Go bar

Sometimes you have to stop and work extra to facilitate the work. I have always glued braces and cleats with the help of clamps and cauls. It works relatively well with ladder bracing in the top with straight braces. It gets a little more difficult with X bracing. It is troublesome when the bridge plate or cleats are to be glued in a top that already has the sides glued. Then you need to work with pieces of wood to reach down when clamping and it can get crowded when excess glue is to be wiped away.

The solution that most builders use is a so-called Go-bar. Here you clamp bracing, cleats and bridge plate with resilient sticks that are held against a flat surface above what you have to glue. The problem with such is that they take up big space in a small room.

A picture to show the usual make and use of a Go-bar.

I got a radius dish CNC milled by my pal Per Marklund several months ago. The radius dish has a negative curvature of 20 ′, lower in the middle and highest around the edges. I glued on a thin rubber mat on the curved side. You have to have one like that under a guitar top to be able to glue radiused braces with the bend 20 ′. But it took a while before I figured out how to make a foldable Go-bar in my room.

The solution was to use my loose table. Four sleeves were screwed into the table, which had an internal M8 thread. Four coarse round woden rods had an M8 threaded rod screwed into both ends. A “roof” in solid pine (a 120 × 30 cm shelf cut in the middle and glued to a square) was manufactured and reinforced. Four M8 nuts were needed to secure the roof.

So far, all right. But the big job remained; to flatten the table top. The table has just been an alternative workplace for being able to sit comfortably in a chair and do the ditch and the daughter. Over the years the table top has been deformed, there was at least 5 mm between the table surface and the ruler in the middle with the ruler laid across the table. Really uneven in other words, the area under the radius disk must be completely flat. I attacked the table top with a small electric planer, a manual Stanley planer number 6, an electrich sander and 80 sandpaper on the underside of a Stanley planer number 5. I think I filled 3-4 consumer bags with shavings and a little more shavings and sust everywhere in the room before I got the table surface completely flat. A lot of work indeed! Took the opportunity to flatten for my main workbench too, there was little left to do after a similar operation a few years ago. After oiling the beech wood, it feels good to have at least two areas in the room that are completely flat 🙂

It remains to make the flexible clamps and test it properly for real. It takes a maximum of 5 minutes to pick up and screw in the four legs of the Go bar, pick up the "roof" and the radius dish that is stored under the table top and tighten the four nuts. All parts are hidden under the table top when not in use. I think it will facilitate and improve the job of gluing bracing, bridge plate and cleats in the top. I will continue to glue the bottom as before with clamps and counter holds, they are simple without glued sides and only transverse ribs.

An email with an interesting experiment

Received an email with an interesting experiment that I had no reason to do myself. I have been skeptical about tailpieces in metal and my theory has been that the hard attachment of the ball ends is the cause of the less good sound in guitars with such. I have noted that many modern makers of jazz guitars often have an ebony tailpiece similar to that of a violin. I suspect that the reason for that is that the guitars sound better with such a tailpiece.

Nicklas Hedström who contacted me has done a test on his Levin with a standard metal tailpiece. Thank you! He writes:

“I have read your blog with great readiness. I have a Levin with floating bridge and the usual metal tailpiece. I read your thoughts that the problem is not the bridgel as much as the tailpiece itself with metal against metal. You are right that the tailpiece is the problem.

I decided to make a very simple variation in oak as on a minstrel banjo. The cord is attached to a output jack. I put the strings into the tailpiece from the top to get a slightly steeper slope over the bridge. It sounds like another guitar now. It can "exhale" and the bridge can vibrate freely. Just like a violin. With a bigger and more beautiful sound. Because of this and the longer string length behind the bridge, the feel when playing does not become as rigid either. ”

I always change from a tailpiece to a string pin bridge on old Levin parlor guitars unless the customer wants it to remain as original. Making a tailpiece similar to the one in the picture, like a violin, is perhaps an alternative to switching to a string pin bridge. The softer attachment of the strings gives less dissonant "zip" tone and better sound just as I suspected. If nothing else you can test yourself and do the comparison!

