Archives for December 2011

Dec
30

Auld Lang Syne – For Old Times

 

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” I think not. For everyone I have known, loved and lost there was something of them that I shall always keep close to my heart. 

It’s Later Than You Think!

I saw a Facebook entry one of my relatives posted this week that got me to thinking about all of the people I have known who are no longer alive, but still live quite vibrantly in my memories. The post was a quote my father-in-law, Dock Ringo, told his daughter on many occasions, “It’s later than you think.” The quote is from a song recorded by Guy Lombardo in November of 1949, entitled “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)”. Now that I think about my father-in-law’s profession and strong association with music, it makes sense he would make that quote. He was in the juke box business. He owned many of them and as a result was aware of every popular song on the charts for many decades. This one in particular strikes a chord for those of us who are still alive, working hard to make ends meet and think we still have time to put off those simple pleasures for later when we will have more time and money, or so we think. 

The song lyrics go as follows:

You work and work for years and years, you’re always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin’ dough
Someday, you say, you’ll have your fun, when you’re a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you’ll have in your old rockin’ chair

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

You’re gonna take that ocean trip, no matter, come what may
You’ve got your reservations made, but you just can’t get away
Next year for sure, you’ll see the world, you’ll really get around
But how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground?

Your heart of hearts, your dream of dreams, your ravishing brunette
She’s left you and she’s now become somebody else’s pet
Lay down that gun, don’t try, my friend, to reach the great beyond
You’ll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blonde

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

My father-in-law lived his life having fun making his fortune. He took the time off to spend time with us, taking us on numerous vacations and celebrating holidays with us as well. He had many traits I admired, his strength and strong will I appreciated the most.

To other old acquaintances I will not forget: 

To my grandfather George De Ridder, I owe my love of art for it was him who taught me to let go of my inhibitions and not be afraid to draw. 

To my father Marinus, who taught me to be strong and instilled in me an appreciation of science, literature and mathematics. He guarded his feelings and emotions, but inside was a very tender man who dearly loved his dogs, cats and my mother. 

To Mammy, my husband’s grandmother, who was remarkably outspoken and definitely not afraid to speak her mind or walk to the beat of her own drummer, I learned was it truly means to be bold. 

To my mother-in-law Eleanor, who wore her heart out in the open revealing her real emotions for everyone to see. She was one of the kindest souls I have ever known, for even though her temper was legendary her forgiveness was complete and infinite. 

To my sister-in-law Liz, who had such a dry sense of humor that I can not begin to describe how great it was. She helped me see humor in the unexpected. 

To Louis Duca, who worked with me at Glitsch Inc. and who taught me the fine art of selling fractionation equipment with a smile and sense of humor. 

To Bill Young, who taught both me and Danny to love the finer things in life (like single malt scotch). Such a presence he had indeed. 

To Cathy Streetman, my best friend and sister in heart. Her friendship and acceptance was so enormous, it was only matched by her generosity and teasing sense of humor. 

A Final Salute

All of these friends, relatives and business associates are gone in the physical sense but have left indelible marks in both heart and memory. I can’t think of a finer tribute to them than to acknowledge their contributions to my own life and how their existence influenced me for the positive. I can only hope that someday someone will feel the same about me.  For those of you who have also lost past acquaintances, friends or family, but kept a part of them in your heart, I dedicate this post to you.  At last, I finally understand the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne.  Read them below and perhaps you too will see what I see in them.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

 CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 And surely you buy your pint cup !
and surely I buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

 CHORUS

 We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since
auld lang syne.

 CHORUS

 And there’ a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

 

 References and links:

Auld Lang Syne – Wikipedia Definitions

 Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think) – YouTube Guy Lombardo Version

 Auld Lang Syne – Guy Lombardo – Seeburg Juke Box Version – Complete with scratches on the 45 RP! – YouTube

 

Dec
07

The Craft of Guitar Lutherie – Strength in Numbers

Introduction

The Next Two Wood Ring Classical Guitars to be Completed Before the End of 2011.

