Guitar 4: Spruce and Santos Rosewood

My guitar building journey continues.

My goal for now: change back and side wood-type on every built….  This way i’ll create myself a nice collection of different-looking and different sounding beautiful guitars. Not to mention that I get experience with different woods. Experience = how to work it, how it smells :),  and…. maybe more importatly, how it sounds and behaves over time.

So far I have used East Indian Rosewood, Bubinga, Cypress, .. so this time around…. I decided for a nice Santos rosewood (south America)

Some scientific details about Santos Rosewood…

Price-range very reasonable.

All my previous guitars feature an asymetrical top bracing pattern. The sound-quality has been very consistent so far. Very nice sounding, but not really typical spanish. Actually more this more “modern” type of open sound.  Talking about this with my teacher we thought it might be an interesting idea to try a very simple and traditional “Torres” or “Hauser” style bracing…. just to see what kind of sound difference this will actually have. The result should be interesting ….

An interesting picture of the bracing. On this picture you can see the “see-through” effect of very thing spruce…. as you can see here, very regular except for the middle-part between the bridge and soundhole where I left the wood a little thicker (hence the darker color on the pciture).

 

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Here Some pictures of the building process so far:

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Update April 3rd: Everything is ready for the box to be closed. Spend 11 hours this sunday doing the follwoing tasks:

  1. Dialing the 15′ dome into the sides (bottom of the guitar) that the back will be glued to. Since the back intself is already domed to a 15” radius, this will make for a perfect match, and the box should easily close. The dome on the sides goes from front to bottom, including the spanish heel, so that the complete underside of the guitar is rounded (which from an esthetical point of view looks amazing). Since the lower-bout of the top is domes to a 25” radius, it will give the guitar box an overall “round” shape from side to side. Ok, this is much more work than building it “flat” but makes for a much more attractive overall design. Also, doming the parts (with the laminated and reinforced sides) makes the box very “stable” and rigid, and allows for a “thinner” top place, hence more acoustic potential….
  2. shaping, thinning, and cutting the fretslots in the fingerboard. (Added 2 pictures of the fingerboard below) Sanded to 1200 grid really gives Ebony-wood its mirror-like -finish. On the pictures below you can see the light reflection on the natural wood.
  3. Made the bridge out of the same wood used for the fingerboard. Saddle slot cut, wings roughly sized and shaped. All dimensions ok, so good the final “rounding of corners” tonight, and it too will be ready to be glued on sometime this week.
  4. The underside of the top is covered in a thin coat of shellac to reduce moisture exchange. So is the inside (interior side) of the back. (not all the way to the sides to avoid having shellac under the glue-join where the back will be glued to the top.
  5. Most importantly: Made a new label and fixed it to the back already. Model “Santos” guitar No : 004 🙂
  6. I also glued the kerflings to the sides so everything is ready for her to be closed tonight. (After gluing the kerflings on, I put her on the 15” dish to dial the radius into the kerflings. This is important as it aligns the enlarged gluing surface that the kerflings represent to the actual shape of the back, so that the angle in which the back will touch the sides (+ the kerflings) is exactly alignes. This makes for a perfect fit, and avoids putting the back under tension.
  7. Finally I made a but-strip that flollows the “color scheme design” of the guitar, which goes “santos rosewood, blue, yellow, indian rosewood” etc.
  8. This being said, the indian rosewood for the bindings and purflings are cut, leveled, aligned, and ready to be laminated tonight. (Need to put the color scheme to the bindings “before” bending them…)

If all goes according to plan then I should be “all done” before next weekend…. (All done… except for the finishing……).

What’s left to do: a) Close the box, b) glue the fingerboard on, c) glue the bridge on, cut the binding channels and install the bundings & purflings…. install the tuneres, and string her up to check the end-result “before” starting the finishing…. (As such, if I need to adjust things, like reduce some material from the top, I can still do that by sanding the top and don’t need to break my wrist trying to do it through the soundhole.

