Monthly archives: January 2015

Different Gauge Strings on Acoustic Guitar


This is a topic that could have many different opinions. The decision is normally what gauge strings to use. I am going to discuss the basic differences and effects of the different gauges.

It is often said that a guitar is made for a certain gauge string and if you change the gauge, from say a medium gauge to a light gauge, changes take place, like your action gets higher - this is to a certain extent true. The action will change, here is the reason:

In guitar making, when a guitar is made and finished, it is set up for the gauge strings that are put on at the time of set up. There are predominantly three gauges;  light, medium and heavy (you can for example, get variations like medium light). With a light gauge, the strings are thinner and you do not have to put as much tension on the string to tune it, hence, it bends, or frets easier, you do not have to push as hard, making it easier to play. DSCF0855I you go to the extreme and put a heavy gauge on, you have to put more tension on the string to get it to tune, now when you play, you have to push much harder to fret the string. With the heavier gauge string and the increased tension, there is now more stress on the neck, in other words, because of the increased tension, the heavier strings will cause the neck to bend more toward the body creating more of a bow and thus causing the action to be higher and probably affect the intonation. This does not mean that the guitar was not built for this and that it will cause damage. It means that the guitar was made well, it will need to be set up for that gauge of strings. On my course on guitar making, you learn how to set up a guitar and then will be able to adjust your guitar should you change the string gauge. If you are not sure how to do this send your guitar to a Luthier and ask him to do the change and adjust the set up.

Why then use different gauge strings?

The different gauges result in different sounds. A lighter gauge will be easier to play and will produce a brighter sound. A heavier gauge will require more tension, will be harder to play, and will have a more full sound. The medium gauge gives the best of both. The main thing to worry about is how hard you play the guitar. If you strum very hard, you will probably want heavier strings, and if you have a lighter touch, you will probably like lighter strings. . Bending strings requires more strength, the more it will cut into non-calloused finger with thicker strings, but the sound tends to be fuller and heavier. Light strings are easier to play leads with and can still give a guitarist a very strong sound.

To hear the difference that a thicker string won't sound as bright try this:- Play something on the high E and compare five frets up on the B string, then another four on the G string, and you'll hear that difference.

This is just one of the many interesting aspects that make a guitar the special instrument that it is.


Understanding Baboons

This topic has very little to do with guitar making........ We enjoy living near nature, sometimes near a forest, near mountains, near water. This adds to our quality of life. When we live in these privileged conditions we are also encroaching on the nature we want to be part of and we should be tolerant of all of that nature, even that part of nature that poses a bit of inconvenience. The nature was there first and we should respect all of it. One of the inconveniences we sometimes experience is Baboons and humans are extremely intolerant possibly because of our lack of understanding.

Understanding Baboons


Baboon troops vary in size from 12 to 150 individuals sometimes splitting into sub-troops as they forage for food. They form an integral part of the ecology of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, foraging from the coastline to the tops of our highest mountain ranges, dispersing seeds and bulbs as they go. The core of the troop is made up of females: mothers along with their babies and juveniles, grandmothers and sisters.Baboon 2 Dominant femalesa inherita their social status in the baboon hierarchy from their mothers. In natural conditions, there is one adult male to every three or four adult females in the wild - males move between troops and suffer higher mortality from predators when on their own, or from injuries sustained from males when attempting to join a new troop.

The Urban Baboon

Humans have encroached on natural areas as towns expand. With urban sprawl comes animal conflict as the latter are displaced and make for uneasy neighbours. Baboon troops that live close to urban areas have fewer adult males than undisturbed troops. The lack of natural predators suggests that the males are being killed as a result of direct conflict with humans. Lone dispersing males are often seen as a rogues and are treated as a threat to humans. It is important to realise that lone males reflect the natural movement of the males between troops which is naturea's way of preventing inbreeding, as males do not mate with their mothers, sisters or aunts. Killing males within troops has much wider implications, for it opens the door for new males to immigrate into the troop. When this happens the new male typically kills the previous males offspring. One study of an urban troop reported that 53% of all infants born, died within their first year. It was suspected that most of these deaths were due to infanticide. The males engage in this shocking behaviour because without the cost of nursing an infant, females quickly come into oestrus and he is thus able to mate with her sooner than had she raised her infant.

