Another Woody favorite_ clip-on task lights. In my little shop I have six of these. Some are more or less stationary. Some move around. They are inexpensive and very effective. The only problem with them is when they burn out (after a year or two). One does not replace the bulb. One buys a new fixture ($20 at Lowe's).
One final comment on 'space' (for now). The shop needs to be a dedicated space that has strict limits on visits by very young toddlers and cats. Neither understands that the luthier must be certain that everything will remain just as it was when he (she) left it. It's a matter of safety for those who are important to us and peace of mind for the household generally.
Foreword: Home-Shop Luthiery June 2020
POINT OF VIEW: The name ‘Woody’ used throughout the Overview is not a real person but an alter ego used by the author (me, Joe Lenzi). If you find this confusing just remember that Woody is me and I am Woody and we is also me (and vice versa).
Referring to Woody in the third person is to avoid having to continuously write in the first person which sounds like, “I did this…” and…”I do that”... and "I believe"... It is easier to tell the story of home-shop guitar building as if one is observing another person build a guitar. No fear, we (Woody and I) see eye-to-eye on pretty much everything.
PURPOSE: This Home-Shop Guitar Overview is written for anyone interested in guitars and how they are built and/or repaired. It will take several monthly postings to cover the basics. Experienced home-shop luthiers may find Woody's techniques and methods to be similar to their own. This would be a good thing. The methods presented here, however, are not necessarily viable for a commercial production shop. Woody has made it a priority to present the processes of guitar building for the home-shop craftsman.
The focus will on the techniques and tools of hand work and 'Old Time' methods with a nod to the value of stationary machines in accurately repeating certain processes. Woody has and uses a CNC machine but this home-shop Overview will be about tools and practices before Computer Numeric Control (CNC).
SCOPE: Simply stated, the scope of the Overview is to explain (through text and photos) the home-shop guitar building process from beginning to end. By 'home-shop' craftsman Woody means that the guitar builder’s shop is on the same heating, cooling, ventilating and electrical system as the rest of the house. If the shop is separate from the house, so much the better. But most of us do not have that convenience…at least at first. Thus, the Home-Shop Guitar builder must be aware that others are smelling the same smells, hearing the same noises, and breathing the same air as the builder. At times that can become annoying, not to mention unsafe. Consequently, the processes and descriptions presented here are written from a ‘home-shop” perspective.
SHOP: Building a guitar begins by organizing the shop for that purpose. This month (June) we will begin with an Overview of the set up of the shop itself. Woody explains the layout of his own shop which is the result of 45 years of guitar-making evolution. Of course, everyone will have a different shop space and layout. Woody's presentation is meant as a guide to practical and efficient use of space.
TOOLS and SKILLS: For the most part, only traditional hand tools and wood shop equipment are necessary to build the acoustic guitar featured here. Sources of wood, tools and equipment will be noted throughout the Overview.
The woodcraft skills necessary to build a steel-string guitar are minimal. The challenge is that luthiery requires many, many diverse shop skills (from bending wood to applying a lacquer finish). When these skills are combined in the right sequence, and with enough attention to detail, a playable guitar will be the result.
Woody has attempted to ensure that techniques and sequences are well explained and photographed to assist both the first-time and the experienced builder. Process pitfalls and alternative methods are noted, and the reasoning for Woody’s choice of methods is detailed.
GENESIS: Woody's interest in guitar building was launched by my father who, in 1974, gave me a copy of a Popular Mechanics article on guitar building (this is true). That article made it sound like one could go down to the local hardware store and lumber yard and come home with everything one needs to build a guitar. I took the bait.
After that, I began to read just about everything published on guitar making at the time, which wasn’t much. (Irving Sloan, Arthur Overholtzer and David Russell Young, etc.) I still have these books.
The Woody Strings Shop (today)
Below is a photo of the cabin Woody started building outside of Fairbanks in his first winter (1975). It took 3 years to build the cabin because Woody the carpenter could only work on it in the summer... after putting in (5 or 6) 10's on a seasonal construction job. The land of the midnight sun, you know. It doesn’t get dark for 4 months. Work 'til midnight if you want. Just be right back with the crew and ready to go at 7:00 AM.
The owner of the cabin said that I could live there for free as long as I was still building the cabin. Winter was the best time to be living there. It was a six-sided cabin with a five-sided roof. Go figure.
OK, the shop is built and set up. Next month Woody will discuss guitar wood selection, storage, and the stationary machines in the shop. The Woody Adventures will be back but on its own page in the navigation bar.
