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Fir classical - a challenge

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Freeman Keller, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've been building a guitar the past few weeks and have posted a build thread at the DIY subforum. I know some of you check that out but most don't so I'm going to show off. Here are the completed pictures

    Top 1.jpg

    Top 2.jpg

    Back 3.jpg

    The top, back and sides are 70 year old Douglas fir flooring from a local school. Trim bits are rosewood, there is some Braz hiding in there. Plantella is the '37 Houser Sr that Segovia played. Finish is shellac, hide glue was used thru ought. I challenged myself by using as few power tools as possible.

    Here is a clip of a friend playing one of his compositions. Don't be afraid to turn it up

     
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  2. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Looks beautiful and sounds stupendous.

    Is the neck also fir?
     
  3. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    That's got a lot of projection for being brand spanking new. I knew it would look great (all your guitars do).
    Good job Freeman. Sounds good. It will sound even better as it matures I'm sure.

    Thanks for doing all the work and posting the chronology too. :)


    And, if I can offer a qualifier of sorts..

    IMO, a really great classical guitar is the most difficult one to build [well]. I think you succeeded Freeman. I hope the folks that are following along truly appreciate what you've done here.
     
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  4. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Lawd, lawd, lawd - I'm just floored . . .
    ;):lol:
     
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  5. DrPepper

    DrPepper Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Beautiful!!!
     
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  6. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    NICE!

    Has the school discovered you're the guy who made the hole in their floor while the world was sleeping?
     
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  7. El Marin

    El Marin Friend of Leo's

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    Sounds good

    Shape is a bit weird for me... and I have a question? Why don't you oil the fretboard? would be nicer IMO
     
  8. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I never oil fretboards for three good reasons. First, it doesn't need it. Second, a long time ago Martin put out a cautionary notice that lemon oil could damage nitrocellulose lacquer and since that is what I use on almost all of my guitars, I thought it wise to follow their advice (this guitar is shellac which is even more delicate). Lastly, as oil is absorbed into the fretboard it makes it harder to do any repair work in the future, namely refretting. In fact I won't refret a board that seems to have a large amount of oil in it.

    Please feel free to do whatever you want to your guitars, lots of people do oil their fretboards. I don't.

    As far as the shape, I can't help that either. The Torres/Houser plantella is what is commonly called a "grand concert" and is pretty close to a Martin double ought in size (it is probably better to say the Martin is close to a classical). It fits in a commercial case sized for a classical guitar.
     
  9. El Marin

    El Marin Friend of Leo's

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    I like them oiled. They are nicer... to me.

    My Spanish Guitar (Alhambra 4p and 9p) are shellac refin too and I always use pure virgin olive oil, as most of the flamenco players here in Spain. The only reason, as I have been told, is keeping the fretboard out of seasonal and humidity changes, from sea to mountain... summer to winter...

    Refret? You will never ever refret a Spanish Guitar. It would be the very first case.

    Regarding the shape, of course I thought you used a plantella, but that shape is not so common and I liked it a lot. I use parlor guitars and prefer that shape
     
  10. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    Did you end up planing / sanding down the trailing edge of the saddle slot (to give the strings a little clearance up over the saddle)? I remembered you said the strings were riding on the wood there a bit.

    Any opinions/comments on the FP (Shellac) vs nitro or PU finish? Do you think the Spanish Heel adds/changes the sound characteristics (compared to conventional block approach; eg; your earlier classical build)?
     
  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    The definition of "parlor guitar" is a bit nebulous but I use that term to mean guitars no larger than a Martin single ought or a so called "concert" guitar (which can over either steel or nylon strings). I build single ought steel string guitars and like that size a lot. In this case I followed the iconic '37 Hauser that Segovia said was the greatest guitar of our epoch. That is kind of the starting point for most classical builders, obviously there are many variations. Seemed like a good choice or me.

    Please feel free to oil your fretboard. I'll feel fret to not oil mine.

    The guitar is a week old now, it is interesting that when Segovia made that comment about his Hauser the guitar was only a year old. Does that fly in the face of the long time to open up?

    I plan to pull the hard tension strings off of it this weekend and correct the ramping at both the head and tie block. That will mean touching up the finish on the bridge and the slots so it will take a couple of days. I'll put some medium tension strings on it and maybe take the action down a hair (its sitting right at 3.5mm high E ad 4 for the low).

    I did comment on the FP at the build thread - my feelings are that it is the correct finish for this guitar and suits the wood nicely. Its definitely much thinner film than my nitro finishes, it is also much less glossy. I would use it on future classicals but I would also study the spiriting off process to see if I could get a bit more shine out of it. I wouldn't use it on a steel string and surely not on an electric. It not more or less work than lacquer, just different.

