Stephen Faulk

Stephen's Faulk's bench

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I decided to jump back in the bench scene, I need some street cred and occasional help. 

 

Steet cred, I'm going to include a few guitars now a then for variety. But mainly put up viola/cello/violin repair projects I'm doing to learn more about bowed repairs and construction. 

 

I'll begin with a small classical guitar. 

It is a structured like Herman Hauser II on the inside and has Torres style looks on the outside. 

The back and sides are of Port Orford Cedar and the top is Engelmann. The scale s 640mm. 

 

I built this guitar to try out ideas I have about small scale classical guitars and this is is serving as a prototype. I'm going to make more of them in flamed Maple, Cypress and Rosewoods with spruce and cedar tops. 

 

Next a cello varnishing project. And then jumping into the Brescian viola I have going. 

 

 

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Peek inside. 

 

It has a curved laminated lower bar. The bar is laminated of Port Orford Cedar. It's not a common way of making this brace. 

 

The fan braces under the top have a parabolic shape, like little airfoils. But they don't provide lift, they modulate stiffness. 

 

And closing it up with a few cello clamps. 

 

 

 

Ok, next some bowed instrument work. 

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I'm refurbishing rebuilding a a cello to use as a varnish practice  dummy. Last time I varnished with oil resin varnish I had a difficult time keeping everything even, so I am going to isolate that one problem and deal with it on this cello carcass.  

 

This cello is Chinese, at least 40 years old, and made with a Pine top. At fist I thought it was a Fir top, but then I scraped back the crusted and powdery spirit varnish to reveal this curious yet appealing stripe. 

 

Not really a great cello, but I spent some time regraduating the top, which was pretty much 6 to 7mm all over the place, thinning some thick ribs and bring the back grads down to reasonable thicknesses. The back was graduated much like the top, 6 to 7mm all over, so I brought the bouts down into the 4mm and 3.5mm range and left the center at 6 to 7mm. 

 

I will see what happens, the re-scooped top without the bar is about 455 grams and moderately flexible. Reminds me of a really light piece of Engelmann. The neck had a broken button, linings were loose and broken, corner blocks huge on the inside. I addressed all this stuff and shaved some weight off the total, and I will touch up the scroll carving which could stand some refinement. In the end just looking for varnish vehicle, but I think it will be a much better playing cello. 

 

EDIT: re weighed the top and it is actually 417 grams after final scrape. 

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Jumping into the viola I'm working. The back top & ribs in current state. 

 

I was inspired by Carl Stross who said he will make a violin from scraps :P  :lol: ~ Well this viola is made from left overs I had under the bench and in the scrap pile. 

 

The top is made in seven pieces of left overs from a quarter of a log from which I sawed a cello top. The left overs for the top made two cello bass bars, several sets of guitar braces and what was left over from that was carefully joined into a viola top. It took some fancy thinking to pull it off. 

 

The back is a piece of plain and partly quilted maple form a board I found in a dumpster several years ago. It was 4-quarter thick 5" wide and 40" long, I cut it in half and joined it to make a 20" x 10" x 1" back....now I wish I had made a 17" viola instead of 16-3/8"

 

But waste not what others throw away and  dumpster dive for viola backs if you can.  :lol:

 

The ribs are half left over from the cello ribs, and half left over from a lute staves, they are totally mismatched! 

 

It won't win a prize for wood that looks like is goes together, but for the first one I think that is ok. 

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Nice guitar!  :) And I'm very interested to see what your viola looks like when it's finished...it's already intriguing!

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Yes, I might still make it a baroque cello, but still thinking it over. Right now I have the option of making a baroque fingerboard, or putting the original board back on. Not sure yet, on the one hand it would be grand to have a dedicated baroque cello, but  I might send this cello to the US to stay with friends or relatives so I have a cello to use when I am in the States next. It's so problematic and costly to travel with a cello internationally that having this stored or played by cellist friend in the US would make travel easy. 

 

But being that the top is so light and responsive, I can't help but think in lower tunings it would switch on, so it is tempting. It means I have to make and fix more cellos I suppose! At any rate I will learn a lot for the next one I build. I'm curious to see how taking the wood out of the top a back effect the power and sound. It was powerful before, I think due to the stoutness of the plates, but it was one dimensional in sound on the A string. It was very difficult to find the sweet spot in the upper range and if you let you guard down for a millisecond it would become elusive. I want to see if this broadens the envelope of the sweet spot and makes it easier to stay in the 'tone pocket' of the string. That will tell me something about building. I'm not a good player, but I have a fairly well developed sense for how to produce tone so I use that in my building. 

