Claescaster

Tag: guitar building

Harmony H-162

Harmony H-162, Made in USA
Harmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

I finally put the second Harmony H-162 back together. I got two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars about 2-3 years ago and it has taken forever to actually find the time to re-set the necks on them. The first one I put together back in November and that one was sold straight away. This one is reserved for a friend of mine but if he decides to get one of my Levin guitars instead then I will put it up for sale. They are really nice these Harmony guitars, wide neck, strong tone and great wood. Harmony used the same wood supplier as Martin back in the day. These were called folk guitars which is a grand concert size, the exact same size as a Martin 000. The Harmony H-162 was produced in Chicago from 1940-1971, this one is most likely from the late 1960’s looking at the headstock. Even though it was an inexpensive guitar at the time they were built with all solid woods, back and sides of selected quality mahogany with a resonant spruce top. It’s a surprisingly well sounding guitar for being a mass produced ladder braced guitar, way better sounding than any Gibson B-15 or B-25 I’ve heard and it cost a third. The neck is pretty wide which makes it extremely comfortable for finger picking. Considering the price of a late 1960’s Martin 000-18, or even a Gibson B-25, the Harmony H-162 is a bargain for a USA made all solid wood vintage guitar.

Harmony H-162, Made in USAHarmony H-162, Made in USAThe Harmony H-162 was missing machine heads, nut and saddle so I cut new ones in bone and added machine heads and some ebony bridge pins.

Harmony H-162

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

Two years ago I came across a couple of Harmony guitars, two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 acoustic guitars and a late 1950’s Harmony Monterey H1325 archtop guitar. I sold the archtop pretty much straight away since I got two Levin archtops at the same time. Both of the Harmony H-162 were in desperate need of a neck reset and were unplayable so they got packed away for the first year and a half and then in April I got around to remove the necks and now last week I finally managed to reset the first of the two. This Harmony H-162 feels a lot like my 1965 Goya T-16, but of course ladder braced instead of X-braced. These were called folk guitars which is a grand concert size, the exact same size as a Martin 000. The Harmony H-162 was produced in Chicago from 1940-1971, this one is most likely from the late 1960’s looking at the headstock. Even though it was an inexpensive guitar at the time they were built with all solid woods, back and sides of selected quality mahogany with a resonant spruce top. It’s a surprisingly well sounding guitar for being a mass produced ladder braced guitar, way better sounding than any Gibson B-15 or B-25 I’ve heard and it cost a third. The neck is pretty wide which makes it extremely comfortable for finger picking. Considering the price of a late 1960’s Martin 000-18, or even a Gibson B-25, the Harmony H-162 is a bargain for a USA made all solid wood vintage guitar. This guitar is now for sale.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sOnce the neck was reset all the hard work was done. The rest was just cleaning, polishing frets, oiling fretboard, repairing some binding, installing machine heads and creating a new truss-rod cover.

Harmony H162, 1959 Harmony catalogue
I got myself two late 1960’s H-162 so now I will start on the second one and get that neck reset as well. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue

How to… reset a neck

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

This is a project that could have been done in two days but has taken two years. I guess it’s partly my fault, I wasn’t really sure how to reset a neck so I kept putting it off. I also have a 1.5 years old daughter and she is like a black hole when it comes to making time disappear. Anyway, now it’s done and everything worked out pretty great. I steamed off the necks back in April and then I had a lot of gigs and moved house in the middle and then last week I finally managed to get the guitar back together.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I drilled a small hole under the 14th fret and tried to steam it off that way but it worked really badly so in the end I got frustrated and just removed the fretboard and got the neck off that way instead. I glued the fretboard back straight away so I wouldn’t mix the parts between the two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 that I had lying around at home. Once the neck angle was corrected I glued the neck back with Tite­bond 506/​4 classic wood glue.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
The late 1960’s Harmony H-162 in parts, it was actually quite easy to reset a neck. It’s pretty worn but the solid woods are really nice, mahogany back and sides with a two piece spruce top.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I cleaned up the dovetail and heel with a chisel and then adjusted the neck angle with a file, it felt less risky than doing it with a chisel. I didn’t have to remove much for getting the action down and making it playable again.

 

How to… carve a bridge

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden in 1968

I decided to carve a new bridge for my 1968 Levin LT-18. The old bridge needed to be re-glued anyway so I thought it was a good time to create a new one in ebony instead. I did this once, I carved a new bridge for my 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000. This was a pretty similar job, both ebony and roughly the same shape. I’m really happy with the sound of this guitar now, so much richer than with the original bridge.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968First step was to remove the old bridge with a heated spatula and then copy the bridge and drill the holes.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Then shape it as close to the original as possible using my Japanese saw rasp and different files.