The Alpha Male

The troop is lead by the most dominant adult male- known as the alpha male. A mature male baboon weighs up to 40 kg. He is extremely protective over the females and infants within the troop and jealously guards his right to mate with receptive females when they are at the height of their oestrus cycle. He can be a very tender father to his offspring and a formidable fighter against other males hoping to take over his position in the troop. Baboon 1The males yawn to show off their canine teeth to other males and their loud wahoo bark is also
a form of communicating their strength and social position to others.
Injury and Death of baboons
Baboon numbers in certain troops are declining at an alarming rate.
They suffer many injuries and deaths - if the death rate continues at the present pace, the viability of the population will be threatened.
> Hurting the animals solves nothing.
> Pain deterrents are ineffective if animals can still secure the rich rewards of easy food.

Only correct management and strict control will eventually pay off. Baboons have to learn - after many, many years of raiding that humans no longer offer easy food. This vital change is only possible
if every human plays a part in the management process. Hopefully a peaceful legacy will be passed on to future generations of humans and baboons.

Neck Joints in Guitar Making

Although its mechanics are invisible on most acoustic guitars, the neck joint in guitar making provides fodder for endless discussions among musicians and luthiers.Three designs and their variations dominate acoustic guitar construction - dovetail, the mortise and tennon and the bolt-on.All three approaches are found on guitars of all price and quality levels.

A dovetail neck joint is a traditional woodworker's joint. On a guitar, the usually the tapered dovetail is used it takes the form of a V-shaped (the tapir) , flared tenon on the neck's heel, which is fitted into a matching mortise in the body's neck block. DSCF9907Properly fitted, a tapered dovetail joint is very strong and lightweight, as well as, the way the joint is constructed, the gluing area is increased somewhat and the way it fits. results in a very reliable, stable and strong joint. The fact that it offers a larger area of direct wood-to-wood contact between the neck and the body, it positively affects a guitar's tonal properties.

The bolt-on approach uses hardware to attach the neck to the body. In most cases, the bolts run parallel to the fingerboard and pass through the neckblock, meeting threaded inserts in the neck's heel. Some designs also bolt the fingerboard extension to the top of the body. The biggest advantage to a bolt-on neck is that it makes repairs and adjustments very easy, because the neck can be removed without any complicated procedures.

The mortise and tennon joint that consists of a tennon that would be cut on the neck, that is straight, Guitar Makingwith no tapirs or angles that fits into a mortice that would be the 'square hole' that would be cut into the neck block. This, in the more traditional construction,would be locked in by putting a pin through the joint inside the guitar through the neck block. This too, could make repairing or adjusting easier as it could make the removal of the neck easier. This and the bolt on rely on good workmanship to ensure a good reliable joint


The Mighty Californian Redwoods

Although the Californian Redwoods are not a preferred wood used in guitar making, I thought I would share some interesting facts about these amazing trees. Like most trees in the past and also present, forests all over he world have been raped and abused for so called 'economic' reasons.The photos below were before preservation was a real problem, but the felling of these magnificent trees at that time sparked concern and activists began to take action.

The redwood tree became California's official state tree in 1937.Redwoods 1 There are two species of the California redwood: the coast redwood and the giant sequoia. These evergreen trees are the tallest trees in the world and can live for more than 2,200 years.

Location History


Redwood trees existed before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.Redwood 5 The redwoods used to grow all over the northern hemisphere, including the Arctic, but now grow naturally on the Pacific Coast of the United States. Many of these trees are now found in protected areas, such as parks and forests. The foggy, humid conditions coupled with moderate temperatures is what allows the California redwood trees to flourish in the area. The trees grow tall and straight and thrive in the mountainous regions of the coast.

Species Difference


Although the coast redwood and the giant sequoia are in the same family, the trees have several differences. Redwood 2The coast redwoods grow much taller than the sequoia trees, but the sequoias are much larger in diameter. The coast redwoods live considerably longer; some remain standing after more than 2,000 years. The average life of sequoias is 600 years.



The California redwoods, which can reach 350 feet, are the tallest trees in the world. The tallest known redwood, named Hyperion, stands 378 feet tall and was found in 2008. Hyperion is in Redwood National Park, near Eureka, California.



