An average Joe builds a guitar from scratch.Blood, Fret & TearsTumblr (3.0; @bloodfretandtears) folks, now the final post-post script.  Here is a recording...<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="" height="27" width="207" quality="best" wmode="opaque"></embed><br/><br/><p>Okay folks, now the final post-post script.  Here is a recording of the guitar, a lullaby I wrote for my niece and nephew.  It’s two different tracks (no, I can’t play all of that at the same time) and has plenty of little mistakes in it, background noise of cars going by, etc.  But absolutely no effects (reverb, compression, etc.) on the recording. </p> <p>So right, this is what the thing sounds like.  </p> <p>I wonder… maybe I’ll do an electric guitar next?!!</p>, 14 Nov 2012 15:17:00 -0500Guitar Building: Post Script<p>Well, it’s finally really done.  I mean completely finished.  By finished I mean it now has a finish applied to it.  And it took <em>forever</em>.  I sent it out through the guys at SF Guitarworks, who then sent it to a guy in Santa Cruz.  And he took 3 months instead of what should have been 3 weeks.  But whatever, no big deal.</p> <p>I also put an inlay into the headstock.  Well, I didn’t.  Again, the guys at SF Guitarworks did.  It’s acorns because, and don’t laugh, my nickname is squirrel.  My mom gave it to me when I was a kid because she thought my red hair looked like a squirrel.  So there are now nuts on my guitar.</p> <p>And, lastly, and you won’t be able to see this, I had the fretboard leveled and completely re-fretted.  Do I feel bad about essentially ripping my work out and giving it to professionals to do?  No.  No I don’t.  Fret boards are hard to do by hand even if you know what you are doing.  I sure didin’t!  Before my fretboard was a ski jump.  Now it’s straight as an arrow.  And plays great!</p> <p>The pictures appear below and, eventually, so will a recording.</p> <p>First, a glamour shot:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="333" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Next, the acorns (which I sort of designed, thank you very much):</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="1024" src="" width="682"/></a></p> <p>Another glamour shot:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="427" src="" width="640"/></a></p> <p>And the sound hole:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="427" src="" width="640"/></a></p> <p>A look at the side below the neck, along with the some black and white trim (called “purfling”:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="640" src="" width="427"/></a></p> <p>And the back, which was tough to get a good photo:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="427" src="" width="640"/></a></p> <p>Closeup of the back:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="427" src="" width="640"/></a></p> <p>And there she is, in all her glory:</p> <p><a href="" title="Untitled by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="Untitled" height="1024" src="" width="423"/></a></p>, 29 Oct 2012 00:58:00 -0400Guitar Building Day 12: La Fin<p>And so, here we are.  The end.  I finished the guitar.  Here it is, on my kitchen table back in Berkeley:</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_163788B7-1FBF-4C10-9997-2DAD86F4518A.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_163788B7-1FBF-4C10-9997-2DAD86F4518A.JPG" height="500" src="" width="374"/></a></p> <p>Yep, that sure looks like a guitar.  Sounds like one.  Almost feels like one, and certainly will when the finish gets applied on there.  Which, speaking of, I have to admit I plan to outsource.  I feel kind of bad about it, because it’s the one thing I wouldn’t have done myself.  But given that I don’t have a place that’s well ventilated enough to get do it safely, nor do I have the time to do it right, I think it’s worth it.  Guitar nerds: I’m going to go to <a href="" target="_blank">SF Guitarworks</a>, they do great work!</p> <p>But whatever, I don’t think my finishing job makes much of a difference.  Because the thing sounds good!  And it’ll continue to open up and sound better!  I’m in the process of putting a band together, and if (no, when) it happens, it’d be neat to play this thing live.  So that’s something to look forward to I suppose.</p> <p>I also wanted to be sure I make mention of my great classmates.  From left to right we have Doug, Diane, and Charlie.</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_A83387BA-C7F0-4FD1-9D75-A764B9E208F7.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_A83387BA-C7F0-4FD1-9D75-A764B9E208F7.JPG" height="500" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Charlie is the most Canadian guy I’ve ever met.  He’s from Alberta, in the north, I think.  And he is so freaking nice you can’t help but love the guy.  