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Author Topic: Daring to build my own guitar  (Read 23343 times)
kwakatak
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« on: March 24, 2011, 07:57:53 PM »

Last summer I was over at a friend's home and admiring his recently-completed first build and got to witness - and even participate in - the construction of his second scratch build. I expressed some envy at this and he said "why don't you try to build one too?" He opened up his storage room door and showed me all the materials he had, much of which he told me he'd probably never use so why not give it a shot.

After a week or so of mulling it over I decided to take him up on it but I didn't want to do a dreadnought so I ordered plans for a Medium sized jumbo as drawn up by a luthier at the Official Luthier's Forum who put them up for sale at stewmac.com. It falls in between the size of a LArrivee L and Taylor G but with a slimmer waist.

Then my friend and I went through his materials and I selected a Western Red Cedar top and a set of Honduran mahogany back & sides.

Joining the top:


...and the back:


Cutting out the bending forms and first attempt at a mold using 3/4" MDF:


I had to essentially learn how to use a band saw though so I re-did the mold using birch plywood and did a semi-solid mold as described in Johnathan Kinkead's book:


Here's the finished mold:


I also made a bunch of plexiglass templates for the plates (top and back) and sides:


I was pretty meticulous about getting my mold just right. In fact, it took months before I even touched a piece of tone wood after I'd joined the plates:


I even tried to do all the math for the rosette:


...but a Dremel with circle guide is a tricky thing to master so after many failed attempts due to tear out I altered it and my rosette came out like this:


There was a lot of down time so I took on some projects to learn a little more about woodworking. I had a little help:


to be continued...
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

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1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2011, 01:32:44 AM »

I've been wanting to start building for a little while now - but I realize what's holding me back is the need of a qualified assistant like you've found -   

That's my story and I'm sticking to it -
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2011, 01:36:27 AM »

Hi Neil. Hat's off to you. I hope it's best. I have a cedar/mahogany guitar that has a very sweet fundamental tone, and it amplifies wonderfully. I once wanted to build one but have forgotten that dream. Especially since Larrivees can be had at bargain prices.
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2011, 02:47:29 AM »

This is way cool bud.Remember take it slow,measure nine time's then think about cutting then measure twice more,then cut.Can't wait to see the how she goes.
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« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2011, 03:08:22 AM »

Can't wait to see the how she goes.

Me too  bowdown
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kwakatak
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2011, 03:09:04 AM »

Continued:

Well, now that I'd gotten the mold ready I was ready to get things rolling. My plates were down to the desired thickness as were the sides. I was really looking forward to bending the sides and starting on the bracing. The problem was availability. This was during the holidays and essentially I was only getting about 4 hours of work in a month. Meanwhile, I'd cleared out a little space on my basement workbench but had no way to regulate humidity:



So to fill the void I'd been spending a little here and there on tools. I got a Dremel for Christmas and I intend to learn how to do inlay. I also bought a bunch of cheap tools at the local Harbor Freight and some more at the local Rockler whenever I got a coupon in the email. I also bought another little side project for my 4yo son since he'd been showing some interest in my tinkerings in the basement:



...I also found that a local lumber yard carried S4S cuts of Honduran mahogany and bought some in hopes of fashioning a neck blank. I'd also acquired an orphaned EIR side in the hopes of cutting it up for binding:



I'd intended to do a laminated neck but on closer inspection I see that it's actually riftsawn to close enough to quartersawn so I can trim off 2" for the shaft of the neck:



I also acquired from my friend a billet of spruce to split up for bracing. He provided me with a teaching aid to study:



... and so I set out to work:



...and got things whittled down to close enough:



...though I came up short:



...so I borrowed some more and used my friend's band saw to cut the billet this time.

By then I was ready to really start working on things and I got to the point where I'd actually be bending the sides. I was really looking forward to it and was stoked to finally be able to use my mold and bending form to use!



