Sometimes building a Guitar seems to me to be a series of leapfrogging from one “Disaster” to another. Notwithstanding that I try to build by my Motto ”Measure Twice cut Once”,which really means “THINK ,THINK, THINK”, there are the occasional MISTAKES that you have no control over and will happen in any event. Just such a tale I will recount, because the consequences could so nearly have resulted in my whole shop burning down, with hugh property losses, if not loss of Life. In other words —- this could have been the BIG one. The tale goes like this:
I had just ordered and with much excitement, received my first and very own, side bending machine from LMI. It was a Fox Machine, with all the “bells and Whistles”. I dutifully unpacked the box ,took it out (they come pre-assembled) and made the minor adjustments to the machine ready for bending. It was a 220v unit, as Australia has that power supply value at the Mains. With any bending machine that is currently on the market you have to build your own templets for each Guitar that you wish to bend sides for.
I was making an OM, in Honduras Mahogany, with an Adirondack top. One thing I have learnt the hard way, is to read the instructions — so I did —and I followed them to the letter. Unbeknown to me and to LMI, the Electronics in the main unit was supplied without a thermostat , designed to control the heat generated by the unit and transfered to the Timber being bent. I can tell you, from bitter experience, that the heating blankets, supplied with these Units, heat up to about 450 Deg. and very quickly. The unit is also supplied with a DVD, —- which I watched — so, HOW COULD I GO WRONG?
I spritzed the sides,wrapped them in silver foil and after pre heating the stainless steel bending strips, slipped the wood between the strips ,turned the appropriate dials to 15 minutes and sat down to wait for my sided to bend (there was a little bit of winding and pulling) but essentially all I had to do (SO THE INSTRUCTIONS SAID) was sit back and WAIT.
Well I didn’t have to wait very long.
After about 5 min I noticed the first whiff of smoke, by 8 min thing were cooking very nicely, thank you,and I didn’t get to 15 min. At about 12 min mark the automatic fire alarms were wailing, I could not see from one side of the shop to the other because the smoke was so thick and the OM Templet in the Bender had caught on fire and flames were beginning to envelop the machine. In other words we had a full blow emergency on our hands.
I reacted by cutting the power to the machine,throwing a fire blanket over the whole unit (which put out the fire) and with the use of fire Gloves was able to salvage the Bender but not the Heating blanket,OM Templet or the Mahogany sides.
The blanket and Templet were destroyed and the sides were literally burnt to a crisp, in fact they were burn into little Black chips. As with all my experiences as a Luthier I recorded all of this, Digitally, I know not why,but I did.
I have to say that LMI were superb (but that won’t come as any surprise) they leapt to my aid, replaced everything that was damaged and threw a few practice sides into the deal. ( an Indian Rosewood set was so good I made a Guitar out of them).
It transpires that the Manufacturer does not supply a thermostat with a 220v machine (work that one out) and forgot to tell LMI. I was the first bunny to purchase a 220v machine from LMI, so they were not aware of the problem. They are now.
So how do I bend? —— VERY CAREFULLY.
In fact I bend in the machine by ear and feel, I apply power, I turn the unit off,then on again ,I listen, I spritz the metal bending strips, I wind, listen again,apply heat etc., I am sure that you get the Idea. BUT IT WORKS AND IT WORKS VERY WELL FOR ME.
Have a look at theses Pictures, they will make your hair curl.