Closing another box

As nice as July was – filled with travelling, the summer academy, and random bits and pieces of work, it has been nice to get back to a “normal” schedule for the past week. I started swimming and going to the gym again, so my energy levels are back up, I have been spending some time playing the guitar every day in the morning (I have several concerts coming up over the next year, as well as the CD I am supposed to be recording…), and I have made some good progress on the current guitar build in the afternoons. Having a bit of regularity in a self-employed work schedule is not always easy, but it really does make things so much more calm.

If you remember from my last blog (making a guitar mould), my goal for this week was to get the body assembled, and I have actually managed to carry through with that promise! Using the mould was a bit of a learning curve, but overall it has made everything much more stable and efficient. I don’t have to worry so much about keeping the sides square when putting the guitar together, and the neck angle and therefore string action will also be much more easy to control.

I started by joining the sides together with a mahogany end block at the tail end of the guitar, adding basswood linings, and shaping the soundboard edge of the sides to fit the profile of the mould – both the curve of the lower bout and the angle to accommodate the raised fretboard in the upper bout.

Once I had the sides prepared, I trimmed the soundboard to fit the mould and attached the neck to the soundboard. This is a crucial joint – if the neck isn’t lined up properly with the centre line on the soundboard, the guitar will look wonky, and setting up the bridge and strings could be tricky. I talked a bit about my raised fretboard Spanish heel joint, complete with a colourful diagram, in a previous post here.

With the neck-soundboard ready to go, I set that down into the mould and glued the sides down. The mould did a great job of stabilizing the sides during this process – something that I have had a difficult time with in the past.

The next thing to do was to add “brace feet” to the sides. These serve two purposes. First, they give some much needed support to the ends of the soundboard braces, preventing them from coming loose in the future. Secondly, they act as braces for the sides of the guitar. In this guitar, I used a few bits of Spanish cedar that I had leftover from other projects. In the picture below, you can see the progress on the guitar up to this point with the last “brace foot” clamped in place.

For this guitar I have used a very traditional fan brace pattern. This particular layout was drawn out by my father, and has produced several very nice guitars. I like the inclusion of the X-brace in the upper bout as it is incredibly strong, and it is always very satisfying to fit a nice tight lap joint between the two braces.

The next step was to prepare the back by cutting it almost to size and then fitting the braces into the sides. As I have for the past several guitars, I notched out a spot for each of the brace ends through the lining and the side of the guitar. The brace ends will be covered by the binding later on, and these tight-fitting notches prevent the brace ends from coming loose in the future.

The back is a very straight-grained piece of Indian rosewood braced with Engelmann Spruce in a simple ladder pattern.

With everything fitted and well vacuumed, I applied glue to the edge of the sides, and clamped the back in place with a couple of cam clamps, a few F-clamps, and a piece of sliced up inner tube.

As I was working on this, I started to think that I should add some hooks to the sides of the mould to allow me to clamp with the inner tube more easily. I just have to figure out a way to make the hooks really secure in the MDF. One of the problems I have encountered with the mould is the depth of clamp it requires due to the thickness of the removable sides. I only have a few that will reach in far enough. I had enough for what I was doing this week, but I really should pick up or make a few more cam clamps over the next while.

Of course, the whole clamping process would probably improve if I built myself a go-bar deck, so I might work that into my upcoming workshop renovation. Having mentioned that, I would welcome any workshop layout tips or workshop must haves in the comments below! I’ll be changing up my shop over the course of this fall and I am currently in the design phase of things.

Here is the guitar all closed up and ready for a lot of clean up, some decorative bits, and a fingerboard over the course of the next week.

Next Thursday, if all goes to plan, you’ll see the binding and inlays completed, the fingerboard on, and the guitar just about ready for some finish.

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Emily

I play guitar. I build guitars when I can. I enjoy all sorts of music, but Baroque, 'classical' guitar music of the 19th and 20th centuries, and jazz music hold special places in my heart. I am using this blog to document some of my adventures in guitar building, performing, and teaching, and hope to give my readers a bit of a look at the world inside a guitar.

3 thoughts on “Closing another box”

  1. As someone who loves playing guitar but has not yet tried to build one, it is truly fascinating to get a peek into some of the process behind building a guitar via this post and some of your previous posts! One question: do you approach playing guitar differently since you started building guitars, and if so, how/why?

    1. Thanks for your comment! I am not sure whether building has impacted my playing (I actually started doing both around the same time at age 5, so it is really the only way of approaching guitar that I know), but I am pretty sure that playing impacts my building – knowing what I am looking for sound-wise, and how I like guitars to feel, etc. I am sure that the building also impacts my playing in some way – perhaps in knowing more intimately how the guitar is put together and why it might sound a certain way. Good question – sorry I can’t answer it very well at this point. I’ll put some more thought to it in the next while.

  2. Thank you for letting me know your thoughts on the relationship between playing and building guitars-so cool that you started playing and building guitars at the same time! It makes sense that knowing what guitars sound/feel like from a guitarist’s perspective would influence the guitar building process…

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