#39 Hand Carving the Neck

It has been a little while since I posted a new video so for ep #39 here is a video on my process for hand carving necks with rasps and files.

This is a free excerpt from The Online Guitar Building School, so check that out if you haven’t already, and sign up if you want to learn more!

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#38 Installing Binding and Purfling

This episode is another free video excerpt from The Online Course. I demonstrate the way that I like to install binding and purfling with binding tape and superglue (CA glue).


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#37 Making the Most out of the Robert O’Brien Mortise and Tenon Jig

Episode #37 is an excerpt from The Online Guitar Building School. This video is about a jig that I absolutely love! The Robert O’brien Mortise and Tenon Jig (AKA Neck Angle Jig).

There are alot of things about using this jig, however, that trip a lot of people up. So with this episode, I’m going to walk through my process for using the jig, and address some of the common problems that people have. I will also show you how to hook up a shopvac to the jig so you don’t get wood chips thrown at your face!

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#36 Roughing out the Bridge

Another free excerpt from The Online Guitar Building School. In this lesson, I make a rough bridge from

a rosewood bridge blank.

This includes routing the shape, tapering or contouring the wings, and drilling the bridge pin holes.

Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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#35 Inlaying Fretboard Markers and Side Dots

Another free excerpt from The Online Guitar Building School. In this lesson, mother of pearl dots are inlaid into the fretboard face and plastic rod stock is used to make side dots.

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#34 All Rosewood on CITES: What this means for Luthiers and Traveling Musicians

 

 

 

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In September of 2016, the CITES delegates agreed to place ALL Rosewood under Appendix II protection, effective January 2nd, 2017.

Many musicians and builders alike are familiar with the fact that Brazilian Rosewood, or Nigra Dalbergia, is a protected species, and that there are many restrictions surrounding the sale, and transportation of this overly exploited member of the Rosewood family.

Well Brazilian Rosewood is just 1 out of 8 Dalbergias listed under one of the three Appendices on CITES and just 1 out of 304 members of the Rosewood family.

Now, beginning in 2017, ALL 304 species will be listed under Appendix II.  The new listing, by the way,  also includes Bubinga.

Furthermore, there is an annotation to the list which expands the definition out to “all parts and derivatives.” So the list now covers not just raw wood, but finished goods such as musical instruments.

So What is CITES?

CITES (The Convention on International Trading in Endangered Species of flora and fauna) is essentially an agreement between governments whose “aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.”

There are 3 appendices to CITES with Appendix I being the most restrictive and Appendix III being the least.

Here is what you need to know:

Appendix I contains Brazilian Rosewood, elephant ivory and tortoiseshell.

Appendix II contains all other Rosewoods (starting Jan. 2, 2017).

First and foremost, none of this matters if your instrument, your guitar parts, your raw wood or whatever it is that you are selling or carrying does not cross any international borders. It does not matter if it’s Appendix I or Appendix II, CITES only affects border crossings.

For The Traveling Musician

For the musician who travels internationally with their instrument, you may be covered by the Personal Effects Exemption.

“Personally owned or possessed specimens will be exempted as personal effects if both the countries of import and export implement the personal and household effects exemption for the species and the specimen at the time of import, export or re-export was worn, carried or included in personal baggage.”

So this means that you have to check with both the country that you are entering AND the country that you are leaving to be sure that they allow the Personal Effects Exemption. And this only applies to Appendix II. So no Brazilian Rosewood, elephant ivory or tortoiseshell.

There is another exemption for non-commercial shipments up to 22 lbs, though there is debate over what “22 lbs” means.

Fish and Wildlife defines 22 lbs as 22 lbs of RosewoodThis means that a travelling musician can ship an instrument ahead of themselves without a permit if the shipment includes less than 22 lbs of rosewood. This is good news. I can’t imagine any instrument with 22 lbs of rosewood unless the case is made out of the stuff!

Apparently, in Europe, however, some sources define 22 lbs as the whole shipment. Under that definition, you can imagine how a single instrument with it’s case can be outside of the exemption… so it’s a gray area.

It may be easier and wiser to just get the Musical Instrument Certificate, AKA passport.

I’ll explain what that is…

On the Fish and Wildlife website there are two permit applications:

-One application for a one-time import/export.

-And one for “frequent non-commercial, cross-border movement of musical instruments for purposes including, but not limited to personal use, performance, display, and competition with the issuance of just one document.”

The latter is called the Musical Instrument Certificate, and it seems to me that they both take the same amount of time and cost the same amount of money through filing fees and whatnot. So it seems to make sense to just get the Musical Instrument Certificate and not bother with the one-time import/export permit. That way, you save yourself the hassle of having to potentially get another permit in the future. The Musical Instrument Certificate lasts for 3 years.

