elhoff: (Guitar)
Made some progress on the guitar this weekend, but not as much as I would have liked. 

Spent five hours Saturday sharpening eight chisels.  New chisels need to be sharpened.  They are ground at teh factory, but not really properly honed and polished.  They need to have the backs flattened, honed, and polished, as well as the bevels.  The backs take way more time than the bevels. Fortunately the backs only have to be done the one time, but as such, it is best to take the time to do them really well.  Even though I have had six of these for a couple years, they have never been properly sharpened.  So after this significant time investment, all eight chisels are now scary sharp!  I actually had a hard time putting two of them back in their plastic sleeves because they just effortlessly cut through the plastic.

Today was a slow day in the shop.  I spent most of the day cutting brace stock for the top and back braces.  Had to resaw the wood that I had in order to improve the grain angle within the pieces.  Now each piece has good vertical grain, even in the small 1/4" wide by 3/4" tall pieces. Now all teh brace pieces are ready for shaping.

Not sure if I will actually get the braces installed before next weekend or not.  I still have to notch the back reinforcement strip and radius and preshape the braces.
elhoff: (Guitar)
New computer is runnning, so this is a big improvement.

Last weekend I was able to thickness the back for Guitar #2.  The rotary planer (Wagner Safety Planer) worked great on the first side, but got grabby and a bit scary on the second side.  I think it was dull by the time I got to the second side.  A little disappointing.  But with a little sanding I was able to complete the back thicknessing.

This week I was able to get the back reinforcement strip glued in place, and shaped to a pleasing curve.  The strip started as a trapazoidal cross section, and is nicest if planed and sanded down to a nice circular arc.  All done :-)

So the project for this weekend is to get the back braced.  While this should be easily doable, there are necessary chores to do first, like sharpening chisels.  These are new, so the backs will have to be honed first which takes alot of time.  8 chisels to do :-(    Also, with this hot weather, I may have short days in the shop.  Without really cool nights, I can't really get the garage to cool down by opening up in the evening and morning, and I have not gotten an AC unit yet.  So I have some doubts as to my actual weekend progress, but it should be braced before the start of next weekend.

Now the big question on my mind is:  Do I continue to struggle through with the rotary planer, or bite the bullet and get a drum sander?  The next thing to thickness is the top, which is more critical in appearaance, and has the rosette inlay.  Not sure I want to trust the rotary planer at this point.   There is actually a good looking used sander over in Santa Rosa, but that drive will kill most of a day of work and any sander will blow my budget for the month :-(
elhoff: (Guitar)
Last weekend I was able to start guitar #2. This will be a small jumbo with a Sitka Spruce top and Indian Rosewood back/sides. Last weekend I planed the back pieces and glued the back center joint. Next I need to thickness and brace the back. The back pieces started out at 0.150" thick and need to be taken down to 0.095". I need to remove about 1/16"! I played with thicknessing with a hand plane, but I am not confident in my ability to do this evenly over such a large panel. I have decided to use my Wagner Safety Planer for this operation as shown in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfaLmBGKjJY. In order to avoid this guy's insane process of using hand held hold down blocks, I spent Sunday working on a spring loaded hold down fixture to mount on the column of my drill press. I should have it complete in the next couple evenings, so will be ready to thickness the back before this weekend. I will use the same setup when I am ready to thickness the top.

BTW: my computer died a couple weeks ago, so I have been reliant on my Touchpad for all web contact away from work. The LJ client for WebOS is a bit primative, so I have not been posting. I should have a new PC running before the weekend, so I should be getting pictures posted soon.
elhoff: (Guitar)
Guitar #1 is done, at least for a few more weeks. The finish is completed to my satisfaction. After a few weeks of settling in I will adjust the neck set and do a setup on it. I've actually been playing it and relearning some things I had forgotten. Pictures will be coming soon.

Guitar #2: This past week has been a busy time for me getting ready to start Guitar #2. At times it seems like the list of things that I need before starting is almost infinite, but I made good progress in the past week.

- I figured out how to clamp the top and back center joints with just a simple bench setup. This will save me from having to build and store a fixture for this purpose.

- I completed my go-bar deck needed for clamping many assemblies. I am currently using it to clamp the layers of the hollow forms that I am building.

