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Old 12-23-2019, 12:00 PM
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IndianHillMike IndianHillMike is offline
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Default Indian Hill Koa and Adirondack Cutaway

Greetings!

I've just recently started in on a new build that I'm excited to share with you all. This one will be using some beautiful wood all around -- the back and sides will be a killer set of koa with adirondack spruce for the top. Not just relying on pretty wood, this build will have some unique and cool design elements peppered throughout that I'm really looking forward to seeing come together!

First, let's check out the wood...




As I typically do, I like to start things off by joining the back by using one of my nicest personal tools (lots of nice shared tools in my shop), my Lie Nielsen No. 7 jointer plane. This was my first big purchase once I started building on my own and is still such a joy to use!




It also has the benefit of having some heft to it and works well as the most expensive weight in my arsenal...




First side bent and ready to laminate...




And with glue and all the layers trapped inside...




One of the aspects of building that I truly enjoy is developing a design theme and doing so with intent. I feel that when you look at some designs (whether it be on a guitar or elsewhere in the world) you can tell if something was just slapped piecemeal together because it "looks cool". My client for this build and I have been trading emails back and forth and getting more into the nitty-gritty of the how and why of the design. I feel that going through the process of really trying to explain design choices (is this element connected or floating? symmetrical or asymmetrical? why these woods/colors here/there?) results in much more satisfying and complete result. One of my closest friends is a renowned artist and sculptor in Canada and we've often talked about looking at some designs and having an itchy-skin-crawling unsettled feeling versus a nice long exhale of satisfaction with a cohesive and complete design. I think a lot of that comes from intent and going through this process!

The aesthetic elements of this guitar will involve combinations of koa, spalted maple, and ebony (or black). The head veneer will be ebony with a flush/magnetic truss rod cover (koa) that fits into this design...




Lots more to come in the new year but so far I'm quite excited with this build!
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Old 01-12-2020, 10:14 AM
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A couple of developments as this build gets going. First, we have the beautiful koa back (with some naphtha wiped on it) ready to be laminated to the yellow cedar poking out from behind...





And in the vacuum bag...





One of the biggest challenges for this guitar will be executing the flush-to-the-heel cutaway. The sides for almost all cutaways remain perpendicular to the top/back which leaves a little triangle sticking out right next to the heel. In this case, the sides will bend to match the shape of my tapered heel with a smooth transition from side to neck. To do that takes a whole bunch of planning, figuring, and making really really sure things will line up in the end. Wood doesn't like to bend in two directions at once so by necessity the sides will be thin and then laminated into the final shape. To get started, I first make a plywood block to that will be used to laminate the sides into the final shape, fit it to my mold, and make sure things are initially lining up...





Here you can see two of the three sides of the cutaway. The lines on the front and back (unseen side) meet up and become perpendicular again about halfway through the cutaway...





Here's a short little video showing the transition from perpendicular > straight but tilting > final heel shape...





Lots more coming up soon!
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Old 01-12-2020, 11:09 AM
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Smile Very interesting!

Very interesting and cool cutaway concept!

And the Koa is spectacular!!!

Have FUN

Paul
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:10 PM
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This is very cool! Love the video showing the cutaway transition!
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Old 01-12-2020, 08:56 PM
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Beautiful woods Mike and I love it when builders are excited over an upcoming build. I will be following along.
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Old 01-13-2020, 10:32 AM
EverettWilliams EverettWilliams is offline
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This is looking just great and, as the lucky client, I couldnít be more excited. The cutaway is going to be awesome (sorry for the extra steps, Mike!) and each picture I see of the wood makes me more and more happy that we picked that koa.

Keep up the great work, Mike!
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Old 01-13-2020, 11:15 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Just beautiful! Really elegant and functional design choices.

Mike, I believe Jonathan Kriesberg owns one of your guitars, he used it on the album "Night Songs." I was wondering if you knew what model/size he was playing...the playing and recording quality obviously has something to do with it, but it's some of the best sounding acoustic guitar I've ever heard on record, the balance is simply remarkable from string to string. Anyway, just wondering if you remember that guitar.
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitars44me View Post
Very interesting and cool cutaway concept!

And the Koa is spectacular!!!

Have FUN
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wren View Post
This is very cool! Love the video showing the cutaway transition!
Quote:
Originally Posted by TomB'sox View Post
Beautiful woods Mike and I love it when builders are excited over an upcoming build. I will be following along.
Thanks everyone!


Quote:
Originally Posted by EverettWilliams View Post
This is looking just great and, as the lucky client, I couldnít be more excited. The cutaway is going to be awesome (sorry for the extra steps, Mike!) and each picture I see of the wood makes me more and more happy that we picked that koa.

Keep up the great work, Mike!
I'm super excited with the design direction we've come up for this -- I think it'll be a stunner! And the cutaway will definitely be worth it in the end!


Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
Just beautiful! Really elegant and functional design choices.