And oh my, was he skilled.  He seemed to be the most natural luthier of the bunch of us, but what the hell do I know.</p> <p>Doug is from Des Moines, and I know for a fact he is going to continue to build guitars, and do it very well.  He was a great “second pair of eyes,” easy to talk to, and fun to be around.  I hope to order one of his guitars when he gets around to selling them.</p> <p>When I asked Diane how she wanted to be described, she said “I know an awful lot about power tools for a middle-aged lady.”  True words indeed.  I admire Diane a lot.  She found that most instruments—guitars in particular—were just too big for her small hands.  So she decided to learn to build her own.  That is just bad ass.</p> <p>And then there’s me. I didn’t lose any of my fingers.  In fact, other than a teeny little knife cut, a few splinters, and endless exhaustion, I came out unscathed.  I learned a lot about a lot of things, built a pretty damn nice guitar, and got to know some really great people.  All in all, a pretty awesome experience.</p> <p>Look for an epilogue in the coming week(s), where I’ll show photos of the final, finished guitar, post a recording or two, and hopefully put together a little photo journal of the whole process front to back (minus the last day when, can you believe it, I didn’t take one damn photo).</p> <p>So that’s it for Blood, Fret, and Tears…at least for now.</p> <p>La fin.</p>, 02 Jul 2012 21:11:50 -0400Day 11: Rosewood Boogars<p><a href="" title="IMAGE_6BA9CCE0-6E0D-44E8-BE90-11C5F860363B.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_6BA9CCE0-6E0D-44E8-BE90-11C5F860363B.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Here we are, entering the home stretch!  Today is our last day!</p> <p>Yesterday we installed the frets, which is a big freakin’ deal.  Frets and the way they lay on the neck are probably the most important part of the guitar for the player.  If the frets are good, the guitar will play well.</p> <p>My frets look beautiful.  But I’m not so sure I did a good job on them.  Our teacher, Charles, reassures me it’ll be fine, and I’m sure it will.  But I think I sanded them a little low.  C’est la vie.</p> <p>Otherwise I did some damage to the bottom of the back of my neck, making more work for Charles.  We’re going glue a block of mahogany back on to the bottom of the neck, and I’m going to have to reshape the damn thing.  Damn.</p> <p>Other than a progress report on the guitar, I thought it worth while to talk about the physical aspect of this whole experience, because there’s some interesting stuff there.</p> <p>First, there’s this:</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_EDADD3EE-10A2-4DEC-9C4E-89B6A72624E0.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_EDADD3EE-10A2-4DEC-9C4E-89B6A72624E0.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Those are some luthier’s hands!  And that was after washing them.  It’s ebony and rosewood dust mostly.  And yeah, I feel kind of bad ass about it.  I have soft, desk job hands.  Those are a man’s hands!</p> <p>As you might expect, this saw dust gets everywhere, including up my nose.  So that’s another little bonus.  Rosewood boogars!  I don’t have a picture of those.</p> <p>Otherwise, I’m not sleeping much, but I don’t think that has much to do with guitar making.</p> <p>And finally, in the spirit of doing all this in Portland, I decided to let my beard go and see what kind of ironic facial hair I could get.  I may not be smiling, but my mustache is!</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_FEEB2BEC-9286-47A2-A9FB-F02BFB57ADF1.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_FEEB2BEC-9286-47A2-A9FB-F02BFB57ADF1.JPG" height="500" src="" width="375"/></a></p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 30 Jun 2012 09:21:46 -0400Day 10: Made With Wood, Skill, and Love<p>Today was a big day.  We finished the necks.  It was crazy to carve a neck out of a block of wood.  Check it out:</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_21793A3E-B800-4951-A186-2DE280B3D4AE.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_21793A3E-B800-4951-A186-2DE280B3D4AE.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>That turned into this:</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_B56A082A-B40B-411E-9C9A-7D8FEF7A2538.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_B56A082A-B40B-411E-9C9A-7D8FEF7A2538.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>All with a rasp and some sand paper!</p> <p>But wait…check this out!</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_1DDB332B-64F7-463E-BBF1-1B3624062DB6.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_1DDB332B-64F7-463E-BBF1-1B3624062DB6.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Holy shit that looks like a guitar!