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White, Yellow, and Hide Glues

White, Yellow, and Hide Glues

by Lawrence D. Brown

Originally published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #174, 1981 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



This article originally appeared in the FoMRHI Quarterly No. 18, and appears here (revised and expanded) with the kind permission of that organization.

Ultimately, the quality of a musical instrument depends not only on the sweetness of its tone but also on its continued service and durability in a variety of climates. Deterioration of an instrument may occur from internal or external forces. External forces are those that come from hard use or from string tension. Internal forces are the result of the natural tendency of all woods to shrink, warp, and shift position in response to changes in moisture content. Poorly shaped parts that have been forced together by clamping pressure are also capable of generating internal forces by the steady pull on the joint caused by the misalignment.

The structural integrity of the instrument, its ability to stay together and retain an attractive appearance over a number of years, depends on four things: the choice of carefully sawn woods with a uniform, low moisture content; the type and design of the joints used; the experience and expertise of the builder; and the adhesive used in construction. The concern here is glue, although some discussion of closely related factors such as joint design and humidity is unavoidable.

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A Laminated Neck Design

A Laminated Neck Design

by Tim Olsen

previously published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #50, 1977 and in Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997



The most obvious way to make a neck is to start with a chunk of wood big enough in every dimension to engulf the entire completed neck, then simply chip away at the block until only the neck remains. The advantage to this is that there is no joinery to perform and no joints which might fail or look sloppy. More importantly, those who distrust the integrity of laminations, whether structural or acoustical, will opt for this procedure. The disadvantage is, of course, the considerable waste.

The waste can be reduced by using a block of wood which will accommodate the widest portion of the fretboard, then adding wood to the peghead through the use of “ears” as in Fig. 1.

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Two Tips on Pearl Inlay

Two Tips on Pearl Inlay

by Steve Goodale

Originally published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #104, 1979 and Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997



When cutting a pattern, Scotch brand double-stick two-sided tape is great for holding the pattern on the pearl. Just cut through the pattern and the tape; it doesn’t seem to interfere in the least.

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Gold Leaf

Gold Leaf

by Nicholas Von Robison

Originally published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #102, 1979 and Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997



Upon acquiring an old Oscar Schmidt autoharp in very bad condition, I had to learn gold leaf technique to do an original restoration. Prior to this I had always regarded gold leaf as gaudy and pretentious, fitting for antique furniture and the like. Now I use it with shell and ivory for ornamentation on my instruments.

“Patent” gold leaf comes in various shades ranging from deep gold to lemon to mottled colors. The quality varies, but the price is reasonable. A book of 20 3" × 5" 23K sheets costs about $15. Check your local hobby and craft shops, or Behlen/Mohawk for supplies.

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More Inlay Tricks

More Inlay Tricks

by Tim Shaw

Originally published as Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #129, 1979 and in Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997

 

Most published material on inlay suggests gluing the abalone or pearl shape to be inlaid to the fingerboard with white glue or Duco cement, scribing, then scraping or prying the hapless piece off with a razor blade. If you’re using 0.040" stock, this technique breaks a lot of inlay. I’ve had great success using white glue in very small amounts (about three tiny dots on the back of the piece). Let it dry, then scribe with a machinist’s scribe or a #11 X-acto blade. Pass a lit match across the top of the piece and warm it thoroughly. This will break the glue bond and allow you to slide the inlay off without harm. The glue remaining on the fingerboard can be easily cleaned off, and you can go from there. I’ve also found it helpful to rub the scribed lines with a white or yellow grease pencil, and then wipe off the excess. This leaves a very fine line which is also easy to see.