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

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45 minutes ago, Prostheta said:

Love that headstock. It's got a nice level of proportion and balance to it. Reminds me to a degree of Ibanez' Soundgear bass headstock, which I've always liked.

I'm sure we've discussed this previously - if briefly in passing - but isn't that a Veritas spokeshave? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that tool. It'd be a nice upgrade from my pair of cheesy Stanleys.

Yes - it is just the logical shape to get all those strings straight, but yes - very similar to the Ibanez SR basses.

And yes - it is a Veritas Spokeshave.  With a decent set up, most mid range tools (Stanley, etc) will do a perfectly decent job.  I have one Lie Nielsen tool - a block plane - that was a gift and it is beautiful and works so well...but I would never justify buying one myself. 

Every Veritas tool I've had has been still affordable, but have had that same Lie Nielsen feel of quality.  Up until the Veritas, I assumed my poor spokeshave work was my technique of setting up or using.  Then I bit the bullet with the Veritas and huge, huge improvement in my results.  It can be adjusted VERY precisely - I even used it to take the excess off the top binding of the bouzouki - right next to the AAA spruce top...and right down to final sanding level!  And that's not what you are supposed to use spokeshaves for... 

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Anyway, a few more arty f**ty photos  

And so, as a post-script. P and his delightful wife arrived last weekend to pick up the Guitar Bouzouki.  And I think he would be happy in me saying he loves it        For me,  that is a great pl

One of the reasons for the detailed threads is to remember what I did last time. Like thicknessing the sides from 4mm to 2mm. Clearly not the block plane.  But was it my No5 Bailey plane?  O

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6 minutes ago, Prostheta said:

Also, try using magnets to locate items through the soundboard. They also provide light clamping.

Yes - great tip :)

But couldn't be used with the K&K Pure Mini transducers.  When I fit them, I'll post what I do here with the back off...and then I'll show you all what the K&K installation instructions say you should do with a fully finished acoustic. :hyper

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Looking forward to it! Now I'm starting to establish a more permanent "owned" space to work with, I can consider acoustics myself. Looking at ideas slightly left of centre are always good grist for the mill, and help develop or inspire ideas. I've two acoustics still from the many over the years, and I have a good idea of what I want to try and voice from my own. I'm sure it'll be a few lifetimes of learning to take on, but hey, nothing else better to do these days, eh?

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On 8/4/2020 at 4:59 AM, Prostheta said:

You crafty bugger.

literally took the words right out of my mouth.  The easy method for pseudo blind fret slots.... GENIUS!

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And so preparations are afoot to fix the bridge.

A reminder that the sequence I am following is NOT what you will find in the text books but it is what I have done on the last couple of acoustic builds and works much better for me than the conventional methods. The main difference is that I will be doing all of this with the back still off.

As I have recently learned (three months and all of a sudden I try to make out I'm an expert on bouzoukis :lol: ), the spacing at the saddle and nut of a bouzouki between each string and between each pair has to account for the string widths so that the distances from string edge to string edge are even.

I have used a string pattern from one of the detailed internet sites of bouzouki specs and then scaled up the relevant dimensions to work out where the centre lines are.

Clearly at the bridge, it is the spacing of the string retention holes that determines the string positions and here I have the additional requirement of two staggered rows of hole, like on a 12-string acoustic.

I used a 12-string bridge to double check that I was getting the row spacing right and then used some schooldays arithmetic and 'avoiding accumulation of errors' precautions to mark out the hole positions, which equate to the string centre line positions just behind the saddle:



Drilled using my small drill press with an accurate bradpoint - and then the acid test - do all of the holes line up exactly with the intended string positions:


I'm pleased to say that they do :)

Another Phew!

So next challenge is how to cut an accurate saddle slot.  I'll have to have a ponder on that one...

But in the meantime, I also have to cut the string guide that will sit behind the zero fret.  I used the same method as above to get me here.  This isn't carved properly yet, but I need the slots for the next bit - working out the sideways position of the bridge:



So this lets me pop a couple of strings onto the two extreme tuners, and that way I can feed them into the bridge, pull them tight and work out where the bridge needs to sit to keep the bass and treble strings where they need to be in relation to the fretboard sides:


Don't worry about the kink in the bass string here - I just couldn't hold the strings tight at the same time as clicking the camera shutter!


So, once I have worked out how to cut the saddle slot, I can determine the backwards/forwards position of the bridge too and then glue the bridge on :)




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The fitting of the bridge is perhaps the most critical part of an acoustic build.  It simply has to be right.  And there are big, big, problems if is isn't.