This time I’ll take a recording “before” and “after” the finishing to see what kind of difference that actually makes…

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April 5th update:

I’ve finally glued the back on last night. Trimmed the slots in the side kerflings to allow for a smooth insertion of the back’s transversal braces. (width & depth). Trimmed the front side of the back straight so that it aligns with the front of the guitar where the sides meet the heel. This allow for a clean and easy installation of the heel-cap later.

It is crucial to glue the top on while the guitar is installed and anchored to the solera (face-down) in order to install the right neck angle. As long as the back is not glued on, you can still slightly move the neck up or down, so there is room for neck angle adjustment until the very end. In the prototype building secion I speak about the solear and its importance. It features a domed lower-bout section (domed to a 25” radius which runns into “flat” at the soundhole. This doming of the lower bout has an impact on the height of the bridge, since the bridge will be installed (depending on your scalelength) about 325 mm down from the very top of the guitar (12th fret position). These 325 mm situate it about in the middle above the lower-bout, hence right where the doming is happening. If you don’t adjust your neck angle accordingly you may run into problems ligning everything up. (too low or too high saddle, issues regarding string action, intonation etc.). To avoid these issues, I designed a slight neck-angle (following John Bogdanovich’s advice -> thanks John) into the solera. Fixing the guiatar to the solera and firmly clamping the neck to the “down-angled” neck extension of the solera will smoothly align the whole instrument.

Gluing the back on in this position will guarantee the proper neck angle you need for a optimally aligned instrument. Once the back is glued on, the spanish heel (hence the neck :))will be very firmy locked between the top and back. So, once the box is closed, the neckangle is locked-in “for ever”.

The solera helps to make this whole process easy and fool-proof. Actually you don’t even have to think about it, and can focus to get all those clamps on before the glue starts to dry.

One last detail: Remeber that I built the back on a 15 (yes, 15!! !!) workboard, and that I domed the back transversal braces to this same radius. This is what makes the back adhere to that shape. On sunday I shaped the lower-part of the sides of the guitar (the side where the back will be glued onto) to that same 15” dome. Result: the shape of the back and the shape of the sides perfectly match-up. This guarantees for a clean and “gap-free” joint area between back and sides, further guarantees that the finally assembled structure keeps that 15” radius (don’t need to “force” the back into position or use excessive clamp pressure, which can “re-straighten the back depending on the strength of the braces), and there is no (almost) no tension in the back, which again helps the structural integrity over time, and allows the back to happily participate in the vibrational activity of the air-movement during playing…..

I’ve added some pictures of the closed box below.

Also decided to laminate the fingerboard last night so that the headstock colorscheme continues under the fingerboard alongside the neck up to the spanish heel.

Have added some pictures of the “box closing process…

Little challenge for you 🙂 look for the intruder 🙂

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April 6th update:

The journey continues fast:

So far all on track. Removed the clamps last evening after a 20 hour drying time. Everything turned out perfect. Nice fit all around, no visible gaps, and the impressive doming is fully preserved.

Last night I cut the overhanging parts of the top and back flush with the sides. She really starts to look like a guitar.

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Meanwhile the fretboard lamination has had plenty of time to dry as well. Result as expected. Trim the overhaning lamination, and cut it to it’s final size using a template I created a while ago.

Width at the nut: 52. Width at the 12th fret: 62.

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On this picture you can see the yellow and blue lamination glued under the fretboard once trimmed flush with the sides. Its really for decoration purposes only. Some say it adds stiffness to the fretboard and helps stiffen the whole neck structure…. personally I think this is marginal.

What was left to do was to glue the fretboard on to the neck.

But first: (very important for string action and playability!) I dialed a little bit of neck relief onto the neck (before gluing the fretboard on) on the low E side. A sort of gently elipse between (more or less) frets 3 and 13 up to the the location of the g string. This very very slight curvation (relief) allows for more vibration “freedom” of the heavier bass-strings Since these strings have a larger vibration radius, this additional “free space” allows for overall lower string action without running into string-buzz issues, specially on the E and A but also the D string.