Mike, I believe Jonathan Kriesberg owns one of your guitars, he used it on the album "Night Songs." I was wondering if you knew what model/size he was playing...the playing and recording quality obviously has something to do with it, but it's some of the best sounding acoustic guitar I've ever heard on record, the balance is simply remarkable from string to string. Anyway, just wondering if you remember that guitar.
Thanks! I was super excited when Jonathan wanted to buy one of my guitars and even more so when he decided to record with it! That one was a wenge/spruce OO (three-piece back wenge/mahogany/wenge) and with an elevated neck. Jonathan loved how snappy and quick that guitar was while still having a nice fullness to it. I'm in the process of building another similar-ish guitar -- a spruce top elevated neck OO. This one has maple back/sides and f-holes (though still a flat top) and will have, hopefully, an overall violin feel to the aesthetics. One of these days I'll have to start a thread for that one as well!
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Old 01-14-2020, 09:15 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Originally Posted by IndianHillMike View Post


Thanks! I was super excited when Jonathan wanted to buy one of my guitars and even more so when he decided to record with it! That one was a wenge/spruce OO (three-piece back wenge/mahogany/wenge) and with an elevated neck. Jonathan loved how snappy and quick that guitar was while still having a nice fullness to it. I'm in the process of building another similar-ish guitar -- a spruce top elevated neck OO. This one has maple back/sides and f-holes (though still a flat top) and will have, hopefully, an overall violin feel to the aesthetics. One of these days I'll have to start a thread for that one as well!
Please do!

Yeah, that guitar was really something (and well, Jonathan is something of a player!)

I almost thought it was a Selmer-style when I first heard it, because of how present and "fat" the trebles were. You don't get that on a lot of flattops.
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Old 01-22-2020, 07:00 AM
Glenn23 Glenn23 is offline
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I love it when the forms themselves are beautiful! Your cutaway mold looks architectural, like the Guggenheim or a Frank Gehry building.
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Old 02-09-2020, 10:15 AM
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After a minor setback this guitar is moving forward again and we're just about ready to dive into the fun design elements I'm super excited about with this build. As I was getting ready to bend the koa into the final "S" shape to match the heel, a small split started in outside part of the curve near where the side meet the heel. For those of you not familiar with this style of flush-cutaway, here's a shot to give an idea what I'm talking about...





You can see the sides have to meet the full width of the fingerboard, follow an "S" curve to taper down to the heel cap, all while curving in from the upper bout. Usually with a combination of wood softener, heat, and patience I can coax the sides into the final shape. Sometimes though, wood likes to be wood and simply says, "Nope! Not gonna bend two ways at once this time". Since the split would be on the convex part of the curve closer to the fingerboard, I decided to switch to a straight tapered heel and take one of the curves out of the equation. This eliminates the crack while still achieving this style of flush cutaway. A good solution but unfortunately one that required remaking a bunch of molds, etc., hence the setback!

With a tighter curve leading into the fingerboard vs. the curve into the heel cap, it's still quite a complicated shape to deal with. One of the big challenges this presents is fitting a block to that shape. Luckily, years ago some wise person invented chalk!





Lots of gently rubbing the block against the form, sanding away the high points (now clearly shown by the chalk), and repeating this again and again (and again)...





It takes a while but it's oh so satisfying once it's a good fit! With the venetian cutaway I decided to do a standard lamination in the cutaway section instead of trying to press my typical structured sides into the complex curve. So, once the block is shaped the next hurdle is making sure everything lines up just where I want it and getting the right type of clamping pressure. I find the best way to do this is to glue up the rim in stages. Here's the first step gluing the block to the cutaway...





With the tricky parts done it's then just a matter of finishing the glue up...





And here it is as an official rim!





Spin it around and the insides turn black...





Phew! It's a bit of a bear getting to this stage for cutaways but now comes the fun part so stay tuned!
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Old 02-10-2020, 09:23 AM
EverettWilliams EverettWilliams is offline
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Thatís looking awesome Mike! So glad you suggested blacking our the insides - with some of the other design details in play, I think this will be quite handsome!

Sorry I sent you down a tough path with the cutaway but I think it (and the challenging wood we picked) look just great.

Getting very excited about this one!
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Old 02-10-2020, 10:08 AM
Nemoman Nemoman is offline
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Looks like an amazing set of koa!
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Old 02-20-2020, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EverettWilliams View Post
Thatís looking awesome Mike! So glad you suggested blacking our the insides - with some of the other design details in play, I think this will be quite handsome!

Sorry I sent you down a tough path with the cutaway but I think it (and the challenging wood we picked) look just great.

Getting very excited about this one!

So glad that we're sharing the excitement! I'm a big proponent of a cohesive design and even the little things like the look of the inside can help tie things together. For me it's a relaxed feeling when there's a complete aesthetic -- there can still be tension in the design (like the asymmetry we have planned in parts) as long as it fits within the whole.

Now on to the back braces! This guitar will have a hexagonal pattern in the lower bout which does an amazing job of distributing support while promoting the movement I'm looking for. Lots of power in 60 degree angles!





Fully braced you can see the hexagon nestled in the bottom three braces with a laminated center strip helping maintain the 25' arch in the upper bout and balance out the long/cross-grain stiffness. The center strip is spruce and koa...





To make sure I get solid glue joints I braced the back before ebonizing. A bit of a hassle but worth the extra effort and helps me sleep at night just in case! Over the next couple of weeks the ebonized areas will mellow and even out in color as you can sort of see on the sides peeking out from behind...





Braced, tuned, cleaned up -- time to stick it on!





And now officially 3/4 of a box! (or maybe 2/3 but I'll let you decide that for yourself)





One of the big excitements around the shop last week was getting a couple copies of the latest Fretboard Journal. There was a feature article on my shop and a killer guitar that 10 of us built together to celebrate our 10-year anniversary (now for sale btw!). Quite a thrill to flip the page and see myself working away!





Stay tuned for the rosette and top bracing up next!
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:36 AM
SJ VanSandt SJ VanSandt is offline
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Superb work! A very interesting build thread - thanks for sharing this with us.
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