- I decided that I would bend sides with just a hot pipe for now. This saves me from having to build and store a side bending fixture, and from having to build forms for each new shape of guitar I try. Bending on a hot pipe requires some practice and care, but is kind of a required skill that I will need anyway.

- I am working on finishing a batch of wood samples. I have samples of all the woods I am willing to work with at this point. Having them finished will allow me to look at wood and trim colors to better visualize the finished product. Also helpful if I am talking to prosective customers!

- I got the remaining 24" rounds cut that I need for making hollow forms. Will finish gluing by tomorrow, then have 4 more surfaces to hollow out in the following days.

By next weekend I should be ready to beginning the back and top gluing and bracing, and start bending sides.

It's becoming more important that I figure out how to do inlay work. Since this next guitar will be sold, it will need my name, or a logo, inlaid in the headstock. The inlay does not scare me, but does require some hand tools that I do not have yet, and requires some practice before working on an almost finished guitar!

I probably need to spend most of a day sharpening chisels and planes before getting started. I really don't want to be stopping to sharpen every time I need a tool.

Like I said, lots to do to get ready, but I am getting excited.
elhoff: (Guitar)
As I approach the end of this first guitar finishing episode, I am able to reflect back on my decision to use lacquer.

I wanted to avoid using lacquer for several reasons:

- Lacquer is not exactly environmentally friendly. Lacquer thinner contains a variety of nasty solvents, all of which ends up in the atmosphere. I try to live in a manner such that I do not intentionally destroy the planet.

- Lacquer is illegal to sell in southern California. It will eventually be illegal in other locations. Large commercial shops are not allowed to use it in most states. I did not want to put the energy into learning to spray a medium that could be banned anytime soon. I want to build guitars, not learn to spray new materials!

- Given the nastiness of the solvents, a fairly robust respirator is mandatory, even when spraying outdoors.

Now that I am almost done, I am glad I used lacquer because:

+ I can probably build about 4 guitars a year, at most. It's not like I am going to shoot a gallon of lacquer thinner into the atmosphere each day! My operation is small by any standard, and the impact has to be minimal.

+ Lacquer is fairly standardized. There is the question of thinning, but there is a wealth of information available on how to spray, what went wrong, how to fix issues, etc. This is not true with most of the newer lacquer alternatives.

+ Lacquer is easy to spray. Given the way lacquer flashes dry in a matter of seconds, it is very easy to spray, minimizes runs, and bugs have to be fast to get stuck in it.

+ Lacquer is forgiving to spray. There is little that you can do wrong that cannot be repaired.

+ Lacquer is easy to repair. In this guitar, I have repaired dirt specs, bugs, air bubbles, and runs. Many of these would have been virtually impossible to repair in a different finish. Bugs and dirt can be scraped out and the divot filled with a drop of lacquer on the end of a toothpick. At one point I found hundreds of air bubbles in the finish on theguitar back. I was able to reflow the lacquer by spraying pure lacquer thinner on it. The bubbles float to the top, and no more issue.

+ Lacquer is forgiving of an inconsistent spraying schedule. Cross-linking finishes require that you spray each new coat less the 24 hours after the prior coat. My full-time job does not necessarily allow that. With lacquer I can come back after several days and add coats, do repairs, reflow, etc. This is impossible with most other finishes.

To me the biggest benefit of the lacquer is the ease of repair. I would love to think that I could spray a perfect finish coat, but that is just not realistic in my conditions. Spraying outdoors involves wind, sun, dirt, bugs, etc. It is certainly less than ideal. With lacquer I was able to fix each defect I found. With the alternative modern cross-linking finishes these repairs would have been impossible. I would have had to achieve a flawless finish in the final coat. If I would have chosen a finish that could not be readily repaired, I think I would have given up in despair before I completed the finish! I do not believe that I would have been able to complete this project if I was not able to do repairs.

I will continue to watch for alternative finishes that work like lacquer. I still do not consider lacquer to be ideal by any means. But this is one more reason thaqt I am glad I am not living in southern California.
elhoff: (Guitar)
When I embarked on this guitar finishing adventure, I had certain expectations as to what would be difficult, what would be easy, how much time it would take, etc. In many ways, all my expectations were wrong.

- I expected the actual spraying to require a lot of technique and finesse. In actuality you are just trying to get the lacquer on there as thick and fast as possible. It will be sanded and buffed later.

