Build Your Own Guitar – Day 8

This is the entry for Day 8 of a 3-week intensive guitar building course I’m taking through the Australian Guitar Making School.

Click here to view Day 7’s entry.

Click here to view all of Week #1.

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Today was a day of little things and big things. We had a bunch of little things to finish off in preparation for a couple of big things. The end result – I now have something that actually resembles a musical instrument instead of an assortment of wooden pieces. Exciting!

I finished up yesterday with one of my sides properly bent and the other 75% of the way there. That got finished up early this morning:

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So with the sides done, the neck and head in basic form and the top/bottom in basic form, it’s actually possible to see an instrument taking shape!

There were a few things to do before we could start putting things together, however.

The sides are clamped into this mould, which helps to keep their shape while you get around to a few other jobs.

It would help at this point to explain one of the end goals for the day – to attach the sides of the guitar to the neck of the guitar. Before that happens, a little work has to be done to both the sides and to the neck.

While the sides are clamped into the mould, above, I got to work on preparing the neck. The top face of the guitar will sit on a block at the end of the neck so the first job was to chisel a step in the block so that the top face of the guitar would sit flush with the mahogany of neck (which, you should note, is yet to get its Gidgee top). Taking a step out of the block enables the top face to sit level. First you chisel, then you plane. Eventually you’ll take out a section of timber equivalent in height to the thickness of the top face panel.

Next you have to taper the sides after removing them from the mould. A guitar body is generally fatter at one end than the other, so it requires a little bit of trimming – or ‘tapering’ – on the bandsaw.

This is a nerve-wracking process to say the least. When using a bandsaw, the optimum method involves the piece you’re cutting being placed flat on the base plate. With guitar sides, however, that’s not always possible and the potential for cracking when the wood has no direct support underneath (i.e. when cutting the waist) is real and ever-present.

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Thankfully, no sides died in the making of this class’ guitars.

The sides fit into a slot at the base of the neck, just behind the block that I chiselled earlier. We made the first cuts for this slot last week but today those cuts had to be widened so that they would accept the sides, which are around 2mm thick. This is done with what can best be described as a fat hack saw blade with a masking tape handle. Simple, but effective 🙂

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Those cuts are made on an angle so next you have to take some timber off the end of the sides to match the angle.

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Next, a test fitting to make sure the sides slot in OK. This was actually a pretty thrilling moment because you’re joining two things you’ve been working on for days and things are beginning to take shape in a physical way.

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After the test fitting, it’s time to do it for real. Glue is pressed into the grooves and the sides are pressed in, then clamped. I also made an end block that sits at the bottom of the instrument and this was glued in at the same time. The extra bits of wood and the plane are just providing some extra weight to keep everything flat against the table while the glue sets.

Yesterday I formed some braces to be used on the top face of the guitar. The other little/big job for today was to finish those braces then attach them to the panel with some glue and carbon fibre.

Here are the raw formed braces after removing them from the mould…..

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We need four braces, however, so these are cut along their length with the bandsaw to provide extra braces of a matching shape. Edges are smoothed using a plane.

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Those of you familiar with guitar bracing might find these to be of an odd shape. Traditional guitar bracing uses variations on what is called an X-pattern. At right is an example of this, as used by Martin guitars, for instance.

std_x_unscallopedWe are using a relatively new form of guitar bracing called the Falcate bracing system, which was developed by a couple of Australians a few years ago and is now favourably reviewed and accepted right around the world.

I’ll let the bloke who co-invented it describe the system:

I designed my Falcate bracing system to escape the limitations of more conventional bracing practices. The system is configured to withstand the high twisting forces exerted by the strings over the saddle onto the guitar’s top (tending to rotate the saddle downwards and towards the sound hole) whilst still allowing the top great scope for vibration. There are two major benefits: the stiffness distribution makes for a more even sound across all notes (i.e. there is no “designed in” bias towards a particular frequency response) and there is increased monopole mobility (responsiveness and volume) without compromising longevity, because the strength and stiffness (and consequentially the mass) is where is it needed and not elsewhere, making for an efficient design.

So that’s what we’re doing. Got it? Good.

With my falcate braces cut and planed, it’s time to glue them to the top face. First, here’s what the basic system will look like when it’s laid out. There are more braces to come after this, but these four curved braces are the basics of the Falcate system:

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To glue them on, we used an epoxy resin with a length of carbon fibre applied to the resin before laying it on the rear side of the top face…..

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When all four braces are glued to the timber, it’s time to apply a bit of pressure to ensure they stay in place. This is done with a rig using a combination of traditional clamps as well as these tensioned rods, which apply pressure to specific points.

And that was it for me, for today. It was a long day but a lot was achieved.

Tomorrow we’ll pull this rig apart and continue the job of putting all these parts together.

If you want to build your own guitar – take the plunge. It gets better and more rewarding every day.

Thanks for visiting!

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2 Comments

  1. So, do you feel like you are doing with wood sort of what Koenigsegg does carbon fibre? (This custom build process feels somewhat like that.)