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Theo's all Alaskan build
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Author:  Theo [ Tue Apr 01, 2014 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Theo's all Alaskan build

Well, here's my starting pile
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Alaskan Birch- the rough cut material, came from clearing my land for my little farm.
White spruce- the half round under it all, was a cut out from a door in a little log cabin I built a few years ago, the tree stood about 50 feet from the birch.
Vine Maple- the stick in the middle cut in half, this piece came from the Kelsall valley outside of Haines, I have a reforestation business and used to do some thinning work down there, I carried a few pieces out of the field one day.
Willow- the pieces with black ends, also from the Kelsall valley
green spalted Aspen- on the left, every once in a while I split some out of my firewood pile, I have a bunch, but have never used any
mammoth ivory- I was helping a friend with his driveway one day, we found several pieces of ivory in the gravel, this is some of it.
moose bone- either last years moose, or one of the ones before

The wood that we have here is pretty limiting, it is for the most part pretty soft, all really light in color, and for this project of limited size. For an Alaskan fretboard, I'll go with the maple, its about the only piece of Alaskan wood that I have that passes the fingernail test. The binding is a little bit of an issue too, I'd prefer something a little harder, but right now I'm thinking my best contrast is the willow.
I'm not sure yet what exactly I'm building, that will be in large part directed by what I get after resawing. I think though, that it will likely be: 6 strings, smaller than usual, 4 piece back and top, rounded binding, and maybe an arm bevel? (I haven't done one yet)

I'll have some time constraints, aside from several projects in the works, I could be away from my shop for about 3-4 months this summer :(

Author:  Theo [ Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

I started to look into my pile to see what I've got
first giving a little flat for the band saw
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I took some slats off of both faces
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one pretty light
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the other with some color
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I got my back and side set too
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and my fretboard, bridge, and bridge plate
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I knew going into it about the knots and the beetle holes in the spruce, hence the mention of the 4 piece front and back and small size.
I have other Alaskan spruce, some pretty nice, but this is what I chose, an this is what I'll use (barring catastrophe of course), its been sitting in my shop for a few years, and I've used a soundboard from the other side

Author:  Joe Sallis [ Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

I'm interested, keep up the posts and pics.

Author:  Theo [ Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

So the 'barring catastrophe' comment was a total curse, only it took out the birch...

with the 4 piece top and back, I pinned them with toothpicks for roughing out the bookmatch into wedges
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when I got around to the birch I realized an error oops_sign , somehow I accidentally flipped the board before I pinned them as a set and never looked back, well until I opened up my stack.

So here are the soundboards, I'll use the light one, its interesting to note that these came out of the same piece tangent to one another.
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and here is the soundboard with the replacement back (from some of the same tree or one next to it as the original piece)
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Along the way I also put together a neck blank
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Now that a few of the key pieces have fallen into place and I have had a chance to think a little I have started to focus what I'm after. I recently built a 20" scale (flamenco-ish odd ball)and had in mind to do another 20" guitar which is apparently a good size for dodging knots in the pile of wood I started with. This one will be steel string and look something like this
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After a few renditions I transferred my sketch to a 1/4 sheet of fiberboard (cull lumber bin score), it will hold up better than paper for this one off guitar, there are plenty more details to figure out yet, more drafts, but this will get me started anyway

Author:  Nick Royle [ Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

What did you do about that back? Did you just flip the piece, repin, and reshoot?
Great to see progress so early! I can't start building mine for [what feels like] ages!

Author:  fingerstyle1978 [ Fri Apr 11, 2014 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Very Cool, I'm in Fairbanks as well. I haven't started my build yet. I was thinking about using a birch neck, what do you think of the material?