- I expected masking to be quick and easy. In reality trying to get masking tape laid down with precision is fairly challenging. I have to work wearing my reading glasses and a magnifying visor, bent over my bench, trying to keep my head out of the light. Not so fun.

- Based on my reading, I expected the quick sanding between sessions to be just that...quick. It turns out that lacquer is really hard! It requires a lot of fresh sand paper, and some finesse to get along the edges of masked areas.

- The actual finishing is taking a lot less time than I expected. A guitar is actually not very big, so spraying each coat only takes a few minutes. Prep in the morning takes me about 45 minutes, cleaning after each coat takes about 10 minutes. Not bad overall.

- I didn't expect time management to be an issue. I expected to be able to accomplish other things between coats and after the three coats for the day. It turns out that I have to spray in the morning when it is cool. Spraying takes about two minutes. Hang the guitar somewhere to dry, and spend 10 minutes cleaning the gun. Now I should have an hour free, but I can't make dust in the garage, or even move around in the garage too much and risk stirring up dust that is already there. Even when I am hanging the guitar in the bathroom, I still have to carry it through the garage. Also, I don't want to get involved in anything too intensive that will have to be interrupted for the next coat. I also want to avoid getting too dirty or sweaty working on things between coats because of risk of contaminating something. Once I'm done spraying for the day and the guitar has cured for a couple hours, my dust restrictions are lifted a bit, but not to the point I can run power tools. So for each spraying day I loose the cool morning hours when it is best to do outdoor work, and my shop is mostly off limits all day. Pretty much an all consuming project!

So I expected a lot of technical difficulties and a bit of time investment. In reality I am finding that the process is easy, but the time investment is intensive!
elhoff: (Guitar)
I had an unpleasant surprise when I sanded the latest coat of lacquer this morning. Along the upper bout I exposed air bubbles that were locked into the finish.

The large white spots are exposed bubbles that I broke into while sanding, the smaller white spots are bubbles that are still below the surface. I really did not want to sand deep enough to remove them all, and I am not sure why they are there. I decided to try reflowing the lacquer by spraying thinner on it. It took a lot of thinner, but I was able to dissolve the lacquer enough for the bubbles to float out. The lacquer re-cured just fine. I am happy with the fix so far. I added one more coat of lacquer today. I think this might be the last coat, but I am a bit worried that it may be too thin on the edges. I may spray them a bit more with an airbrush.

My second task for the day was to find a way to hold the neck while I finish it. I have a fixture from Stewart-MacDonald that is essentially a rotating skewer. It came with two adapters for different types of guitar bodies. It holds the body horizontal and allows it to be rolled over for access to all sides. I am using one of the adapters for the guitar body. I was able to make a further adapter to allow the Stewart-MacDonald adapter to mount to the guitar neck.

Tomorrow I will start spraying the neck!
elhoff: (Guitar)
The finishing of the guitar is moving along. Not without a few incidents, but nothing that could not be fixed so far. From my last post "tomorrow morning" never happened because we had a 25MPH wind blowing on Sunday. Since I am limited to spraying outside, I can't spray in that weather. So here it is Tuesday, I have a day off work, and was up early spraying. Wanted to get 3 coats done today, but only managed 2. Had an incident on the second of today's coats where my sprayer coughed up some cured lacquer. By the time I had allowed that to dry, scraped, sanded, patched, and dried again, it was too hot out to spray anymore.

Below is a picture of the guitar after the sealer layer was applied on Saturday.

Here is a picture of the guitar hanging to dry in the garage. I actually dried it first for a while in the bathroom where there is less dust.

These next three show samples of imperfections that I had to fix.

This was a sprayer contamination issue that had to be scraped out, sanded, and filled with lacquer. It will still have to be scraped flat and sanded again before the next coat.

Five spots where bugs got sucked into the spray stream and into the finish. Same treatment as above.

A divot in the finish along a joint, caused by a very slight gap in the glue joint at the surface. These can soak up a lot of finish. I used a toothpick to apply a small drop of lacquer to this after this image was taken. And yes, I am scrutinizing the entire guitar inch by inch under high magnification to find these things!

