Greeting from Bill Boxer, Sr. V.P.
The Apollo Team will be at the
International Woodworking Fair
Georgia World Congress Center, August 24-27
Meet Chip Wade August 25th, 10-12, booth 5453
IWF 2016 is the largest showcase of machinery, supplies and services in the Western Hemisphere for woodworking. There are thousands of products and innovations displayed and demonstrated live. It’s by far the most exciting event for woodworkers. August 25th we are hosting a special guest in our booth #5453.
Master woodworker and television star, Chip Wade will meet and greet, sign autographs, and be photographed with our woodworkers from 10-12pm. Chip has appeared on HGTV’s Curb Appeal, The Block, HGTV’s Showdown, HGTV’s Design Star, HGTV’s Elbow Room, Ellen’s Design Challenge, Oprah, and CNN. Attendees who come to our booth and wish us “Happy Birthday” will receive a free Blow Off Tool.
It’s Our Golden Anniversary
We needed something Beautiful & Gold,
so we produced our
Gold Spray Gun
It’s a limited edition of the award winning 7500 Atomizer HVLP Turbospray gun.
There are only 500 of these beautiful GOLD Color Spray Guns being produced.
While supplies last, all POWER, PRECISION and PRODUCTION Series systems will ship
with the GOLD Anniversary Spray Gun or you can purchase.
From the Apollo Archive-mini dress and boots means it’s the eighties!
Special of the Month
Featured Article: by Josh Stotler
Extraordinary Luthier Josh Stotler won First Prize
in the Musical Instrument category at the Design in Wood Show in San Diego.
Josh answers questions about his work.
How did you begin making guitars?
I began making guitars in 1995, when I was in high school in rural San Diego. Many of my friends were playing instruments and I wanted to as well. I wanted a guitar, a bass guitar. The only problem was that I couldn’t afford one. I thought about it a little while and the notion that I could build one began to take over my thoughts. This may sound completely normal to some of you, but I was 14, having never taken a wood working class, didn’t have any power tools nor the proprietary knowledge I needed to build a guitar. Fortunately, I was young and unstoppable, and I did it anyway. I built a “viola” bass guitar, mostly from hardware store wood and found parts. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t much to behold, but I made it and it played pretty well. From then on, I had the bug. It just wouldn’t surface again for many years.
Me and my Viola Bass circa 1996
What inspires you?
I could talk for hours on this question. Overall, music inspires me. I love music. That’s where my love of guitars stems from. I’m not a great musician, but I found out early that I’m a pretty good wood worker, so I use my true talent to provide instruments for people that can really play. When I’m working on a guitar, or should I say when I’m in the planning phase, I take inspiration from EVERYWHERE! I’ll take pictures of architectural lines that strike me, an art deco door knob, a wrought iron design, really, anything that catches my eye that I think I can incorporate into the instrument.
A huge influence in what I choose to build comes from the annual theme chosen by the San Diego County Fair committee. I enter a themed instrument in the Design in Wood show every year for the past four years. I have a lot of fun using their theme choice as a base for a completely custom and original guitar. Some of my past themed instruments have been a Monopoly themed electric guitar, a Beatles themed Acoustic Bass, a 1915 style parlor guitar celebrating San Diego’s Balboa Park and Panama California Exposition and most recently, an Alice in Wonderland themed acoustic guitar featuring over 300 individual pieces of inlay.
Balboa Park Guitar
How do you choose the shape of an instrument?
Shape is one of the very first decisions when I am building an instrument. I tend to go with a larger bodied super jumbo acoustic shape, like that of a Gibson J-200. That gives me a lot of guitar to work with and also provides a nice big sound chamber to give the guitar a powerful voice. If the guitar is to be a period piece or some original shape, then I will do my research to make sure I get exactly what I’m looking for without compromising sound.
How do you control the sound? How do you know a design will sound right?
There are so many variables that effect the sound of an instrument; wood selection, how the neck is attached, bracing design, type of finish, strings used… the list goes on and on. I would say that aside from the type of wood used, the bracing pattern has the second largest effect on the sound of an instrument. There are numerous designs and patterns for bracing and they all have an enormous influence on how sound reverberates inside the instrument. As for achieving a desired sound, Luthiers use select species of woods referred to as “tone woods”. These are light weight, hard woods that have been proven time and again for musical instrument construction. A few of these woods are Spruce, Mahogany, Maple, Wenge and Ash.
