Carving a Duality top

Carving a Duality top

For the last 15 years every single ViK Guitar that left my shop was carved by me with my own hands and a set of tools for the job – some planes, chisels and sandpaper to smooth it all out. This may seem as not quite necessary “suffering” in 21st century but back in early 2000s CNCs were not widely available to small builders and so everything outside of 2D modeling/routing was done by hand. The technology caught up with demand by 2015 and most builders who could afford it switched to cnc process and so did I in some ways, specifically in the areas where precision is required. Fret slots, neck pockets, complex bindings, purflings and custom inlays gained the most benefits from cnc process implementation. However the 3D area has still remained mostly uncharted territory as it required some very specific skills that people go to college for – 3D modeling. While it’s not rocket science and can be learnt the amount of time needed to make any good and actually bear some 3D “fruits” in guitar shapes is just not really there if you have your “books” full and lots of customers waiting for their dream ViK. There’s one more issue for me specifically that’s been holding me off going fully “digital”. Believe it or not but I actually enjoy working with my hands and carving those gorgeous timbers into elegant beautiful shapes. To a certain point it’s one of the few truly artistic areas where personal skills and experience and creativity still make difference and have profound impact on the final result. Of the hundred Dualities I have carved by hand each and every of them is unique and truly one of a kind as simply no any other is exactly the same. Depending on the top material, top thickness, type of bindings and purflings and staining patterns, day of the week, hour of the day and my personal mood and level of inspiration for the job they would all come out differently and that’s the beauty of a truly handmade object with its’ own unique character and set of circumstances envolved. Comes at a price though. And it’s not even the time and effort invested but simple physical difficulty of it. Even with the sharpest tools it takes many hundreds or even thousands of strokes to remove the excessive material and roughly shape the carve; then IBEX-plane those curls into beautiful continuous curves of a Duality top where afterwards lots of areas can only be sanded by hand. It goes from the roughest P80 grit to P120, 240, 320 and 400 for final perfectly smooth silky finish that will take in water based stains without raising too many wooden grains. While softer woods like swamp ash and mahogany won’t do much damage hand carving your favorite quilted or, God forbid, BURL maples is the toughest task. All that fancy figure is created by millions of individual grains intersected in certain patterns to create the look. Or more often in burls, simply tangled without any logic or rules which makes carving it a complete mess. Within one square inch those grains can go in dozen various direction and fight the blade movement immensely whichever way you go.

 

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