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Lots of stuff goes on in this shop, located in Lorette, Manitoba.

Primarily it's the building and repair of classic wood & canvas canoes, and the making of premium canoe paddles. I also do custom boat building, composite fabrication, and special projects. A growing passion of mine is the making of classical guitars, I'll post about that, too.

I want to be able to share with my clients the progress of their commissioned work. Later I started thinking that there might be other people who are interested in what goes on inside a wooden canoe shop operated by an artist and a recovering teacher.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by email, phone, or by post. My mailing address is:

Red River Canoe & Paddle
24249 River Rd
Lorette, Manitoba
R5K 0Z6

Monday 20 December 2010

Once all glue for the bridge is thoroughly set, I can put on an old set of strings and start the set up. This entails the correct string spacing and height at the nut, as well as the proper string height at the saddle. I will also be checking, levelling, and polishing the frets. These are all critical steps which determine the final playability of the instrument.

I do this while the guitar is still "in the white" as it is my final opportunity to make any final adjustments to the wood shaping, etc.

The fingerboard, of Ziricote, is completed and positioned for final gluing in place.

Once the glue is set final shaping of he neck can proceed.

As well as the exact positioning and glueing of the bridge.

It doesn't take much more time to make three bridges compared to setting up to make just one, so I made three. This will save me a lot of time on the next two builds. I will leave two of them at this stage and only complete the one for this instrument. The wood is Ziricote and the tie-block is bison bone.

The underside of the bridge has to be shaped to fit the dome of the soundboard exactly!

After some of the bulk waste is removed the surface is refined with lots of sanding.

Time for cutting the soundport. A template of the pattern is printed out on paper, the taped to the correct location. Good old carbon paper is then used to transfer the design. In this digital age I am sometimes surprised that this useful product is still available!

Removing the paper reveals the lines to cut to. The tape is simply representing the limits within which I can work.

No time to be feint of heart! Get a good sharp drill bit and get at it!

A lot of cutting and sanding later reveals the finished soundport. A soundport is a simple means of allowing some of the guitars sound projection to be directed towards the player and not all of it away.

I have a love-hate relationship with binding the guitar. I love how it really sets it off as complete, but I hate the stress of doing it. There are so many opportunities to screw up!

The miters have to be done with great care... order to look seamless.

On Remembrance Day, in the afternoon after attending local commemorative services, I struck down a 90 gallon aquarium in the house and reset it up as a Natural Planted Tank. I use most of the plants that were growing in the shop aquarium. They filled up the 90 nicely! The tanks is settling in nicely now, in the few weeks since this photo was taken the Amazon Sword plant on the left has been sending out new leaves that reach the surface of the the tank, and then some. As a reference, this tank is 22"deep. I've never had plants grow this well this easily!

The last task for the interior, before closing the box up with the back, is to apply two layers of fiberglass to the are where the soundport will go. The soundport will be cut to a failry intricate shape and I can't rely upon the wood to not break.

The interior face of the back is strengthened with a strip of cross grain spruce spanning the glue joint.

When the braces are all fitted to the back strip, and everything lines up just right, it is then time to glue the back tot he guitar body. Lots of go-bar sticks are used!

Once the back lining is glued in, the back braces can begin to be fitted and shaped. The back has a dome shape which is determined by the braces. It is important that the curve of each of the three back braces, the heel, and the sides, all correspond. Templates help in achieving the shape, but its final determination must be made using long sanding blocks.

Finally, the back is fitted using the actual guitar body as a guide.

After the lining boards all have the kerfs cut, then they are ripped into strips, and one corner is rounder over. These ones are being set up as "reverse kerf linings". This simply means that the uncut face is oriented away from the gluing surface instead of towards it.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Time to make the kerfed lining for the guitar. Its time consuming, so while I'm at it, I'll make lots more to have on hand for the next project.

Monday 22 November 2010

The gunnels and keel are made and the backsides have received a coat of varnish. They are now ready to be installed on the canoe. The canoe has the canvas trimmed down and that are of the filler has been sanded for painting. Its a lot easier to sand it before the gunnels are on!