Aaron and I have been working very hard to finish two beautiful classical guitars that he has been building, side by side.  One has a  Western Red Cedar top with Cocobolo sides and back.  It has Bocote trim and a Spanish Cedar neck.  The other guitar has a German Spruce top with Indian Rosewood sides and back. It has Bloodwood trim and a Spanish Cedar neck. We have been working on these two guitars for over two months now.

Although much of this time was spent in crafting the two instruments from their component pieces of wood, a significant amount of time was spent performing extensive tests at every level of construction. Our goal in doing such thorough testing is to have a very thorough scientific understanding of every step in the process of building each classical guitar we produce.

 Although this testing and record keeping takes a lot of time and work, we believe it is well worth it for three reasons.

 

  1. We want to be absolutely sure that each Wood Ring Guitar is built to last a lifetime. This is done by applying both theoretical and empirical data to our building approach in order to make sure that the most vulnerable parts of the guitar are strong enough to endure decades of playing (strength testing).
  2. We want to be able to reliably reproduce the qualities that contribute to a great sounding guitar (acoustic testing).
  3. We want to continually improve the building process and the finished product from both an acoustic and artistic point of view (record keeping, feedback, and analysis).

Our aim is lofty but we feel strongly about it.  We are committed to creating instruments that will gain in value over time because of their unique artistic beauty, their outstanding sound qualities, and a look and feel that gives each owner that special feeling that only a select few instruments throughout the world can bestow upon them.

Today, I want to discuss the process we use to test the strength of our soundboards. This testing process is very important because:

  1. It allows us to fine tune the soundboard such that we are absolutely sure that each guitar is strong and built to last.
  2. It gives us feedback in fine tuning the top and bracing system such that we can obtain the optimum sound characteristics possible.
  3. It backs up our commitment that the guitar will sound as good or better 10, 20 or 30 years in the future as it does the day it is purchased.

 Sound Board Strength Testing

It is the soundboard that is responsible for most of the sound that eminates from a guitar. When the player plucks or strums the strings, they start vibrating. This vibration is transferred through the bridge and into the soundboard. For standard guitar tuning, frequencies from 82.407 Hz (Open 6th string – E2) to 880 Hz (17th fret on 1st string – A5) are generated. To achieve this, a lot of tension (both static and dynamic) is exerted by the strings onto the bridge and the soundboard. The tension exerted by each string depends on several variables including (a) active string length, (b) frequency of the string, and (c) mass per unit length of the string. For a classical guitar the total tension exerted by all six strings is approximately 85 – 95 lbs. of force.  Due to the way the strings are attached to the bridge, the force of this string tension applies a rotational torque on the bridge and soundboard with the front of the bridge pushing down on the area between the bridge and the soundhole and pulling up on the area between the bridge and the bottom edge of the guitar.

Torque Exerted by Strings on Bridge and Soundboard

As a general rule of thumb, the less mass there is in the soundboard and bracing, the louder and more responsive the instrument will be. Of course there is a limit to this and in reality a luthier must find a balance between the soundboard strength and the amount of mass that the soundboard will have. As mass is removed from the thickness of the soundboard plate and the thickness and height of the braces, the more the soundboard will deflect and warp in response to the tension placed on the bridge by the strings. This is good to a point and every classical and acoustic guitar top deflects a small amount downward between the bridge and soundhole and upward between the bridge and bottom of the guitar. As long as this deflection is kept within some well established design parameter guidelines this results in great sound and a very durable instrument. If this deflection exceeds these guidelines, then over time, the top will start to deform and cracks may appear around the bridge. Ultimately the soundboard may collapse. This effect can be magnified if the guitar is exposed to extreme conditions of varying temperature and humidity.