Author:  dzsmith [ Fri Apr 11, 2014 7:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build


Author:  Theo [ Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Nick- I tossed the back aside, it wasn't very promising, there just isn't much to work with, maybe I'll come up with an idea for it, some of the pieces are big enough for a small uke, and I have the extra soundboard ;)

Joey- I like birch a lot, I've used it for a few necks (I mostly have built ukuleles, but also a guitar with it). A while back a friend and I were into making some dog sleds, so we milled up a bunch of trees, unfortunately our eyes were for sled wood more than guitar wood, so a lot of it has been on the small side, I have milled up some for instruments, but it is not ready yet and still kind of small. Of the instruments I have made using birch, I am really happy with them (2 ukes, a guitar, and a few necks)
It doesn't require a pore fill, its easy to work. One of the things that sticks out to me, is that you really have to step though the grits when sanding, little scratches hide really well until they glare at you as you're finishing. Glue lines are a little unforgiving too, and epoxy can bleed into it and discolor.
I guess as far as local wood, I'm hard pressed to think of an alternative for necks, aside from birch it's too soft or too small idunno

Well a little more progress...
A custom length truss rod, my first, following the methods outlined in Gore and Gilet
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Some Alaskan birch kerfed lining
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And it also occurred to me that I was going to need some custom Alaskan Birch ply for my neck and tail blocks laughing6-hehe
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Author:  Theo [ Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

A little more progress...
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It's pretty close, I needed to thin the cutaway portion a little more, it was a hair under .08, should have been closer to .07, anyway lesson learned, this is what it wanted to give me, I'll even things out a little before gluing in linings and such,it's kind of roughed in right now and needs a little fine tuning.
Oh yeah, I bent the sides on a hot pipe heated with a propane torch.

Author:  Theo [ Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Well a bit more progress, a few glitches, but I'll keep at it and work through, its a personal guitar, for kids and camping so I'm okay with it.
the most obvious issue is probably the rosette, pretty bad tear out :( (soft wood and a pretty spent bit). I think it's a good candidate for a pick guard which can cover the worst of it. I considered some options, but like I say I'm okay with it. The other issue is that it could be a little more symmetric, but I'm hoping the arm bevel which is kind of responsible will hide it. There were some other unnecessary nicks and dings along the way too, but I'll keep those to myself as much as possible ;)

here is some of the green spalted aspen
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and a shot of the top
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and the inside
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hey, ha ha, with the lousy photos it almost looks okay laughing6-hehe

Author:  Robert Lak [ Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Amazing progress! I'm just thinking about thinking about mine...

The rosette looke nice form a distance. Got a closer pic of that?

Author:  Theo [ Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Alright here's a close up.
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I'm pretty happy about the color, the spalted aspen was like Styrofoam until it was soaked with CA.

There are lots of ways that this could be fixed. For starters, I should have recognized the problem before starting, but most of the solutions require time and at least a new bit. Unfortunately my shop time correlates well to presence of snow and darkness, both of which are going fast here, and I'm hoping to wrap this up pretty quickly so I can take it with me for my summer work in June. The other component is that I'm not sure I can find a decent downcut bit locally, and I'm going to order a bunch in the fall when I have recharged my tool budget and return to my shop, but for now this is the last project of the season for me (well a few others, but they are past the soundhole stage)

My son was bummed at first that I wasn't going to add a pickgaurd, I guess now he'll really get to rock it out [:Y:]

Author:  Beth Mayer [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Looking good Theo

Author:  Alex Kleon [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Beth Mayer wrote:
Looking good Theo


While a down-cut bit would be best to minimize chip out, a new, sharp, up spiral bit would work well.
I've read many times here that a couple of coats of shellac on the top helps to route a nice clean channel.
I'm enjoying your build, Theo! Keep up the nice work! [:Y:]


Author:  Greg B [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Wow, amazing progress. I'm also just at the stage of "thinking about thinking about" mine. (good one Rob ;))

I like the all light woods look actually. It looks kind of folky, and really captures the spirit of the contest, being made of wood from your own back yard.

Author:  Theo [ Fri May 09, 2014 2:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Well the snows gone here and lots of projects have gained priority, but I've managed to make a little more progress. This time with copious quantities of thin CA. I also had to raid my stash for spalted aspen, and along the way broke a tri-master blade idunno :( long story. The birch are... birch; the ground, leaves, and spruce are the spalted aspen; and the background is the willow, the trunk of the spruce is also from a spalted aspen. this will be for the headstock..

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Okay, there is a glaring perspective problem with this forest scene laughing6-hehe , but I'm holding out that trees do funny things ;), and worse yet sometimes fall over.