Things got away from me though and I made several mistakes that have me contemplating on doing the sides over from scratch. The first should be obvious, though we did "fix" it:



...but I'd also forgotten to flip the second side when it came time to bend it. I'd used my template to cut the side to shape so that the back of the guitar should have had a taper from the neck block to the heel block. By forgetting to reposition my bending form and flipping the side I made two left sides. Ever since then I've been trying to figure out a way to move forward that doesn't require a ton of work. Starting over fresh sounds like the best idea and Honduran mahogany is still cheap - about $40 or so for a full set. Here they sit even now. They don't look bad in the mold but when I took them out things looked all "twisted" and it would take a lot of work to get the kerfing glued in all straight:



Meanwhile, my plate were almost ready for bracin. First things first though. I still had to put a decorative back strip and reinforcing strip on my back plate. I decided to stray from using rosewood for the decorative strip and went with flamed mahogany to provide a more subtle contrast:



...then on to the other side for the spruce internal back strip and my first use of the go bar deck:



Then this past week I finally started bracing the top. First I used my plexiglass template to transfer the bracing pattern to the underside of my western red cedar top:



...then I spent a little time cutting out the rough shape of my X brace and fashioning a lap joint. After a short time sanding a 28' radius to the undersides of the X braces using a radius dish and sanding pad I glued it to the top with Titebond and my friend and I locked it into the go bar deck:





...and that's where we stand right now. Neck up is more rough shaping of the braces and gluing them down. The plans call for the back to have a 15' radius but I'm going with a 20' radius - mainly because I don't want to buy a new radius dish that I may only use once. I'm more concerned about making some more purchases of binding materials and another set of unbent sides. .
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

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1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

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1973 Takamine F-360 ("Martin Lawsuit" all-laminate D-28 clone)
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2011, 03:20:35 AM »

This is way cool bud.Remember take it slow,measure nine time's then think about cutting then measure twice more,then cut.Can't wait to see the how she goes.

Man, do I hear that! See by my last post to see that I'm learning that the hard way, though.  crying

FWIW I've been at this since last August. Things have been going reeeaallly slowly and I've gotten LOTS of great advice and learned that the luthier community is full of wonderfully generous people.
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

2006 Larrivée OM-03R

1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

1989 Kramer 610

1973 Takamine F-360 ("Martin Lawsuit" all-laminate D-28 clone)
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« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2011, 11:58:46 AM »

Nice job so far. Don't fret over the mistakes as they happen to the best of builders. Keep the pictures coming! I am hoping to glue the neck on my #2 build this weekend or the first part of next week. If all goes well, #2 will have strings on her next week! Watch out though, or you may end up with a bad case of the sickness. The symptoms include sudden increases of broken project guitars finding their way into the house, obsessively day dreaming about new planes and chisels, and unexplained increase in heart rate whenever driving past the lumber yard......
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kwakatak
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2011, 01:16:12 PM »

Thanks!

I know all about the urges that this affliction brings! 

BTW, is there an acronym for wanting acquire exotic tone woods? 
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2011, 01:36:43 PM »

Very cool.  I am enjoying reading about your build.  Yes mistakes happen.  Part of the process. The great thing is that most mistakes teach us and are rarely repeated.   

I have a friend who has allowed me to participate in the build of my first custom guitar.  I am very grateful to him.
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2011, 02:31:07 PM »

Very cool Neil, keep the pictures coming. Every new project brings surprises, good and bad.
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« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2011, 06:43:45 PM »

Neil, that bracing sample looks an awful lot like the one on hand at Elderly (and I know you reside in MI, correct?)--is your friend an employee there?
Cool project!  No hurries, no worries--you'll have years together soon enough!
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kwakatak
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2011, 11:26:58 PM »

Neil, that bracing sample looks an awful lot like the one on hand at Elderly (and I know you reside in MI, correct?)--is your friend an employee there?
Cool project!  No hurries, no worries--you'll have years together soon enough!

