Echoes of Time
I hope you like Echoes of time and its making as shown below!
I have never done an instrument in this manner, having 3 -plates- elements to work with : Aside from the usual top & back, the internal arched-top soundboard gave me lots to figure about in terms of assembly, and neck attachment procedure. Many of the instrument's features had to come-in on their own, through dedicated thinking.
So, in all honesty, my -work time- about the instrument's carving was set about right, but I missed counting-in the design & thinking involved. I (quite happily) spent numerous days, literally adding-up to weeks, just finding-out how to tackle each part of this instrument.
From my original May 9th 2021 sketch for this guitar, I decided to position its neck slightly off-center ; 0.875 inch exactly away from central axis.
In this way, I would solely respect every details of my small intuitive drawing, which is in fact the very basis of this one-off, very expressive creation.
Even on guitars like Multi, and Multi 2, I never took the off-center rout for neck placement, worrying it would make the guitar look odd.
I tried (in full size) placing the neck centred on the body for Echoes of Time...and it looked odd in this way!
From researching other harp-guitar types, I found too that many German instruments use such design.
For Echoes of Time, the column has thus more room to -be-,
and it becomes more part of the visual's center stage. It become effective in this way.
I spoke about this guitar project to luthier friend Mario Lamarre.
Upon seeing the sketch, he hinted that the drawing reminded him of the paleolithic mother goddess.
I looked that up and found something interesting:
Numerous clay figurines examples of this subject are found all over the world. What ties them all together, is their raw-ness and chalky colour.
Working from the light Poplar wood for the viewable part of Echoes of Time, inspired me to try a more gray-white base colour for it. I am testing diatomaceous earth and rottenstone at the moment, and I also got some pure indigo that I might use as an accent. Some metal pigments might be used sparingly in the mix ; I'll see how finishing goes.
But definitely, natural materials are on my mind, to reveal carving and relief, as the instrument is based-on.
Poplar: The two large slabs where originally 3.125 inch thick. To get the top, or -cover- definite thickness, I took that number and divided it by the Golden mean, giving a (unusually thick) 1.75" carved-top.
Carving the convexe outside faces goes much more rapidly that working anything inside the box.
Making a little plasticine mockup at the beginning, really helped to figure out how the top would transfer its deeper lines to the back (below).
The back is the full 3.125" of the slab at its highest point, namely its tail area, the tip of the column (seen below), and the -elbow bone looking- thicker point of he column.
Other areas of the back are carved with ergonomics in mind ; 1- The rib-cage area of the player meets a thinner body (as on Multi 2 ) at the waist, which is around electric guitar thickness on bass-side.
2- The treble side of the back is less rounded, especially where the leg meets the guitar, in the traditional -lap- area. This makes for a guitar that doesn't slip and stays put. Also, the ( Clara ) general outline of the guitar is more tight at the waist than on my other harp-guitars, helping this -stay put- feature.
The column, here a little more refined with files, hints a twisting shape while looking strong.
Only 3 strings will be supported by the column, Its greater function might be this time around more acoustic, as it is the hollow channel by which the air from the guitar body will exit : The column is my main sound hole for this guitar, and is shaped in the form ( as Zyra) of an acoustic horn.
Here are a few pics of this process:
In upper left picture you can see a thin line of white paper, acting as a gasket to hold both plates together for doing their carving. Later, once the outside form truly established, the plates will be separated to permit the actual soundbox to be carved out.
Left is both circle and oval as potential horn shape.
As mentioned, the oval won the title! Inspiration for it came in part from the (below) - horn in field- which is part of an amazing landscape art project by StudioWeave.
More technical :
The more technical drawing above shows string layout, and a later opening around the bridge area : The top of this instrument is truly a -cover- for to keep relief expression, while a more dynamic soundboard will be below it. The bridge goes through the -cover- to meet with the strings, hence an opening is needed (and part of the design).
As impractical and detrimental to the look and balance of the column to have tuners on it, the 3 sub-bass strings will be tuned at the tail, using 3 ABM single bridge in chrome.
Since string ball-ends are at tail, the other end of these strings has to be clamped, and held by (ABM also) individual locking headpieces on column
Both of these parts I found through research, to be reliable, and the most -neutral- of all in terms of visuals.
