Chronicling my journey into lutherie as a first time guitar builder.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


It's been a long while, but I got some work done tonight. Wanted to see how my cosmo black Gotoh's looked on the peghead.

Besides that, the neck angle appears to be wrong. Laying a straight edge on the frets, it is 3/32 above the bridge. Everything I read suggest it should be 0 - 1/8" above the bridge, so I need to bring it down some. *sigh*

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I've been busy.My last post entitled Thanksgiving pictures is the last time I've worked on the guitar. Around that time, our church leased 5000 sq ft of a commercial office building with the intent to renovate it and use it for Sunday services.We were meeting in a middle school... the weekly unloading and loading was time consuming and made regular ministries more difficult.

So we began the demolition in December '08 and had our first service in March '09.During that time I was consumed with many aspects of the renovation; especially any and all audio and video concerns.A new sound system was purchased as well as a new projection screen and computer.

By the time all the dust and details had settled down (around April '09), my wife and I decided to put our house on the market and take advantage of the economic downturn.It seemed that we could now afford a larger house... that is if we could ever sell ours first.So I began to fix all those things that I never got around to fixing.While the house was in good shape... that list of things to fix to make it in "show" condition... was bigger than I could handle.So I contracted out some ceiling drywall and painting to ease my burden.My wife painted two rooms and I did a bunch of other things and we got it on the market first week in May.By God's grace He blessed us by giving us 2 competing offers on the 2nd day it listed. WOW! The offer we accepted was only $5k under what we listed it for and had a close date 8 weeks from then in late June.

So now the task was to find a house we wanted to buy!It was stressful at times over the next week, but we finally found the house for us.It has an extra bedroom, a living room, a 2 car garage and a big back yard... all things our previous house didn't have.And we were able to buy it at only about $70k over what we sold our old house for... definitely couldn't have done that a year or two ago.

So the big move happened on June 28, 2009.Besides the normal move in and unpack activities, I had a substantial list of home improvements that I wanted to get done... and my wife had her own list too!First on the list was upgrading the electrical service; the current box was stuffed full and the unfinished side of the basement (where my new woodshop was going) had only 1 outlet and only 1 single light bulb.So I upgraded the electrical service... which since I pulled a permit with the city, meant I had to upgrade some of the romex wiring to conduit as well.Over the past few months, I've added lights and outlets and the shop is getting close to being usable.

By the time August came around, most of the boxes were unpacked and we were starting to settle in.Some friends of ours were moving to Oregon and decided to give us their pool - what a blessing.At first I wasn't too sure about this. I knew this was going to be a lot of work, but I also knew the wife/kids would love it for many years to come.So we took it and had a crew install it.But I dug the trench for the electrical line and installed the deck. All this took a significant amount of time... basically most of my free time in August and September.We only got to use the pool for about a week in mid-August, but it will be there next year to use and many years after that.

Currently, I'm building a workbench for general use in the basement.I was able to bring the workbench I built for lutherie when we moved, but not the large general purpose bench that I had.Hopefully I will be able to build this and get the shop organized this fall with hopes of getting back to the guitar this winter.The woodworking is done; all that is left is to sand it down and put the finish on it... then assemble it and do the setup work.With any luck, I'll be playing it in the spring/summer of 2010.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving pictures

Every year at Thanksgiving, my family takes pictures of what each individual is thankful for this year and puts them in a book so we can reflect from year to year.Of course I am infinitely more thankful of my family than the guitar that I am building.As challenging as it has been to build my guitar, would you believe it is a thousand times more difficult to get 4 kids and 2 adults to smile and look at the camera at the same time!!!

Anyway, I took a few minutes to assemble my guitar as it is and snap a few photos.Still a lot of work to do, but it's getting closer each day.

While the neck was on the body, I put a straight edge across the frets and measured the height above the bridge.It was about 5/64"... maybe somewhere inbetween 80-90 mils.This will come down some as the frets are leveled.It seems to be in the ball park.

No more ebony dust

A friend of mine (David of upstate NY) suggested I use Black CA glue to fill in under the frets instead of mixing the killer ebony dust that I had been doing. This was a brilliant, if not obvious suggestion that escaped me.Black CA glue is sold almost exclusively by StewMac... but since I'm not ordering anything from them in the near future, I decided on black epoxy.I found some black epoxy at the hardware store, but after sampling this it turned out to be a milky, dark grey color that didn't match the dark black and medium brown streaks of the macassar ebony very well. I also had another friend of mine (what a coincidence, his name is DAVE too!)loan me some black pigment to mix with clear epoxy.After sampling the pigment epoxy, it looked jet black and should work nice.The photo above is the tupperware container full of macassar ebony dust that now resides in the trash, never again to be opened in my shop!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Side dots in

I still have some frets to fill in under, but given my problem with Macassar Ebony dust, I decided to skip that for now and work on the side dots. I marked and carefully drilled the holes for the side dots on my drill press with a 2mm brad point bit. A single dot at the 5th, 9th and 15th fret, double dots at the 7th and 12th. Then I epoxied them in.

After the epoxy set up, I used a double cut bastard file to sand down the epoxy and dots. Once it was close, I scraped it flush. I think I want to add one on the 3rd fret.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You're so insensitive...

Well, not anymore.Last night I awoke at 3am to an extreme itchy-ness around my eyes and eye-lids.My right eye was almost swollen shut, some of the swollen-ness could be from the rubbing that I did to stop the itch.This happened Monday night too, but not nearly as bad.In fact, I have had a little of this for a few weeks... ever since I created some Macassar Ebony sanding dust on the spindle sander.I did this on purpose, to collect and ultimately mix with epoxy to fill in the fret slots.This worked great, problem is that I have sensitized myself to Macassar Ebony by touching the dust with my hands... and probably my hands to my face and eyes at various times.

A search on the internet shows that Macassar Ebony contains macassar II, a ?-naphthol "derivative that may become oxidised in vivo to macassar quinone. This compound has been shown to have sensitizing properties... Cross-sensitivity to other naphthoquinones" (three found in zericote, pao ferro, cocobolo, becote, and padauk) are possible."Later testing confirmed sensitivity to R-3,4-dimethoxydalbergione (found in pao ferro), obtusaquinone (found in cocobolo), and macassar quinone (found in macassar ebony)."

It is the dust, I'm sure.But I wonder if I will react to simply touching the wood/fretboard after the guitar is done.Ebony is generally not oiled/sealed because it doens't need to be.I may have to regardless.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Trimming the fret edges

To clip the ends of the fretboard requires end cutters with a flush cutting edge... not beveled like most end cutters that are sold.These generally sell for $25-30.Not wanting to part with that much money for 15 minutes worth of work, I decided to make my own.I bought a pair of cheapo's at HF for $5, then ground down the surface until the cutting edge was flush.I then used a diamond file to file the inside.It looked kind of ugly, but it worked great.

The only problem with this method is that the grinding caused the steel to heat up and lose it's temper. I know, anger management is always a problem with soft steels. So even though this method worked, it left the edge rather mangled up after using it.

A good pair of end cutters would be machined with a flush edge and then tempered. Maybe I can re-sharpen them and then temper it myself.The simplest thing would be to heat up the cutting part with a torch and then quench it in either oil or water.