New Guitar: "Red Velvet"

Introducing a new guitar, in a whole new section of my Gallery: Mostly Flattop Guitars. Red Velvet is the culmination of a years-long process to create a modern dreadnought guitar that is more comfortable to play, and sounds balanced, not boomy. Made of deliriously red African Padauk contrasted with pale Engelmann Spruce and intense African Blackwood, it looks as dramatic as it sounds.

Click on the pic for more info.

Designs

I've just got a really interesting new commission to build another ultramodern headless seven-string guitar. Lots of fun, but it's always challenging to come up with yet another original design. If you've ever wondered where it starts, here you go.

After discussing with the client what their needs and desires are, I lay out the essentials. These are the parts that have clealy defined parameters- mostly this means the fretboard width and length, the bridge position, and the edges that are needed to hold the guitar comfortably, like this:

I find it much the best to draw full size. Once the basics are in place, the creative part begins. Drawing with soft pencil and eraser, I home in on a shape that might work:

More erasing, more refinement. This particular guitar will be semi-hollow, too. I imagine the way it will look with a contrasting top layer, and sketch in where the wood will be carved away for comfort, exposing the boy wood underneath. Here's what I came up with:

You can see the two layers, as well as the area in the upper left of the body where the hollow in the body is exposed, creating a soundhole. I thought that was pretty clever.

By this point I've got a pretty good 3D rendering of the instrument in my own head. To help the client visualize though, I do a few drawings of some of the details:

Turns out that four years of Fine Arts in University weren't a complete wast of time, though to be fair to myself they didn't teach this kind of stuff. Next step, converting these flat drawings into a real guitar! Stay tuned...

New tricks

One thing is for sure when you are a craftsman- you can never stop learning. For me that's a big part of the fun: learning new techniques or processes to create new forms, or simply to streamline production. Vacuum-press gluing isn't exactly a new invention, but it sure is new for me. Using the inexpensive RoaRockit kit (originally made for skateboards, but usefull for all sorts of stuff), I'm able to do a better job laminating multi-layer guitar bodies.

I start with a core of lightweight butternut wood, fully cut and sanded to the final ouline, and with control cavity cut out. On the front and back will be applied "skins" of 1/8" thick birdseye maple.

What I didn't get a picture of are two more layers. In between the core and skins are sheets of heavy, acid-free black paper. They absorb excess glue to become hard and fuzz-free. When finished they'll show up as thin black lines around the edges of the instrument. In this shot I'm applying epoxy resin with a disposable roller.

You've got to work fairly quickly. This epoxy is supposed to start to harden in about 15 minutes, but it happens faster than that if left in the mixing pot. I've taped the parts together with masking tape to ensure alignment. Into the bag it goes:

The bag gets sealed with a very gummy tape, and then I pump the air out. By removing air from the bag, atmospheric pressure squeezes the parts together evenly on all sides, making a very consistent glue joint beween layers.

The red netting ensures that air can travel around the object being glued so it can reach the pump.That little pump and valve system was originally developed to remove oxygen from wine bottles for storage- seems like less trouble to just finish the bottle, if you ask me.

 And here's a sneak peek at the result:

It's here!

Welcome to the all new Sankey Guitars website. Here in the Blog I'll be posting the latest news, and hopefully some interesting articles about the nuts and bolts of lutherie. In the Gallery you'll find pictures, descriptions and sound samples of finished instruments. If you'd like a Sankey guitar, see How to buy.

To start things off, how about a look at the latest addition to the Gallery? Introducing "Spaltecaster":

Enjoy! See you again soon...