Posted on Leave a comment

Guitar 006. Prototype.

This guitar 006 was completed in record time, for me. It has been an experimental guitar in that I drastically changed the shape , moved the sound hole, again, and even shortened the scale to 580 mm (22.8″). This is an ideal shape for a travel guitar or for a young person who is interested in learning the guitar, among other things. It’s simply easier to play but still sounds like a regular guitar. The same construction principles were used as with all the other ones. Sometimes this is referred to as a “half-size.” By the numbers, it’s not a half size but actually 90% of a regular sized guitar. A glass half full is one thing but this is a guitar 9/10ths full. Nevertheless, the little change in size makes a big difference in the change of comfortability of play, especially for people who aren’t professionals or who have hand sizes that are not matching well with the “full size” models.

Yellow Alaskan Cedar, maple fretboard, mahogany sides, and sapele back, cocobolo end piece.

Comfortability while playing an instrument is the number one reason individuals don’t get past certain points in their guitar playing development because their hands hurt after a short amount of time. One of the worst things that can happen to a young person interested in learning to play the guitar is to give that poor soul a guitar that hurts to play. Adults who never learned an instrument and find themselves wanting to learn often buy a cheaper guitar to sort of dip their toe in the pool before diving into serious study. This guitar would be perfect for these situations as would my previous guitar, 005. There is a way to calculate the ideal guitar scale size for any person and that is exactly what I’ll do for you when I make your custom guitar. I hope everyone is having a good Christmas season, a happy Hanukkah, and a cool Kwanza. Here are a few pics of the new instrument.

This is probably the last guitar I’ll make for 2019. I plan to do some home renovation work I plan to build cabinets for at least a partial remodel of my kitchen and also gonna explore some creative ideas for taking out the carpet In a basement bedroom and doing a mixed harwood floor using plywood and scrap wood. Plywood floors are a thing and they look pretty cool. I also hope to find time to do a thorough setup of my fledgling luthier’s shop. Maybe I’ll sit and write a couple of posts thru all of this.

If you are interested in buying this guitar, let me know with a message. $225.

Posted on 1 Comment

Guitar 005. A new home for the sound hole?

As I was still building guitar 001, I was processing a ton of info through books and videos. One luthier that caught my attention was making guitars with the sound hole in other locations than the typical middle of the waist under the strings location. From the beginning, I’ve had the intent to make nylon string guitars, but not with the stodgy old classical guitar look which is dime-a-dozen to me (just talking about the look, not what’s underneath). That is to say, classical guitars all look the same from 15 feet away, pretty much. Think about a house you really like the look of near or in your neighborhood. It may be more appealing to you than the home beside it. But, underneath the contractor and skilled labor had to follow certain construction codes. The guitars I’m making are classical guitars inside, following the “codes” of the trade. But on the outside, I’m aiming for something a little different. If you buy one fo my guitars, you’ll definitely have something nobody else in the world has.

On the left, 005 and on the right, my beloved 001, the Binah guitar.

The reason for placing the sound hole in the location you see it in with this new guitar: the normal location of guitar sound holes (in the middle of the guitar’s waist) is a very active part of the soundboard. When you cut a hole in that particular piece of the wood, you take away a large portion of potential sound. On the contrary, the lower side of the upper bout is a relatively inactive part of the soundboard. Moving the sound hole to that area frees up a lot of the guitar’s waist for midrange activity. Does that mean that guitars with the sound hole in the “normal” location sound inferior? Absolutely not. It’s simply a tweak on your stereo EQ (remember those?).

Guitar 005. All mahogany with maple fretboard. Kasha-style bracing. Offset sound hole. 630mm scale.

In summary, this guitar 005 was sort of an experimental one. In a way, they all have been. But, with this one, I changed the sound hole placement and I made it to a shorter scale of 630 mm (usually 650 mm). That’s a change from 25 1/2″ down to 24.8″ which is 24 51/64ths (or about 24 7/8″). If I make a guitar for you, I will ask you to measure the distance between some of your fingers and with that information I can make a comfortably playable instrument for your personal hands, something that is almost impossible to find in a music store.

A pic of my guitars made so far, all together last week at a handcrafts exhibit in GA.
In this pic of my information table at the craft show, I have an “in progress” guitar 006. Stay tuned for more.
Posted on Leave a comment

On sale now at Big House Guitars……..

After a year and three months of obsessive learning, working and more learning….I have three guitars for sale in one of the coolest stores in Atlanta, Big House Guitars.

My guitars are on the far right, two up top and one (steel string) below.

On the top row of the guitar wall, mine are the ones on the far right (two up top and one below). The two on top are the nylon string guitars which I love to death. On the bottom is the only steel string I’ve made. It holds a very special place in my heart as well, being the first guitar I actually completed. Not in the picture is the one I’ll never sell, not even for a million dollars.

Not for sale. Ever.

Pricing….

Prices will be finalized tomorrow. But, tentatively….prices are: nylon string on the top left (mahagony top, back, sides, neck, cocobolo fingerboard) $899. On the right is the special “kasha brace” guitar (spruce top, mahagony back, sides, and neck, cocobolo fingerboard) and it will be, most likely, +/-$1099. The steel string guitar price will be determined tomorrow but somewhere around $1500. It comes with an Ameritage Hardshell case worth $600.