Then it was time to actually glue the fretboard on. Some people use position pins to avoid it from sliding “out of position” when you put clamp pressure on. Personally i don’t do that. Since the actual neck is still larger than the fretboard (2 mm at least on each side), I see this “sliding” issue more as an opportunity to level the fretboard so that it nicely ligns up with the soundhole. If your neck is a tiny bit pointing to the left or the right, then a completely straight-aligned fretboard may not be center aligned with the soundhole where both meet. This can be ugly and visible. This is why this “last minute” alignment option comes in handy.

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And finally a couple of pics I took this morning after removing the clamps:

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The last thing I did was to glue a saddle plank of bone onto the bridge block for decoration purposes, and to lift the hight of the bridge block to leave more space for drilling the string holes tonight.

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And that’s it for now!

April 7 update:

Last night I finished the design of the bridge:

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Since the Top is domed to a 25” radius i have also dialed that dome into the bottom of the bridge so that it will perfectly adhere to the top.

Then it was time to take the exact measure of its positioning. This is a crucial step since it has a direct impact on the sound. The saddle needs to be exactly (and I mean exactly) at the right distance from the nut. On this guitar I picked a 640 mm scalelength. that meas that there are exactly 640 mm between the front of the nut and the front of the saddle. (anything else, and the guitar will play out of tune…) You also want the bridge to be horizontally aligned with the fretboard so that you’ll end-up with equal string spacing on either side of the fretboard….

To make all of this error-proof and simple I made myself a 640mm full-siz template (like the fretboard template, but which extends the full 640 mm).

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With the template the above is easy: adjust the templat “against” the nut. (Easiest when installing a nut placeholder, or a real nut before). then align it all the way along the fretboard. Clamp it down with 2 clamps so it does not move around after that. (deouble check the proper and tight nut alignment)).

then install a dummy saddle in the saddleslot of the bridge, and install the bridge on the top so that the saddle touches the template firmly and align it horizontally. That’s it really.

Next I use sticky tape and cover the area around the whole bridge (This why it is interesting to keep a rectangular bridge shape, since it makes these operations simpler than a curved line). This allows me to fix and isolate the location of the top that the bridge touches. I can now remove the templace since I can accurately remove and reposition the bridge at its precise future location. The sticky tape will also protect the area around the bridge from glue squeez-out that may appear during the actual gluing process that follows:

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And finally it is time to glue the bridge on. Best done with a bridge gluing tempate like they sell them on luthier supply places like LMI or St. MCD. After about 10 minutes I carefully remove the sticky tape around the bridge to check if there isn’t any squeez-out “under” the tape. if so, this is an easy moment to remove it with a chisel before it hardens.

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leave this on for a good 12 hours, and then you can safely remove the clamps.

And this is how things looked this morning after removing the brdige gluing device 🙂

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As you can see, the bridge perfectly adheres to the top dome, and even helps to “lock” this dome in. After all the bridge is the biggest brace of the top and adds stability to the top structure.

While the bridge was gluing, I took 30 minutes to shape the end of the fingerboard to a nice looking ellipse:

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So now everything is ready to shape the neck tonight, and then install the frets…..

Guess what: if nothing goes terribly wrong, I will be able to put strings on tonight and play her for the very first time.

Not all is done though, bindings, purflings, sanding, finishing etc…. but I prefer to try my guitars “in the white” so to speak to see what they sound like before putting the finish on. This gives me the unique opportunity to do some final top adjustments. (I can still sand the top without having to break my wrist trying to do it through the soundhole on a completely finished instrument… -> many people glue the bridge on as a very last step in the building process….)

Ok, and tomorrow I’ll hopefully have some feedback about her sound….

April 8th update:

Neck is properly shaped…. 22 mm at 1st fret location up to 24 mm at 9th fret location. I also carved the area clean where the headstock meets the neck so that everything looks nicely aligned.

Then I resanded the fretboard to ar mirror shine using  600, 800, 1000 and 1200 sandpaper. Finally I cut the frets and installed them. Since it was getting late I didn’t feel like doing the fretbaord leveling anymore (Gettign rid of the sharp edges, aligning the edges, finding any high frets and sanding them level, rounding the frets crouns and sanding them etc. etc.  So that will have to wait for tonight.