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Stephen, regarding the sweet spot, usually the area where you can bow with good sound is larger and a little further away from the bridge with strings that are heavy gauge, compared to thin gauge. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons for the relative popularity of heavy gauge strings on cellos compared to light gauge: they make bowing easier, because you don't have to be as precise with bow placement and weight. However, not all instruments respond well to heavy gauge strings. Personally I think that it is often possible to control minute sound details a little better with thinner gauge strings, but the precision it requires can take away a little of the freedm experienced when playing the instrument.

 

I believe you played the cello with dominant strings, which are the strings with lightest tension you can get for cello and consequently they are very hard to play. Especially if you have a modern cello sound ideal, loud, fat and ringing, Dominants will not give you what you are looking for. You should try different strings next time, it will likely  make it easier to find your "sweet spot".

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Slowly, the famous Chinese cello work goes on. 

 

Now here is is after using Jezzupe's sugar ground with a shellac sealer and one coat of Robson brown Greek Pitch. Remember the top turned out to be Pine and it has that strident lighter strip in the middle. It pops out under varnish!

 

Waddya gonna do? 

 

I made the baroque tail piece out of Hinoki and inlaid a simple diamond a pattern on it to give it some pizazz. The template is made on the dimensions of a Strad tail piece in Pollens' book and fleshed out with dimensions generously provided by Bruce Carlson ( I'll post them later) 

 

I'm going to use the same ebony fingerboard as a matter of cost and non waste. But will slip wedged spacer under it to get it to a higher projection. It's way too low now and i understand period celli probably had a near modern neck projection. I'd like to discuss that if anyone has ideas. 

 

Still debating about which way to take the varnish, but will probably just go with a one or two more coats of GP brown. The lighter strip is too bright to try to dim down without being obvious, so I will let it be. 

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Perhaps of side interest to a few of you: 

 

A head stock idea for a classical guitar I'm building. I'm leaning away from modern Spanish style work to explore some Romantic era ideas. This is a headstock with a Hinoki core but wrapped in rosewood. The tuners are a Swiss brand called Schertler, I use them on my 7 string models, but like the different individual look for this project. 

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Peek inside. 

 

It has a curved laminated lower bar. The bar is laminated of Port Orford Cedar. It's not a common way of making this brace. 

 

The fan braces under the top have a parabolic shape, like little airfoils. But they don't provide lift, they modulate stiffness. 

 

And closing it up with a few cello clamps. 

 

 

 

Ok, next some bowed instrument work. 

Did you "tortoise shell " the back and contour the ribs?

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51 mm nut?

 Yeah pretty close. I usually make then 52 or 53, but the dealer here wants to see narrower nuts. I might make it 50mm.  I don't understand what you mean by tortoise shell, the back arch or some painted treatment? Guitar making is such drudge work, I wish I were making violins. 

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 Yeah pretty close. I usually make then 52 or 53, but the dealer here wants to see narrower nuts. I might make it 50mm.  I don't understand what you mean by tortoise shell, the back arch or some painted treatment? Guitar making is such drudge work, I wish I were making violins. 

Be careful of the rosewood and to some extant the sound board dust.  If you haven't glued the back to the ribs yet I may be able to explain over this here.  It's a pain but it will be tough to beat if executed properly. 

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Did you "tortoise shell " the back and contour the ribs?

If you're going to use the same plan that you used up above I wouldn't feel comfortable telling you how to do it.  If you have a go-deck made up and are willing to use 4 back braces instead of 3,  then I'll proceed to show you how it's done.  I'm not sure if it's for more power or just for show. I can't say if it's from Torrez,  but the top is.  {my plan}   I'll check back often.

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Uncle Duke are you talking about rose wood and gluing? If so I've never had trouble, I use hot hide glue most of the time and I think the rumors that rosewood does not glue well are false.

 

I am sensitized to ebony dust and I have to use a mask and be really careful with the dust. The reason I'm sensitized is because this is about my hundredth guitar and I've been a repairer doing fret and fingerboard for 20 years. When I was younger I was not as careful about dust exposure, resulting in hyper sensitivity to ebony and cocobolo dust. I keep a prescription asthma medication on hand in the shop for emergencies. 

