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My classical challenge

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freeman Keller, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I decided to give myself a little challenge. This has nothing to do with the brotherhood thing - its just something I want to do with myself. It might fail dramatically - you'll know if it does.

    Background. My first guitar was built in 2014 from plans from Stewart McDonald and the classic book by Cumpiano and Natelson, Guitar Making - Tradition and Technology (I like that title, think about it a bit). The book is mostly just known as Cumpiano - thats how I'll refer to it here.

    Cumpiano takes the reader (and beginning builder) thru the construction of two different acoustic guitars - a steel string similar to an OM and a classical similar to a Torres or Hauser. I used the book mostly as a guide of how to do things, I used the SM plans for dimensions.

    The guitar came out pretty nice, actually pretty amazing considering everything that I struggled with, and when I showed it to my son (the same one) he said "dad, if you ever want to build another one I would love a classical..."

    Well, since I had the other half of the Cumpiano book that described building a classical and since the GAL had classical plans and since he was my son, after all, I said what the heck and built a classical.

    Here are the two guitars - 16 years ago.

    Home made gu itars.jpg

    The plans for the classical are the 1937 Hauser that Andre Segovia called the greatest guitar of our epoch". That sort of got peoples attention and this guitar has been studied and copied probably more than any other single instrument in history. The beautiful plans were (hand) drawn by RA Brune after taking detailed measurements from the guitar, I followed them as closely as I could.

    After building those two guitars I figured I knew everything about building guitars and put Cumpiano on the book shelf where its been sitting until last week. The library is shut down and I've read everything in the house - Cussler and Tolkin and all of my back issues of Fretboard Journal and American Lutherie. As I worked my way down the pile of guitar books I found Cumpiano, dusted it off and started reading.

    And got inspired. Why not build another classical guitar? But set some constraints on the way I build it. First of all, could I build it out of materials that I have on hand? I have boxes of wood and scraps and cutoffs and stuff - this would be a chance to use up some of it. So first challenge, build with what I have.

    Second challenge - could I build this with the minimum of tools? Over the years I have added fancy new power tools and gizmos to make building easier or more accurate or better - I have a policy of looking back after a build and thinking about a tool that would have made it easier and adding that to the tool bench. Could I do it entirely with hand tools? This kept me away several nights, I'll come back to it.

    Third challenge - could I build it with hide glue? That doesn't seem like a biggie to you folks who have mastered HHG and those of you who have never tried don't understand what a complex subject that really is. Hot hide glue is the traditional glue that was used in the 1600's and 1700's and .... right up to maybe the 1930's when modern glues pretty much replaced it. Hide glue has some huge advantages for instrument construction but it is simply a hassle to work with. It has a very short "open" time, you can't fiddle around looking for a clamp or moving pieces if they don't align perfectly. I use it from time to time when I feel it is necessary, but I've never felt I has mastered it. This would be a good time to practice.

    Forth challenge - the best finish for a classical guitar is hand applied shellac called French polish. Once again, it is a technique that needs to be mastered to get the kind of finish you see on vintage instruments. I haven't mastered it either, another good thing to practic.

    Coming back to the hand tool question I decide that it was silly to try to build a classical guitar with a pocket knife. Some of the hand tools I would need (like an egg beater drill or a bind grammil) I don't currently own - seems kind of silly to by a hand drill to make six holes for tuners. So I compromised my second challenge - I will use only tools described in Cumpiano. If he used a band saw for something then a band saw is fair game. If he used a powered drill then I could also. He actually does use a router for binding, that opens up a big worry. No air compressor, no problem. No CADD or CAM or CNC in site - good thing 'cause I don't have one.
     
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  2. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Cleaned off my work bench, put the go bar deck together, mixed up a batch of new glue. Got the plans and the book and the glue pot on the bench

    IMG_6403.JPG

    Went down to the wood room (which also happens to be my wine cellar - wood and wine like the same conditions) and started digging thru my stash (wood, not wine). I have some truly lovely wood down there - as some of you know I'm a shameless wood slut - I've got EIR and quilted mahogany and Spanish cedar and Lutz spruce, and...

