Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2 week guitar making course with Jeffrey Yong, Luthier Extraordinaire

I spent the last two weeks with Jeff learning how to construct an Acoustic Guitar. Jeff's guitars can only be described as exquisite. Not only are they works of art, but more importantly, they sound incredible. In fact, at the 2006 Guild of American Luthiers' Convention, two of Jeff's guitars were among the final top three guitars from among more than 50 guitars in contention. Jeff's original creation of a Monkeypod OM Acoustic Guitar was judged as the best sounding guitar in terms of tonality, timbre and sustain. This accolade was conferred by all the luthiers present at the convention. The other guitar was placed third.

Jeff is instrumental in introducing Monkeypod wood for musical instrument making. For us who are located in Singapore, it is more commonly known as a Rain Tree. I was very happy to bring back an incredible sounding instrument in the short span of two weeks.

The guitar in crocodile leather bound case.
 Ebony rosette and saddle with brass pins. Beautiful grain of the soundboard.
 Details of the 12th fret inlay with leaf motif from Jeff's Autumn leaves collection.
 Details of the headstock.
 Details of the ebony cutaway desigh which allows access to the lower frets and enhances the aesthetics of the guitar.
 Details of the back of the ebony headstock fascia with Gotoh 510 tuners. The neck is a 7 piece neck with ebony spine which is very rigid.

 Details of side port.
  Beautiful grain of the Monkeypod wood which is like Hawaiian Koa.
 Details of the ebony armrest. It is both beautiful and functional. The bevel makes it very comfortable to play the guitar. The larger lower bout and the classical guitar upper bout makes the body very elegant. I can only say it looks as if inspired by God's creation of Eve. The larger lower bout makes playing very comfortable and supports the upper arm even without the aid of a footstool.

The construction

It all started with the selection of the wood for the construction of the guitar.

1.Preparing the back for gluing.
2. Preparing for the soundboard for gluing
3. Preparing the sides for bending.

4. Bending the sides
5. Fitting the sides into the form
5.Gluing the heel.

6. Gluing the end block

7. The Master showing me how routing is done in preparation for the fretboard inlay.
8. Designing the inlay for the fretboard
9. The master making the markings for the back bracing.

10. Drilling the holes for the back bracing was challenging. These braces were then glued to the back on a domed surface. 
10. Ebony Rosette glued onto routed sound board.

11. Sound board bracing in progress.

12. Back of guitar glued to sides in the mold.

13.Cutaway and armrest internal details

14.Headstock inlay design. The Master approved of my inclusion of 2 young leaves.
15.Leaf inlay at the 12th fret.

16.Gluing the top to the sides.
17. The Master showing how the armrest is constructed.The construction was very complicated.
18. The Master showing how the cut-away is done.This was another complicated process.
19. Adding the binding was tough at first. Getting the ebony to conform to the contour of the top was challenging. I had to complete the binding after a little demonstration.
 20. Completed ebony armrest.

 21.Completed Tail-piece.
 22. Completed cutaway.
 23. Sound Port routed. This will improve the guitars sound.

24.A slot for the neck is cut into the body.
 25. Shaping the neck.This was nerve wrecking, to say the least.

26.The body given a coat of lacquer.This brings out the beautiful grain of the Monkeypod wood.

27. Sanding the lacquer. This was an iterative process of spraying and sanding.

 28.Clamping the saddle onto the guitar.
29.The completed guitar during set-up.
 30. Details of the head stock inlay after spraying.

31. Details of the fret-board inlay after the fretboard was oiled.
 32. The Master demonstrating my guitar to a pair of journalists from Hong Kong.The guitar sounded amazing despite being only a few hours old.
The sound of my guitar. The master playing my guitar during the interview.