View Full Version : Acoustic guitar building

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08-11-2010, 05:09 AM
As I'd relayed in a previous thread I have a friend who lives nearby who is a photographer by trade but has also started building acoustic guitars and fell into a great deal on many of the tools and materials needed to build a couple dozen guitars. I've been over to his workshop a few times and have seen others online who've shared their newfound passion in guitar building and I got a little inspired myself. I told my friend John as much and he (knowing that I'm a shutin who's going slowly mad) offered me the use of his shop and tools and even set me up with some of the materials needed.

Well, it looks like the ball is officially rolling on this. Last week I ordered plans for a type of guitar I could never afford outright and tonight he and I sifted through his materials and decided on a set of South American Mahogany for the back and sides of my proposed guitar build and western red cedar for the top.

My wife thinks I'm nuts but has long known that I love playing and discussing guitars online. She says I already have too many hobbies but the way I look at it I'm taking my time and putting effort toward building something that I'd enjoy and would cost a LOT of money otherwise. It's not exactly like I spend all my time playing video games after all.

08-11-2010, 12:29 PM
Congrats on finally making the leap, Kwak! Enjoy the process!

Captain Tuttle
08-11-2010, 12:41 PM
Good for you man! Enjoy!

08-11-2010, 02:02 PM
Souds great, Kwak! Make sure to take pictures to share!

08-11-2010, 05:01 PM
Thanks, guys. I figured that you all would know the challenges in scheduling that a project like this would present. As it stands now, the only time I truly have to myself is in the evenings. That's because we still have our hands full putting the boys to sleep and usually it's about 9:00 before we can flop down and sigh. This will change things - which is part of why I'm doing this project. I'm tired on not getting to go out before everything closes for the evening. I want to see about sneaking out one night a week (ideally Tuesdays) immediately after supper and putting in a good 4 hours a week. I don't know how realistic that is, but my friend John has said it'd be OK with him if I need a year or two.

I also want to see if I might be able to do some stuff at my own place, ideally something that only requires hand tools like chiseling out braces or shaping the neck with a rasp.

North Country Dad
08-11-2010, 06:01 PM
Good luck!

08-22-2010, 07:42 PM
It's officially underway. Last week I picked out the boards and last night we joined the bookmatched mahogany boards for the back. I'm getting a little more comfortable working with the plane table but I'm still not adequately confident in my abilities so I had my friend "check my work."

Last week we glued together a some MDF to make the molds and last night I finally traced the outline of the guitar shape on them. Next week we cut them out and I'll have a form to use in the bender as well as a framework in which to place the sides once they're bent.

Next up is to trace the shape for the sides and cut the ribs (long boards used for the sides) so that we're ready to bend. The back of the guitar is not a straight line; it gets deeper as you move down the length of the body until it's about 4.75" deep at the end pin.

Meanwhile I'm still thinking up the look of the guitar. I have the cedar and mahogany picked out but I want to use rosewood for the trim and heel wedge. I haven't decided what kind of rosette to do but I think I'm going to do some sort of wood inlay as opposed to abalone which is pricey.

Captain Tuttle
08-22-2010, 08:00 PM
Cool! You taking pictures?

08-22-2010, 08:07 PM
Cool! You taking pictures?

You have to take pics of this project!

08-22-2010, 09:18 PM
Nice,sounds like a lot of fun,.. and work

08-23-2010, 03:39 AM
Cool! You taking pictures?

Not many yet, but here are a couple:

This is me hunching over the blueprints and the woods I just selected. The boards on the bottom right are cedar, the rest are mahogany.

Next is a photo taken last night of the joined back.

The process is pretty simple: just use a plane to make the adjoining edges completely flat. After each pass through a planing table press the two board together and hold them up to the light. If there's no light there's no gap and they're ready to be glued. It took me about 6 passes and another set of eyes to make sure.

Once that was done you get the jig ready. Put the two boards together and pound some nails up against either side. Then you take the wood out, lay a straight edge down on the jig, put a bead of Tite Bond on the edge of the wood and spread it in. I used too much but that's just nerves. I hope to get better as the ball really gets rolling. Then you press the boards together and lay them on the jig with the straight edge under the joint. Once everything's snug pull out the straight edge, wipe off any excess glue and then put some weight on the joint. You're supposed to use 3 big clamps but we couldn't figure out why they were need so we just grabbed anything that weighed a lot and let it sit. I don't know if it's right so we'll see. At worst I just have to use a little steam to take it apart and do the process all over again. It barely took a half hour.

08-25-2010, 01:18 PM
Man, but I love the smell of cedar! Last night I planed the edges and did the light test and did much better this time: I was rewarded with a wonderful smell and a perfectly tight joint after only 6 passes on the table planer. I also used a little less glue when joining the two book matched halves of the soundboard. THe only hang up was when I clamped it down; I put a dink in the soft cedar. Oh well - it's close to the center and that's where the fretboard extension can go.

Meanwhile, we had some issues with the band saw and I only got one of my 4 mold sections cut out. I suppose it was partly user error because I haven't used a band saw before and I found myself fighting the thing around the curves. Still, I have one done, another halfway through and the other 2 ready to go.

Meanwhile my friend has his guitar's body halfway done and was just sanding the rim of the sides as they sat clamped in their mold. He'd been having difficulty with the block where the neck fits in but the third time was the charm. Then it was a matter of mounting a hug radiused dish with a sandpaper disc on it and "driving the bus" until everything was the same height.

After he was done we looked through his box of rosewood scrap and found the joined rosewood backs of 3 failed attempts - cosmetic issues only (grain irregularities.) We're going to cut one up into 1/4" strips to use as the centerline on my mahogany back and the body/fretboard binding. Then I'm going to line it on either side with thin black/white/black purfling. The idea is to get something that looks like this:

09-01-2010, 03:22 PM
Here's a little progress report that's going into my journal:


I got a little bit done last night but am still learning to use the band saw and now thickness sander.

One bit of bad news - there was a weak spot in my top and it split and not at the joint. When my friend took it out of the jig he held it up to give it a look to see if the join was perfect and free of gaps he gave it a tap for tone and it split. He managed to save it though and reglued it for me; there were no loose fibers. Kinda sucks but that's first builds for you I guess.

He's probably getting back at me for messing up his band saw. I have trouble making the turn when cutting the waist in my molds.

BTW, there's been blood shed - his not mine though. He cut his finger on the metal housing of his band saw when I got my mold hung up halfway through a cut. I feel terrible about it but he brushed it off. He looked a little peeved though.

After throwing the band saw out of alignment for the 3rd time we moved on to the thickness sander and got to work on the cedar top. The board started at around .199 and the target range is .110-.120 but it was pretty slow going. His sander is a smaller 10" drum type which only sands the top and half of the joined board at a time so it takes 4 passes. Then I'd crank the height down very slightly so as not to mark the boards or gum up the sandpaper but of course I messed it up. Luckily it should sand out eventually, but it was getting late and the sandpaper roll was getting gummed up so I had to quit. After about a dozen passes I only got the board down to .169 but my "oops" is getting noticeably lighter and the glue joints are getting less and less visible.

On the bright side, I got 3 of my 4 molds cut and have 2 sides which should be enough to put my sides in once I bend them. The cutouts will make suitable forms for the bender. They'll all need to be sanded smooth and level but not by much.

It's still not looking like a guitar yet but I feel like I've made significant strides in the setup phase, despite the setbacks and slow going.

Lastly I just uploaded some pics from last week:

Top being joined (the first time):

The molds being cut (in progress):

Close up of the cutout to be used as a form for the bending process:

Top being joined the second time (this time the right way?):

09-06-2010, 01:57 AM
I'm itching to get back to it but in the meantime I'm doing a lot of reading and planning. I need to pick up some hand tools here and there and bring back some things here to work on.

The other day Joey and I were hanging out when I decided it'd be a good time to trace some more templates off my blueprints. Before I did so I talked to my 3 year-old about what I was doing and to my surprise he actually seemed somewhat interested saying things over and over like "you makin' a geeTAR, Daddee?" so I opened up the book I've been studying to show him what I wanted to do every step of the way in full color. Like him unless it's fully illustrated my attention starts to wander. I've read him the little flip book "Daddy and Me" where a dad and his little boy build a doghouse so he knows what tools are and that projects like this have steps so I did something similar as I flipped through the pages of the guitar building book.

With a little fanfare I pulled out my HUGE blueprints and showed him the drawings. I pointed to the ones I was gonna trace and then pointed to what I was going to do with them in the book. I doubt he grasped that but he seemed excited that I was including him in my little project.

OK, so he wasn't actively involved but I had him help me tape a huge freaking sheet of my plans on the front glass storm door to use as a light table to trace an outline on a piece of poster board. After that I cleaned up the lines on the poster board (tracing upright is HARD people!) and we were done.

Now I'm thinking that it might be OK to bring some light work home to do. Nothing too dangerous; sanding and scraping mostly- maybe some filing, planing and chiseling too but I'll save that for when they're in bed because it involves REALLY sharp stuff - at least before it gets cold. I have to work in a pretty tight range of relative humidity and once the furnace kicks on and sucks all the moisture out of the air and the wood will get too brittle and crack.

BTW, I also frequent a few guitar boards one of which is run by and frequented by amateur and professional luthiers. A couple chimed in and told me that they too were once stay at home dads and did a lot of their early stuff with their kids at their sides. One even shared pictures of his 3 year-old daughter helping him build her a ukelele. There were a cute series of pics where he let her do the gluing and then basically let her put stickers on the unfinished wood and then he lacquered right over them, making them part of the guitar's design.

Well, Joey's a pretty bright kid but he's very distractable and he likes to get in other peoples' business like it's nobody's business. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to involve him in something that is similar to what I'm doing. Doing the bracing should be fun. I'm imagining him gluing popsicle sticks on a piece of foam board shaped like a guitar top or something then have him use clothespins as clamps to keep them in place as the glue dries. What do you guys think?

09-07-2010, 12:54 PM
Well, Joey's a pretty bright kid but he's very distractable and he likes to get in other peoples' business like it's nobody's business. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to involve him in something that is similar to what I'm doing. Doing the bracing should be fun. I'm imagining him gluing popsicle sticks on a piece of foam board shaped like a guitar top or something then have him use clothespins as clamps to keep them in place as the glue dries. What do you guys think?

Just caught up on this thread, looks like you are making good progress. I would totally involve Joey to the extent you can - you get the added benefit of doing something that you enjoy as well - only issue might be if he is easily distracted the attention span may wane quickly if he is not interested in what he is doing, so am not really sure what the best "tasks" are that you can both be involved in that will hold that attention...

09-10-2010, 12:39 AM
Uh oh - things just got a little complicated. I've just acquired my first table tool. My friend was trying to liquidate some of his stuff (a couple old guitars and some tools and such) but couldn't sell his smaller band saw - so he gave it to me. He didn't include the table guides or even the instructions and also let me know that he couldn't get the blade to stay tight but he told me if I could get it to work it's mine. As if he even wanted it back though.

FYI, it's a Ryobi (cheapo Home Depot brand) 9" band saw that retailed for about $100 but the model appears to have been discontinued. It's probably too small for me to cut out the outline of the soundboard (which is 16"x24"x.125" once it's sanded down to the target thickness) but if I can get it to work it should be good enough to cut some 10"x24"x3/4" boards of birch plywood into molds. I should also be able to use it to cut spruce billets into blanks for the bracing.

But again I'm getting ahead of myself. I am not very mechanically-inclined at all. I've been getting some good advice from some other amateur but more-experienced and professional luthiers though and I'm learning what I've done wrong and what to do the next time I try. For example, I learned that the curve in the middle of the guitar shape was too tight for the blade on my friend's band saw and that I need to do a technique called relief cutting where I cut a series of lines perpendicular to the final line I need to follow so that the blade doesn't bend and bind up in my stock.

I'm looking forward to my next attempt though.

09-16-2010, 09:54 PM
Just caught up on this thread, looks like you are making good progress. I would totally involve Joey to the extent you can - you get the added benefit of doing something that you enjoy as well - only issue might be if he is easily distracted the attention span may wane quickly if he is not interested in what he is doing, so am not really sure what the best "tasks" are that you can both be involved in that will hold that attention...

I have to be a little more careful with Joey around. He has no fear in him whatsoever and I'm worried he's gonna tinker with the band saw. I tried running it while he was in the room and he was just a little too curious so I'm going to start keeping/running it in the garage. That's OK though because it's messy to work with.

That being said, I checked out a new video for Joey to watch and I snuck away to the garage for about 45 minutes (being sure to check on him every now and then of course) so that I could finish all the cuts I need to do with the band saw. Now I just need to do some sanding.

Mark B.
09-17-2010, 01:30 AM
Kwak this looks like a very cool project. I have to give credit to a guy who "is not very mechanically inclined" ,according to himself, taking on a project like this. Good luck the rest of the way and keep the pics coming. How many clamps do you own?

09-17-2010, 01:55 AM
How many clamps do you own?

The answer to that is always "never enough." :icon_wink:

09-17-2010, 03:48 AM
Thanks, Mark and wolfmanyoda!

FYI: I don't have any clamps - yet. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. :eusa_whistle:

All I know is that I could've bought a kit or at least decided on an easier model which my friend already has the molds and templates for but I'd be building a guitar similar to one I just bought in January. What'd be the point there? When I'm done with this one it'll be sufficiently different from my other guitars that I'll feel justified and worthy of it.

BTW, have any of you guys ever seen some of the ornate inlay that go into so of those "high end" guitars? I saw pics of a beautiful fretboard inlay of a lion that make me want to learn how to do that kind of stuff. Apparently there's a demand for it. It's very intricate work from what I understand, though. I'm having a hard enough time accurately following/transferring my blueprints for the guitar.

09-17-2010, 03:07 PM
I have to give credit to a guy who "is not very mechanically inclined" ,according to himself, taking on a project like this. Yeah you're proving the idea that somebody is innately "handy" is BS. Makes about as much sense as a kid saying "I'm no good at math," or "I'm no good at reading." It's just having the patience to work at it and keep going through mistakes and hard stuff. Great thread Kwak, I'll be watching the pics all the way through.

09-18-2010, 01:26 AM
Pressure's on then; I need to find my camera because it's MIA. It seems to have walked off.

I just realized that I don't have the goal in mind though, which is to acquire a new guitar and feel completely justified in doing so. At this point, I'm focusing on the short term and trying to get through the first few steps in the hope that some sort of momentum builds making the process go more quickly and more smoothly.

So far I HATE all this grunt work such as sanding and doing some things over and over but I'm of the mind that I can't proceed until I'm satisfied. I know that if I finally nail these critical early steps I'll have less troubles further down the road though.

09-18-2010, 01:52 AM
Good to know I'm not the only one with an anvil in the garage.

09-18-2010, 12:23 PM
LOL, that's my friend John's. He picks up stuff like that at flea markets and uses them instead of clamps because he doesn't have enough. His running gag is that he's really Wile E. Coyote because all his tools come from ACME and he continually blows himself up. He's certainly been having a tough time with his 14" band saw and drum sander.

09-19-2010, 05:07 AM
OK, maybe it's no big deal that my template was off and my second set of molds were about to go screwy too. I just pulled out the original plans and traced the proper outline on the template and sanded it down to the size it should have been. Then I went and laid the template on all my cut boards and traced in the correct outline, and filling in the difference so that I had more than just a tiny line to guide by. I still had plenty of sanding to so there was still nothing lost except the little bit of time it took me to sand my template down - which was about an hour, tops.


Once that was done I tried to think about how I was going to sand the master board down. Yamaha Junkie supplied me with a makeshift spindle but using a hand drill brings in a measure of uncertainty so I tried to come up with my own fixed upright spindle on the fly:


It didn't seem stable enough though so I just made sure to clamp the board in the vise and handle the drill freehand, eyeing the outlines on BOTH sides of the board - and yes, I made sure they were lined up. Every so often I'd stop and overlay the board against the plans to see if I was getting close without going over:


I spent a couple of hours sanding with heavy grit sandpaper on the spindle and 100 grit wrapped around a piece of scrap wood. If I felt like the 100 grit wasn't getting the flat spots out I'd break out the drill again and give it a couple of passes "feeling" for the curve. Once it hit 11 PM though I decided to call it a night with the actual work. Here's how close I got:




They're actually much more accurate than they look here but that's because I wasn't pushing down on the board and the plans in order to take the pictures. The paper likes to spring back and the plywood is light in weight.

The next step is to get the other 3 boards to match this master board. Normally this would call for a router and a pattern tracing bit but I don't think I can get access to those so I might have to give my homemade spindle a shot!

BTW, after that I move on to finally cleaning up the bending forms. Here's a taste of how they look now against my new and improved acrylic template:


Yeah, they're off and I DO need to sand them a bit - but I'm told that they don't have to be perfect. I've heard that they can be about 3mm smaller than the outline of the mold to account for the thickness of the bent sides and that the wood will still spring back against the mold after it's been freshly bent.

09-21-2010, 04:58 AM
Just got back and cleaned up after a couple of hours in my friend's workshop. Not much got accomplished. It seems like I'll be running that cedar top through the drum sander forever; we just can't seem to keep the sandpaper roll tight and the roll overlapped after a little while leaving some light scorching on my cedar. It's not a big problem but at this point I'm considering on hand planing it to the desired thickness.

Meanwhile, I cut up some cheap softwood to use as spacers for my semi solid mold. Things are far from perfect but I'm a ways away from having anything ready to put into it.

09-21-2010, 01:50 PM
Just sitting back admiring this thread, awesome job so far...

09-22-2010, 02:05 AM
Really? Thanks, but I keep thinking that I'm really doing too much and am starting to get burned out.

09-22-2010, 02:18 AM
Just sitting back admiring this thread, awesome job so far...
I agree. Don't give up.

Quiesco Viduata
09-22-2010, 06:56 AM
I agree. Don't give up.

Ditto. I was thinking earlier when reading this thread I'd love to hear the guitar when it's all done. That will be exciting.

Anything worthwhile always takes work and time. You'll enjoy your labour of love when it's all done.

09-22-2010, 04:15 PM
OK, then I'll keep up with it but I need to change gears.

