Sunday, 3 December 2017

Excellence Without Elitism

Had I chosen to write a book on traditional guitar making I could have done it quite quickly but fewer people would have had the skill or money to make the guitar. To write a book that de-mystifies the craft of the luthier, that challenges the traditions, uses low cost materials, low cost every day tools and uses improvised jigs to produce a worthy instrument that is easy to build - is far more difficult and involves a lot of time and planning.

My thanks first for the patience of those early adopters who pre-ordered 'Acoustic Guitar Easy Build, some over a year ago. Realistically there is a good six month's solid work in the project and when you view the final item you will understand why. My 'pledge' has been to complete by the end of 2017 (and that is with juggling several other projects). In the few weeks remaining there might just be enough time to eat and sleep. 

So where did the passion for guitars and guitar making start?

Having had the good fortune of being taught woodwork by a brilliant teacher at a school that I was sent away to (a rescue package to my errant youth), the moment of change was when at the age of 17 I was given the keys to the school workshop one weekend and on the Sunday afternoon I emerged somewhat punch drunk with an acoustic guitar, having worked continuously through the Friday and Saturday nights. 

Aware of my good educational fortune and having since spent a considerable portion of my life teaching at all levels of ability and in institutions ranging from comprehensive schools, private schools and colleges and having pursued a former 'career' as an innovative furniture maker, I feel I have never been far away from my core belief in excellence without elitism. Sadly I stepped back from the furniture making scene around 2002 because it has became increasingly focused on catering for the rich.

At 17 I had considered making guitars for a living but feared I would soon get bored because in those days the methodology was rigidly traditional. So I folowed in my woodwork teacher's footsteps and trained at the UK's foremost Handicraft Teacher Training institution - Shoreditch College (where I gained a distinction on the Advanced wood course). 

Teaching allowed me holiday time to make guitars but I also taught basic guitar making in a London Secondary Modern school to sixth formers including girls. Those were innovative days. Leaving teaching to set up my own furniture workshop in 1973 I have focused on innovative ideas in wood.

The Zigzag Table made from strips of elm, designed 
and made  in 1979 - a unique centre joint.

A jumbo folk guitar using braided strings
(somewhere between a nylon and steel strung guitar) 
made and sold in 1979 for £200.

Over the years I have made about 20 guitars and many of those for sale and in latter years I have escaped the isolation of being a craftsman and started performing with guitars I have made or have modified.

I have been invited to write several books over the years, the most notable being The Incredible Router and The Encyclopedia of Woodworking Techniques, both of which won awards. So, Education is at the core of my lifelong pursuit.

Now is time to launch what has been work in progress for several years - a publication embracing today's technology (a video-integrated ebook) that enables a guitar player who maybe has never done woodwork, to realize the dream of building this/her own guitar. 

As I am on borrowed time and taking a rest from the intensive video filming and editing for a moment I will simply add some random still images here of the project so far as a taster for you the reader to please spread the word about my unique radical publication.

1.5mm modelmaking birch plywood is used for the back and ribs

A small bandsaw costing around £100 - absolutely invaluable.

just two low cost G clamps used for the entire build

A low cost plunging router with two or three cutters

The top block is made up of the same standard section 
softwood used for the stickers, linings and some of the jigs!

A hotmelt gluegun with sticks for under £10

Routing a perfectly straight edge using the steel rule
as a guide saves hours and skill of hand planing

Using a band saw to 'kiss' the edge of 
the wood to make a tighter fit

Using the same standard section of softwood and the springiness of wood these low cost clamps are used to attach the struts to the back and top.

Hours of time and skill saved by the simple easy to make
design of the top block that joints into the neck

The core learning material is highly detailed videos.
To date 12 videos have been completed
relating to the guitar back and sides. 

Not just a highly detailed guitar making manual 
but a solid grounding for creative 
resourceful woodworking 

Please share!


1 comment: