Ambler Guitars course

#1
I've already mentioned on another thread that I'm going on another guitar-building course, this time with John Ambler, of Ambler Guitars, who makes some of the sexiest guitars that I've ever seen. In seven days' time, I shall be recovering from the first day since the course runs for seven days from next Sunday to the following Saturday.

I don't actually know exactly what I'm going to build, although I have woods and components. I bought gold hardware - mostly relatively inexpensive, since this guitar isn't being made for someone else and it's already costing me a lot for the course, materials, travel and accommodation. The focus is on the build rather than the hardware, so I do have nice woods.

Woods for Ambler build.jpg

The fretboards, on the left, are violeta and maple. I'm going to take both of them, but I think I will use the violeta. The top, in the middle, is ziricote which was quite expensive but should look very nice, and the body is black limba. I have a few neck blanks that I will take along, but I'll decide which to use when I'm there - I'm not sure if they are dry so we will test them and then decide.

That's about it for now. I will update this during the course, as long as I have internet access. Looking forward to it! :)
 

Wade Garrett

I am the projectionist.
#2
I've already mentioned on another thread that I'm going on another guitar-building course, this time with John Ambler, of Ambler Guitars, who makes some of the sexiest guitars that I've ever seen. In seven days' time, I shall be recovering from the first day since the course runs for seven days from next Sunday to the following Saturday.

I don't actually know exactly what I'm going to build, although I have woods and components. I bought gold hardware - mostly relatively inexpensive, since this guitar isn't being made for someone else and it's already costing me a lot for the course, materials, travel and accommodation. The focus is on the build rather than the hardware, so I do have nice woods.

View attachment 36371

The fretboards, on the left, are violeta and maple. I'm going to take both of them, but I think I will use the violeta. The top, in the middle, is ziricote which was quite expensive but should look very nice, and the body is black limba. I have a few neck blanks that I will take along, but I'll decide which to use when I'm there - I'm not sure if they are dry so we will test them and then decide.

That's about it for now. I will update this during the course, as long as I have internet access. Looking forward to it! :)
Good luck on the course mate, have fun.
 
#4
I checked this morning and the place I'm staying in does have wifi (which I presume also means that it has internet access!). I booked a little holiday cottage for the week, which was much cheaper than staying in a hotel and I think will suit me better. I should have plenty of time in the evenings to post a daily update.

To some extent, I'm thinking that this is a "make or break" week for me. So far, I've been making guitars that are nice in some ways, but they all have their flaws. I want this course to get me to a level where I can eliminate those flaws, and - critically - work out how to do a decent finish on the guitars. If I can't achieve that, I may stop making guitars because there's little point in piling up lots of flawed instruments in my house.
 

Rurin

Well-Known Member
#7
I believe we end up being our worse enemy, criticizing any flaw and over rating it. What might be to some a small flaw, defect we make it more like a major problem. I saw some off you're build's they look good, i liked the neck you build with angle pieces, first time i saw that idea.

I also a have a big number off projects pilling up consuming space that i don't have... my problem was that at one point i stopped doing any stuff. ATM i am returning to making some stuff, in the free time, i am also doing some major house restoration work....

I have like 8 projects, plus like 2 or 3 inside my head.... some are in the part that i fear/hate the most.... fret work and setups.
My finish's are not all shiny, been using true oil/crimson oil etc and any bump leaves a mark, alder bodies are not very good on taking hits.
Those weird drilling angles are also nerve recking, last week was drilling a bass build for bridge grounding, well 1st drill attempt from bridge to 1st pickup broke the drill when i was angle it. Broke in way that attempting to remove it might be worse than leaving it in there, 2nd attempt i did not try to go for the electronic cavity, one more broke drill, this one i removed. 3rd attempt, i did not angle the bit enough and did not reach the cavity so i have 1 hole straight trough the body. After my initial "Why???!!" moment, ideas started to occur. My 1st build i placed inlay in body to hide calculations errors, could be an option, i can route a channel on the surface to make connection to electronics cavity. And final though, i have LP templates with round cavity for the 3 way switch, make the small hole not an accident. So the plan is 2 cavities 1 just to pass the ground wire and a connection between the 2 cavities.