These woods all have specific characteristics that make a guitar sound the way it does. With the right selection of wood, attention to detail in construction and the right bracing pattern, you are well on your way to having an instrument that will sound exactly as you envisioned.
What is bracing?
Bracing is the internal structure of wooden spines that gives the guitar top and back strength. I use a modified “X” bracing pattern on my soundboard (the top) and a simple but effective ladder bracing on the back that is used by many top Luthiers and Guitar manufacturers. This is a proven design that when properly shaped, help produce optimal tone from the instrument.
Latice bracing on the Back of the
Alice in Wonderland guitar
What sound are you looking for?
I want an instrument that is a chameleon, I want it to be able to belt out rhythm for a classic rock song, I also want it to play delicately and clear for an instrumental solo. I want the best of both worlds. I want someone to be able to pick up any of my guitars and no matter what genre they play, want them to be pleased. There are times when I will build to a specific tonal request for the artist, but for the most part, I build a workhorse that will play clean and bright and that will satisfy most musicians out there.
Are there shapes that work best?
There are infinite shapes, depths, sizes and body styles. I think if you play enough guitars, you will begin to figure out what you enjoy, what sound you like, what neck thickness you like, what fret size, what type of strings. It’s all a matter of preference to each individual artist. I build the best guitar I can, one that I can be proud to say “sure, go ahead and play it, tell me what you think”. My guitars might not be right for everyone, but I hope each one will be right for one person.
How do you prepare the wood?
Most of the wood I use is rough when I get it, meaning that it is a log, sometimes with bark or a “live edge”. I first check each piece to ensure there is no metal lodged in the wood (nails, staples, barbed wire, bullets etc.) I then re-saw those logs into usable slabs for electric guitars or into thinner backs, tops and sides for acoustics. I use almost all the wood I cut, not much waste in my shop. I will use the smaller off cuts to make bracing and the pieces too small for anything else will go into the inlay bin for future use. All wood is dried before it is milled, this ensures that the wood is stable and won’t warp or twist after it is cut. I make sure the blanks are clean and free of any oils or wax. This can be troublesome when it comes time to apply finish.
What are your favorite woods?
I build one of a kind heirloom instruments. That being said, I love highly figured woods that have a quilted pattern, birdseye figuring, tiger stripes, burl, strong grain patterning figuring that catches the eye. These are the special pieces that I am always on the look out for. I could find a piece of wood and hold on to it for years, just waiting for the perfect application. Wood has a personality, and it’s so much fun to keep an open mind and let the wood do some of the design work. Figured hard woods tend to be very tricky to bend and are not right for every instrument. There are times when less is more, and that’s when I rely on some of the traditional woods that are used for instrument making; mahogany, ash, wenge, maple, spruce. These are the woods that have been used to build some amazing guitars for decades and that tradition continues.
How do you bend the wood?
To achieve my bent sides, I use a type of bending machine. Don’t let the name fool you, it is all man powered. I take the sides, moisten them with a spray bottle, wrap them in parchment paper and put a thin metal backing on the top and bottom (to prevent tear out and splitting), along with an electronically controlled heating blanket. I’m then ready to lay the flat wood pieces into the bending machine and let the heat do the work. This machine has a form that is the shape of half the guitar. As the wood begins to relax, because of the steam, I apply more and more pressure to the piece with specially designed clamps, gently allowing it to contour to the shape I desire. Every time I bend a side, it still amazes me. When the side is bent I turn off the heat and let the piece cool in the form, preventing expansion or “spring back” and keeping the side as close to the shape I need as possible. I do that for both sides and then I’m ready to start the assembly process. This is a huge improvement from how I previously bent sides. The old method involves the use of a hot pipe and lots of patience to achieve the bend. A method that some Luthiers still prefer to this day. I welcome the use of the bending machine, it allows me more control over the speed in which I bend, quality and consistency of the final product.
What finishes do you use?
I have experimented with quite a few finishes. I have been happy with the results I’m achieving with a ready to spray lacquer made by Dupli-Color. It’s designed for automotive use and is very thin, so I have to make sure I have done the very best job of grain filling and sanding before I apply my final coats of clear. I apply 15-20 coats of clear and then let the guitar sit while the lacquer cures.
How do you apply the finish?
I use a self-contained HVLP system or high volume low pressure. This system has worked well for me over the years. I have tried spraying with cans and compressors and ultimately have stayed with HVLP. I can finely adjust my spray volume and get the results I am looking for.
What is your sanding process? Where do you start? How high do you go?
