A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

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Ciaran Cosgrave
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A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Ciaran Cosgrave »

I'm considering doing an acoustic guitar making course.The course is run over 12 full days and the plan is to have a completed guitar at the end of it. I've been advised that I would derive more benefit from the course and have a better chance of completing the guitar, if I already have a good grounding in woodwork. I don't. Sure, I've made things with wood and I'm pretty good with my hands, but I have very little real woodwork experience. So, I plan to teach myself between now and September, when the course begins.

My question is this:

What areas/skills of woodwork do you recommend I focus on and learn between now September?

Trevor Gore
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Trevor Gore »

Learn how to set-up, sharpen and use a plane properly. Then the same for a spokeshave (neck shaping). But don't be surprised if finding someone worth learning from is harder than finding a guitar building course.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Barry Daniels »

Hand tool usage is the most relevant. Get some wood planes, scrapers and chisels. Learn to sharpen and use them. Practice making flat wood surfaces and other simple shapes getting everything flat and square.
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Ciaran Cosgrave
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Ciaran Cosgrave »

Barry Daniels wrote:Hand tool usage is the most relevant. Get some wood planes, scrapers and chisels. Learn to sharpen and use them. Practice making flat wood surfaces and other simple shapes getting everything flat and square.
I'm not sure what you mean by making flat wood surfaces. Most timber comes already flat. Could you expand on what you mean a little?

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Charlie Schultz
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Charlie Schultz »

Flat as in flat and *smooth* (no bumps, rough spots, divots, etc).

You might also ask your instructor what (if any) power tools you'll be using.

It might be good to practice carving a neck, especially the heel. The Cumpiano/Natelson book has a good explanation on doing that.

Mike Sandor
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Mike Sandor »

Many years ago, in my first machine shop class, the first thing we learned were measuring tools and lay out work. Once we had the basics, we were given a 2' x 2' x 1" piece of ruff cut steel. We were to use a file only and surface all sides and edges with in .003 tolerance. Same with square. This needed to be accomplished before going forward on other equipment.
Figured out in a hurry how to clean and use a file.
This surely holds true with woodworking. Granted, maybe the tolerances do not need to be held as tight on every thing, but when you are comfortable at that tolerance level, it is easier. Be it a file, chisel, plane, drill bit, what ever, getting and maintaining a edge is key. Power tools are guaranteed to help you make mistakes much quicker..
my 2 cents..

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by G.S. Monroe »

As we are talking about a novice in the shop, I would like to take an opportunity here to remind everyone about Safety.
Sharp tools can be dangerous, Dull ones even more so... Familiarize yourself on tool safety, and some basic first aid too.
Get into the habit of wearing face shields and dust masks. I know it's a real bother, but it's far better to wear it and not need it, than to in a single moment, need it and not have it.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Bob Gramann »

G.S. is right.

Alan Carruth
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Alan Carruth »

Amen on safety. I mostly use hand tools in my teaching, in part because they are safer. Yes, you can hurt yourself badly with a chisel, but I've never heard of anybody taking their arm off with one. As has been pointed out, sharp tools are safer.

Some of my best students have been the ones who had the least woodworking experience. Attitude, persistence, and intelligence count for a lot. I'm sure they would have finished up a little faster if they'd had more practice, but speed seems to be the main gain.

Some of my worst students have been the ones with lots of 'woodworking' experience. When somebody tells me they've done framing for the past ten years, I start to worry. It usually takes a while to get those folks used to the sort of tolerances we work to. In framing, 1/16" is usually close enough; for us that's not much more than the total thickness of a lot of things. Machinists, now....

If you can get a decent chisel, say about 1/2" or 5/8", a block plane, and a scraper, and work on learning how to sharpen them, you'll be 'way ahead.

Mike Sandor
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Mike Sandor »

Great point on the safety. I would assume most of us are in the shops alone, working away. It is not a bad idea to acknowledge that every once in a while just in case something happens where you need help. I make it a habit that if some one come's is when I am working, I stop, especially while using a power tool. The wife knows not to come in the shop unannounced, getting startled will guarantee a mistake or worse yet a injury, not to mention a few choice words you will surely exchange. There is no work going on in my shop if the kids or grand kids are visiting. My machine shop is even worse, lots of very sharp cutters, high torque equipment that does not want to stop just because your shirt got caught up in the chuck. I think of that young lady that was killed while using a lathe after hours, in the shop alone.....
O.K., I am done preaching....