Without any courses i have try to learn the most i can and do it by me self, i currently book matched 2 tops , one off those i also cut the wood by hand with no good saws for it. Glued one top on a ebay tele body witch has contours... and the 2nd top the one i cut by hand i glued it on a heavily carved body, since i did not had plans to put a top on it. All this done with couple hand made clamps off this style:



I glued the top it self and the top to body in one operation, since i don't have clamps for joining the tops. Both times i used screws in the pickups spots ( index pin method) and both times it lacked more in the bottom off the body and the screwing off the tops kinda also makes it slightly move. Also making the clamps tight can be a problem if some thing might move, since it takes me some time to install them and screw the clamps.

Band-saw, planner thicknesser , proper space to work and have tools stored and organized is some thing i have would to have.

All that i made is for me, but i would like to change that.

But in the end what can we do?, the genie is out off the lamp. Is not like well now i can unlearn this...

Making this a full time job would be a dream, but maybe just some thing in off side might be more down to earth... Its not like my Boss is going to pay me what would be a decent pay check for my work or create good working conditions, he simply does not care any thing about that, i am, we are just a number that can be easily replaced.

At least i now look at stuff a bit more on business side, stuff has to be made more fast efficient, its not good to spend 4 hours hand cutting some thing.

I think i have gone long in this single post. What you think can we stop attempting to be Luthiers?
 
#8
What you think can we stop attempting to be Luthiers?
Thanks for your encouragement, it's interesting to read other people's experiences and that I'm not alone in getting frustrated!

The idea of building guitars full time (and possibly river tables too, which I suspect would be much more profitable) is attractive, although I know myself and I suspect that I would get bored and frustrated after a while! My problem is that I get lots of ideas for guitars that would look great in my head, but then it's such a lot of work to actually bring that into being that I get annoyed. The bass that you mentioned, with the pattern in the neck, is currently 99% finished but in the last stages I've encountered a couple of problems that have really discouraged me. I'm going to take it along with me and hope that John can help me to finish it properly - I'm fairly sure that it only needs a little bit of work from someone who knows what he's doing!

Perhaps I'll come back feeling confident and enthused again. One thing I have decided tonight, though, is that I won't visit one of the specialist guitar wood shops that I was intending to do. I would like to go, but I will probably be tempted to buy some stuff and I know that will cost me several hundred pounds if I do, because the good stuff isn't cheap. This evening I checked in my garage, and I already have at least 7 guitar tops, so I really don't need to buy any more right now. I have loads of fretboards and neck blanks, and I will still visit another timber merchant where I might buy some wood for two or three bodies, but I'm more interested in buying wood for a couple more river tables from them.

The other advantage is that I can leave later in the morning - I was going to leave at 7am on Friday, and now I'll leave at 10am instead. With a bit of luck, that will mean that I won't fall asleep while I'm driving!
 

Rurin

Well-Known Member
#9
I believe we need projects in our heads to keep us going. Its not the cheapest hobby but some people spend in a month in tobacco what you would spend in wood for an entire guitar build Body + drop top + neck + fretboard.

Don't think smoking will make you produce any thing good.

Electronics and pickups and hardware are the most expensive part, at least for me.
 
#10
You're right, smoking (among other things) is a total waste of money and I'm very happy that it's a habit that I never took up! And you're right that it's important to have a hobby - I'm at the stage in life where my kids have all left home so I have more free time; at work I pretty much know my field and I don't have a lot more to learn there (although there is a constant evolution), so it's good for the brain to have a hobby where I have been learning a tremendous amount.

Concerning the expenses, I went cheap for the hardware for this build. It's similar to the (early but still current) Chapman Guitars ethos of investing most in the woods, since that's the basis of the instrument and the hardware can always be changed later. Also, while I'm mostly making practice instruments, if they are for me then there is generally little point in buying very expensive pickups, which I think are overpriced anyway.

I did make a bit of an exception for the bass, where I bought Bartolini pickups because they are supposed to be fantastic and the market for bass pickups is much smaller than it is for guitar pickups. As an example, for guitars I've mostly used Irongear pickups (which I have for the Ambler build) but they don't make bass pickups!