I've been looking at tools lately and found a used drill press on craig's list for $35. Yet again I'm tempted.

09-22-2010, 06:29 PM

You need literal electric baby. Wow. Great tune BTW.

Captain Tuttle
09-22-2010, 08:39 PM
Just sitting back admiring this thread, awesome job so far...

This. I don't always post but always check when you update.

irie feeling
09-23-2010, 02:16 PM
I don't always post but always check when you update.

Me too!:chugchug:

09-24-2010, 04:12 AM
Thanks, guys. I guess I'm just coming up against the frustration of not having the knowledge or proper tools going into this. FWIW it's got the wheels in my head rolling again and I'm trying to find ways to get around those limitations and solve some problems I've been having.

Problem 1: Can't cut a straight line on my band saw.
Common knowledge solution: calibrate the blade by adjusting the guides and by using the included fence.
Problem 1A: no fence came with this gifthorse
Idea 1: build a homemade fence using a piece of MDF scrap and a couple of large clips

Problem 2: Can't sand 3 or 4 3/4" curved forms to the same level or even a single form square with itself - I always have either an arch or a slant to the profile of the curve.
Common Knowledge solution: Use a fixed sanding spindle to shape a single form to desired specs, then using that one as a "master" attached the remaining forms and use a flush trim or pattern tracing bit to trace the master and cut the remaining forms to match. If you don't have a router or spindle table then a drill press will do in a pinch
Problem 2A: I don't own a router, sanding spindle, routing table or even a drill press. All I have is a vice and a hand drill.
Idea 2: create a combination t-square and sanding stick/dowel.

BTW, I did catch wind of a used drill press for $35 just down the road. Do you guys think I should jump on it before my wife sees how much money I've blown on plywood this past month?

09-24-2010, 01:18 PM
Heck yeah,35 bucks is like giving it aawy,unless its junk..What brand is it?
Your solutions sound good too......I don't know how your doing it without a router though(or anything),those things are worth their weight in gold if you ask me....good luck

09-24-2010, 05:08 PM
Heck yeah,35 bucks is like giving it aawy,unless its junk..What brand is it?
Your solutions sound good too......I don't know how your doing it without a router though(or anything),those things are worth their weight in gold if you ask me....good luck

Cummins. I hear it's made in China, but what isn't these days? I hear you on the router though. I'll need one to cut out the soundhole and route the rosette inlay once I'm done planing the cedar top down to close to the final thickness.

09-27-2010, 04:51 AM
OK, I think I'm back on track. I was chit chatting with my "mentor" (he hates to be called that even though I wouldn't even be attempting this if it wasn't for him) and we talked about flush trim bits and routers. We were kicking around ideas to get all the boards for my mold exact with as little work as possible. When I asked what kind of bit he told me he used a regular flush trim bit but taped off the section he was traced so that when the rest of the material was routed out it'd tear off the tape before digging into the wood, letting him know that things were flush there.

Well, that gave me an idea and I ran with it. I touched up a few rough spots in my "master" board and clamped it to a rough cut board and screwed them together with wood screws so that nothing could shift. Then I took a strip of green masking tape, covered my master boards finished outline and got to work sanding the rough curve with my hand drill's spindle attachment. I'd stop every now and then to check with my T-square and everything squared up. I also shone a light in such a way that it would cast a shadow from the rough cut curve to the green tape. Once the shadow was gone I knew that that section was flush and I could move on. I did two of my rough boards in about an hour and have one left for tomorrow.

SPeaking of tomorrow, I need to hit Home Depot yet again for more wood for my mold's spacers (I need 95 of 1x2x3s's to make up the depth of the semi-solid mold) and a miter saw to use with my new gents saw to cut them. Why do it this way? Because I don't have a table saw and the band saw is too imprecise.

Meanwhile, my friend claims he got his thickness sander working again so I'm gonna try and make it over there tomorrow and finish thickness sanding my top and hopefully move on the mahogany back and sides. I also have a board of rosewood that I want to use for trim, wedges and rosette but I doubt I'm gonna get to all that tomorrow.

BTW, my next bit of homework is to start cutting the wood for the structural braces for my guitar. That's why I bought the gent's saw and need a miter box. These are one component of determining the guitar's tone and must be cut precisely so that they all fit snugly.

With any luck I'll have actual pictures of tonewood to post tomorrow.

irie feeling
09-27-2010, 02:21 PM
Looking forward to your pics. I feel like I'm right there with ya.:chugchug:

09-28-2010, 04:56 AM
Well, the mold is almost done. Just a little more sanding and cutting of spacers and I'll be putting it together. Same with the bending forms. I just have to sanding down a couple of humps and everything should fit like a glove.

BTW, tonight I actually worked on the guitar woods tonight. My friend has a Jet 10/20 drum sander that we use to sand the thickness of the woods used for the body of the guitar. Before we'd been using 120 grit and it kept coming loose and made some pretty nasty dark streaks/gouges in my cedar. Well, I'm proud to say that the top is now down to my target of 3.5mm and the streaks/gouges are gone. Now things are so uniform that I'm actually having trouble finding the point where the two cedar boards were glued together. The secret? My friend found a place locally that sells sandpaper rolls for this model drum sander and he bought coarser 80 grit and figured out how to install it properly. I also finally learned how to use it so that the machine could work more efficiently. Here's the trick on that: hold the board flat on the conveyor belt with your fingertips and let it worry about feeding it under the sanding drum. THen once it's past the drum press down on the board while it's still on the conveyor belt with a second hand ready to accept the board once the drum spits it out.

Next up is doing the rosette and back strip while getting the sides ready to be bent and put into my molds - once they're done of course.

10-01-2010, 02:24 PM
I've been told I'm getting overly anal on this so I need to step it up. I figure I've spent enough of my wife's money on plywood to move ahead.

Final sanding of the contour so that all 4 match:

Note the miter box that I used to cut a TON of little blocks of wood for the depth of the mold

Originally the mold was to use 3" spacers but it looked too deep (4.5") since the guitar itself is only going to be 4.5" deep and I'll need the edges free so that I can route out the edges. So I've been playing with the arrangement of the spacers to either 3/4" (mold would be 2.25" deep)

...or 2" spacers (mold would be 3.5" deep)

This way would have more "meat" to drill through for the mounting bolts so that I can separate the mold when the "box" is closed:


Either way would involve just a little more sanding...

10-05-2010, 03:14 AM
Not much to add other than I've mounted all those little wooden block spacers (1.25" wood screws at the "hard" points and 1.25" nails everywhere else) and sanded them all out to roughly the same shape as the guitar outline. Then I went and drilled a 3/8" inch hole through the blocks that are projecting out at either end and threaded a 3/8" lag bolt through to hold the two halves together. It ain't perfect but I'm hoping it's close enough.

Things still aren't perfect but I just have a little cleanup to do around where the neck block will be clamped. That is one of the places where I need to be pretty exact or else the guitar will be crooked.

Once I'm done with that I'm moving on to the spreader blocks, which is basically an internal clamp for each apex of the guitar curve. I'll have three; one for the waist and another for each of the bouts. I was considering on making a 20" one for the blocks but I think a clamp at either end will do.

10-07-2010, 05:08 AM
Today I was admiring my finished mold and waist spreader:

Then I began to wonder about how everything would fit. Way back when I first received the plans and John and I chose the mahogany set I was a little dismayed to find out that the sides were slightly shorter than the length of the template on the plans. I don't remember what it was exactly but we're talking an inch, give or take. I wondered how this would affect how the sides fit into the mold once we bended them. So I did some reading on OLF and broke out my plans and acrylic template:


... I looked at the figures on the plans and set out to measure how close I came to on the mold. First I marked the target waist line on my mold vs. the plans:

Then I measured the length of the waist to the tail joint:


...then the waist to the neck joint:



Then I wrote down the results:


Looks like my waist is off by 1/16" but the target length is nearly right on. Not bad for eye-balling things if I do say so myself.

Then I marked my template for the appropriate trim lines:



So what does this tell me? Well, my hope is that I can avoid any cupping in the mold once the sides are bent and clamped in and the waist spreader put to tension. I want everything nice and snug without being too long. It looks like I have about 13/16" to play with. I need to go back and measure how long the mahogany sides really are now.

10-09-2010, 01:52 PM
Well, last night was certainly productive: we made 6 rosewood coasters!

Seriously, the intent was to get a .1" wide ring of rosewood (with a 5" radius) for my rosette last night and it took 6 tries. FYI: we used a dremel with the Stewmac sound hole jig.

I brought my D-16GT to copy the rosette and provide something to measure with a set of calipers but ultimately decided that it was best just use as "ballpark" and see what would work. Again, my inexperience with woodworking was partly to blame but at least I have all my fingers - it was close there on one try.

It made sense to do the inner ring first and then the outer, which was a good thing because the circular cutout served as a good template for the next 5 attempts. Each time, the "inner" pass went well but the first few attempts met with disaster as the little ring would suddenly fly off into several pieces. On one pass the bit actually dropped through the work piece and about 1/4" into the table below, which was not a big deal but did cause some tear out in the rosewood which was and proved to be the most spectacular failure.

Ultimately I stood back and let my friend John do it and it took him 3 tries too, but he had a few good ideas which seemed to solve the tear-out issues:

1: apply a layer of shellac to the work area to reinforce it
2: tape everything down so that the work piece was flush against the work table and could not move.
2: stop and clear out the accumulating rosewood dust because it may have been interfering with the dremel bit

Ultimately, we did successfully cut out a contiguous ring of rosewood that is still somewhat slim (probably around .15") but by then it was getting too late to clean it up and inlay it in the top. That's probably a GOOD thing.

Sorry no pics yet, but there were some taken.

10-12-2010, 12:52 AM
I was thinking about moving ahead on that rosette and did some rough measurements and a little drafting in Adobe Illustrator:


No way that it's going to work out to be that exact, but I basically want to know where to route the inner and outer rings (which I admit is going to be a call made on the fly) and how wide to make the main ring. If the purfling strips are up to spec they should be .060" and the main trench should be about .22".

Before that though I was working on my bending forms. I think I have them pretty close:


The cross section is nearly flat and square to the sides so I shouldn't have any major toe-in problems when I bend the sides. The waist is the only area that really needs attention but by using the t-square as a scraper I should be able to get it there:

It's not perfect to the template but I'm anticipating that the mahogany sides will have a little spring back. As long as the spreaders and outside mold do their job I'm hoping things will be fine. Just to be sure, I checked to see if there was adequate space in the mold for the spreaders to fit so that the spring back is at a minimum:

I'm mostly concerned about the waist since that's where most of the flexing is reputed to occur. First the bass side:

...then the treble:

It looks like I can stand to shave a little more off the upper and lower bouts too though.

Captain Tuttle
10-12-2010, 01:29 AM
Don't you dare stop bumping this thread.

10-12-2010, 12:05 PM
Will do, Will's Dad! :chugchug:

10-12-2010, 12:50 PM
Okay. You're killing me. When are we going to see a guitar with strings in it? This is AMERICA dammit. I want instant gratification. :sad:

10-12-2010, 03:20 PM
Okay. You're killing me. When are we going to see a guitar with strings in it? This is AMERICA dammit. I want instant gratification. :sad:

Honest answer: probably not for at least 6 months to a year. It's killing me too, but OTOH I want to be as precise as I can be.

10-12-2010, 06:12 PM
Honest answer: probably not for at least 6 months to a year. It's killing me too, but OTOH I want to be as precise as I can be.

NK,in all honesty ,i would have never thought the measurements would have to be so precise...looking good ...

10-12-2010, 06:31 PM
I was told they don't have to be 100% but there are some that HAVE to be or the guitar won't ever be in tune or comfortable to play. Sure, I didn't have to trace the plans so exactly but I did so because I couldn't mechanically duplicate the same profile several times with hand tools without relying on my template.

I know it's not going to be perfect but after seeing the troubles my friend had with his first build I don't want to make similar mistakes. At this stage, I just want a guitar that's symmetrical with sides that are not "cupped" so that the structural block that the neck fits into is sound and positioned so that when I get the neck on the strings will be at a comfortable height.

10-15-2010, 12:42 AM
After the grand rosewood rosette fiasco a week ago my friend John snapped some pics:


Yes, I have a set of coasters, but what I really have plans for is that ring. I'm pretty happy with that western red cedar top too though!

He's either proud that we gouged up his $10 postal office table or perturbed. I can't tell:

10-16-2010, 08:36 PM

Why get a guitar Kwak? All you need is an iPhone.

10-17-2010, 02:36 AM
Pretty cool, but not for me. I don't even like playing my electric guitar anymore.

10-18-2010, 04:02 AM
I guess I'm taking a break. My friend tells me he's getting slammed with work so no late night workshop sessions this week. Crap. I wish I could borrow his dremel and soundhole jig but I'd probably ruin my sounboard or take off a finger.

Ah well, time to think ahead. I think maybe I could build a neck at my place. It'll take me a while and I'll have to buy some carving tools and clamps but at least I'll be accomplishing something and taking out my aggressions. Looks like I'll have to spend at least $100 though. Wife won't be happy.

BTW, I don't know if I shared this but here's my inspiration this week:

10-28-2010, 03:30 AM
My friend John emailed me the other day and told me that Tuesday looked good for me to come over. So last night I packed up my stuff in the car and went over there with the intention of finishing the inlay process of my rosette into the cedar soundboard plate (the top), cutting out the sound hole and cutting it to shape (about 1/8" outside the true outline.)

Well, it turns out that the work I did last time wasn't up to snuff and things were actually a bit rushed. Sure, it took 6 tries to cut a ring but in actuality it was only a partial success. Yes, I have an unbroken ring but the edges are too rough to smooth out and the thickness of the ring is all over the place. If I tried to clean it up again with the dremel it'd split sure as shit.

So... we did another couple of tries with some rosewood scrap and made sure to cut more carefully with the dremel. Instead of one pass with the bit set low enough to cut completely through the wood though we did 3-4 passes and the result was much better. Where before there was a lot of tearout where sections of wood grain were ripped out it was nearly perfectly smooth. In addition, we cut a thicker ring so it's less likely to split when I glue some laminated black/white/black purfling to the inside and outside of the ring and glue it into the sound board.

That's the plan for next time. I've traced the outline of the guitar shape template to the cedar as well as the location of the soundhole. It's just a matter of cutting a trench in the cedar then and brushing it with shellac. I need to do that because I'm going to be using super glue to glue the rings in and I don't want the glue to soak into the cedar grain because when it comes time to put a gloss finish on the completed guitar it will compromise the process and cause a "halo" around the rosette.

...but for now I only need to finish sanding the top so it's smooth and then I can work on the bracing on the underside. The back has to go through a similar process (though instead of a rosette I need to cut out a groove for a strip of rosewood to run down the centerline) and then after that I bend the sides and the body will start to take shape.

I was thinking of starting work on the neck here at home but haven't decided on what to actually do. More on that some other time though.

10-28-2010, 11:51 AM
I met Joe Nelson (http://pipesmagazine.com/python/pipe-news/artisan-pipe-maker-joe-nelson-interview/) from Fond du Lac, WI at the pipe show last weekend. He brought along a prototype 12 string. He made it before making one for a customer. Absolutely astounding.

(That interview was from the beginning of this month, just published this weekend.)

Good luck with getting those rings finished.

10-28-2010, 12:40 PM
That's cool, bjorn. A 12 string is a really hard one because those strings exert twice the pull on the same size neck and body so they have to be a little beefier. Because of that they usually don't sound as "deep" as 6 strings. $3500 for a custom acoustic is actually not a bad price. My friend in Ohio starts at $5500 and he's been at it 10 years.

10-28-2010, 12:55 PM
That's cool, bjorn. A 12 string is a really hard one because those strings exert twice the pull on the same size neck and body so they have to be a little beefier. Because of that they usually don't sound as "deep" as 6 strings. $3500 for a custom acoustic is actually not a bad price. My friend in Ohio starts at $5500 and he's been at it 10 years.

At first when I saw the prices, I was like whoa, that is eff'ing expensive - but then again, my wife is a musician and she was telling me that classical string players pay big money for their instruments... still, a big chunk of change!

10-28-2010, 12:58 PM
His pipes are dirt cheap when it comes down to the market space he's in. A guy outside of Marquette, MI makes enough on selling one pipe that he can fly to Japan for a single sale and still make a huge profit. I expect that's why he's doing more pipes.

That 12 string looked fragile, in a good way. The neck looked even thinner than a normal 6. Lots of inlays and silver. Maybe someone got a photo of it.

10-28-2010, 02:20 PM
With a guitar, the lighter the better. The problem is that they usually don't last more than maybe 10 years. My friend built his to weigh less than 4 pounds and compared it to some pricey guitars and was told his sounded better. The bigger builders prefer to "overbuild" them so that they don't get a lot of warranty claims. The problem with that is that they don't vibrate as freely.

11-24-2010, 04:42 AM
I haven't been able to do much with my guitar for the past 4 weeks or so, so I've been making luthier clamps out of oak. They seem to work OK:


BTW, my 3yo likes to help. It's nice having a sidekick again:

One last thing that's more on-topic. I bought a 3/4" board of actual Honduran mahogany from the local lumber yard. That stuff is getting hard to come by because of newly-imposed import restrictions under the CITES treaty. I'm hoping it's good enough to make a laminated guitar neck out of.

11-29-2010, 04:06 AM
Hoo boy, I actually did some cutting on my guitar build last night and Dremeled out an indentation in my cedar soundboard to place the rosette. I had to quit halfway through so sorry no pics. I'm hoping to finish up on Tuesday and then move on to getting it to start being shaped like a guitar. Pictures then, I promise.

11-29-2010, 04:45 PM
I thought you'd said something about not being "handy?" Those clamps look complicated with tight tolerances, very cool. Nice work.

12-17-2010, 02:52 PM
Thanks, Riggs. They actually slip a bit. I have to drill holes for some dowels or something. All I know is that the "real" ones for sale at Steward-MacDonald work fine.