Repair of a broken top under a bridge

One of the things that I often encounter is that the top is torn when a bridge is loosened or glued. If only small chips are involved, I can glue small pieces of spruce or fill pits with hot hide glue mixed with sanding dust from spruce. Repairing with super glue is not a good idea as hot hide glue does not stick to plastic. Often, much of the top is damaged and then you have to do a major operation. On this guitar, spruce had been pulled away under almost the entire bridge. The damaged area must be milled off and new spruce wood glued in.

Using a ruler as a guide, I use my Proxxon cutter (which is much better than a Dremel!) and cut two straight grooves on either side of the area that must be replaced with new wood. All the spruce in between I then cut away by hand with the cutter. The advantage of using a cutter like this is that you get a pit with exactly the same depth.

A new piece of spruce is cut out and fitted. It is important that the spruce has the grain in the same direction as the top for best torsional stiffness. The new wood is a little thicker than the pit is deep.

The new piece is glued with both fish glue and hot hide glue. Hot hide glue is perfect but has a slight disadvantage, it does not fill voids. Fish glue, which is almost as good as hot hide glue, fills in much better. I put fish glue around the edge and hot hide glue in the middle. Then squeeze the "cake" with a plastic wrap between the spruce piece and the plastic glass caul. No risk of sticking together what you don't want!

I use an underrated small planer to thin down the piece of spruce when everything is dried. The planer is very sharp with its razor blade and perfect for planing off in small thin slices! A very good plastic masking tape that is both thin and does not stick hard protects the lid from the planer. You have to be careful though. Think it is this one.

With the ruler as a counter, I then sand the last with self-adhesive 80 sandpaper on a small cozy aluminum profile. The profile is a detail that comes from an old printing press, but there are certainly similar materials to buy and cut to size.

Made a nice ebony bridge with a pyramid based on a circa 1890 Bauer guitar, I only made it a little wider to accommodate an intoned saddle and a little lower. The bridge should be wider than the repair itself. The low adhesive tape marks the location of the brideg when glueing. The tape can easily be removed when the bridge is in place.

Before gluing the bridge I mount my plugs as usual. I use the bridge in place and a drill through the string pin holes to mark the position and drills for 8 mm plugs 4 mm above the upcoming string pin holes. Spruce is very difficult to drill in with a wooden drill, will chip. A good way is to is to first drill through with a 1 mm drill and then use the wood drill rotating in the wrong direction from the outside and from the inside to cut through the spruce surface. The small hole marks where to drill from the inside. Then you can drill away the last material in the middle of the hole as usual without chipping. The holes are filled with two birch plugs for the bass strings, one endpine plug for the D string and three endspruce plugs for the treble strings.

The bridge is glued with freshly cooked hot hide glue, in the picture the tape has been removed and excess hot hide glue is wiped off with the help of a cloth and a blunt knife. The cauls on the pyramids have been formed on the underside with thermoplastic which can be melted and heated and then becomes hard when allowed to cool.

New method for better neck fitting

I mentioned before that I now have a new safer way to glue the neck. Mainly to avoid having to put a triangular shim under the fretboard on the top, but also to succeed better with the neck angle which has so far been a lottery with many blanks... Have tried the method on three OldGura in the batch and it has succeeded so far. Has not come so far that the bottom and neck are finally glued in, but I think it is good to start working with the angles of the neck well in advance before you get that far. With a good start you only need small adjustments at the end.

This is how it looked like after a couple of hours of sanding the foot of the neck to the right neck angles. The neck, fretboard and the upper brace above the soundhole are loose and held together with clamps. The loose but curved brace was clamped at the ends with small jigs pushing up the top under the fretboard end.

To measure the neck angle, two 1 mm feeler gauges at about the 6th and 12th frets simulate the height of the frets. On top of the feeler gauges on the fretboard I used a long straight aluminum strip which in the further end should lie on top of the bridge when the neck is at the right angle. The same straight aluminum strip is used to center the neck sideways, the strip is laid to the side of the neck and the center of the outermost string holes in the bridge should be equally far from the side of the strip.

