Monday, July 31, 2006

My first "I didn't think that through"

I got home from work and went to have a look to see if the auto putty had set on the cauls. Well it had, but I had not thought it through enough. Obviously (now) the neck block has a channel where the neck fits in - this is mirrored onto the caul - and therefore a lump is formed on one of the cauls. Won't be too much of a problem. Should be able to fix it with a slight sanding, using the curve of the end block.

Today, I headed over to my specialty woodworking shop, Carbatec. I spent more hard earned buying a scraper and one of those Japanese saws - everything around the house is for cutting large jobs. Whilst there I got worried about the strength of the glue I bought yesterday. I bought a tube with the words like "professional", "super strength" and "premium" on the tube. I am a victim.

Time taken : 5 minutes + Shopping
Tools used : Nil
AU$'s spent : $28.00 Japanese saw, $5.00 wood scraper, $11.00 Titebond II wood glue.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A simple start

This afternoon I spread the auto body filler over the surface of a block of wood to be used as a caul. I placed a piece of baking paper over the filler and then pressed the neck and end block into the filler on their respective cauls. I lightly clamped them together and hopefully tomorrow, I will have a suitably curved caul.

A small step but - I've started.

At this stage, I've used about 1/3 of the tube of filler - That obviously means I will have to build two more guitars or crash my car... don't want to see it go to waste.

Time taken : 20 minutes
Tools used : Hand saw, auto body filler, baking paper
AU$'s spent : nil

It starts

It’s time to get things underway. Today I headed down to the hardware store to buy some supplies so I can get started. Having moved towns recently, there is next to no scrap pieces of wood lying around so I picked up a couple of pieces of 70x19x900 pine to make the sanding board and a single piece of 70x30x900 to use as cauls. A piece of 190x19x900 will suffice in making the body brace - I hope.

I also bought a small metal ruler which has the imperial – metric conversions on the back. I am not old enough to remember a time when Australia used the imperial system of measurement (ceased 1968), so when I watch the StewMac video, I get lost on hearing one 16th of an inch etc. Better to have a handy reference near by instead of making a stupid mistake.

I picked up fresh PVA glue, 2 good quality 300mm clamps and some spring clamps that will no doubt come in handy. Last of all I got some motor body filler to make the curved shape on the cauls for clamping the end blocks.

I’m not overly concerned with the expense of this project and I am basically keeping a record of the money I spend to give those that follow a general idea of what to expect. Keeping that in mind, I should break up the record of my expense below into two different classes. Obviously, if I already had clamps and scrap wood lying around, I wouldn’t have needed to buy it. I think I’ll record the cost of items that are consumable, sandpaper, glues etc separate from other expenses.

So, once I finish all the other weekend duties, I can get to making braces, boards and cauls.

Time taken : Time stops in a hardware store.
Tools used : Credit card.
AU$'s spent : Consumables - glue $5.34, auto body filler $7.00 = $12.34
Sundry expenses - clamps $42.65, wood $10.78, ruler $4.97 = $58.40

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Down to the shed

After being laid out on my dining room table for the last two nights, I moved the wood today down to the shed. Typical that the drought breaks the week before my guitar arrives. I forgot that it is NOT typically sunny and somewhat warm during winter. My ongoing battle with the way I feel about humidity, is coming to an end. I think I will start and work only on fine days.

Time taken : Nil
Tools used : Nil
AU$'s spent : Nil

Monday, July 24, 2006

The first hurdle

Make that the only hurdle - positive thinking.

I sat down tonight to watch a little of the video - the cassette is cracked. I'm a little worried about putting it into my machine... should I force the first hurdle? It's a little worse than my photography skills show.

There was no sign of damage to the external boxes, nor the red cover/plastic in which the cassette came wrapped. It would appear that the cassette was broken some time ago.

