Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Axe Hangar -- A Laminated Guitar Stand

I like to believe that the provenance and craftsmanship of the items you use most often have a real bearing on your relationship with the task that you perform with them.  I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that the things you use the most should be the ones that are most meaningful.

So when I made the guitar stool for my daughter I realized how shabby the aluminum and rubber guitar stand looked in comparison.  A nice little walnut stand, made with a light touch, would be just the ticket.  I wanted curves, a bit of stability, and a decent strength-to-weight ratio.  That meant either steam-bending or laminations -- I chose laminations.

I started this without a plan but with an objective -- to have several curves, very few pieces (not because I'm lazy but as a design element), and to possess a bit of grace.  Oh, I also needed for it to remain upright while holding a guitar.  I have no experience with bent laminations and charged forward with the enthusiasm of the naive.

I started by ripping 48" strips from some leftover 5/4 walnut.  With some tutoring from Thos. Moser's book, I ripped them about 1/8" thick.  I chose to have the laminations come off the non-fence side of the blade.  For example, if my stock was 5" wide I would set the fence to 4 3/4" and rip (1/8" for the lamination falling off the left side of the blade, 1/8" for the kerf, then the 4 3/4" between the blade and the fence.) There are instructions for fiddling with and moving a featherboard and planing after each pass, but I found this all to be unnecessary if you used push sticks, a bit of common sense, and kept the stock moving.  You get into a rhythm, subtracting 1/4" as you go until you get the number of laminations. 

Once I had these I waggled them around for a bit and thought about the mechanics -- how far can it curve, which way should it curve, etc.  I finally got an image in my mind of a sort of upside down version of the Southern Cross, and set about bending.

My bending form was nothing fancy, just a piece of OSB some screws and a few wood blocks.  I slathered on the glue on one side of each lamination and bent it free-form on the board.  It is pretty intuitive and very satisfying.  After a bit of noodling I bent a second piece for the base and set it to drying as well.  I determined the joinery of these two curves by eyeballing the angle, marking the intersection, and cutting a half-lap joint.  At this point I will just dry-fit and clamp since I will need to do more work on the base and I'm less likely to break it if it is not as cumbersome.

The places where the three legs met the floor were marked flush with the floor and cut . . .

And the main portion of the stand was complete.

The next step was to create a curved piece to hold the neck at the top, and a curved piece to hold the body of the guitar at the bottom.  These were bent in a similar fashion (except that I decreased the thickness of the laminations for the top piece to 3/32" to accomodate a tighter bend) and glued.

Once these were complete I cut them to length and determined where they should go on the body of the stand.  I created angled blocks from maple to have each support project at the proper angle from the stand, and affixed these block and support pieces to the body via maple dowels.  With these elements in place, I can line up the two main components, and secure them with dowels.

The final element was a shaped rod that held the guitar body on the stand.  I found a tasty bit of figured walnut, turned this and attached it to the bottom support with dowels -- using the guitar in question to determine the distance from the back.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the project -- and it was fun to build and required no special tools.  Since it is made from leftovers, you can custom build one for each of your guitars, varying the wood and finish to match. 

Come to think of it, as I look at the snow coming down out of the back window of the shop, it might be time to put down the tools and pick up the axe.