Build Journal

Neck (Pt. 1)

Now that the body is done, my attention turns to the neck.

There are a lot of woods that make good guitar necks, including maple, rosewood, walnut and many others, but for acoustic guitars, mahogany seems to be the standard choice.  It is strong, light weight and very stable.   Weight is a concern because players don’t want their acoustic guitars to be “neck heavy,” and the stability is a concern because nobody would want to worry about their guitar’s neck distorting every time there was a change in temperature or humidity.  The majority of a guitar’s tone is determined by the body, but the neck adds something, too.  Read more

Binding the Body (Pt. 3)

The last step on the body will be to clean up the bindings, make them flush with the surfaces of the body and remove the excess glue from the top, back and sides.  The best way to do all of this is with a scraper blade, which is a flat or slightly curved piece of steel, about 2″X 5″ and the thickness of maybe 4 or 5 razor blades, that is sharpened on its edges.  Read more

Binding the Body (Pt. 2)

Once the glue has dried, the tail graft is scraped flush with the sides of the guitar.

I use a router with two different size rabbet bits to cut the channels into the body where the binding and purfling will sit.  The purfling lines are only about 0.060″ deep, so that channel is cut separately from the binding channel, which will be about 1/4″ deep.  Read more

Binding the Body (Pt. 1)

The next step in the construction process is to put binding around the body.  I suspect most people think that the binding is simply a decorative feature, something to dress up the guitar and visually frame it.  Binding definitely does do that, but it has a more important function: it protects the delicate and vunerable edges of the top and back of the body.  Read more

Back (Pt. 2)

The four back braces are now shaped to their finished dimensions.  They aren’t as wide or tall as the top braces because they don’t face nearly as much stress as the soundboard, but like the top braces, the back braces all have a pyramidal cross-section.  I usually shape back braces more like a gambrel roof (think of a barn) on my steel string guitars, but I am trying to stay as close to the Stella design as I can, and this is how Stella did it.  Read more

Back (Pt. 1)

The back of this guitar, like the sides, will be made of figured Honduran mahogany.   The first task is to join the two halves of the back.   There isn’t going to be any sort of decorative center strip covering the seam of this guitar, so the joining of the two halves must be very clean because any small defects will be visible.  In the photo below, the two halves are on the workboard ready to be joined.  The wood has some superficial discoloring from being stored for several years, but that will all be sanded away.  Read more

Tapering the sides

Before I start building the back of the guitar I want to pare down the sides.  The sides are currently about 4 1/2″ deep and I want to get them to a final depth of about 4 1/8″ at the tail end and 3 7/8″ at the neck end of the body.   Stella guitar bodies are different from most in that the body reaches maximum depth somewhere between the waist and where the bridge sits, whereas most guitars are at their maximum depth close to the tail end of the body.   Read more

Soundboard Final Touches

The ends of the braces need to be supported so they don’t pop loose–I have seen this happen on some guitars where the braces weren’t supported.   I will use the same technique with this guitar as I do with my classical guitars.  In the picture below I am shaping little spruce supports on a belt sander after roughly cutting them with a bandsaw.  Read more

Soundboard (Pt. 3)

Although this guitar would be classified as a flattop instrument, the top really isn’t completely flat.  The braces on either side of the bridge have a small curve built into them.  This gives the soundboard a slightly domed profile, which makes it stronger than if it were absolutely flat.  Read more

Soundboard (Pt. 2)

After completing the rosette and cutting out the sound hole, I turn my attention to bracing the top of the guitar.

The braces serve two equally important functions:

First, they provide structural support to the instrument.  The tuned strings exert pretty large forces on both the neck and the soundboard of the guitar.  A typical 6 string guitar tuned to standard pitch will experience close to 200 pounds of force from the strings, although this can vary with the gauge of strings used.  The total force on this 12 string guitar will be even greater–probably about 250 pounds. Read more