Fish and Wildlife states that you should allow atleast 45 – 60 days for the permit or certificate, but I have heard from other sources that it may take up to 90 days so apply very early. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a lot longer than 90 days, in some instances. I’d imagine that there are going to be A LOT of permit applications now with these new regulations including all rosewoods. Fish and Wildlife may be understaffed to handle all the new requests. We will see. Either way, you should apply very early.

For Luthiers and Dealers

Okay, now we are talking about crossing borders for commercial purposes.

That could be shipping an instrument to a customer. That could be carrying an instrument for display at a guitar show. That could be raw wood, partially finished kit parts, or finished guitars…

These purposes are NOT covered by the Personal Effects Exemption, the Musical Instrument Certificate, or the 22 lb noncommercial shipping exemption.

Whether selling or simply displaying at a show, you HAVE to get permits.

For Appendix I (again, that’s Brazilian Rosewood, elephant ivory and tortoiseshell), you need permits for every single border crossing. That is permits with an “s”. Plural. Because you need an import permit AND an export permit for every crossing.

For Appendix II (all other rosewoods), you only need the export permit.

There are two options for commercial purposes:

  • a permit for individual shipment
  • a permit for a “Master File”

The Master File costs $200 and lists everything in your shop. So, as a builder, you would catalog every little piece of rosewood you have in your shop, and every time you ship an instrument internationally, you ship it with a photocopy of the Master File.

Any new rosewood obtained after you applied for the Master File will not be covered. You need a new Master File for that. New master files after the original, however, are only $100.

Remember, we are still talking about international shipments. Domestic shipments will not require any permit.

So what do these permits look like?

I have never applied or used these permits. In fact, nobody has because everything I am talking about doesn’t go into effect until January of 2017. But Brazilian Rosewood has been on Appendix I since 1992, and many have gone through the permit procedures for Appendix I items. Personally, I have never even touched a piece of Brazilian Rosewood, so I have no personal experience with the process.

I do, however, teach students from around the world to build acoustic guitars, both online, and in-person. So I’d like to understand this process for them. Last summer, I had a student in my Hands-on Guitar Building Workshop come from Bahrain, a small country in the Persian Gulf. He worked there for 5 years as a contract worker and returned to the US to prepare for a move to Kuwait. While in the US he took my course and built a beautiful instrument, which he then had to trust to a shipping container on it’s way to Kuwait. Now there was no Brazilian Rosewood on this instrument, so no paperwork required. But now that all rosewoods will be on CITES, I’d like to know how this changes things, going forward.

So with that said…

From my research, it appears that a permit, whether for Appendix I or Appendix II, basically involves 3 things, once you get past all the usual bureaucratic fill-in-the-box:

  • Description of the item
  • Photographs
  • Proof that the species was obtained legally

Proof is the tricky part.

As this rolls out, the wood you order post January 2017, should come with documentation… I’d imagine.

However, for pre-2017 wood, or what’s called “Pre-convention” wood, Fish and Wildlife will rely heavily on certified appraisals. I am not really sure exactly what qualifies someone as an expert in these appraisals. I’d imagine that an appraisal from a reliable source in the vintage guitar world would qualify or perhaps experts in forestry. Luthier built instruments can include a notorized statement from the luthier.

Check out a PDF of the permit application here: https://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/permit-application-form-3-200-32-export-re-export-of-plants.pdf

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. Rosewood is ubiquitous in the guitar world, so some big, sweeping changes in the industry are about to happen.

I would like to follow up this very “nuts-and-bolts” exploration of the topic with another episode exploring the broader societal and philosophical questions I didn’t answer here. Why ALL rosewoods? And what are the implication of this going forward? Stay tuned!

Note: The information in this article is based on my own research from the following sources:

https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html

https://cites.org/eng/res/13/13-07R16.php

https://cites.org/eng/disc/what.php

https://www.namm.org/issues-and-advocacy/regulatory-compliance/cites-update-action-rosewood-has-broad

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/29/wildlife-summit-cracks-down-on-illegal-rosewood-trade

www.fretboardjournal.com Podcast 127 w/ John Thomas

Any and all statements in this article are statements of opinion, not fact. This is not an official source on CITES. For official documentation see www.fws.gov or cites.org. When dealing with international law, you should conduct your own research. This article is merely my opinion of what I believe to be true. Any resemblance to the actual truth or facts is mere coincidence.

 

 

Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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#33 Radiusing and Kerfing the Sides

Another free excerpt from The Online Guitar Building School. In this lesson, I rough out the back and top radius onto the sides, add kerfing and then final sand the radii.

Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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#32 Fretting a Fretboard on a Fake!

Gibson Fake Gets a New Fretboard

It all started simply enough with a referral from a local guitar shop for a fret job. This wasn’t even a refret, which can be more nuanced and touchy given the potential for damage to the fret slots during fret removal.