For interest, perhaps I will post the prices of the components that I bought. The woods were quite expensive because I went for nice things but I can't remember off the top of my head. In total, I think it's about £250-300 for the woods (nice ziricote tops are expensive!) and maybe £150 for the hardware (Irongear pickups about £60 plus relatively inexpensive stuff for the rest). It's a bit ironic that for £400 you can already buy a very decent guitar, and that includes labour and the profit margins of the manufacturer, distributor and retailer!

BTW I had a look at the link to your website but I couldn't see any pictures of your builds...
 

Rurin

Well-Known Member
#12
Well the £400 range guitars are not possible to beat in price since they mostly build in china/Korea/Indonesia. And the price its payed for the workers compared to ours is totally different. They buy stuff in large quantities witch cuts price, and machine work to cut time in production etc.

Then you going to buy some thing like pick-guard screws, set off 20 costs me around 2€ (+ shipping) from GW in my own country, guess what from china i can get 50 for 1€ with shipping (0,60 without shipping). So basically i can get 100 screws or 20. The issue is finding the good parts in middle off the ones that you should avoid. I had no issues with screws/pickup rings/ knobs for volume tone. I had problems with strap buttons, they where basically sold has they come out off the machine that makes them. Scratch plate material also no issues, got 3 blanks sheets in blank 1 ply cheaper that getting it locally.

Pickups i also look often on ebay for used ones to cut the costs, you can get stuff at half price. But here's one thing that actually is worse for us Europeans i pay more on shipping costs in Europe stuff, and for example UK shipping to my country is usually problematic, Royal Mail is a pain since GLS does not answer phones/mail etc so some times they have you're items like a month till they deliver it. Than there's the case off items that get lost and never are found. DPD just lost some BK Juggernauts i bought used, the seller immediately refund me and now is trying to get them to find the package, tracking number that does not work, expensive shipping costs and fails so bad? Got a free Hosco nut because GLS made a total mistake, took to long to deliver i contacted ebay etc got refund (last day possible for refund and countless emails to sellers and gls) and day after case close they drop package in my mail box....

Total off problem with items shipped from china from AliExpress : 0.

I currently need to check some suppliers for Pots for guitars, since need some mats....
 

johnniegoat

Stop, don’t, come back.
#13
@GloopyJon

don't give up - you have chosen to do something that takes some people a lifetime to perfect skill wise; you just need to give yourself time

how many guitars did ben crowe or paul reed smith make before they perfected their craft? listenhing to what they say, they never have - its evolution and gaining knowledge

so

don't give up
 
#14
I never buy stuff secondhand because I read about too many problems with it. Screws are a pain, and you're absolutely right - they are unbelievably expensive from the luthiery suppliers, and the ones used in guitars are generally not standard sizes that you can buy elsewhere. I've spent hours looking on the internet for screws*!

Hey ho....I'm nearly packed, and off in the morning!



* I'm sure there's some kind of double entendre there, but for the life of me I can't see it!
 

Wuzza

long time lurker
#16
So far, I've been making guitars that are nice in some ways, but they all have their flaws. I want this course to get me to a level where I can eliminate those flaws
If you could do that, you'd be working in a custom shop. From what I've seen of your work, you are pretty much 90% there. (and don't take that as a criticism)
I had a semi-aborted attempt to mod a squire Tele, so I completely understand the head space, and being my own worst critic, makes it doubly affinitable. (apparently that's not even a word :p)
Keep doing it for the love, if you don't love it, give it a break. :)
 
#17
From what I've seen of your work, you are pretty much 90% there.
Thanks, the encouragement from people here is genuinely helpful. I really hope that I can come out of this week with a very nice guitar that I can be totally proud of. Of course, it's a big step from doing something like that under expert supervision to doing the same thing on your own, but I have some specific areas where I hope to get advice.

Today has been a travelling day - I drove to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, where I had to queue for about an hour because the French customs police were checking EVERY SINGLE BLOODY CAR in order to wind up the Brits. I asked the English border police lady about it, and she said they think the French are doing it to try to get more money (for the border controls, I presume). It was hugely annoying - fortunately, I'd turned up early enough that I managed to squeeze onto my train although I was the last but one car to get on, even though I'd arrived half an hour before my check-in time.

