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Forum topic by woodworker59 posted 625 days ago 977 views 3 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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woodworker59

558 posts in 704 days


625 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: question jig tip resource shaping rosewood spruce

Hey ya all, I am a woodworker and a guitar player, I would love to try my hand at building a steel stringed acoustic guitar. Was wondering if any of you fellow wood jocks had done any guitar building. I have considered buying one of the commercially available kits, but would rather do it from scratch.. Would like to know what specific tools I would need that may be outside the common arsenal that most woodworker employ. I have lots of clamps and such, but figure I will need a adequately sized steam box, and some jigs shaped accordingly for the side bouts. Are there other things that I need to have on hand before I start? Thanks in advance for all your help, as I am sure with the knowledgeable members of this site, I will be inundated with responses. We all know that the best woodworkers on the planet belong to lumberjocks..Papa

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com


31 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

6769 posts in 2150 days


#1 posted 625 days ago

Steam box, no. It isn’t done that way with guitar sides.

The sides are bent on a metal pipe heated with a propane
torch on the inside. You can get an electric bender too,
but the pipe works fine. You can build or buy a side
bending rig but for one guitar it is probably not worth
the investment. Finally, you can have the sides bent
in a kit, but I wouldn’t recommend it since you’d be
cheating yourself of a most interesting experience.

You might want to buy the fingerboard pre-slotted since
the slots are tricky to cut as accurately without a special
setup and saw.

I recommend avoiding the dovetailed neck and going with
a mortised and bolted neck.

If you don’t have clamps with perhaps 8” of throat
you’ll need some to glue the bridge with the clamps
through the sound hole. Deep throat luthier clamps
can do this job. You can also vacuum clamp the bridge
if you have a pump.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3189 posts in 2463 days


#2 posted 625 days ago

I have built solid and acoustic guitars. Bought the fingerboards.
If I were to start today without all the tooling, I’d start with a Martin kit (maybe even a Grizz) just to get the feel before starting from scratch. It will be a good learning experience. A very detailed project to say the least.
Good sound wood is tough to find at best.
Just my thoughts.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

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madts

1210 posts in 842 days


#3 posted 625 days ago

I have never built a instrument before. I just bought a Grizzly steel guitar kit to get my feet wet. Let you guys know how it goes.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View bent's profile

bent

311 posts in 2171 days


#4 posted 625 days ago

i’ve built one.

to do the fret board, you’ll need a good sized mill file to flaten your frets and fret file to reround them after they’re flatened. for the bridge pin holes, you need a tapered reamer. if you want the top/backs to be bookmatched, you’ll need a bandsaw with a good resaw capacity. a drum sander would be handy too. i didn’t use one for my guitar, but it made me wish i had one.

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woodworker59

558 posts in 704 days


#5 posted 625 days ago

thank you thank you thank you, knew I could count on the jocks for good stuff.. will reconsider the kit for first build.. one question, can I replace the sound board with one of my own and still use the rest of the kit or is it all or nothing?... I have some very old Eastern white spruce that I would love to try for the top.. have enough to make a couple of mistakes and still get it done.. just wondering. thanks again… Papa

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com

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bent

311 posts in 2171 days


#6 posted 625 days ago

i don’t see why you couldn’t use your own top with a kit. but, you’ll only want something that is quartersawn with tight growth rings and good tonal properties.

when i built mine, i made everything on it except the tuners and bridge pins. i even cut my own saddle and nut from a piece of bone. maybe it’s just me, but i felt like if i was going to put that much work into it, i wanted it to be my personal piece. i wanted it to be MY guitar, not a kit guitar.

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woodworker59

558 posts in 704 days


#7 posted 625 days ago

thanks Bent… That’s what I have been thinking right along, but seems that some are advising to start with a kit to get an idea of what to do and not to do.. I like things that I build from start to finish.. I have some nice bone set aside for nut, saddle and bridge pins. I also have some nice pieces of antler that I thought about trying to use maybe as some inlay in the headstock or something.. do you have any pics up here of your axe?...

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1455 posts in 2627 days


#8 posted 625 days ago

I happen to live in an area that’s overrun with guitar builders, but there was a SCWA meeting at Luthier's Mercantile a couple o’ something ago, and it sounds like there are gatherings at places where you can use forms and benders, if you can get to ‘em. Seems to me like it’s totally reasonable to buy a bookmatch back pair (and even side set) if you don’t have your own bandsaw.

And you can definitely pick and choose how much you want to buy and how much you want to build.

I’m hoping to do a solid body electric with a teenager of my acquaintance shortly, hope to see how yours comes out.