This was a brand new slotted fretboard that the customer ordered online and replaced the existing fretboard with. After the customer glued the new fretboard down he decided that fretwork was beyond the scope of his abilities and tooling so he called a local music shop and they referred the work out to me. Easy!

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Well… The first thing I noticed was that the scale length of the fretboard did not line up with the location of the bridge. Of course, the bridge is adjustable for proper intonation based on string compensation, but the range of adjustment is small, and this bridge was well outside of this range.

My initial instinct was that the customer had ordered the wrong fretboard for this guitar. Sounds probable, right? He was a young guy with no prior guitar repair or modification experience. This was the first time he ever altered anything on an instrument besides the tuning, and he decided to replace a fretboard! That’s a bold move.

A common mistake people make in regards to determining the scale length of a particular instrument is that they measure from the leading edge of the nut to the string’s break point on the saddle and they call that the scale length. However, what they are actually measuring is the scale length + compensation. This can more accurately be called “The speaking length.”

The scale length is the speaking length of the string in theory. It doesn’t account for the real-world factors of string gauge, and the stretching of the string as it is fretted. These factors are called compensation, and they are liable to change depending on how the guitar is set up.

The correct way to measure scale length off of a fretted instrument is to measure from the leading edge of the nut to the string’s contact point on the 12th fret and then double that measurement.

Further complicating things for the customer is the fact that the Gibson 24-3/4″ scale length rarely actually measures out to 24-3/4″. The actual fretboard measurement varies slightly depending on the year, yet the designation of 24-3/4″ remains the same. This can really throw you off!

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However, most suppliers of slotted fretboards recognize this confusion and make a strong mention of it on their site to educate customers prior to purchase.

So I checked the fretboards scale length with a rule and, to my surprise, it checked out! The fretboard was cut correctly for this particular guitar. The customer also claimed that he had checked the new fretboard against the old one before he removed it and threw it out, and that the fret slots lined up perfectly.

This can only mean one thing: The bridge post holes are in the wrong, damn location!

This was not a real Gibson, however. This was a fake. Gibson would never locate a bridge so far from where it should be. The bridge was outside of it’s appropriate range of adjustment by more than 1/4″, which is alot!

I should mention that the customer was fully aware that it was a fake when he purchased it, and he paid a reasonable price for what it was. However, people looking for an authentic Gibson are swindled by unscrupulous dealers all the time. The electric guitar world is full of knockoffs and outright counterfeits. Knockoffs are a different story, but counterfeits are illegal. It is not illegal to own one of these instruments but it is illegal to sell them. Premier Guitar did a good inside article on this: http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/The_Growing_Problem_of_Counterfeit_Guitars?page=2

The electric guitar world is not a world that I personally live in. I’m an acoustic guy, both as a player and a builder, so I won’t get deep into the situation and the ethics surrounding these knockoffs and counterfeit guitars, mostly because I am not immersed in that world and there are many things that I simply do not know. But I do want to say a few things, as a word of caution, to anyone who has these guitars lying around thier home and wants to get rid of them.

I would place these guitars in 3 categories:

  1. Knockoffs

2. Counterfeits sold as Counterfeits

3. Counterfeits sold as Authentics

When I say knockoffs, I am referring to these cheap instruments, mostly from China, that are made to resemble a certain popular guitar model in every way except in name and branding. For example, a guitar with the headstock shape, body shape, scale length, bird inlays etc. of a PRS custom 22 but with the brand name of “SX.” You can sell these.

Then there are outright counterfeits, also mostly from China. These resemble popular models in every way including the name and branding and almost always with the intention of duping someone along the chain of sales. As far as I understand, owning counterfeits is not illegal (unless you own so many that they can claim intent to sell) but selling them is illegal even if you sell them as counterfeits. Selling them as counterfeits is, of course, a more honest way to get rid of them, but I don’t know if the law sees it that way, so be careful!

For example: you post an Ebay item as:

CUSTOM BUILT 100% HANDMADE JUMBO ACOUSTIC GUITAR

( built in the Gibson J-200 Styling – This is NOT a Gibson Branded Instrument )

Again, as far as I understand, this is illegal. But I might be totally wrong. Either way, you probably shouldn’t risk it.

THEN there are counterfeits sold as authentics and that is definitely illegal! Not to mention, it is a really shitty thing to do! People can and do go to prison for this. And I’m not talking about the big manufacturers. I’m talking about music store owners and even individual sellers on Craigslist and Ebay.

Anyway, I am neither a trademark lawyer nor a musical instrument retailer. I’m not even a vintage electric afficionado. I’m an acoustic guy! So someone please let me know if you have more insight on this.

Okay, so the plan at that point was to fret the board and relocate the bridge.