Total coats applied: 3
Coats remaining: ~6 plus I still have the neck to do.
Next spraying day: Thursday (around meetings)
elhoff: (Guitar)
Today was to be the first day of real finishing on the Portland guitar body.

I started the morning with some masking activities. It is necessary to mask the area for the bridge. This results in a stronger wood-to-wood bond when the bridge is masked. I covered the bridge area with masking tape, mounted the bridge, traced its outline and removed it. I then used an Exacto knife to trim the masking to just inside the traced lines. This will leave a small edge of lacquer protruding under the edge of the bridge so there is no visible line when all is complete (I hope!).

Next was masking the area where the neck and fretboard will mount. These are not glued on, so strength is not as much of an issue as fit. The fit of the neck is extremely critical, so the finish in these areas must be kept to a minimum.

I also stuffed the body with some crumpled paper and slipped a peanut can lid into the opening. Held in place by the paper, this will prevent intrusion of the lacquer into the interior of the guitar.

Next it was necessary to mask off the entire back and sides of the guitar. This allowed spraying a vinyl sealer on just the top. Sealer was not needed on the back and sides due to the epoxy left from the pore filling operation.

All the masking and setup took me about 2 hours.

After moving the spraying setup from the side yard to the backyard to get away from a neighbor trimming shrubberies, I was able to spray two coats of vinyl sealer on the top. I've owned a spray gun for many years, but this is actually my first time using one. It actually went quite well. The sealer did come out with a fairly textured finish ("orange peel") that I think may be due to too small of a needle on the spray gun. Will play around with that more later. The orange peel was sanded out once the sealer was dry one hour after the last coat.

At this point I removed the masking from the back and sides, wiped it all down with alcohol, filled the gun with lacquer, and headed back to the back lawn. I used a scrap to adjust the spray gun. Actually spraying one coat on the front, back and sides of a guitar takes less than 2 minutes. I even did a double coat in that time. I hung the guitar in a closed bathroom with the fan running to dry for a while. After about an hour I moved it to the garage where it will hang for the rest of the night.

Tomorrow morning will be a light scuff sanding and scraping any thick spots, bugs, etc. Three more coats of lacquer tomorrow will keep me busy off and on. It will need a total of 9-15 coats. The finish needs to be thick enough to allow me to sand it flat and not sand all the way through the lacquer. I suspect I will finish spraying on the body on Thurs. Hopefully I can get the final coat of epoxy on the neck tomorrow between coats.
elhoff: (Guitar)
I was doubtful that it would cover when I put it on, but it turned out that the third layer of epoxy on the guitar body was enough to allow a complete level sanding without sanding through! Body is ready for sealer on the top and lacquer. :) Will try to mask and seal this week and start spraying lacquer next weekend.

Working on pore filling the neck now. One coat down and two more to go. The neck is hard because there is no real way to level the epoxy. A flat scraper just does not work. Used my gloved finger to smear on the first coat. Left a very rough coat that is proving to be a huge job to sand. Also the masking needed to keep the epoxy off the fretboard is in the way for sanding, but also not easy to remove and redo for each layer.

A few lessons I have learned in doing this pore filling:

1) There is no such thing as too much light!

2) There is such a thing as too much magnification!

3) I really need a stool to sit on at my bench.

4) Scraping is more precise than sanding. If sanding through is an issue...more scraping, less sanding!

5) Some razor blades come out of the package with oil on them! Fortunately I noticed the oil on my fingers and the razor blade before I touched the guitar.
elhoff: (Guitar)
Grain filling with epoxy is proving to be more difficult than it initially looked. On the first coat I knew immediately that I had scraped off too much of the epoxy. The wood grain was still plainly obvious. Since I was a bit uncertain of the cure time of the epoxy, I decided to let it go for a second coat. Sanding the first coat revealed exactly what I expected: lots of unfilled grain pores and sanded through to bare wood in several places. trying to smooth out the low spots. The second coat looked great right after application. Looked like it was on plenty thick, was much smoother than the first coat, and appeared to completely fill the pores. Sanding today revealed that all was not as it appeared. On the good side, the second coat did in fact fill almost all of the grain pores. On the bad side, it was not as smooth as it appeared. Extensive sanding was required to smooth out the pits and grooves in the epoxy, and I ended up sanding through to the wood in several places. Both the first and second coats also suffered from a lot of dust and fibers stuck in the epoxy. Yesterday I blew off all the shelves and surfaces near where I am working and ran my shop air filter for a couple hours, hoping to have less dust in the epoxy. Tonight I started the third coat. I can't say that I am impressed with how it came out. more grooves and ridges than it should have. Not sure I will be able to sand this one smooth with breaking through, which is really the objective.