</p> <p>Charles Fox, our teacher, said that I had a natural ability for carving the wood, which was awfully nice to hear.  And he said he took a lot of satisfaction out of all the progress that I and the rest of the class were making both on our guitars as well as our general skills in the shop.  And he’s right, we’ve all learned a ton.  I feel like I kind of know my way around now, when I hadn’t ever held a chisel before in my life.</p> <p>And that got me thinking about Charles, and how I really needed to write something about him.  He is easily the most compelling character in this whole thing, but I am finding it tough to figure out exactly what to say about him.</p> <p>I’ve already written about his role as one of the fathers of American Lutherie.  He started the first lutherie school, invented a bunch of tools.  Like I wrote last week, he’s kind of a big deal.</p> <p>I thought about writing about his work ethic.  For example, he fully rebuilt two of my classmate’s tops after they had a few too many mishaps on them.  And he did it after hours.  Considering our pretty packed schedule—9AM to 8PM six days per week—that is some serious dedication.  </p> <p>But that’s not particularly interesting, just admirable.</p> <p>I thought about writing about his skill as a teacher.  His patience, knowledge, fairness.  But I thought that was hard to relate to—sort of a “had to be there” kind of experience.</p> <p>And then yesterday I found my topic.  Charles’ wife, Denise.</p> <p>Charles works out of his home workshop, while Denise works upstairs in the home office.  As Charles says, he’s “just the talent, but she runs the show.”  Seeing their dynamic was more illuminating to Charles’ character than anything else.</p> <p>Denise came back from a four day trip to the Oregon coast this afternoon, and when she walked through the door into the shop, Charles lit up.  It was subtle, but I’d say he was even giddy.  Just so <em>happy</em>.  He is so in love with this woman.  It’s awesome and so clear.</p> <p>And that, as much as anything else, is responsible for our incredible experience here.  He’s got to know what he’s doing as a luthier, and 40 years’ experience attests to that.  And obviously he’s incredibly experienced as a teacher too.  But I think it’s the halo effect of his life with Denise that makes this whole thing feel like a deeper, more profound experience than just whittling some wood.  There’s joy, contentment, and serenity around here.  It’s nice.</p> <p>As usual, it’s not about inanimate objects.  It’s about people.  It’s about wood, skill, and love.  And hopefully it will be about good tone and resonance too.  And keeping all of my fingers.  Let’s not forget that.</p>, 29 Jun 2012 10:41:00 -0400Day 9: Neck Part I<p>Well, we’re really getting down to the end here.  Today we made the fretboard and peg head, and glued the fretboard to the neck.  I also put little fretboard dot markers in the side of the fretboard.  Tomorrow we shape the neck into something that will look like a real guitar part.  From there, we start assembly.  It’s pretty neat.</p> <p>A few pictures from our work today, going clockwise from top left: the uncut peg head, cut peg head and peg head holes, freshly cut fretboard, clamping the fretboard to the neck with epoxy so gnarly we had to wear rubber gloves.</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>While I think some of these guitar-building details can get a little esoteric, I’m encouraged by the reaction I get to telling people about this unusual class.  Most people seem like they find all this guitar genuinely interesting—even people who don’t play.  Just tonight, I met a few people who don’t play and they couldn’t ask enough questions about the school and what goes on there.  And another guy I don’t get to talk to as much as I’d like also reached out and said he’s loving following along.  So thanks for that, it feels good.</p> <p>A preview of what’s to come, or at least I hope what’s to come.  Today we finish the neck, shaping it into something comfy and normal looking.  Friday we do assembly and final tweaks.  Saturday we set up and play…but wait!  There will be an epilogue.</p> <p>Our guitars have to go out “in the white.”  That means there’s no finish (i.e. lacquer) on there, making them super vulnerable to dirt and scratches.  So I’ll finish it at home and, if I can motivate, I’ll post a recording or two as well as some glamour shots.  </p> <p>The final, final thing I may do, but only if the guitar is super awesome, is inlay something in the peg head.  I’m thinking an acorn because my childhood nickname was Squirrel.  But I dunno.  Ideas?</p>, 28 Jun 2012 10:18:51 -0400Day 8: Tools<p>Today we cleaned up all of the bindings for the body and continued our progress on the neck.  