Wednesday, May 24, 2017

'Angioletta' Is Making Music

I've been reluctant to take the step into the 'real' exotic wood field of guitar creation for a couple reasons; one, because the 'big boy' wood can be very expensive, and two, because I lack confidence . . . not in my ability as a builder necessarily, but because my experience quotient is not vast, and if I screwed this up it wouldn't be a good feeling.  But, a few weeks ago, I took the plunge, and the swim has been great.

My adventure was to build the ideal guitar for ME, and one which would stay with me for my personal enjoyment, until it moves along to one of my sons, when that time comes.

The body had to be made of my favorite wood, Ziricote. The top had to be unusual, but complimentary to the body, and it had to deliver clear and abundant tone, so I chose a highly figured Spalted Maple for the top. The neck would be one-piece Mahogany. I chose Indian Rosewood for the binding around the top, back and tailpiece.

For months, I've been reading and hearing about the difficulty of working with Ziricote, because it is a very dense wood and according to the information available it is prone to cracking and splitting during the side bending process.  Let's understand, I'm a skeptic, and I don't believe everything I hear, and only about one-half what I see, and I believe greatly in "trust, but verify'. I, and all the other builders I know, wet the wood before putting it in the bender, where under heat, it is formed into the desired shape. But, dense wood does not absorb water easily, which could be the problem. So, how to conquer this? I drifted in thought back to my high school chemistry classes and recalled how molecules contract when cold and expand when hot, so it seemed logical that when I wet the side pieces that I do it with hot water. Voila, twenty minutes submerged in hot water, set up in the bender, pressure applied steadily and smoothly, cooked for another twenty minutes at 200 degrees, left to cool overnight, and not a crack or split anywhere. Problem solved!

If everything came together as I hoped, the guitar would be named 'Angioletta' (the messenger, or little angel).'Angioletta' is a custom-design modified dreadnought style guitar and everything about it is unique, from the mahogany bracing to the custom hand-wound single coil magnetic sound hole pickup to blow sound around, when I want to rock the house.

The raw ziricote (dark) and (spalted maple) wood in this photo has been profiled and cut in preparation for gluing the braces to the inside of each piece.

Hand formed scalloped mahogany braces, which were fashioned from a larger piece of African mahogany, are being glued to the inside of the top, using the 'go bar' rig that I built for the purpose. The holes in the braces are for cosmetic effect, but they also lighten the pieces, which lends for more flexibility and sound transfer.

The photo below shows the same brace treatment for the inside of the back.

And, this photo shows the top glued to the sides (ribs) with rib braces and liner in place, ready for gluing the back.

The fretboard is custom made from a piece of highly figured ziricote. A close look and a vivid imagination will lead you to believe this is a landscape complete with a house and trees perched on the hills in the background.  This is why I like this particular wood, and pictures do not do it's beauty justice. The subtle round light-color dots are maple position markers set into the board.

The handmade bridge is fashioned from the same piece of wood as the fretboard.

The headstock overlay is ziricote created from bookmatching scrap pieces left over from profiling the back. The 'T' logo is a small piece of spalted maple inlayed into the overlay. And, the pickup surround is also from that scrap. I try not to waste a single piece of wood when I'm creating a guitar.

To carry on the overall concept and continuity, the heel cap attached to the neck is a combination of spalted maple and ziricote.  The end plate, which carries the output jack for the magnetic pickup is spalted maple.  The only deviation in wood for the body is that I decided to use Indian Rosewood for top and back binding and to separate the end plate. The rosewood compliments the ziricote very well.

That's it for the preliminary stuff, so let's look at the finished product.