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May 24, 2019 - 8:36:22 PM
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7265 posts since 1/7/2005

 This is probably the single best video I have seen that documents the construction of a guitar. While it isn't a banjo, many of the processes and techniques are the same.
The exceptional photography, and complete documentation of the build, down to the last details makes for a satisfying and inspiring experience. And an opportunity to see how a talented luthier goes about the task of crafting a fine instrument.
The film runs about an hour, and is well worth watching.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAeXskZHC2o

DD

May 25, 2019 - 12:34:14 PM

11803 posts since 6/29/2005

That was a very interesting video — took me a while to watch the whole thing.
I am in the process of making some new instruments, so I have been looking at a lot of guitar building videos to see what has been recently transpiring in the art, and this one was a nice balance between tradition and new techniqies.

Besides the extremely high level of craftsmanship and outstanding design detailing being shown, several things in this video caught my attention:

It's always interesting to see in a handmade instrument, what power tools are used. He uses a lot of routers and no Dremels.  I think guitar builders love to shave down braces with large chisels, and that was fun to watch.  No mention was made of how the +- .001 tolerance bridge was made.  The idea of feeding strings in from the back of the bridge, eliminating bridge pins is a new thing I have seen from some other builders as well. It's a good idea.

The choices of glues and what was used for what— we talk about that all the time on the BHO, and I saw CA, Titebond, animal glue and epoxy, each having its use. The animal glue was more or less a homage to tradition using it for gluing end blocks and neck blocks, and it surprised me a little that he used it to glue on the bridge.

The end grain spalted maple rosette center was masterful, and floating CA all around and into it to both glue it in place and consolidate the end grain is very well thought out.  I have noticed that many of the classical builders are making their own rosettes in situ, as he is doing.

I hope a lot of people on this forum appreciate that he is shaping the neck by hand—this seems to be a task that a lot of banjo makers have a problem with and are looking for ways to make them robotically and with huge overhead routers.

A couple of other things I noticed are (1) the laminated sides - a good technique that makes them stiffer (2) he is using a truss rod with the adjustment on the peghead instead of hiding it inside the body.  I like his magnetic cover - that was cool. (3) he is bolting on the neck but gluing it in.  (4) epoxying on the fingerboard.  (5) I really like his bindings, and  (6) the fact that he builds an armrest into the body from the inside is spectacular - a number of builders are now putting armrests on guitars - a good idea I will incorporate into my banjo lutes. (7) I was very surprised to see that he used standard kerfing in light of the fact he laminates the sides— most side laminators also use laminated kerfing, which is stiffer and cleaner looking.  He must have a reason because he is a very thoughtful builder.

All kinds of wonderful things to see, but he is careful not to give too much away.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 05/25/2019 12:36:34

May 25, 2019 - 2:19:55 PM

rcc56

USA

2113 posts since 2/20/2016

Good video.

I am a repairman, not a builder. I prefer hide glue for both bridges and fingerboards, because if it is properly applied, it is good and strong, because it doesn't creep, it can stand exposure to more heat than some other glues, and because if the bridge or fingerboard must be removed later for any reason, I would rather separate a hide glue joint than an epoxy joint.

When I repair an instrument, I like to think about the next guy who might have to work on it.

When I have replaced fingerboards, I have not [as of yet] had a problem with moisture compromising the straightness of the fretboard. Sometimes I pre-fret a fingerboard. If so, I do an initial profiling of the frets before I install the board, but I perform the final levelling of the frets after the instrument has been assembled. So far, I have not lost any significant fret height in the levelling process.

To me, it makes more sense to install frets on a banjo after the fingerboard has been installed.

On a guitar, I might consider pre-fretting the extension only, and install the rest of the frets after the neck has been installed on the guitar. I have used this technique on guitars that required both a fret job and a neck reset. I apply masking tape to the back of the extension and a block of wood, and spot glue the masked surfaces together with a couple of beads of CA. The block of wood supports the extension while I drive the frets, and then I remove the block with a spatula and peel off the tape. It's much better than fretting the extension after the neck is back on the guitar.