I had my first unrecoverable screwup—I sanded my neck a little bit too much so it’s a bit short, and we can’t get anything back—but it’s going to be okay.  We’ll just move a few other things around, and the guitar will still play and sound fine.</p> <p>I neglected to take a picture of my cleaned up bindings, which was dumb because that would have been the best photo of the day.</p> <p>Instead, I’ve got this:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>What is that contraption, after all?  That is called a “jig” and they are freaking everywhere in guitar making.</p> <p>The basic concept is when there is a process that requires precision in exactly the same way, every time, you build a separate tool that does the job perfectly every time.  Here’s another example you’ve seen, plus a little diagram to show how it works.</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Seems pretty complicated, right?  Well, it is and it isn’t.  The designs themselves are actually remarkably simple.  But knowing what needs to be accomplished, and designing something that accomplishes that simply and effectively is damn near brilliant.</p> <p>Charles Fox, my instructor, is a jig genius.  The side bender above is such a widespread tool that people just don’t bend sides any other way.  Charles invented it.</p> <p>There are jigs everywhere in the shop.  It’s something I’ve learned to admire and appreciate, and also sort of loathe.  How am I ever going to make all these parts?!  How do I make sure I don’t have to make one a bunch of times, just because I screw up my custom made tool?  Do I really need all of those anyway?</p> <p>When I do this on my own, yes, I’m going to need some of this stuff.  I can throw money at some of it, but really should make my own stuff that meets my own, specific needs and process.  Anybody got a workshop I can borrow?</p> <p>Here are a few more jigs, all of which Charles designed and made himself.  Amazing.  (Full disclosure, I might get some of these descriptions wrong.  I have all of them in my notes, but there is too much to sift through in too little time.  Cut me some slack on this one.)</p> <p>It turns out the back and top of a guitar are slightly domed.  Check out the yellow board he’s working on.  That’s actually a vacuum with a very specific curve to it.  It sucks the back and top flush at a curve so you can glue on bracings and have them be at just the right radius. </p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>This rotating arm is, again, at just the perfect curve.  If you look at it closely you can see it’s not perfectly straight.  This cuts the edge of the sides at, again, just the right angle so the curved back and top fit to the sides at just the right angle.</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>I forgot what this is called, but I think you can figure out by it’s shape how it’s related to guitar making.  Specifically, we put the sides in here, nudge those fat dowels up against the sides, and then clamp linings against the sides.  Charles made this.  Simple but complex, right?</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>This is one of my favorites.  That’s Charles holding a “sled” that goes up against a belt sander.  The edge of the sled is, again, cut to just the perfect curve.  You put little spruce sticks in there, sand it at the right curve, and voila!  You are ready to make bracing.  How the hell did he get the perfect curve on there?!</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>This thing squeezes backs and sides together tight, so they get a nice tight glue joint.  Again, he made all this stuff.  Wow.</p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 27 Jun 2012 10:31:00 -0400Day 7: In A Bind<p>Today was the most difficult but somehow the most rewarding day.  Instead of doing big obvious things, like cutting the body shape out of a plank of wood, or putting the decorative rosette around the sound hole, we focused on the bindings.  Holy crap are they difficult.</p> <p>Bindings run around the edge of the guitar.  They make it look clean and pretty, and can have some pretty nice decorative touches to it.  Here’s the one I did:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>It still needs a little cleanup, so it’s not a final version of the thing.  But if you look closely at the corners, you’ll notice the tight fitting decorative joint.  Here it is blown up, with poorly designed blue circles to hit you over the head with what to look at:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Again, it needs cleanup, but still…that was HARD.  And it looks cool, so it was rewarding.  </p> <p>And the way we cut the channels for that inlay was damn genius.  