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IndianHillMike 11-06-2020 10:28 AM

Indian Hill Honduran Rosewood and Cedar Concert-14
Hi Everyone,

I'm just starting to dive in on my next build which will have a bunch of extras and customized bits throughout the guitar. It will be my Concert model (roughly an OM size), Honduran rosewood back/sides, western red cedar top, florentine cutaway, arm bevel, elevated neck, sound port, tornavoz, and various inlay designs. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me for the next month or two!

In a first for me, my client has supplied most of the wood for the build. In most cases I would be incredibly wary about an arrangement like this but luckily he lives in Montreal and I was able to get my hands on the wood before agreeing to take it on. Most of the wood is 25+ years old, well dried, and has personal significance for the client which, as you'll see, is a major theme in this guitar.

First thing up was slicing up the billet of western red cedar. The board was nicely quartered and straight but I wanted to insure I could minimize run-out before cutting the top. So, I sliced off a thin strip from either side and with a knife and whack or two of a hammer split the strips down the middle. From the picture below you can see the split angles slightly towards the right edge and that there is a wooble towards the bottom (wooble being an official luthiers term)...

First I cut the billet to top length (eliminating that wooble section) and then planed the face of the cedar parallel to the split. When you hear luthiers talking about "long grain" or "run-out" the above is a good visualization of what they're referring to. Now when I take a slice off of the edge and split it, the split stays parallel to the face and doesn't emerge on one side (hence, long grain). If I hadn't made the face parallel to the split you end up with run-out (what you're seeing when one side is darker than another). Hope that all makes sense! And here it is joined up...

For the back and sides, the client bought them off of someone on a boat in Belize 25 years ago so we're not 100% positive what kind of wood it is but my money is on Honduran rosewood. Here I am shooting a joint on the back...

You can see a bit of a wind-shake crack along the edge but that will be well outside of the body and isn't a concern. Joining it up...

A look at the sides and cut out top...

The sides were a little bit tricky to bend mostly because of all the resin bubbling out while working it on the hot pipe! It was also mildly more nerve wracking knowing the personal history behind the sides that made the essentially irreplaceable -- thankfully all went well!

There is going to be a LOT going on with this guitar so thanks for looking and stay tuned!

SJ VanSandt 11-06-2020 12:18 PM

Lovely woods
That cedar top is gorgeous! Looking forward to watching this one come together.

IndianHillMike 11-15-2020 11:02 AM

Lots of laminating, bending, and standing at my bench scratching my head this week making sure I've got all the details of the cutaway worked out. In addition to the usual trickiness of making the cutaway flush to the (tapered) heel, this guitar will also have an elevated neck so I have to be extra careful that the angles will all line up to hit the correct fingerboard width and on center at the body joint. First up was bending the cutaway section -- the side curves and twists which makes for some stressful and awkward bends but thankfully everything worked out just fine...

With the cutaway successfully bent (and then laminated) the straightforward process for the regular sides was a welcome relief!

In addition to the sides, this guitar will also have a laminated back. In the pic below there is a 15' radius board, layer of yellow cedar, the honduran rosewood back, and breather mesh all inside of a vacuum bag. The breather mesh helps insure that the vacuum does not seal around the nozzle and helps evenly distribute the pressure over the entire lamination...

The various bits destined to become the rim...

A closer look at the heel block and how it transitions from the tapered heel to being perpendicular to the top/back. Matching the heel block to my cutaway form requires chalk, sanding, and lots (and lots) of patience!

Gluing up the cutaway section with an onslaught of clamps...

I should have the rim fully joined by tomorrow and then it's time to brace the back before a diving into the unique detail and design work for this build. More pics soon!

TomB'sox 11-20-2020 10:01 AM

Wow, thanks for all the detailed information and descriptions. All of that is really cool, but here is what my brain got out of, that back wood is beautiful!!! :D:D:D

IndianHillMike 11-22-2020 11:35 AM


Originally Posted by TomB'sox (Post 6554976)
Wow, thanks for all the detailed information and descriptions. All of that is really cool, but here is what my brain got out of, that back wood is beautiful!!! :D:D:D

:) Yeah, and I think it's going to look extra nice with the cedar top -- should be a really nice color palette all around!

After gluing up the rim in several stages, it was satisfying to finally get it all together...

Once the rim was joined it's time to finish up work on the back. I've been having fun ebonizing and/or staining the interior of my guitars recently and am still experimenting with the most efficient method to get there. This time I decided to tape off for all the braces and liners ahead of time instead of ebonizing after gluing...

