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Finished! A Guitar Bouzouki (don't you know what one of THOSE is?)


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First job neck-wise was joining the maple/walnut/maple trio:

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Then to the fretboard.  I managed to get a lovely piece of macassar:

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I tend to agonise over buying commercial tools and jigs - because they are specialist they tend to be eye-wateringly expensive.  But, having used a home-made one for a couple of years, I have no regrets whatsoever buying the G&W radius jig last year.  Sanding ebony by hand is a quick way - no, correction, a very slow way - to insanity!  There doesn't seem to be a common consensus for fretboard radius on a Guitar Bouzouki but, looking at photos and reading some of the blurb of some of the 'better' builders, 12" seems to be a reasonable rad:

Here is the blank on the jig:

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It then just takes 10 minutes or so of a radius sanding block to take off any router stripes:

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And there we have it - all ready for the next steps, cutting the fret slots :) :

_MG_1578.thumb.JPG.8ae2867741e9d029f86a1a144690889a.JPG 

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And to the fret slotting.  Another good buy from G&W that has done a decent number of fretboards over the last few years:

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The red on the bench isn't blood - it's some red stain from a recent veneer job ;)

The unit is screwed down to the bench and the top dog clamps on my bench are a bit of a godsend to stop movement during the fairly tough and vigorous sawing.  Note also the packing pieces, again to stop the fretboard/template assembly from moving at all.  And don't fret (yes, I know ;)  ) about the 25.000" etch - it's a two way template.  The side I'm using is 25.500"

And this is where the fretboard will join the body - at the 16th fret:

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The next task is working out what the next task is :)

 

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On 7/23/2020 at 11:54 PM, Andyjr1515 said:

The next task is working out what the next task is :)

Beer helps. Just don't do the next task after you've had too many :thumb:

16th fret body join and 25.5" scale length makes it a relatively long-necked instrument, although I suppose nothing is standard in this build. Any thoughts about how much overhang on the soundhole you're allowing for the fretboard?

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2 hours ago, curtisa said:

16th fret body join and 25.5" scale length makes it a relatively long-necked instrument

Actually, not really.  It's a standard OM acoustic configuration (well, the 25.5 rather than a traditional imperial measurement makes it a few mm longer than some) in both the bridge position and the nut.  All that happens is the body distance between the soundhole and the join shortens by 2 frets-worth...which is why it has a slightly squat appearance.

 

2 hours ago, curtisa said:

Any thoughts about how much overhang on the soundhole you're allowing for the fretboard?

I'll ask the chap I'm making it for.  Normally, it covers the join of the rosette and so stops just short of the soundhole.  However, My 'rosette' doesn't go round that side and -  against all odds - I managed to join the bit of purfling fairly neatly:

_MG_1373.thumb.JPG.e7d1d1beaa27783d3861e3c24eee0c5c.JPG

So we can stop just past the last fret, or just over the purfling or just short of the soundhole.

I'm going to do a few sketches before I ask him because I am tempted to suggest a shaped fretboard end, although sometimes those look like the builder's trying a little too hard... :) 

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In the meantime, I decided to give my modest bandsaw a stress test!  Multiple full length cuts of a pretty wide hard maple/walnut/hard maple blank.

First, after cutting the trussrod slot, was dimensioning and squaring up the other three sides, setting the headstock angle and rough cutting the mortice:

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Then cutting the side profile:

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Because a bouzouki has a tangibly thicker neck than a guitar, there is no functional need of a volute but - on the basis that you can always take wood away but more difficult to put it back, I've left the provision on the blank.

I will be adding a grain matched extension to the heel using some of the offcut, and that itself will be capped with a piece of back/sides offcut, possibly with a swift inlay incorporated as I did on my own OM:

OM2.thumb.jpg.391fcb9797ea36a3c7f157f325d12f89.jpg

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I'm getting better at flattening two surfaces to glue together - and better at matching grain.  The 1" heel extension is on:

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The bit that made me smile was that the grain in the walnut splice actually matches the maple!  What's the chances of that? ;) 

This heel extension gets the neck to the correct height.  The slightly more scary bit is getting it to the right angle - but there's quite a few things I have to do before I can work out the angle and start cutting mortices and tenons.