Levin LT-18 Made in Sweden 1968Last step, fit the bridge and glue it down. Once the bridge was in place I could check the intonation to get the saddle slot in the perfect spot. Unfortunately I cut the slot 1 mm too wide so the bone saddle got a bit fatter than I had planned. Perhaps that gives tonal qualities I would have missed with a thinner saddle, let’s hope so. I also installed a LR Baggs M1A so I can use the guitar for gigs.

Before: with the original rosewood bridge and the individual height adjustable plastic saddles

After: with the ebony bridge I carved and a bone saddle

 

Claescaster

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The new Claescaster, my second attempt at building a guitar

Back in 2014 I built myself my first Claescaster, it was not just my first guitar but pretty much the first anything I ever built. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible either so I decided to give it second try and here is the result, the new Claescaster. The truth is that two years ago my wife was pregnant and I thought that was a great opportunity to build myself a Telecaster to mark the occasion. Unfortunately we lost that child half way through so I named the first guitar Greta after the daughter we never had. Two years later we tried again and were blessed with our little Frida, and just before she saw the light of day in early May I had my second Claescaster ready and gave it her name. My wife asked if I was going to build a guitar every time she gets pregnant and I might very well do that, it’s a great way for a man to keep himself busy during the nine long months of waiting. I will try to find some more pictures of the building progress, if not there are some more on my Instagram.

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016Claescaster – Frida, is not the best Telecaster I’ve ever played but it’s still pretty damn good guitar, and ten times better than the first one I built. My plan was to build a 1952 copy so I could be like Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards or Roy Buchanan with his Nancy. Unfortunately that never happened, or at least not as close as I hoped for. Everything was going great, I had an awesome baseball bat neck with a 7.25 radius, it was actually so fat that I had to reshape it twice, great grain running along the top, everything felt smooth and the edges were pretty straight for being cut and shaped by hand, then I got to the lacquer. I managed to use the wrong lacquer and even though I tried to scrape it off and try again I never got perfect after that. I decided to give up on the brand new look and went for some form of old and worn 50’s vibe instead, which was my secret plan all along, I just wanted to have it perfect before I made it look old. Anyway, I’ve learnt a lot for my next Claescaster.

The Claescaster - Frida, built by Claes Gellerbrink 2016The body comes from a wood pile I found in the streets of Barcelona and most likely pine. If I remember correctly it was a beam or a bed frame, that I cut in half on the length and glued together to get the width. The neck was from a block of North American maple that I bought in a wood shop here and that I had to saw by hand, which took forever. I used a 6 mm stick of wood for the fretboard markers and jumbo frets from Jascar. The pickups are Artec and the hardware is all from Wilkinson. I will try to get video up so you can hear what it sounds like.

How to… carve a bridge

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 a Martin D-45 copy made in Kani, Japan in 1973

It’s been a while since I posted anything in my little DIY series, How to…, like me previous post about How to… reset a Levin neck or remove a bridge. I did carve a little floating bridge for my Levin 65 over a year ago but now it was finally time to carve a proper ebony bridge for my K. Yairi YW-1000.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I thought about getting a pre-made Allparts ebony bridge at first but felt that it would be more fun to make one myself from scratch instead. I ordered some rosewood and ebony blanks from Madinter, it thought it could be good to have some extra at home, and got started. First I removed the old bridge, it had two screws that was a bit tricky to get out but eventually I figured it out. I removed the bridge with a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. Start in a corner and work yourself towards the middle and be careful when it starts to loosen up so you don’t break it off and chip the top, it should come off slowly and without force. I planed the ebony blank and then used a cabinet scraper to get it even. I copied the old bridge and drilled the holes straight away. It felt easier to do this before the bridge was shaped, it would also have saved me a lot of time in case I messed up the holes and had to start all over again. Luckily everything went fine.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973Once the bridge was sawed in to a good size, I made it a couple of millimetres bigger on all sides, I drew the outlines of the final shape. I mounted the bridge blank on a piece of scrap wood with two screws so I could more easily work all around with the bridge firmly secured. I used a chisel to carve out the shape on the sides and from the top down towards the wings. I got a good round shape with a half round rasp and then it was just a hell of a lot of sanding to remove all the lines from the rasp and to get it smooth and nice.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I glued the bridge on and after 3 days I strung up both E-strings and used a drill as a saddle so I could move it around until I got the intonation right, I forgot to take a picture of that. I marked out the saddle and then sawed a 3 mm slot. Next step was to create a bone saddle to match and string it up. Easy peasy, well it was a hard days work but it was easier that I thought.

