Next step: linings. How I do this is unusual.

Tonight I put linings in the first side of the guitar. I do this differently than anybody else I know: I use bent wood strips, instead of saw-kerfed linings like the big makers. The big names all use those notchey cut-through strips and it’s what everybody else does too.

Above: strips readied.

I don’t. I bend a slat of wood on the bender (or use a side that cracked, so it isn’t wasted), cut it into strips on the bandsaw, and then glue them in. I’m sure somebody somewhere must do it also — there is nothing that hasn’t been tried in luthiery — but so far I haven’t encountered any guitars but mine that do it. The only really tricky part is getting the slats the exact right length– it’s harder than you might think.

The only reason I can think that other people don’t do it that way is because bending wood is always a dicey process.

 

Above: the strips dry fitted.

The result looks great (I think), and I can state of a certainty that the guitar winds up with more longitudinal rigidity than a guitar with saw-kerfed linings. I have had 2 side by side , one body with kerfed linings and one with bent linings, and the bent lining guitar body deflects a lot less in compression. Since I want to prevent as many different types of stresses from affecting the top/sound board, this is valuable.  I don’t want the top under compression OR tension when it’s strung up. I just want it to vibrate up and down at the bridge, like the membrane of a reflex speaker moves at the magnet.

I sometimes alternate the colors on the linings (dark with light sides, light with dark sides) and it looks awesome. On this guitar, everything inside will be walnut.

 

Above: glued up. Tomorrow I’ll flip it over and put the linings in the other side.

The sides were bent yesterday. Next steps: end blocks.

Here’s a picture of the two guitars hanging up to dry, base blocks installed:

I’m going to run fast with these while the magic is happening. I only bent the sides yesterday… and I’m already gluing the parts together.

I trimmed the sides to the right size on the bandsaw –(that operation is worth a series of pix and a post sometime) — and then glued them to the base blocks. The base block is the part where an end pin and/or a tailpiece will ultimately be attached. I used walnut today because I want it to be strong, and also I like walnut. It’s a little heavy but the extra half ounce or whatever won’t matter.

Now this operation is totally unlike what most luthiers do. MOST luthiers lay the sides up in a form and clamp it all so everything is in place and then glue the base blocks in there after everything s forced into shape.

I don’t like that method. It ties you down as to the form, size, and contour of the guitar. You actually have a lot of leeway with a set of bent sides, to change the perimeter the sides describe, in terms of size and length and curvature. That’s why I now have only 2 metal forms for bending sides– a big one, and a parlor size one. Within those 2 ranges, I have all the flexibility I need.  I like to let guitars happen based on how I’m feeling. I don’t want to have 10 different forms and I don’t want every guitar to be the same.

Well, my new side bending rig is a great success. I’m delighted.

Time was, I’d bend the sides for my guitars using (1) a steam chamber, and (2) a metal form that had about 3000 Watts of incandescent bulbs inside, and (3) a lot of luck, and usually not enough of that.

It took about 2 and a half hours of work to bend up a set, and I had a certain number of inadvertent “let’s make some kindling instead of a guitar side” events that really sucked.

Today was the maiden attempt to use my new rig on good wood, which uses an electric rubber heat blanket. It takes about 2 minutes to come up to heat, and the bending process is over in 5. It takes more time to spritz the wood down, wrap it in foil, and position it in the bender precisely than it does to actually bend it. Then I clamp everything in place and let it cool down.

I was able to bend 2 sets of sides, perfectly, in just over an hour. I am so very happy!

Before

During

After

Done! One set of walnut sides and one set in curly maple.

A Guitar Construction Blog is born.

I used to show off my guitar builds to friends on Facebook. Because of Facebook’s  arrogance and carelessness, and the fact they allowed the private information of millions of people to be compromised, I am deleting my account there.

This is where I will post pictures of current builds, my theories on acoustic guitar construction, and pictures of finished instruments.

Check back soon!