    Someone a few years ago gave me some straight grained fir that came from the gymnasium floor of a local middle school when they redid the floors. It had been planed to 1/8 inch and there was plenty to build a guitar - I'll use that. Took it up out of the cellar and out to the shop.

    IMG_6384.JPG

    IMG_6386.JPG

    Fir isn't a very common tone wood, either for tops or certainly not for backs and sides, but what the heck. Some research indicates that it has a Youngs modulus between spruce and cedar so it should be stiff enough. I read that it has a tendency to crack - that worries me and will become the next challenge.
     
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  3. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    Wow, that earlier guitar is beautiful Freeman. I'm sure it sounded fantabulous. It looks to me like you've got all the right things there to work wonderfully well.

    I'm going to limit myself to a minimum of comments (don't want bore you or other lurkers..) but, will just say:

    1. Great! You know what you're doing and I have no doubt it will be fantastic guitar (if I had the cash, I'd commission from you.. maybe one day soon).

    2. After reading up on all the luthier/construction/design stuff that goes into a quality classical, I will say, there is a LOT of thought/design involved. So, kudos to you for taking it on.

    3. Random points in no apparent order:
    Hide glue: yeah, I wouldn't want to deal with that either. I've heard some builders use it to attach [only] the top for it's shrinking/tightening qualities. For the rest of the components, it probably doesn't matter all that much. In fact, most production guitars anymore don't use hide glue at all and seem to scoot by ok.

    4. One thing the 1937 Hauser design is famous for.. (just a head's up, might not affect anything, but you should know just the same..) is that particular design uses a very thick top (up to 3.2mm in places -- which is about that same as most factory production guitars of late); and there is oodles of historical digging about the differential thinning/tap-testing the top to make it 'work' (I know, I know.. whatever that means..). You might want to double-check this part of the design.

    5. Re: Finish -- you could go with shellac, but just brushed/sanded vs. all-out French Polish. I know that Jeff Elliot here in town has an assistant to do all the FP on his guitars.. it takes THAT MUCH time to build it up! Argh! Sonically, shellac is way better. Polyurethane (or even Polyester, yes even the higher end Yamaha GC series uses polyester finish on it's quality classicals these days... ugh). I also believe that a truly THIN layer of polyurethane (not polyester) is ok on a good classical if applied carefully.


    6. Suggestion for woods (feel free to disregard of course):
    Lutz for top-- Yay!, EIR for back/sides, Spanish Cedar for neck (if you've got a big enough piece and can reinforce it sufficiently).

    There is nothing to me that sounds as glorious as a fine classical guitar.
    I'm no builder, but I'm a real nerd for classical-related guitars (materials, construction, design, etc).

    OK, well, that's exciting to me -- good luck.

    --Sorry for the long post.




    LOL
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
  4. rangercaster

    rangercaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm lazy ... I just buy guitars rather than build them ...

    But that's just me ...
     
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  5. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    If you're interested in exploring [top] bracing options, I might suggest a google search using keywords:
    classical guitar top bracing patterns

    I point it out to bring attention to the 'treble brace' type used by Ramirez. It borrows from the pattern used in your Hauser diagram, but integrates a diagonal one that runs from the bout through to the waist -- to enhance higher frequencies (Ramirez uses mostly red cedar for tops though).

    Freeman, this site has lots of builders and many are active too:
    https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/

    Specifically about the 1937 Hauser design:
    https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=48073

    HTH
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
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  6. TeleTucson

    TeleTucson Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm very, very impressed with the purity of your challenge. I can't help but be concerned about investing in such an enormous amount of precision work with fir, especially because you may not anticipate the extent of the issues until well after you're done. Depending on the variety of fir, it could have a substantially larger transverse thermal expansion coefficient than the usual body woods. If you've got spruce and cedar, why fir?
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
  7. monkeybanana

    monkeybanana Tele-Holic

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    Cool. I’m subscribing.
     