After applying grain filler, I sand with 220 grit to ensure a smooth level surface. I then spray my clear coats and let the guitar rest for approximately a week. with the proper prep work, the clear coat should go on relatively smooth with minimal orange peel. I start with 220 grit paper and sand the entire body and neck, taking care around the corners so I don’t sand off the finish entirely. Something that is VERY easy to do. I then sand using 300, 400, 500, 600, 700 and eventually 800 grit. By now you can feel that the finish is smooth and there should be no dimples or high spots.
I then move to wet sanding with 1000 grit. The wet sanding allows for a finer finish and the water carries away the sanding dust, reducing scratches and swirling. I then sand with 1500, then 2000 grit, all with automotive grade sand paper. I find that with cheaper sand paper, the quality control just isn’t there, allowing for small stones from coarser grits to find their way on to the finer papers, resulting in nasty scratches that require more sanding and sometimes a step back in the whole process. Spend the money and buy the automotive sand paper, it’s well worth the result. After the clear coat is sanded to 2000, it’s time to take the guitar to the flannel wheel buffer. I start with a fine grit paste to buff out any swirls and give the clear coat a nice glossy finish, I then move over to the extra fine grit wheel and buff it out to a glass like finish.
Josh on the buffing wheel
Alice, The shine of a great finish.
Do you design the artwork?
Most of the artwork you see is designed by me. There are few exceptions, like the Monopoly guitar. The Hasbro corporation was kind enough to grant me permission to use the Monopoly theme and design for my guitar, so that was a real thrill for me to be able to incorporate an icon like that into one of my instruments. Most everything else is designed and executed by me. I have been known to take over our dining room table for weeks during the design process, sketching and pouring over source material. After I figure out what I’m putting and where, it’s time to cut the inlay.
My drawing of what I wanted for my fretboard inlay
next to the actual inlayed piece.
What is the inlay process?
Now we’re talking about my favorite part of the whole process, the inlay. Inlay may look impossible, but it’s really not. I have been inlaying for over 10 years and my designs are pretty intricate, but I started off pretty simple. Let me use an easy to picture shape as the basis for my explanation. Let’s inlay a star into the headstock of a banjo. I start off with my drawing of the star at a 1=1 scale. I’ll make a few copies of this and well get started. I choose my material that the inlay will be, in this case, I want abalone. I cut out one of the copies of the star and glue it to the abalone using white glue. I then use a very fine bladed jewelers saw to cut the star out. Once this is done, I sand the edges and make sure the sides are flat and smooth.
Then, with an X-acto knife, scribe the shape of the star onto the headstock using the cut out as a template. Now I use a Foredom rotary tool, which is a very small router, to cut out the shape of the star in the wood. After I’m done with that, I test fit the abalone piece to the cavity I just cut out. If everything is done accurately, the star should fit snugly in the cavity. After that, it’s just a matter of gluing it in using a very strong epoxy. This process works for anything you want to inlay and can be as simple or intricate as you like. My advice is practice with scraps. That way if you mess up, it really didn’t cost anything but time.
Fretboard routed out and awaiting cut pieces of inlay.
If you love what you do, it will show in the quality of your work. Just remember that with any project, patience and prep work are paramount, especially finishing. Following all the steps and completing them thoroughly when it will give you an amazing finish that will shine like you never imagined. it may sound counter intuitive, but a beautiful finish is 90% about the sanding.
There will be setbacks along the way, you WILL sand through your clear coat in spots, or the buffing wheel will catch the edge of your project and throw it to the ground. Use these as learning experiences and you will get better. Just don’t give up. Also, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of whatever medium you work with. Experiment, try a new design, just don’t feel like you have to do things a certain way because that’s how you learned, or that’s “how it’s done”.
To learn more about Josh’s techniques, CLICK HERE.
Q&A-our readers ask:
Q. When I spray my finish I am getting a heavier pattern on one side than on the other.
A. There are two possible causes for an uneven spray pattern. The air cap might be clogged or the nozzle might be clogged.
Soak them is lacquer thinner or acetone. If you have a compressor blow it out. If not use a thin pick to make sure. Be really careful using a pick. You could cause damage.
If the problem persists, the holes might be damaged and you need to replace the needle, nozzle of buy a new set.
Take a Break and Have Some Fun!
See how many words you can find. Look for words horizontally and vertically. You can print this page, including the puzzle, work offline and then highlight words as you find them.
CHIP WADE AT IWF 2016