Volume # - 83 Building Instruments

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice

Stay in Tune vol # 83

By Luthier Patrick Podpadec

Well things are starting to get very exciting for me. Even though problems arise, I get a whole lot of satisfaction after I have solved the problem. It gives me confidence in the everyday challenges of life. It would be a very boring existence if nothing ever went wrong.

In the last article I mention that I was having problems with the ukulele sides. Well I solved the problem by building a very nice little bending jig so that I can consistently bend sides with out fear of anything going wrong (I still say that with my fingers crossed).

When ever I have a problem with something I always do as much research as I can to solve it. I have a large quantity of past articles from my magazines that I have gotten over the years from my memberships in different luthier organizations. I put them to use and discovered a little tip that some luthiers (Taylor Guitars and others) use to soften the wood before bending .There is a product called “super Soft 2” that is used in the veneer industry to soften the wood before applying it to the substrate material. It works like a charm!. The other thing I did was to finally break down and purchase a temperature control unit from LMI (www.lmii.com) so that I would have a better and much safer way to control the bending process. It didn't come cheap, but nothing in life is free. Just to have the feeling that the shop isn't going to burn down and that I'm not going to destroy that expensive set of Brazilian rosewood sides that cost me 500.00 is well worth the expense. So I have successfully bent the sides and I'm moving on to whatever next dilemma may come my way. (bring it on I say! Just like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, “A hippopotamus? I’d tear him from top to bottomless” )

Getting on to the harp guitar,... I was fortune it enough to get to go to the Woodchopper's Ball last weekend . I took my guitar (the “Maverick”) and had some of the players try it out. The response was very good and I received high praises from all who tried it. That was very rewarding. I also got to hear one of the nights best performers, Andy Wahlberg from Naples Fla.. It really isn't fair to say that he was the best because all of the performers were fantastic as usual. He was just that way for me.

I got the chance to meet Andy at the 2cd Annual Harp Guitar Gathering in 2004 when I went there with Brian Henke after I built the “Dreamcaster” for him. Andy plays a Dyer harp guitar that he found in a California pawn shop back in the 70's. It was built in 1910 by the Larson Bros ( Carl & August) from Sweden. Being over 100 yrs old is one thing, but to hear the tone and perfection that Andy executes in his performances are amazing. He played Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen and he had everyone on their feet. He created for me, a terrific enthusiasm for my building of the new harp guitar project. I'm in it head over heels now! Having said that, I just snapped my 200.00 carbide bandsaw blade when I was re-sawing the beautiful “Zebra” wood that I'm using for the back & sides. Luckily, I called the manufacturer and they offered to repair it for no cost, just shipping . So, another problem solved. I guess these little set backs are something that comes with the “luthier territory”. I'm sure when I see the smile or hear the song that is played on a instrument that I have created, all thoughts of these simple problems will just melt away. I'm so looking forward to that moment, even if it is months away.

So while I have some time waiting for bandsaw blades or new tools to come from the suppliers I have found that there is always “jigs” to build. You can never have too many jigs. They're the extra hand when you need one. They help with many assembly and gluing procedures that without them the task at hand could turn out to be a nightmare. To me, building the jigs is as much fun as building the instrument. If I have to spend two hrs building a device that will ensure that my gluing procedure or my bending process will come off without a hitch , it's well worth the effort. The other day I was having a difficult time holding a guitar with one hand while I was balancing a clamping caul and a clamp with the other. As I almost dropped the very expensive guitar on the floor, it dawned on me that I should have something to hold the instrument firmly while allowing me to work around it with out any worry that I will drop it and then have to fix it again. So I built a very simple platform that l can clamp the guitar to and it also swivels on my bench so that I can approach the guitar from any side. Wow! What a blessing . It seems as though when you go through the process of thinking about how the jig is going to perform it's task you have developed a real keen sense of how the project will go together. The trick is not to build to elaborate of a contraption that it takes more time to build than it is worth. “Keep it Simple” is the motto you must live by when creating jigs. Jigs are also very helpful in being able to repeat a task over and over with complete accuracy. Sometimes this can be as simple as a block of wood stuck to something with double stick tape (double stick tape is my favorite thing in the whole world. It's like individually wrapped slices of cheese, very cool!) As long as it works.

Well I guess it is time for me to go back to work to see what new challenge awaits me. Till next time, please “Stay in Tune”!

Thank Again! Patrick from Liam Guitars / Wood-n-Strings