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  8. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    FK-the long ago first builts look good.
    I will watch w/ great interest.
    Peace - Deeve
     
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  9. hopdybob

    hopdybob Tele-Afflicted

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    maybe, at the moments that you might want to read something, i would recommend you some topics on a dutch site.
    i know the words will not say much, but if you see what this person is building (and he does not play guitar) i think it can be inspiring.

    http://www.gitaarnet.nl/forum/showthread.php?173111-Renaissance-Parlor
    http://www.gitaarnet.nl/forum/showthread.php?172415-Black-Tuesday
    http://www.gitaarnet.nl/forum/showthread.php?171131-Maarten-00-12WS
    http://www.gitaarnet.nl/forum/showthread.php?156281-Stilley-Tribute

    and good luck with your challenge, i only can think you will tackle the things you will encounter
     
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  10. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Freeman,you have finally come with a design and material that almost hits all my nerves,in a good way :lol:. Once upon a time a young boat builder decided to try his hand at guitars,specifically a parlour with French curve sides and a grand auditorium of sorts. I used douglas fir for necks and sycamore and walnut back and sides and spruce and eastern red cedar for tops. Usually curly maple or rosewood binding. I have no idea what you're using your fir for but watch with excitement.
    My acoustic days are long behind me, had a nervous breakdown about number 26 I think. Was telling this to my dear friend and wanted one of his majestic Dewdrops. He actually agreed and I shipped him the wood. The following is his/my masterpiece.


    received_2312106395558122.jpeg received_1545789288903575.jpeg received_514092945776671.jpeg received_883101115478163.jpeg received_2520965118170776.jpeg received_820995571700108.jpeg received_1273690679685559.jpeg received_514092945776671.jpeg received_625152944754380.jpeg


    I did not show his brand because I cannot without permission but every dream I had he made come true. And except for the bridge, all from Tennessee wood

    Dave
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
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  11. Mahogany

    Mahogany Tele-Meister

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    Respectfully,



    By referring to the book as Cumpiano you do a great disservice to Jonathan Natelson.

    This book is not the sole work of William Cumpiano.
    "We" is the first word used on the acknowledgments page.
    "We" is the word used multiple times in the preface.

    Be respectful and give Mr. Natelson the credit he is due and rightfully deserves.


    And technically, there will need to be 10 holes drilled into the headstock.
    Mr. Natelson is shown using a brace for drilling these holes. And he specifically mentions this.

    Mr. Cumpiano is not the one building the classical guitar in this book.
     
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  12. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

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    You beat me to the punch Mahogany. Agreed 100%. I've seen a couple other people make this same mistake over the years and it irks me to no end.
     
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  13. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Hmmmm Crazydave I've seen that guitar somewhere before :oops::D:rolleyes:

    Freeman very cool guitars! Awesome project. The woodcraft here in Woburn use to run classes for building acoustics. I spoke to the instructor. He worked with the 2 guys who wrote the book you are using. I guess they live near by or onre of them does/did. He suggested another book as well but I'm drawing a blank on the name I'll find it an report back. Anyway the instructor of the class makes acoustic guitar kits based on the book and they are popular in this area. I'm looking forward to this build, eventually I will jump up on to this path as well. I scored my copy of the book a few months ago.
    Good luck!
     
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  14. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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    You made a similar comment in a thread about binding. Just curious why you're here in the Home Depot section if you're not interested in actually building a guitar.
     
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  15. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I'm going to enjoy this build, Freeman. Perhaps I'll try something acoustic someday as a result of this and other threads on the same. Who knows?
     
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  16. Engraver-60

    Engraver-60 Friend of Leo's

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    After I complete a couple more electrics, I want to build an acoustic. The only acoustic I don't have in the herd is a classical, so I am subscribed to follow you on this journey.

    Freeman, I have been trying to get proficient at FP for about 10 years. It works very well for me in the woodturning realm, but on the guitar builds not so much. Maybe I need to make a fresh batch for this realm. I have used the cheaper Garnet flake shellac for a hand engraving heated glue (traditional, similar to pitch pot), and then went to Super Blond Flake shellacs for the wood media. I use DNA and flake shellac and in a used dishwashing liquid bottle placed on the window sill (southern exposure) it dissolves in a day to a nice light amber color. I've gotten pretty good results on Scrap Paul (neck especially), but the body needs more attention. I could probably buff it now that months have transpired. I bought my dewaxed super blond from shellac.net online (way less $$ that the famous wood store, like 1 lb at their 1/2 lb price). It lasts forever in the flake form.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
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  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow, I woke up this morning and there were 27 alerts in my little alert box. I've never felt so popular in my life. A few clarifications

