The next craftsman in The Woodworker Sessions Series of Q & A Interviews is Anthony Berry of Cape Town. He has become a good friend, an up and coming luthier and he is starting to create some truly beautiful musical instruments.
Anthony has a wonderfully lateral and sensible approach to his craft and is slowly kitting his workshop out with very high quality, very specific hand tools and machines.
Seeing what Anthony and the other wonderful craftsmen that I have interviewed so far are creating, is truly humbling. It is fantastic and exceptionally heartening to see the diversity of woodworkers that we have, from builders of post modern furniture, to marqueters, highly creative woodturners, period furniture reproduction enthusiasts, carvers and luthiers. This clearly demonstrates that we have an astounding pool of talent right here in South Africa.
Whether we are dedicated specialist hand tool woodworkers, power tool enthusiasts or hybrid users of both disciplines, more and more people from all backgrounds and walks of life in South Africa are discovering their creative side and are enjoying woodwork in its many forms.
We are also seeing an exponential growth in young people getting started in woodwork. Long may this trend continue.
Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?
Anthony: It all started in high school at Oude Molen, when I built a simple bench in woodworking class.
I then began building musical instruments with my best friend. We built an electric guitar and bass guitar for himself and his nephew. It was at this early stage that my interest in making instruments began.
Tobias: What aspect of your craft do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable?
Anthony: My most enjoyable aspects are definitely the four main areas of guitar building. From the initial design, sourcing the perfect timbers, the actual instrument build, and then the sanding and finishing, to finally see the finished product and hear the instrument come to life is incredibly rewarding.
My absolute worst is the glue-up stage of the project as it gets quite messy!
MDF Guitar Mould
Tobias: Which are your favourite hand tools?
Anthony: I love my set of Japanese chisels and my small planes, for fine work they are truly amazing. Luthiers need very special tiny planes, some with convex soles to shape the guitar ribs and the soundboards. I still need all of the normal sized hand planes and spokeshaves as well.
In guitar making, we spend much more time on hand tool work than working with machines. I believe that creating a beautiful guitar is a very personal, introspective and contemplative process.
Laying out the Ribs on the Sound Board
Tobias: Which are your favourite power tools and stationary machines?
Anthony: In my workshop, my Laguna 18” band saw and Jet Tools cantilevered drum sander definitely top the list.
In lutherie, one needs an extremely accurate band saw that has a really big table and a large distance between the blade and the frame to allow the space for easily cutting out the curved sound box panels for the instruments. In addition, having a really good resaw height on the band saw allows me to slice my own sound box panels with ease and also allows me to bookmatch panels for the fronts and backs of the instruments from thicker boards.
The Jet cantilevered drum sander let's me creep up on my final thickness. I will shortly be adding digital measuring capability to my Jet drum sander. I am going to use the Wixey WR-550 Remote Digital Readout.
The Laguna band saw and Jet drum sander are two machines that simply make my work processes so much easier to accomplish accurately and they are both an absolute joy to work with.
I also rely heavily on my Makita laminate trimming router fitted with a Foredom plunge base that I imported myself. This is a totally awesome combination for doing inlays and cutting the binding of the guitars. Basically it is a Dremel tool on steroids!
Tobias: What machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?
Anthony: Everything in my workshop has its place and purpose. It took me a really long time to get what I believe to be the right tools together for my applications and processes.
I am still adding and refining my machines and tools as I go forward.
If I had to choose, my Jet drum sander and Japanese chisels are a must. However in saying that, all my tools and machines are needed and have a special place in my heart.
Tobias: Do you use a dedicated space for your craft, what floor area do you have and how much time do you manage to spend on woodworking per week?
Anthony: I have a double garage at home divided into two sections, one section holds all the stationary machines.
Time in the workshop... It depends, I work in the early morning and in the evenings during the week, and the pretty much whole day and night on weekends, so I am kept very busy!
Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?
Anthony: I do lots of guitar repairs and stringed instrument restoration for clients. I love helping people to bring their sentimental instruments back to their former glory, It is fantastic to see the joy it brings.
I am still building my acoustic guitar with Casimi Guitars, these guys are totally amazing and I want to build more instruments under their tuition and guidance.
There are many I still want to build... an acoustic bass, electric guitar, jazz guitar and an electric bass guitar are on my “to do” list. I also have a few friends that want custom instruments made.
So, there is lots to do moving forward...
Tobias: What are your favourite timbers to work with, what timbers do you avoid, and why?
Anthony: As an instrument builder, my favourite woods are African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) , Koa (Acacia koa), Ziricote (Cordia dodecandra), Wenge (Millettia laurentii) and a few of the sub species of Maple for my instrument back and side panels.
My linings are African Mahogany, for the necks I use American Black Walnut and Mahogany. I use Spruce and Cedar for my top sound boards.
I don’t work with any nasty woods in my workshop, as I am very specific about the woods that I use and the tonality that they offer to the instruments….
Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for you pieces?
Anthony: I have a spray booth. I first use nitrocellulose sanding sealer and then I spray 2k finishes.
I had a custom buff made for the final polish and the result looks like glass!
Tobias: If you could add another discipline of woodworking to your arsenal, what would it be?
Anthony: I am in the process of learning wood turning, carving, and CAD drawing.
I also want to go on a jewellery making course next year to improve my inlay skills and fine detail design & execution.
Below is my Wishlist:
- 8" wide long bed jointer
- 16" wide thicknesser
- Cabinet style table saw fitted with a full Incra TS/LS III Fence System
- More handmade Japanese chisels
- CNC machine
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