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So far in this blog, I’ve been writing about how instruments are made and showing photographs of what they look like. But what matters most, certainly to players and listeners but to makers too, is what they sound like. The trouble is that it’s not easy to make recordings that do justice either to player or instrument. Having made that excuse, I’m going to try. So here, as a first step, are three short pieces played by Fiona Harrison on this cedar top guitar that I’ve written about before. Click on the labels to hear them.

Piece 1

Piece 2

Piece 3

The binding is made from sawn veneers of ebony and maple. The photograph below shows a true edge being planed using a shooting board before using the bandsaw to slice off a narrow strip.

Here, a border of maple is being glued to the ebony in a shop-made clamping device.

Below is a strip of the finished binding, bent and ready to be glued into the ledge already routed on the guitar.

A few years ago, the gardener at Corpus Christi College, Oxford gave me some laburnum wood from a tree that he had had to take down. I cut it up and air dried it, and use it sometimes in guitar making. By preparing a sector shaped billet and slicing off thin cross sections, it’s possible to fashion a rosette that shows the contrast between the light sapwood and dark heart wood. It’s a more conventional design than Rick Micheletti’s wacky and imaginative rosette that I discussed in my last post, but the effect is quite attractive when inlaid into a top of Alpine spruce. Below are pictures of the rosette and the piece of laburnum from which the individual slices were cut. Obviously, the top has yet to be joined and the rosette inlaid. Those are the next tasks.

And here is guitar that I made last year, which has a rather similar rosette:

The cocobolo guitar back that I showed in an earlier post is now jointed and I spent some time yesterday bringing it down to a thickness of just over 2 mm. The grain of the two halves runs in opposite directions after ‘book-matching’, which makes it difficult to avoid tearout along the centre join. And even without that, cocobolo is hard and difficult to deal with. The tool that solves these problems is my Millers Falls scraper plane.

I bought it several years ago in a second hand tool shop and never found it worked well enough to be useful until I replaced its thin cabinet scraper blade with a thicker one from Ron Hock. This transformed its performance and, although I suppose you could do the job with a cabinet scraper by hand, I now think of it as an indispensable tool.

Since it works with a negative cutting angle, a scraper plane doesn’t remove much material at a time. So, if you’re starting with wood that is way too thick, you need something that’s faster, even if it leaves a rougher finish, to get down to somewhere near the final thickness before switching to the scraper plane. A good tool for that is a smoothing plane fitted with a modified (toothed) blade but I’ll save that discussion for another post. Pictures of the scraper plane below.

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