However as you can see on these pictures, she’s almost ready:

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Forgot to mention that I installed the tuners already…. but this takes 1 minute each 🙂 so not worthwhile mentioning…

Tonight: finish the fretwork, prepare a new nut and saddle for the proper string action, and finally install the string….

By saturday evening everything should have stabilized (new strings, wood structure under string tension etc.) so that she holds the tuning. At that point in time I will do the saddle intonation fine-tuning (to make sure all notres on all string are fully in tune all the way up the fretboard to the 12th fret )

Next week will be decoration and artwork :), preparing the bindings and purflings and installing them. Carve the final headstock shape (for now it’s still straight as you can see on the pictures), spend 2 nights sanding her completely to get rid of all tool-marks, little scratches and glue residue etc….. and by mid next week I should be able to start the finishing process. Not sure yet whether i’ll use shellac (french polish) or an oil based (more varnish like) finish in stead….. Will decide last minute based on my mood 🙂 and on the time i’m willing to spendon the finishing. Anyways, the first coat will be shellac since I want to use it with pumice to close the pores on the back and sides “before” starting the actual finish build-up. (either continue with shellac, or switch over to oil)…

That’s it for now…..

Update April 10th:

Last deatils completed “before” installing the bindings and purflings sometime next week. (When I feel like it :)) Will play her for a couple of days now before removing the strings again, and start the final 2-3 week finishing work…..

Anyways, the fretboard is fully leveled now. I decided to offer her 20 frets, which makes the fretboard extend over the soundhole (I actually like this kind of design). To compensate for this I opened the diameter of the soundhole a little more. A too small soundhole may limit her breath 🙂 hence limit her full voice potential. What I noticed is that a small soundhole may be the cause of a “condensed” muddier sound, whereas a too large soundhole may go on the expense of bass response. Hence important to get this more or less right. I usually start with a smaller size, around 78 mm in diameter. Later, (like this week-end :)) when I start to play her, I’ll decide whether I leave it at that, or if I open it a little more (like on this model). In the end (once I was happy with the sound I had reached a diameter of 83,5 mm, but given that the fretboard covers part of the upper part of the soundhole, this is more or less standard…. .

This is actually one of the reasons why I install the bridge before finishing the guitar: it allows me to play her, and do quite extended final adjustments if required. I still have the complete soundboard at my disposal for sanding and thinning if necessary. It will not be necessary on this guitar since I really love the sound as it is (and on a spruce guitar it will become much better over the next 6 months, and once the finish is on….) but …. at least I leave all options open before I put the finish on. Many people install the bridge as the very last step…. it does actually makes the finishing simpler, as there is no bridge in the way… 🙂 but If you play her the first time when everything is completely finished…. what do you do if you’d like to …. for instance, increase the soundhole? ruin the finish, and start over???? of just …. leave her the way she is, knowing, that you have not achived maximum musical potential…. ….?? no way?

On a factory guitar that’s what they do, but not on mine…. I don’t spend 150+ hours building her, and then for simplicity of finishing, run the risk of not reaching maximum sound quality???

If you were ever wondering what the difference between and very good “factory” guitar (the ones you get to buy in music shops like Thomann etc. -> even their high-end 3000+ EUR models) and a hand-built luthier guitar was…: Well, the answer is simple: luthiers will invest a lot of time in fine-tuning every detail until they reach the optimal sound quality. (And you would be astonished how much difference these little adjustments actually make….) Do not forget, wood is a naturla product, and every single piece is different, hence a “one fit all” design and construction plan won’t do it…. By that I mean, you get “close”, sometimes, on some lucky models, very close, but there is always that “last mile” between a very good guitar…. and an exceptional instrument….. -> Ever wondered wy prof. players don’t buy their instruments in those shops?? Don’t go look any further 🙂

Fortunately (or unfortunately…. -> if you speak price)… these fine-tunins require an experienced human beeing with a well developed ear, and extensive knowledge on luthery…. And you quicly spend 20 to 50 hours on “manual” iterative fine-tunings, during the building process, and at the end….  take those hours, and take a readonable houre rate for “main d’oeuvre” of an expert…. and then you see where those 2000-3000 EUR “more” come from….

