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Is this proof that fairies exist…?

17 Feb

Source: Is this proof that fairies exist…?

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The Mysteries of Guitar Making – Part 2 – French Polish

11 Jun

The Mysteries of Guitar Making – Part 2 – French Polish.

The Mysteries of Guitar Making – Part 2 – French Polish

11 Jun

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The art of French polish is perhaps the most mysterious and difficult to master aspects of guitar making. In principal, it is deceptively and devilishly simple – the ingredients are few: Shellac (a natural resin excreted by the lac beetle who feeds upon tree sap in the forests of India and Thailand) dissolved in alcohol. As it is applied thinly with a cloth or ‘mop’, the alcohol evaporates leaving a hard layer of shellac.

Practically, it is a very mysterious process because although the ingredients are few, the variant factors which can affect the finish are almost limitless. These can include: The type of cloth used (old cotton bedsheets are the best, I find, although I’ve heard some people prefer ex-navy linen pillowcases and others say well worn t-shirts), the weather, temperature, humidity, the time of day, the dilution strength, the type of shellac, type of alcohol, type of wood being polished, the ammount of pressure applied – or the variation of pressure according to other factors previously mentioned. The use of oil, or not. Which type of oil. When to use it, or not. And how. Likewise, pummice powder (ground up volcanic rock) and other types of grain filler and abrasive. The list could go on and on and would come no closer to helping you, the reader, unravel the mysteries of French polishing. If that’s what you’re trying to do.

In order to master the art of French polishing one must first fully comprehend what the polish is. Unfortunately this is almost impossible to put into words, because it’s not a description of where it comes from, how it works, or how to use it. What I am talking about is understanding, grasping its very nature, it’s manifestation of form. The way it changes form from liquid to solid state. The way it changes what it comes into contact with. The way it connects on an invisible level. Of course, this can only be achieved with lots of practice. The same could be said of lots of things:

To master playing a musical instrument, one must become the musical instrument. To bake bread (and really understand how to bake bread – not just follow a recipe) one must understand the nature of yeast – another of earth’s mysterious substances. One must become one with the dough, as it were. Likewise, to master the art of French polishing, one must become One with the shellac.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m a master of playing music, or making guitars, or baking or anything else for that matter. I just had a momentary understanding – a glimpse, lasting maybe 2 or 3 seconds – when for an instant I fully understood the nature of something and hence the nature of everything.  The moment passed and then it was back to the difficult task of getting the polish to work.

What I can say about getting the polish to work (and I don’t know if this is any more helpful to anyone that what I’ve already said) is this:

Sometimes there are days when it (French polishing) is going really well. Perfectly, in fact. The polishing mop is gliding effortlessly across a mirror smooth surface leaving an iridescent vapour trail that disappears without a trace (unlike those mysterious aircraft that leave trails all over the sky, which turn to haze and unseasonal rain-storms).

On those days, there’s no need for anyone to tell you what you need to do. You know what needs to be done and how to do it. And you know it. However, a word of caution: Don’t get too carried away with self-congratulation. Things can change at any moment and start to go wrong with no warning. You need to stay focussed.

When things do go wrong – or at least, not so perfectly – you have two options:

The first is most advisable and most successful in most cases, but not always. That is, to stop, put everything away, step back for ten minutes, an hour, a day, a week a month, a year – the longer the better, when it comes to French polishing at least – and that’s what this is about. Then, when it’s time, go back and sand down lightly with fine abrasive if it’s only the surface that you’ve messed up, or heavily with course sandpaper and positive determination, if the damage goes deeper. Then carry on, with the hope that it will go better for you today – and the belief that it will – or at least could.

The second course of action if things aren’t going so well, is simply to carry on regardless. Sometimes a slight change in the dilution, a change of cloth, a change in the wind direction or the music you’re listening to , or a change in your state of mind can turn the situation around. Suddenly everything falls into place and starts working just like you know it should.