First step was cutting the angled saddle slot.  In the end, I had to make another jig - to be able to accurately use a router:


Next was recognising that the top is spheroidal - and therefore the bottom of the bridge has to be shaped accordingly. I will use the old 'engineers blue' trick:

First I put some masking tape on the top and put some school chalk evenly all over it:


Rubbing the bridge a small amount on the chalk reveals the high spots:


Sand the chalk marks off and repeat...and keep sanding the areas where there is chalk and repeat and repeat.  This is starting to get there:


As long as you only sand where the chalk is, you are always lowering the high spots.  Eventually, there is chalk on every bit - and then you know it's a perfect fit.

Next is position the bridge - scale-length-wise and double checking with the string lining up:


Then cut round the bridge through the masking tape:


Wood components have a tendency to float on the layer of glue while they are being clamped, and so need position positioning.  So I now drill through a couple of the string holes and will use some bolts to position and help clamp during gluing:


But, the main ooomph is a long reach clamp with yet another home-made jig - this one is to act as a clamping caul for the bridge body, and then the two captive screws clamp down on the bridge wings:


And there it will sit until morning :)

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On 8/8/2020 at 2:08 PM, Andyjr1515 said:

do all of the holes line up exactly with the intended string positions:


On 8/8/2020 at 2:08 PM, Andyjr1515 said:

I'm pleased to say that they do

Of course they do.

Andy did it!

And then....getting complicated looking Andy....


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And it really is starting to look like a guitar bouzouki now :) 


A few more jobs to do with the back off - installing the Pure Mini transducers and cutting the top of the end graft to size being the main ones - and then I can glue the back on and sort the back binding.

Then I can start the final sanding and finish coats of the body while working separately on the neck carve :)


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And...the back is on!


And the peg holes are reamed and the label is in:


Tomorrow, I should be able to do the back binding and then I can start the final sanding and finishing process while I finish off the neck carve :)


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Well, off and on it's taken all day, but the back binding's done and the first rough sand.  I won't go through the process because, of you go back a few pages, I ironed on the back binding exactly as I did for the top.


But a quick mockup is always in order:



So now I can start the finish process for the body while I start the proper carve of the neck.

I usually apply a 'reveal coat'.  I use the first coat - applied and slurried - as a grain fill, a sealer and also to reveal the dips and lumps or the glue over-spill.  What it reveals also is a decent view of what the final colour will be.  These two pics are in fading light, but I'm sure you get the idea...



Not certain what the lighter areas on the back are - it could be the wood but equally it could be that it will sand off.  At the moment my money is on the latter, and if so, the reveal coat will be living up to its name.  But is the same colour as the very centre join - and that's definitely the wood colour.  The full post-reveal sanding session will answer the question.  Whatever, once the finish varnish is one, that figuring is going to be stunning.  There are some beautiful colours in there!  No wonder they call it Red Gum Walnut!


So next steps in the coming week are body finishing, neck carving and daughter's Covid-fluid-situation-arrangements-govt-might-change-plan-again-already-cancelled-once-and-you-never-know wedding :)

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Well, that patterning is definitely the wood - and now I've sanded down properly you can see the bookmatching.  It has also toned down the contrast a touch.  I don't know how well the photo looks here but in real life it's beautiful!  There's an orange hue mixed in with the browns - delightful and further finishing will only enhance.  It reminds me a little of those lovely Tasmanian wood samples you gave me, @curtisa (and brought literally in person from Tasmania to my home UK county, folks :) )



I've also tidied up the surround of the rosette - I'll put up a shot once it's dry enough to sand off :) 

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14 hours ago, Andyjr1515 said:

There's an orange hue mixed in with the browns - delightful and further finishing will only enhance.  It reminds me a little of those lovely Tasmanian wood samples you gave me, @curtisa

I was going to suggest the colours and demarcation in the red gum walnut looked a bit like the red heart leatherwood (another Tasmanian native) I used on my last build. Crap lighting, but you get the idea:


Funny you should mention about the timber samples I brought over - I was just trying to think the other day which ones I gave you. I remember there was the eucalyptus burl that ended up on Matt's Dreadnought, but I had a vague recollection there were one or two others.

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Yes, @curtisa - very similar.

And yes, there were two others. One that is still on my watch list to use on the right project is a bookmatched plate which is a beautiful deep browny red. I can't remember what you said it was.  I'll pull them out when I get a moment. :)

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I won't do multiple updates of the body finishing as it is literally like watching paint dry, but as a sneak preview, this is how it looks after its first sealing coat of varnish:




I use standard polyurethane varnish and nowadays brush it on with an artist's watercolour fan brush.

It's going to be a pretty bouzouki whatever one of those is!

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And to the neck carve...my favourite bit of any of the builds.

And also to my favourite tool - the humble $3 cabinet scraper.

There was a small diversion in @M3521 's excellent SG thread that @Bizman62 raised about cabinet scrapers.  I didn't want to divert @M3521 's  thread further but as @Bizman62 and @Prostheta both agreed, this most modest of tools takes some beating for a number of tasks - and for me, one of those tasks is carving a neck. 