 Testing Apparatus and Procedure

As part of our testing process, we use a method of soundboard stiffness testing and deflection compliance that was first suggested by David Hurd in his book Left-Brain Lutherie – Using Physics and Engineering Concepts for Building Guitar Family Instruments. This is an outstanding book on the application of science and engineering to the craft of Lutherie. In this book, David proposes that deflection measurements of the soundboard be taken at the point in the building process where the soundboard has just been attached to the sides and the back has not been attached yet. This allows the lutheir to make both soundboard thickness adjustments and bracing height and thickness adjustments based on results of the deflection tests and Chladni pattern tests.  

The apparatus that we use for deflection measurement was hand made and is based on David’s Luthiers Forum series of articles which outline how to build the apparatus and how to use it. The apparatus is simple and is cheap to build.  It is a well thought out apparatus for measuring guitar top deflections. After we built it and calibrated it, we performed extensive testing to establish repeatability and error values and we found that it can reliably measure deflections of a top within +/- 0.001″ which is very acceptable.

There are several stages in the guitar construction process where it makes sense to perform deflection tests involving the soundboard. The first test is done during the selection of the tone wood material as part of the criteria in making sure that we start with an optimal piece of tonewood. The next is done before the braces are added to the soundboard in order to determine an optimal starting thickness for the top. The next is done during the final thicknessing and brace shaving step of soundboard tuning (which is what this blog article is about). The next one is done after the bridge is added to the soundboard. Finally, as the instrument approaches completion, the deflection caused by the tension of the strings is measured above and below the bridge and recorded.

Generally, the procedure we use for measuring and recording deflections is as follows.

Measuring the deflection from a weight placed at various points on a grid placed over the soundboard.

Before we start the deflection tests for the final thicknessing and brace carving stage of construction, we create a very thin paper template with a 1″ x 1″ grid on it which we place over the soundboard so that it is protected from scratches and dents. We use a very thin paper which we tested to confirm that it does not affect the deflection values. Initially we perform a full set of measurements before the bridge is attached to the soundboard.  Once the deflection measurements are taken, we normalize them based on a standard force value of 2 lbs. This is done so that data can be compared with values taken by other luthiers (as proposed by David Hurd).

Next we use a contouring program to map the deflection values for the entire soundboard.

Contour Map of Deflections produced by one of several free contouring applications available on the Internet.

 

This map is then reproduced on the full size Grid template.

Contour Map - Full Scale for Use in Tuning the Soundboard Braces

This sheet is initially used as a guide for where to take the deflection values and after the data is contoured, it is used as a guideline along with Chladni patterns in tuning the soundboard by adjusting the plate thickness and by adjusting the height and thickness of the braces.  This is an iterative process.  We carefully carve and adjust thicknesses and then take deflection values and perform Chladni tests again. 

Chladni Pattern of 2nd Mode for the German Spruce Soundboard

This pain staking process is repeated until we reach the pre-established guidelines we have worked out regarding the deflection pattern that we want in the final product. It is these guidelines that each luthier must develop and refine as part of their artistic contribution to this process. This allows us to achieve the ultimate balance between strength and the tonal quality we are wanting to achieve for each guitar. There is a lot of work and time involved in doing this but the payoff in a masterfully constructed hand crafted classical guitar is well worth it. I wanted to write this article so that our customers know how much care is taken to be sure the value of these guitars far exceeds the cost and that each Wood Ring guitar is truly an investment that is built to give them a lifetime of enjoyment.

 Links of Interest

Wood Ring Guitars – Unique Hand Crafted Guitars for Exceptional Musicians. Dallas, Fort Worth, Weatherford, Texas.

Left-Brain Lutherie by David Hurd – http://www.ukuleles.com/LBLBook/TOC.html

David Hurd’s Ukulele Website – http://www.ukuleles.com

Review of David Hurd’s Book – Left-Brain Lutherie

Quick Grid – Open Source Contouring Program

Of Science, Art, and Society Blog Entry on “Reading Tea Leaves to Predict the Future – Using Chladni Patterns to Create Extraordinary Classical Guitars”

     Copyright © 2011-2012 by Danny and Sandra Ringo.  All rights reserved.  Articles may not be reproduced without permission.