Meanwhile, I'm told that that board is "rift to quartersawn" meaning that it's no good for a laminate neck, but I can resaw it and use the quartersawn 2-1/2" portion for a neck shaft. It's long enough that I can cut a 15 degree angle about 7-1/2" from one end and flip it to make a scarf joint at the headstock. I think I'd still need to get more mahogany to make the heel though. It'd still be cheaper than if I'd bought the wood online though.

The other night I got a window to go over my friend's place and work on the rosette some more. I was a little overly-generous with the superglue but I used shellac on the woods so it won't soak into the grain and will sand off. I still need to use a cabinet scraper to make the rosette flush with the top and then mix some superglue with sawdust from my cuts to clean up any gaps.

12-17-2010, 05:53 PM
I'm sure you will enjoy it. Congratulations!

12-18-2010, 01:19 AM
I'm sure you will enjoy it. Congratulations!

There's nothing to congratulate just yet other than having a very generous and patient friend. I'm a long ways off from finishing unless I start doing stuff here at home. For that I have to find a way to keep the humidity levels in my house around 35-40% or else the wood would start to warp.

12-18-2010, 02:47 PM
Cool clamps, I had my double bass repaired by a luthier in Vancouver before I left. They use all kinds of tools most of us have never seen before! He used a 340 year old hand reamer for the dowel in the snapped neck. Can't wait to see how this turns out!

12-18-2010, 02:58 PM
Cool clamps, I had my double bass repaired by a luthier in Vancouver before I left. They use all kinds of tools most of us have never seen before! He used a 340 year old hand reamer for the dowel in the snapped neck. Can't wait to see how this turns out!

Yeah, I'm looking for a jack plane right now but I'm told that the stuff that's on the market right now is crap (the undersides aren't perfectly flat) and that you really can't use them right out of the box. I hear Stanley planes are THE ones to get, but a jack plane from them costs about $130.

Quiesco Viduata
12-18-2010, 03:09 PM
Kwak, the precision tools are usually very expensive. I had a music store and a guy doing instrument repair. The cost of the tools he needed were unreal, but then again, they were precision tools.

12-19-2010, 07:01 PM
Yeah, instrument repair is not like building a house. Gotta have the right tools to get good results.

12-20-2010, 02:53 AM
^ true, but there are different ways of doing things. For example, when I joined the two halves of my soundboard and back I used my friend's jointer table. Then when I sanded the thickness of those plates down I used a small drum sander. Both jobs could have been done with a decent block plane and I'd probably have learned more about the wood I was working with as opposed to how to operate two intimidating pieces of machinery. I may yet buy a $15 block plane at Harbor Freight along with several $4 bar clamps. Still, I have to learn to sharpen them though.

01-05-2011, 02:12 PM
Finally a little progress. The rosette is about 99% done, There's just a little bit of filling to do; the cedar tore out on the outer ring where the bit dug into the grain.


About 3 weeks ago I finally got a chance to glue all the rings and strips in but got crazy with the superglue. My friend emailed me and told me the rosewood had turned white. I was a little worried because if it soaked into the wood it'd show up later as a greenish "glow" once a finish was applied. Fortunately, my friend had done that same mistake before and knew what to do beforehand to prevent that - a generous amount of liquid shellac. That's what you see brushed into the top here, after I'd brushed away all the sawdust and cleaned it with naptha.

There was a LOT of sanding to do because those black and white purfling strips were standing really proud of the cedar but they were seated firmly thanks to all the glue I'd used. It took a good couple of hours or careful application of elbow grease but once I started smelling cedar I knew I was almost done. Now everything is flush and the next step is to do something similar along the centerline of my mahogany back plate. It shouldn't be hard since it'll be a 1/4" strip of rosewood with the similar black and white border. There shouldn't be any tearout this time though; it's mahogany (which is a little more resiliant) and I'll be routing out parallel to the grain, not against it in places like I did with the circular rosette.

BTW, I've also been buying up tools. My mom wasn't too imaginative with regards to gifts so she handed me some cash which I blew at Harbor Freight and Rockler, my two new favorite toy stores! I bought that $10 #33 bench plane, some F-style clamps ($3.50 apiece) and a glass plate sharpening system. Now I need to go back and get some chisels because I have a billet of Adirondack spruce I need to split up and cut into braces here at home. I also have a couple of cheap planks of rosewood that I'm going to try and fashion bridges out of.

Hopefully things will really start to roll soon. My molds are ready to use to shape all this stuff into a guitar body. I can't wait!

01-13-2011, 03:30 AM
Last week I was given a little homework to study up on, soundboard bracing:


My study aid there is a mockup of a Martin dreadnought model soundboard. There are braces on both sides for illustration in Martin's standard X-bracing pattern but one side's braces have been "scalloped" in places to reduce their weight without sacrificing their strength.

Below that is a billet of quartersawn spruce which is used to make the braces. Here I'm holding up the cross section of the billet with my thumb on the face that will be the base of the brace. Note that the grain is nearly perpendicular, meaning that it's nearly perfectly quartersawn.


That's only part of the equation though. The grain also has to be straight as well. Here you can see that it sort of skews off at an angle to the cut of the billet. Ideally, the grain should be straight along the entire length of the brace, maximizing the strength of the brace:

Not pictured is another issue call runout, which I'm still trying to comprehend. Basically, it involves how the wood is structured perpendicular to the grain. Think of it this way, if a tree grows perfectly straight and perpendicular to the ground there will be zero runout but if the tree leans as it grows then at the point of the bend there will be runout which is to be avoided. The best way to check for that is to place a chisel perpendicular to the grain on the cross-section face in my second picture and split it down the length of the board. Hopefully the cut will be straight but if it takes a turn then that's a point where there's runout and it's best to be trimmed off because that will be a weak point in the brace. The trick is to find a length suitable for a brace with no runout. If you don't check for runout you run the risk of discovering it later on.

So last Sunday after I'd made some good progress with my own soundboard we took a rusty machete and a weathered carpenter's hammer and split it into shards that were fractured along the grain. I took those shards home and have been shaping them into the rough braces following the blueprints:


I haven't checked for runout though, so part of me thinks I'm tempting fate.

01-13-2011, 01:44 PM
this is awesome man....never would have thought there was this much involved.....nice work.....

01-13-2011, 03:59 PM

I should mention that I'm trying to get my 3yo involved. I bought him a little ukelele kit that is about half-finished and am trying to get him to sand it. If he loses interest that's OK because I'm also going to use it as a guinea pig for practicing finishing and decorative stuff like body binding.

irie feeling
01-13-2011, 05:30 PM
Nice work, Kwak

01-14-2011, 02:12 AM
I spent a half hour today cutting and planing the remainder of the usable sections of the billet:

I don't know if you can see but the grain on certain parts of the billet were really wavy:

BTW, I still have a lot to learn about gluing! Look at that blotchy job on a sanding surface no less. ;)

I was worried I wouldn't have enough for the upper transverse brace but it worked out. I even got all my finger braces.

... but I fell short for enough usable lengths to brace the back:

Like I said though, the back's still a ways off. Not pictured is the optional X-braced pattern which I was hoping to try but I think fate has told me "not this time." That's OK with me though. I think ladder bracing will do just fine.

...now on to figuring out how to radius all the braces but the upper transverse brace.

02-12-2011, 03:54 PM
Last night sure was educational. The jury's still out on whether it was successful or not. It was my first attempt at bending the sides for my jumbo and the first opportunity to use my home made bending form and guitar mold.

Getting everything lined up and set up. Sandwiched between two metal slats and wrapped in brown paper is one of two slats of quarter sawn Honduran mahogany. They're each about 38" long and sanded to about .085" thick but one edge is curved so that the width at one end is 4-3/4" while the other is about an inch thinner. That side will be the back of the guitar and it's important that each side is a mirror of the other. In order to bend the wood, the brown paper is spritzed (but not soaked) with distilled water and a heating blanket is draped over the metal and plugged into a cutoff switch. To monitor the temperature, a probe is placed beneath the top slat.

As you turn up the heat you can start to smell the wood cook, so you have to be aware of the temperature at all times. When it gets up to 222 degrees the water will boil and you'll see the steam come out from between the slats. At that point it's time to caaaaarefully (and slowly) clamp everything down, starting with the waist, then the springs at either end:

Once it's bent you let it cook a bit, watching the temperature so that it doesn't fluctuate much between 290 and 300. In order to do this you have to switch the heat off and on four times. After that, unplug it and walk away and do something else:

Then after an hour, take it out and caaaaarefully put it into the mold. Meanwhile get to work on the other side. There was a bit of confusion on this though. More on that later, but as for that success thing - well, I learned the hard way not to fool with things: DOH! *face palm*


Hopefully all is not lost. A little fast-acting CA glue on the part of Mr. Kitchen and he may have pulled my bacon out of the fryer:

...now on to the other side. (to be continued)

Captain Tuttle
02-12-2011, 04:19 PM
Awesome awesome stuff man.

02-13-2011, 02:05 AM
Nice job. I'm really impressed with the jigs you made in order to make the guitar. :chugchug:

Mark B.
02-13-2011, 02:42 AM
this is awesome man....never would have thought there was this much involved.....nice work.....


Note to self. If I ever want a guitar, go to Sam Ash.

Nice work Kwak. Like the product placement of the Buds in the pics too!

02-13-2011, 03:10 AM
Nice job. I'm really impressed with the jigs you made in order to make the guitar. :chugchug:

Thanks! I'm just following a bunch of advice I've gleaned from luthiers I know and others who are just offering advice free of charge. There are also a couple of really informative and in-depth textbooks and DVDs out there.


Note to self. If I ever want a guitar, go to Sam Ash.

Nice work Kwak. Like the product placement of the Buds in the pics too!

FWIW don't go to a large chain. A lot of places like that don't know how to take care of their inventory and will push stuff on you that you don't really want or need. Stick with a smaller local store that has a decent-sized inventory with more than a few brands to choose from.

02-22-2011, 04:21 AM
Last night I went over to my friend's shop to continue on my back & sides. We both got a lot done. His 3rd build is progressing quickly and efficiently and it's quite inspiring to see it come together so quickly. I'm blessed to have his tutelage.

I starting by sanding flush my decorative back strip of rippled mahogany bound by BWB purfling that I'd laid last week. Here's the result of about an hour's work followed by some clean up with naptha and a little shellac to protect it:


BTW, I love the figuring on the Honduran mahogany back. My friend had just done his current build's back strip and let me in on some of his tricks to prevent tear out and even place a slight arch on the back strip. He had me lay some green frog tape on either side of the strip as I sanded it down but the sanding block did hit the bare wood lightening it a little. Even though, you can still see the wedge effect caused by a darkening of the grain. I'm hoping that there's a similar (yet subtle) contrast with the mahogany center strip.

Then on to the next issue: my sides. Sure, one of them cracked right along the line at the top of my mold - which irks John to no end - but I was really worried about the mix up that led me to believe that I'd bent two of the same side. Fortunately, an error on my part prevented that from happening: I'd flipped my second side when I laid it on the bender so that it bent correctly but now my sides are not bookmatched.

No biggie IMO - this is a first build after all. Besides, the sides cracked yet again - TWICE no less - as we clamped them into the mold. We probably should've just used the spreaders after all, but what better way to stabilize a crack than by just gluing in the end blocks?


We went with some stock Martin solid mahogany blocks that were already profiled. They look good enough against the profile of the mold.

The neck block is pretty much the same radius. Here's the tail block, which isn't that far off:

(BTW, ya gotta love those funky clamps his kids bought him for Christmas and decorated! :D )

Next he had me move on to gluing up the reinforcing strip on the inside face of the back plate:


Underneath the rosewood caul is your basic spruce back strip. As with the decorative strip, he had just done the same with his #3 build and noticed that the go-bars had left indentations in the back strip so the caul was his way of solving that problem.

Next up for next time will be the kerfing. There's a bit of a debate between us though. The stuff he has looks to me like the same stock Martin stuff on my D-16GT. He thinks it's reversed kerfing.

Which way is right? Is this the side that should get glued to the sides? :


...or is this the glue surface? :


Either way, I'm looking at some pretty tight bends around the waist and upper bouts. John's already figured out that wetting the kerfing and drying it on a heat source relaxes it well enough to bend.

02-22-2011, 11:07 AM
Usually when gluing wood projects the idea is to use as much glue surface as possible.

I'd glue the solid side. Even though those kerf lines are narrow, they do add up and if they are 1/8" wide then for every linear foot you will lose one full inch of gluing surface.

That's my two cents.
And a peak inside my guitar shows the cut side out.

Oh yeah, that third pic from the bottom, that is one funky contraption to hold down the reinforcing strip.

02-22-2011, 11:34 AM
Yeah, that's what I said. When you look at the profile there's a right angle where the flat side and the base meet, with the notched side as the hypotenuse (I used to be a math geek before hormones and adult ADD kicked in.) Reverse kerfing has a sort of rounded bevel to it. If he were to glue this kerfing to the side he'd half to do a bit of sanding along the rim of the guitar to get a good glue joint for the top and back plates to make contact with.

BTW, I agree: the go bar deck is a funky clamping contraption. It beats the hell out of using a dozen or more deep throat C clamps - and cheaper too. Those nylon rods are more efficient anyway.

Quiesco Viduata
03-21-2011, 04:11 AM
Bumping this thread for Kwak (hint hint). :icon_lol: What's been happening the last month?

03-21-2011, 01:43 PM
Sorry. Nothing's been happening. Kids have been sick in both our houses. We had head colds, his entire family had nausea and diarrhea and nobody wanted to trade illnesses.

It's been on my mind but I was just thinking that I may want to just buy new wood for the sides and start over. I was surprised to hear that the local Rockler actually sells that kind of stuff but I didn't see the same species of wood that I've been using. I'm using Honduran mahogany but they have African mahogany (aka Khaya Mahogany) which looks similar but I need to see side by side.

I go over there tonight to do I don't know what. I don't want to even look at my mistake and just get started on bracing the top. That's the fun part because the next step involves chiseling the braces and "voicing" the top.

03-22-2011, 05:50 PM
OK, I got a little something done last night. It took a little while but I got the bracing started on the cedar sound board:


BTW, here's my little side-project for Joey which is in the middle of the polishing phase. Yeah, I know it looks like it's almost done but the kit was half-assembled to begin with. All I've really done is sanded it and glued a couple of big pieces together. The bridge, tuners and strings don't go on until the finish is done:


05-25-2011, 04:58 AM
I'm bumping this zombie thread - but only because there's been a little progress. Not much, but a little. I'm only clocking in about 3-4 hours a month on this build after all. I'd do more if I could but I don't have the tools at home that my friend has at his shop and both our schedules have been hectic with family and work things on both ends. Even still, we're talking maybe one late night a month. I give my friend credit for putting up with me through all of this.

That being said, last night I revisited the incomplete top plate and second set of bent African mahogany sides. Yes, they were Honduran after all, I guess.

Let's start with the sides: my intention was to get the neck and tail block in but I didn't have them ready so I focused on getting the excess trimmed off so that things would be ready to go. After some careful marking and an even more careful couple of cuts on the band saw I gently put them back in the mold and reapplied the spreaders. There was no confusion this time!


Note the home made Baltic birch plywood tail block. I bought a 3/8" board of it at the local Rockler (which is across town) then discovered that a nearby Michael's craft store had smaller and thinner pieces in stock. I made it at my home but the reason it wasn't ready was because I needed to sand an arc on the gluing face and I wanted to use my friend's oscillating sander instead of just eye-balling it on a sanding board in my own basement workshop.

Next on to the top plate. The X braces were put on well over a month ago and I'm hoping to get the rest of the braces, shims and bridge plate put on in time for a trip out to Tim McKnight's place next weekend. It wasn't in the cards though since the next brace (the upper transverse brace) needs to be perfectly flat underneath while the majority of the remaining braces need to have the 28' radius underneath. The reason the UTB needs to be flat is because it's essential that that portion of the top be flat for the fretboard extension to lay atop and to get the correct neck angle when the time comes for final assembly.


I have to admit to some embarrassing issues with regards to this picture. The first was that there was a near-catastrophic cascading go-bar failure that marred the underside of my cedar sound board. One should be fairly obvious but I'm not worried since nobody was hurt - they're quite dangerous actually - and the top didn't crack.

The second has to do with the neck block itself. I painstaking cut a piece of Baltic birch plywood so that I'd have the correct thickness for the extension and still have truss rod access but after the go-bar malfunction I got a little flustered and I was tired - aw heck, no excuses! I glued it on backwards! To you luthier types it should be obvious but let me spell it out so that I may fully confess my sin: the pre-cut mortise needs to be facing the other direction so that I can fit the neck's tenon later on.

I didn't notice until I looked at the pictures after I'd returned home. That pushes back kerfing my sides another day at least. :o


07-05-2011, 03:38 AM
Ancient thread bump:

Summary: Two steps backward, one step forward. Here's where I am with the sides as of last night:


Read on for details:

1: Braces had to come off. The glue-up was bad and when I tapped it there was a buzz. I was visiting a friend in Ohio who's an established luthier and he chiseled them off for me. He gave me replacements for them which I really appreciate though. The X braces already have the lap joint cut into them and the angle of the X is actually wider so that the lower bout will vibrate more freely and improve the bass.

2: I never got the sides done. In fact, they're still not. I made a new tail block out of birch plywood and put it on a few days ago. The neck block OTOH is giving me a lot of trouble because I'm not sure how tall it needs to be. I need to look over the plans and crunch the numbers. Once that's figured out only then will I commit to putting the kerfing on. I'm going to give myself a few days and ask some luthiers for advice before I proceed.

...after that and a little sanding the sides will be ready to receive the top and back, which means I'll move on to gluing on the bracing and actually voicing the instrument.

07-07-2011, 12:54 PM
Put the 3rd attempt at a neck block in last night. I have to let it set before moving on to kerfing.


My mold has many imperfections and limitations so I needed to put some shims in to get a tighter glue joint:


If this doesn't work then I'll probably have to take it out of the mold to get even pressure all around. The mold seemed to get in the way of the clamps.

07-13-2011, 01:12 AM
I put the kerfing on the top rim last night. I elected to use the plain triangular stuff. It comes in strips about a foot long and it's fragile so it's a good idea to spritz it with distilled water to soften the wood a little.