After I was done with the epoxy tonight, I finished the sanding on the neck and head. I will start the filling on the neck tomorrow and complete the third coat on the body. I am starting to fear that I won't have this finishing complete by the convention :( After the epoxy, I have 4-5 days of multiple lacquer coats (12-15 coats total), 10 days cure time, level sanding (don't sand through!), and then finally buffing.


May. 30th, 2011 03:21 pm
elhoff: (Guitar)
I completed the finish sanding on the Portland guitar body this morning. I then reviewed some videos on the process for grain filling with epoxy, and headed back to the garage, gram scale in hand. I mixed up 10.0g of epoxy resin with 4.4g of hardener, stirred very well, and with a certain amount of trepidation, poured it on the back of the guitar! I smeared the epoxy around all over the back, being careful not to let it run down the sides, working it down into the grain from all directions. I then cleaned up the scraper I was using, and scraped the excess epoxy off the surface, trying to leave a thin layer behind. I suspect that in fact I removed too much epoxy and and ended up pulling a lot of it up out of the grain. I an expectiing to need three coats to really get the grain smoothed over, I hope that is all it takes. Now the guitar body is curing in a closed room in the house where it is a bit warmer then the garage. Tomorrow I will be able to take it out and begin doing the first epoxy coat on the sides. Will try to set it up so I can do both sides in one session.
elhoff: (Guitar)
Friday night I routed out the first of the radius work boards (25'). It came out pretty good, but was a lot of work and a huge dusty mess. I used a round nose router bit. Meant lots of sanding. I don't have a way (yet) to attach a vacuum to my small router, or really to my sander either. One board was all my right arm/wrist/hand could take in one session. Sunday I changed to a 1/4" straight bit and routed my second 25' board. The straight bit is definitely the way to go. I intend to make a sandwich out of two work boards, back to back, with a 1/4" or 1/2" plywood layer in the middle. Both sides will have the same radius. I will put sandpaper on one side and leave the other side bare. I still need to make the 15' and 12' boards. If I had been after just one board, it would not be worth building the fixtures, but for 6 boards it is.

The small humidifier that I put in the garage is managing to keep it reasonable out there, but not entirely within the 45-55% desired range. My bigger problem is temp. It got over 90 degrees in the garage last week. The high temp also drops the humidity a lot. I'm sure that high temp was aggravated by parking my hot motorcycle inside after work. I will let it cool a bit in the drive before moving it inside next time. Ceiling and wall insulation is quickly moving to the top of the priority list. More distractions :(

I intend to start on the final sanding of the Portland guitar this week, do epoxy grain filling this week and weekend and spray lacquer next weekend. Bought a new HVLP spray rig last week. Did not want to mess with learning on my old spray gun then upgrading and re-learning. It's a nice looking small rig with the turbine. Cost will be partially offset by not having to add serious oil and water filters to my compressor.
elhoff: (guitar)
Wow, it got warm fast. Now I begin fighting a conflicting battle in my garage. I need to maintain the humidity between 45% and 55% when working with yet to be assembled guitar bits. On Monday the humidity in the garage dropped to 28%. I put a humidifier out there, but it has so far only reached 38%. Anytime I open the garage door, I'm sure that I loose a lot of moisture. Now comes the real challenge. Tonight when I went out there to work it was 91 degrees and 36% humidity. Not exactly comfortable. 45-55% would have been unbearable. So I see AC in the near future for my garage. But that will lower the humidity. This could get interesting. I'm sure that a reasonable equilibrium could be achieved if I could maintain a steady temperature. Unfortunately, there is no way I can afford to run AC all day out there. This is going to get interesting.

- First step is insulation in the ceiling. No sense trying to control environment in an uninsulated garage.

- Then I need power for an AC unit and for tools, including 220V for a table saw and dust collector.

- Then blow in insulation for the walls that are not all door.

Just what I needed, more projects!

After all this will come winter so I can fight the opposite battle. I will then need to heat and dehumidify.