Time taken : Arrrrhhh
Tools used : Arrrrhhhh
AU$'s spent : Nil


It's here! My new guitar is here. No Customs or import charges, just a friendly DHL fella handing over the two boxes. The gear was packed quiet well using brown paper and some sort of hessian material. At one end of one box, the tape was torn open but it appears this was more of a quick customs check than mishandleing by DHL.

The first thing that I noticed is that the wood feels cheap and thin. The sides feel more like the husk of a palm tree, not a quality piece of wood. Now, this is not a criticism, keep in mind that I know nothing on the subject but I was expecting to feel some weight to the wood. I guess when the total weight is in my hands, it will feel more like a guitar. I have read about people splitting sides etc, trying force the wood, I can now see how this is possible.

The sound board has a really nice feature of three distinct darker lines that run the length on the board, with the middle one passing through the soundhole. However, I am sure that this beauty is only on the surface and will disappear with a light sanding. I hope not.

One thing of note is that the sides I received are both (to my eye) flat. Others have mentioned that their StewMac sides are curved coming out of the box, this has not been the case in my situation. I am yet to work out the front and the back?

I am having a ball, examining all the little and big parts that come with the kit. Tonight, I will start watching the video. From looking at the pieces, some I am confident that I will be able to use, others have me scratching my head.

The wood - I just don't know yet. Today has been the worst winters day so far this year. It is cold and very wet outside, humidity is running about 75%. My wood will stay inside tonight and then maybe down to the workshop tomorrow.

I went for a short walk around my hardware store today. I honestly think that I will spend the cost of my kit again, buying new shiny tools.

I can't wait to get going.

Time taken : An hour - just looking and feeling
Tools used : Nil
AU$'s spent : Nil

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Christmas in July

I reckon by this time tomorrow, I'll be holding my kit. Below are the details from DHL.

July 19, 2006 16:12 Zanesville, OH - USA Shipment picked up
July 19, 2006 18:41 Zanesville, OH - USA Departing origin
July 20, 2006 00:25 Wilmington - Clinton Field, OH - USA Departing origin
July 20, 2006 04:53 Wilmington - Clinton Field, OH - USA Departed from DHL facility in Wilmington - Clinton Field - USA
July 22, 2006 12:01 Singapore - Hub - Singapore Departed from DHL facility in Singapore - Hub - Singapore
July 23, 2006 09:46 Perth - Australia Arrived at DHL facility in Perth - Australia
July 23, 2006 09:46 Perth - Australia Clearance processing complete at Perth - Australia

It'll feel like Christmas morning, ripping open the boxes to look at the goodies inside. Unfortunately it will be just like the Christmas present that no one bothered to get batteries for... I won't be able to play with it straight away.

After searching online and in my local stores, I was unable to get a copy of Cumpiano's book. I had borrowed a copy from my (new) local public library. I am again concerned with humidity and have been considering the box that Andy reported about to the Guitar Builders Forum.

Also, I've started (thanks Greg) to think about finishes. I was thinking that there would be an endless supply of finished for musical instruments in Australia. Although today is the first time I gone to research the subject, there certainly does not seem to be an abundant supply. I might have to have a yarn with a few local experts when I get closer to that phase.

I am also starting to think about tools required, making gobars and the like. That way I'll be kept busy while the wood gets used to being a sandgroper.

I just want to get started. At least I can watch the StewMac video.

Time taken : Nil
Tools used : Nil
AU$'s spent : Nil

Friday, July 21, 2006

Loving the service

So far I am very impressed with the StewMac service. I have received emails confirming my purchase and also details of how I can track my order all the way to my front door on DHL

At the moment, my guitar is in Wilmington - Clinton Field, USA

Time taken : A couple of minutes
Tools used : Computer
AU$'s spent : Nil

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I’ve played various guitars for 20 years or so. A few years ago, my mother wanted to pass me on a small sum of money left to me in my grandmother’s inheritance. I wanted to spend this money on something that would bring me joy and then something I could hand on to my children one day – a guitar, perfect.