To adjust the neck angle up and down, I use a sandpaper between the side and the neck foot to shape the contact surface. By sanding as much on boths sides of the top or bottom of the neck foot, the angle up and down can be adjusted. This one needed to be sanded on the upper edges which is not common. Not a problem with a loose fretboard. Laterally, the neck foot is only sanded on one side to change the angle side-to-side. It is important to keep track of both things at the same time!

With the neck at the right angles, I could see that the 30 ″ radius I gave the brace above the sound hole was perfect on this guitar, the fretboard was perfectly straight on top and lay flat against the top. The one I worked with before this one had a gap of about 1 mm between the top and the fretboard at the end of the fretboard. Instead of having to make a triangular shim as before, I could now give the loose brace a larger radius bend, about 20 ″, to push up the top under the fretboard and tighten the gap.

To be sure that the adjustmens are correct, I use a threaded rod between the neck and the bottom block. I want the neck block to be fixed and have exactly the same angle as when the bottom is glued. The rod is fastened with a screw on top of the neck block and the angle of the neck block is adjusted with two wing nuts through the hole for the end plug. I adjust the length of the rod so that the loose bottom fits perfectly and the same way as when I later glue the bottom.

To clamp the loose and curved lid brace and push up the ltop in the middle, I use two adjustable jigs for the clamp. The holes in the wooden plugs are drilled so that they fit on the threaded rod so as not to fall off but without having to be threaded on. With small modifications, they can also be used as a clamp for gluing loose braces through the sound hole!

With my neck roughly adjusted, I could now glue the loose brace in the assurance that I would not have to do a triangular shim further down. With the bottom glued, I will most likely only need small adjustments after a test with tightened strings before the neck is finally glued in place.

The stiffening between the neck and bottom blocks also proved to be practical, the otherwise slightly rickety body without a glued on bottom was stable and easier to handle while working with the neck reset 🙂

GG162, European circa 1900

I rarely buy old wrecks nowadays, but sometimes something interesting turns up at an auction here in Örnsköldsvik, see pictures from the auction below. This was purchased just a month ago and became a side project for the ongoing batch. Always good to have a guitar that does not yet have a buyer. Didn't do much more than start on it before I got a call about buying an old worn parlor guitar! Since it would not have a K&K mick it was just as good to clear it all at once, some bills needed to be payed as well ...

Well. It's an old European parlor, I put it to 1900 but it may very well be late 1800th century. The tuners were of the old sturdy kind that were actually better than those that came in the 1910s and later. They were beautiful and, because the cog is above the "scroll", they are pressed together by the string tension and usually work almost as well as new ones. They had to stay for a change. Later it turned out that one of the visually fine tuners was incorrectly constructed with too low a height on the worm's "scroll" and the b-string tuning screw cogged over. Had to find a similar but good tuner from the collection with the right distance between the posts. The positive was that the tuner you see when playing is the beautiful original. It was heavily dehydrated with a shrunken top and bottom, some bottom braces protruding from the side and parts of the top were loose.

An unusual detail of this was the minimal mustache stall that was in poor condition. For the first time, I made a replica with a saddle over the whole bridge. The neck was narrow (43 mm at the upper saddle) and thin. The open string length was short, only 59,5 cm. The fretboard was replaced with rosewood.

Dunlop has stopped producing my favorite brass frets, 6180. From this OldGura and now one, I will use harder EVO frets with similar but slightly darker brass color. They are a bit more expensive when they have to be ordered from the USA, but it is as easy to install as the brass frets. The fact that the frets are tougher means that I have to be more careful when I give the fretboard a radius, the fretboard should match the curvature of the frets otherwise they risk not getting stuck in the groove as they should (the softer brass frets were shaped more to the curvature of the fretboard). I have to grind my fret saws for narrower grooves too.

Did the usual things with it, it probably became the fastest OldGura from purchase to finished :-)

The intonation was a bit awkward as there were large differences between the intonation points on both the nut and saddle. The unusually short open string length was one reason. Made it sound good in the end. Became a nice little parlor that suited the customer's small hands well! 🙂

The old label paper ran out, bought a new and slightly gray version 🙂

Newtone strings

Have just received a batch of Newtone Heritage 0.12 and Newtone Masterclass 0.11. They can be bought from me for the 125 SEK package. Send an email with your address and I will try to deliver as soon as I can.

