Well let's see, where do I begin on this one?
Since entry #3 I hopped a flight to Texas for a 10 day trip starting in the capital of Austin. I had the opportunity to spend three days at the Colling's Guitar Company and would like to thank everyone there for the opportunity. If you are familiar with their instruments you know it can be argued these are the finest production instruments being made today. Currently there are four graduates working there and it was great to see them again and have the opportunity to learn from them!
The first day there I had a chance to visit with Steve who oversees all aspects of the Colling's company and Ruth who is head of HR. It gave them the opportunity to ask about our program and learn more about what we do here in Red Wing. From there Steve was gracious enough to give me a tour of the factory, different shop areas and an overview of how things are done. After peppering him with questions along the way (and running into our alumni) I was free to roam the grounds and take a few pictures. Everyone there was incredibly gracious with their time and telling me anything I wanted to know. Over the years the vast majority of people I've met in the industry are more than happy to share how they do things and believe there are no "secrets" to their work. Often folks with this mentality are the most successful people in lutherie.
On the second day I once again was free to roam around, take pictures and ask questions. Let there be no doubt I took advantage of that opportunity. I'm not sure how many questions I asked but at the end of the day there were about 650 new pictures on my camera. Before leaving I made it a point to head back to the finishing area to talk with Joe who completed both diplomas in our guitar program. We chatted about a few things related to finishing and planned to spend final day going over the processes he does every day.
|A quick little snapshot of acoustic tops with a few production notes included.|
|Here is an all Koa acoustic that was just removed from the outside mold. The instrument will stay in an mold from the time the ribs are bent until the top and back are glued on.|
|There are no shortcuts when prepping an instrument for finish. Many hours are spent even in a production setting making sure the surface is perfect. I really like the vacuum fixture holding the mandolin so he can rotate it as necessary.|
On my final day there I met up in the finishing department around 9am where Joe was already a few hours into his work day. He had set aside some instruments to show me some of the finishing steps he does on acoustic guitars. It was great to see the information he learned in the program being put to use and better yet, having the skills to develop his own approach to what he has learned working at Colling's over the last two years. One of the most important things to me was seeing the pore filling process he refined so instruments can get through that step in a matter of minutes instead of hours. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I took some notes notes and plenty of pictures while he worked and am already prepping some test panels to give it whirl myself. Just one of the great things in this work is you never stop learning and striving for a better way to get something accomplished. Well, at least for the folks that know W.O.R.K. is not a radio station.
|Here Joe is cleaning up the binding after the excess filler has been removed. No detail can be missed in this job.|
It takes a little practice to get this good at cleaning up purfling.
|Apparently a lot of people spend the first day wiring up the filament circuit. Here I've got it wired by lunch and was feeling pretty good. I was cautiously optimistic at this point but I could tell the hard work hadn't actually begun.|
|After lunch I got the transformers, filter capacitors and circuit board mounted. The filter capacitors hold a dangerous amount of DC voltage but at this point there was no charge in them.|
|Here is just one of the spots for grounding components. It's important to separate the grounds appropriately so one circuit doesn't interfere with another one causing excess noise.|
|Here's a potentiometer with a resistor and capacitor. I wanted to get as many components wired before mounting the control pots because it's much easier to do outside of the amp chassis.|
|Since potentiometers have different values it was important to make sure each one going in the amp was sorted out before wiring anything more. (It isn't just my OCD flaring up I promise)|
|Now the controls are in the chassis and it's time to get them wired into each circuit.|
|I started where the guitar enters the amp and worked my way from one end to the other focusing on wiring in the control pots. Since I really didn't know how far I'd get in one day I'd save the bulk of the tube sockets for later.|
|Here's more of the first gain stage where we plug into the amp. I took my time and tried to make sure I knew each connection was correct because I had no idea how much of Day 4 would be available for troubleshooting any problems.|
|Just working my way across the controls from the input side of the amp towards the output section.|
|Now I'm basically working my way from the input side of the amp to the output side of the amp but working each tube socket and components on the back of the amp trying to make sure I don't miss anything or make any mistakes.|
|Here is the completed amp. Little did I know there was that "rogue wire" between two of the boards inside the amp. This was a mistake I made on the very first morning but fortunately during final inspection we discovered it and got it resolved.|