I went the extra mile and "damp fitted" the strips against the outside of the bent sides us the contents of three $1 bags of clothespins I bought at Wal Mart. After that I applied Titebond to the kerfing strips and glued them to the inside of the sides with nary a break. In hindsight I should've applied glue to the side as well to make sure that this stays firm. The flat face of these strips will be the sole contact point to glue the top and back plates on, which hopefully you'll get to see soon.



Reverse view:

Next time I need to trim away at the back rim before gluing on the kerfing. I'm thinking that some tall side braces - not just fabric tape or even popsicle sticks - might be a good idea as well to counter any "cupping" where the profile not completely flat.

07-13-2011, 01:16 AM
thats a lot of clothes pins lol

07-13-2011, 01:35 AM
That's the way C.F. Martin & Co. of Nazareth, Pennsylvania has done it for at least 100 years - or however long the spring-equipped clothes pin has been around.

Here's a recently-released video of their operation in 1939:

Here's a more recent video of the Martin guitar factory that shows basically all the steps I've done in the last 11 months - only they take about a week to build a guitar, and even then it's an assembly line process that involves a mix of automation and human labor. This last step I've done is featured at 7:43.


EDIT: BTW, I've never taken the Martin factory tour but would love to one day. It's actually not far from where I grew up but is now a day trip for me across the entire state.

07-16-2011, 03:45 AM
Dude, that is probably the coolest hobby i have heard about in a long time.
I play both acoustic and electric. I been in nashville for a year, and still haven't taken the time to go to the gibson factory. Gotta do that soon.
Good luck with it.

07-16-2011, 01:40 PM
Dude, that is probably the coolest hobby i have heard about in a long time.
I play both acoustic and electric. I been in nashville for a year, and still haven't taken the time to go to the gibson factory. Gotta do that soon.
Good luck with it.

FWIW I hear that Gibson's reputation is solely based on its heritage and not its present-day operations. ;)

07-21-2011, 01:30 PM
I chiseled away the extra material above the neck block and finished up the kerfing last night. Actually, I used a 6-1/2" block plane that I just bought at Home Depot and tried to get Scary Sharp the night before. It went pretty smoothly. Side slats are next.



It isn't perfect but I'm hoping that it'll all come out when I use the radius dish to sand the profile.

08-05-2011, 03:07 AM
I put a couple hours in the other night but don't have any pics of my own to share. I was just basically checking out the structural integrity of my sides to see if they were stiff enough with all these structural components getting glued but I found that the assembly still has some spring back. When I take the thing out of the mold the waist spreads out a bit and the rim that is to be the back spreads out wider than the top's rim. So I installed all the spreaders into the mold and it trued everything up. I'm so glad I put so much effort into the mold because it's saving my bacon here.

Next up is to install side slats at strategic points around the inside of the bent sides. These are supposed to reinforce the side so that if it take a sharp impact and the side splits along the grain when the crack reaches a slat it will stop. I'm beginning to see that it also has a structural purpose as well, almost like the braces on the top and back plates.

I have a friend on a guitar player forum who's also building his first guitar in a luthier's workshop and he's doing things a little differently but he's at this point as well and did this:


It seems to be a sound principle to inlet the side slat into the kerfing like that so I'll be doing something similar. I've already got some quartersawn walnut ready to cut to size. It's just a matter of chiseling away a few sections of kerfing where the side is essentially flat. I figure I can get away with only 6-8 slats.

08-05-2011, 07:54 PM
This you Kwak?


08-05-2011, 10:16 PM
Was he stress-testing an Esteban?


08-18-2011, 01:12 PM
I spent 3 hours tonight sanding the kerfing on the top rim to a 28' radius. Yeah, that's a big old drill bit straight into an old post office table. The sanding dish slips on it and then (as John Hall of Blues Creek Guitars puts it) you "drive the bus." Note the side slats. I used some walnut my friend had laying around.


It made a LOT of sawdust. I was surprised at how much but the waist was the last area to get sanded down so everything else got sanded down pretty far.


Then I sanded the radius to the gluing side of the new X braces.


Plans for next time:
1: check the angle of the top of the neck block extension. It should be 91.5. If it's not then I'm going to re-sand the entire upper bout with a flat sanding stick so that the angle is correct. I don't want the dreaded 14th fret hump when the neck goes on.
2: flip the mold over and (using the 20' radius dish with sanding disc) sand the back rim.
3: start gluing the braces to the cedar top again.

09-01-2011, 02:04 AM

How does the Gibson raid impact the smaller guitar makers? Are they worried or is it something that just impacts the big guys?

I can relate to how they feel. When the JD takes your business down because they think you did something, the worst part is waiting for them to charge you. They can decide not to, but that doesn't get anything back and puts a lot of people out of work.

09-02-2011, 04:46 PM
I ahve to admit that I'm not completely up to speed on this issue. From what I know about the first incident with Gibson, they were getting a species of wood indigenous to Madagascar through questionable means. I don't know how scarce the wood is but I'd heard that there was some sort of coup in the government and they pretty much sealed the borders.

As for the status of woods in general for instrument-making, the most famous wood that is under the microscope is rosewood from Brazil. It's been under protection from export under the CITES treaty for 40 years now, though you can still give stuff that's been out of Brazil from before that time. Most builders have long since switched to rosewood that comes out of farms in eastern India. If I ever get around to building another guitar, I'll probably get some of that because word is that that stuff is starting to get scarce.

Most recently even mahogany has become endangered. Up until just a couple of years ago you could get a guitar with solid mahogany from Honduras or elsewhere in central America. It too has recently gone under CITES protection so many builders have switched to alternative woods out of Africa, such as sapale or khaya.

Another wood that used to be mainstream but is now rare is Macassar Ebony. Builders use it to make fretboards and bridges among other things. The stuff is usually all black but most of what I've seen lately has light grain streaks in it - which is OK. It's still a pretty hard wood.

The other 2 big builders in the US are Martin (in Nazareth, PA) and Taylor (in SoCal.) Each have taken steps to use "alternatives" to these hard to get (and thus more expensive) woods. Taylor was one of the first to switch to woods out of Africa, substituting sapele for mahogany and ovangkul for rosewood - though limited editions using hog and rose still come about. They're pretty famous for their use of automation and pride themselves on the process that allows them to churn out 70,000 guitars a year.

Martin OTOH has cut production and is looking to use "alternative" materials. They switched to sapele but also cherry as a "smart wood" alternative. They even done a lot of research in using higher quality laminated materials. Their factory in Mexico puts out the X series which is made with a material that is little different than formica. They've started using necks made with a material called Stratabond which was originally used to make gunstocks and is basically about 50 strips of wood laminated together. They use automated CNC machines to carve the necks out of the stuff. As for ebony, they've started replacing it with a material they call "Richlite" which is basically the same stuff they build the X series guitars out of.

I don't own a Taylor but I bought a Martin recently that's kind of a mixture of their low-end and the traditional series. The model is a D-16GT which has solid south American mahogany back and sides and a solid Sitka spruce top (which is what they traditionally use) but for the neck they use Spanish cedar (which smells nice but very strong.) They use Richlite for the fingerboard and the bridge and I'm not sold on the stuff. I'd rather have ebony but would settle for rosewood. It's a good guitar otherwise. It's got the signature Martin bass and it rings like a bell and it cost me less than $1000.

Getting back to Gibson though, they're not the same company they used to be. There are stories out there saying how disgruntled the workers are and I'm inclined to believe that this may have been the result of a whistleblower within the company. I've also heard that their workmanship is sliding as well and the stuff they contract out of China for might actually be better now. If anything, they're a black eye for the whole "made in America" campaign.

As for me, I'd just curious about the process and figure that if I want another guitar what better way to justify it than by building it yourself? It'll probably have flaws that a factory-built guitar wouldn't but I don't intend on subjecting it to much wear and tear; I'll mostly just play it at home. I'm not looking to go pro as a builder, though I do see a demand locally for those skilled with repair. That's why I was beating the crap out of one of my old guitars in another thread.

09-06-2011, 12:09 PM
I went over to my friend's place last night and flipped the mold over so that I could sand the back rim. I tried making an end graft inlay out of rosewood but after an hour I was too mentally fried to finish it. I'll put it off until later once I "close the box" where the top and back get glued on to the sides.

Next time by God I'm moving on to the bracing. I've been practicing on scrap wood with my band saw, block plane and 3/4" chisel.


09-06-2011, 12:58 PM
Looking good ...I haven't been in this thread in a while ...
Can't imagine all the work your doing on it:crazy:Just hope it sounds good too:icon_razz:

09-06-2011, 06:05 PM
I was wondering if anybody even cared. I have a friend out in the PNW who's taking a guided class with a luthier that started last month and he's already in the home stretch. I'm guessing that he doesn't have 14 hour days with 2 hyperactive kids though. Pro luthiers claim that they can knock out a guitar in 40 hours. I must 4X that time invested - easy.

As for how it will sound, that's actually something that you can't predict but is not out of your control. I could go on a long-winded lecture about the voicing process but I figure I'll save that for when I actually do the process so you all can see what I'm trying to do. Suffice it to say that I'll be doing a lot of chiseling of those braces into funny organic-looking shapes that are strong enough to do their structural job without out being too heavy to keep the soundboard from vibrating.

Even then, the guitar's sound will not reach its full potential. Most guitars undergo a sort of aging process where the wood acclimates to being a guitar down at a cellular level. It's called "opening" up and it begins as soon as the guitar first receives its strings and is played for the first time and may take several months to a year to reach the point where its potential is fully realized. With this one, that process should be short because I chose to use cedar instead of spruce for the soundboard.

Mark B.
09-06-2011, 06:33 PM
I was wondering if anybody even cared.

I care! I must admit I had no idea how much work and time it took. I knew it was a lot but this is way more than I imagined. And now you drop the bomb about not being quite ready when you are finished building it. You are starting to sound like my wife when we buy a house.

"You don't have to change a thing....Let's redo the kitchen and all the bathrooms...Honey, we are moving, again." :icon_lol:

Keep it up Kwak.

09-06-2011, 08:01 PM
I care! I must admit I had no idea how much work and time it took. I knew it was a lot but this is way more than I imagined. And now you drop the bomb about not being quite ready when you are finished building it. You are starting to sound like my wife when we buy a house.

Keep it up Kwak.

+1 ,,definitely impressive and no worries about the time it takes...Thats half the fun right??
Maybe when its done you'll post a vid of you playing a little something on it..

09-06-2011, 09:36 PM
I care! I must admit I had no idea how much work and time it took. I knew it was a lot but this is way more than I imagined. And now you drop the bomb about not being quite ready when you are finished building it. You are starting to sound like my wife when we buy a house.

"You don't have to change a thing....Let's redo the kitchen and all the bathrooms...Honey, we are moving, again." :icon_lol:

Keep it up Kwak.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving this. I guess my frustration at the slow progress is showing but I'm not gonna quit. In fact, I'm looking forward to giving it another go and simplifying the process. A lot of my setbacks have either been me over analyzing each step and losing momentum or rushing through a step only to have to do it all over again. Now that I've been through some of the process and have decided that I want to do a more "traditional" guitar design.

FTM, they do make kits where a lot of the harder steps have been done for you. You still have to worry about humidity in your workspace - at least a little - and have to spend a few hundred $$$ on tools but all the big sanding, carving and bending have been done for you. I ask you though: Where's the fun in that? ;o)

BTW, today's project was making a go-bar deck that is intended for gluing up braces, but it also make a nice little free-standing work table and also can be used as a shelving unit to clean up some clutter. My lil Joe helped me and I had him hand me screws as I put it together. H can be a PITA a lot of the time but he really seems to want to help.

Mark B.
09-06-2011, 09:42 PM
If I could get that many hours away at night I would sit in a local bar and a few months later walk in the house with a store bought "geetar" and tell everyone at home I made it. Just make a few small mods on the labels. :pint:BRILLIANT!

09-06-2011, 09:59 PM
Can someone PM me when this is complete? This is turning into a kluge.

09-06-2011, 11:11 PM
Can someone PM me when this is complete? This is turning into a kluge.

LOL. Speaking of which, my wife has been looking at houses online. :eusa_whistle:

09-07-2011, 02:41 AM
LOL. Speaking of which, my wife has been looking at houses online. :eusa_whistle:

She moving out? :icon_lol:

Good luck. I hear NC is nice.

09-07-2011, 03:11 AM
She moving out? :icon_lol:

Good luck. I hear NC is nice.

LOL. Not gonna happen. She wants a bigger house. More for me to clean. Great.:eusa_hand:

09-10-2011, 03:07 PM
I was bored this week so I built a go-bar deck kind of like this one:


Mine's 2' x 2' x 2' so it's not as high but it fits under my workbench which is nice. I glued two boards of 3/4" MDF to make the platforms and used steel pipe for the beams to make it sturdy so that I could use the top for a lower work platform. That way either I can work on stuff from any angle - while sitting on a chair no less - or Joey can use it to play with stuff on. I was thinking of picking up some of those little balsa birdhouse kits from Michael's.

It's pretty heavy but I could also lift if up on the workbench and use it for its intended purpose: to clamp down things on a guitar build. I'm hoping to put it to use for my second build, whenever I get around to that.

I'm also using it as a storage rack for scrap wood, tool bins and boxes of sandpaper. I'd take pictures but the basement's a wreck.

09-19-2011, 02:31 PM
I went over to my friend's place last night and did a little more gluing things on:


BTW, I hate those nylon rods. :tusk:

09-25-2011, 01:47 PM
I decided to put off the lower face bars and just glue in the X brace. This time I used the radius dish and I also took precautions to make sure that no go-bars slipped off!


BTW, I also tapered the ends of the side finger braces with a chisel. This isn't their final shape yet though.





09-25-2011, 02:02 PM
Dam man. With the time and effort required to build this guitar it should be worth at least 2K. When can we call this a guitar kluge?

09-25-2011, 02:43 PM
Dam man. With the time and effort required to build this guitar it should be worth at least 2K. When can we call this a guitar kluge?

Actually a handmade guitar usually costs well over $4,000 but that's when done by an experienced luthier and even then it usually only takes them 40-80 hours of work. If you want to call this a kluge I guess you can. I knew it would take me at least a year but it's turned into a lesson in time management and hopefully an illustration of "what not to do" to others looking to try so that they can avoid my mistakes and uncertainties.

BTW, this guitar will not have a price. Besides not being top quality it will also have some sentimental value. FWIW I'm hoping that the next one goes smoother. I'm already in the early planning stages for something more traditional and need to buy some materials.

10-16-2011, 06:14 PM
After 3 weeks away I almost finished up gluing on the bracing last night. My friend Mr. Kitchen was busy too. He was too busy shooting kiddie pics - including my younger son's preschool - and hadn't been in the shop as long as I had been. He hadn't touched his latest build and my top was STILL in the go-bar deck. He also neglected to empty his dehumidifier so the RH went up to 55% which is a little high for gluing but I pressed on. After futzing around with my back plate I marked where my tone bars would fit into the X brace and I notched a slot with a 1/4" chisel:


Then I worked on the bridge plate, which is made of flat sawn osage orange that I thickness sanded to .096". Then I did a dry test fit.

Everything could be snugger but it was good enough for me to proceed after making a caul for the bridge plate:

Hopefully I'll get to glue those last two sound hole braces next time. It's likely that everything will still look like this when I return:

In the meantime I have some homework to do: cutting the braces for the back so that I can glue them up next time too. I'm getting excited because I"m getting close to voicing the top! It looks like I'll be able to do that here at home; after a rainy week the furnace has kicked on and the RH on my workbench hygrometer reads around 40%.

10-19-2011, 02:59 AM
Now that the top has (nearly) had all its braces glued on it's time to start getting the braces ready for the back plate. Since my friend's pretty busy with his photography business this week I took some spruce home to work with. This morning I found my 4yo had taken an interest in the unfinished bracework.


FWIW later on he came down to my workshop and wanted to help "glue some stuff" together, but he got distracted by some cardboard templates I'd made and decided to draw out his own bracing pattern.

10-24-2011, 05:21 PM
I did the back bracing last night:

First sand the underside of the braces on a radius dish with 80 grit sanding disk. Note that each brace is in a specific spot.

Next, using a template mark where each brace goes and with a Japanese saw and a 1/4" chisel remove a specific section of the centerline graft.

Glue them in with go-bars just like with the top. Note that the waist brace had to be supported. That's because I removed a little too much from the center strip so the brace had a little "wiggle room."

Everything's square and I got the worst of the glue squeeze out cleaned out. Next time they'll be ready to shape.

PS: since the humidity in my basement here at home has been stable at 37% I've brought the top and sides home so that I can do a little homework. More on that later.

EDIT: BTW, my son's scribblings are still on the sides of the 2 wider braces. I have to do a bit of planing and sanding but I'm hoping to keep as much of it as I can. If not then I'll find some other way of preserving his involvement.

10-28-2011, 05:43 AM
Today was a mix of mulling things over and getting things done.

The weather's about to change so the RH in my basement has fluctuated. I don't know which hygrometer's reading to trust either. Today one was as high up as 58%. Tonight they seem to agree, though when placed next to my work on the bench below the RH is about 3% higher. FYI: the floor is concrete and this is a basement so some moisture coming through from the ground below is to be expected.

Since the RH fluctuated so much I opted not to glue in the last pieces of my top bracing (namely the sound hole grafts) but I spent some time making sure that they fit snugly for when the time to glue up does come. Instead, I chose to start tapering the ends of the braces:



I'm on the fence on how to proceed though. Do I taper the ends but save the scalloping and final shaping for later in the voicing process when I glue the top to the sides? Or do I just go nuts with the chisel now? Gitnoob's talk of voicing and checking frequencies has me wondering what's best. I'll have to sleep on it. For now I think tapering the ends is best. That will get me closer to gluing the top to the sides.

So I did a test fit after I'd tapered the ends of the X brace on the lower bout. The upper bout is a little more complicated though. The plan is to follow gitnoob's lead and trim the ends of the upper transverse brace so that it locks in flush against the inner face of the bent sides.


