Flamenco Guitar–Port Orford Cedar & Spruce

Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) is well…not a cedar. Names can be funny that way, as Port Orford Cedar (POC) is actually a cypress! POC is native to Oregon and northern California. Even though these trees grew just a few hour’s drive south of my workshop, this wood is not exactly easy to obtain. Construction and furniture grade POC is around, but suitable tonewood-grade lumber is in limited supply.

Below is an Engelmann spruce sounboard with a completed rosette, awaiting the next step–bracing. Note the hygrometer reading of 45% RH. Even though this level of humidity is considered optimal, I believe some guitars would be better, if assembled “drier” or “wetter”. A guitar destined for a desert life would be less likely to crack and suffer if assembled drier. Alternatively, musicians residing and working in a tropical paradise may find their guitars less stressed if they were built at a higher humidity. In the case of this guitar, 45% RH is about right.

The rosette is assembled from sections of spalted wood. The source? Chunks of driftwood found in Oregon, along the foamy rim of the mighty Pacific.

Ready for glue blocks which secure the soundboard to the sides of the guitar.

Here is one last peek at the soundboard interior before it disappears from plain sight.

The back is planed to thickness, and oooh…the fragrance… quite an aromatic wood, indeed!

Guitar bridges may seem like a simple affair. Something to tie strings onto. Yet a poorly designed or executed bridge can effectively ruin an otherwise respectable guitar.

Notice those shavings of wood and bone. Yes, a well sharpened block plane is quite capable of taking delicate shavings from wood, bone, copper, brass and other non-ferrous metals!

A pencil line and a knife. They displace a plethora of jigs, if the craftsman is willing to stick with them long enough to appreciate their directness and minimalism.

 

Crisp and simple. Placing the transition from the guitar’s headstock to the neck in the right spot takes a bit of practice and experience. Just a little off one way or the other, and an unsightly glue seam appears at the transition. How do I know about the looks of that seam? Don’t ask, please.

 

Let’s make more shavings! Tapering the neck profile with a Japanese skew plane.

Ebony usually planes very nicely. Even though it tends to be a bit hard on the planes, laminated Japanese steel is quite tough, and holds up rather well. Are you noticing a trend here? More shavings…less dust!

Gluing the bridge onto the soundboard. Among the bridge’s many jobs is to gracefully resist and absorb decades of approximately 75-100 pounds of string tension.

Rope might be one of the earliest clamping and fastening devices. It still works well in the 21st century.

Let’s take a peek at the finished guitar…heel detail.

On some guitars, for some reason, a scalloped nut just looks right. A walnut headstock veneer on this guitar has a particularly beautiful figure.

Tap plates, or golpeadores, were made out of maple.

These thin tap plate slices were sawn out of a sugar maple (Eastern rock maple) billet. I find commercially produced veneers structurally compromised, and unsuitable for such a demanding application.

Here I am, everyone. My resume is non-existent yet, but I hope to add to it with each singing note, each resonant chord. To life, and to music!

See you later, thanks for making me. I hope to see you again someday. If not, I promise to make you proud. I’ll play much music, and touch many hearts.

Bon Voyage!!!

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