Build Your Own Guitar – Days 10-12

This is the entry for Day 12 of a 3-week intensive guitar building course I’m taking through the Australian Guitar Making School.

Click to view Day 9’s entry.

Click here to view Day 8’s entry.

Click here to view Day 7’s entry.

Click here to view all of Week #1.

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It’s been busy around here! I had a late night on Thursday at the workshop, a night at the movies on Friday and Saturday was…… well, it was Saturday.

So where are things at? On Thursday morning the guitar was still in pieces. It looks quite different now.

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So let me take you through what happened on days 10, 11 and 12……

Day 10

Thursday was the day we ended up attaching the top face of the guitar to the sides. There’s a lot that has to take place before that, though, so what you see here is all in preparation for that moment when the separate parts of the guitar start to become one.

First I had to finish off the falcate bracing that supports the top. As of Wednesday, I had the basics in place with carbon fibre added to the wooden braces:

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Today – and much of the time we have left – is very much concerned with getting the detailed bits right.

The first job for Thursday was to make another section to go across the top of the Falcate brace, above the sound hole. This was tougher than it looks, with notches having to be carved into the top brace at odd angles to allow clearance for the existing braces.

We had to add a couple of small braces to the side of the curved falcate braces and clamp them down. They were tapered after the glue set….

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Because the sounds are going to be bouncing around inside the instrument, it’s important to blunt any sharp edges in there. We start with planing down the edges of the block, where the sides meet at the end of the instrument. The top brace on the Falcate brace is also rounded off….

The edges of the top brace are shortened so that they’ll fit within the sides when the top is attached…..

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After taking a bunch of measurements and making sure everything’s in the right place, we’re ready to attach the top to the sides of the guitar.

A day earlier I made some kerfing, which is positioned and then glued at the meeting point of the sides and the top. You have to apply glue to the kerfing and then put it in place and push it hard into the joint with this stick before clamping it in place for the glue to set overnight.

The next morning, the glue has set and the top face is now attached to the sides! The instrument is starting to take shape.

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Day 11

It’s all starting to happen a little quicker now. The front was attached yesterday and all of a sudden there’s a 3D instrument that looks like an actual guitar!

As you can see from the photos, above, the top is made to protrude from the sides when it’s attached, so we use a router to take off the excess…..

The next job is to make preparations for the back to be attached.

The sides and kerfing have to be planed to make sure the surface is smooth. I make some small braces to sit along the sides of the guitar, from top to back. These are glued and clamped in place.

The back of the guitar has bracing similar to the top. Small notches are made in the kerfing to allow the braces to sit in the kerfing, which adds strength when the back is glued on. The braces on the back of the guitar also have to be trimmed so that they sit inside the kerfing.

Next I added a coat of shellac to all the inside surfaces, taking care to ensure that the shellac doesn’t go near the surfaces about to be glued…..

Next came a proud moment – adding the label to the back. I named the guitar, put my name on the label and the date our course will be completed.

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I’ve named the guitar Stratovarius Viggen. “Stratovarius” is a twist on the famous violin maker, Anotonio Stradivari and in honour of Strato, our teacher for this course. “Viggen” is my nod to Saab and Sweden, two of the very important influences in my life in the past decade. I have a few more flourishes to come in relation to this, too.

Strato said I should sign the inside of my guitar. I asked him to sign it, too.

His response was “but you’re the one who made it”. To which I replied, “I might have made it, but you’re the one who made it good.”

With all of that said and done, it was time to glue the back down. You add glue, and then apply a LOT of clamps……

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Day 12

Saturday was a short day.

The first job was to apply the router to trim the excess from the back of the guitar. Here’s the excess. I don’t have a photo of the routing, unfortunately (getting slack!)

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The next job involves applying the ‘binding’ to the edges. The binding is a thin strip of maple that will be glued to the top and bottom of each side of the guitar.

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Before you can do that, though, the binding has to be heated and bent to the correct shape. As it’s so thin and small, it needs a delicate touch to avoid breakage (yes, I managed to break one!)

Next we had to use the router again to create a channel for the binding to sit in.

I didn’t get to glue the binding in on Saturday as we ran out of time.

The other job left incomplete on Saturday was some planing and sanding of the head of the guitar, which is intended as another little tribute to Sweden.

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We still have some big jobs to do, but the margin for error is getting slimmer as all the things we do now are on the outside of instrument. They’re visible, and they will affect the sound. With the finish line clearer, the work has to better, cleaner, and more accurate.

Thanks for reading!

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4 Comments

  1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, gents.

    The write-ups will be a great reminder of the process for me, but they’re also turning out to be useful for the Guitar School, too. Tassie’s the only place where they do an intensive course like this at the moment, but they’re thinking of introducing it to other states, too. This write-up’s proving useful for those thinking of doing the course as well as those teaching the course.

  2. Not only is this fascinating for this project, it is preparing you to document the restoration process of your Fulvia! 🙂