Nevertheless, that's a few more of the basic components starting to come together:

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The great big lump of brown-tinged ebony is what I'm going to try to carve a bridge from - when I can work out how to do that :) 

Thanks for looking, folks, and for the encouraging comments along the way.

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I need the actual bridge to work out the neck angle - and so it was time to make the bridge.  

I got hold of a bog-standard 12 string guitar bridge as much to check the peg stagger as anything.  The bouzouki bridge will end up around 10mm narrower.

 I then did a number of sketches of bridge shapes on photos of the top to see if anything jumped out relating to the overall shape.  Of all of them, this was the most pleasing - just adding more of a curve at the back to give a passing nod to the rosette shape:

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And after some stuff with band saws, chisels, microplanes, cabinet scrapers and sandpaper, this is it in the ebony.  Bit of tidying up to do when the light's better but I think this will look quite nice:

_MG_1629.thumb.JPG.14ba7a1877957904507372679ff0b868.JPG

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4 hours ago, curtisa said:

A perfect summary of how this kind of thing works, I think. Wood. Tools. Stuff. SomethingsomethingMagic *poof* Guitar!

No kidding! How many times have you done something and thought you were done (esp necks), then later you go to "touch it up" and have another big session of microplanes, scrapers, sandpaper etc.

Magic = really hard work!

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And to one of the mildly terrifying bits.  Is that really the body, clamped in the modified jaws of a workmate, suspended over a towel over a concrete floor and a router pushing down on it?????

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Yes it is :)  

And I'm smiling mainly because it didn't fall out.  Or crush.  Or bruise.

But there are few other ways you can accurately cut the mortice...

And I've got to do it again soon, the other way up.  Because there are few other ways you can accurately cut the tailstock plate slot...

The workmate is a home-made version of a jig that is featured on the excellent  ObrienGuitars 'Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag' series for cutting mortices, and neck angles and tenons.  The template is a G&W one.

The result:

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But, Andy.  I thought you hated routers?

I do.  But there are times when it's pretty much the only way to do a task.  And did it go faultlessly?  Of course not.  The mortice is longer than I intended because the template slipped as I was routing.  It doesn't matter, but it confirms why I hate routers!!

The same rig is used to cut the neck angle and the tenon.  For this, the neck is clamped to a board, located by a couple of pegs that fit in the trussrod slot, and hinged so I can rout different angles onto the heel:

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And what angle?  Well - a straight edge on top of the fretboard should ideally just sit on top of the bridge - and then the action height is set by the saddle that will sit proud of the bridge.  And that's why I had to make the bridge first.

My straight edge is the offcut from the fretboard:

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And the gap at the top of the heel in the photo below shows the angle the neck has to sit at for the straight edge to lie in the right place:

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So I tilt the hinged plate to that angle and route that into the heel end.  And this time when I check, there's no gap at the top of the heel:

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It will be actually finished by hand once the bridge is fitted, but this will get me at least into the right ball-park

So - ignoring the fretboard taper that hasn't been done yet, and the neck thickness that hasn't been done yet - it continues to progress:

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:)

 

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On 7/25/2020 at 11:04 AM, Andyjr1515 said:

And after some stuff with band saws, chisels, microplanes, cabinet scrapers and sandpaper, this is it in the ebony.  Bit of tidying up to do when the light's better but I think this will look quite nice:

Yer killin' me Andy...I'm absolutely dead. You tell me carving and sculpture is magic and then you throw this stuff up there like you can find it in a pasture amongst the cow pies.

Puhleeease.

SR

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6 hours ago, ScottR said:

Yer killin' me Andy...I'm absolutely dead. You tell me carving and sculpture is magic and then you throw this stuff up there like you can find it in a pasture amongst the cow pies.

Puhleeease.

