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Meet the Maker: Henry Stocek

Meet the Maker: Henry Stocek

by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #62, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013



There is a host of nonluthiers without whom lutherie would suffer. I refer to the makers and suppliers of the products that eventually comprise our instruments — the wood, trim items, pickups, cases, hardware, and finish products that make instruments more functional and more interesting. It should come as no surprise that most of these folks are as fascinating and dedicated as any luthier. We’ve met a few of them in these pages before, and I hope to give more of them the exposure they deserve.

First up is Henry Stocek, the celluloid guru who introduced us to the art of turtleoid creation (see Reinventing the Celluloid Tortoise). He created Deep River Vintage Instrument Supply to furnish the trade with imitation tortoiseshell pickguard stock that was reminiscent of the color and patterns used in the ’30s. Other items are on the way.

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Little Dobro

Little Dobro

by John Calkin

Published online by Guild of American Luthiers, November 2022

 

I bet that a lot of instrument makers don't know what their hourly wage is. I came with this idea for a resonator guitar with the idea of making a specific wage. The body, including the perforated ring that supports the resonator cone, was made of construction-grade plywood. The neck and fingerboard stock was sourced locally in bulk. The body hardware came from StewMac and the machines from Schaller. The textured paint required no work after it was sprayed from the can, though the necks were lacquered normally. The rosette was made of shark teeth that I got from my friend Cousin Al (who wasn't my cousin at all.)

It was not difficult to price all the materials accurately. I timed myself as I made the first two of these guitars. I wanted to make $15 per hour, which was a good wage back then, and I probably made a little more after some practice. I sold them for $600 with no case. Everything was very business-like. Sometimes we forget that lutherie is a business and get lost in it without making enough money. —

All photos by John Calkin
All photos by John Calkin
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Quickie Sander Fence

Quickie Sander Fence

by John Calkin

Published online by Guild of American Luthiers, July 2022

 

Every lutherie shop has jigs hanging around. Often, lots of them. Every sort of stringed instrument is easier and faster to build using good jigs. If you decide that you'd like to build all of the instrument types commonly played in America you will accumulate a serious number of jigs.

These days just about all of the most useful jigs can be purchased from a variety of dealers. They are very pretty and often better-made and more useful than a jig we would bother to make in our own shop. Well, prettier, anyhow. If you have entered lutherie in the last fifteen years you may have grown tired of old-timers complaining about this, as if making all of your own jigs was a right of passage that should never be skipped. "In my day we couldn't buy a guitar jig of any kind anywhere! We were lucky to find a book with pictures of guitars, let alone instructions to make them. Huff!"

Well, sometimes we need a jig or fixture (what's the difference, anyhow?) that isn't instrument-specific, but machine-specific. I have vague memories of making a right-angle fence for my 6×48 belt sander. I still have the same sander, so when I rediscovered the jig---er, fixture---a few weeks ago I was glad to see it. But as soon as I turned my back, darn if it didn't go into hiding again. I have bumped around my little shop a number of times searching for it but to no avail.

So, today I made a new one. I remember having to shim the old one to get it square. The new one came out dead on the money. I'll claim that forty years of experience was responsible for that, rather than blind luck. Old-farts in the game are entitled to that. Belt sanders vary enough in design that I won't bother listing any dimensions. I have included enough photos to suggest the jist of it. Anyway, you'll probably want the fence to be longer, or taller, or shaped like an animal for all I know.

I sat it on a thin spacer to clear the belt, and it remained there nicely while I put on the clamps. Use the smallest clamps that will work in order not to bump them against the underside edge of the belt. Good luck. ◊

All photos by John Calkin.
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Questions: Damaged Ironbird

Questions: Damaged Ironbird

by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #94, 2008

 

Adam from the Internet asks:

I have a B.C. Rich 2003 Platinum Pro Ironbird. Got seriously damaged in shipping. The body has five cracks, in some places that I don’t know are even possible to fix. I play technical death metal, black metal, Gothenburg death metal, and all those styles, my favorite being neo-classical metal. The body is agathis. I have an EMG Zakk Wylde set in it. (I could care less about Zakk Wylde. The set, though, is the standard 85/81 combo.) There is a large crack that goes down the middle of the body from where the neck goes on (bolt on neck — the action is great though), then two cracks around the cutaway near the neck (I need to have that so I can have fast access to the 24th fret). There’s another on the back that’s spread just past the serial number plate. I think I’d just want to fix it so I could play it again. I’m not at all concerned about looks right now.

B.C. Rich 2003 Platinum Pro Ironbird. Photo by Adam G.

John Calkin from Greenville, Virginia responds:

Go to a hobby shop and buy water-thin superglue. Also buy superglue accelerator. Take all the hardware and electronics off the guitar. Mask off the cracks with a heavy coat of good car wax — don’t use tape. Push/tap the broken wood back into alignment and trickle in some superglue. It will wick into the crack. If it wants to run out of the crack into a cavity or out the other side of the guitar, use some accelerator to solidify it at the point of runout, not at the fill point of the crack. Keep trickling the glue in. Work slowly and keep looking for exit points for the glue so you don’t make a big mess on the other side of the guitar or something. Keep wiping the glue buildup off the wax and rewax as many times as you have to to keep the paint surfaces clean. Eventually the wood will be completely sealed inside and the glue will stop seeping in. It’s almost like welding wood. If you’ve been careful, there should only be a line of glue right at the crack to clean up. Scrape it clean with a razor blade, sand level with 1000 grit wet/dry paper, polish with automotive rubbing compound, and you are good to go.

I’d bet a lot of money that your guitar will be as sound as it ever was if you do this right. I also have to warn you that I’ve seen guys make a horrible mess of their guitars trying to do this, with glue drips and buildup everywhere. But unless they ran glue into the pots or something, their guitars were fixed. If this sounds intimidating, find a pro to do it. It’s not that big of a deal, you just have to be very careful. —

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Cleaning Shop, Part 2

Cleaning Shop, Part 2

by John Calkin

Published online by Guild of American Luthiers, April 2022

see also,
Cleaning Shop Part 1 by John Calkin

 

There aren’t many scraps in a guitar shop that are useful for making guitars. What guitarmaker would throw those out? But if you scale down to flat-back mandolins or ukuleles you can make use of a lot of expensive material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. The wood I threw out in Cleaning Shop Part 1 was wood I thought I wouldn’t live long enough to use. I had no one to pass it on to. After working for Huss & Dalton for 19 years and more than 4000 guitars I had a crazy amount of scraps. The material I still have should keep me working on my own for years to come.

Quartersawn spruce and cedar strips for center seam back grafts. All photos by John Calkin.
Fingerboard cut-offs for banjo tailpieces, heel caps, inlays, etc.
Rosewood aplenty for headstock caps, inlays, heel caps, laminated fingerboards and bridges.
Material for back grafts and end grafts.
Neck stock. (The fingerboards didn’t come from anyone’s scrap pile.)
Spruce and mahogany ukulele tops and backs. Mahogany for uke sides comes from the neck stock.
More fingerboard cut-offs, good for fingerboard bindings and laminated bridges.
Just to present ideas, these ukulele or mandolin fretboards were laminated from mahogany and rosewood.
A banjo tailpiece.
Unfinished boxes made of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. What? You don’t make crafty gifts and stuff in your shop?

see also,
Cleaning Shop Part 1 by John Calkin