The redwood trees are evergreen trees with long, straight needles. At the canopy of the tree, the needles are about 1 inch in length and green. The trees are both male and female because they produce both cones. The male cones are oblong shaped and the females are egg shaped. The trees reproduce sexually and asexually. Redwoods reproduce asexually by sprouting on tree stumps. The bark can be up to 1-foot thick and appears gray in color as it ages. The reddish brown color appears on newly exposed bark.



The California redwood trees lumber is resistant to decay, mold and fire. Redwood 3This makes the beautiful redwood lumber valuable timber to be used for railroad ties, decking and furniture. The redwood trees are successfully cultivated for lumber in other sections of the world, such as Texas, New Zealand and Italy.


Redwood 4

Julia Lorraine Hill (known as Julia "Butterfly" Hill, born February 18, 1974) is an American environmental activist and tax redirection advocate. She is best known for having lived in a 180-foot (55m)-tall, roughly 1500-year-old California Redwood tree (age based on first-hand ring count of a slightly smaller neighboring ancient redwood that had been cut down) for 738 days between December 10, 1997 and December 18, 1999. Hill lived in the tree, affectionately known as "Luna", to prevent Pacific Lumber Company loggers from cutting it down. The redwood was 1,000 years old. Hill came down only after she and other organizations negotiated a pact with the Pacific Lumber Company. Luna, and 3 acres surrounding the tree, continue to be protected from destruction because of the pact.She is the author of the book The Legacy of Luna and co-author of One Makes the Difference. She is a vegan.

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History of the Classical Guitar

In Guitar making it is always interesting to find out more about when and where did this all start.

Classical guitars -also known as Spanish guitars are typically strung with nylon strings, plucked with the fingers, played in a seated position and are used to play a diversity of musical styles including classical music. DSCF0547The classical guitar's wide, flat neck allows the musician to play scales, arpeggios, and certain chord forms more easily and with less adjacent string interference than on other styles of guitar. Flamenco guitars are very similar in construction, but are associated with a more percussive tone. Below is some history of the Classical guitar I found,for those who are interested

Illustration in a Carolingian psalter from the 9th century showing an instrument of the chordophone family, most probably a lute

Before the development of the electric guitar and the use of synthetic materials, a guitar was defined as being an instrument having "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides" The term is used to refer to a number of chordophones that were developed and used across Europe, beginning in the 12th century and, later, in the Americas. A 3,300-year-old stone carving of a Hittite bard playing a stringed instrument is the oldest iconographic representation of a chordophone.

The modern word guitar, and its antecedents, has been applied to a wide variety of chordophones since classical times and as such causes confusion. The English word guitar, the German Gitarre, and the French guitare were adopted from the Spanish guitarra.

The term guitar is descended from the Latin word cithara but the modern guitar itself is generally not believed to have descended from the Roman instrument. Many influences are cited as antecedents to the modern guitar. Although the development of the earliest "guitars" is lost in the history of medieval Spain, two instruments are commonly cited as their most influential predecessors, the European lute and its cousin, the four-string oud -the latter was brought to Iberia by the Moors in the 8th century.

A guitarra latina (left) and a guitarra morisca (right), Spain, 13th century

At least two instruments called "guitars" were in use in Spain by 1200: the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) and the so-called guitarra moresca (Moorish guitar). The guitarra moresca had a rounded back, wide fingerboard, and several sound holes. The guitarra Latina had a single sound hole and a narrower neck. By the 14th century the qualifiers "moresca" or "morisca" and "latina" had been dropped and these two cordophones were simply referred to as guitars.

The Spanish vihuela or (in Italian) "viola da mano", a guitar-like instrument of the 15th and 16th centuries, is widely considered to have been the single most important influence in the development of the baroque guitar. It had six courses (usually), lute-like tuning in fourths and a guitar-like body, although early representations reveal an instrument with a sharply cut waist. It was also larger than the contemporary four-course guitars. By the 16th century the vihuela's construction had more in common with the modern guitar, with its curved one-piece ribs, than with the viols, and more like a larger version of the contemporary four-course guitars. The vihuela enjoyed only a relatively short period of popularity in Spain and Italy during an era dominated elsewhere in Europe by the lute -the last surviving published music for the instrument appeared in 1576.

Meanwhile the five-course baroque guitar, which was documented in Spain from the middle of the 16th century, enjoyed popularity, especially in Spain, Italy and France from the late 16th century to the mid-18th century. In Portugal, the word viola referred to the guitar, as guitarra meant the "Portuguese guitar", a variety of cittern.