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.
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.
Sanded/leveled the sides, sanded the back, cut it out, glued it and clamped it. Progress!
I’ll start gluing some nice braces in tomorrow, maybe start making the spruce top.
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.
Below you can see the steambent stringers dry-fit into the shell.
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.
Step by step… tomorrow I’ll do the linings.
Looks pretty symmetrical to me, the new forms I am using are helping matters along.
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.
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.
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.
So I find I have more time on my hands than I’ve had in decades… as I have joined the millions idled due to COVID and I no longer have a day gig for now. But I spend my mornings looking for paid work and I can spend my afternoons in the shop. Building guitars is great for the soul.
I have big plans. I am going to make my best guitar ever, and it’s going to be the real deal.
I have upgraded my guitar-side-bender, and I have built some forms to hold them in shape while I attach the sides to the end blocks and insert linings. The guitars should be considerably more symmetrical now. 😉
Lastly I am FINALLY going to get the CNC machine working. I am chewing through pine 2X4’s, finding faults with the machine and the program that runs it… but one fine day, soon, I will be able to rough out a neck and have it ready for final hand shaping. If you look at the video, turn off your speakers: it’s not a pleasant sound.
The Minnesota Nurse’s Association put out a call for unopened N95 masks and gloves… those poor people are trying to deal with the pandemic without protective gear.
I found some unopened in my supply cupboard. It’s nothing… but it’s something.
Stay safe out there people.
I have been remiss about posting, not that anybody reads this or anything, but anyways here’s another I built.
It’s an acoustic guitar with one passive humbucker pickup, and a bolt on Stratocaster-style neck. You can see the big honking neck block that the neck bolts into:
The internal bracing is ladder-style, much like that of a Maccaferri Selmer gypsy jazz guitar, the idea being that I wanted it to have punchy attack and short sustain. I even used a manouche-style rosette – albeit rotated 90 degrees – to make it conjure up that kind of look. Cedar top on this one so it wouldn’t be too bright-sounding.
The idea here is to create a jazz box you can play without amplification, with a very familiar hand-feel to people who play Strats and Telecasters as a rule, but with the option to jack in when you’re on stage.
This was the second guitar I’ve built that I used a water-based lacquer on. The stuff looks good but you need to rotate the guitar body in 3 dimensions while it flashes off, otherwise it runs down and forms drips. I am thinking about a way to make a machine that will rotate the body while I spray it and continue to rotate it until it’s really dry. I like the finish, even though it’s tricky, because I am dead-set against any more chemical exposures.
It’s a nice guitar. I think somebody is going to like it. I like it.