'Arm rests' on acoustic guitars



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'Arm rests' on acoustic guitars


Who's making them, and who's made one?

Mattia Valente

So the baritone body's ready for binding (went a bit too fast on this one, made a few too many dopey mistakes. More so than on my first guitar, thankfully they're not visible ones, really), and I'm in the planning stages for #3, which will be largely the same as #1, with slightly different bracing/body depth, but keeping the rest largely the same (woods, body shape, scale length).

I really like the look of the Laskin arm rest, and I'm sure I've seen other makers' takes on this kind of bevelled edge. Can anyone point me towards other makers who use a similar kind of design? Googling is proving mighty unspecific.

There's also one reference to making an arm rest of that sort in the library that I can find. Anyone who's made something like this want to chime in with a hearty 'go for it!' or 'I wish I hadn't done that!'?


tony karol

Hi,


Yep, I am the person who posted a photo essay on it. Not sure where it ended up, but I still have photos for how I do it. I made one that was a direct knockoff of Grit's method, according to a guitarmaker I have with a short article on how he does them. But it was very time consuming, and risky as well, as all the binding ledges were cut by hand. Talk about nervous. So, I devised my own version. The channel is cut by router, and the rest is hand planed/carved in after - much easier, at least for me. I don’t generally bind the side edge, only the top. Unless you plan to darken in the armrest, it is best to bind with the same material as the side. I do it both ways, and actually have just done 2 where even though the guitar sides and binding are wenge, I tinted the armrest dark brown as well - looks pretty cool. Will post a shot once I get it all buffed out in a couple weeks.
Mattia Valente

Thanks for the update! I'll just wait a little longer, and keep a close watch on the library queue.

Regarding the other part of the question, what other makers/companies that you guys know of offer arm rests/edge bevels as more or less standard options? I know I've seen several, but google's really not bringing up a whole lot of useful results.
tony karol

Hi,


The only people I know doing them are Grit Laskin, me, Kevin Ryan, Allan Beardsell (another local Canadian), Michael Greenfield (Montreal), and I saw one other in an acoustic guitar mag, name escapes me. Basically, they are pretty rare (but get lots of attention once someone knows you do them - they are very comfy). Obviously I need to change the metatags on my website !!!
Mattia Valente

Thanks for the names, I'll go a-googling more specifically. The ironic thing is that since the first acoustic I made is the first decent acoustic I've owned and played, the un-comfort of a fairly large and deep bodied intrument didn't quite register. I'm sorta getting over it, but in the spirit of comfort AND experimentation I'm thinking of trying something a mite ambitious. Especially something I'm very, very unlikely to be able to 'test drive' over here.


Richard Turner

Mattia,


About five years ago I emailed Grit Laskin asking if he would mind if I used his arm rest idea for a guitar that I was building. His reply was to send me a brief one page description of how he did it with the only request being that I send him a picture of the results. Here it is.

It's not to terribly difficult just take your time on cutting the binding channels in the arm rest area (by hand).

Grit sugested using Ebony as a binding and dying the bevel section black (makes it easier to blend the whole thing together) but I decided to use a curley Koa binding and a Koa overlay and it looks great.

Sorry for the poor photo.



Rich


Anthony Zlahtic

Richard -- you didn't save Grit's one page explanation by chance did you? It would be great to see.

BTW-great looking guitar!!
Richard Turner

I would be hesitant to post Grit Laskins information without contacting him about it first. The document that he sent me was a pre printed sheet with simple diagrams and directions that was obviously pre prepared for him to give out. If I were to post it on the net it may violate some copy write law or something and I probably couldn稚 find it anyway as I致e moved my home and hobbiest workshop twice since I last did this. Grit was very free with the information and would possibly be willing to give it out again if you were to contact him yourself (google search).

That said I would feel free to describe what I did. This is from memory of something that I did around five years ago but could serve as a rough guide to get someone through the process. I purchased a piece of (about) 1x 8 x 8 inch Spanish cypress onto which I traced the out line of my rim from the lower bout to the tail block area directly from my guitar rim while it sat clamped in my external mold. The cypress board was actually 13/16 inch thick Other woods would also be appropriate here but the cypress had such a wonderful smell and was one of the woods suggested by Mr. Laskin so in it went. I then cut to near the line and temporarily applied 100 grit sand paper to the inside of my guitar rim using double stick carpet tape and sanded the cypress kerfing (arm rest bevel backing piece) for a perfect fit to the rim. I then duplicated this profile 7/8 of an inch inside of this line and cut to that so now I had a 13/16 x 7/8 inch thick flat piece of cypress which was curved to fit into my guitar rim and would act as kerfing in the area of the arm rest. I then radiused the top of the guitar rim and final fit the cypress piece. I then rounded off the part of this arm rest bevel brace that would be inside the guitar body and glued it in place. I then put in the rest of the kerfing (use whatever you normally use for this). Then I did a final touch up of the kerfing with a radiused sanding dish and glued on the top just like any other. Be sure to mark the edges of the arm rest bevel brace/kerfing on the outside of the guitar sides for reference so that you don稚 file outside of your brace area. Then I cut my binding/purfling ledges around the guitar (including this area). Once the binding purfling channels are cut take a file (or tool of choice) and hog out the beveled area. I put a Koa overlay over this surface as I was using a Koa binding but if you are using ebony there should be no need for an overlay. Then hand cut the binding/purfling channels in the area of the bevel/arm rest and bind your guitar as you normally would.

