Luthier.... Lutherie??

Lu·thi·er (lo͞o′tē-ər) n. One that makes or repairs stringed instruments, such as violins.

Lu·th·er·ie (lo͞o′t-ər-ē) v. The craft of making string instruments, or lutherie (sometimes spelled luthiery), is commonly divided into two main categories: makers of stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed and makers of stringed instruments that are bowed.

Ok,… so, note to self, apparently there is a thin line between Woodturning and Lutherie, and yes, I think it may have been useful for me to have learned how to play the guitar before I ventured into building acoustic guitars! I have been bitten by the guitar building (or Lutherie) bug and there is no turning back!

I was hooked from the moment Lutherie was introduced in my Introduction to Woodworking class almost 2 years ago. I have no aspirations or delusions of becoming the next great builder the likes of Stradivarius, Torres or Hauser, but if for nothing else than for my own enjoyment. I love the skill involved and the extreme attention to detail it takes to build a great sounding guitar, and I get lost in its cathartic process.

Just as turning re-ignited my passion for woodworking, my first Lutherie class re-ignited my fascination with wood instrument building. I think the fascination began even further back, when, as a boy, I was fascinated by the story of Stradivarius’ violins; I always had it in the back of my mind that I would someday build an instrument out of wood. It’s one of those thoughts that go dormant over the years, and then suddenly, here we are - full circle.

I am in the finishing process of building my second guitar, a steel string Orchestra Model with a Florentine cutaway, and have design plans swimming in my head all day for future guitar builds. I build them completely from scratch. No pre-bent, pre-formed, pre-shaped pieces!

Back and sides are made of Black Hearted Sassafras. Neck is Port Orford Cedar. Fretboard is Macassar Ebony with Narra inlay for the fret markers.

Tree of life inlay is of Walnut, Bacote and Honey Locust. Binding is Bloodwood with Abalone shell inlay.

Soundboard is Koa. Rosette is Cottonwood with Abalone shell inlay.

Hopefully, family members don’t keep claiming my guitars as their own and I’ll build one I can actually sell! My first build was a classical guitar that I was persuaded to gift to my middle son with the condition that he would take lessons and learn how to play it. So far he is making good on his promise... evident by the constant attempts at the “Ol’ Susanna” tune. =)

Soundboard is Adirondack Cedar. Fretboard is African Ebony. Bridge and Headplate are Indian Rosewood.

Back and sides are Bacote with Spanish Cedar Neck.

Now, my youngest son has also expressed a desire to play, so my third guitar will be parlor sized.......which I will be completely designing on my own (not from plans) with a different body size, scale length, etc... It will incorporate a lot of the tried and true design elements that make up a great sounding guitar, but also changing as many aspects as I can to tailor it to a smaller/younger player. Hopefully this design will lead to me being able to offer guitars geared towards younger players as well. But for now my vision for this Lutherie venture is to have pre-built guitars available for sale, but also offer custom builds on commission.

I will be including a slide show of my two builds in the Gallery section. Look for that, plus the upcoming new section on the website dedicated to Lutherie.

I am still very faithful to my first love of woodturning, but it will now share space both on my website as well as my garage work space! =)

STILL… Upon A Lathe,

Dan

Art Show and Take #2 of the Apricot lessons

So, I entered the Apricot goblet (and a few other items) into a local art show and won “People’s Choice Award” for best turning! I was rather shocked… First of all that I won anything and secondly, that it was the goblet that won. From the feedback I got, people were amazed at how thin I was able to get the stem and how the cup portion almost looked like a flower?? I am extremely humbled and honored by the award, especially since this was my first ever show.

The show was held at the Palmer Lake Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake, Colorado. A small quaint town right outside of Colorado Springs. Besides for art exhibits, the Center holds small concerts and art classes. I was really drawn to Palmer Lake. It sits right at the foothills surrounding a small lake. It’s a beautiful area with quite the history. It’s also a popular town for motorcyclist and bicyclists as well to stop through since it’s right on one of the scenic byways in the area.

My wife and I had a fascinating conversation with the director, Michael Maddox, the day I took in my turnings for the exhibit. A true hippie of the 60s and 70s that actually did find peace =) He has written a book about he and his wife’s experience called “Peace Freak”. Very good read.

Overall, this was a great first show experience for me. I intend to return next year!

    As for part#2 of the Apricot trials: The goblet has not developed any cracks, so I am confident that I can call that one a success. I attempted three other pieces in Apricot. A small hollow form, a shallow bowl and a vase. All were turned thin, the thickest was about a ¼ of an inch. Two turned out great with no cracking (except for the crack I made while turning the base of the hollow form). 

The vase turned out good, but I had a nasty catch while I was hollowing out the inside, and that cracked even more as it dried. A pity, as it really looked nice with the contrasting grain markings. Had a lot of potential.

So, what ultimate lesson did I learn about turning green Apricot wood?? I learned that I need to turn it to a minimum thickness of about a ¼ inch and get at least one coat of finish on it RIGHT AWAY! I know that’s a very basic method… and I’m sure there’s more “science” involved for a more perfect way to turn Apricot… but if this is working for me, why complicate things?! =} That said, I will value any and all comments on your experiences with any fruit wood.


