Making a Spanish Guitar in the 21st Century

My friend Bob sent me a link to an excellent video documenting the construction of a Spanish (i.e. Classical) Guitar.  The man is obviously a real craftsman with a purpose-built shop and this is definitely not a one-off project.  If you are like me and like to see how things are made, this half hour video will more than fill the bill.  And there is a nice soundtrack to accompany the work.  Sit back and enjoy.

Have any of you made your own musical instrument?  Do you want to share the experience?

Banjo

This post was prompted by a few photos I recently took to document some of my projects.

I fully disassembled , repaired some problems, refinished, and did a full set-up on my Banjo.  Not surprisingly, it was a bigger job than I hoped for but really paid off in the end.  When I built this one several years ago it was something of a rush job while working and traveling so some details were never attended to as they should have been.  The action now is great and the fretting couldn’t be better in my opinion and I already see some real improvements in playability.  I’ve been happily sneaking in a little practice after breakfast on most days and even a little at lunch if I’m motivated.  Finally, I’m coming back to becoming an actual player reviving skills from 30 years ago.  I’m a little sad that I ever let music fall out of my daily life but better late than never I suppose.

Plain and simple; a little like me.  I laminated the wooden ring from shagbark hickory with walnut inside and out.  The tone ring is a Vega Whyte-Laydie design.

I have never inlaid anything but I think I might give it a try sometime. For now, the peg head is an unadorned Mastertone style.

The fingerboard, heel cap, and peg head covering is rosewood over a maple neck. The flame in the wood is beautiful in this one.

I you want to read about the initial construction of this one, click HERE or on the image below.

Home Grown Music

As an undaunted woodworker I have made most of my musical instruments over the years.  I could never justify purchasing a high-end, high-quality instrument but I could make a reasonable proxy.  My interest has been rekindled in the last couple years, making my third banjo for myself and reviving one of the mountain dulcimers as my partner has decided to take an interest in it.

I find that there is never enough time to play an instrument properly with a regular day job, a relationship, and other interests.  It seems that it’s time for a change in the schedule to put music back into the center of life.

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The Unlikely Banjoist

A post I’ve been hanging onto; a bit off-topic, personal, and possibly without any point.

Banjo

My most recent banjo polished up and fitted with a new calfskin head.

I am an unlikely banjoist.  I got a very cheap banjo when I was 14 years old but didn’t find a teacher.  I took a couple lessons from uninspired twenty-somethings but didn’t get much from them.  Fortunately, this didn’t stop me.   There was even a old neighborhood guy who offered some help but it turned out he only strummed a tenor-jazz-banjo.  He may as well have played a ukelele for all that it mattered to me. So I learned by listening and from the few books I could find that suited my interest.

seeger_book_coverI don’t even know why I picked banjo particularly, but I did.  I was fortunate to be a latch-key kid from and early age, so when it wasn’t sports season, I cherished my solitary time after school.  I would often sit in the kitchen or on the back porch and plink around, playing old folk tunes.  I discovered Cecil Sharp and Francis Child and learned what I could about folksong of Western Europe and the British Isles.  I found this very old and diverse instrument adaptable to lots of styles of playing having found it’s way from 18th century plantation shacks to Victorian concert halls.

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My college instrument. Oh where are you now?

Coming from a classical music background helped.  My dark secret is the I spent three years in college as a music major.  I could read music and understood a little about musical structure so I spent time in the library digging through old folk music books and journals.  I never became great but good enough to not be ashamed to play in front of people and had about an hour-long proficient set of Irish, Scottish, Appalachian, and Ozark tunes in my repertoire.  Then life happened.  I gave it up (mostly) for over a decade while traveling and working like a dog and trying to be a good father but without playing an instrument, I think I lost a little of my identity.

FancyChair-Large

From the era of the “classic banjo.”

So the short story is that I’m back.  Making time to do something I love has helped my mind immensely.  I’ll never be Tony Trischka, Earl Scruggs, or Bela Fleck, but at least I have some music back in my life.

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View of the backside to show off the beautiful maple figure.

For those few who may be interested in the technical details of this machine.  My most recent instrument is roughly a Vega design with a White-Lady tone ring.  The tension hoop and arm rest are plain brass and the head is genuine calfskin.  The neck sports a Mastertone-style peghead taken from the diagram in Earl Scruggs’ classic banjo book.  The fingerboard and peghead cover are cocobolo.  The tuners are scavenged off my first banjo and are Keith planetary-type except one.  The D string tuner is a replacement as someone actually stepped on my old neck and broke one!  The replacement is a 5-Star from Stewart-MacDonald’s lutherie shop.  These days I could get online and order one instantly, but back in the mythical pre-internet era this actually took some phone sleuthing.

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