Around the same time I saw a guitar made by Australian luthier, Dan Dubowski. I couldn’t take my eyes of it and I wanted every guitar to sound like it.

Dan in his workshop

I emailed Dan back and forth a couple of times and then I realised I had no idea about woods, sound boards, fret radius’ etc. What would I ask Dan, or any other luthier to make for me? As we are on either sides of the continent I thought I would put the idea on hold until I could knew what I was talking about.

I spasmodically hit the internet, researching all I could on guitar making.

This resulted in me discovering that, according to at least 100 people on the internet, I can make my very own guitar. Not content with that statement, these people also believe that I can make an instrument in which I will be extremely proud.

A few weeks ago I questioned their sanity, now I question my own. At 1:30am this morning, I purchased my first kit for making an acoustic guitar.

Now let’s make this perfectly clear. I know absolutely nothing about wood working let alone making a musical instrument. The most challenging task I have ever taken on with my hands was installing a car stereo and now, each time I drive my car, I notice that the stereo surround is loose – always has been.

The last time that I worked with wood was about 17 years ago, in high school. I think it was a spice rack. It really isn’t a significant event in my memories. The thing is that I have recently read over and over, stories of people with similar levels of my experience turning out fine instruments.

I thought I would never be able to quit smoking and then after years of trying, I found Allen Carr. I quit and as a result I have saved all that cash, which I invest in myself or those close to me. Regardless of the final product, I can’t lose.

Further to that, my workshop is at my father's house. Although I will be doing all the work, we’ll be doing this together. I can not put a price on that.

So, before I even touch a piece of wood, I want to record the things that have been going around my head. I wonder if I will look back with hindsight and still be able to establish the same thought processes that I have at the moment.

Which Kit is right for me? : I changed the provider and the actual order I was intending to place about 20 times. For my very first kit, I settled on a Stewart-MacDonald mahogany triple-O with a bolt on neck, costing me $AUD $487.79 plus postage.

Simply it came down to the fact that I already own a factory rosewood back and sides dreadnought. I want a guitar that physically appears different from what I already own and anyway, I rarely get past the twelfth when I am playing.

My reading leads me to believe that at today, StewMac provide the most detailed instructions and that a number of first time builders use StewMac products. With access to the Kit Guitar Forum I will have contact with others that have tackled a StewMac kit. I feel comfort in knowing that someone else has or is tackling my problem.

I have no great reasons as to why I did not go ahead with any of the other suppliers. Maybe one day I will have a go at them all. Well, maybe not all of them.

I am still to order a settle on tuning machines, thinking that there are providers of tuners in Australia and that I can consider my options once I have spent some time with the wood. Does that make sense?

One thing I have always wanted, since I first came up with the idea of making a guitar, is that I want some sort of inlay in the head, something that makes it even more “mine”. I will have to sit down to some more reading and start penciling out my ideas.

Humidity : I’d say I have a fairly competent understanding in relation to how unsealed wood (even sealed to a lesser degree) is effected by the level of humidity in the environment. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology record that the average relative humidity (RH) in Perth varies between around 30% and 80%. Now these level are not extreme to the suggested RH for which is considered to be ideal for making a kit guitar.

My “workshop” also doubles as a family two car garage. It is enclosed (when the roller door is down) and dry although there is a permanent opening to the elements in one corner, the large entrance to the rear yard. I do not think that a domestic dehumidifying machine would be able to keep up with the demand for this sized area.

Today, I am of the mind set that I shall not overly concern myself with the humidity issue. I thought long and hard as to how I could overcome the situation however there does not seem to be a (financially viable) solution. To that end, it came down to taking the risk of building in an environment that changed 20% during the day or not taking on the challenge of building a kit in the first place.

Time will tell.

Time taken : A couple of hours, including the web template
Tools used : computer
AU$'s spent : Purchase price of $487.79 and postage of $73.44 = $561.23