This is certainly a simplistic description of the process and there will be a number of little details that each person will have to work out on their own. If you can cut most of the joints involved in building a guitar and are good (and patient) with hand tools then you can do this part too. I would suggest making a mock up of just that part of the guitar (lower bout to tail block) where the arm rest will go and do a practice run through all of the steps including binding before you start on the real thing (practice on scrap etc・. I didn稚 do a practice piece and mine turned out well but having done this once five years ago I would definitely do a practice piece before doing it on another guitar.

Rich
Anthony Zlahtic

Richard, many thanks for the description. I appreciate the copyright issue and should have thought before I asked. Ironically Grit lives about 7-miles from my place.

Co-incidentally I bought his new book "A Guitarmaker's Canvas" -- very inspiring and a very nice addition to the coffee table.


John Cerula

Richard I have been searching for a layout of these steps and once found a good description in the library but forgot the name of the discussion, the only thing I do not understand is cutting the binding channel by hand around the beveled armrest? I use a laminate trimmer for binding and I am stumped on getting that wierd shaped binding channel cutout by hand, what tools and how do I cut those channels?


Mattia Valente

Purfling cutters and chisels are the ideal, although you can get away with home-made #11 scalpel/exacto blade holders that control the depth of cut.


tony karol

Here is what I used when I did the Grit style swooped end armrest, with a constant width rest area (I don’t do it this way at all now BTW). I cut the rest area first with a large chamfer bit in the router table. Then using the little knife handle shown for my purfling cutter blades, and some plexi templates as guides, I cut/chiseled out the ledges.






Howard Klepper

Thanks for the descriptions.

Richard, I don't get where/why you put kerfs in the cypress piece.



Richard Turner

Howard, I didn’t kerf the cypress piece just had a brain fade as to what to describe it as when posting the description (brace/backing whatever) so I incorrectly referred to it as kerfed but in truth it is a solid piece as shown in Tony’s photo.

John, I used a method very similar to what Tony Karol used (cutter/knives and Plexiglas template) oh, and the patience that I mentioned above.


Suggestions for building a Laskin style armrest on an acoustic guitar

Jay Joyce

My wife saw a picture of one of Grit Laskin's guitars with a beveled "armrest" built into the front edge of the lower bout (bass side) and another on the back at the waist. She'd like me to incorporate something similar into the guitar I'll be building for her.

I was wondering if anyone has tried to build such an animal or has seen one of Grit's instruments up close. I only have one picture to go by, and I'm not quite sure how to approach it.

If anyone has tried this, how did it affect the sound, if at all, and did it feel any more comfortable to play?

Thanks for any suggestions.

Pat Knight

Jay, I made a Laskin armrest. I just trimmed a piece of cedar to the bout curve and replaced a section of kerfed lining. After the box was glued up, I carved and sanded the shape I wanted, after marking the position on the outside. Later, at the first ASIA Symposim in Nashville, I met Grit Laskin, and talked to him about it. He indicated at that time that though it was his idea, (and I think it was copyrighted) he didn't mind a one-off made, but he'd like to see a picture when it was finished and he wanted it called a Laskin Armrest in any written description. He was NOT concerned the ANYone could do it as well as he could, so he was very open in describing his methods. He did it basically like I did, but he completely carved the armrest to final dimentions prior to gluing it to top and sides. He used bindings, purfling, and veneers as he glued up to make it fit, and, I don't remember the wood species he used, but he did say he dyed it ebony. Grit has several other innovations on guitar structure, as well as being an incredible visual artist. I bought a couple of his original music CD's, and one song has had my kids singing it for over a year now. Go for it! your wife will appreciate it.


Pat

Jay Joyce

Thanks for the information, Pat. Did you do both the lower bout and the waist? I think I've got a bead on the lower bout, but the waist definitely looks trickier.

Did you notice a difference in the sound from the other guitars you've built? Just wondering from the standpoint of losing some of the top to the arm rest.

The only information I have about Grit is the series of articles he did on building a guitar in Fine Wood working. I didn't know that he was also an accomplished player until I started searching for information on his arm rest design. I'll have to check out some of his CD's. Jay



Pat Knight

Jay, I only did the lower bout, not the waist, although I probably will on one in the future. Any loss in sound, minimal, was made up for, to me, by the increase in comfort. I make a smaller guitar, for comfortable playing, not big "D"s for volume, and I appreciate ideas like his. I think it was originally developed on a nylon-string guitar, but even Laskin's steel strings are Torres inspired. L'arrivee influence, I guess.


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