Carefully, I flipped it over and laid in on a piece of foam posterboard:

I took note of where the centerline on the plate was located and the one I marked on the underside of the end blocks. Using the neck block extension as a guide I had a rough idea of where the lengths of the two components line up. Looking at the thickness of the plywood and the pre-drilled hole for the truss rod I had an idea to thicken that area. The inspiration was from a plywood Martin neck block that I'd borrowed from my friend who's led me down this path:


I figure that shoring that up like that would help stabilize the area even more and allow me to route a channel for the truss rod after all. I'd been resigned to just having the access point at the headstock, which I wasn't crazy about for aesthetic reasons.

FWIW this area is foremost on my mind because that extension is key to setting the neck angle. At some point I'm going to have to take those sides out of the mold and get that top face planed to the right angle. I have my drafter's protractor ready. I'll be shooting for 91.5 and I'll want the top of that piece of plywood to be dead flat before I even entertain the idea of gluing on that top.

10-29-2011, 04:20 AM
The humidity dropped when the rain ended so I put my new toy to use:


Yeah, it's a go bar clamping deck. I opted to use wood bars instead of nylon. It's actually much easier to use. The whole thing also doubles as a storage cart and work table when I put it on a dolly:


Not only does this make better use of space but I've also been cleaning up the basement as well. I've moved a lot of old baby stuff to the garage where we'll be having a sale tomorrow morning. There's a lot more space to move around in now and with some cleaning it should actually be a nice little man cave. Sorry guys if you're disappointed if there's no big screen TV or X-BOX but at least there a full size fridge with a case of beer within reach.

10-30-2011, 12:47 AM
Last night I sharpened my 3/4" chisel and started started shaping the profile of the braces so that there are no more sharp edges. Instead the cross section are now arch-shaped. It was hard at first but eventually I found the right angle from which to shave the wood and things are much smoother. The braces are nowhere near as refined as on my Martin or Larrivee acoustic guitars but this one is 100% mine.


11-03-2011, 06:43 PM
I nearly screwed something up but found a go-between. In the meantime I'm prepping the top plate and upper rim of the sides so that I can glue them together. It's a delicate process but I'm getting closer.

Meanwhile, I started working on the back plate's braces:


11-03-2011, 07:45 PM
WOW,,very nice job on everything ...Looks like a lot of work and enjoyment :icon_wink:...something sure to be proud of when its done

11-04-2011, 02:11 AM

I'm loving having stuff here at home to work on. I was feeling like things were losing momentum because several friends had built 2 or 3 guitars while I got just this far. I like to think I'm learning something while I do things twice! :icon_lol:

BTW, I still get my "nights out" over at my friend's place though. I've been watching him French polish his current guitar build and the other night he started fitting the neck. I'm a long ways off from either step.

11-06-2011, 12:34 AM
I stayed up too late last night and snuck away a little today to scallop the braces on the soundboard:


My friend lent me a Martin guitar template for reference, though I'm not looking to copy things exactly:


The reason for the dips in the brace wood is to reduce mass without sacrificing strength. The rule of thumb is that every 3 inches from the soundboard and along each brace is a "node" where the soundwaves cancel each other out. By leaving the braces thicker at the nodes it doesn't interfere as much with the vibration of the soundboard.

11-15-2011, 04:09 AM
For the past week I've been prepping the sides to accept the plates. From what I've read the most common procedure is to leave the braces long enough to extend beyond the outline of the sides, measure the dimensions carefully and then cut notches into the kerfing and sides so that the braces stick out. When I saw my friend do this with his first build I thought it was ugly but he told me that he did it because it would "lock in" the braces with the rims and make the guitar stronger.

I'm not totally buying it but I figured I'd give it a try - and I'm paying for it with the back. The issue is that the rims on the back taper so that the entire back plate has to bend so that it fits. That complicates who you would go about measuring and marking where to cut into the kerfing/sides. Last night and earlier today I tried measuring and even made some cuts with the back just lying free on the rims. I was driving myself crazy because I had to repeatedly realign the back to the sides and made MANY marks. When I started making my notches I started with the lower bout because it was easier since the bend is at the upper bout. The problem happened when I went to notch the upper bout. When I bent the back everything shifted, but luckily nothing's broken and my cuts are shallow enough that I can fill any oopsies for structural reasons and for visual aesthetics the binding will cover them.

I posed this problem over at the Kit Guitars Forum and somebody suggested I use rubber bands to secure the plate to the sides. I was wondering how I'd do this without taking the sides out of the mold when it occurred to me that I had some bungie cords lying around. They lock right on to the sides of my mold nicely and I think I've got a good working solution. It's too late tonight to fire up the Dremel (I got a smaller model for Xmas from my wife last year) but tomorrow hopefully I'll have my notches finished and the oopsies filled with scrap spruce.

Now for the pics:





The top's rim isn't tapered like this so it's mostly ready to go. I just need to sand things smooth with progressively smoother grits of sandpaper. Once that's all done - and I don't jinx things with overconfidence followed by the inevitable brain fart - I should be ready to close the box. (Crosses fingers)

11-21-2011, 02:18 PM
Wow... awesome! I wonder if I can pull this off myself.

11-21-2011, 04:34 PM
Give it a try. you don't have to get in depth as much as I have. You can buy the molds and jigs and there are kits out there where a lot of the work is already done for you. For a fee all that tedious stuff like thickness sanding, bending the sides, routing for the rosette, etc. can be done for you. Basically you just have to glue things together.

There are even courses you can take at schools or community colleges or even at a luthier's workshop but those courses rush you through the process and leave a lot on you to finish once the term is over. If you choses to work in a luthier's shop you'd have to sign a waiver and covered your own lodging.

I just chose to do all this because I've seen other accounts of builds like this and I wanted to learn the theory behind each step. I also wanted to be able to work close to home and spread out the costs. Once I'm done with this one I see me doing it at least a couple more times and giving them to friends or building a guitar for me that otherwise I couldn't afford.

11-23-2011, 05:33 AM
After much hymming and hawing I went ahead and glued the back to the sides. I used my own go-bar deck which is pictured below. The bars themselves are 1/4" x 1/2" firring strips that I bought at Home Depot for something like $1.70 a foot. The cauls were also some cheap landscaping stakes that I cut into 3" sections for another project. Humidity is always a concern because my basement fluctuates so much during rainy days so I took everything over to my friend's place because he has a dehumidifier and keeps his shop around 40% RH. A lot of work went into getting everything to fit just right. I was very anal about things this morning but tonight I felt like I rushed things. We'll see once I can take the whole thing out of the deck.


11-26-2011, 07:11 PM
It's close to being a box. Right now I'd call it a bowl or a basket or something. That just means I could take it out of the mold without worrying about the waist flexing and setting it down on the router table to trim off the excess. Flip it over and it makes a nice conga noise too! :D





Yes, there was a little tearout that was the result of a crack that had formed when I did a dry fit with the go-bar deck, but that's going to be routed out for the binding/purfling anyway so no big deal. All in all, not bad since I didn't use a flush cut bit on the router.


Next up is to flatten the extension on the neck block so that it's flat (so that there's no hump at the 14th fret) and at 1.5 so that the neck angle is right when the time comes. I've yet to sign the underside of my soundboard but I have a little more sanding to do in order to get rid of all the flat surfaces.

11-28-2011, 02:38 PM
That is really going to be a great family heirloom when it is done. :icon_wink:

11-28-2011, 10:32 PM
That is really going to be a great family heirloom when it is done. :icon_wink:

I agree...
looks good

11-28-2011, 10:47 PM
Sorry to say, I've missed a lot of this thread....but it's coming out great Kwak. Good on you for taking the time to do it right and learn about the process (rather than just buying the kits like you said). Your patience must be paying off in this project!

11-29-2011, 03:23 AM
Thanks, guys! Today I was doing a dry fit of the top under pressure in the go-bar deck and I had Joey helping me, handing me the rods and sticking a mag light in the soundhole to see if any light was leaking through between the top and sides. His favorite thing right now is banging on an old set of bongos that were left to me from my dad and I showed him how a guitar's body is kind of like a drum by knocking lightly right where the bridge will go. It was definitely one of the better father/son moments.

As for what's next, the top is almost ready to go on for good. I just have to chisel away at a couple of places, then sign and date the underside for posterity*. I also need to print out a label to glue to the inside of the back and be seen from the soundhole. I just haven't decided what to call it yet.

* OT: this reminds me of a funny story I read in a book put out by Martin guitars out of Nazareth, PA. 1960s folk singer and guitar player Joan Baez plays an old Martin parlor guitar that at one point had a repair done by an unnamed luthier in the story that involved removing the guitar's top. He did a good enough job but apparently he didn't think much of Ms. Baez's political leanings - though at the time he kept his opinions to himself. Years later Martin guitars approached Joan with the desire to reproduce her guitar as a limited run signature model. In order to do so though, they had to borrow and inspect the guitar in order to reproduce it to exacting specifications. At that point that luthier's thoughts became known to everyone else for he had taken the time to write backwards (so that it could be read with a mirror) yet clearly in pencil "too bad you're a communist!" Both the luthiers at Martin and Joan Baez had a good laugh at that and IIRC the reproductions also feature that scripting underneath the top.

I don't know what I'd write but maybe a message to my kids might be a good idea.

11-29-2011, 04:21 AM
Virgil quick come c, there goes Robert E. Lee. Love me some " The night they drove old Dixie down". Great song, written by a Canuck too.

That's a funny story kwak. Interesting.

Quiesco Viduata
11-29-2011, 04:30 AM
I also need to print out a label to glue to the inside of the back and be seen from the soundhole. I just haven't decided what to call it yet.

Exciting to get to this stage. I'm really enjoying this thread and watching the process.

Can you combine parts of your boy's names to come up with a unique name?

11-29-2011, 05:48 AM
It's looking sweet Kwak. Great to see how you get by make a lot of clamps and tools yourself too. Nice work.

12-02-2011, 05:06 AM
Today was a brisk December morning with frost on the rooftops and the furnace kicking on, reducing the RH to the mid-30% range. Perfect conditions actually to put the top on. After signing the underside of the soundboard and recording its tap tone one last time for posterity I did some final sanding of the tail and neck blocks to make sure that the angle right. Even if things aren't dead on at this point I can still still tweak things after the top is trimmed. :


At this point it was time start the day so I had to wait until after lunch to do the glue up.


Then I enlisted a little help with the go bars. He was adamant that he do one all by himself - even though I feared for his safety and the structural integrity of my ding-prone cedar top:


"It sounds like a drum, Daddy!"


That was right when I was supposed to be dropping him off at preschool; about 12:30PM. It's nearly 12 hours later and I'm itching to take the go bars out and pull the box out of the mold but I'll wait until tomorrow night.


12-02-2011, 02:03 PM
I was just told by several in the online luthery community that the technical term for an acoustic guitar body with no top is a "boat". Now that the top is glued on though I'll be referring to it as "the box".

12-03-2011, 02:58 AM

I went down to take the go bars off and noticed that one had failed. That's not the worst of it though. The top left bout didn't glue down well at all, and the sound board actually split due to bad placement of the go bars.





The break looks clean enough to glue up - provided it can take the stress. If not then I may have to reinforce or laminate it underneath somehow.

Thinking about it a little further though, I think that the break is a combination of too much overhang in the area and some expansion in the bracing underneath that caused the top to sit a little higher when the humidity increased. When I removed an adjacent gobar everything shifted and it cracked. I heard it but was in denial for a second or two before the F word erupted into my brain - but did not pass my lips.

Quiesco Viduata
12-03-2011, 03:33 AM
Kwak, AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Sorry to see this happen, especially after ALL your work. I hope glueing will do the trick for you, but yes, it does look like a clean crack -- can't even see it in the picture where you have it back in place and holding it with your finger.

I was excited when I saw there was a new post and thought, "YEASSSS the unveiling". Needless to say, I literally gasped (audibly) when I read that it cracked and saw the pictures. Rather heartbreaking, but I'm glad that it may be salvageable.

I'm absolutely amazed you didn't drop the F bomb. The air would have been very blue if that happened to me. I marvel, and am always astounded, at your high level of patience. Bravo!!!

I have to say, this thread is worse than a damn soap opera. LOL!!!! So now we have to wait even LONGER. LOL!!!!

Good luck with the repair and make sure you keep us posted to how you're doing it.

12-03-2011, 04:18 AM
Rather heartbreaking, but I'm glad that it may be salvageable.

Good luck with the repair and make sure you keep us posted to how you're doing it.


That sucks, but keep at it. It's a learning process and you've come this far!

12-03-2011, 04:37 AM
Hehe - yeah, sorry for the drama but I'm learning as I go and I've never claimed to be an expert.

Look at it this way: there's a LOT of extra material that needs to be cut away to be flush with the sides and even then after that I will rout away more to put in wood binding and purfling strips. This latest break will actually only extend about 1/4" or so into the top of the guitar. Im more concerned about why things don't seem to be sitting flush. THAT'S a bigger issue since we're talking about a fit in the internal bracing that would have been solved easily had I discovered it before I glued the top on.

FWIW I have to look at it a little more and formulate a plan but I'm not discouraged at all. I just know that I can't rush it, that's all. I know it's frustrating to watch though. Again, sorry about that. I'm hoping that SOMETHING goes off without a hitch soon! :sad:

12-03-2011, 05:04 AM
I'm learning as I go and I've never claimed to be an expert. This is the part that's so cool, that you're willing to take it on without experience. I just showed our teenager some pics in your thread, told him this is your first try. He just said "Holy cow!" and " That's insane!" "That's amazing." His instrument is a trumpet, but he appreciates all instruments I think.

I'm sure you'll fix the split (I did the wince too). Gotta have some failures learning new stuff.

Quiesco Viduata
12-03-2011, 05:05 AM
Hehe - yeah, sorry for the drama but I'm learning as I go and I've never claimed to be an expert.

Look at it this way: there's a LOT of extra material that needs to be cut away to be flush with the sides and even then after that I will rout away more to put in wood binding and purfling strips. This latest break will actually only extend about 1/4" or so into the top of the guitar. Im more concerned about why things don't seem to be sitting flush. THAT'S a bigger issue since we're talking about a fit in the internal bracing that would have been solved easily had I discovered it before I glued the top on.

FWIW I have to look at it a little more and formulate a plan but I'm not discouraged at all. I just know that I can't rush it, that's all. I know it's frustrating to watch though. Again, sorry about that. I'm hoping that SOMETHING goes off without a hitch soon! :sad:

Once again, your patience shine through. No, I wouldn't say reading this is frustrating, it's extremely interesting to see the process. That's great that you aren't disappointed by it. I was wondering how far the crack would be in once the top was cut down to size, so that's good that it's only 1/4".

Hope you find the issue of the uneven top and that it's an easy fix.

12-03-2011, 02:25 PM
Not so fast. I foolishly went ahead and made things much much worse. I should've just gone to bed; I'd only gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before and had a hard day so I wasn't thinking clearly . :sad:

12-04-2011, 06:11 AM
I think I'll be fine. It ain't gonna be pretty though. Like gitnoob said, chalk it up as experience, take note of what went wrong, fix it and try and do better next time. Next time may be a kit though! :lol:

I also post this over at AGF and my friend and mentor sent me this reply. I've been working at my home because his day job varies with regards to schedule:

Oh! Ooops Heck we can fix it. Next week is a lighter load (so far). DO NOT KEEP refitting the wounded wood. You'll knock out fibers

He's gonna be mad then:


Fate or God or whatever you all may believe in has this thing about kicking me in the pants though. This time another gobar let go and shot right into the soundhole. Another inch in any direction and things could have been MUCH worse.


No apologies though. I will work through this. I already have some ideas. I'll need to do one of those little Cole Clark guitar inspired inlays though:


I figure that it will be a small one since after everything is trimmed away only about 1/8" will be affected. That was probably part of the issue: too much overhang. In some places there's 3/4" overhang. As careful as I was any one of those cauls could have slipped for any reason. Next time I'm thinking of using clamps instead. It's easier - but costly.


My concern is actually with the fit of this mortise. This is what may be pushing everything upward. I may have to figure out a way to sand between those 2 surfaces to make it fit better. Odd that it did fit before but that's wood - it swells and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature.


There's also 4 consecutive points at waist that were not glued up either. Once I get that shored up I'll move on to putting some Frog tape on either side of that split brace and gluing it back down.

Captain Tuttle
12-04-2011, 06:40 AM
This is such a good goddamned thread.

Quiesco Viduata
12-04-2011, 06:53 AM
I also post this over at AGF and my friend and mentor sent me this reply. I've been working at my home because his day job varies with regards to schedule:

Originally Posted by Kitchen Guitars
Oh! Ooops Heck we can fix it. Next week is a lighter load (so far). DO NOT KEEP refitting the wounded wood. You'll knock out fibers

He's gonna be mad then:


Oh, Neil, you crack me up. Sorry, but I had to laugh - too humorous not too. The quote from Kitchen and your picture are just too much. :icon_lol:

I really hope all this works out for you. Sad to see the inside brace split.

This thread sure has given me an appreciation for what luithers go through and all that they can be up against with one small little slip or mistake.

12-07-2011, 02:35 AM
this is an awsome thread and im reading it with earnest. Hope i can learn a few tricks and tips and apply them to solid body electric guitar building

12-07-2011, 05:50 AM
I went over to my friend's place and he yelled at me for trying to fix the split. We tried it as well tonight with superglue and it didn't hold. After poking around inside we just decided "aw screw it" and I ran a bead of Titebond along the remaining gaps then turned it sideways to allow the glue to ooze through. Then he handed me a bunch of cam clamps and told me to go to town. There was lots of "squeeze out" when the top was clamped down which is a good sign. I left it there to sit so we'll see how it took when I go back next week.

BTW, the box is alive though. I was listening to the radio on the way over tonight and had the guitar body sitting on the passenger seat next to me. I laid my fingertips on the top and could feel the guitar resonate. It's really cool because in effect the soundboard acts as a speaker cone.

12-07-2011, 06:05 AM
wondering what inlays you will be doing on the neck and i cannot wait to see how you lay in the frets.

also will the bridge be natural bone or plastic?

