A week in and out the shop

Not much shop time this last week, due in part to the ongoing CNC router issues, and in part due to having a wisdom tooth extracted, which knocked me for six for a good few days, causing me to hide away doing other things whilst I recovered. But I did manage some progress, so here's a very quick run through.


I gave my talk on how to get started in a new discipline to CamCreatives this week, which was a lot of fun. I took along a couple of guitars and my amp and talked about the methods I used to getting started in a practice I knew nothing about, and how I kept myself going during the hard times when it all seemed to be going wrong: hopefully all lessons others can apply to things they'd like to try doing but have been putting off as they didn't think they could do it. 

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As with all these kind of events for me the big kick is afterwards, talking to individuals about how guitars are made and then seeing people with more musical talent than me elicit nice music from things I've made. Thanks to Paul and Steve of CamCreatives for organising it (and for the above picture), and to everyone who came along!

Prep for this reminded me that I've not done anything like this for a while, and I do enjoy doing little bits of talking like this, so I'm looking for other opportunities to talk about this stuff: if you know of any, give me a shout. The call for talks for EMFCamp is open, so I submitted this one there, as it seems a reasonable alignment with the theme of learning new things you can try that pervades EMFCamp.


Most of this week though has been dominated by the saga with the issues around the CNC router at Makespace (see last week if you missed the write up of its misbehaving), though with some progress in the last couple of days. The owners have been trying to find a way to trigger the failure so we can understand how to then fix it, but without luck so far. I spent a few hours doing more test runs myself to see if I could get it to fail again, and used this as an excuse to do another trial run of the offset body in foam, this time doing both front and back of the left hand half (which is more interesting, as it has the comfort cuts on both sides). Whilst I didn't manage to reproduce the failures, I did learn that I'm happy with the design, so ready for a wood cut version next.

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In the CNC pass I don't do any routing off, just the general cuts, so you can see a few sharp transitions in the foam model that'll be removed by hand, likewise the edges will be given a smooth radius too by hand.

The current top theory on the CNC router is it was just a glitch, possibly due to electrical noise with other kit, so I decided that having been unable to reproduce the failure thus far, I'd go in when the space was quiet and do some actual cuts on wood. Whilst I still fear the machine going rogue, at the same time I need to try make some progress, and I have yet to complete my prototype neck build, and given that's relatively inexpensive wood wise I started with that. Thankfully it passed without issue, though I was hovering over the stop button on the router the entire time (which is about an hour for those interested) as I don't want to fork out another £40 for yet another router bit.

So, whilst I still don't trust the machine and the Makespace community is still chasing the answer, I've managed to make some forward progress again at last. In the coming days I'll cut the fret slots and then glue it together, hopefully with better results than the previous attempt with the salt (if this has you scratching your head, read last week's notes :). 


Of course, this also skims over the fact I had to order yet more wood since the last bit was destroyed and yet again use my friend's workshop to thickness the wood correctly. Given how much this incident has slowed me down and how much I still don't trust the CNC router I also ordered the wood for a spare body blank which I've also thicknessed, jointed, and glued. 

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The fine folk at Exotic Hardwoods must be loving my recent purchase patterns, but I'd rather have some ability to cope with the unexpected right now. I often get asked about the pricing for guitars, and events like this are part of why a single hand built guitar has to be priced high. If you have one failure like this in a thousand guitars, then the overhead isn't that much, but if you have one failure even in half a dozen guitars like this it can really knock your pricing if you've not allowed for it. The cost of a guitar isn't just the materials, and isn't just the time it takes you to make them, isn't just the tools and rental fees: for a business to be sustainable all these random unpredictable failures need to be allowed for to some degree.


Random shiny things of the week: the pickups I ordered for guitars #5 and #6 have arrived from the ever awesome House of Tone Pickups, looking splendid as always:

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Alas I have nothing to house them in just now, but at least I can double check measurements on them for the bodies.


Between being blocked by the CNC router failure and having bits of my head ripped out, all in all this hasn't been the best of weeks. I'm hoping though that forward progress will pick up pace again now.