If I had better writing/photo/journalist/engineering skills, I’d try to explain how Charles fashioned a fancy jig that put a router on a stand that swung around the guitar just so, until it needed to be raised 3/16ths of an inch for just about an inch worth of cutting, and how he put a little shim under the router to raise it just so again…</p> <p>Yeah, I’ll skip the “how it works.”  Just know, it’s freaking genius.</p> <p>What’s funny is that it really has zero bearing on how the guitar sounds.  And that’s been one of the most interesting subplots to this whole guitar-building extravaganza.  I’m getting the sense that there is an odd relationship between craftsmanship and music.  In that it seems there isn’t much of a relationship at all.</p> <p>Let me briefly explain.</p> <p>Luthiers use many of the same techniques (body styles and shapes, materials, etc.) to build their guitars so there’s a ton of standardization.  Add to that the idiosyncrasies from each individual piece of wood, how a guitar changes over time, etc., and it’s tough to say one guitar is or will sound “better” than another.  ”Better” is a totally subjective concept anyway.</p> <p>So I think decorative touches are what a lot of luthiers can hang their hats on.  But as a player who can’t afford the fanciest inlays, or most beautiful wood, I don’t care about appearance as much.  I just want it to sound great.  Which, again, given all those idiosyncrasies, is kind of tough to evaluate.</p> <p>And now that I’m making one of these things, I have a lot more understanding for that dynamic between looks and sound.  It is <em>impossible</em> to cater perfectly to a players taste in sound in an instrument.  But you can make it look exactly the way she wants.  And I suppose that’s where the craftsman beats out the music.</p>, 26 Jun 2012 10:30:00 -0400Day 6: Story time!<p><img src=""/>Yesterday was my day off, so instead of focusing on the guitar, I’m going to tell a little story about the people in and around this little rumspringa of mine.</p> <p class="p1">It all starts with Monday night.  I have the good fortune of playing in a folk/old timey/bluegrass jam session with a handful of the greatest people every week.  It’s always at my friend Sally’s house.  Sally is in her 70s and plays the auto harp.  She is a noted anti-death penalty advocate and has a concert poster from some anti-death penalty rally.  It’s signed by Eddie Vedder.  I think this is awesome.</p> <p class="p1">I have heard Sally say more than a few times, “I remember the first time I heard that song.  It was 1939…”  It’s amazing that I get to play the great old tunes with people who were there when they were written.</p> <p class="p1">Then there is also Walter and Milly.  Walter just finished his last year as a professor at the UC Berkeley.  You know the theory for dinosaur extinction, where an asteroid hits the earth and killed all the dinosaurs?  Yeah, that’s his theory.  He is brilliant.  Milly is too, and has more compassion than most people I’ve ever met, running a clinic for people with mental disorders.  And they are great to sing and play music with.  And Milly is awesome to have dinner with because she cooks like an Italian, but with southern flair.  Viva ya’ll!</p> <p class="p1">Then we have Charles.  Charles taught high schoolers in Berkeley for decades and the city even deemed his birthday “Charles Kratz day.”  He has a big white beard, plays the banjo and harmonica, and knows the words to thousands of songs.  And loves Katherine McPhee in Smash.  I think this is hilarious.  And I think Charles is fantastic.</p> <p class="p1">There is Dick S. and Susan S.  Dick was a cowboy.  Seriously.  A real cowboy.  And a poet.  And he built his house with his own two hands when he was in his 70s.  Susan is a published writer, who I think is on a book tour right now.  And Michael, who grew up in a communist family—and plays the bass.  And Josh, who ran away from home at 15, and then ran a bike shop, and then became a teacher, and then wrote the music to “Julius Caesar: the musical” for 20 6th grade boys.  He’s also fighting Parkinson’s with a courage and grace that I admire.  And Dick W., who was chair of the Electrical Engineering department at Berkeley—he plays banjo.  And Karl, who used to run with some pretty heavy bluegrass circles in NYC, but is now a psychologist—and mandolin player.  And Nancy, who has the voice of an angel and is a designer and is so close with Sally that it’s fun to just watch them sing together.</p> <p class="p1">And Charlie, who grew up in Kentucky playing traditional music, and then majored in ethnomusicology.  Then went to law school and has had an unbelievable career, with cases argued in front of both the CA state and Federal supreme court.  But he put his guitar down for something like 20 or 30 years until he found this jam session.</p> <p class="p1">There are more people who come in and out, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone.  