Quiesco Viduata
12-07-2011, 06:21 AM
BTW, the box is alive though. I was listening to the radio on the way over tonight and had the guitar body sitting on the passenger seat next to me. I laid my fingertips on the top and could feel the guitar resonate. It's really cool because in effect the soundboard acts as a speaker cone.

That's excellent - very exciting. Very glad to hear that; as I'm sure you were to feel it; as that is the crux of all of this, what will sound like?

12-07-2011, 06:30 AM
wondering what inlays you will be doing on the neck and i cannot wait to see how you lay in the frets.

also will the bridge be natural bone or plastic?

I'm not going to put inlays on it. Just small dots on a rosewood fingerboard. For the neck I'm planning on building a laminated neck. I have several flatsawn boards that I will sandwich together with Titebond then cut to the rough shape on the bandsaw. It will be Honduran mahogany with a center strip comprised of two 1/4" layers of maple and a central layer of rosewood. I'm looking forward to see how these work out because the tenon is to be 3/4" thick and the truss rod channel is 1/4" thick. It will save me a lot of cutting/chiseling doing it this way.

The bridge will also be rosewood but I'm assuming that you mean the saddle, which will be bone soaked in tea. It's something that a luthier friend does and I like the aged effect it gives. I'll be doing the same thing with the nut and the bridge pins.

12-07-2011, 06:37 AM
That's excellent - very exciting. Very glad to hear that; as I'm sure you were to feel it; as that is the crux of all of this, what will sound like?

Well, I've played cedar/mahogany guitars before and they are very mellow. Great for fingerstyle but not for strumming with a pick, especially hard strumming. As for the size of the box, I'm hoping it has a strong bass response but not at the cost of the midrange. I scalloped the braces and will be sanding away some from the edge of the soundboard to accentuate that. The tighter waist of this design should keep the midrange focused and the choice of a dense wood in osage orange as the bridge plate should give it a clear treble response. Since it's got a cedar top I'm not expecting long sustain but the tap tone of the plate before I glued it to the rims was quite gong-like. I held it up to a tuner and it read a strong G note.

12-15-2011, 05:11 AM
I went over to my friend's place last night to check on my guitar body and the chunk that came off the top. The glue seems to have held on the rims but the shard didn't affix itself to the main part of the top so I had to file all the hardened superglue off and try and get it to look seamless again.

My friend suggested I whittle away at the excess on the top with the router and even though I was careful, I did chip out a spot elsewhere nearly as badly. Turns out that maybe I shouldve applied some shellac all over the top to reinforce the grain like we did when we routed out the rosette.

At this point it's moot because we put some more Titebond at each break and I taped it all up. I hope it held. After I clean up the excess glue I WILL be applying shellac.

Sorry no pictures. It's too ugly to look at and I'm trying to forget!

12-15-2011, 03:27 PM
Sounds like just a minor setback ,,hopefully it holds for you and you can start the shellacking ..Think you'll be playing any Christmas songs on it this Christmas?

12-15-2011, 04:04 PM
No chance. It will take at least until spring to finish construction then I have to do layer upon layer of finish which involves many conferences grits of wet sanding. Next up is building the neck.

12-16-2011, 04:19 AM
how will the neck be attacched? glued or other?

please PLEASE put up pics of how the thruss rod is inserted! its something ive always wondered.

12-16-2011, 05:05 AM
It's going to have a mortise/tenon neck joint. That's all I've decided right now. I know your experience is more with electric guitars but this is pretty close to the acoustic version of the bolt-on neck. Basically, there's a 3/4" wide x 3/4" deep x ~3" long space cut into the neck block and there's a matching piece on the end of the neck that fits inside. Since the sides are straight-in (not angled like a dovetail joint) this type of joint requires a pair of bolts to hold things in place while the glue cures. Some don't bother with the glue

Here's a pic of the mortise that is already cut into my guitar's neck block. I glued the plywood on wrong in this picture though. It's since been fixed:


For the neck, I'm going to be making a laminated neck out of several boards of rift sawn tone woods; the sides of the neck will be made of 3/4" thick African mahogany that will match the back and sides in color and grain pattern. The inner part of the neck will be 2 layers of 1/4" thick maple sandwiched around a center layer of either 1/4 thick east Indian rosewood or walnut. The way I see it those three central layers should be the same width as the mortise in the solid mahogany block and the outer maple layers should be nice and solid.

As for the truss rod, the plans call for a space approximately 1/4" wide by 3/8" deep in the neck itself. If I play my cards right and measure/cut correctly then that area will be taken out of the center layer. That means that I have to cut the top 3/8" off the profile so then I won't have to use a router to cut the groove. I hate routers. I haven't decided on the access point though. Some builders put an access plate on the headstock, others put the access point on the inside which requires a long Allen wrench. I'm going to try to put the access point on the inside and keep the headstock clean-looking. That why there's a groove cut in the neck block "tongue" in this picture. The truss rod won't come up that far but I've already tried and an L-shaped Allen wrench will reach all the way to the neck block where the fitting will reside:


BTW, here's a pretty good link that shows lots of pics of laminated guitar necks and how the truss rod fits inside:


12-20-2011, 05:00 AM
Tonight it was time to see how the (Titebond) glue job to those breaks came out. Off came the tape and this is how things look:


Just in case, there's also a break at the lower bout on the same side of the guitar as the break on the upper bout. It didn't split completely though so it wasn't as big of a deal to fix. I'm confident that it will be virtually invisible. The upper bout isn't as clean but I cleaned up the break as best I could so that there's a good glue joint and everything is solid. A check with a flashlight inside the guitar body showed no light leaks and there's no buzz or loss of sustain when the top is tapped.

Now that the glue was off, my friend John handed me his Dremel and told me to use it to trim off the rest of the excess off the soundboard. He also told me which way to cut to avoid tearout. It was hard to see exactly where the bit was in relation to the sides from above so I had to kneel on the floor and look up from underneath. I also made various pilot cuts and worked VERY slowly!

So, on to fixing that broken brace:

I taped up around the brace and squeezed some Titebond into the gap, which runs from the end of the brace to the midpoint. I applied the go bars and cauls once again. There was good squeeze out which is a good sign.


BTW, that's my rosewood binding. I've been using it to eyeball my goof ups and see if I'd chipped away too much from the edges of the soundboard.

Quiesco Viduata
12-20-2011, 01:58 PM
Great to hear that the crack/splits aren't going to affect the sound. I'm sure it was a huge learning experience.

Next time you're over there take a picture of the top - I'd love to see the top with the edges trimmed. I was wondering how you were going to do that to prevent tearout, or going in too deep and gouging the sides. Rather meticulous work.

12-20-2011, 03:44 PM
They're mostly trimmed now. The next step for the body is to cut a series of shelves into the sides amd straight into the kerfing to make a place for the binding and purfling. Then I have to fire up the bending machine again for those rosewood strips. I want to get started on the neck first though. I need to put the body aside for now.

01-04-2012, 07:29 PM
So last night I got to devote a couple of hours toward getting started on the body binding. The rosewood binding is to be bound below and inside the main channel by bold BWB purfling. Actually, during the course of measuring/sighting up the laminate trimmer's flush cut bearing I found that an additional strip of purfling was necessary. I don't have pictures but I pulled a double-strip of black/brown purfling for the top and a less bold BWB strip for the back.

After the fiasco with trimming the excess top and back material on the router table - without the use of a flush cut bit - I was worried that another pass with a laminate trimmer would have similarly disastrous results. As it turned out, I didn't have much to worry about after all. As you can see, there's only a little left of that chipped out section at the edge of the upper bout. This is just the first pass though so even less will remain - I'd guess maybe even just a single grain line based on that notch I did with the laminate trimmer set to cut the channel for the purfling inside the binding.


One thing that complicated matters was that I wasn't able to get the edge of the top 100% flush with the sides so I had to forego cutting that upper channel and move on to focusing on the main outer channel first. See how wiggly? :


BTW, this was the first chance I was able to fully appreciate the relief and sense of accomplishment of completing the cloed soundbox. The cracked back brace may not be pretty but it's all back together and the box rings like a gong.


Anyway, I just got acclimated enough to complete the top cut. Next time I'll do the main channel for the back then move on to doing those inner passes. The rosewood strips have been lightly sanded with 400 grit to remove any burrs and are ready to be bent with the Fox bender, just as I did with the mahogany sides.

01-05-2012, 12:15 AM
Nice man, glad to see you sticking with it. A lot of people would have given up on such a long process.

01-05-2012, 03:42 AM
Thanks, WMY. I need to do this; that is to say to get out of my house and focus on something other than my family troubles.

Mark B.
01-05-2012, 04:03 AM
Nice man, glad to see you sticking with it. A lot of people would have given up on such a long process.


01-09-2012, 01:17 PM
I did a little more routing tonight:



The top doesn't look as pretty but I'll fix it next time. Sorry no pix.

Next time I do the binding. Here's a mockup of the purfling/binding that I made to set up the bit on the laminate trimmer but obviously I measured wrong and will have to reconsider for the back. The front should be OK though.


01-24-2012, 06:17 AM
The other day I took a little time and fired up the bandsaw to cut laminates for the neck. I cut out a template from a sheet of 1/8" plexiglass earlier in the week and used it to trace outlines on some riftsawn wood that I bought from Rockler a couple of months ago. Then I did a dry-fitting to see how they lined up. The outer layers are mahogany (I believe they're African mahogany,) the inner layers are maple and the center layer is walnut.


Comparing against the plans and the template:

I cut a little extra to the thickness and length of the headstock. The plans also call for a volute which is tricky to cut out close with my little 9" Ryobi bandsaw so it looks ugly but I'm not worried. I may go without the volute altogether though.

I put a fresh blade on the bandsaw but it's got a pretty big tooth and left some bites that I'm going to have to plane smooth. I also need to glue "wings" on the headstock but that will all be hidden by a rosewood faceplate:

The three center layers measure exactly at 3/4" which is what the plans call for the width of the tenon. I have a pre-mortised neck block in the body so I won't know for certain if it will be a perfect fit until I rout away the sides around the mortise:

Once I cut out the wings I'll glue it all together. I may need to buy more of these clamps; they only cost $3 apiece at Harbor Freight. Then I'll move on to routing out the truss rod channel. I haven't decided on a shape to the headstock yet but I really like the look of Collings' headstocks. They're sort of Gibson-esque:


Later on that night I went over to my friend's place and installed the rosewood end wedge. It took much longer than the neck and a couple of tries to boot - and it's still not perfect, but it'll do.

Thinking ahead, I need to fill some mistakes on the upper binding channel then it's on to binding. IN the meantime, I need to order a truss rod, some rosewood veneer and some fatter purfling for the back binding.

01-25-2012, 07:05 PM
Its looking more and more like a guitar now...
so will this be one and done or do you think you'll do another one?

01-25-2012, 08:03 PM
Its looking more and more like a guitar now...
so will this be one and done or do you think you'll do another one?

Oh no - it's a sickness! I plan on doing at least 2 more. At least 1 more for me then I'm thinking of building 2 as gifts. Hopefully they'll go quicker. I want to start buying up the woods soon.

01-31-2012, 05:28 AM
Tonight I cleaned up the end wedge:




I know: it's not perfect but given that this is my first and it's for me I'd say it's "good enough." I already know what I'm going to do differently next time: do the wedge just after gluing in the blocks just like that O'Brien guy on Youtube says to do. He makes it look soooo easy. :mad:

I also glued up the neck blank. I'll take pics when it's presentable; there's lots of glue slop and I need to trim all the rough cuts to match the target profile. ;)

01-31-2012, 01:35 PM
Its the only one i've ever seen,so it looks pretty good to me..:icon_lol:

01-31-2012, 02:55 PM
Thanks, man - but there are a couple of spots where I have to fill in with sawdust and superglue and the wedge is slightly crooked. It's all because I couldn't quite make out the the true centerline with the top and back already on. I also didn't use any jigs to make my cuts absolutely straight. Here's how easy it should be:


01-31-2012, 03:13 PM
Well i think yours turned out pretty good considering you didn't use jigs..Why not use a block of wood though,seemed easy enough...Did you use your high tech glue spreading device though:icon_razz:

02-14-2012, 02:28 PM
I haven't been able to get to my friend's shop and have been sitting on some extra wood to make laminated necks so I went and cut out some plies the other nights. This time around I used the original 3/4" x 24" x 6" Honduran mahogany board I bought last year along with more 1/4" maple and a spare cut of 1/4" walnut. As you can see, the Honduran is much darker and IMO denser. If I don't use it this time around I could see it matched up with rosewood back & sides:


Here's the first one for reference:


My little 9" Ryobi bandsaw has a new blade but I think I dulled it when I cut out the 1/4" maple ply on the last neck. I did a little better accommodating for the volute:


No, it's not glued up yet. All my clamps are still on the first one so all I have are 2 longer ones that I bought to repair some furniture in my house. There are a few things I want to address first anyway. First is the truss rod slot. On the first attempt I didn't rout out or cut for the truss rod, but I 'm weighing on cutting the top 3/8" off the central 1/4" ply to accommodate it. FWIW the boards I've used are S4S so that the fingerboard face and tenon sides are perfectly flat - at least they are in relation to the steel table on my little bandsaw.


There's also a lot of extra wood around where the tenon will be. I could potentially save myself a lot of work - or set myself up for a colossal failure - if I cut away at the area beforehand. According to my plans, the three inner layers are all I'll need - but it come down to the actual dimensions of the pre-cut mortise in my neck block. I won't be able to measure that until after I finish the body binding and rout away the sides in that area though.

...then there's the headstock. This time around I traced the inner walnut ply instead of the clear plastic template so there's a little extra all around. The plans leave some extra space to work with so maybe THIS won't be an issue. Just in case, I measure the headstock thickness on my Martin D-16GT just to be sure and I think I'm OK:


02-19-2012, 03:08 PM
Awesome job man.

02-21-2012, 04:55 AM
Awesome job man.

Thanks. So far things haven't had to be exact but it's getting to that point now. From here on out I have to really pay attention to measurements and angles or else the intonation is going to be off. In these upcoming pictures you'll see how exact some of these figures are.

Last night I went over to Kitchen Guitars (my friend is looking to do this semi-professionally so he named his operation in his garage workshop) to work on my stuff for a little bit. I didn't have a plan and I have to figure out how much purfling I'm going to need so I decided to play it safe and just bend the rosewood binding strips. Things appeared to go smoothly and I didn't hear any cracking but after I unplugged the heating blanket I opted to just leave everything sit until I return on Wednesday. My friend John had never bent EIR before and noted that it smell funky or something like that. I kinda liked it: not so funky as patchouli or sandlewood but still what I'd call exotic. It's subtly peppery to the palette but not overly pungent.


After that I collected my glued-up neck blank and the 6 F-clamps that I was missing in order to glue up neck blank #2. I admired the job I did and marveled at the tap tone of the neck as well. There's a lot of cutting yet to do though, so I broke out the blueprints and the tools and got to work marking up the lay of the land tonight.


Firstly, I marked where the 15 degree break angle for the headstock is to go. Ironically, the plans also call for 15" from the end of the tenon to that point :



Then I moved on to marking up the tenon. A lot of the mahogany in that area is going to be cut/chiseled away. Here, I marked where the "cheeks" will be chiseled out. Everything between there and the end of the neck blank will be cut away with my band saw:






Meanwhile, once I have the headstock planed flat I'll move on to gluing on the headstock wings:


Next up though, gluing up neck blank #2. It will be tricky lining up the pieces since I pre-cut for the truss rod but then again things didn't line up exactly the first time either.

03-04-2012, 06:08 PM
I thought some of you might find this picture amusing. Yup, that's my neck blank. Check out the kid's form though! :D


03-04-2012, 06:09 PM
I got a chance to put a little daylight hours in and paid my friend Mr. Kitchen and my guitar a visit. I started out by truing up the important surfaces of the neck blank:



Purty good so far. It looks clean, but let's measure:

First, the break angle: 15 degrees per the plans.


Now let's look at the plans to note the length from the end to the nut:


Zero at the nut:


15" at the end of the blank where the tenon is:


Did I mention that 15 is my little guy's favorite number? Don't ask me why. It must be a coincidence...

Moving on to what lies ahead: profiling. I'm going to try to emulate the neck profile of my Larrivee OM-03R. I've been enamored with the neck profile ever since I first picked up a Larrivee many years ago. Tomorrow I'm going to go pick up a contour gauge and work on making templates with some spare plexiglass.


Just for curiosity's sake, I wanted to see how the scale lengths compared:




Looks to be exactly the same: 25.4". Of course, I will not be copying the headstock shape. Speaking of which, I need to glue on the headstock wings and get them leveled.

03-04-2012, 10:14 PM
Pretty awesome. Nice work! :wtg:

Captain Tuttle
03-04-2012, 10:39 PM
This is my favorite thread on this board.

03-04-2012, 10:51 PM
This is my favorite thread on this board.

You mean "I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite thread on the Citadel!"

Seriously though, I wish things were going faster. Sure I'm being anal about the details but this should've taken me 6 months, not 2+ years. I just can't get the time in. I really need to finish this just to prove to myself that I CAN do it - and do something constructive.

My wife grumbles that it won't bring in any money but that's not the point here. There actually are people out there willing to spend $5K on a handbuilt instrument but it has to be nearly PERFECT and even then there's no guarantee that there'll be enough business rolling in to even cover expenses.

BTW, way back when I was a computer graphics guy. I did a little 3D modeling, mostly architectural stuff but my senior project in school was actually a model of an electric guitar. Now that I've been this far into the process on an acoustic guitar and seeing many luthiers' works documented like this thread has been I wonder if there's any interest in applying that 3D knowledge and designing an app that can build a virtual mockup of an acoustic guitar where parts and materials can be swapped out. Sure my skills are 10+ years out of date, but if there's any money in it maybe my wife will sign off on a PC that can handle it.