Anyway, then I drove over to Guildford and didn't visit Anderton's, shock horror! Last time I was there, at Christmas, I spent over a grand (the drum kit), and if I'd gone today I might have bought the Strymon Deco that's been on my wish list ever since they were first announced. No, instead I went to one of my favourite timber merchants, Surrey TImber, and bought the pieces in the picture below (since they are leant up against other bits, I put a red dot on the bits that I bought).
Surrey Timber woods.jpg

The scraggy piece of yew on the left is intended to make one or two more resin tables, and the pieces on the right are for guitars. It's always good to have some padauk and purplewood around because they are so colourful, and the other piece is some sycamore that I reckon I can bookmatch and use as layers in a body, perhaps with the padauk which at 25mm is not deep enough on its own.

I'm now ensconced in a hotel to the West of London, and tomorrow I'll drive up the M1 to Tideswell, near Buxton, where the course will commence on Sunday. I've been to Buxton before, many years ago (in about 1997?) with my am dram society when we performed HMS Pinafore as part of the annual Gilbert & Sullivan festival.
 
#18
Thanks, the encouragement from people here is genuinely helpful. I really hope that I can come out of this week with a very nice guitar that I can be totally proud of. Of course, it's a big step from doing something like that under expert supervision to doing the same thing on your own, but I have some specific areas where I hope to get advice.

Today has been a travelling day - I drove to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, where I had to queue for about an hour because the French customs police were checking EVERY SINGLE BLOODY CAR in order to wind up the Brits. I asked the English border police lady about it, and she said they think the French are doing it to try to get more money (for the border controls, I presume). It was hugely annoying - fortunately, I'd turned up early enough that I managed to squeeze onto my train although I was the last but one car to get on, even though I'd arrived half an hour before my check-in time.

Anyway, then I drove over to Guildford and didn't visit Anderton's, shock horror! Last time I was there, at Christmas, I spent over a grand (the drum kit), and if I'd gone today I might have bought the Strymon Deco that's been on my wish list ever since they were first announced. No, instead I went to one of my favourite timber merchants, Surrey TImber, and bought the pieces in the picture below (since they are leant up against other bits, I put a red dot on the bits that I bought).
View attachment 36403

The scraggy piece of yew on the left is intended to make one or two more resin tables, and the pieces on the right are for guitars. It's always good to have some padauk and purplewood around because they are so colourful, and the other piece is some sycamore that I reckon I can bookmatch and use as layers in a body, perhaps with the padauk which at 25mm is not deep enough on its own.

I'm now ensconced in a hotel to the West of London, and tomorrow I'll drive up the M1 to Tideswell, near Buxton, where the course will commence on Sunday. I've been to Buxton before, many years ago (in about 1997?) with my am dram society when we performed HMS Pinafore as part of the annual Gilbert & Sullivan festival.
Surrey Timbers really are fantastic aren't they?

I see you are getting in on their padauk. I bought a slab from them recently, enough to make 8 necks at just over a tenner a pop!

I'm very interested to see how this course goes, got an inlay course booked at crimson again in october.
 
#19
Surrey Timbers really are fantastic aren't they?
Hey there, nice to hear from you! :)

You're right, it's a real treasure trove, they have loads of really nice wood. It's the best place I've found for hardwoods in general so far. I was impressed by the guy remembering that I came from Belgium yesterday too. The walnut body for the cocobolo bass came from there - I was tempted to buy some more walnut but decided not to buy too much this time.

Have you been making more guitars at home since the last course?
 
#20
Hey there, nice to hear from you! :)

You're right, it's a real treasure trove, they have loads of really nice wood. It's the best place I've found for hardwoods in general so far. I was impressed by the guy remembering that I came from Belgium yesterday too. The walnut body for the cocobolo bass came from there - I was tempted to buy some more walnut but decided not to buy too much this time.

Have you been making more guitars at home since the last course?
I'll have to take a look at their walnut!

Yeah, I've built another 3 so far. Doing my first "at cost" commission for someone at the moment, pretty much all my spare time is spent in the workshop these days.
 
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