In the end there is no magic…. you get what you pay for. if most people will be happy with a quality (and really very good high-end factory build and “hand” adjusted model)…. some will appreciate, notice, and cherish  that subtle “difference” which in the end makes for a unique musical instrument…..

At the end of the day, a guitar is an instrument to play music on. So “sound” is priority 1. finishing and details are important, since you want a nice looking and refined instrument as well…. but …. sound remains more important…. (What would you consider a better instrument: a Stradivarius, old and, with maybe one or the other little scratch, or a modern, shiny, perfect new violin…? Well, personally, I’d pick the Stradivarius :)) Why would it be different with guitars?

Finally I shaped the tuner slots, rounded everything nice and smooth, and adjusted tue net and saddle for an optimal playing experience. (about 3.5 mm on the bass side, and 2.8 mm on the treble side at the 12th fret). Giving the perfect neckangle, and the perfectly aligned frets, this allows for quite some “heavy” attack play without any string-buzz. For a player who really wants to hit the string “hard” this may be augmented to 3 / 4 mm by installing a slightly higher saddle. But for 80% of players (including myself :)) this is more than enough, and makes for a very comfortable playing experience.

About the sound: Actually as expected. Very classical spanish. So this actually confirms what i thought (and what I’ve been reading about a lot). the type of bracing pattern makes a huge difference in sound of the guitar. Bassy, not so many overtones as my other guitars. A but more “reserved”. A fuller , rounder sound. The volume and projection is very similar to my other guitars, but this one really has a typical spanich / classical character. When I played the first few bars of air on a G-string by Bach, you can really hear that deep bass-line coming through nicely. Full sound like “made” for this style of music.

On the other hand, playing “Strangers” in the night left me a little disappointed. For the more modern music I like the brighter more agressive tone of the Blanco or Bubinga models. Their asymetrical bracing, and the extention of the lateral braces into the upper-bout of the guitar has a very notable impact on the trebles, and gives these guitars more overtones in the high registers…. which is a quality I prefer for this kind of repertoire.

In the end it really is a matter of personal preference i guess…. or of repertoire 🙂

Here some picutres of the latest progress:

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Right, have plaied her for a while, and decided not to do any other “sound related” changes. It’s perfect they way it is, and after a week it has already improved. This improvement is a natural process of the string setteling in, and the whole wood structure adpating to the tension of the strings etc. It is also commonly known that spruce top guitars do indeed significantly inprove over time, and quite intensively in the first couple of months -given that you play them on a regular basis-.

Anyways, time for the final race. Purfling, bindings, final adjustments, lots of sanding to get rid of all tool marks and any little scratches, and any glue residue….

Started this process beginning of the week. The purflings are glued on and the remaining outer channel for the binding is cleaned. The bindings are pre-bent so that I should be able to glue these on tonight. That means that I can start the actual finishing this week-end.

I also made up my mind about the finishing to use. I’ll use shellac as a “base coat” so that I can rely on pumice in order to fill the very few and tiny holes of the Sqntos Rosewood. The way it is, it would almost not require any porefilling whatsoever.

The rest of the finishing will be done with truoil, “also” this time around on the top. I am more and more convinced that there won’t be any noticable difference in sound between a very thin truoil finish compared to a shellac finish. I hae also posted this subject in the “luthier built” group on linkedin and received quite some feedback. The finishing seems to be a subject that interests many luthiers. And this is logical since the “time difference” between doing a traditional shellac finish, and a more modern truoil (or any similar oil) finish is not neglectable. I’d say shellac is about 10 times longer (or slower) and it requires some serious experience to get it really nice. Truoil is foolproof and fast…. So…. Truoil it shall be this time.