Nah. Monkeys are more likely to fly out of my butt. :offtopic:

03-17-2012, 03:36 PM
I haven't been able to put much time in on this lately but I enlisted a little help with my 5yo for a few minutes here and there with the neck. I'm starting to think about how I'm going to do the MT joint and start shaping the neck. First things first, I checked to see if my laminates accommodate the proper size trench for the truss rod:




I also traced the profile of the neck of my Larrivee with a contour gauge and transferred it to a piece of scrap rosewood where I cut it out with my little bandsaw:


Then I started thinking about what kind of headstock I want. I asked the question over at the OLF and I think I've got a better idea. I asked my 5 year-old son Joey what he thought:


He suggested something like this:


Well...I don't know about that. I'm thinking something mildly Gibson-ish - minus the mustache and potential lawsuit! It's a very common headstock style.

So anyway, last night I got to pay the guitar body a visit. I forgot the purfling I'd ordered so I didn't get to install it like I'd hoped so instead my friend and I jammed for a bit. Then I remembered that I wanted to cut the sides away from the pre-mortised neck block so I went and did that too.


(Yeah, I know. It still needs a LOT of sanding down and I'd like to give it a layer of shellac around the binding channels so that I can use CA glue to set them.)


I also took a lot of measurements so that now I can work on the tenon at home. I'll make the tenon a bit oversized and whittle it down once I have the neck and the body together. After that, I'm debating on what to do with the neck carving. I'm leaning toward installing the truss rod and (pre-slotted) fingerboard first. What do you guys think I should do?

03-17-2012, 05:41 PM
Looking good ,coming along nicely ..Looks like you have a helper,,thats good..
Screw the fact it doesn't bring in money, WTH,like said already,your building a family heirloom, thats priceless and pretty damn awesome if you ask me..

03-17-2012, 06:38 PM

03-18-2012, 06:12 PM
Looking good ,coming along nicely ..Looks like you have a helper,,thats good..
Screw the fact it doesn't bring in money, WTH,like said already,your building a family heirloom, thats priceless and pretty damn awesome if you ask me..

I don't know if it will be an heirloom since only me and maybe Joey are into it but at least with this I feel that I've earned it. As for "priceless" I suspect that it wouldn't get much at a garage sale after I'm gone.

Captain Tuttle
03-18-2012, 09:03 PM
Man this thread has 11,210 views!

03-18-2012, 10:48 PM
Yeah, w3rd for a dad's forum. I have similar threads on a few acoustic guitar afficianado and luthery forums too. Each has given me good advice and the willpower to perservere. One has over 20,000 views, but that's also a very active forum. Hopefully this one is helping out here.

04-03-2012, 03:12 PM
I went to my friend's place over the weekend to work on it but we ended up just sitting around drinking beer and jamming on some Hotel California (and some other songs) so I decided to bring it home to work on. With this and the XBOX I may be overextending myself! :eusa_whistle:

Here are some pics of all the stuff laid out on my work bench.




Basically what needs to happen is this:

1: I need to glue the wood binding and decorative purfling strips in the channels that I already routed on the body. It's no easy task since I need to bend some of the purfling strips so that the black/white/black sides show up as a border between the rosewood binding strips (that I already bent) and the mahogany sides. Here's that mockup I made, which isn't necessarily how it will look since I only measured TWICE before I cut the channels. :icon_redface:


Problem is that I'm bending the strip across its fatter side (about .1" as opposed to the .060") so it wants to twist or break. I already went through the process of putting that purfling in on the top side and it didn't come out too good. For starters I had to use an old clothes iron to soften up the strip so that I would bend that way AND have LOTS of green painters' tape on hand to glue it down with Titebond. I was a cool experience because I basically could do it at the kitchen table where the kids could watch.

I didn't really get to see how it came out until all that tape came off though and there were gaps/twists all over the place so I basically chiseled it all back out which was a hairy situation. Now I have to clean up a lot of mess before I give it another go. Looking back I should have just glued it to the rosewood before I bent that but I was told NOT to. I may yet just order more rosewood and start over from step 1.

2: I need to drill 2 holes in the neck blank where the tenon is to be. It'll sort of look like this (I'll provide the link for copyright issues) which is basically something very similar to what holds IKEA furniture together with. The idea is not to use glue so that I can take the guitar part and tweak the neck angle without having to steam the whole thing apart, clean it up, etc. etc.


I have to do this before I cut/carve because the side of the blank is flat and the barrel HAS to be perpendicular to the length of the neck.

3: once those barrel bolts are in, THEN I can cut away the tenon which has to be slightly larger than the mortise that's already been routed out in the body. The idea is to tweak and chisel until I get about a 1.5 angle in relation to the surface of the body's sides. I'll get into the reasons for that once I actually get to fitting the neck.

...then it's on to the headstock. There's still a LOT that has to be done there too. Looking ahead though, I can't wait until I can take a rasp and a spokeshave to the length of the neck. Like carving the braces on the sound board, this is going to be soooo satisfying to accomplish.

04-13-2012, 09:53 PM
Last night I located all the purfling strips I have handy and I taped everything up to see if I had enough:

Measuring for the purfling didn't go so well and I routed more than I needed to so I had to figure out a new workaround. Two strips of bold BWB sandwiching a single .02" strip of maple seem to do the trick. Under normal lighting the maple contrasts more with the white:

BTW, I thought the following image was cool enough to share. While chipping out the bad purfling some of the kerfing inside came out, creating a peephole through which I could admire my handiwork with the braces:


BTW, I'm also doing some reading up on bolt on necks. I took a little trip to the hardware store the other day:


I have to drill holes in where the tenon is to be and insert the barrel bolts which are threaded inside. The bolts will pass through the neck block and into the neck where the threaded bolts will be threaded into the barrel bolts. It's very similar to how IKEA has you assemble their furniture.

05-07-2012, 05:47 PM
I figured that since late nights are out of the question with my older son waking every night and causing mayhem maybe I should bring my stuff back home. The basement RH is stable in the mid-40 percentile and I'm looking to finish the binding and start setting the neck. This morning I got everything to the point where the tenon fits in the mortise:






Just to compare the sizes I set it among my Larrivee OM-03R and my Martin D-16GT. The angle is a little deceptive but it falls somewhere in between. The lower bout is about an inch wider than the OM and the depth is comparable to the D.


I still have to drill in the bolt holes but I'm nearly ready to start setting the neck angle. I need to use that centerline finder doohickie that my friend lent me though, but so far things look pretty good.

irie feeling
05-07-2012, 05:55 PM
Looking good!

06-04-2012, 12:36 PM
Here's the patient on my messy messy workbench last week. I used a Martin belly bridge to prop up the body but it won't be the one I'm using. The plans call for a Taylor style bridge and I like the lines better. The flat edge is lined up at the correct scale length of 25.5". After working the cheeks and sides of the tenon, things are no longer snug but I'm hoping that a shim would help if necessary.

As you can see, there's still a bit of a gap as the tenon does not fit all the way into the mortise. I have yet to cut the taper on the heel too so I think I'm OK.

Despite my best efforts it looks like I've got the dreaded 14th fret hump. I do have to route out more of the top for the truss rod to drop in though.

IIRC my top has a 28' radius but what the heck is going on with the soundhole?

A touch under 1/8" where the slot in the bridge will go which looks to be in the ball park. Like I said, I have a bit more measuring to do.

The neck is to be bolted on using 1/4" furniture bolts that will pass through barrel bolts that I embedded in the tenon on the neck. Things don't have to be precise but it doesn't hurt to be close Ideally, I'd use a drill press but for just $10 less at Harbor Freight I bought this orange thing - which is good enough for now:


Mark B.
06-04-2012, 01:29 PM
Looking good! How friggen nerve wracking is it now when you have to drill a hole in the guitar or do some other very invasive next step? Don't want to botch it now.

06-04-2012, 02:30 PM
It's pretty frigging nerve wracking. The goal here is to get an angle perfect so that the instrument can be tuned precisely and that the strings are not too high over the fingerboard. Then there's the issue with "dead spots" where the strings will come in contact with a fret where it shouldn't, causing the string to "buzz."

Anyway, I got the nerve to drill in the holes through the neck block last night. It's amazing how resonant the ENTIRE assembly is - though the tap tone becomes significantly muted when you put the back up against your body. When holding the neck by just two fingers and tapping on the top above the bridge plate I can feel/hear the vibrations all the up at the headstock. Pretty cool. :)

See my handy-dandy IKEA tool? It takes a little practice to get it situated after every half turn but Mr. Kitchen is right: it's a PITA if done repetitively!


I measured twice, then marked once, then measure again and found that my mark was STILL off - but I think I got it right!


The traced counter of my Larrivee's neck is ready to carve with a chisel. Note the alignment of the bolts.


The only thing holding me back is how I want to approach this grain with a chisel to reduce blowout.


I traced the heel cap directly from my Larrivee:


BTW, I have to admit that I've been shut down in my man cave while Joey watches TV. I got the "primary facet" carved so that I can start "flossing the checks" to adjust the neck angle. It's a tedious process where you run a piece of sandpaper between the neck and the body on either side of the tenon, then tighten the bolts on, check with a straight edge for one dimension, then another, then you loosen the bolts and do it all over again at least a hundred times.

06-04-2012, 06:55 PM
Anyway, I had a little therapy by starting the carving today:



Yeah, I know it doesn't fit yet but you have to start somewhere:


06-21-2012, 01:31 AM
I think I've got the heel close enough to where I can move on to sanding for the neck angle. The shape is coming along nicely. First, I carved/sanded the sides to follow the contour then I sanded again in a 45 degree angle with a file. Then I sort of smoothed things out. The irregularity of the cut of my lamination outlines has made things difficult - but I think if there's a next time I'll laminate first, then cut - but I'm hoping that that works itself out once I start doing the neck profile at the 10th and 1st frets using my template.


I also went and chiseled into the end of the neck so that the sanding area is greatly reduced:


Once I figure out how to get around the 14th fret hump on the body I'll start sanding in earnest. For now I'm switching my focus toward the headstock. The shape is nothing original but one I find pleasing to the eye:


The trick for me though is actually cutting out the outline given that I'm going to try a volute - yeah I know I've shot myself in the foot many times! I thought it through and given that my top surface is flat then that's the surface that should be against the bandsaw table. That means that I have to have a visual reference on the back. How to line it up though? Well, I started by drawing a line across two symmetrical points on the design:


...then using a T-square make a perpendicular line on the side of the headstock blank and flipping the neck over:


From there I drew another line across the back of the headstock and laid my paper template in what I hope is the correct relative position:


This doesn't take into account the headstock face plate veneer - or the potential use of a veneer on the back plate - but it at least frees me up to thinking about what I need to do with regards to gluing the top face veneer on. It may be in my interest to make a plexiglass template of the headstock.

Sorry so boring - and probably obvious to some of you - but as they say, measure twice (at least) and cut once!

Tonight I'm gluing on the headstock's face plate. It's a nice piece of dark east Indian rosewood that is so dark I almost mistook it for streaked ebony. I hear it's actually part of an orphaned side that got discarded as scrap from the Martin guitar factory:


06-23-2012, 08:33 PM
I glued the rosewood face plate on to the headstock the other night then cut out the outline on my little 9" Ryobi bandsaw.




06-23-2012, 08:34 PM
Thanks. Not quite yet though. I haven't addressed the bridge yet, but soon. For now This build is at the point where it's both the most trying and most rewarding. The neck angle is a PITA but carving the neck is even more fun that chiseling the braces IMO.

I used a spindle on a hand drill to take off most of the "meat" but for the finer work I used this little file/rasp combo.


I hand-drew an arc at the base of the volute and am shaping it by eye. I took the opportunity to fine-tune the lines on the


The nut width is still a touch proud but it and the neck profile at the first fret are getting there. The headstock is still thicker than it needs to be though but I'm confident it'll all work out.


Not bad for less than an hours' work. Mahogany sands so easily!

06-23-2012, 08:53 PM
Nice! It must be satisfying that after all this time it finally looks like a guitar. In another two years we'll be expecting concert footage

:icon_super: :clap::icon_super:

06-23-2012, 09:01 PM

now if you can build solid body electrics! id come to you :)

06-24-2012, 03:35 AM

now if you can build solid body electrics! id come to you :)

It would probably be a piece of cake if I were so inclined. The woods necessary don't have to be specially cut and I wouldn't need to special order exotic woods from another country and worry about conservation treaties and import tariffs and whatnot. OTOH my friend carved the neck for his second guitar out of rock maple. He really had to whack at it - hard. I'd probably stick with ash or adler and do a fingerboard out of maple or walnut or most likely cherry. I wouldn't do a fancy paint job either. I prefer natural finishes - though a sunburst would be a fun challenge once I learn how to spray finishes.

I'm pretty sure my next few are going to be acoustics. I'll do at least one more jumbo like this one and a dreadnought, both rosewood with some form of sitka for the soundboards. Then maybe a classical. I'd love to do an arch top one day too though.

I'll be 70 by the time I'm finished though!

06-24-2012, 05:17 PM
Nice! It must be satisfying that after all this time it finally looks like a guitar. In another two years we'll be expecting concert footage

:icon_super: :clap::icon_super:

Its been nice of you to take us along on this build too...
Love all the pics and even though i don't post every time ,,I'm following along
Good work Kwak

06-24-2012, 05:54 PM
Thanks, guys. I still have to get a rosewood blank for the bridge, a rosewood fingerboard and some nice tuning machines. Then I'm looking at months of applying the finish. Layer after layer needs to be applied thinly then sanded smooth with gradually finer grits of sandpaper until it's mirror smooth. Lots of work.

06-27-2012, 12:16 AM
I showed off my progress to my friend John at his shop last night and he shared his trick for whittling down the neck:


It's makes things turns out more symmetrical too:


In any event, I whittled away a little too much at the nut so this one's likely to have a 1-11/16" nut width instead of the 1.75" I was shooting.for so that I could play fingerstyle. It's no big deal since the tighter string spacing doesn't bother me. For me comfort comes froom the shape of the neck. My fingers are pretty short anyway so I have less reach than most.

06-27-2012, 02:14 AM
Moving right along, after a nice evening alone with my two little boys I whittled a little more...

It's really starting to look like a guitar:


The area around the nut is still not symmetrical though. If worse comes to worse, I could always start over with my other group of laminates that you can see on the work bench. I've been writing down ideas and reflections in a notebook and like to thinks that things could go more smoothly next time.

08-19-2012, 03:06 AM
Jeez, I gotta bump this. The thing has been sitting on my workbench for the past couple of months and I haven't done much beside sand a little here or there to get the neck angle. It's slow going but I'm being careful. In the meantime, I went and ordered some more wood to do the bridge and fingerboard as well as to redo the binding on the body:


This is my "practice" bridge which is at the target height (though I could probably sand a 1/32" off the height) and I cut to the rough shape. I kept one surface straight so that I can line it up to rout out the saddle slot and drill in the bridge pin holes. It will probably end up being a template but the coloring is growing on me.

This is my first choice to use as the bridge in order to keep with the color balance with the other rosewood components:

BTW, this type of wood is what got Gibson guitars in trouble with the feds. I even got it from the same vendor. The issue is that it's supposed to be cut to size in the country of origin, namely India. I'm sure they cleaned up their act, right? Actually, the wood that got them in trouble came from Madagascar; there's apparently some political turmoil there and loggers are sneaking stuff out and overharvesting the rosewood that is native to that island country. I've played guitars made with the stuff. They are the bomb. Almost as good as the rosewood from Brazil which has been protected under the same treaty for the past 40 years.

09-14-2012, 02:02 AM
Since both kids are now in school and my afternoons are once again my own (mostly) I decided to tackle the back binding. I had to chisel off the first attempt and spent the last couple of days cleaning up the "staircase" so that I have a clean surface with crisp edges to glue to. We'll see about that but in the meantime I glued up the purfling and binding on the other side of the back. I made sure to use enough glue - the first attempt popped off easily because I didn't use a lot - and went nuts with the tape. I wish I'd had another pair of hands but after a half hour I was done. Let's hope it held!


09-16-2012, 11:07 PM
Binding scares the hell out of me. From using a precarious jig to suspend a heavy power tool above a delicate piece of wood to twisting lines of purfling saturated in glue while your fingers get all tangled and sticky while reaching for tape - well, I just don't know how the "pros" do it. Mary McKnight says that Tim magically grows another pair of hands but I'm not so lucky. Still, I couldn't wait to peel off the tape and see if the glue held - and I used a LOT of glue. Cumpiano says to fan out the multiple lines of purfling and get glue between EVERYTHING, which I did. Fortunately, no gobs of Titebond could be seen congealing from between the kerfling inside the body - and I checked, believe me. That's the one and only chink in the armor of my Larrivee OM-03R and I'm told that that's important.

Anyway, here's how it turned out with some detailed shots to show every little victory and even a couple of mistakes.


If you noticed from yesterday, I used a clamp to hold everything tight because that's one spot where just tape is not enough. But look Ma, no gaps!



The next step where I have to match up the ends of the other side will be tricky so I paid a little extra attention to the ends with a chisel. Everything seemed to be tight there as well, though if you look close you can see that some bands of purfling were leaning.



Now for another mistake, which unfortunately I can only fix by sanding a LOT of mass away from the sides as a whole. Note that the binding on the upper bout doesn't project beyond the sides?


That means that I will have to sand or scrape all that away so that I have a truly flat side and a clean BWB side purf line. I already know what I did wrong but I want to spell it out for those of you who might be interested in undertaking a project like this at some point.

Basically, all the sanding and scraping should have been done BEFORE I routed out the binding channels. Since the guide on the router didn't have a truly perpendicular line to follow it tiled the bit a little and took away more from the sides and the kerfing than I allotted for. I tried to go back with a sanding block and correct my mistake but at that point it's really too late and you have to just clean it up, chalk it up to inexperience and remember what to do right the next time.

Now it's time for the final binding/purfling strip and I have a little bit of setup to do. I'm making it even trickier by doing something different. These first 3 passes were done with binding that I'd bent previously. The first two times I glued the side purfling on to the bent strip but this last time I decided to upgrade from Titebond I to Titebond III (per Tim McKnight's tutelage) and glue the purfling to the unbent rosewood binding strip. My friend John Kitchen told me NOT to do this, saying that the binding/purfling would delaminate in the Fox bender but I'm not even going that route. I don't know if the purfling reinforces the wood binding, but it's pretty flexible and I've been able to do some dry fittings where I've bent the entire length of the strip into the channel. Admittedly, gluing should be more complicated because I have to deal with springback but we'll see how it goes. I have another strip of rosewood binding held in reserve just in case...