No, I actually hail and live in Pennsylvania. What you see is a sample from C.F. Martin & Co. On one side is the standard bracing pattern for a dreadnought and on the other side is the standard scalloped bracing pattern. All the dealers get them. How my friend came to get it is a whole different story though. He's not a dealer or employee of Martin; he got it with an entire workshop full of tools and supplies and has 2 guitars under his belt so far.
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

2006 Larrivée OM-03R

1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2011, 12:16:38 PM »

No, I actually hail and live in Pennsylvania. What you see is a sample from C.F. Martin & Co. On one side is the standard bracing pattern for a dreadnought and on the other side is the standard scalloped bracing pattern. All the dealers get them. How my friend came to get it is a whole different story though. He's not a dealer or employee of Martin; he got it with an entire workshop full of tools and supplies and has 2 guitars under his belt so far.

What part of Pa? My wife and I were just up in Pa last weekend looking at property near Pine Grove Pa. We are hoping to move from Delaware to Pa or Va depending on which peice of property we look at ends up saying home to us. If you are anywhere near Hegins Pa, you should make a trip over to John Hall's shop. He is a pretty good builder and I believe he is presently building his #118. His shop, Blues Creek Guitars, supplies all you need to build with at very good prices and he also does one on one build classes for those interested in that.
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kwakatak
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2011, 06:53:30 PM »

I'm out near Pittsburgh but I'm familiar with John Hall at Blues Creek. My friend has a lot of his equipment and jigs and such. He's trying to get me to join ASIA (American Stringed Instrument Artisans) and attend their symposium up in Stroudsburg this coming June. IIRC John Hall will be teaching there.
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Neil

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2006 Larrivée OM-03R

1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

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« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2011, 07:20:55 PM »

I'm out near Pittsburgh but I'm familiar with John Hall at Blues Creek. My friend has a lot of his equipment and jigs and such. He's trying to get me to join ASIA (American Stringed Instrument Artisans) and attend their symposium up in Stroudsburg this coming June. IIRC John Hall will be teaching there.

John and his wife Brenda are wonderful people. John actually gave me the Sycamore set for my third build. I drive up from Delaware to John's shop when I am ready to build a new guitar and he lets me use his bending jigs and his drum sander and his band saw so I can get my plates joined and thicknessed and rough cut to size before I leave. He allows me to do this since I am building in my bedroom and just can't do that stuff here. John's advice and instruction enabled me to take quite a leap in quality between #1 and #2! His shop is like a rabbit hole though. I could stay lost in there picking through the wood sets for hours!
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2011, 07:37:37 PM »

Very cool.  I'd love to do this one day.
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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2011, 07:59:39 PM »

I look forward to following this thread.
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kwakatak
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« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2011, 03:05:01 AM »

What part of Pa? My wife and I were just up in Pa last weekend looking at property near Pine Grove Pa. We are hoping to move from Delaware to Pa or Va depending on which peice of property we look at ends up saying home to us. If you are anywhere near Hegins Pa, you should make a trip over to John Hall's shop. He is a pretty good builder and I believe he is presently building his #118. His shop, Blues Creek Guitars, supplies all you need to build with at very good prices and he also does one on one build classes for those interested in that.

Oh yeah, I know John Hall (aka Blues Creek Guitars) through my friend here whose shop I'm working in and whose wood I'm using. There are also a few others in the luthery community that I've corresponded with and they've all been very open to share their knowledge and even materials.
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Neil

2009 Martin D-16GT

2006 Larrivée OM-03R

1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, Ash Body, Natural finish

1989 Kramer 610

1973 Takamine F-360 ("Martin Lawsuit" all-laminate D-28 clone)
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« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2011, 09:32:23 AM »

I've been wanting to start building for a little while now - but I realize what's holding me back is the need of a qualified assistant like you've found -  

That's my story and I'm sticking to it -

He allows me to do this since I am building in my bedroom and just can't do that stuff here. John's advice and instruction enabled me to take quite a leap in quality between #1 and #2!
 

 ohmy Tad my excuse thus far was the cost of getting top wood and bracing stock (and some tools) out to Africa, other folks build in their bedrooms, I think "it is high time" for both of us mate!!!

Well done so far Neil, and Jonathan - you're the man!
 
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