 

You can see my work here: http://stephenfaulkguitars.com/

 

I set up a blog a few weeks ago, but have been too busy to post anything and it's still in Latin as the webmaker left it. I've had several guitar making students already, none of them has moved into professional work but they all made excellent instruments. Two of them have used the classes to move into being good woodworkers who build things like clock cases and veneered boxes. 

_____________

 

I still don't know what you mean by "tortoise shell" - If you mean putting the back on like a skin after the braces are glued into the ribs I can can do that and sometimes remove a back that way. Romanillos did it that way and so did Torres and others. It's fun, but gluing the braces to to the back is generally faster for me. 

 

I seldom work from plans and really never did. My main teacher Gene Clark and others made me draft my own plans right from the beginning and gave me the outlines and dimensions from instruments like Santos Hernandez and Domingo Esteso directly from instruments he measured in the 1960's that were in his shop for repair. In the early 1960's the instruments of the important twentieth century Spanish makers were still in circulation with players and Gene saw them regularly in his shop. So I was able to get information about those instruments and to see the same instrument being restored in his shop when I was learning from him. So I was lucky to have been in a place where I could play and see guitars like Estesos, Santos' et al. with the backs off and undergoing restoration. The main instrument I build that I have dialed in much like a Santos or Barbero as is directly informed by those experiences. I did make a run of Barbero copies from the famous 1951 Barbero plan drawn by Richard Brune' and they were quite good, the best one of the bunch is in Ann Arbor Mich. 

 

I've also specialized in making really fine 7 string classicals for Choro and bossa nova music played in Brazil. I enjoy making these very much,  and have made them all except for one for working professionals. 

 

Otherwise I make all kinds of one off instruments for friends who come with funny requests, break up the work into fun stuff. I've made Bulgarian Tambors, Ukes of all kinds ( they are small but they take as long as some large guitars) Ouds and worked on lutes. I also worked in Stewart Port's shop in CA. He's a recognized authority on Pre War Martin and 19th c. steel string guitars and I worked closely with him for three years and continue to be good friends and I consult with him on all matters steel string. 

 

There you have a context about me, If the Tortiose shell thing is something you can show me, by all means let me know. And if there is anything I can show you I am at your service. In addition to that junk I mentioned above my 'hobbie' is noodling with bowed instruments for my own personal edification. I'd rather putter with violins and cellos all day than work on guitars. 

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make 4 back braces 1/2" tall x 3/8" wide.  I use mahogany- which I believe is a tone killer.  Spruce or cedar optional.

Spot glue all 4 together.

Make a 15ft. radius template.  I used a clean garage floor with a piece of paper.  Ensure the drawn arc marks on the paper.

Cut out radius curve and trace the radius onto the brace sides.  Plane braces to shape at the same time.  Before planeing, mark a line across all 4 braces on the other side so you will know where the middle will be.  Make the braces perfectly arched- plane and sanded 80 grit.

Brace on back position- #1 upper bout is centered 97-98mm from neck/rib join at spanish foot.  Not sure of your plan but that brace runs across at the middle of the upper bout.  Brace shouldn't be near the soundhole {5mm away}  #2  is 113mm from #1.  Move it if the soundhole is exposing it.  The other 2 braces are located by dividing the remaining distance by three.  I'm assuming you have the go bar deck.  I used thin pieces of cardboard for support.  My plans call for running acetone across the rosewood.  Your choice.

 

For the tortoise shell- get a 1x2.  More specific- 17mm wide x 37mm tall.  Mine is 20 1/2" long.  At the ends glue or tape two  1" x 1/4' shims- 1 each side on the 17mm wide surface. 

Run the 1x2  "long arch" wise.  This is the outer side.

My plan says to run a 3/8" min. metal square bar "cross arch" direction, near the 2nd brace- inside/underneath plate.  I used a 1/2" or so square piece of wood.  Using a strong rubberband loop one end around small bar and pull band over the long arch board to the otherside and loop rubberband.  Increase tension if long arch board is not touching.  This should resemble a tortoise shell by now, I hope.

 

You'll need a scribe or compass next.  Clamp the back at the 4 bout areas-right up against the sides.  Lower bouts should be the same height as each other/ upper bouts should be the same as each other.  Upper vs lower bouts don't have to be same height.

This next part is verbatum from the manual:

The distance that the back is above the sides is incidental but it is important that the difference between the height of the back above the workboard at the heel end and the butt end is the same as the difference between the actual measurementsfor the depth of the heel and the butt.  This is vital to the symmetry of the instrument.  1986 Jim Williams

 

Whew- next, mark your tailblock and heel depths.  Using a compass follow the plate edge on around.  Point on plate/marker on ribs.  Start at tailblock and work towards heel. 