SR

Newton's 'standing on the shoulders of giants' comes to mind. ;)

I was pleased how it came out, though :)

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This thread is such a pleasure to follow. I watched some master builder videos on youtube and the amount of job specific high precision tooling they have and use to get some stuff done, and then there's you. 

The tooling you "built" and use, and the results you achieve with them... so low tech, but so efficient. Absolutely love every documented step in this thread :D

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Over the internet, between us P & I spent a bit of time double and triple checking the intended neck depth and width.  P already has a much loved Guitar Bouzouki and ideally wants this one's neck to be just a few mm wider and just a few mm shallower.

That has meant that I can taper the neck blank widthways and depthwise.  Within a mm or so, this is how the proportions are going to look.  To my eye, quite pleasing:

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And getting the depth in the right order of magnitude meant that I could rough-carve the heel - I will creep up on the final shape once the neck has been profiled.  I find the least damage I can do while removing the greatest quantity of timber is using microplanes.  I hold them scraper-wise in gloved hands rather than using a handle:

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Then move onto a gooseneck cabinet scraper:

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As I say, the heel shape will be worked on over a period of time, but it gives me a head start:

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You can see here (although this clearly isn't carved and is a mm or so oversize) that the neck on a Bouzouki is quite a bit deeper than a guitar or bass.  

In terms of the profile, I always try to make sure - even though every instrument has its own feel - that a build has at least a comfortable feel of familiarity to the owner.  So I send a profile gauge for them to take a few profiles off their favourite players and try, as best I can, to replicate that:

Gauge.jpg.f9ca7f1a3ebfc6c96c004df63f06b9d8.jpg

The gauge is on its way to P as I type :)

 

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A question is always what to do about fret-ends.  I usually de-tang the frets, fill the tang slot and then round off the fret ends.

But on a few of my recent builds, I have experimented with what seems to be a win-win-win method of binding.  It's worked well so far and so I'll be using it on this.

Basically I: detang the fret ends; fit the frets with the ends overhanging; round and finish the fret ends; add a binding with a feature strip; round off and and slim the binding.  This is what I mean:

Binding.thumb.jpg.fa6d36cac0f6fa8efdf495ac6f89f965.jpg


So the frets are overhanging - to an exact measurement (easy to do - you just sand the whole fretted board edge on to get to sub-tenths accuracy); the fret ends are rounded; the binding is sanded to exact height and glued on; the binding is rounded off and slimmed a touch so it is around a mere 0.25mm proud of the fret.

So the win-win-win is that you get a demarcation line for free, you get a lovely rounded edge to your fretboard and you don't get sharp fret ends even if the board dries over the years.  

Anyway, that's the theory, and it does seem to work :)  

I have one more thing I have to check/do before any of that but, in preparation, I have a binding that couldn't have matched the macassar better if I'd tried!:

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And the same binding will go on the body edges (it's the 'manufactured' Rocklite Sundari product)

Another final thing that P and I have sorted is the headstock.

Here the intention is, if at all possible, to keep the string runs straight and to get the whole thing to fit into a standard OM/OOO size guitar case.  Happily, while I was drawing it all up, the tuners (Schaller M6 mini) arrived and so I could see if it was going to work.  I think it will.  And have room for a couple of swifts:

_MG_1661.thumb.JPG.5d0a3ad6ba363fc0d5c060fad433c691.JPG 

There's a few things to do and to check before I do any of this...but, anyway, that's the plan

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And onwards...to the next scary bit (there are a LOT of scary bits with acoustics!), the end graft rout.