After checking that the supplied fretwire’s tang matched the kerf of the fret slots, I added a slight bevel to the top of the fret slots with a triangular needle file. This bevel prevents or atleast minimizes tearout on the fretboard surface. Ebony is particularly bad when it comes to tearout.

Before I was finished with the fret job I noticed that the fretboard was coming off. Apparently the customer used a spray adhesive and no clamps to glue it on. The thing was barely on there! At this point I could have pulled it the rest of the way off with just my fingers! Instead I used a hot spatula to warm up the glue first before sliding it apart. Atleast it came off easy! The lesson to be learned here is if you are going to do a bad glue job, make sure its a really bad glue job! …so its really easy to take apart!

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The fretboard lifting from the blows of the fretting hammer.

 

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Atleast it came off easy with no tearout!

 

I removed the glue residue with acetone and scrapers, being very careful to keep the acetone away from the guitar’s finish.

Then, to make sure both surfaces were truly flat and glue residue free, I sanded them from 80 to 220 grit with a flat block.

Finally, I cleaned the mating surfaces with mineral spirits and then naphtha.

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fretboard and neck surfaces ready for gluing.

 

 

Next, to locate the fretboard, I have to backtrack a little. I have to remove one of the frets on the nut end of the fretboard. I select a fret that didn’t really seat perfectly anyway. I heat the fret with a soldering iron to warm the wood around the tang. This makes it easier to remove, even without glue in the fret slots.

 

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While the fret and surrounding wood are warm, I walk the fret out carefully with a pair of nippers. I do not twist or pull the fret which would cause tearout and potentially damage the fret slot. Remove it, patiently!

 

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Now I drill 3 holes for locating pins (finishing nails with the tips ground flat), being mindful not to drill into the truss rod or to blow through the neck.

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I dip the pins in paste wax so that they can be removed easily and then I glue the fretboard down using the pins to locate and hold its position.

Once all the clamps are in place I remove the pins.

 

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After the fretboard sits clamped up overnight, I remove the clamps and complete the fretjob by hammering in the remaining frets, beveling and rounding the fret ends and oiling and polishing the entire board. A fret level is not necessary if the board is truly flat across its length and you do a good job installing the frets. If you check the frets with a straightedge for any rocking and you only get marginal rocking, then the gains you receive from a fret level are marginal. The customer only had a certain amount budgeted for this project so I didn’t take it there.

 

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Next I dealt with the bridge. Anyone familiar with the Stewart Macdonald intonation tool can see from the picture below how far the E string saddle points are from the pointers on the tool. And this is with the bridge adjusted as far forward as it’s adjustments will allow.

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I placed tape over the area and marked out the appropriate saddle location on the tape. The strips of wood in the picture were shims found in the old bridge post holes. Even with the shims the bridge was very loose in its post holes and dipped forward under string tension. Another sign of very poor work.

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I found a dowel to fill the old holes with but it was slightly undersized, so I glued some spruce shavings to the outside to make the fit tighter.

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I applied wood glue and pressed the dowel in place.

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I cut a portion of the second dowel off before gluing in place, because there is a wire that comes from the control cavity to the bridge. I don’t want to completely seal off where this wire comes out!

 

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The new holes are located and drilled on the drill press with a forstner bit. It is a very tight fit and the bridge posts have to be tapped in with a mallet.

 

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And finally, I gave it a basic setup and set the intonation to within 3 cents

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So here’s the takeaway from this:

Many people buy knockoff and even counterfeit electric guitars for very cheap. I understand this. I don’t have money to blow on expensive instruments either.

Sometimes these cheap instruments are built to a reasonable standard. Not great, but they’ll stay in tune and they won’t fall apart in your hands. If you get them set up by a luthier or a really good repair tech, you can have a decent electric guitar that sounds okay and plays great, and between the cost of the instrument and the cost of a good setup, you’re not in too deep!

However, it’s also not uncommon for these things to have pretty fatal flaws like what we’ve seen here. Between the cost of the instrument, the new fretboard, the work I’ve done, and now the new pickups he plans on swapping, he could have just bought the real deal and still saved money.

Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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Posted in All, Guitar Repair, Uncategorized

#31 Side Bracing

Side bracing on an acoustic guitar is simple and structural in nature. I discuss a simple process for creating, fitting and spacing braces on the bent sides of your guitar.

 
Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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#30 Creating a Headstock Template

In this excerpt from the Online Course, I demonstrate a practical method for creating a headstock template, whether copying your peghead design from plans or designing your own.
Creating a simple Martin style paddle shape certainly simplifies things. However, I demonstrate a more interesting design incorporating long symmetrical curves.

Was this useful? I would love to hear your questions or comments! I try to answer every e-mail I receive, so please be patient with me :) eric@ericschaeferguitars.com

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