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Old 09-28-2020, 03:50 PM
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Default Build Thread - Churchland Grand Western Adi/Rosewood

Thought this might be fun to show how I've been able to build in my small space. For context I am currently working out of a 1300ish square foot apartment. I share the space with my wife and my wonderful little 1 year old boy.

As a result of his age and the small space I can't use anything toxic like Nitro finishing products. nor can I do things like sand indoors or use multiple machines that kick up a huge amount of dust like sanders/electric planers etc...

So I've just accepted the limitations of the space and chosen to work within the parameters that I currently have. Instead of seeing it as a flaw to building I see it as a feature. The only machine I do have and use is a binding machine which really and truly is the most time saving device I own.

Besides the binding machine for cutting binding channels everything is done completely by hand. Planes, chisels, sanding, scraping, etc... It is a bit time intensive but it's amazingly rewarding when one comes together.

I really love and admire alot of the work that D'aquisto produced during his life, the minimalism in my opinion is among the same line of thinking that is in the viol family of instruments. There's very little ornamentation, the designs are simple yet refined, the focus is on sound above everything else. I have always admired that about traditional violin makers so I want to try to emulate that in my instruments. I also really admire the instruments from people like the Larson Brothers, Tony Klassen, mid-late 30s Gibson designs, and quite a few others.

This guitar is going to be my OM homage (an OM-age?) basically it takes the principle body shape and modifies it a bit for a slightly different sound and response. I'll talk more about that as it takes shape over the next couple of months.

As with any build the fun part is picking out wood to make the guitar from. For this one I'm just going with the tried and true combo of Indian rosewood and Adi spruce. The spruce top I kind of like since it has some more interesting grain to it than your typical "bread slice" top. I like the darker grain lines. Some call it a lesser top, but you have to work with what you have. Or as some folks call it wabi sabi.



For all my glue joints I use hide glue. I learned to use it through repairing older guitars and I've learned to love it for just about everything. Really does make things easier to maintain. And if you totally screw up a glue joint it's not a big deal at all to undo it and make it right. I use a couple of horseshoe clamps for some weight and I use wedges to push the edges together. The jointing is done mostly by plane but I final fit on a small piece of glass with some sandpaper for a close and tight joint.







Once the top and back are glued together I picked out an adirondack billet to use for this guitar. I'm planning to make this thing as lightweight as possible so with some careful sawing I should be able to get all the needed top braces save for the popsicle brace out of this one billet.

It has a slight wave in the one end I'll cut off but the grain is good.





I'll post more updates as I get time to complete the prep work for the other parts. I'm excited to be building a new body style for me. For now I'm off for a walk with my son. Hope you all enjoy this build. Going to be fun for me to look back and see how it all came together once it's done!
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Old 10-11-2020, 03:48 PM
ChuckEzell ChuckEzell is offline
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Looking forward to following your build. I have a small space in my basement and as tight as it is it it works sufficiently at the moment. I can really only build one guitar at a time and donít have a place to use a sander or larger saw.

Through some direction on these threads and helpful folks here I found the French Polish method very effective. At this point Iíve not had to use any toxic materials or finishes and itís worked it well.

Looking forward to seeming more of your work.
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Old 10-11-2020, 05:05 PM
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I greatly admire the way you have embraced the limitations of your space and turning that into a positive, a truly handmade instrument with more hands on work than most others.
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Old 10-12-2020, 05:27 AM
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I just want to add my encouragement to you. Many people wait for an ďideal situationĒ and never get to it. For years I built in a shed on a Black and Decker Workmate, with only a router, and it served me pretty well. I am grateful to have a bigger shop now but also for what I learned in the small space. Iím sure this will be a great guitar, and wish you well! Dave
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Old 10-13-2020, 11:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckEzell View Post
Looking forward to following your build. I have a small space in my basement and as tight as it is it it works sufficiently at the moment. I can really only build one guitar at a time and don’t have a place to use a sander or larger saw.

Through some direction on these threads and helpful folks here I found the French Polish method very effective. At this point I’ve not had to use any toxic materials or finishes and it’s worked it well.

Looking forward to seeming more of your work.
I appreciate the encouragement. So far I've just been doing a french polish as well as it works pretty nicely. One advantage to bending in a small space is that if you're working with maple it makes everything smell nice and syrupy. Rosewood is nice too.

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I greatly admire the way you have embraced the limitations of your space and turning that into a positive, a truly handmade instrument with more hands on work than most others.
Thanks Tom! It's been an interesting journey so far, my wife is the real hero for letting me have a portion of the home for this venture.

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Originally Posted by Carpinteria View Post
I just want to add my encouragement to you. Many people wait for an ¬ďideal situation¬Ē and never get to it. For years I built in a shed on a Black and Decker Workmate, with only a router, and it served me pretty well. I am grateful to have a bigger shop now but also for what I learned in the small space. I¬ím sure this will be a great guitar, and wish you well! Dave
Thanks Dave for the encouragement. Those little Workmates I'm sure have been the beginning for lots of builders/craftspeople these days.