Ongoing batch

Still waiting for the K&K pickups. Meanwhile, there is still some things to do on all the guitars in the current batch. All have been repaired, got new bracing and carbon fiber rods in the neck as well as shaped raw materials for bridges and fretboards. The situation right now in the pictures below.

I am always trying to find new details that can be done better. The bridge plate and the reinforcement in the middle of the top now have inclined edges so as not to give and starting point for a crack. I have also been waiting to glue the brace in the top under the fretboard. When the neck angle is set, I want to avoid having to do a triangular shim to lift the end of the fretboard and instead give that brace a greater bend and lift the top at the end of the fretboard. I believe in that idea, will be fun to try it out!

GG156 August Carlstedt
Ebony will be in fretboard and bridge on this fake "Martin" 🙂

GG157 Levin Carmencita
X bracing is ordered. Probably not quite done with the bracing on this one.

GG158 European, circa 1900
I saw loose the bottom to save the wood binding, in the process I cut off the top of both neck and end block which was replaced with new wood. I glued the brace under the fretboard before my new idea, but if needed I will make a new one.

GG159 Franz Nowy, 1930s
Extremely long bridge! My usual blanks for making bridges were too short, had to cut a long piece out of a thick plank intended for a fretboard. Lighter colored rosewood to match the original.

Improved jig for glueing kerfing

I basically use the same jig to glue the bottom and the kerfing. What is different are the anvils that are clamps when I glue the bottom and straight wood pieces when I glue the kerfing. With the same base plate. The jig for bottom glueing works very well, but the straight pieces of wood didn't work as well as I wanted to because the sides on an old guitar is rarely straight or 90 degrees, it can tilt or be deformed. It is important that the side is fixed in exactly the position it had with the old kerfing when the new kerfing is glued, otherwise the side does not follow the shape of the bottom.

I realized I had to do something. A machine screw was mounted at the top of the wooden piece with a round bar in birch on the top which is screwed in and adjusted so that a plastic doorstop on the top of the round rod just comes into contact with the side. The only problem was that the same thing had to be done on the about 40 anvils I made before… all the steps were multiplied by 40! Took almost a full day's workshop to get it done ...

One of the OldGura I am working on had a few pieces of kerfing that had to be loosened and had to be glued back. Tested with the updated jig although it is really only needed when all the kerfing is to be replaced.

Three shims between the base plate and the top raise the guitar to the correct height to leave space for the kerfing clamps. With the help of a 0.05 mm feeler gauge, I was able to individually screw each bar to the side so that it just rubbed the side. Then I tightened the screw a little and tapped the finger on the inside of the side until it felt mute. With the side tightly fixed I was then able to glue the loose pieces of kerfing.

Since the brackets to fasten the anvils are screwed in with two screws in the base plate, a small power screwdriver is definitely needed in addition to the manual one! The next whole exchange of kerfing will go well 🙂

GG161, Levin 247 1933

In anticipation of the K&K mics that were ordered a month ago, I have done some repairs. One of the repairs grew into an almost complete GammelGura, so it received both a number and a label.

This is one of the most beautiful instruments made by Levin. The most expensive parlor model in 1933, but still only 1 year warranty. They were made with a floating bridge which is a shame as I cannot get the same nice sound as with a fixed bridge. The flamed birch on the side and bottom is sensational on this model, enhanced with a very beautiful stained color. I have seen instruments for real and in pictures that have been stained in red, yellow-brown and like this green-yellow-brown. This particular specimen has the densest pattern have ever seen of flaming birch! The tops's purfling and rosette are also extraordinarily fine and wide, in the rosewood fretboard you have inlays of luxurious mother of pearl. The tuners were fine Waverly mechanics made in the USA.

