Chapter 12 – Steps

“Tim,” you’re saying, “are you making fun of alcoholics?”

No, I’m not. But I might have an addiction to this guitar building thing.

You might also be asking why I switched from spelling numbers out in my title lines to typing the actual numbers, but I think its goodly Englishes to use numbers when it’s greater than ten. You might also not have noticed the numbers thing, and I totally wouldn’t blame you, because I don’t think anybody else is putting these posts under the microscope. You might also have noticed that “its goodly Englishes” isn’t really a sentence.

Last week, I had strung up and played the first notes that this guitar had ever played. Exhilarating, truly. The next time I worked on it, though, it was time to fine tune the instrument in a very literal way. Adjusting the saddle so that the guitar would intonate properly was my next task. Basically, the saddle was made higher than it needed to be, so that I would have room to shave down either the front or back edge to make sure, when each string was fretted up the entire neck, it would play in tune. I might have been a little distracted when doing this, and/or enamoured with the idea of getting it home, so I know I could have done a better job. That said, it is nearly perfect, and I can come back to it very easily.

My next step was the headstock. I had decided a while ago that I wanted to use a fermata as my logo. For the uninitiated, a fermata is a symbol in music telling the player that the note should be held for longer than its normal duration. I like the sentiment behind having it on an instrument. I went to work on the brass again, as I love the way it looks on the fretboard, and thought it would be a nice complement.

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Jeweller’s saw time! Such a tiny little blade.

Once I had the crescent carved out, I traced it onto the headstock and started to dremel out the channel into which I would set it.

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I got way better at this compared to when I first started. Kinda makes me wish I could redo my top…

Then epoxy with black dust, and a whole lot of filing and sanding!

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In progress

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All finished! So shiny.

On the subject of finished: all I had left to do was a final sanding everywhere, cleaning with a tack cloth, and then the finish can be applied! I had a number of options, but tung oil was what I landed on. It feels great, looks great, smells pretty good, it’s all natural – there are loads of advantages. The only downside is that it’s not as shiny as other things but I feel like this guitar is flashy enough as it is.

I think a few times over the course of this blog, I’ve talked about the wood grain coming alive when the finish is applied. Well, if you didn’t know what I was talking about, here you friggin’ go:

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Both pieces of wood in this photo are curly walnut – one with a coat of oil, the other totally naked.

What a difference! The back blows me away, and might be my favourite part of the guitar, visually. I put on four coats; it’ll be well-protected, but it’s on thin enough that it will be easily sanded off, should I find some imperfections that I want to fix down the road (another advantage of oil – very easy to reapply).

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This was following one coat on the whole body

It’s hard to say it without feeling like I’m not doing the moment justice, but, that was it. Once the finish was on and it had time to harden, I strung it up and it was a real live guitar. One that I built from top to bottom.

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I’ll get out my big boy camera and take some real photos soon, to show off everything I can, and I’ll record some video and audio as soon as I decide what song it is I want to play for its first performance.

Until such a time, here’s one last photo. Apparently, my first guitar won’t be my last…

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