May 25, 2019 - 5:37:38 PM

7265 posts since 1/7/2005

I'm glad to see that someone has checked out the link. Ken, Bob, thanks for your takes on the video. I pretty much agree with both your comments.
I don't have some of the equipment seen in the film, and thus need to do more by hand. But it is pretty straightforward woodworking and not so important when you only build the occasional instrument.
The laminated sides is something that was pioneered by Jose Ramirez about 40 some years ago. Not many high-end builders have jumped on that bandwagon, but it does make perfect sense.
I also was interested in his use of fish glue. I wasn't aware that it had the advantage of longer time to set. One of my biggest problems with hot hide glue.
I do like the way the guy approaches each part of the project. And he is obviously a perfectionist.

DD

May 25, 2019 - 6:05:24 PM

11803 posts since 6/29/2005

Process is an important part of  art and I am always intrigued by how different people approach it.  My process / order of steps for a banjo neck follows a completely different order than this person's or most other people's and yet they come out perfectly straight.

As for the laminated sides, it's completely logical, so are laminated backs, and it's being done now in $10,000 archtop acoustical and flat top guitars,  but anything like that takes time to "settle in" because it goes against the established "rules".

I really liked this video and, as I said, I have been watching a lot of them even some in languages I can't understand.  There is a phenomenal renaissance going on right now in guitar (especially classical) building and these builders from all over the world feed off one another's ideas and energy.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 05/25/2019 18:06:45

May 25, 2019 - 6:34:29 PM

rcc56

USA

2113 posts since 2/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Drabek


I also was interested in his use of fish glue. I wasn't aware that it had the advantage of longer time to set. One of my biggest problems with hot hide glue.
 


I will caution that a large number of stories of fish glue failures have come to my attention.  Enough of them to keep me from experimenting with the stuff.

For things that require a longer open time, I have been working with mixing a small amount of urea with hide glue.  The maximum amount that people smarter than me recommend is 10% urea [dry weight] to 90%  glue flakes [dry weight].  This is assuming a gram strength of 190 to 215.

I've only used it a few times, but so far, so good.  My last recipe was 6 g. glue granules, strength 215; 0.06 g. urea, 12 g. water.  It reduced the gelling temperature considerably, allowing plenty of open time with warm parts.  I purchased a pound of Jacquard urea at an artists' supply shop for under $10.  The unused glue can be stored in the refrigerator for a few months.

Violin and furniture makers have been using this method for a couple of centuries.  I have been advised that it does increase the glue's elastic properties slightly.  For this reason, I use straight hide glue without the urea except when open time is a major concern.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/25/2019 18:36:27

May 25, 2019 - 10:09:11 PM

PaulRF

Australia

3013 posts since 2/1/2012

I have been following the building of a guitar by luthier Dave Wren and find the level of skill involved amazing. Here is a picture of the finished guitar. 


 

A link to his build with some great photos:  https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=543349

Edited by - PaulRF on 05/25/2019 22:17:21

May 26, 2019 - 7:08:21 AM

3285 posts since 1/2/2004

Well worth watching.  Thanks for linking this.  

May 26, 2019 - 8:43:13 AM

rcc56

USA

2113 posts since 2/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56
quote:

For things that require a longer open time, I have been working with mixing a small amount of urea with hide glue.  The maximum amount that people smarter than me recommend is 10% urea [dry weight] to 90%  glue flakes [dry weight].  This is assuming a gram strength of 190 to 215.

I've only used it a few times, but so far, so good.  My last recipe was 6 g. glue granules, strength 215; 0.06 g. urea, 12 g. water.


Correction:  6 g. glue granules, 0.6 g. urea, 12 g. water.

Sorry about that.

May 26, 2019 - 9:52:27 AM
Players Union Member

Brian T

Canada

15446 posts since 6/5/2008

I am aquainted with one formally trained luthier who tells me that a $60,000 violin is constructed with fish, chicken, rabbit and cow hide glues. Entry level violins may use one or possibly two of those 2 hide glues.

I'll just sit and watch, thanks. I'm curious about the specific differences in the biochemistries of those glues.

May 27, 2019 - 11:42:54 AM

5083 posts since 9/16/2004

I have to comment on this:

Number one, what a fiddly hassle guitar building is.