Little update too on this one. The sides have been bent, kerfing has been installed and linings as well. I'll put up some pictures in a bit.
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Old 10-13-2020, 06:50 PM
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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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Old 10-18-2020, 11:57 AM
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Wife and baby have been sick the last couple of days. Today I had a few moments to get out and get the brace stock cut. The tools for this are pretty straightforward, the saw is technically a crosscut saw but for softwood it bites very well and is easy to keep on track for the length of the cut due to the stiff back. Also got the top cut to thickness today.





Brace widths for this build is about 1/4" thick or 6.5mm for those who are of the metric persuasion. The support brace under the fingerboard extension will be a bit thicker closer to 7.25mm.
I'm also really happy that I was able to get all of the braces I needed from the one billet I showed earlier and I still have enough left over of it for a few more braces. I try not to waste anything since you just never know when you'll need it later on or when it might work out perfect for another guitar.



And I couldn't resist taking a picture of my favorite little guitar making/repair tool. My wife gifted me this Lie Nielsen 102 block plane maybe 3 years ago. I've loved it greatly and used it nearly every day at my repair shop. When she sees me using it she always smiles, makes my day every single time she does.

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Last edited by D. Churchland; 10-18-2020 at 02:56 PM.
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Old 10-22-2020, 08:04 AM
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After some tedious work the rosette is done. For the inlay I used some old piano key bits and pieces that a good friend gave me years ago. The pieces were all sorts of lengths/thicknesses so the asymetry is something I just decided to embrace. I'm pretty happy with the result!

So far I have it sanded down to just 120 grit but it'll be finished out when the top is final sanded. A gracious friend loaned me a circle cutting jig as well as a dremel which made this job way easier.



I had wanted to try something like a segmented rosette but with the various pieces I figured a segmented segmented rosette would be cool. The only other decoration on this guitar will be some nice sycamore binding and a thin strip of purfling. Other than that it's just minimalist. Doing this build gave me some ideas for other looks and designs for future rosettes too so I'll be excited to try those when the time comes.
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Last edited by D. Churchland; 10-31-2020 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 10-27-2020, 08:39 AM
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Bracing is going in and getting carved. This is my favorite part of the process, something about just hogging off material is incredibly satisfying and when everything is done to sit back and look at your work is a great feeling.

The bracing is thin, light, and slightly taller than most and scalloped heavily. I have a very clear idea of the sound I'm going for and this pattern should get me either right where I want to be or very very close.

Some little shots of the bracing so far. The center crosspoint I cover with a little linen reinforcement but I do like the look of it from a photography standpoint.





Still have the upper bout pieces to install and get cut to shape. More to come!
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Old 11-05-2020, 02:33 PM
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Small but sizable update. The sides are joined to the top, the top is signed and completed and I'm very happy so far.



The overall geometry is very pleasant to hold and sit with. It measures out to about 15.75" on the lower bout so it's slightly larger than a regular OM but not quite into the jumbo range. The rosette is looking nicer after some sanding as well.





Still more to come. Fingerboard/neck work that kind of thing. I'm excited to hear how she's going to sound!
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Old 11-21-2020, 09:06 AM
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Little update time. The back is braced and the label has been applied.

I really didn't want a standard looking printed label. So I asked my wife what she thought would look interesting and unique. So she sat down for a bit and we tried out alot of different lettering/typography.

She freehanded the lettering for both the brand name and the model name, I saw it and was overjoyed! She has a much steadier hand than I do. And with a little touch like that it definitely makes it a family affair. I scanned the lettering and then printed it out onto some nice quality parchment paper. Add the serial number to the label and you're done.



And rather than sign the label too I left the signature on the top of the instrument and let the label be by itself.



The back has already been joined to the top/ribs and I'll be cutting binding channels soon. More to come!
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Old 11-23-2020, 03:38 PM
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Looks great! I’m impressed that this is all being done on the balcony of your apartment. Building guitars is tough, building guitars in an apartment deserves an award.
Kind of a silly question, but what kind of glue did you use for your label on the back?
What is your plan for the finish since nitro is out?
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Old 11-24-2020, 09:07 AM
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Looks great! Iím impressed that this is all being done on the balcony of your apartment. Building guitars is tough, building guitars in an apartment deserves an award.
Kind of a silly question, but what kind of glue did you use for your label on the back?
What is your plan for the finish since nitro is out?
Thanks for the compliment. The glue for the label was hide glue.

Finish will be a straightforward hand rubbed shellac. Basically a french polish, I usually use everclear since it doesn't reek like some of the hardware store alcohols do.
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Old 11-24-2020, 10:02 AM
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I am sure your guitars are great and you seem like a great guy, but your wife comes out as the true winner in this thread lol. You are a lucky fella.
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Old 11-25-2020, 12:32 AM
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....... The rosette is looking nicer after some sanding as well.




Just caught up with this thread and wanted to compliment you on that rosette. Really like the asymmetry as well as the story behind the components.
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