    - for Mahogany and jkingma - I know who wrote the book, gave full credit in my first post and respect the heck out of both builders. It seems as tho William Cumpiano has continued the work of the book - his website is active and updates a lot of the the earlier work. I'll still refer to it by his name because I'm lazy

    - for several of you who have commented on my choice of fir - there is actually a thread at another lutherie forum right now discussing fir as either a top or back wood - it sounds like others have made acceptable guitars out of it. I do have some really stunning wood in my stash but I don't feel like wasting it on this project - I don't really want or need another guitar right now so I'm mostly doing this on a lark.

    Part of the wood choice is that I have this fir, its the right size and shape, if I use other scraps the guitar will literally cost me nothing to build. I'll probably give the guitar away when I'm done, I'm thinking maybe to the school where the wood came from.

    As far as back and sides, I am in the camp that says that the wood doesn't matter all that much. There have been several scholarly articles written lately that reinforces that - the Leonardo Guitar Project, a recent article in AL by Roger Bucknall (Flyde Guitars) and others. As far as tops, I think the wood choice makes a big difference, but I have built guitars out of several spruces, cedar and mahogany, and they all sound like guitars. Maybe fir will also.

    - There are some huge challenges ahead and any one of them can derail the project. I'm going to hand thickness the wood, I'm going to hand bend it over the pipe. It might just splinter all to pieces - challenge over. I haven't decided yet what to do about a rosette - got several ideas but it needs to come from the scrap pile. I'm starting to feel like I slightly understand voicing an X braced guitar but fan bracing is still a mystery - I'll do my best.

    - for PhredE (and others), I'm following the general Torres/Hauser plan because it is well documented and works. I'm not a classical player but I appreciate classical guitar music and I listen to it frequently. I have also attended both the Classical Guitar Listening Session and the Steel String Listening Session at the GAL conferences for quite a few years (PhredE - its close to you, you should attend). I have listened to guitars built with many of the traditional bracing patterns as well as several of the new patterns - lattice, double tops, falcate, others whose names I can't pronounce) - I'm going to go with the seven fan with cutoff bars because I'm not smart enough for anything else.

    - as far a glue and finish, I'm just being pig headed. I don't think there are any significant advantages to hide glue (or I would have been using it for years) - I use hide for joints I want to be able to take apart (dovetails) and I use it for repairs on vintage instruments where you would expect it. It is not Cumpiano's (or Natelson's) glue of choice, but it was Herman Hauser's. And since I have never done a real French polish from start to finish and since I've just got buckets of time, why not? Of course there is a very good chance it will never get to the finish stage.

    - I'm planning to do two more things that might be interesting. I have a beta copy of some cools software that will take a time domain sound sample and look at it in the frequency domain. I think it will be fun to look at this guitar and maybe compare it to the one in my first post. And for what it is worth, if the does get finished I'll take it to the next GAL conference and submit it to the Listening Session. Got to set a low bar for everyone else to rise above.

    - to all the rest of you, thank you for your support and comments
     
  18. Mr_Q

    Mr_Q Tele-Meister

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    Watching with interest, Freeman! I always enjoy your work and the comprehensive approach you have to documenting your builds.

    One day, I'll take an acoustic building course. I'll probably have to buy a bunch more tools too. :)

    My favorite acoustic is a Cordoba classical. The sound is magical. I'm actually not worthy of it as a player, but my dealer had one with a finish flaw that the mfg had reimbursed him for, so I bought it for quite a bit less.
     
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  19. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    You have, here but without permission I can't blurt it around and tempt the Vendor Police lol

    Everybody should do ONE lol

    In my acoustic days I used Egyptian flake, like the Pharohs and I believe Pree . Shiny and flexible after 3k years? Good enough for me :)

    Don't even sweat the fir, you could make the whole thing from it and never let it go. People said Martin would never sell the all mahogany guitars and now even if you had the money you couldn't afford one. Folks won't sell 'em lmao

    Dave
     
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  20. 1bad914

    1bad914 Tele-Afflicted

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    I have a few acoustics, the all mahogany j45 example that I built has become my go to. Interested in this build.
     
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