09-16-2012, 11:08 PM
Last night I put a little time in on scraping the sides and back purfling. It's looking really good IMHO:


Now I'm concentrating on using a scraper and/or a sanding block to level the sides so that all the side purfling is just as crisp along the entire finished side. I also have some cupping to take care of too:


When I got dusty and tired - I have yet to learn how to properly sharpen my scraper - I moved on to fixing some missing top purfling that had been torn out by a dull mini plane blade. It had been nagging at me:


I admit I've been putting it off but tonight I'm wiping it all down with naptha and tackling the remaining section of binding.

09-17-2012, 04:00 AM
Amazing. :wtg:

09-20-2012, 02:37 PM
Aw crap, this is turning into an obsession - kinda like HF with Gears and all y'all with your Borderlands. The other day a friend in Brooklyn hooked me up with some more wood for me to start building my second guitar. It's some pretty sweet stuff spruce from Europe that has nice straight grain with a pretty pale color without mineral streaking and it has a nice deep thrum when you rap it with a knuckle. I'm gonna use it to build a dreadnought to play folksy strumming songs. This one is going to be for doing jazzy fingerstyle tunes on.

Mark B.
09-20-2012, 02:52 PM
One at a time big fella, one at a time. The inlay work looks great.

09-20-2012, 04:07 PM
Aw crap, this is turning into an obsession - kinda like HF with Gears

and masturbating.

09-20-2012, 04:21 PM
excellent job, Kwak! I'm really digging watching the process. Definitely a good insight on the craftmanship needed. keep on keepin' on!

09-20-2012, 08:11 PM
Awesome Kwak!
My son just started guitar and i think i would like to learn along with him

09-20-2012, 09:27 PM
Awesome Kwak!
My son just started guitar and i think i would like to learn along with him

Don't do it! It's hard. It really is. My fingers have problems doing the things you need to do in guitar. You'd never be able to do it. You would Wonk saunter all over it. Or Feed saunter. Whichever you choose. haha (mark)

09-20-2012, 11:12 PM
Don't do it! It's hard. It really is. My fingers have problems doing the things you need to do in guitar. You'd never be able to do it. You would Wonk saunter all over it. Or Feed saunter. Whichever you choose. haha (mark)

Yeah i'm finding out how hard it is too..
Maybe Kwak could give us online lessons ...
I managed to be able to do this over and over ,but thats it..
My son picked it up quicker than i did



09-21-2012, 02:02 AM
Don't do it! It's hard. It really is. My fingers have problems doing the things you need to do in guitar. You'd never be able to do it. You would Wonk saunter all over it. Or Feed saunter. Whichever you choose. haha (mark)

Wimp. Change the strings or pay somebody to do it for you. Don't take it to Guitar Center or Sam Ash either because those guys are idiots. Find a place that's family run and ask for the guy who actually tweaks the guitars. Don't just talk to a salesperson or the guy behind the counter.

When you finally get the person, tell him how the guitar feels in your hands. Tell him if the strings seem too high or if they buzz because they're too low. Tell him if the strings feel too stiff or if they go out of tune too easily.

OTOH, if the neck feels too fat or too thin in your hands you need a new guitar.

As for the playing part. That takes work and lots of repetition. What makes it easier is finding music you actually like listening to. Don't let yourself get distracted by toys like pedals and such. The idea is to make music, not different types of sounds.

FWIW it took me a good 6 years before I finally took a real interest into it. Before that practice was tedious and what little fun I had was when I put all those boring books aside and actually listened to music and just tried to play along. Eventually I learned that books and online lessons weren't worth shit when I got a teacher who could basically play in his sleep and knew how to listen.

Oh - and it helped to serenade the chicks every now and then. Thank you Eric Clapton. You helped get me laid. Yup. I'm a dog. Bow wow.

irie feeling
09-24-2012, 09:52 PM
I've found that anything worth doing takes a little time and practice.

09-27-2012, 02:15 AM
I've been worried about cutting the fret slots because it has to be very precise. I don't know what I was fretting about! :lol:

It's just practice really though. I have yet to thickness sand the blank - I need to use my friend's drum sander for that - though I did plane the edge of the blank as level as I could - without using my friend's jointer table. I also have another blank in reserve that has less runout so if I screw this one up I'm out $9 as opposed to paying $25 for a serviced one or a $35 template for the miter box.

For this task I borrowed my friend's slotting equipment:

First I crunched the numbers based on measurements for 25.4" scale from two different texts as well as from the plans I'd purchased. Right before cutting I dialed the precise measurement in my digital caliper here and lined it up prior to doing the actual cut.

Afterward I'd compare it against my Larrivee. The angle is deceptive because I'm doing this on a blank that's yet to be planed to the proper thickness. Like I said, this is practice.


09-30-2012, 01:31 AM
I decided to start over in a way and get that blank down and erase my mistake.

I started with the scraper. I'd always had trouble sharpening in a nice burl but I eventually got it as well as the right angle and way to hold it - you need to bend it slightly and I found that a 45 degree angle worked well for me. I got some nice chocolatey ribbons for my efforts, which is a heck of a lot cleaner than sanding with 150 grit. It also feels good but that scraper can get quite hot if you do it right.


Even though I made some progress the going was still very slow...


...so I put the scraper aside and decided to sharpen my 7" jack plane. As with the scraper I finally got a nice edge on the blade and got my technique down. I tell you, there's nothing more satisfying than the feel of the blade just slicing off a nice clean ribbon. You get that nice "swish" sound and the rosewood comes off in nice little rolls. No dust whatsoever and the surface of the wood is nice and shiny.


Mass came off much quicker and more cleanly this way:


Not all of my mistakes were able to be erased though. I'm hoping that these first few frets are close enough though. If not, then I truly start over from scratch with the other - and more visually appealing - rosewood fingerboard blank.


So I asked over at the kit guitars forum what I was doing wrong and will work at trying to get a better way to measure the distance of each fret from the nut, not from each other. Tonight I'm working on that and will measure several times BEFORE I cut by using a cork-backed drafter's rule that is exactly 18" long.

11-13-2012, 04:05 AM
OK, so I think I'm just going to go ahead and use the fretboard on my Martin guitar as a template. First things first though, I need to get the binding done.

Meanwhile, I seem to have picked up another obsession. It used to be that "getting wood" meant something else, but instead I picked these up:


This is Carpathian spruce that a friend of mine offered up no strings attached.

I saw this set of east Indian rosewood online and had to jump on it. I'm calling it an early Xmas present to myself.

I got this neck from a luthier in eastern PA who for some reason decided it didn't meet his requirements. Sure, it's got a crack but he sealed it up with shellac and reinforced it with CA glue (aka Crazy glue or Super Glue) so it's stable.

I won't start this until I'm done with the first though. Until then they're going to stay stacked like this:


01-09-2013, 03:24 AM
I just realized that I kept you guys in the dark. I've made a little progress (not much) and am really close to making this thing whole. Of course, there's still a LOT to do but all the major pieces will be coming together.

First of all, I decided "screw it" and ordered a fretboard that already had the fret slots sawn in because in the end I want it to play like a guitar, not just look like one. I compared it to the ones I tried to do myself and I'm glad I spent the $40.


Then I started fudging around with making a bridge but decided I needed a jig for that. I've been in contact with a friend in the PNW who offered to lend me his.


It probably doesn't look that bad but this homemade jig didn't do such a hot job.


Then I played with all the pieces to see how the colors all matched:


As you can see, I've been bolting the neck on. The goal has been to sand the surfaces on either side of the neck joint so that the correct alignment and angle is achieved. You'll see what I mean later, but here's a closeup of how I did that. That sandpaper is sticky-backed and I shift the neck against it to sand away MINUTE amounts of wood away. It involved a LOT of loosening the bolts, sanding the end of the neck, then bolting it back on and using a straight edge to measure. Then lather, rinse, repeat.


Last weekend I went to visit my luthier friend north of Columbus OH and he measured things and proclaimed that I achieved the correct neck angle. I'm stoked, but I still have to use epoxy to install the truss rod and attach the fretboard.

BTW, an old problem that had been nagging me has sort of been fixed. Way back when - about a year ago IIRC - I screwed up the soundhole rosette. The puirfling that I put in in one area was too skinny for what I'd routed out. Well, last week I picked at that purfling and lo and behold it came out cleanly. Apparently, the super glue I'd used did not hold - probably because I didn't clean the wood sufficiently beforehand. So I carefully peeled out the skinny purfling and glued the correct thickness purfling in using Titebond instead of superglue. Superglue soaks into the wood but Titebond doesn't; it fills the area and gets squeezed out. The result was that 95% of the gapping - apart from two areas where a single grain of the wood chipped away - was gone. After some work with a mini plane, a cabinet scraper and several grits of sandpaper the result looked so clean it nearly looked like a sticker, not actual inlaid material:


01-09-2013, 03:07 PM
Nice man!
Keep it up, looking like a sweet project.

Captain Tuttle
01-09-2013, 03:11 PM
Very cool stuff Kwak. You should put this altogether in a blog, I'm, sure that there's more people than us who would be interested in reading about it.

01-10-2013, 03:07 AM
I am, actually. I've posted similar threads on several other forums that are both musician and luthier-oriented. Both have given me some good ideas as well as support. A friend from one has promised to send me some tools to borrow.

Captain Tuttle
01-10-2013, 11:23 AM
I am, actually. I've posted similar threads on several other forums that are both musician and luthier-oriented. Both have given me some good ideas as well as support. A friend from one has promised to send me some tools to borrow.


01-12-2013, 03:09 AM
I am, actually. I've posted similar threads on several other forums that are both musician and luthier-oriented. Both have given me some good ideas as well as support. A friend from one has promised to send me some tools to borrow.

This is very impressive Kwak. Normally I've the attention span of a gnat but I've followed through all umpteen pages. Looking forward to seeing a finished product. I tend to drool at the high end nylon cutaways and even take my belt off when I play them in the stores. Oddly enough the best sounding one I paid 100.00 in a small music store in Conroe Texas but there's a luthier on the Amalfi coast in Italy who makes guitars for Acoustic Alchemy. Saw his set up a couple of years ago and it's the same painstaking work you've put in to produce absolute perfection.

01-12-2013, 08:57 PM
Thanks, Louis. I'd hardly call my attention to detail flawless or the work painstaking though. Once I made the first few boo boos whenever I felt like I was going to make another mistake I'd walked away and mull over it for a few weeks. I'm hoping that the next one goes smoother but with the way things have been lately I doubt it - unless I can get my other friend who lives nearby to lend me some more of his expensive tools. I'm also afraid I'd burn my house down if I either made my own bending pipe or borrowed his bending machine.

I hear ya on those nylon acoustic/electrics though. Every so often I'll grab one of those Taylor NS models at the local store and think "yeah, this'd be fun to tool around with." The problem is I felt that way about a bunch of different guitars and I can't justify spending over $2500 on one. This little project probably cost over a grand counting tools. The next one will come in at about half that if I'm lucky.

02-26-2013, 04:31 AM
I'm still trying to get the bridge and fretboard figured out. I borrowed some jigs from a friend out in washington state but they're for a Dremel and I've found that it's just not robust enough to rout things precisely. I've messed up 3 attempts to make a bridge. I even went and bought a $30 routing base for my Dremel but it didn't solve the problem so I'm going to stick with using it for inlay.


For some things nothing beats good old-fashioned hand tools though. In this case I cut the bevel for the bridge's "wings" using a coping saw:


On the bright side I also splurged on brad-tip drill bits and a punch so I was at least able to get a nice straight line of holes for the bridge pins. I'll just have to use another friend's router to do the saddle slot.

Meanwhile, I finally went and permanently installed the truss rod using 2 drops of household caulk at each end to cushion it from vibrations. Then I wrapped it up in green masking tape to seal it from the epoxy that I need to mix up to glue on the fretboard. I can't use Titebond because it's water-based and will get soaked into the wood, warping the neck.

So these past couple of days I've been trying to find the right placement for the fingerboard. I thought I had it and drilled a couple of shallow holes in the underside of the fretboard and the top of the neck to install placement pins (which are actually small nails that I took a hacksaw to) to lock everything in, but a dry fit showed that things weren't quite right so it's back to measuring again.

I also need to drill some shallow holes in the fingerboard for the marker dots. I may wait until after I have the board epoxied on and the excess from the neck and fretboard chiseled away so that the neck is "done" and I can find the exact center points.

03-04-2013, 06:03 AM
The fretboard's on. I trimmed the excess off today and bolted the neck back on.




irie feeling
03-05-2013, 06:13 PM
Looks like not much more to do.

03-06-2013, 01:23 AM
Kwak, hope you don't mind this here, I thought of your project when I saw it:


03-12-2013, 03:32 AM
I took a little time last night to mark where to put the fingerboard markers and after I put Joey on the bus I went and drilled the holes and stuck in the 2.3mm (3/32") dots in with some super glue. I used tweezers so luckily I was able to prevent gluing any parts of my body to the guitar. Afterward I went at the neck with a rasp and a sandpaper belt to refine the neck profile. It felt like I was gripping a baseball bat before and though I'm still not done (I need to removed about 1/16" from either side of the fretboard to get it down to 1-3/4" wide at the headstock end) I'm much closer to where I need to be. I also broke out the sanding wheel on my Dremel and cleaned up the edge of the fingerboard at the soundhole.



03-12-2013, 06:24 PM
Sweet. Can't wait to hear some audio of this piece in action.

03-12-2013, 08:51 PM
Dam man. When was this thread started? I thought you'd have 3 done by now and have been selling them.

03-20-2013, 02:33 AM
The tuning machines (replacement Shaller style Gotoh tuners recycled from my defunct Takamine) went on tonight after a few days of marking where I wanted to drill the holes in the headstock. I measured 3 times and even made a template/caul out of scrap maple but I still screwed it up so that I had to mount the tuning machines upside down. I kind of like the look though.






03-20-2013, 02:46 AM
Dam man. When was this thread started? I thought you'd have 3 done by now and have been selling them.

LOL! I'm told that the first dozen are "practice" (by those who earn something resembling an income at this.) In fact, there are only about a dozen tradesmen who work alone who actually do this solely for a living. The rest have day jobs or other things on the side. My friend Tim over in Ohio is a mechanical engineer and he's made less than 200 guitars in 10 years or so at this.

Truth be told, repair and setup is the luthier's bread and butter so instead of building I should actually be buying up beaters and fixing them. I actually have a couple that I should be taking a hacksaw to, including the guitar that I lifted these tuners from. It's got some cracked innards and a bad neck angle that sadly can't be fixed without actually sawing the neck off. In fact, the whole soundboard should probably be replaced which makes it actually a more daunting project than building one from scratch because it involves disassembly.

BTW, this thread was started 31 months ago. There has 6+ months of tooling up, some setbacks and several month long delays where I just sat and looked at the thing and planned my next move. Hopefully #2 will go smoother (since it uses a lot of prefab parts) but if anything this build has been a testament to my patience which as you know is hard earned.

Still, this is not my biggest project. Through all of this I still have hope for Justin. This past week as I've been sanding away at the neck I've had it off the body and keep it upstairs while the boys are around. Justin's taken to holding it and feeling its mass. He likes to plink the wood with his fingers and hear the musical qualities. With luck he may take to tinkering one day when he finds his focus.

04-08-2013, 12:58 AM
Woo hoo. The FedEx truck dropped off what will be my second-to-last delivery for this project: fret wire and blonde shellac flakes. All that's left to buy are cow bone bridge pins and saddle and nut blanks - and maybe a faux tortoise shell pickguard. I finally got Tuesday set aside to go over to my friend's place to made the bridge out of my remaining piece of rosewood.

I'm shooting to have it all finished in time for the visit to my luthier friend's shop in June. Once it's done it will need to be set up and that's something that I know very little about but my friend isn't afraid to teach the skills.

Meanwhile some more bits and pieces came last week for the new build. For startes I bought a set of plans and some plexiglass to make templates because this time I'm making a dreadnought so that I can play like Johnny Cash. I also have some flatsawn osage that will be used as bridge plates and kerfed strips of basswood for when I need to close the box. Once the weather and humidity stablizes I'm going to be putting some time in on the early stages of that build. If you guys want I could start a thread on that.

Oh - and I'm also tempted to crack open that old Takamine guitar that had the broken soundboard. I can get a piece of "student grade" sitka spruce for about $17 from a mill up in NY state that would be superior to the plywood top that the guitar was built with. I'll need to borrow my friend's Japanese pull saw to remove the neck though since it was epoxied on. That would also make an interesting thread.

Both would probably take me a couple of years though! :binkybaby:

04-25-2013, 03:40 PM
My friend the photographer and guitar builder chided me for jumping into a second build so quickly, so I decided to pay some attention to old #1 here. Last night I ventured forth and installed the frets.

http://i727.photobucket.com/albums/ww275/nkwak/2010%20First%20Guitar%20Build/C57C3A58-orig_zps08fbe2c4.jpg (http://s727.photobucket.com/user/nkwak/media/2010%20First%20Guitar%20Build/C57C3A58-orig_zps08fbe2c4.jpg.html)

I also checked with a 3' steel rule and everything seems to be seated level and the fretboard extension now lays flat on the top. Then I took off the neck, trimmed off all the rough ends and then filed them all flush. I bought a $10 set of jeweler's files to dress the frets.

I also have a a quart of 2 pound cut shellac dissolving right now so that I can go ahead with final sanding and then pore filling. The fretboard is 1.75" at the nut but I have to clean up the area so that everything's square. I also went back to clean up the best of my failed attempts at making a bridge.

04-25-2013, 04:07 PM
Looking more like a guitar every day. Nice.

04-25-2013, 04:45 PM
looks awesome, Kwak!

Captain Tuttle
04-25-2013, 05:01 PM
Looking good Kwak