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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Green to Finish

Dear Guitar Enthusiasts,

From Green to Finish. Making a guitar is never an easy task, let alone starting from Green. It was one of the most interesting challenge thus far.

In March 2016, National Parks Board (NParks) unveiled Avenue of Heritage Trees and announced new Civic District Tree Trail. As a craftsman who makes my products primarily from woods, the news has caught my attention. Giving emphasis to local trees was indeed a positive move to a woods and trees lover like myself. I think their effort will appeal to grown-ups but to the youths… it might not cut through.

Unveiling Civic District Tree Trail

I decided to contact Ministry of National Development (MND) and shared my ideas on contributing to raising the nation's awareness to our local trees. It was making an electric guitar from local trees, those that would be fell due to disease or development. I hope this electric guitar will be used creatively in engaging the youths, causing them to be interested to learn about our local trees.

MND thought the idea was practical and meaningful. I was linked up with NParks to get the project rolling. After the initial meetings, NParks and Guitaring Passionately (GP) found ourselves on the same page and we went full speed ahead with the project. NParks has intended to have this would-be-built electric guitar featured in a planned event in June 2016.

Ideally, I have in mind building a Rain Tree (Samanea saman) electric guitar. However it wasn't about my preference, it was about availability of woods that were deemed suitable to be use in this project. Khaya Mahognay was available at the time of selection, thus this wood specie was selected.

Mahogany was commonly used for making guitar bodies and necks. However it was much less common to have a fingerboard made from it. Illuminating local trees was central to this project so making the guitar by using one specie of wood can be seen as a sound choice.

It was indeed a tight timeline given the building processes were from Green to Finish. Unlike purchasing guitar wood blanks from wood sellers, the lengthy wood drying processes need not be accounted into part of the guitar making processes.

Towards end of April 2016, arrangements were made to obtain the required woods for the project.

The involved NParks staff and parks maintenance contractors were very helpful. The entire process was made easy. Eventually these woods found their ways to GP workshop.

Out of the entire making processes, drying the woods adequately within the time frame to complete this guitar was the greatest uncertainty. I was very fortunate to learn from Jeffrey Yong about wood drying. It has helped me to deal the wood drying challenge.

Eventually I got the wood drying challenge addressed adequately. The rest was just racing against time to get the guitar made on time. I will let the pictures talk instead.

Throughout the process, the involved staff members of NParks have been very enthusiastic and helpful. The guitar was handed to NParks and the rest is up to them.

Thank God for creating such amazing things to beautify our world; TREES.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Featured Restoration - The Corner

A chip at the corner

Hi Guitar Enthusiasts,

It has been really a while since my last posting. Setting up a guitar making workshop was indeed demanding. I started it in last April and I am still on the way. The process was demanding, exciting, interesting and above all, humbling. I guess I would not arrive to an end. This workshop setting up may as well as be a journey that never ends… perhaps when I get summoned to meet my Lord.

Anyway, this is going to be a short one… :) I will try…

A client brought in a guitar for repair. He sent me a text message reading,"I kind of smashed my guitar…"

The incident; when he was about to walk off with his guitar, he placed it in his foam gig bag and sling it over his shoulders. The only problem was he didn't zip the gig bag. The force of the swing launched his guitar up and away. It hit the ground on its headstock, it bounced off and landed on its back. Think about the sound of "the guitar" and the expression on my client's countenance.

From the top picture, you should be able to see the extend of the damage. A part of the picture was blurred out deliberately. In fact, the rest of the pictures were likewise.

I have initially advised my client to accept it as no structural damage on his guitar was detected. However he would like the chipped area to be reinforced to prevent further cracking or chipping.

I think it was a valid request so I took the job. At the onset, I couldn't determine the nature of restoration. The first thought was to sand it smooth and flood it with cyanoacrylate (CA) glue to stop any future cracking or chipping.

I pondered as I looked at the chip. Something told me that my initial thought was not going to cut it. Strangely I didn't realize the reasons for my hesitation however the reasons only revealed themselves in my mind after I have completed the restore work. Strange but true.

Here is why; the impact has dented the corner severely. The wood grains have been forced out of their natural directions. Even with smooth sanding, the wood grains would not harmonize and aesthetic value will go out of the window. It could probably get by but that was not why I took this job.

So… plan B got the green. I took my Japanese hand saw and cut the chipped corner away. See picture below.

The severed chip fell onto the board

From this point, some of you may already know how it ended, right?

I made a new "corner" from African Blackwood to replace the missing part. It was imperatives that this "corner" be made to size and as well as finishing before gluing it to cut part. If I have glued this "corner" first, I would be compelled to work this "corner" to size and finish with it attached to the headstock. No good at all…

The risks of damaging the existing areas were just too high to go down that path. Re-finishing was not an option as it would involve a lot more unnecessary work.

On the other hand, the difficulty of sizing and finishing a "corner" first was expected as well. Between a rock and a hard place, the rock was a better choice for me.

So I went ahead in making a "corner" to completion before attaching it to the headstock. The first attempt wasn't successful. It was indeed not easy. The second piece was better but it wasn't good enough too. Only at my third attempt, the outcome was decent enough to deliver to my client. See picture below.

A new "corner" glued

I send these 3 pictures to my client to seek for his approval. He has responded positively to the restoration work. He has collected the guitar with delight and appreciation. That makes my work meaningful.

Thanks for reading!