I'm really starting to wish I had enough land to build a dedicated shop!
elhoff: (guitar)
As part of pursuing lutherie as a hobby, I have just joined The Guild of American Luthiers. As an engineer by education and career, I never thought that I would be able to put "Guild Member" on my resume!

BTW: Why is it that no spell checkers know the word luthier? Its not that rare.
elhoff: (guitar)
For those of you not watching on Facebook, I have taken up guitar building. Last month I went to Portland for a 2 week intensive class with a master luthier named Charles Fox. The class was a spectacular experience and I came home with a new self built steel string accoustic guitar (complete and playable except for finish.) You will begin to see posts here concerning my further adventures as a luthier.

Since the class I have been working diligently to get my shop in order, but am trying not to go crazy buying tools! My first task is to apply finish to this first guitar so I can really start playing it. For the past couple weeks I have been testing finish options on scrap wood that I brought home with me. At this point I have decided to spray traditional lacquer. Now I am investigating options for grain filling. Once past all the testing and practicing, the actual finishing step should not take that long (though there is a mandatory 2 week drying time.) I also need to do a full setup job on my Seagull guitar for practice and in preparation for selling it.
elhoff: (photography)
I spent alot of yesterday planning a new organization scheme for my photography. Directory structures, file naming, etc. Before I get too far into the digital stuff, I have ~5000 35mm slides in archive sleeves to deal with. These need to be sorted, boxed, and scanned well enough to at least get them into my Lightroom catalog so I know what I have.

So I spent today sorting all my slides by date. Found that I have a 5 year gap with no slides. Oh yeah, I shot print film for those 5 years. Now I have that to deal with also! I got 250 slides out of their sleeves, labeled (file name), and put into archival storage boxes. ~4600 more to go. Then I got the first 24 scanned on my flat bed scanner. This scanner works great for my 4X5 sheet film, but seems marginally up to the task of dealing with small slides. I would prefer to be using my Nikon slide scanner, but it looks like I have to buy some expensive software to get it to work with Win7.

Its a good thing I'm going to have a few weeks available coming up to deal with this without the distraction of work! I have a long long way to go on this project, but it is much needed and good to have started.
elhoff: (Default)
For Thanksgiving we drug out our fine china and silver. As is somewhat expected after being stored for 5 years, the silver was a bit tarnished. Rather than using the traditional silver polish pastes and foams, we decided to try the chemistry method of polishing silver.

Put a sheet of aluminum foil in shallow pan. Dissolve 1/2 cup of baking soda in about 6 cups of almost boiling water. Pour the water/soda mixture into the pan with the aluminum foil. Submerge your tarnished silver in the pan in contact with the foil. Wait a few minutes and watch the tarnish disappear! If the reaction stops, simply add a new piece of foil. When the tarnish is gone, rinse and dry the silver. This method is a lot less work that traditional polishes, and has the benefit of not removing any of the silver metal from the objects. It simply reverses the original silver oxidation reaction, oxidizing the aluminum, releasing some sulfur dioxide to the air (a bit smelly), and leaving all the silver in place. It does use a fair bit of baking soda and foil.

Next time I think I will try just a bare aluminum plate instead of the foil. You have to clean the aluminum plate periodically with a Scotchbrite pad for this to work, so if you are sensitive to that particular sensation, stick with the foil!
elhoff: (cycling)
A friend of mine got a really good deal on some 3rd generation Yuba Mundo cargo bikes, because he bought a bunch of them. I got one from him. I love it. It is an amazingly stable and comfortable ride. This takes away one more excuse that I find myself using to not ride my bike for errands. This thing will carry just about anything! It has a 440 lb cargo rating (in addition to the rider). It has huge cargo bags. It has support rails that can act as foot rests so is legal to carry passengers.

Yuba Mundo

I took it to the grocery store today. I got 4 bags of groceries and they did not put a dent in the capacity of those bags.

Now off to the shop to make a padded seat and some running boards!
elhoff: (wildlife)
Wow...it was almost exactly three years ago that I found this gopher snake in my driveway one morning.  Now tonight I found his identical twin.  Just about the same size as the last one.  This one I opted just to move to the dried meadow area adjacent to our local bike path, rather than driving him clear out to the Yolo Bypass.
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