But the point is, here I am, a 33 year old single guy, surrounded by unforgettable people who are decades older than I am, all playing the same tunes (often poorly, sometimes quite well).  Telling stories, drinking wine, laughing and even crying now and then.  It’s an unusual situation to find oneself in, and yes, it’s pretty corny.  It’s also extraordinary.  I count these people as my very close friends, and it doesn’t matter that some are more than twice my age.  They appreciate my youth, and I their experience.  It’s a nice balance.</p> <p class="p1">This isn’t relevant to guitar building, I know.  But we’re getting there.  The next step is Barbara.  Barbara was a peripheral friend of Sally’s who happened to be in town the Monday I announced to the group I was headed to Portland, OR for a few weeks to build a guitar.  Barbara happens to live in Portland.  She invited me to stay minutes after meeting me.  And I am writing this from her spare bedroom as we speak.</p> <p class="p1">It’s the most amazing thing, surrounding oneself with incredible people.  I am a stranger to Barbara, but because of my friends on Monday nights, she invited me into her home, and treated me with unbelievable hospitality—I’ll be here for almost two weeks!  Two weeks!!!  And even though we don’t know each other, we share a common humanity, of which Monday night is a prime example.  </p> <p class="p1">And this, finally, is where it starts to become relevant with guitar building.  All of this stuff—Monday night friends, Barbara, great old songs, singing, dancing to irish reels, feeling like you are with family—is what this is all about.  To my surprise, I’m not self-indulging during this incredibly self-indulgent activity (I mean seriously, guitar building school?  Give me a break.), but rather how proud my friends will be.  How I’m glad that I got to know Barbara.  That I got to visit with my friends Anna and Victor who also live in Portland, and meet their incredible two kids.  And that I have great stories to tell them all from class, and feel like I can be better friend because of it.  Sure, the sense of pride and accomplishment from building a guitar is awesome, but meeting and sharing it with people is even better.  I suppose that’s one reason I’m writing this blog.</p> <p class="p1">And the work itself—cutting and shaping the wood, gluing, sanding, chiseling, all by hand—is so filled with human error and variability that you can’t help but look at it and say a human being made that.  In a world filled with plastic, IKEA, and all things digital, a healthy dose of humanity in an inanimate object is awfully refreshing.</p> <p class="p1">In the end it is incredibly obvious.  A guitar is just an object, and two weeks come and go in an instant.  But the music that comes out of the thing, the pride and hard work that went into building it, along with the people who share in it last forever.  (Holy crap, this is corny.)</p> <p class="p1">Here is a photo from Saturday’s class.  Inlays!</p> <p class="p1"><img src=""/></p>, 25 Jun 2012 11:34:00 -0400Day 5: Hoy crap, that looks like a guitar<p>Today is going to be super duper short, because I don’t think people read this stuff on Saturdays. But Monday’s post should hopefully be an extravaganza, because I don’t have to be in the shop on Sunday, and will actually have time to write. Imagine that?!</p> <p>Actually, time in the shop is worth mentioning. This program is 9AM till 8PM six days per week. It’s a real testament to Charles Fox, the school’s professor/principal/owner/philosopher, that the time is flying by. I was a little nervous by such long days, but it really has been a pleasure.</p> <p>On to the photos.</p> <p>Chisel! </p> <div class="separator"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="alignnone" height="500" id="blogsy-1340460278433.8044" src="" width="374"/></a></div> <div class="separator"></div> <div class="separator">Guitar parts!</div> <div class="separator"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="alignnone" height="374" id="blogsy-1340460278465.1387" src="" width="500"/></a></div> <p> Guitar!  Almost.</p> <div class="separator"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="aligncenter" height="374" id="blogsy-1340460278456.8113" src="" width="500"/></a></div>, 23 Jun 2012 10:06:44 -0400Day 4: Handmade<p>Well, bad news.  I had a whole post written out where I was all poetic about the virtues of making things by hand, and how it’s so nice to produce something that anyone can relate to, versus my regular day job, which is really good and all, but not obviously making the world a better place…</p> <p>And it was deleted.  And now I have to go back to the workshop.  Damnit.</p> <p>The gist of it was basically that it’s great to be pretty crappy at something because it feels good to get better at it.  