Speaking of the pricing….

I’m sure some people saw those prices and think to themselves…”Oh my God, that’s ridiculous (as in, that’s expensive!)!” Actually, these are very cheap prices for hand-crafted guitars and I’ll never sell them this cheaply again. For some comparisons, check out other makers’ prices here, here, here, and here.

I’m also sure that some people (luthiers and collectors) probably think those prices are ridiculously cheap. All i know for sure is that for now, these are prices I’m comfortable with. The guitars have had a chance to “settle in.” To my ears, they sound sweeter and sweeter with each day. They are solid, quality instruments. Cheap pricing is not a reflection of absolute worth or value. My product and brand is just new, that’s all. As my experience and skill level progress, I’ll definitely be getting much more for each instrument. So, get ’em while they’re hot (and cheap!).

…..

Posted on Leave a comment

Cigar-box Ukulele 001.

For fun, between guitars 004 and 005, I decided to build a ukulele into this cigar box I’ve had around the house for a while. It was fun, annoying, then fun, frustrating, infuriating, and then fun again. It took me two work days. Now that I know the process, I’ll build a few more and write up a curriculum with detailed notes and hand drawn (maybe watercolour) illustrations. Then, in the near future, I plan to offer cigar box ukulele building workshops. It’ll probably be a weekend kinda thing. Let me know if you’re interested and that will light a fire under me to get the ball rolling quicker. 

Not a toy. It actually plays music, and quite well. Sits upright on its own. Doubles as an objet d’art on your coolest conversational piece shelf.  $599 on sale $99. 
Posted on Leave a comment

Guitar 004. The Victorian.

Spruce top. Mahogany neck, back, and sides. Variegated Cocobolo fingerboard, bridge, and decour. Kasha style bracing.

My dad passed away in early 2018. He would have loved this guitar, in particular, given its gentle nod to Victorian era instruments. I’m only able to pursue this career change into guitar lutherie because James Thomas Hart (Tommie) left behind, much to my surprise (as he never, ever mentioned it), a modest sum of money that was enough to simply buy the tools I needed to get started, spend a week with a professional guitar builder in a workshop, and to take a few months out of life without a bi-weekly direct deposit into my bank account. Thanks, dad. I’ve never used money more wisely than I am right now.

I chose to go with a special bracing system for this guitar (pictured above), which added a lot of time to the process. Also adding more time was learning how to use new tools I’ve had to buy along the way. I’m still very much in the learning curve of my transformation into this profession and I have countless hours ahead of me as a hermit in a cave with my books and woodworking forums.

This guitar, as the others, is solidly mellow in its tone with resounding bass that vibrates into your belly and pleasant highs that will fill your space. They’re ideal for playing any style: in your living room for your sweet thing, as a solo guitarist or with another one or two, acoustically with other finesse players on instruments of complimenting sonority, equipped with a pickup and sound to play a show in your favourite venue, or at your music lesson because it’s such a joy to play. Now, I’ll say what this guitar and all the others I make is not good for. It’s not built for competing with 10 other instruments around a campfire or down at the bluegrass hootenanny. After all, it is a nylon string guitar. If you need your guitar to be LOUD more than anything else, go get yourself a steel-string dreadnaught. Now, get yourself one of these and melt the hearts of everyone you play to.

I have agreed to a deal with a local guitar shop, Big House Guitars, Atlanta’s Finest Selection of High End Vintage Guitars. They like my guitars and want to sell them. So, I’m putting all of them (except the special one) for sale in their store. What a nice bunch of folks and they have a complete luthier shop downstairs. Fingers crossed for a successful launch.

Posted on Leave a comment

Making a Clazzical guitar “Kasha bridge.”

This article is about my experience building my first guitar bridge. In the pics, you’ll be able to see the steps for this process in some notes I took from the book “Classical Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology” by Cumpiano and Natelson. In addition to the normal bridge making, I’ve had to do some modification because….for this guitar I have made the soundboard bracing in the style of Dr. Michael Kasha. Follow the link to an interesting article about him.

The first thing a luthier must do when doing this sort of bracing is to establish the location of the guitar’s bridge. Since I had no experience making bridges, I thought I’d just make the “base” of what could be called a Kasha bridge and that I’d later simply attach a factory built bridge on top of this base. This guitar has been sort of a prototype and thus I’ve taken an unorthodox approach on just about everything. To complicate matters on finishing this guitar, there is nobody out there making “Kasha bridges” (using quotations marks as I don’t even know what to call them). That should give a clear indication of how rare these guitars are! So, I’ve had to invent this whole approach. As I’ve made it through this process and now know the fundamentals of bridge construction, on the next guitar I will obviously be able to make my own “Kasha bridge” as a single piece. When I do that, I’ll post another article detailing those steps. If you are reading this and want to purchase a Kasha bridge made by me, let’s talk.