I'll be poking away at this project as I continue to work on the guitar. This schedule allows the filler to be completely cured before painting.

Saturday 20 November 2010

The depth of the guitar body usually is greater at the tail and less at the hell. Most contemporary guitars determine this taper as a section of an arc. Based upon my readings of the some documentation of Torres guitar, I believe that Torres tapered his guitars as a wedge shape and introduced the back doming in the back braces.

So that is what I am doing here. But how to establish the taper? I am using a panel of plywood cut to the outside shape of the guitar and blocked to the correct depth, which in this case is 96mm at the tail and 90mm at the heel

And a pencil line is transferred to the guitar side. The wood above the line will be trimmed away.

And done, ready to receive the back linings. The tuning machines visible are newly received Gotoh's and are set into the head to verify the fit.

This guitar is being fitted with a Tornavoz, which is a conical section tube fitted below the soundhole. Torres seems to be the first maker to use this device. The tornavoz fell out of favour sometime during the early part of the 20th century and is only now being used again by some makers.

Traditionally made of brass, this one is using the carbon fiber tornavoz that I made last year for my `FE17 exploration` guitar. I didn`t use it as the black of the carbon fiber just looked like ordinary black inside of the guitar body.

But with this thin copper sheet inside of it! Well, it lights right up.

The neck gets glued to the soundboard before any further work can be done.

And the sides are glued to the neck using these double wedges which force the sides tightly to the heel as the are driven in.

Held up to a strong light one can see the braces through the wood itself!

The `go bar`deck has become pretty much the standard method for gluing in the braces to the guitar top. I used to use an upper deck mounted about 24 inches above the solara but found it to be always in my way. So I got rid of it and now run longer go-bars against the ceiling. I just happen to to have a plate mounted there for when I canvas canoes, so I decided to work below it.

The braces serve to support the guitar top as it is subject to the stresses and torque of the string tension while allowing it to move as freely as possible. I am building this guitar following Torres patters, so fan bracing is being used.

After trying a variety of tools to carve the braces I am finding this little carving chisel to be my current favourite. It is very sharp and the slight bend in the blade allows excellent control of the cutting edge.

The braces are carved to a gable shape.

And then the ends are tapered. The soundhole opening is reinforced with a donut shaped piece of Spruce which has the grain running perpendicular to that of the guitar top.

Another part of the guitar that would seem to be pretty simple is the heel, but it, too, requires a good amount of attention to get to look `just right`. It really should be approached as sculpture. Beginning guitar makers often overlook the elegance of the shape and produce a very clunky heel.

It starts off like this...

And ends up like this...

The head is pretty much done, just a few small refinements to do when the time comes for such things.

I have this miniature shoulder plane from Lee Valley that really is a great piece of work. It does have limited applications, but detailing the sides of the head slots like this is one of them!

Geometrically, this a pretty straightforward guitar head shape. However its simplicity requires that the proportions be `just so` to look `just right`!

Friday 12 November 2010

The head of the guitar must be carved prior to assembly, so here it is with the slots cut and ready for refining. I use a head based upon those of Louis Panormo, a builder based in London during the early 19th century, and who was working just prior to Torres.

I decided to try something a little different on this rosette. Instead of applying glue to each strand of wood, I bent them all in place dry and applied the glue afterwards, letting it wick down between the strands. In this case I used epoxy.

It worked very well.

After the epoxy has cured and cleaned off of the rosette, I start cutting the channel for inlaying it into the guitar top.

I think that next time I make up a rosette, I will cut the channel and bend and glue the strands dry directly in. That will make it much easier to fit precisely!

A sharp block plane is used to level the rosette.

A detail.

Here are all of the strips for the rosette.

The will be glued around this round block which determines the inner circumference.

Gently, gently, around we go. Sorry for the out of focus picture, it is the only one of this stage and I didn't notice till afterwards.

All bent round!