Top’s on.

Got the bracing all dialed in and the carcass ready to accept the top so I slathered them with glue and slapped then together.

Tomorrow I would like to get the lip routed off and maybe put up some binding. We’ll see. It’s supposed to get real cold and the shop may not be habitable.

Multiple necks later… I think I have the one that will work on THIS guitar

 

I kept making minor errors or, alternatively, design changes to several necks in succession. One neck somehow got an extra dot at the 11th fret (Don’t ask). Another neck was contoured further up the neck, ending closer to the body join than I wanted– I used to hang 15 frets off the body, but now I’m going to do 13 so the bridge sits deeper in the top’s field.  But I absent-mindedly used the old shaping template and so rounded things to fret 15 — so, I had to start again. Another just looked like the wrong color or grain pattern to go with the ovankol, it was weird and didn’t feel right.  It would look fine with a maple body, but not ovankol.  These other necks will all get used… on future guitars… but this is the one I’m going to use for the Ovankol box.

Once a neck makes it through my rigorous QA (har de har, 11th fret?) I brand it. With a branding iron. Another opportunity to screw up! But this time it worked with a nice imprint.

Now, the frets go on. Old school. Rackety packety. More later this week.

Fingerboard glued on

Well of course I screwed up the firstblank I glued up by routing the curves too far up the neck, so I lost a day by having to make a new blank. I did manage to get the form of the neck roughed in yesterday on the new blank, so today I am gluing the rosewood fingerboard on.

If it sets up by tomorrow I’ll trim it off and do some more sanding on the neck, for feel… if the thing finally seems like a “go” after all that, I’ll insert some fingerbaord markers and finally set the frets. At any point and on any step this could get screwed up, so taking my time is key. Also the stakes get higher because the waste of material is greater– that fretboard was 30 bucks and throwing it away would be a real shame.

There’s a lot of work to a neck and if any of it’s wrong, the guitar just won’t feel good to play. So I have to be patient.

Once I get to the fretting stage, I can carry on with the top because I know where the bridge will have to be, within a millimeter or 2. That’s close enough for laying out where the bridge plate needs to be and also for laying out the braces, by anybody’s standard.

 

Beginning the neck

So I mulled things over overnight, and decided:

  • To use a zero fret neck. They just have such fast and easy action, it’s almost a no-brainer. I know some people look down on them, but I just don’t see why, especially if you use stainless steel on the zero fret so wear is not an issue.
  • To make a composite neck — mahogany for lightness, with a walnut strip down the center for strength. Should look nice, and handle nicely too.
  • To use a longer scale length (by a fraction) than is common on Martin or Gibson dreadnoughts. Another tip of the hat to Maccaferri. I have fingerboards on hand in several scale lengths, so i got to fiddle around and decide on what I really wanted this time. I like the tonal quality of longer strings.
  • To use a dual truss rod. Makes it easier to dial in the action.

 

The neck blank is all glued up. I’ll start to cut it out and shape it tomorrow.

On other matters… The bracing has started in the tub, and the Spruce top has been sanded. More on those tomorrow.

 

Routed off back and sides, gluing up the top on the best guitar ever

 

I got the back and sides out of clamps and routed it flush. Looks good. I’m going to let it sit a day befre I start messing with braces.

I got out some really nice Spruce from my stock. I believe this is Sitka — notice the glinty lines — but I couldn’t swear it’s not Engelman in a court of law. Either way, it is nice nice wood. I planed off the edges and got them gluing up now. Tomorrow I’ll sand the top and start laying out where the braces will go. But first:

I need to decide what to do about the neck. The neck dimensions drive where the bridge will float on the top, and that in turn determines where the bridge plate has got to go to reinforce the top, and that placement in turn determines how the X bracing is going to fall. So what I really need to do is think a lot about scale length, zero fret or no, number of frets to the body… hmmm.

This guitar is contemplated as a hybrid between a Maccaferri-style manouche guitar and a good old fashioned Dreadnought. This is where the rubber meets the road. I have to decide what to do.

The Best Guitar Ever moves ahead

Today I leveled the edges of the shell and installed the first set of stringers where the top will attach.. I’ve gone on ad nauseam about the benefits to longitudinal rigidity from using steambent stringers, as opposed to the kerfed softwood linings mass producers use; I won’t belabor the point except to note that this set of steambent stringers is white oak– even more rigid than anything I’ve used in the past.  I also bent the stringers from thicker stock. I had to use big clamps to get them to mate up with the Ovankol sides.

I am pleased with the result. Tomorrow I’ll add the second set of stringers to where the back attaches to the shell.

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Below you can see the steambent stringers dry-fit into the shell.

 

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On another note, the CNC machine is progressing… slowly. I ran a test job today with a waste piece of pine and it ran fine for awhile– until vibration caused the cutting bit to loosen and drop deeper into the workpiece. I had to hit the emergency stop button PDQ or it could have wrecked the cutting bit and scored up the cutting table (again). I am not sure the router I am using has a good enough bit holder to use in this application. The CNC machine has been a lot of struggle for, so far, no return. Good for the character though I suppose.

Tail Block is in

 

Step by step… tomorrow I’ll do the linings.

Looks pretty symmetrical to me, the new forms I am using are helping matters along.

End block glued in

I trimmed the sides so there will be taper, back to front on the instrument, and then glued in the headblock. The neck will be bolted to this, by and by. No more work on this guitar for today: tomorrow, I will glue in the tailpiece block.

And here we go

Go a lot done today. I bent up the sides for a new guitar — Ovankol, which is related to Rosewood, but is not endangered– and glued up the back.

320 degrees.

The bending went “OK” but not perfect. Some minor cracking on the inside bend at the waist, which I believe I can repair, but may rule this one out as my tour de force guitar. I don’t think I had the heating blanket set high enough– I’ve never worked with bending Ovankol before. I found some nice backs in Cherry in my wood stash, which bends beauifully and sounds great, so maybe I’ll zip around this afternoon and source some cherry boards to mill up for a set of sides. It never hurts to have more than one guitar in the pipeline.

 

The last thing I did, since the shop is nice and warm and good for gluing, was glue up the Ovankol back. First I plane the edges where the 2 halves go together, closely enough that when I hold them up pressed together to a light I can’t see light through. Then I glue them in the jig below.

The trick is, you set the 2 halves together so they form a triangle, then clamp wedges on each side of the 2 halves. You apply glue and then (first removing the support stick) press them flat. The fact the edges are stable means the 2 halves exert pressue on each other. You clamp it down with a gluing caul and let it dry. Done.

As long as the planing was done right, and none of the clamps move, you can’t even tell there’s a glue line there.