Monday, April 27, 2009

Starting Guitar #3

The weather has turned warm, which means the garage is once again inhabitable, and I've finished the winter honey-do list (except for painting the den, which is a big job which I will not be doing alone, and besides, my honey has yet to pick out the color scheme) so it's time to start another guitar!

This one is for Clark Briggs, a church member who said something to me about building him a guitar the first Sunday I returned from sabbatical in 2006. Mike Jensen had already put in dibs for the #2, which was delivered last New Years Eve. Now it's Clark's turn.

A good guitar starts with good planning. For this one that involved more than wood choice, body style, and decisions about bindings and rosette.

I needed to re-do my garage workshop.

When we moved here in 1995, the garage had a solid workbench made of 2 x4's, and it was great for storing things, but totally unacceptable for any kind of woodworking. For one thing, it was too deep, so hanging tools on the wall was possible but not very practical. But the bigger issue was that it was too high. A good workbench will come up to the top of the hip; much higher and you get shoulder fatigue because you are working more horizontally than vertically. You can't use your weight as much to provide power; your arms have to do all the work. The original workbench was much too high, so I had to build another one. That's two workbenches, which is one too many.

I used the old one to mount small 9" benchtop bandsaw as well as a vice, and for storing tools, but that's a waste of valuable floor space. Here's a picture of the top of the old bench, and you can see how it was difficult to keep it uncluttered.

Well, with some Christmas money I was able to buy a 14" floor standing bandsaw, which was the only reasonable justification for keeping the bench. So I got rid of it.

I was able to push my other workbench into the corner, which gives it stability on two sides. I bought some cheap shelving, and was able to hang a lot of my hand tools on some peg board.

Here are some pictures of the new, improved workspace:


Feeling crowded is not conducive to good workmanship. This is the kind of space that is conducive to guitar-building.


  1. Larry the Luthier (not Martin),

    I've been trying to find in the Bible the word closest in meaning to "guitar". My best so far is "neginah" as in Psalms 61: 1, "To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David". Considering the guitar is such a late arrival, I realize this is probably at a fruitless effort, unless of course, the luthier has a better one.

  2. You're right, the guitar is a very late arrival on the musical scene. If fact, it's not completely unclear what it's immediate predecessors are. The lute is probably lurking in there somewhere, but it had four courses of two strings, like the mandolin, as opposed to the guitar's six single strings.

    Biblically, there's the lyre in the OT (Hebrew kinnor) but it was more like a harp than a guitar. Neginah apparently refers to "stringed instruments" in general and not to a particular instrument.

    It would indeed be interesting to find reference in the Bible to the guitar before the guitar was even invented!