And if you make something by hand, it’s really easy to take pride in that, especially if it’s something other people can relate to.</p> <p>I write powerpoint presentations for a living.  Most people can’t relate to that.  Guitars, on the other hand, are freaking awesome.  No, I’m not going to become a professional luthier (not yet, or maybe ever).  But I’m going to continue to make stuff by hand.  It feels good.  I highly recommend it.</p> <p>Alright, some pics.</p> <p>I beveled the edge on that little cedar support, because why not?</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_45B5F861-021D-4196-A378-91D8ACCEA7D5.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_45B5F861-021D-4196-A378-91D8ACCEA7D5.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Here is the beginning of the neck.</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_5998B6F4-2E4E-4198-884E-5060CF24EC6A.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_5998B6F4-2E4E-4198-884E-5060CF24EC6A.JPG" height="500" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Braces!</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_A1702897-B18C-414E-896D-E7DF6606C3B4.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_A1702897-B18C-414E-896D-E7DF6606C3B4.JPG" height="500" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Coasters!</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_9E186AD7-EEFD-4D22-B1A3-0AF2E6D4E488.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_9E186AD7-EEFD-4D22-B1A3-0AF2E6D4E488.JPG" height="374" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p>Left is dirty, right is clean. Pride in my work! Exclamation!</p> <p><a href="" title="IMAGE_4A2F4E0A-0EED-4693-B03A-989597859C03.JPG by JoeLazar, on Flickr"><img alt="IMAGE_4A2F4E0A-0EED-4693-B03A-989597859C03.JPG" height="500" src="" width="500"/></a></p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 22 Jun 2012 11:17:16 -0400Guitar Build Day 3: What I did at summer clamp<p>Happy first day of summer!</p> <p>Today is going to be a relatively light blog posting day because I’m beat dead tired, and, while we did plenty of work today, we didn’t have a whole lot of obvious results to show for it.  </p> <p>That’s actually one of the things I’ve learned about building guitars.  I knew they were marvelous instruments, but I didn’t really know how many details are involved.  Details that, even though I’ve been playing for almost 20 years, I’ve never noticed.  For example, take a look inside of a nice guitar and notice how <em>clean</em> it is.  That was formerly full of sawdust, glue (which gets everywhere, believe you me), and dirt.  And all the parts had to be cut just so, else they look sloppy.  It’s all perfectly sanded, and joined, and just perfect.</p> <p>Now that I’m doing it I can’t imagine how it’s possible.  But it is.</p> <p>So, anyway, on to today’s task.  I had to put in a lining inside the sides of my guitar, to stiffen and support the sides, which results in lighter bracing for the back and top, which then means more volume (i.e. sound, not mass) coming out of the guitar.  Which is a good thing.</p> <p>We also put on the neck block inside the guitar which is, as you might have guessed, the thing the neck will eventually attach to.  This thing is really beginning to look like a real guitar.</p> <p>We did it with a bunch of clamps which ended up hurting my hand (I feel old).  I feel like this post should be called “what I did at summer cramp” because of my hand.</p> <p>One last note, there is a rare opening at the <a href="" target="_blank">American School of Lutherie</a> for the Electric Guitar building class for July 8-14.  It’s only one week long and you’ll build a guitar from scratch!  But seriously, rare opening, this stuff usually has a waiting list.</p> <p>On last last note.  If you have any specific questions, feel free to put them in the comments, send a note, whatever. </p> <p>On to the photos:</p> <p>That’s an awful lot of clamps!</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>And this looks like a guitar!</p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 21 Jun 2012 11:10:00 -0400Guitar Build Day 2: Hot, wet, and steamy<p>Remember when you had braces in middle school, and they made you feel so awkward and weird and lonely?  Today was like back to the future: I felt weird and awkward, and it was all because of braces.</p> <p>It turns out these braces are really hard to make:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>They go on the inside of the top and back of the guitar to help give it the stability it needs to withstand all that string tension.  And they are a pain in the ass.  After seeing mine and remarking “I don’t quite know how you made them look like that,” our instructor had to do these two for me.</p> <p>And now for bending the sides into shape.  