These little hangers are suspended from a 16 penny nail (sinker) driven through the drywall ceiling and into the ceiling joist above. First you find the joist and then you drive the straight nail into the joist. When you've sunk the nail 1/2"-3/4" into the joist you take the claw and bend the head of the nail sideways until it's at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the nail. Don't loosen the nail when you do this.
Next you hit the nail on the edge of the nail head so that it continues to bend almost into a 'U'. The trick is to hammer the nail into this shape without hitting the drywall ceiling (making a dent). Finally, you bend a piece of tie wire into a hook on the bottom and a loop around the nail on the top.
Woody learned the "U" nail trick described above while living in the Old Nenana Road cabin back in the Fairbanks days. We needed something to hang rope loops on for shelves on the cabin walls. These hangers were just the thing and all one needed was a carpenter's hammer and a few 16 p. nails.
THE GREAT SQUIRREL PARTY
One day, while Woody was away from the cabin (in which he was living but had not completely finished building) some squirrels tunneled thru the insulation in the soffit and got into the cabin just above one of these rope-hanger shelves (pictured below).
On that shelf was stored several rolls of toilet paper. The rope loop holding up one end of the shelf must have had some salt on it from my hands and the squirrels ate through it. This caused the shelf to drop off the wall.
Apparently the squirrels liked the soft paper rolls which were now on the cabin floor. They tried to take the TP home with them by pulling the loose end of the roll up the wall to their escape route thru the insulation. Of course, the roll just remained on the floor and kept un-rolling as the squirrels carried streamer after streamer of white TP up the walls. Those squirrels must have tried a dozen times to pull the toilet paper up by various routes to their soffit insulation escape tunnel.
When I got home the squirrels were gone, but it looked like someone had rolled the entire inside of the cabin with TP hanging on every wall from floor to ceiling. There was toilet paper everywhere! I was ready for someone to jump out an shout, "Happy New Year".
Chapter 01_ Home Shop Layout, Fixtures
& Fbx to RVA
The Woody Strings will be liquidated in the next several months. Beginning this month, Woody will begin to present a comprehensive documentation of the guitar-building shop, tools, equipment and processes that he uses to build guitars in his home shop. If interested contact Woody.
July postings of Woody Adventures that some find interesting but others find irrelevant will be posted on a new Woody Adventures page in the navigation bar. I hope this helps.
Many of the luthiery skills explained are thought of as common woodworking skills. Luthiery, however, often takes these skills to another level of working with tighter tolerances, repeatedly and consistently. For that, common skills often need to be modified, particularly in regard to the 'accurately-repeat' part. Some guitar building skills are unique to luthiery and, perhaps, only a few other types of woodworking. These few skills only make luthiery that much more interesting and challenging.
Below is a screen shot from the file explorer on this computer. It shows Woody's categories of luthiery skills and processes (Woody CATS) as they are being used in the operation of the wJs luthiery shop. All 5 years of the wJs journal postings on this website are in this collection... and much more. The June journal entry will begin an Overview of SHOP REQUIREMENTS for home-shop guitar building. A FOREWARD to this Overview is presented below in order to provide the purpose and scope of this undertaking. On a personal note, there are also a few words regarding the origin of Woody Strings. I hope that you find this interesting.
If you see a category that you would like explored, drop Woody an email.
The lights that gave birth to this dulcimer.
Circled in the photo are three Versa Vises which I brought with me from the original Woody Strings. They are still the best you can buy except they don't make them anymore (and vice versa). A good off-shore alternative is the Wood River Universal vise, Shop Fox. They each weigh about 18 pounds.
Today the Woody Strings shop is in an addition built onto our home in Bon Air, VA. The footings for the shop space were dug (by me with a pick and shovel) only a few weeks after we moved into the house (1996). Partly (as I told my wife, Cherie) we needed the shop because the house was a bit of a "fixer upper" and we would need a shop for fix-up projects.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: Woody built his first guitar at the home-shop/school of Charles Fox when he lived in Stafford Vermont. That was in 1976, Woody was 27 years old.
After the Fox School build Woody went back to his home (Fairbanks, AK) and, the following summer, opened a string-instrument repair shop in the back of a family-owned music store in town. What followed was 10 years of full-time guitar building and repair dba Woody Strings.
Being the only string-instrument repair shop in a town in which the average age was 24 and the average winter was seven, very cold and dry months, Woody stayed busy and learned a lot about taking instruments apart and putting them back together again…more on that later. That was the beginning of Woody Strings.