If this is your first time to my site….I’ll begin by explaining that I’m building guitars with classical specs but with a nuanced flair that more appeals to the jazzy-blues chord melody fingerpicking aficionados (all 10 of us). So, while my guitars are not “classical” in the orthodox school of classical guitar lutherie, and they are not strictly “jazz crossovers” with cutaways in the body to maximize playing in the higher frets, etc., they are like an offspring of these body styles. So, I’m calling them clazzical for the purpose of this article. Jazzical sounds too, ….I don’t know.

The bridge on an acoustic guitar, one could argue, is the most important element in a guitar’s sound. Always take care that it will not be the source of any energy loss, is one luthier’s main objective in approach to design whose opinion I respect. The bridge serves as a conduit to and distributes the strings tension onto the soundboard. I had my mind blown the first time I read it explained this way: the strings do not make the noise you hear when someone plays the instrument. The bridge converts the strings’ energy and sends the vibration to the soundboard, which disperses those vibrations. Indeed, the flexibility of the wood selected and mass determine how that energy is converted and dispersed. So, there’s a reason why the guy at the guitar store tells you “Yeah, man this guitar is spruce top, Indian rosewood sides and back with a mahogany neck.” You could make the guitar out of all pine, or pallet wood, but it would not be a great sounding instrument no matter how crafty the hand-craftsman is. Later on, I’ll write an article about tone woods. Back to the topic of bridges converting vibration from strings and sending that energy to the soundboard. Some luthiers with considerable experience are adept at removing bridge mass (after the guitar is strung) to fine tune the sound of the instrument.

Below is the set of notes and pics I’ve taken while researching bridge design and build…

Posted on Leave a comment

Slow down, finish faster.

It’s hard to take your time when working on something you’re so excited to see finished. This is not unique to guitar building. I keep learning this lesson over and again: Slow down and I will finish faster (or is it quicker? more quickly? ah who cares.). I’ve spent more time than I care to remember fixing things in the process that I did in haste, overlooked, didn’t consider, measured wrong, didn’t set up correctly (like not checking to make sure the blade is square to the surface and putting piece… and so on). Today I’m going into the shop with a sick feeling in my gut because as I was putting on the frets last night, I could not help but noticed a certain concavity in my latest guitar (the area between the sound hole and the bridge sits “below sea level” (sea level being the imaginary plane between the neck and lower bout of the guitar’s top, usually a pretty straight plane). Hopefully I was looking at it wrong and everything’s gonna be alright. But, I have the sinking feeling I’m gonna have to take off the back and address whatever this problem is, which is something, surely, I probably could have avoided if I had slowed down.

Posted on Leave a comment

Removing back from a classical, nylon string guitar.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Today I had to do something that never occurred to me I’d have to (but I’m sure there’ll be more instances in the future). I removed the back from my current build, 004. There was a problem with the neck angle (current theory, but could be something else once I get under the hood) and I also left off two braces from the soundboard (which might possibly be the entire problem). The process was fairly easy. This was for a glue joint that was done with Titebond, so I cannot say this is ok with other types of glue as I have no other experience besides with this type. Use an ordinary iron on its lowest setting and heat up the areas where the pieces meet. In this case it was the flat surface of the back glued to the kerfing that lines the sides of the instrument. The iron sits on a damp rag while a blade is used to score along the seam of the glue join. Around a minute or so is when I began seeing the first bits of separation. Go slowly and breathe and know everything is ok. I used toothpicks to prop open the back as I went along. In 20 minutes, I had the back off.

For this guitar, I decided to try a complicated (re: intriguing) bracing pattern (see pic) invented by a 1960’s physical chemist named Michael Kasha who bought a classical guitar for his son, but became convinced that the traditional bracing pattern just did not bring the sound up to its full potential. This decision added two weeks to the process because there is a challenging learning curve to this method of soundboard bracing. Not many luthiers do this type of bracing making it a rare and more costly type of hand-crafted guitar. I thoroughly have enjoyed the challenge and the process of shaping the asymmetrical, tapered, arched braces. At times I felt like I was laying out structure plans of a modernist city, like Brasilia. So…..al this to say that I have some serious time and heart put into this guitar. When I figured out that I had to correct the neck angle and add the missing braces, there was no other option than to take the back off. Huge growth experiences are the ones we remember and teach us the most. I’ll have the back “back” on tomorrow and it’ll be just like it never happened. A famous luthier said that he never became a better guitar builder, but became more adept at hiding his mistakes. (In the pic below, I’m using a putty knife to separate the back from the sides. I do this after I’ve already done a smaller, more precise cut with a small blade and I see separation beginning.)

Posted on Leave a comment

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Hart’s Guitars and Luthier School.

This site is currently being built. But, I’m gonna go ahead and open up for the world to see. If you wait to have things perfect before sharing them, they end up collecting dust. I’ll be making guitars and writing articles about the process. I’ll also be hosting guitar building courses at Hart’s Guitars where you’ll come learn from me how to build your very own guitar. The first dates are booked already but future class schedule to be added soon. I look forward to sharing this journey with the world and making some great guitars and lifelong friends.

Head scratching problem solving guitar building.