Here some pictures of what has happened this week so far:

Cut the channels, the outer channel for the binding: It’s about 2.3 mm thick (0.090) and the innter (top) channel for the purfling which has about the same depth, but is not as deep.

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Meanwhile I have also bent the purflings and bindings to the outer shape of the box, so that they fit nicely inside their respective channels. I have to say that my “new” side-bender comes-in very handy.

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Finally I’ve glued the purfling into place:

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What’s left to do now is to glue the bindings on tonight.

Update April 24th:

Everything still according to plan.

Bindings are on. Since I glue the purflings on first, I had time to properly realign the channel for the bindings. Since the bindings are about 2.2mm (0.090) thick, they are easily bent to shape, but lack the flexibility -that the smaller purflings do possess- to seemlessly align to the channel all around the instrument. In areas where the purfiling channel is .1 mm (or less) too deep you will have the binding channel stick out “under” the purfling. Hard to see, but if you don’t align it, then you’ll very likely run into alignment issues and you may have trouble to avoid gaps between bindings and purflings where the biding doesn’t lie “flat” against the purfling. You can “push” the binding against, but if you need to apply too much pressure all around, then you’ll end-up with gaps here and there. Hence the importants to take the time to align everything so that “dry-fitting” the binding with simple hand pressure leaves no visual gaps….

 

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Here some pictures with the bindings installed.

next step is to use a very sharp scraper and to level everyting. Remove all dried glue-residue, and trim the bindings flush with the sides and the top and bottom. This is easiesd done with a scraper, and will take between 2 and 3 hours depending on the adjustments. If you did a sloppy binding job with bindings ending up “higher” or lower than the sides, then this can be quite a tedious task…. Since I was clean, it took me about an our to clean everyting neatly. next, take some 200 sandpaper to remove all scraper traces, and to remove the sharp edges from the bindings all around.

Since I decided to use tru-oil as a finish for this guitar (in-stead of the traditional shellac) the absolute neatness of the surfaces is a must. Tru-oil like any oil will emphasize the smallest imperfection (tool marks, very tiny scraches cross the grain etc.). Actually much mure than shellac does. If the actual oil finishing process will be “faster” compared to a traditional shallac application, then you need to invest more time in preparing the wood surfaces prior to starting. On this guitar I sanded everything flat from 220, 420, 600, 800, 1000,  1200 grid sandpaper. Most will stop at around 600, and if you’ve got a prous wood (like indian rosewood) , than this is more than siffucient since you will be pore-filling the wood before finishing, and this will address any fine scratches. Whenever porefilling is required then I stick to shellac with pumice. Workes very will and remains non-toxic (not like the epoxy stuff).

Here some pictures during and after the sanding process:

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However on wood like this (like on the bubinga model) the pores are very very tiny (if any visible at all) so that pore-filling is not really required. That’s the reason why I decided to sand her down to 1200 grid. At this level, the wood alond ‘without any finishing’ develops a natural “mirror” finish that you can see on these pictures. (this is after sanding to 1200 and removing the dust…. plain wood so to speak):

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Not joking, this is the shine you get after sanding santos rosewood to 1200 grid. Worthless to say that the oil-finish will profit from the neatness of the wooden surface. I don’t expect a lot of sanding inbetween tru-oil applications at all….

On this guitar I decided to go wild on the design of the headstock :), this is what it looked like during the shaping:

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In the end I aligned both sides a little more (got rid of the overhang on the left side’ 🙂 but it remains rather unconventional.

Last but not least, I started the tru-oil finishing on sunday. The 2 first coats are on, and should be dry tonight. Since the first coat has a natural tendency (due to the moisture in the oil) to raise the wood grain, I’ll need to slightly sand it back down tonight. I will use 800 grid sandpaper to do this (wet). Since I sanded everything very cleanly before applying the finish, and if the results remains very smooth, then I might decide to swap the sanding for “oooo” steel-whool. I’ll see later tonight.

After this, another “very thin” coat of tru-oil every 24 hours for the next week (including saturday), with very soft inbetween wet sanding (leveling) or steel-whool.