Steven Odut
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Steven Odut »

1. Sharpening chisels & plane blades to the point where whisper thin shaving can be taken from end-grain.

2. Sharpening card-scrapers.

3. Fettling your tools - flattening the backs of your chisels, ensuring you have a "square" square and a "straight" straight-edge, making a square shooting board (if not provided by the instructor).

4. Making a rectangular, flat, non-twisted board. Boards bought from the shop appear to be flat - but in in reality they are only smooth. The boards are slightly bowed and twisted.

6. Dimensioning wood to tight tolerances - eg. targeting a thickness of 100/1000" and achieving that over the entire board plus or minus a few thousandths.

7. Gaining some experience on clamping and glue-up. How tight to clamp. How many clamps? Where to clamp? How much glue? What type of glue? Avoiding glue-squeeze out. Cleaning up glue squeeze out.

8. Learning how to sand while retaining a flat surface and crisp details.

The guitar instructor will provide a lot of guidance on some things - like how to glue-up a particular assembly, but will probably provide very little instruction on basic woodworking like sharpening and how to dimension a board.

Good instruction in setting up and using hand tools to dimension boards and cut precice joinery is probably more useful than a course in how to build a guitar. Here in Canada, Rob Cosman offered a great course. David Charlesworth's "Tool Tuning" course offers something similar in the UK - find someone like him to take a course from or take David's course. You won't regret learning the basics from an expert.

Ciaran Cosgrave
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Ciaran Cosgrave »

Charlie Schultz wrote:Flat as in flat and *smooth* (no bumps, rough spots, divots, etc).
I know what flat means. I'm just not sure what he meant given my understanding that the wood I'll be using will already be flat. So it means no warping etc.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Barry Daniels »

No, it means being able to cut a board and get the surface flat, smooth and at the proper height. We never use the existing flat surfaces that the wood comes with. For one thing, they are often not smooth and have chip outs from going through a planner. Also, they are not usually in the right place. Every exposed and joined surface on my guitars has been sufaced by me with hand or power tools.
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Matthew Lau
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Matthew Lau »

This is what I'd recommend:

1. Safety
2. Sharpening
3. Finish work

A nice project would be to build a series of pretty boxes using local woods.
Start simple. Gradually, add wood binding or joinery.
Then, try french polishing the boxes or lacquering.

If you want to do something a little fancier, build some ukuleles.
Generally, the ukulele crowd is less demanding than the guitar crowd.

Ciaran Cosgrave
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Ciaran Cosgrave »

Thanks for all the suggestions and info guys.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

As Matthew mentioned, finding a simple woodworking project can help you learn woodworking skills while making something you will take some interest in. My first instrument was a mountain (lap) dulcimer. It was a step beyond the book ends and gavel they taught us in 7th and 8th grade shop class, but wasn't as nearly complicated as building a guitar. Hearing it for the first time inspired me to build another...and another....and another....
Sharpening tools and shop safety are both very important, but creating something you can take some pride in will help you work more carefully.

Mattia Valente
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Mattia Valente »

Ciaran Cosgrave wrote:
Charlie Schultz wrote:Flat as in flat and *smooth* (no bumps, rough spots, divots, etc).
I know what flat means. I'm just not sure what he meant given my understanding that the wood I'll be using will already be flat. So it means no warping etc.
No warping doesn't mean the piece has been jointed (planed flat, power jointed flat, whatever) and squared up. Some lumber is sold surfaced on four sides, some two sides, although almost everything I buy guitar-sized is at most rough sanded, and most of the lumber I get these days is either rough or has been run through a planer once. Meaning it's far from what I consider 'flat' - no light showing if I place a straightedge on it at any angle. Thin, rough-surfaced or sanded plates don't require much in the way of flattening, mostly thicknessing, but anything you build out of a thicker billet, like a neck, fretboard, even bridge or braces will require an initial flat reference surface and often a sqaured second surface to that.

Gilbert Fredrickson
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Re: A Grounding in Woodwork Prior to Doing a Lutherie Cousrse

Post by Gilbert Fredrickson »

Les Stansell has posted some great guitar construction videos on Youtube that you may find helpful. Les works real fast, but you'll be able to see the level of skill is needed.

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