Dynamic soudboard :
Chibougamau is a northern city in Quebec. Its quite cold there for the better part of the year, and this forges the temper of the residents, and of their wood.
When making Multi 2 I met a young, interested, wood -seeker- from there, who is also a luthier. I told him I was making instruments in the 42 inch length, and was interested in his wood if he had some : -He replied that in many acres of forest, he found only one White Spruce tree that had (according to him) lutherie potential. He had cut wedges for cellos, and was happy about only one. He had brace wood to go with it.
I bought it from his word and from a picture :
When the package arrived, it was so well packed, that I knew that Julien was serious about his singular finding ; This Chibougamau wood has the most straight fibre I have ever seen in any spruce, and its tone is lively but not -bright- right of the box. Its nature calls for thinning it to beyond the regular specs, for it to shine through.
He did send an extra wedge for bracing. I have used some on Sun, Moon, and Vibrations, and here is the remainder of that same wedge:
There is a first time for everything, and here I had chills myself seeing the image above. Its mysterious yet logical, and the motivation to make this mid-level soundboard work-out is beyond.
While expressing an outer (visual) shell that could make one ask : -Is this a guitar or what? Echoes of Time inner guts are just that, a very iconic soundboard shape, again taken from the Sun, Moon, and Vibration influence.
As Echoes of Time now shares the same dynamic soundboard outline as one of my recent instrument ; Let's see how other already completed works can have an input on the making-of the current build.
Guitare-Fruit Wurcer uses neck through the soundbox construction. From head to toe, its string tension is supported by the neck along its axis, to cover for a (calabash) very light and softer material body. Built with a floating bridge, its 6 strings anchor at its tail, bypassing the use of a long tailpiece.
Here, I thought it would be interesting not to see any tailpiece at all for the 6 main baritone strings :
Integral to the through the body neck's end at tail, will be the 6 string anchor to Echoes of Time.
- Strings are fed through angled string ferrules from the tail of the guitar, that make the strings project right-up through a slot cut in the Poplar cover element.
The main idea is threefold: 1-Simplicity of use 2- Dynamic / solid anchoring 3- Clean visuals.
Mystery factor is a bonus, as the main strings will seem to disappear into the guitar behind the bridge.
Some form references do remind of my Multi harp-guitar series... :
Partially calibrated cover element.
Completed cover element.
While also present are Influence of Kouai and Zyra : These two hollow body guitars merge both their internal top & back carving to form expressive sound holes.
My intent for Echoes of Time is to magnify this visual feature by making it both larger and as possible, more acoustic.
Two custom hand-made pickups where ordered especially for the instrument :
Both are stacked-humbuckers made from phenolic bobbins.
This material is neutral in colour value and texture. It look old without anything -relic- being related to it.
I like when pickups look brand new, but don't feel like plastic.
My favourite has to be the small 3 string sub-bass pickup that will be part of the upper-bout at column.
The main 6 string pickup has fully adjustable pole-pieces for to handle bronze-wound strings :
- Its poles also spread to a full 60mm in total spacing :
Once slanted in position, to meet with the fingerboard's end, its effective spacing comes back to the standard 50mm neck pickup spacing.
Clever is that both pickups share a 12mm individual pole-piece spread.
Its beautiful and perfect. The colour is Willow gray. It feels solid and definitely is everything I technically wanted from a flight case.
After a long reflection on neck attachment and body structure for Echoes of time, I came to the conclusion that its neck should be made neck-through, in a similar way as I did on Guitare-Fruit Wurcer, and also coming from the standpoint of more ancient instrument-making techniques.
In short, Echoes of time Poplar body's structure is to be treated literally as a gourd or calabash, in terms of weight and rigidity.
Here, my early-work on -smaller- instruments like Sun (right picture), a gourd-banjo made around 2007, comes into play ; - Its raised fingerboard configuration and string projection is very similar to what is needed in the context of the current build.
Below is a view of the internals for Guitare-Fruit Wurcer. In its case, a counterweight was needed at tail of the instrument, to cover for short soundbox and 19th fret body-neck joint configuration.