A very special and lavish model in the choice of wood and details, but not impressive craftmanship. Both the top and the bottom were too thick and the sound before the renovation nothing to cheer about. Plonky and metallic. The guitar had been tampered with before, among other things, it had been given an extra layer of cellulose lacquer and a very mysterious brass end knob which was probably a knob used by a plumber. The bottom had a crack between the bottom halves, a tuner had a replaced knob, a piece of the celluloid binding of the top was missing and the string height was high.

When the bottom was opened it was equally good to update the bracing, the bottom and the top were also thinned for better sound. The bottom received a center strip in spruce. The fretboard was losened and a carbon fiber rod mounted, the neck was a bit bent. The fretboard was given a 20 ″ radius and new nickel bands. The old tuning screws were not good and were retired and replaced with new ones. Because the originals had modern spacing between the posts, it was easy to change to new tuning screws. As so often on Levin, the floating bridge was way too high on the bass side, I planed down the top and gave it the same radius as the fretboard.

When I was to release the mysterious end knob, that was glued with epoxy glue and sat like the rock, the endblock cracked and the sides opened up about 10 cm on either side ... like a zipper. Fortunately, I was able to repair the damage almost invisibly without problems and glued on maple veneer on the inside to strengthen the glue joint. Epoxy glue is not fun! One side was a couple of mm higher on one side, I made both sides the same height.

My newly purchased violin clamp was perfect for clamping the crack in the middle joint of the bottom.

The violin clamp compresses the edge crack.

Glueing the center spruce stick to a counter hold in the form of a ruler.

Uses a strip of yoga mat in rubber to get even pressure over the half-round center stick.

Squeezes the stick glued with hot hide glue with a straight piece of wood and a counter caul in thin plywood on the other side of the bottom.

Since it was a floating bridge, there was no place for my inventions. I usually do not do nut intonation on guitars with floating bridges, these are best suited for blues and fine tuning the intonation feels a bit wrong and wasted. Of course it is possible to do, but this was not a real GammelGura after all. Intonated the top of the floating bridge according to the classic 12th band method and stringed up with Newtone Masterclass 0.11.

To avoid most of the metallic sound from the tailpiece in sheet metal, I taped on a thick welding tape as a silencer under the sheet metal.

Most of the work was with the binding around the bottom. The bottom was shrunk and deformed and I didn't want to force it into place and build in tension. The old celluloid binding was replaced with plastic in the same colour. One piece of the original was used to replace the piece that was missing in the celluoid binding of the top. Glued the bottom and cut out a 3 mm deep ditch for binding. The new binding was 2 mm thick (like the old one), so I glued a strip in 1,5 mm rosewood before finally cut 2 mm deep around. The result was very good. Glued the plastic binding with Duco cement which has acetone as the solvent. Care must be taken to cover the lacquer with plastic tape, the lacquer would otherwise dissolve if it gets glue smears.

When gluing back a fretboard, there is always a joint that must be sanded evenly. Almost no matter how you do it. In this case, a white stripe in the neck wood in maple that did not match so well with the greenish-yellow color of the neck. Made a successful color match with spirit stain in a mix of the colors brown, yellow and green. In fact, it was almost perfect 🙂

Added a thin layer of spirit varnish to give a little extra push to the look and to cover the new wounds at the joints around the fretboard and bottom.

Vibrated the guitar for three days and I think it sounds much better than before. The new bracing and especially the thinning out of the top and the bottom is the reason. The bottom was 3,5 mm thick before and thinned a whole mm. Although it sounds good for what it is, it does not hold the same class as an GammelGura with a fixed bridge. This one has high volume but lacks the finesse and bass in the sound. A loud and aggressive sound as expected from a floating bridge. In my opinion, the reason for this is not the floating bridge itself but the hard anchoring of the string ball in the metal tailpiece. A bit like the one time I made plugs in birch on a guitar with a solid bridge. Still think the customer will be satisfied!

Better English translations

I use GTranslate professional for the translation into English. I now have the opportunity to correct bad English in future blog posts, and will do so in the future starting with the previous blog post. I will correct most of the pages on the site, but probably not all the old blog posts!

The drawback is that the rather bad translations into other languages ​​are not working anymore, English and Swedish are the only options.