The new Claescaster

Claescaster-Greta
The new Claescaster, my first attempt at building a guitar

As I mentioned before I’ve been pretty busy building a Telecaster from scratch. I have never built anything in my life so this was more of a test to see how hard it was to shape a body, carve a neck, install a trussrod and frets and get it to intonate and actually play properly. It wasn’t that hard. I would say that with some patience this could be done by pretty much anyone. Now I will start to build something a lot prettier and use what I’ve learned from my mistakes the first time around. I promise to take a lot of pictures so you can follow the whole process. You can follow me on Instagram.

The new Claescaster

Claescaster, hand built guitar, How to build a Telecaster
I’ve been fairly busy lately building a Telecaster from scratch. I really should have taken more pictures to document the whole journey but I felt that this first one would be more about figuring things out since I’ve never built anything before. The next one will be well documented and hopefully look ten times better than this first rough cut little Telecaster built from some pine that I found in the street. Now I just need to install some frets, hardware and give it a coat of paint. You can follow me on Instagram.

Casa Parramon, Barcelona

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Before and after, a Spanish Laúd, made by Casa Parramon, Barcelona

When Araceli and I first moved to Barcelona we found this Laúd in the streets, we took it home, put it in the back of a wardrobe and completely forgot about it for four years. It was so ugly so we couldn’t have it out, on top of that we didn’t even know if it was a laúd, a bandurria or some other weird Spanish instrument. It was therefore tucked away and quickly forgotten. Until recently when Araceli’s dad Marcos mentioned that he wanted to learn to play a new string instrument, or as he put it, I need something new to make noise on. We suddenly remembered that ugly thing with strings on in the wardrobe and I thought that maybe I could restore it for him. I mentioned earlier that we managed to find a really nice Spanish made Alhambra from the late 1970’s that we gave him for Christmas.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, LaúdCasa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Someone called Rosa Sola had gone crazy bananas, full blown hippie on this poor laúd when we found it

I have no idea how old this laúd is but it was built by Casa Parramon here in Barcelona. The workshop was started in 1897 by Ramon Parramon and I think he mainly built violins. Casa Parramon is actually still in the same place today as they were 117 years ago, C/ Carme 8. Now I think they are mainly building violins again but I guess they would have had time to build both laúds, bandurrias and guitars over the last hundred years.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
I stripped the laúd completely, took off machine heads, tail piece and bridge. I got the bridge off with a spatula heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. I cleaned and oiled the fretboard and polished the frets. Then I sanded down all the wood with an electric sander, this felt a bit harsh on an instrument but most of the text was actually scratched in to the wood and not painted on so I had to take out the heavy artillery. On top of that, the solid spruce top felt really thick so I thought that the sound might actually benefit from a thinner top. I glued some cracks in the top with my trusty old fish glue and then I waited and waited for the shellac I had ordered from Germany that unfortunately never arrived. I really wanted to use shellac on this instrument, both for practice for myself for future builds and projects, but also for the laúds sake, it felt like the healthiest option. In the end I went and bought normal clear lacquer, or varnish, I’m not really sure what the guy sold me but he said it would work and it did. It applied two coats and sanded lightly in between and it looks ok but I guess if I would have looked even better if I had spent more time on sanding and getting it super smooth in between the coats. I had to paint this at night in poor light and got some drips that should have been taken out properly, I just scraped them off with a razor and then applied new lacquer. I guess I have learnt a few things for the next time. One trick I can share though, that everyone might already know about but anyway. Before I started with the lacquer I marked out where the bridge was going to be and then masked that off with tape so I wouldn’t have to remove the lacquer before I glued the bridge back on and that worked really well.

Casa Parramon Barcelona, LaúdCasa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
The final result, Marcos new laúd, now I just have to string it up and try to figure out how it’s tuned

Casa Parramon Barcelona, Laúd
Update: August 16, 2014 Marcos seemed very pleased with his new laúd

Lowden guitars

I’m not a huge fan of the look of the Lowden guitars, a bit modern and fat looking for me, but the sound is very impressive. Here are two clips where George Lowden talks about different tone woods which I found very interesting. It’s amazing how different combinations of wood can change the sound so much.

“Designing and building guitars is a matter of the wood choice first, the design second and the workmanship third. All woods give slightly different tonal responses and I will often advise players which might suit them best according to their playing style.” George Lowden