It’s hot, wet, and steamy (hee hee).  Here’s how it works (it’s not long, and it’s pretty interesting, so read it.  No really!  Read it!):</p> <p>Preheat this very fancy clamping molding system to 300 degrees. (More about this thing, as well as other guitar building tools, to come in future posts.)</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Cut your sides to size, and then spray well with a water bottle</p> <p>Put the side into the fancy clamp and turn down the heat to 250.  This is me just before putting the clamp down:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>While it sits there, the water turns to steam and carries the heat through the entire thickness of the wood, making it more pliable.  So it’s not the water that’s doing the bending, it’s the heat.  Neat-o.</p> <p>Here’s a finished side:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Now that we’re done with the hot and steamy side-bending apparatus, we’ll finish the sides later with a hot pipe.  More innuendo!</p> <p>The highlight of the day was the rosette.  That’s where we rout out a few rings around what will be the sound hole, and inlay it with, in this case, abalone.  I’m not a big fan of the abalone, and would have preferred ebony, or rosewood, or something else, but whatever.</p> <p>Here’s what it that whole process looks like:</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>I’m happy to say that mine came out just about perfect.  Now about those pesky braces… </p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 20 Jun 2012 11:19:08 -0400Day 1: Cool, refreshing beverages. Nonstop.<p>Day one at The American School of Lutherie was filled with the normal rigamarole of “first day of class.”  Introductions of the students (all four of us), a tour of the workshop, some general housekeeping, all led by our instructor, Charles Fox.</p> <p>Charles founded the American School of Lutherie, which has the distinction of being the oldest guitar making school in the country.  He’s been doing this 45 years (45!), and has invented or evolved many of the essential tools of the trade.  He’s kind of a big deal.</p> <p>But, perhaps most importantly, he sometimes waxes poetic ala Garrison Keilor about, well, just about anything.  My favorite nugget of the day: “Having correct moisture in the air is important in lutherie, so we normalize the humidity to 45% to 55%.  So guitar-making is dehydrating, so we have this refrigerator stocked with coke, water, and other drinks.  Cool, refreshing beverages.  Nonstop.”</p> <p>Cool, refreshing beverages, indeed!</p> <p>Here are some pictures.  And I’m not cutting my finger off in any of them!</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Yep, that’s an entire guitar.</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>Fingers still attached… for now.</p> <p><img src=""/></p> <p>It sorta looks like a guitar.  That’s actually the inside of the back of the guitar.  And that light piece of wood makes sure the thing doesn’t fall apart.  Strong, like bull.</p> <p><img src=""/></p>, 19 Jun 2012 01:33:00 -0400How did this happen anyway?<p>11 years ago I took a job telling how much money they were going to make.  This job was not for me.  I thought I was an artist, not a finance guy.  But I was young, and needed the money, and “financial analyst” sounded fancy.</p> <p>It didn’t take long for me to know I had to do something else.  So I walked into the director of our department’s office and said, “Lisa, I’m going to go make guitars for a living.”  She was, as you’d expect, pretty surprised.  She also didn’t believe me.</p> <p>Fast forward 11 years.  I never made that guitar.  Instead I went to Carnegie Hall and marketed a <a href="" title="Orpheus Chamber Orchestra" target="_blank">super cool orchestra</a>.  And then I did something else, which led to something else, which led to something else.  </p> <p>But still, I didn’t ever make that guitar.</p> <p>Well now, for crying out loud, it’s time.  I’m going to be in Portland, Oregon for the next two weeks, studying under Charles Fox at the <a href="" target="_blank">American School of Lutherie</a>.  Holy crap.</p> <p>Am I qualified?  Hardly.  I was supposed to read a <a href="" target="_blank">big book</a> on the subject before class, but didn’t find the time.  I last did wood working in 7th grade—and in summer school no less.  That’s right, I <em>chose</em> to go to summer school to learn a little wood working.  I’m hoping that dork potential serves me well over the next two weeks.  But I digress.</p> <p>So here are my goals:</p> <ol><li>Keep all my fingers</li> <li>Build a guitar</li> </ol><p>That shouldn’t be too terribly tough, right?  We’ll see, I guess.</p> <p>It all starts with a pile of wood…</p> <p><img align="left" height="452" src="" width="293"/></p>, 18 Jun 2012 04:01:00 -0400