And my brother-in-law and his son (well, okay, really the other way around) have just started building guitars for sale.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke

View bent's profile

bent

311 posts in 2171 days


#9 posted 625 days ago

well it is certainly a trade off between starting from scratch or from a kit. i’m sure either way, it’s a good learning expirience to get started.

if you ever decide to build one from scratch, for a building guide, this book is fantastic: A Guitar Maker’s Manual : A Guide to the Construction of Acoustic Guitars by Jim Williams (1987, Paperback)

here is mine:
Click for details

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woodworker59

558 posts in 704 days


#10 posted 625 days ago

Hey man out fricking standing, love it.. looks very nice, what did the walnut do for the sound do you think? is that where the bright comes in, of would you lay the sustain on it.. I am thinking the sustain would come from a tight wood like walnut.. very sweet.. one question, how and what did you do for the truss rod.? I know that you can make one without, but with the steel strings, eventually its gonna creep on ya.. again.. wow…

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com

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bent

311 posts in 2171 days


#11 posted 625 days ago

the brightness(tone) is dependent upon the soundboard (top) and the bracing that is used. the sides and body mainly serve as an echo chamber to project the sound back out the sound hole, and the material used for them is less impactful on the overall sound. hopefully a more knowledgble luthier will correct that if i’m wrong, but that’s how i understood it from the books i read. spruce is supposed to be the best choice for a top, specifically sitka or engelman spruce. i’ve also heard cedar or mahogany will work too.

i found a video on youtube of a guitar builder that swears by using tube steel instead of a truss rod. i used his technique. on the top of the neck, i routed out a 3/8×3/8 dado, and then epoxied a piece of 3×8 steel tubing into it. you have to make sure that the steel is flush with the neck, because the fretboard goes over the top it and you don’t want a hollow spot. it seemed to have worked just fine. it’s rock solid, but you can’t adjust it.

thanks for the compliments. i’ve got 2 others that are half built in my shop, but they got shelved because of some furniture commissions i picked up. i don’t think i’ll be able to finish them any time soon. so, if you’re serious about building your own guitar, i’ll let you borrow my luthier tools.

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woodworker59

558 posts in 704 days


#12 posted 624 days ago

Appreciate the offer, will get the book you recommended first, get myself ready for the build then let ya know whats happening… by the by, where are you located? I agree that the back board is the bounce, but there is a difference in how the sound is changed dependent on the woods used, my Maple back and sides jumbo is much crisper and brighter than my Mahogany back and sides. Both have solid spruce tops. there is also a better bottom end with a rosewood back and sides then any of the other commercially available guitars out there.. I have been playing for a little over 25 years and have gone through a couple hundred guitars, they all have sounds that are unique to themselves, granted the difference in tops makes a huge difference, I.E. spruce, cedar, Maple, I have a friend that has one of all Koa, very unique sound indeed..thanks again, will be ordering that book tomorrow morning… really want to get the ball rolling on this asap.. I have a real nice piece of 12/4 Mahogany, the real stuff that I was given by a friend a couple years ago, gonna cut my neck out of that..

-- Papa@papaswoodworking.com

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

6769 posts in 2150 days


#13 posted 624 days ago

You can use spruce you have for the top but what you
have may not meet soundboard criteria. It should be
quartersawn and selected for minimal runout. Runout
is caused by trees twisting as they grow and this is one
reason premium soundboard woods are harvested at
specific altitudes and where growing conditions cause
even spacing of growth rings and less twisting of the
trees.

...soundboard selection is not especially difficult to learn,
but I’d rather go to a guitar show or shop where
many soundboard sets are in stock than mail order
them. One luthier I know makes about 40 guitars
a year and mail orders 100 premium soundboard sets
at the beginning of his production cycle. He selects
them for tone, appearance and stiffness and sends
back the other 60.

View bent's profile

bent

311 posts in 2171 days


#14 posted 624 days ago

good info about the differences in secondary woods. any idea on how ash sounds?

fyi, you only need stock to be 7/8” thick to use it as a neck. i know that sounds too thin, but it works out. the trick is in cutting the angle for the headstock.

i’m in lafayette, indiana. the tools i have (reamer and fretboard files) would fit in a small box, i could mail them if you want. if you’d rather purchase your own set, check out grizzly. that’s where i bought these, they have a lot good stuff for luthiers besides just the guitar kits.

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Tennessee

1447 posts in 1017 days


#15 posted 624 days ago

Agree with Bent on the guitar tools. Stewmac has great tools, and prices to match! Grizzly has some great tools, and their prices are not too bad.
As far as your first build, it might not be a bad idea to either visit a luthier who is willing to show you maybe a few jigs and the tools they use, or buy a cheap acoustic from a pawn shop to take apart to get the real feel on how it is built. I only build solidbody electrics, but I took apart a lot of them to make sure what I was doing was right. It really paid off.

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

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