Now, I can’t tell you which is the best course of action to take in any situation. The second course can, of course, lead to a right mess – and the eventual need for the course sandpaper and positive determination – but sometimes the best way to understand how something behaves is to watch it when it misbehaves.


Why do I keep building guitars?

8 Apr

spiral guitar by g weigert 2014

That was a question put to me recently which fairly got me thinking about how best to answer it.

Most usually it’s asked more in the way of, ‘why don’t you make children’s toys/doll’s houses/wooden jewellery/furniture/tables/beds/shelves/fitted kitchens/garden furniture/signs etc… or else go out and get a regular wage-paying job?’ and I must admit I do all of those former things, largely to avoid the latter. But still I make guitars. Even if I’m doing all those other wood-working jobs and don’t have any commissions for instruments, there’s always a guitar or some other instrument in the process of being built. When I finish one, I start another.

In some small way, it’s about immortality. I know that sounds a bit vain and it probably is, but I’m just trying to be honest, so I’ll tell you what I mean. A guitar or any musical instrument, is, in some way, a living thing. Not in quite the same way as me or you or any other biological life-form on this planet. Yet when you play music on it, it somehow comes alive. So there’s that coupled with likelihood that these instruments will still remain after I’m gone, which has some kind of morbid attraction. But I won’t dwell on it because it’s not the main reason.

Mainly it’s the mystery. I’m like a detective who creates his own mysteries to solve. The mystery of how the instrument will sound when it’s finished. What will be its voice? The long and complex process of taking the finest bits of wood and crafting them into an exquisite object also capable of producing music, to solve the mystery, as it were.

It’s the knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge, the gaining of knowledge. It’s a strange sort of knowledge. Completely useless in some ways, but in other ways, very deep and profound.

What can you do with the knowledge of being able to take a board of dry wood, hold it to your ear, tap it and listen to the tone it makes and then envision the kind of sound a guitar would have if that piece of wood was part of it? Nothing, apart from build guitars.

And then how can you test, increase and deepen that knowledge unless you actually build that guitar? You can’t.

What can you do with the knowledge of how thin to make a delicate spruce soundboard to get the optimum musical response for that particular piece of wood? It’s not an easy knowledge to gain because the actual thickness is on the very edge of too thin. It’s a difference of fractions of millimetres. And you have to make a few too thin to find out how thin is too thin. Those guitars are likely to crack at some point, which isn’t such a disaster as some people think it is, but it’s hardly a selling point either.

But what can you do with such knowledge as that, apart from make guitars? Nothing.

And so when my friend asks me why I keep on making guitars the only answer I can give is, ‘because I’m a guitar maker.’

And if he were to ask me why I’m a guitar maker, I would also have to answer, ‘because I’m a guitar maker.’ if that makes any sense.

What would be a guitar maker who didn’t make guitars but a store of useless knowledge?

hararit signs

13 Jul

 

 

 

 

106

 

Here are 3 out of 5 signs engraved, before being painted.

My idea is that there will be a progression. The 1st sign has simple and clear lettering.

 

 

 

1011

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By the 5th sign there will be leaves and fruit around the letters.

Meanwhile, the sun above is also rising.

It will look much clearer after it’s painted.

The lettering will be this kind of blue.

100

For the individual signs below, I will use these letters and numbers:

    105

 

They can be any colour. Each letter or word can even be a different colour.

For private logos, please bear in mind that this is free-hand engraving in wood. I should be able to do a good copy of the logos I’ve seen, but it won’t be a lazer-copy.

104 Each sign post will be around 2.1m tall and about 1m wide.

The individual signs below will be about 85cm x 20cm.

There will be enough space for a maximum of 7 notices on each sign-post.

Latest instruments for sale

8 Dec

I’ve finally got round to updating my instruments for sale page

You can see it by clicking on the link on the right that says instruments for sale.

I’ve also refurbished my website www.gwuitars.com  , so it looks a bit different now.

 

Building a traditional flamenco guitar (final part)

6 Oct

Carving the Neck

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Making the Bridge

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Drilling the holes for the 13 hole tie block

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The Finished Guitar

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