This required again the body to be suspended over the concrete floor clamped by the modified workmate - this time to be routed with my Dremel:

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From the offcut of the fretboard, I have been able to slice a thin strip that will contrast with the back woods, but key in with the fretboard.  It's generally best to avoid too many different species so we have:

Red Gum Walnut: Back, Sides, Rosette, Headstock plate

Spruce: Top

Macassar or lookalike (ie, the bindings): Fretboard, bindings; end graft

Should all coordinate nicely.  I'll decide whether the heel plate would be better in macassar or Red Gum Walnut when the rest is sorted

Anyway - the above slot had to be cut at this stage, but the end graft can't actually be fitted yet.  But eventually it will link into the binding feature lines with its own lines something like at the top left corner here:

_MG_1701.thumb.JPG.90aa92f1d7e5da4b1d1f534bdedf3c9a.JPG

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Normal stuff - happy to show what I do and why...but don't assume this is the way it should be done ;)

Binding.  The problem I have with wood binding is that - even when it is bent to shape (which mine always is) it is very stiff and it is very springy.  So the traditional way is glue it - tape it tightly - wrap the whole body very, very tightly with a fabric strip or bicycle inner tube like an Egyptian mummy.  Then leave it overnight for the glue to fully dry

And usually - in my experience - when you unwrap it the next day there are gaps.  And you burst into a rage and jump on the almost complete body until it is a pile of matchsticks and start everything all over again. :)

And, folks, life is just too short for that.

So what I have done the last three or four builds is iron on the bindings - in the same way that I iron on veneer.

Basically,

- I use Evostick 'Resin 'W' PVA wood glue:

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- I put an even coat on both the binding AND the binding channel

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- I let it dry.  (30 mins or so)

- I then get a hot dry iron (I use an old heatshrink iron but any iron will do) and iron it on. (I forgot to take a photo while I was doing it but hopefully you get the idea).  Basically I heat up an inch or so until I see the melted PVA start to squeeze out, remove the iron and hold the binding tightly in a gloved hand for 10 seconds or so for it to re-solidify and it's done:

_MG_1711.thumb.JPG.addb44bd95b67540d00073f08046d732.JPG


- basically, the heat melts both layers of PVA which merges and when it cools holds the components tight.  And it's fully repeatable and therefore if there's a gap, I just heat it up again, hold the joint tight with my gloved hand for a few seconds and it is done

And here it is...done, ready for final sanding:

_MG_1715.thumb.JPG.ae4a164913bb19440a4d51387d2d60c5.JPG

No tantrums.  No firewood.  Not the way the books say to do it - but it works for me! :)

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Before I taper and fret the board I need to add the dots.  For the 12th fret I'll put a couple of swifts there:

_MG_1720.thumb.JPG.08229edb14e08de1ca6db3c4070b98e2.JPG
 
Then some diagonals, parallels and perpendiculars to mark the centre-points of the other dots (actually going to use diamonds):

_MG_1721.thumb.JPG.bb6e0f6229c6ab8354d8531c6725fdff.JPG

 And then the key dot positions routed for the diamonds and glued with epoxy mixed with macassar sanding dust:

_MG_1729.thumb.JPG.4a3e5a9ddb9ef982e2f0a5d603c85d9c.JPG

While I was at it, I fitted swifts into the blanks that will be used for the headstock plate and the heel plate:

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Cleaned up, the fretboard is now ready for tapering and fretting:

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Nina and I were sat out on the balcony mid-sauna last night, and I saw a couple of Swifts flying over. I mentioned your inlays to Nina and she asked me if their tail feathers were forked, "because those would be Swallows". Nope. Definitely Swifts. The infilling looks perfect. Ebony is so easy to inlay by that stage. I haven't used Macassar for a few years now and this sort of makes me miss it.

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6 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Nina and I were sat out on the balcony mid-sauna last night, and I saw a couple of Swifts flying over. I mentioned your inlays to Nina and she asked me if their tail feathers were forked, "because those would be Swallows". Nope. Definitely Swifts.

Actually, you are both right.  They do indeed also have a forked tail, but generally that is only spread when they are doing certain manoeuvres.  This is a decent pic that shows both type of silhouette:

 Swifts.JPG.405857e16bd319fdcfcc573544e58dfc.JPG

 

To me, summer is the bit where they go screaming past rooftops and buildings at breakneck speed in groups of 10-15 - and literally screaming...it's the sound of summer.  And when they do that, they certainly keep their tail feathers tight closed :D

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