    As far as the Spanish heel, I don't know how much difference that makes acoustically but it certainly changes the building process. The combination of the fact that the geometry is different from what I am used too (zero or negative neck angle, the fret plane lower over the top than a steel string) and the fact that you build that geometry in from the very get go had me scared until I finally put strings on and found that it was OK. Again, if I ever build another classical I will use a Spanish heel, I'll continue to make separate necks on my steel strings.

    I plan to do three more things before I'm done with this project. While the strings are off I want to do the bonk tests again and compare the closed finished box with bridge on to the last waveforms of it in white. When I restring it and the strings settle down I want to take some waverforms of individual notes and look at their composition. I'll post some of these, probably back at the build thread.

    Last thing I want to do is get the other classical, it is the same plantella and bracing pattern but different tone woods (and of course it is now 15 years old). I want to play it against the fir guitar, maybe take some waveforms and compare.

    There is so much to know, I keep learning with everything I do.
     
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  12. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    OK, thanks for the reply. Sounds good. I'll stay tuned to see how all that goes..

    The neck angle issue is so important/tricky, because I've seen many factory guitars get it WRONG -- and they'll let it slip past QC anyway.. /argh!! When it's wrong it's pretty much irreversible. A lot of newer/younger players to classical nylon string don't think to [rigorously] check neck angle when evaluating a guitar -- it's a 'make or break', well, for me at least.

    I see what you mean about the finish. It (FP specifically, but shellac in general also) fits very well this particular guitar and it's design. I have two classicals - one with FP and one with PU. As long as the wood is suitably protected and the finish THIN, I am not particular to one over the other really.

    Did your friend have any comments about it's sound? I know there are 'certain things' a player will check/look for when playing a guitar at first. I am curious to know what he liked most about it. He likes flamenco and plays with a fairly heavy touch (that could be a product of action+strings though in all fairness).

    A fine sounding guitar can be made almost totally without tropical/exotic woods. I suspect even the rosewood for bridge and fretboard could be substituted and have the end product sounds every bit as good or very, very close. I am coming to the opinion that the wood type/choice is not nearly as important as the even more basic things, like: details of construction/design, bracing, glue choice, etc. but maybe I'm off base, too???

    Edit: Also, thanks for the earlier mention of Trevor Gore. His site is really informative and he has some really interesting things posted in the section titled "Innovation".
     
  13. Rattfink

    Rattfink Tele-Meister

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    Top notch work, very nice!
     
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  14. Dukex

    Dukex Tele-Afflicted

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    Beautiful, I'd love to get my fingers on that baby!
     
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  15. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    A couple of comments. I asked him to just play scales for me - different keys, across the fretboard, up and down the neck. I did the same for him (not as nicely) - what we were listening for is balance, lack of weak notes, lack of wonky sounding notes. Since I had laid out and cut fret slots with a ruler (a pretty fancy one, but still just a stick) I wanted to see if I heard particular notes that were out of key. My feelings playing by myself was that the high E string got a little weak above the 9th fret, but it sure didn't with Charlie playing. I wanted to hear whether the base notes were full and resonate and whether the trebles has a ring to them. I wanted to hear what Trever Gore calls "allure". All in all I was satisfied.

    I no longer get in wood debates. Fifteen years ago I could tell you exactly what each wood sounded like. Today I don' try. Several very scholarly studies have pretty much confirmed that people really can't identify tone woods, even tho they insist they can. I've been a part of some of these studies. They can be humbling.

    I know a good sounding guitar when I hear it, might even be able to tell a great sounding one. I know a bad sounding guitar too. It has nothing to do with the woods.

    After listening to Charlie play I am impressed enough with the guitar to already be thinking about submitting it to the Classical Guitar Listening Session at next years GAL conference (in Tacoma, you should be there). I would love to hear it played against all those fancy expensive hand built boutique guitars - I honestly think it will hold its own.
     
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  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    LOL, he did point to the top and say "you need to put the tap plate right here" and then launch into a percussive little flamenco run... I think I'll pass on the golpeador.

    I did pull the strings off, reshaped the bridge a bit and ramped the slots in the head and restrung it with medium tension strings. Took a hair off the action and played for quite a while last night. Its a nice addition to all the different voices in my little guitar quiver, I might actually keep this thing.
     
  17. P Thought

    P Thought Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Wow, just wow. That is gorgeous.

    A long time ago I backed down to once a year or less oiling my fretboards. I think I'll take your advice and stop oiling them altogether.
     
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