Author:  cphanna [ Fri May 09, 2014 8:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Theo, I think this is coming along beautifully. I particularly like body shape, cutaway, etc. Very nice!

Author:  Theo [ Wed May 21, 2014 1:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

My shop time is becoming increasingly limited as summer approaches here, but I've still managed to make a little progress. I've got about 3 weeks before I need to abandon my shop for a couple of months for some work away from home, so it will be interesting to see what I can get done.

I started putting together the neck. I threaded some brass rod for the bolts.
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Its starting to look like a guitar
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and here's a back, I think the lively back might be too much for this little guy, it's super light.
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I need to get some longer tubing, 25 feet works pretty good for ukes, but I had to supplement with a few clamps.
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I'm starting to get excited about this arm bevel, It's my first and I'm taking it pretty casually, I watched the Robert O'Brien video on you tube and will take that approach more or less.

Author:  Beth Mayer [ Wed May 21, 2014 1:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Eat Drink

Author:  Theo [ Fri May 30, 2014 4:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

I got some work done on the fretboard,
I found this piece of mammoth ivory one day, a long time ago, helping a buddy with some gravel for his driveway, He found a huge chunk, the base of the tooth I think, I just found a sliver, what was originally about 12" long. I really like the mineralized look of this stuff, I've used it as a saddle and nut for a guitar before, and was thinking about it for this as well, if I still have some suitable pieces. Anyway I tried to chase some BWB laughing6-hehe but it didn't last long
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I did get some good color though
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I also got to the arm bevel.
this was a good starting place for arm bevels, and I learned a lot. I kind of had to do one to get a feel for it and the radii I chose for the bevel, 7" and 11" , I'm excited to play it and see how it feels so that I can adjust accordingly for the future. It seems a bit big by comparison to a lot I see, I like it.
I used a pretty thick piece of the willow, I didn't actually measure but it was probably at least .08", it bent okay, but I didn't feel like I was getting good enough pressure with the tape so I added a little backup
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it turned out pretty good, well at least I'm happy enough with it
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oh yeah and the tail wedge, more of the green aspen
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Author:  Beth Mayer [ Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Theo, I missed what you used as lining under the bevel. Was it just a chunk of spruce? In your picture of the box with the top off, I don't see a bevel support. I hope to do a bevel soon....want to see all the details I can :)

Author:  Theo [ Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Beth- I used a chunk a birch, there is a picture earlier on that shows it. As I was carving it though, I wished I had oriented the grain such that it would have been easier to carve with a spokeshave or plane, as it was I had a few spots where the grain wasn't so cooperative between the top, the sides, and the support and I was concerned about tearout while carving away the bulk of the bevel.
I would say that one of my other big trouble spots was routing the curve on the side, I used an old cutoff from a chunk of dog sled runner plastic to make my guide, it was way to stiff, and difficult to work with, also only about 2" wide, not enough for a firm register for the router. I had to re-route bigger to clean up my original mess, and found my self making tiny wedges to wedge the binding tight in the channel if that makes any sense ;) I wish I had taken pictures. I need to find a better plastic for this purpose.

I got the neck together and carved, and on to some preliminary sanding and coat of shellac. I'll go for a french polish, well a quickie version for this one, I'm closing up my shop for the summer pretty soon, and optimism has me hoping to finish this before I do.
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Author:  Theo [ Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Here are a few lousy shots, but I've mostly finished. I still need to fine tune some things. Unfortunately though, everything will be on hold until this fall when I return from my summer work, and also some better photos. Among the things that I do, is run a small reforestation business, so I'll be away with my crew planting a few hundred thousand spruce trees, mostly sitkas.
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I'm pretty happy with it, it sounds pretty good for it's size, and seems to play good for the brief chance I've had to play with it. It needs some adjustment to the action, It's just kind of roughed in right now, and I'm bummed that I don't have time to really finish it before I leave.

Author:  Beth Mayer [ Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Very nice work. I especially like your headplate marquetry, and the echoing rosette. How wide is your nut? (please don't take that the wrong way laughing6-hehe )

Author:  Nick Royle [ Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Theo's all Alaskan build

Really great work! Great job on the binding and armrest bevel!
Is this the first one finished? I haven't even been able to start mine yet.

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