Closing another box (guitar 022)

It’s finally here! The guitar looks like a guitar. Closing up the box is one of the most exciting parts of the building process – this is when the instrument really starts to look like what it is supposed to.

In the last building update, I showed pictures of the rosette inlay and soundboard bracing. Since then, I thinned and braced the back (just a simple 4 brace ladder with a centre graft to reinforce the centre-back seam), thinned and bent the sides, built the neck, and put everything together.

On this guitar, as always, I am trying out a few new things. Most notably, I decided to laminate the sides for added strength. I bent the outside ziricote sides as usual, and then thinned and bent a set of Alaskan yellow cedar sides before sandwiching them together with a lot of glue and a monster clamping set up (see below). I used just about all of the bar clamps I have to apply even pressure over the sides, supporting the outside with the removable side from my mold, and the inside with a purpose-built caul. The caul is a strip of sturdy but flexible cardboard with strips of wood glued across to serve as clamping points.

The neck for this guitar is nothing special – just a standard Spanish cedar neck with a slotted Spanish heel joint and a scarf joint at the headpiece. I am using a different headpiece design, taking inspiration from the Bouchet headpiece shape as a nod to the Bouchet bracing inside the guitar.

With all of the pieces ready to go, I started assembly, first by attaching the neck to the soundboard, and then the sides to the soundboard. I used basswood for the linings of the guitar to give some added strength to the joint despite the double-thick sides. After the sides were glued down to the top, I fashioned small side braces or “brace feet” to prevent some of the braces on the top from lifting. Then the sides were shaped to fit the back using my favourite small hand plane.

cleaning up the sides in preparation for attaching the back
My favourite little hand plane for these kind of jobs pictured here with a 6 inch ruler for reference. This small plane fits perfectly in the palm of my hand.
soundbox ready to accept the back
Glueing on the back

As you can see above, I did something a bit different to clamp the back onto the sides this time. I used my homemade spool clamps and was really happy with how they worked. I just have to make another 20 so that I don’t have to use the bar clamps which are really not great for this job.

tail end of the guitar with a little bit of masonite stuck – I’ll have to clean that up a bit better…
just for a bit of an idea of how the guitar will look with finish, I wiped one half of the back with alcohol, and I think it looks pretty stunning, if I do say so myself!

Finally, just a closeup of one of the brace ends that I fit into the sides for added strength. I’ve done this on most of my builds over the past couple years, and I have to say, I am pretty proud of my work this time. All of the brace ends are fitted perfectly into their slots. I owe the tidy work to the time that I have started to spend on sharpening my tools – a sharp chisel does work wonders.

And that’s it! Next I’ll be working on the details to make this guitar really pretty. Oh yeah, and strings/frets, all of that stuff that make it actually work.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Closing another box (guitar 022)”

  1. Absolutely beautiful work, Emily. A lot of luthiers have started using laminated sides with the idea being that they don’t absorb energy from the top making it vibrate better. This wood is fantastic, too.

    1. Thank you, Brian! Yes, that’s exactly why I wanted to try it out, thanks for including that in your comment – I should have written that in my post. And yes, ziricote is pretty stunning

  2. Nice work. I’m currently building 002, a nylon string. I’m not going to call it a classical guitar, because I’m experimenting with it too much. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve read a lot of your posts and love your guitars.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I would love to see your guitar when you have it finished – what kind of experimenting are you doing?

  3. As a classical guitar enthusiast, more as a beginner and illiterate of classical guitar making, I read with great interest in learning how such a fine instrument is built. I find your blogs very informative, interesting and fun to read, sometimes even intrigued to my untrained eyes. E.g. I was most curious about the “thing” running alongside inside the guitar, which I eventually learned they’re called linings! As I read through your beautiful works, all your guitars when shown during the building process consistently have solid linings, as opposed to the usual kerfed linings seen in many factory-made and even luthier-built guitars. My first thought was that it seems simpler, less time consuming to build for the its purpose of joining top and back. Perhaps la beauté c’est la simplicité!

    But then, as I happened to find a copy of Irving Sloan’s Basic Guitar Construction online, page 52 says: “The lining that joins top to sides is a continuous strip kerfed (partly sawed through) at intervals of ¼”. The lining that joins back to sides is a smooth unbroken band”. As I practice the principle “seek and you shall find”, there are opinions from a classical guitar forum that “linings can be one of the most important components effecting the sound of a guitar”, and “switching from kerfed to solid lining can improve sustain, clarity, yadi yadi yada … 🙂 “. The arguments if I understand correctly, echo what Brian commented above on the laminated sides: stiffer sides would vibrate less, reduce energy loss and thus may result in louder sound projection. Similarly, kerfed lining that joints sides to top, if less rigid relative to solid lining, would theoretically absorb more of the produced energy, or increase overall energy loss, affecting the net sound projection. Of course there could be other factors in guitar construction that may help or negate this design feature, e.g. for a spruce soundboard which is inherently more rigid and thinner relative to cedar, stiffer sides is one more variable remained to be proven desirable? That said, I think there is one way to find out, to keep on experiment with the idea of continuous improvements.

    Not just a pleasure but always a learning experience reading your blogs!

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