use those to help me get the top carve as close to the back carve as possible. At least in the lower bout and horn. The upper bout will be carved differently, as it will have to fall away more, being under the neck.

Inching closer here, maybe 2/3 of the way there:

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I've also been messing around with finishing options. Testing out a little dye around the edges over a 1 pound cut wash coat of garnet shellac and with a little tru oil over the top. The results on the redwood are very good so far. The cherry needs a bit more work. I may need to get a darker color dye for the edges of the cherry, the dark vintage maple isn't quite cutting it.  It seemed to fade into almost nothing. Anyway, I may not even do a burst. But now that Scott has me thinking about it, a subtle one may be in order. And I also think I may want to darken the sides to bring down the visual thickness, as this instruments sides will be a good bit deeper than a traditional mandolin.

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From what I've seen, mandolins commonly have bursts on the sides in the interior curves to accent that curve.

Also, is there a story behind the acquisition of that 1918 Gibson F-4? Is it as cool as it sounds like it would be?

SR

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Yeah Scott, that's normally how a mandolin burst is done. I'm not set on doing that though. I'm not planning on binding the back, and am still waffling about whether to bind the front or not. I really like how the hook/scroll looks unbound. If I don't bind either and end up doing a burst I will probably do the sides in the darkest color of the burst. Even if I bind the top I may do that anyway, so that I can just continue the burst onto the back and give it a nice organic look.  Anyway, I enjoy toying with these details in my mind and will make the decision when the time comes, and not before. :)

As far as the 1918 F4, my wife and I were visiting Nashville for my 40th birthday, nearly two years ago now and so of course we had to stop in at Carter Vintage and Gruhn's, just to noodle around. Well, I saw the F4 at Gruhn's and played around on it for a while. My wife loved the antique look of it and said, "You need to buy that". Well, I hadn't been planning on buying anything, but we left for lunch and I thought about it for a while, came back and bought it. She twisted my rubber arm. She's a good woman.

 

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Sweet! A good woman indeed.

Your ideas about doing the sides in the darkest shades of the burst and continuing on the back is actually the way I've done several of my guitars. I quite like the way it looks.:)

SR

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Just for the sake of experimentation, and as I'm going with a pseudo-vintage look and feel, I tried to 'pre-age' some of the cherry using a baking soda and water solution. Yikes! Not recommended. I don't know if my solution was too strong or what, but it ended up with streaks of black and parts with almost a green tint. I did not like it one bit. I guess it's going to have to age the old fashion way, just like the rest of us.

What I may do, when it's close to time to finish, is to hang the instrument outside to get a good dose of direct sunlight, assuming it's decent weather, for a few hours at a time. That works quickly on cherry.

The top is inching ever closer. I can tell it's going to be beautiful when done, but this redwood, with its fuzziness, softness, and unpredictability... Well, it's not so much fun to carve. The plus side, I suppose, is that the carving goes much faster. :)

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