Upon a Lathe,

 Dan

Apricot Wood Lessons

A while ago an arborist contacted me about an Apricot tree he had just cut down. Of course, I jumped at the chance to get some more wood! =)

Actually this is a load of Gamble Oak from the same Arborist, but you get the picture!

One piece in particular had some nice features in the end grain; I was excited to dig into it and see what my gauge would expose in the wood.

Beautiful grain pattern and color.

I wasn't disappointed. The green Apricot turned like butter and I was pleased with the hollow form I turned from that first piece.

First Form.jpg

But… and there’s always a but… As it sat and dried, each day it developed more and more cracks. By the third or fourth day the cracks got wider and wider.

Starting from top to bottom left to right... First was about a day after turning and the last about a week later.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks later, the hollow form was all but unusable…

 The final devastation! Maybe I can do some carving on it?

So, with the following attempt numbers two and three, I decided to rough turn two hollow forms of roughly the same size and dry them using different methods. I don’t really want to create a debate on the methods I used as I know for a fact there are better ways of drying green wood. And...I do tend to buck conventional wisdom just because I want to try it my way. Not always to a good result. =)

The first one I wrapped in a paper bag and used the microwave to dry it. One minute on high… let cool, and repeat... This method had worked great on some cottonwood and a pine burl I had tried several months ago.....No such luck for the Apricot. At first, it was small "artistic" cracks, almost symmetrical around the whole piece, but several weeks later there was one huge crack through the whole side of the hollow form.

The second hollow form I soaked in denatured alcohol for about three days. I then wrapped it also in a paper bag and left it to dry on its own. It too looked like it was going to work at first, but several weeks longer than the first, it developed an identical crack along the whole side.

Exactly the same. It's hard to tell the difference if I hadn't kept track of which was which.

Now let’s fast forward a couple of months to a turning course I was taking. I brought a limb of the Apricot into class when we were working on thin goblets. Our instructor told me to make sure and get a coat of finish on the goblet right away as soon as I got home. This kind of surprised me as I had always assumed that you cannot apply a finish to a green piece of wood? Well… I followed the instruction and applied an initial coat of Murdoch’s Hard Sealer (great stuff!) to the goblet as soon as I got home from class. Three to four coats, and three weeks, later, still NO CRACKS!

 Stem developed a slight bend as the wood dried.

In the end I learned that fruit wood is a royal pain, but more importantly, that it’s worth the extra effort needed to avoid the cracks if you're turning it green. Plus, you don’t have to wait until it dries to turn it. My next step in this adventure with fruit wood, is to try yet another hollow form, only this time, turn it thin and put some finish on it IMMEDIATELY! I also have a Plum rootball I'm dying to get into!

Stay tuned…

Oh, and P.S., the goblet will be added to my shop if I can figure out a way to ship it without it breaking! =)

Any suggestions?

Upon a Lathe,

Dan

Mother's Day Save! =)

 My wonderful wife!! She has been a tremendous help and encouragement this past year particularly as we dove into getting this business off the ground! This year on Mother's Day, I managed to actually  surprise her with a very special and unique Mother's Day gift.

I don't want to speak for all you men out there, but I tend to take my wife for granted and not show my love and appreciation to her enough. So, I wanted to do something extra special for her this Mother's Day that was not the traditional flowers or breakfast in bed. Plus, being the procrastinator that I am, it was too late to buy or really setup anything! =) Someone once told me that inside every woodworker and artist there is a procrastinators soul! So true! At least I am in good company. =) So...I decided to make something myself. At first the idea was just a vase; then that evolved into a vase and flowers....15 hours of turning.... and one huge last minute save, if I say so myself! =) 

The vase was turned from White Ash; the flowers were turned from Mulberry, Russian Olive, Hard Maple and Poplar. I know Poplar isn't the turner's favorite, but this particular piece looks like stone... Almost like Alabaster. 

Each stem was turned separately from green wood; some Hickory and some Silver Maple. I turned them from green wood so I could bend them to shape easier. After turning them, I wrapped each stem in wet paper towel and microwaved it for one minute. After taking them out of the microwave I bent and held them in place until they cooled. Why not just put them in some kind of jig to cool you ask? Well,... If I would have been thinking ahead, I would have had at least some kind of form to hold them in, but I didn't think of it until I was bending the first stem. Holding the stem in position with my hands in the freezer did speed things up a bit 'tho =)

The flowers, I turned on a bottle stopper mandrel. That way there was already a hole dead center of the flower for me to insert the stem.

To make the vase more versatile, I didn't want to permanently glue the flower stems into the vase. I turned a little cup the size of the bottom of the vase and then glued the stems into the cup.  That way the flowers could be taken out at any time without it loosing the shape.

This was a very rewarding project!  Your opinions and feedback welcomed!

Upon A Lathe,

Dan 

 

Voila... Totally removable!

Hard Maple

Russian Olive with natural edge.

Mulberry

Russian Olive

Poplar with burned edges.

Upon A Lathe...

I will be adding content intermittently as time and inspiration allow. Some will outline attempts I make at trying new things. I will post successes as well as failures. Hopefully this will help someone out there contemplating the same thing. This will also be a place to add your comments on my pieces or my ramblings.

Stay Tuned!