Number two, why do these guys use low quality precision tools?

note: I've seen great work by guys using such tools working in dirt floored barns

May 27, 2019 - 1:38:04 PM

5083 posts since 9/16/2004

Thanks Dan, instead of doing what needs to get done, I've been watching videos.

I know nothing about lutherie but I did notice that these guitar makers use a better quality of tools. youtube.com/watch?v=gS78naDiB4k

May 28, 2019 - 4:35:41 PM

rcc56

USA

2113 posts since 2/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by Brian T

I am aquainted with one formally trained luthier who tells me that a $60,000 violin is constructed with fish, chicken, rabbit and cow hide glues. Entry level violins may use one or possibly two of those 2 hide glues.

I'll just sit and watch, thanks. I'm curious about the specific differences in the biochemistries of those glues.


I don't know what $60K violin he might have been talking about.

Most of us who use animal glue just use cow.  I have never heard of chicken glue.  Rabbit glue is supposed to be extra strong.  I haven't used it, but a fellow I know who has tried it says it smells really bad.  I have heard numerous reports of fish glue giving way in high humidity conditions, often many months after assembly.

Any maker who uses 4 different animal glues would be considered unusually obsessive to the rest of us.

However, some of us do vary the consistency of the glue depending on what we are joining.  In the violin world, thinner glue is often favored for the top while thicker glue is used for the back.  The reason for this is that when a violin needs to be disassembled for repair, it is traditionally considered preferable to remove the top.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/28/2019 16:37:49

May 28, 2019 - 5:52:57 PM

7265 posts since 1/7/2005

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56
quote:
Originally posted by Brian T

Any maker who uses 4 different animal glues would be considered unusually obsessive to the rest of us.


It wasn't that many years ago that the use of ANY animal glue was considered unusually obsessive in guitar and banjo construction. But it's been enjoying a revival in recent years. 

As far as hide glue is concerned, the general opinion seems to be that the lighter in color, the stronger the bond. But also, the lighter the color, the quicker the gel time. Food-grade Knox gelatin, for example is nearly colorless, but is extremely strong--if you can get it assembled in time.

DD

May 28, 2019 - 6:10:25 PM

78 posts since 1/24/2019

I have used rabbit glue from a few different sources. It usually doesn’t have much of a smell. It does dry very hard, and is rather difficult to disassemble. I assume the guy with the rabbit glue that smelled, has gotten a bad/old batch. I’ve got regular Belen hide glue from Stew-Mac before that smelled bad. I used it anyway, and had a few fiddles come back with joints that were creeping. I’ll no longer use any hide glue that smells bad.

May 28, 2019 - 6:13:24 PM

78 posts since 1/24/2019

I’ve worked on a few higher end Japanese classic guitars that were glued with fish glue. It seems to work well, but when sanding or using heat and moisture to disassemble joints, the smell was horrendous.

May 28, 2019 - 7:00:51 PM
Players Union Member

Brian T

Canada

15446 posts since 6/5/2008

I believe that most of us are quite familiar with rabbit-skin hide glue.
What's been on the backs of postage stamps for many, many decades?

To me, smell will be a give-away for decomposition.
Bacteria and fungi love to eat anything wet.

Centuries of tradition put 4 kinds of hide glue into a $60,000 violin.
Modern luthiers who work for symphony orchestras are expected to understand that.

May 28, 2019 - 11:20:54 PM

rcc56

USA

2113 posts since 2/20/2016

Some brief internet research on chicken glue yields nothing viable for instrument making. If you google it and see what comes up, you will only find references to "meat glue" used in the food service industry.

None of the several books I have read on violin making or instrument repair of any kind makes any reference to chicken glue either. Somebody might be pulling your leg just a little bit.

Most of us just use what is simply called "hide glue" in various gram strengths. Behlen has a gram strength of 164. I prefer a gram strength of approximately 190 to 220. Some violin makers also use a gram strength of 315, but you had better close your joint very quickly. Unflavored gelatin, which is a highly purified high gram strength hide glue, also is favored by some folks in the violin world.

Current sources for hide glue include cow, pig, and rabbit. Bone glue is also available. Historically, horse hide and hooves have also been used. I suppose any mammal can be a source.

I'll pass on the fish glue. Again, I have heard of too many joint failures long after assembly in high humidity conditions.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/28/2019 23:23:15

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