Build Journal

Soundboard (Pt. 1)

After completing the sides, my next step is to build the guitar’s soundboard.  This guitar is going to have an Adirondack Red Spruce soundboard.

Trees almost never grow wide enough to make a guitar top from a single piece of wood.  That is particularly true of Red Spruce trees, which are small than most spruces.  So the first procedure is to cleanly  join the two halves of the soundboard.   The pieces that will become the top of the guitar came from my supplier with fairly rough surfaces.  The gluing edges for the center seam are trued on a jointer.  The two halves are then glued together using the wprlboard in the picture below.   At the top of the picture you may be able to see that there are pairs of wooden wedges.  These wedges slide together to put clamping pressure on the center seam. Read more

About this Project

I should probably share a little information about my guitar building philosophy before I get too far into this project.

I have been building guitars since the late 1970s.  I never wanted to settle on just one type of guitar (archtops, for example) because I found all of the different styles enjoyable, both visually and aurally.  I also realized quite a long time ago that many of the skills I learned building one type of guitar were necessary and easily transferred to a different type of instrument, so there was really no need to focus on just one style in order to build high quality instruments.  Read more

Sides

My first procedure is to slice the side wood from a mahogany board.  The board in this picture is about 4 1/2″ wide, 1 1/2″ thick and 34″ long. After cutting the wood on the bandsaw, it is planed and sanded to a thickness of about 0.075″ before it can be safely bent to the desired shape.

The sides are bent in this press.  There are 2 pieces of sheet metal which are heated with 3 200 watt light bulbs.  A wet side is placed between the hot sheets, then clamped into the form.  After about 12 hours, I can remove the side from the press. Read more

Tonewood Selection

Before actually starting to build any guitar, a lot of details need to be worked out.  Of all the details, the choice of tonewoods for the top, back  and sides is the most important.   All of the established tonewoods impart characteristic sounds on the finished instrument.  For example,a spruce soundboard will produce a bright, clear tone, while cedar will produce a warmer sounding guitar.  Various types of rosewoods, maples and mahoganies all have there own tone qualities.

For this 12 String guitar, I will be using Adirondack spruce for the soundboard and Honduran mahogany for the back and sides.  The original Leadbelly guitars used spruce and mahogany, which is why they were chosen for this project.  Adirondack spruce is very strong and tends to make loud, sweet sounding guitars.  Mahogany is generally described as a wood that brings out the midrange tones in a guitar: not the trebles brought out by maple, nor the bass notes brought out by rosewood.

My Goal

I have been advised by many people to start a blog.  On the surface, that seemed like a good idea, but not having ever even read a blog, I wasn’t sure what to do with one of my own.  So, with the help and consultation of my son, Tom, I am starting my Zimnicki Guitars Blog.  My plan is to use this space to show interested readers the steps involved with the construction of an acoustic guitar.

I have just started to build a pseudo-copy of a Stella Leadbelly 12 String guitar, so that is the first project that I will chronicle on this site.   Please feel free to make comments on what I post, or visit my website to send me an email with any questions you have.