Before starting in on this build I took a couple of days to build some jigs I've been putting off for years and years (and years!). One of those was updating my brace arching jig which I am sooooo glad I finally got around to! I had been using the same jig for probably 12 years and it worked fine but definitely had it's quirks and required a bit of messing around with every time. My updated version is much more streamlined, compact, and holds tighter. There is a concave 15' arch sandwiched between two sheets of 3/4" plywood that a brace gets pressed up against forming a concave arch in the brace. This arch in the brace is sanded flat, run over the jointer, then one or two swipes with a hand-plane. When unclamped from the jig, that just-made-flat side is now the convex side of a 15' arch. Making the jig smaller allows me to get most of the work done on power tools before hitting it with the hand plane -- probably takes about a minute per brace from start to finish. In the picture below the jig would be rotated 90 degrees so that the arched mahogany is run over the sander/blades...

Back braced and ready to be glued to the rim...

One extra twist of trickiness with this build is that it has an elevated neck. That requires some extra careful planning to make sure all of my angles will hit their intended marks with everything on center by the time I get around to carving the neck. So far things are looking good!

Lots of challenges coming up this week working with stone to hopefully get a rosette installed!

IndianHillMike 11-29-2020 10:39 AM

Slow and steady work this week honing in on the final design and beginning to pick away at the rosette. By far the biggest challenge for this rosette is including several different types of stone. I've only ever used recon stone before (reconstituted stone is basically crushed stone mixed with epoxy) which is relatively easy to machine and manipulate with standard woodworking tools. In this case I'm using stones my client gathered from Lake Huron and figuring out how to slice, thickness, and shape them is proving tricky!

First step in this rosette was installing an ebony ring...

Using some teflon strips for radial purfling...

Radial Honduran rosewood installed...

Since this guitar has a cutaway I like to echo that feeling in the rosette as well which leads to an asymmetrical design...

Using some hi-tech precision wedges to glue in a maple border...

As I mentioned earlier in the thread, most of the material for this guitar has been provided by the client with all of it gathered from meaningful areas or times in his life. With that in mind I thought a design hinting at a timeline might be an interesting way to incorporate a variety of disparate elements. One of the pieces he provided was a chunk of coal from Wales where his grandfather was from. In my mind, this is still part of his timeline but separate from the other pieces that come directly from his life. So, the coal still sits on his timeline but is first and separate from the rest...

The rosette is about halfway there with the stone sections (...gulp...) up next!

Treenewt 11-30-2020 02:34 PM


Thanks for sharing the various stages of this build so far. I really enjoy getting to see the jigs/fixtures/problem-solving in addition to the guitars themselves! Beautiful wood, and beautiful work!

IndianHillMike 12-04-2020 09:18 AM


Originally Posted by Treenewt (Post 6563418)

Thanks for sharing the various stages of this build so far. I really enjoy getting to see the jigs/fixtures/problem-solving in addition to the guitars themselves! Beautiful wood, and beautiful work!

Thanks! The problem solving aspect of guitar building is one of the big draws for me that keeps things interesting over the years and I'm happy to share my process.

Just a quick update with the (basically) completed rosette. It was quite challenging trying to thickness and shape the stone pieces without really having any of the proper tooling to do so but I got it done! For the inlaid sections, the upper left is crushed coal, the next three are various stones (not sure of the types but all gathered from Lake Huron I believe), and the final section is some honeysuckle burl. The stone is set about 1/2 mm below the surface and will be topped off with some resin before final sanding hopefully leaving a very thin layer between stone and finish...

I should have the top braced this weekend and an official box by early next week!

TomB'sox 12-04-2020 10:47 AM

Looking very nice, great job with those inlays.

Nemoman 12-04-2020 10:55 AM

Fantastic rosette, Mike!

EverettWilliams 12-05-2020 06:05 AM

Mike, the design on this one is looking just fantastic! Canít wait to see this come together!

Carpinteria 12-05-2020 07:24 AM

Itís amazing how much the rosette, on many modern builds, has become an art object. This is such a beautiful one. The variety of materials makes it really interesting.

mclarry53 12-05-2020 08:59 AM

This has been a really interesting build to watch, Mike. Love the rosette. Keep those updates coming!

mikealpine 12-05-2020 12:36 PM

I agree, the rosette is beautifully done!

David Wren 12-05-2020 03:28 PM

What a great thread Mike ... this is going to be another spectacular Indian Hill guitar!

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