Yes, I knock off the corners with the lovely $130 Veritas spokeshave; sure I rasp the volute shape with my $30 for each shape or grade of micro-plane - but 85% of each of my neck carves I do with this $3 piece of sheet steel!


  But there's a lot of confusion about cabinet scrapers and there's a conviction in many guitar builders' minds that they are difficult to sharpen.  They are not at all difficult to 'sharpen' (and even the term sharpen is misleading)...but there are indeed some golden rules and some points of clarification without which you will just end up with dust however hard you scrape.

And if I get time tomorrow, I will run through some clarification and hints and tips.  But the thing to never forget is that it is a plane.  It is an exceptionally simple plane but a plane it certainly is.

"Well if it's a plane, why don't you get shavings?"

"What - you mean like these?"



Trust me - it's a plane.  I'll do a quick "all I've gleaned from cleverer folks than me about how to set up and use a cabinet scraper" in the morning and - for those who don't already use them - welcome you to the world of cheap, simple and very effective wood removal :)


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The last place I worked, scrapers were used and abused with zero sharpening. People literally ordered a new one or grabbed somebody else's (not mine....I engraved "Carls Scraper - FO" on the face) when the last one didn't work. Insane.

Talking of cheap and simple solutions, I snagged a broken solid carbide cutter from one of the CNCs and put that to use as a scraper burnisher. It's excellent for producing a smooth and slightly-rounded edge surface whilst peeling over cutting edges. Waste isn't waste until you are absolutely out of ideas on how it can be re-used, re-purposed or re-made.

Those are some fine looking shavings. If you've got a few Stanley blades kicking around, I recommend marking one side up and turning over a hook on those too. They're magnificent detail scrapers.

A card scraper holder is great for not burning your fingers, definitely! I've also seen solid scrapers become more and more common now, which absorb a lot more heat within their mass. They're also smaller in general. StewMac sold/sell one, based on an idea which has been going around in fine woodworking circles for a long time. I've been wanting one of these Crucible scrapers since they came out. Pretty easy to make from a standard scraper if you're patient with a grinder and able to help the steel keep its temper:


There's also a great sharpening video within that.

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So - just a quick diversion about cabinet scrapers for those who are bemused by them.  I'll just talk about rectangular 'card' scrapers.

  1. They are simply a rectangle of spring steel.  But they have a burr deliberately put onto either side of the main cutting lengths.  That burr is almost too small to see but you can feel it.  The burr acts like a wood-plane blade.  In this photo you can see the burr catching the light:_MG_1934.thumb.JPG.8a0118773bef3cfeae6fededa02734c5.JPG
  2. You use them by orientating the burr so that it sits at a similar angle to the wood as a wood plane blade.  Typically, if you are pushing, it will be held like this and angled forward like this:1857705397_Cabinetscraperuse.thumb.jpg.e52226564299f28042246b1ceac1c904.jpg
  3. You can also pull it towards you, but in this case, the scraper is angled towards you:2060574339_Cabinetscraper2.jpg.ba1d3b32ee5348247e49976673700880.jpg
  4. You can increase the depth of cut by bending the plate and 'digging in':1538271550_Cabinetscraper3.jpg.5ee0ef9e2faa4491531450a3daa2e91e.jpg
  5. They are VERY cheap and they come with a burr already on them.  That burr won't last for ever, but for long enough to try the above to produce shavings rather than dust.

So next I will post a quick ABC of how I personally have overcome the black art of re-burring a blunt scraper.  There are a hundred ways of doing that, but I'm pretty sure they all start with the same AB even if the go off to ABD through ABZ ;)


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It's the same for most tool maintenance though, especially sharpening. There's so many "schools of thought" that seem to exist for the sole purpose of disagreement on how to reach the same end product, which they invariably all do anyway; for the most part.

In a similar vein, a phrase which has been idly rolling around my head the last week is "the best tool is the one you have". I'm very unsure on how to feel about this, and whether I completely agree or not. It's easy to agree on the fatuous and overly-obvious basis that the tool you don't have is not the best. I have a lot of trouble with these snappy isms, mostly because they tend to become a replacement for real thinking, idea development and general having-one's-own-considered-opinion.

The way this relates to scrapers is that too many people are willing to put out "My way is the only way. It's the best way." instruction whilst completely forgetting/neglecting to state that this is often what works for personal circumstance, and not all. The methodology behind any number of techniques are often identical, just applied differently. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir a little here, however "these are the facts as we know them".

Generally all methods have that A-to-B with a few differing steps in the middle. Different approaches produce different standards of tool, but a lot of that is the aforementioned hair-splitting. Any considered approach should produce a hook that is at worst 50% short of perfect. Unless one wants to scrape as final finishing, that does the trick.

By all means, ABC, 123 us!

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