 

Stephen, that may be all you need to make it work.

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I still don't understand what you are doing.  I see parts of the idea, but what is the purpose?  I think this is a modern steel string idea and does not really apply to classic Spanish work. The Spanish did not use a spherical dome or base arching on the radius of a circle, and many other differences.

 

Many classical guitar builders today use the radius of a circle, but I still make it the older Spanish way by deflecting a lath and deciding by eye which arch I want at each brace. So the idea does not really work on my instruments. I prefer not to have a spherical back arch because they all look the same. I want to modulate the arch height and shape, and the rim of the top of the ribs is a flat plane on my work, not a rim line that is shaped to accept a spherical back. 

 

Anyway I think we might be getting to far afield from bowed stuff. 

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I thought of you and your guitars today at my bassoon lesson. :D

My teacher has a gorgeous little acoustic cutaway. I don't play guitar at all but love the look and sound.

While I was looking to see if I could find a picture of hers on-line I noticed the "tone debate". Apparently they are not supposed to sound as good as the regular shape? Any truth to that? Have you made any?

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I'm following you but I get the sense that If I tried one of your instruments I'd just be getting a vibrating top with nothing happening elsewhere.  I could get that with a 100.00 Cordoba. 

 The method I sent you above will cause the back and sides to pull from each other over time.  As soon as the back has pulled the ribs width wise It will start on the top- maybe not a good thing.  Other than a different view contour wise a person could do without this method.  Sorry for bothering you.

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I thought of you and your guitars today at my bassoon lesson. :D

My teacher has a gorgeous little acoustic cutaway. I don't play guitar at all but love the look and sound.

While I was looking to see if I could find a picture of hers on-line I noticed the "tone debate". Apparently they are not supposed to sound as good as the regular shape? Any truth to that? Have you made any?

 

 

Yeah I've made cutaways. The short answer for me is I don't buy into the idea that cutaways lack for any sound, if built carefully.  There are ways to work with body thickness and top bracing to make cuts sound no different really. I like them, but I prefer to build regular guitars without, but I take orders for cuts if the player needs it. I just built a Requinto with a cutaway for a jazz composer named Craig Green. A requinto is small guitar in G with a short scale. 

 

Now the bassoon is a fun instrument. I goofed around with it in high school and made some reeds. Have you made your own bassoon reeds? Our band teacher was a bassoonist, he checked out out a bassoon to me because I was playing cello and he thought I might be into it..... I found it to be a rather "honky" combo, me and the bassoon. I do like bassoon however there is some fun solo music and I like it in jazz. Yusef Lateef played bassoon on some of his recordings. 

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Word for the day:  Requinto.  Do you have a photo of it?

 

I have not made my own bassoon reeds.  Frankly, it's not worth buying all the equipment needed - and I don't know that I have the patience to split my own cane.

 

But I have been learning to adjust reeds.  Give me a little more time and I should be able to scrape, rewire, trim existing reeds satisfactorily...etc.  Hopefully at some point I should be able to adjust blanks to suit me.

 

All the woodwinds are honky...but there's a very satisfying deep, rich rumble with the bassoon that I love hearing and love the feeling of when playing.  I find it contrasts really well with the violin and sound and feel of it.  And by exploring both bass and treble independently I just have more of a feeling of tonal completion...if that makes sense.

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 One of the Requinto. They are played in many kinds of music in Latin America, a lot in Mexico and all the way to Argentina where they show up in Tango bands and with bolero players. Mostly Mexico. 

 

The higher tessitura makes them sound a bit nasal sometimes and they can be strident enough to cut through other textures in the music. They usually hold down melody lines and fierce players drive them with chord rhythm playing. 

 

Craig Green wrote a suite in three parts for solo Requinto, it sounds like Kapsberger theorbo, John Cage prepared piano interludes, West African pop guitar and a few other things rolled together. It's really good. The suite is called 'Burning on a Sea of Ghosts'. 

 

I wish I had more bowed work to show right now, but I'm busy with this guitar torture.  :lol:

 

It has a cutaway too. We call that style 'Florentine' with the point, the bent round cutaways are called 'Venetian'. 

Right of the Requinto is a 7 String classical cutaway, that is Venetian style, round. I also blend the cut into the heel on the back...not many makers do it that way, but I think it looks better. If I just make three or four more then I can make another cello. 

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