August 29, 2010

Jack's Banjo Plans

Jack spent the last weekend in August at Antietam at an Early American Banjo Gathering, where the focus is on mid-to-later 19th century banjo music and instruments.

"I have been playing this type of music of late, and I am starting work on some banjos inspired by those of that era. It was a great opportunity and I met some great players and a couple of the the top builders of this type of instrument."

Binding Routing Jig

Here's a picture of Larry's binding routing jig.

Image: BRL

This jig uses the same guitar body carriage as another type of jig, but differs in that you move the router rather than the guitar body. It makes the jig more complicated but,

"I feel like I have more control moving the router around the body, rather than pushing the body through the router."

Click here for information on building this jig, a modified version of the one invented by Harry Fleishman.

Chet's Projects

Here's what Chet Dickerson is working on:

Image: BRL

Image: BRL

Zebrawood B/S OM cutaway/sitka top- body is done, working on the neck - rosewood binding, rosewood rosette, will have a rosewood fretboard and bridge.

Walnut B/S Dreadnaught/sitka top-body is done, working on neck (this is the guitar my nephew is building with a lot of his uncle's help!). Ebony binding, walnut rosette, ebony fretboad and bridge.

Image: BRL

Koa Dreadnaught/Adirondack Red Spruce Top- Back is braced and rim is together (just getting this started).

Meeting - August 29, 2010

Click on an image to see a larger picture.

Summer 2010

It's hard getting everyone togther in the summer - with vacations, kids out of school, family visits, etc. Even still, we managed to get three of us together for an interesting meeting at Larry's shop.

B.B. Rierson and the Galloup School of Lutherie

The Galloup School Journeyman program proved to be an intense and challenging eight weeks. The program consisted of 40+ hours per week of learning guitar repair, maintenance, and construction.

During the class I completed the construction of two guitars. First, I assembled a Les Paul style electric, sprayed it with a sunburst finish, wired it up, and set it to school specs.

BB and Guitar guitar

BB and Guitar

The flattop acoustic was a complete build from start to finish with maple back and sides, Sitka spruce top and a mahogany neck.

The program gave me the head start I needed to open my own shop, Big Bear Guitar Works, and certified me as a Fretted Instruments Technician.

Woody Says: B.B.'s dreadnaught sized maple guitar was mighty nice! I could feel it vibrate my chest when he played it from across Larry's worktable. Strong but defined bass. Maple body and maple binding-- distinctive!


Woody and the Paulownia Bodhran

This started from a discussion Woody McKenzie and Larry Sakayama had about building a rim using staves instead of bending and laminating the wood for either drum shells or banjo rims.

They made a deal - Woody would supply the wood (how appropriate) and Larry would figure out how to cut the staves at the correct angle on the table saw. After the staves are cut, gluing the rim was a simple matter of applying glue, setting the pieces together, and then clamping by gradually adding more and more rubber bands.

When only a few rubber bands were on it, it was easy to adjust individual pieces by hand and then continue the clamping process. Using fish glue kept this process from being rushed, since it has a long set time.

After drying, the rim was placed with a centered point and a string with a marker pen was used to draw a circle just inside the corners of the rim so they could be trimmed with a bandsaw.

A walnut cap was added on the back and the top was smoothed to accept the head.

A bar of aluminum was hand-bent and inserted above the tension adjusters which were bought from an online supplier.

The calfskin head was soaked in water and then draped loosely over the rim and then held in place with rubber bands. Once dry, it was tacked in place and trimmed with scissors.

Vinyl electrician’s tape was used as trim. At about 15 inches in diameter, this drum is smaller, but deeper than most bodhrans and the head material is not traditional. The traditional head material is goatskin.

Woody would like to sell this drum. If interested in purchasing it, contact him at

Two Parlor Guitars in Progress

Larry Sakayama is working on two parlor sized guitars - one, a prototype for his wife, Sally, and the other for good friend, Mike Dittrich.

The prototype is being built from scrounged wood. A spruce 2x4 with interesting coloration is being used for the top. It was ripped into strips and then the strips were glued together in bookmatched pairs to make the top.

The back and sides are walnut - the sides from a board with interesting flat sawn grain and the sides from a different board with large areas of sapwood. The back is made from 4 pieces.

Larry's second parlor will be made from purchased tonewoods. It will have a matched back/sides set of walnut that he bought from BRL member, Chet Dickerson. The top is cedar with a hand made Russian rosette purchased from LMII.

Both guitars will have these features: steel strings, maple bindings, maple end wedge, 25" scale length, slotted headstock, and maple bound side soundport.

Dan's Dreadnought

Binding Channel

Here's the binding channel on Dan Reid's dreadnought. Dan didn't have a picture of the binding installed but he said it went on easily.