Top bracing… this will take a few days

I glued the maple bridge patch on here yesterday and now I’m starting the top bracing. I’m using Sitka Spruce, in an X configuration.

This picture is of the first spar of the X.  This involves a lot of careful whittling, lots of patience, taking only a little wood at a time so it hugs the contour of the top and the patch. Here’s the deal: I want this so well mated that only light finger pressure closes the gap between the 2 pieces of wood. If it closes but you’re using clamping pressure, that means there’s unresolved stress in the top. The glue will be fighting that, the wood will be fighting that, and it will affect how the top vibrates. When it’s ready to glue I do clamp strongly but that’s so I get a good bond. The glue won’t be holding the wood in a configuration it doesn’t want to be in. It will just be holding it together.

This is my constant goal with my soundboards: there should be as few stresses unrelated to actually vibrating with the string as possible. That way they vibrate most freely and project the most energy in the sound frequencies the string is producing. Or: such is my theory. With my theories and 5 bucks you can buy a cup of coffee.

In an earlier post I promised to show you how I support the braces. It’s simple: little posts, glued to the sides, which act like columns. Since their grain runs perpendicular to the grain of the side, they also act to prevent splitting.


Notice this brace: it’s Orange Osage. It has to take a lot of stress because the fingerboard will be laying on it, when the guitar is done, and the string tension will be trying to make the neck come up and make that fingerboard collapse the top. The Osage will prevent this.

Orange Osage is a weed tree; it’s hard to find big chunks. It is very hard, very strong, very bright sounding when tapped, very heavy and dense for its volume (so I only use it sparingly, in critical spots like this) , and naturally this color. Some people make tea from it, I believe, but I am not sure which part of the plant they make the tea from. It smells good. I’m the only one who uses it in guitars that  know of. I think some people use it to turn bowls.

A word about the woods I use: I don’t use toxic woods (except a little rosewood).  The wood I use frequently is a food tree– walnut, maple, cherry, osage… on the theory that, If I can eat it or something the tree produces, it’s probably OK to breathe a little of the dust.


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