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Old 10-13-2020, 06:50 PM
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D. Churchland D. Churchland is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,433

I did want to write out a few thoughts about building by hand. I should preface this by saying that some of the luthiers I respect the most are the old world viol family builders like Boussu, Klotz, Stainer, Lupot and others.
One thing I always found fascinating was in browsing through pictures of old instruments, some of the highest quality (from 1610-1780s and upward) and valuable instruments are almost always asymetrical (moreso from the Italian makers than the Germans but that's a different discussion). Sometimes it's slight and other times it's very noticeable. Many builders from the era and afterwards didn't use molds in their construction process. To them at the time (and even some builders today) a truly great viol family instrument should absolutely sound and play it utmost best. And if there's a small nick? No big deal. And if there's a slight imperfection? No big deal.

What IS a big deal is if the instrument sounds dead, or has a flat response, or feels unbalanced/difficult to play. That in my mind is the most important part of the whole process. Thus I don't do great amounts of inlay/decoration work outside of what serves the instrument. Things like binding I view as essential but things like fretboard dots I view as less essential. That's not to say I'll never make a guitar with inlay ever, I just view it as secondary to the tone/feel/response of the instrument. That is what is paramount to me in my building.

So in the same vein of the old world builders I like to include some old world things like the cloth linings. A good friend of mine works in a contrabass repair shop and I consulted him on a repair for a very lightly built old archtop. He told me about using hemp linen to stiffen and reinforce cracks on very lightly built basses. He sent me a bolt of the stuff and that's what I used on this guitar. It does a good job of adding some side reinforcement without adding weight to the overall build. Plus I love the look of them and they feel very "wartime" to me, that's a term I learned to appreciate about those old banner era Gibsons. They used whatever they had and they made it work, and frankly some of those old J45s are simply amazing instruments. Even though they're made "rough" and with less than ideal materials. Poplar neck and tail blocks being one example.

Along with the old world stuff must come some new, so for all my builds I have decided to use a bolt on neck. It really does make things easier from a longevity perspective when it comes to neck resets/repairs.

Here are some pics of the instrument in it's current state. The asymetry on this one on the upper bout is intentional as I will be incorporating it into my fadeaway design in lieu of a cutaway.

When I stamp the neck block I do a little layer of shellac to seal the wood and make the letters stand out. My letter set is pretty old, might need to upgrade that soon.

The 203 serial number does not mean that I've made 203 guitars. The first 2 digits are the last 2 digits of the year it was made. The third digit indicates what order it was made. So a 203 serial number means it was the 3rd guitar made in 2020. A serial of 215 would be the 5th guitar made in 2021 etc...

Work on the top begins next. It's already joined so it needs to be thicknessed, Once it's done and work has begun on the soundhole/rosette I'll post more updates. All for now!
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Formerly known as, "Will Kirk"
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