Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Done Done

It has been a long time getting here, but the guitar project I've been calling "Son of Side Project" is done.  (You know, I don't have the slightest memory of why I came up with that name).  Since the last update, there have been hours spent in "fiddly bits" of the job, trying to come up with a match for the abalone inlay, three coats of stain, 15 coats of varnish, and today's visit to my friend to use his really large polishing system designed for guitar polishing.

Here's a look at some of the fiddly stuff.  All of those white and black strips get glued up separately, some are first glued to each other then into place.  This is before some light sanding, staining and varnishing.

A little detail in the corner that I'll see the most, after the staining and polyurethane.

Finished on the bench today.

This has been an interesting and very challenging project.  Machining is typically letting the machine do the work, with the occasional hand file work; most of this it was meticulous hand work.  Obviously, this isn't a normal guitar, and there's really no way I could have made it one without spending more money, time, and effort than it would take to buy all the same woods and make a guitar from bare wood.  This seems like a good compromise. 

I told the luthier who helped me out on the project that it had dampened my interest in making an acoustic guitar from scratch for myself.  He laughed and said this was nothing at all like building a guitar.  It's like a repair project that no sane guitar tech would ever do.  Building a guitar from flat pieces of wood would be easy in comparison. 

I'm still not looking to jump into doing one soon. 

Thanks again to Raven, who donated the wood for the side, and practice pieces.  From his own tree, no less!  The quilted figuring in maple is said to occur only in Western Big Leaf Maples and is truly beautiful.  It's really reminiscent of the look of the gemstone called tiger's eye (or tiger eye). 


  1. Well done, Sir!

    Reminds me of the painstaking attention to detail I used to see in scratch-built scale model aircraft.

    I have a lot of patience for building plastic model aircraft and cars, but a musical instrument?

    Nope...out of my league!

  2. Nice job, SiG.
    Looks great.

    Whitehall, NY

  3. Beauty. Now how does it sound? We need a little snippet of your playing......

  4. Meticulous hand work indeed.
    Very well done and the wood is beautiful.
    I am having a touch of finishing envy.
    To paraphrase your post a bit, how many of the things involved in our chosen hobbies are things no sane person would ever do.

    1. many of the things involved in our chosen hobbies are things no sane person would ever do.

      Yeah, good point. When we would compare costs of any sort of hobby we'd be doing, Mrs. Graybeard would usually say something like, "just one word: golf". Even the cost of a pretty good road bike is reasonable compared to a set of clubs and greens fees for a couple of years.

      It goes for so many other things we do.

      The wood is gorgeous, and it turned out the polishing I did yesterday wasn't very good because the reflections were too bright to see the flaws (we were working outdoors). I could have spent more time on the polishing wheels.

      At least when I do this sort of work, after looking closely at the work under magnification for hours at a time, I see the flaws first. It'll take a while before I can ignore the little mistakes. If I can.

  5. Stat playing it and any tiny flaws will disappear. How does it sound?
    One thing I noted from reading some guitar making forums- some beginners will obsess over perfection, and keep on re-doing until they get it as close to perfect as they can- others will look at the mistakes, , shrug, and immediately start building another guitar, and try to perfect the next one. two different approaches, but they both likely end up equally skilled. It certainly is an education in personality types!

    1. The whole reason I went down this road is that both my wife and I think it sounds better than what we both considered my best guitar, a Seagull Solid Wood Series with mahogany back and sides. They both have a solid spruce top. (that's still the best deal I've ever gotten on a guitar - under half price for a return/restock!)

      I think the sane way to approach this is your second approach: do another one and try to make that perfect. I'm just not in a rush to do so.

      I think it's time to get some nut files and do a setup on this one. It's harder to play than my other acoustics.

  6. A good place for info -

  7. Brings to mind the poem, "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and his notion that perfection lacks the beauty of those things that possess a charming flaw. That is a good way to look at the lack of perfection in your otherwise lovely instrument. That it possesses a tone that pleases you more than expensive commercial guitars you also own is a real treat.

    That tone is certainly a result of your work in finishing this guitar, so take pride in providing this once cast-off instrument with artistic closure ;-)