By next week-end it should have developped a very nice natural “mirror”-like shine. Then it gets to rest for 1 to 2 weeks until the oil is totally dry, and then some buffing and polishing to achive that “high-gloss” finish, and then she’ll be ready to re-string and start her “musical” life 🙂

Will  take some pictures after the 3rd tru-oil application tonight…. One thing I can discluse now already: the tru-oil does an even better job than shellac in brining out the natural colors of the wood. After the first application already, the colors of the santos rosewood has turned so vivid…. almost unreal…. honestly, I was positively surprised. I had compared tru-oil and shellac on some stock indian rosewood before, and the difference wasn’t so “extreme”…. That’s probably because indian rosewood is darker and more uniform, and there isn’t so much color potential hidden in there…. But on this Santos rosewood, the impact is fenomenal…. … will post some pics tomorrow…..

Update April 25:

As announced, here some pictures after the first 3 tru oil coats:

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For an easy reference I’ve added a picture after the sanding process. Same light conditions, same camera angle…. The difference is enormous. It really shows how tru oil pops the natural wood color.

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Will continue adding pictures this week as the finishing work continues…

Update april 26th

3rd coat of tru-oil is on. Sanded everything level again using steel-wool tonight. Takes about 30 minutes for the complete guitar to be done. Then a close inspection to see if everything is clean, no irregular areas, no shiny spots left anywhere.

Then clean her up using a vacuum and clean towel, and ready for the next coat of tru-oil. From now on all coats will be very thin, applied the french-polish way. That is put just a couple of drops max on a cotton tissue and rub it on until it becomes sticky and you start to see small little “stripes” of “sticky” tru oil behind the appliction ball. Then move on to the next area. This is however not as timeconsuming and “tricky” as with shellac. If this takes about 2 to 3 hours to do for the complete guitar with shellac (in multiple steps), then it only takes about 40 minutes with tru-oil. No oil or other ingredient required and totally fool-proof. Just don’t use too much. When one part is done (i.e. The back), I finish using a clean cotton rag in long stokes along the grain by removing any potential leftover truoil. Since I put on so little this is atually more to “level” it all equally and to align everything nicely along the wood grain.

Now it can dry for another 24 hours and I will repeat this process tomorrow night. Probably about 5 to 10 times in order to reach a nice natural mirror shine.

When complete (you decide when you have reached a satisfactory stage, there is no rule here), then I will let her dry for at least a full weel. As a last step I’ll use some polish compound (the finest grade available) to get rid of any residual stripes or holographic effects in the finish, and that will be it.

Here some pictures of the top about an hour after tonight’s application. (By then the oil is dry to the touch):

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As you can see from the aboe pictures: tru-oil is almost transparent and it does not “dartken” the wook. All it does is pop the natural colors and beauty of the wood. Not sure if it’s visible here, but at the right angle, the top sparkels under the light reflection. This different from a “simple” mirror finish where you can look at your own mirror reflection. Its the different oil coats that are responsible for the light to break in different ways when reflected back from the wood surface, which creates this unique effect. This you don’t get with shellac by the way, since shellac coats blend one into the other and become “one” coat. Oil coat build one on top of the other, hend add multiple light breaking angles to the protective coat.

I’m not saying that this is “nicer” than a beautiful shellac finish, it is just different and more unique since not many people use this technique on guitars as yet. Most luthiers are still under the inpression that a shellac finish has a more beneficial impact on the vibration of the top, hence the musical properties of the instrtument.  But after lots of research and some recent tests I really cannot confirm this….

Tru-oil is simply: cheap, fool-proof, non-toxic, easy to apply, an excellent finish for guitars, and it adds some unique reflection and color emphazis to the wood. I should also mention that it offers better protection to your instrument since it is not effected by alcohol or water drops, doesn’t scratch as easy as shellac does, and is very durable. Last but not least, it leaves the “wooden touch”, that is your neck won’t become “sticky” and will feel very natural “woody” which improves the playability. (Some call this a “fast” neck).

To cut a long story short: I have yet to come accross a negative aspect of tru oil…..