For to keep Echoes of time as light as possible, and to use the best neck material possible for it, I decided to use the last Chibougamau spruce wedges I had in stock.
This was a tough call to make, since these wedges where of harp-guitar top potential and length.
To sweeten my deal with the precious wood, I noticed I could save part of it for for another carved-top instrument... and still have enough length for making our Echoes two-part neck assembly:
Editor's side-note: This is how a potential Chibougamau topped Zyra 2 idea came about.
This projected Zyra 2 feels like it wants to be born...
I feel grateful that this Zyra shape could work out here and emerge from this spruce material at that thickness while preserving enough wood for the Echoes of time neck construction (below).
To keep this part of the construction coherent in terms of visuals, I'll go straight into picturing the fitting of the neck to the soundbox, and come back on headsotck and fingerboard afterwards:
The neck-through construction is all spruce and epoxy glue, with carbon fibre bars inserted each side of the (picture at left) truss rod channel.
Once the whole neck is tapered according to string projection, it is -slide- fitted into the lower part of the soundbox, 1.75 inch deep.
The -dry fit- of the rectangular neck is quite good and gives interesting lines from the soundbox's rounded nature.
From there the heel and whole neck shaft will be shaped off the guitar before actual gluing takes place.
Headstock and fingerboard:
Again, a lot of reflection went into these parts. I also made them both in parallel, to figure each one out as I went on.
Basic layout for headstock is in line with the one of Sun, Moon, and Vibration, That is with linear elements, and mostly a straight string projection:
Finding ways of design and selecting materials that can feel both modern and ancient for both these parts was quite challenging.
What I generally found out is that:
1 -Headstock shouldn't be hollow in the middle, and it should reference the guitar body in some way, with high-relief and carving
2 -It should materialize a sense of spirituality, be designed according to its own scale and form, not competing with the body too much.
A -Totem-like- configuration was found for this part. I'm not sure how it came to life, but it definitely fits the instrument.
Alternate views from headstock's front/back show coherence, and a -stepped- appearance towards the top of the instrument...suggesting different levels of attaining comprehension, awareness, etc. All without pretension but with an ascending thought and positive energy for sure!
The very tip of headstock needs to be trimmed of course, etc.
The dark-brown side-pieces are Ziricote, multi-laminated and inlayed.
The Gotoh 510 chrome tuners will come from the side of the headstock (as per Sun, Moon and Vibrations, or Kouai) and there is just enough space around the tuner-post to fit a 10mm socket tool, for to fasten each of the tuners to the headstock.
I will provide a dedicated tool for this in the guitar's case.
I used for fingerboard inlays:
-Pipestone red recon-stone (as on the Maya 3.2 pickup cover). This material is very similar in colour to the phenolic pickup bobbins.
-Parchment white recon-stone as the high-contrast line, very close in colour to aged cow bone.
-Dark green linen-micarta for the outer bindings. It is the complementary to the red, and its mid-tone has an interesting checkered appearance surface.
2- Fingerboard had be made to look slimmer than it is. When this black (ebony) part is kept full width, it draws attention and strength from the guitar's column part. This motivated the use of the wide binding combination :
-The neck had to be / feel like no.2 versus the instrument's column, as per initial sketch.
In needing a way to make the fingerboard look even slimmer, I went for the straight vertical lines configuration. This keeps column/neck distinctly different.
In short, the neck itself & the headstock both had to be of their very own thing, while working with the whole.
Fingerboard is now fully fretted with jumbo nickel-silver frets.
The fingerboard's 19th fret is short but importantly there. It fits so nicely under the 6th string, and is the geometric 2/3rd of the string.
I hope you like how the new elements come together in the context of the whole. I personally I'm quite happy to be making this piece. I took my time in every way I admit ;- Since Echoes of time is such a departure from conventional guitar making, and that it represents a definite creative statement, along with an encouragement for the singularity of expression... I feel a call of duty to make it as nice as I can.
I will update this page as I go along.
Neck fitted to the bottom part of body and to the top. No parts are glued yet. Here, surface finish and colour should be done prior to assembly to avoid sanding back in intricate and tight spots.