|Building my 2nd
Acoustic Guitar - Page 8
April 22, 2009
I took that beautifuly-sprayed body and neck and did what with them? Of course! Sanded through again. So another
$%#* round of spraying, and then I finally had it about right. So... I began sanding... very lightly. And polishing. I used
sandpaper up to 2000 grit, then Turtle Wax cleaner (brownish-red), then Turtle Wax polish (white), but I could not get a
nice shiny finish without very obvious scratches. Not polishing swirls, but honest-to-goodness little scratches. I guess
there could be a dozen reasons for this... contamination between sandpaper grades, insufficient sanding, bits of grit when
I was polishing, etc. etc. However, I finally punted and decided on a satin finish. A soft glow. So I started buffing out
with 0000 steel wool and then polishing with a cloth, and I actually really like it. It's got a nice sheen that shows virtually
no scratches. So anyway, the time seemed to have come for the Joining Of Neck To Body.
This was a pretty big deal for me, since I've been working on this stupid guitar for almost eighteen months. So I removed
the masking tape from the dovetail joint (very carefully so as not to pull up any lacquer) and pondered the area of the top
that will be covered by the fretboard extension. NOTE HELPFUL HINT HERE: When you spray the lacquer on the
body, do not mask the area of the bridge and the fretboard extension. The lacquer will pile up around the edge of the tape
and form a mound rather than a ridge, leaving you with an extra thickness of lacquer to deal with. Much better to lightly
pencil or score just inside the edges of the glue area before spraying and then remove the lacquer when you're ready to
glue. That's what I did with my previous acoustic and it worked well as I remember. I thought I'd try masking this time,
but I have discovered it's better not to.
So I had a little adventure there that I'm not going to recount. You can ask me about it. Anyway, I prepared to glue the
neck. I attached cauls to a Jorgensen clamp to handle the fretboard extension:
Not the clearest picture (taken with my phone) but I used double sided tape to attach wood faces. The screw side will
bear on the top of the fretboard. On the other side I cut an angled notch so the caul can snuggle up against the upper
bout cross brace and slant up to also bear against the wide 'popsicle' brace. I rounded off the edges, and voila... no fear
of nasty dents. I ended up putting a little curve on the screw side so as to bear against the edges of the fretboard rather
than in the middle.
So this is how my glueup looked, and how nice that satin finish looks too:
The cam clamp (which I made during my first acoustic build) has cork faces so again, no fear of dents. Now,
this is a photo of the dry run. See how neatly the fretboard extension lies on the top? OK, pretty much right
after this, I applied a thin but ample layer of glue to my surfaces and clamped it up just like this. I stood happily
in the glow of a smooth glueup for a few minutes, then noticed that the fretboard was something like an eighth of
an inch up off the top at the body join. Yikes! I tried clamping harder, to no avail. The only thing for it was to
remove the neck, but it had been clamped for several minutes (I used luthier's glue from LMI, which evidently
sets up pretty quickly). I nearly couldn't get it off and I had a few bad moments imagining how I was going to
get it apart, but at last it popped free. I cleaned off the glue and had a look. Again and again I tried to reseat it
properly, but it just wouldn't fit. It was like I had never finished fitting it. But you see right above that it was fine
just minutes before! I still haven't figured it out. And to get it to fit again I had to file and fiddle just as I had
done weeks before. Go figure. But I got it back fitting again and went through the glueup process a second
time, This time with better results.
However, in the rush to get the neck off I put a couple of nice little gouges in my immaculate top. Not quite
through the lacquer but deep. There was no choice but to fill them with laquer and go on with my life but how
In any case, Mr Neck and Mrs Body are now happily joined:
Here's No. 2 (on the left) with her older sibling No. 1. In this photo you can see exactly what Martin did to
create the '00', or 'OM' style from the '000' style. No. 2 is the old 'twelfth fret' 000 style. Responding to
demands for better high-fret access, Martin kind of squashed down the upper bout so the neck joins two frets
higher up on the fretboard. There was also a little repositioning of the soundhole, and interior braces. You can
see that No.1's soundhole is proportionately farther into the upper bout (look at the positions of the back brace).
So now I'm back to where I thought I was six weeks ago, ready to dress the frets, glue on the bridge, attach the
tuners, and set 'er up. Now my big worry is whether I have enough compensation in the bridge, but that's a
subject for another day.
April 25, 2009
I got right on it and dressed the frets today.
If you've read my other guitar blogs you know the drill. Big single mill bastard file up and down the length of the
neck until all the frets have file marks on the crown. Once the file starts hitting every fret, you're level. Then I
mask the fretboard and start re-crowning. The bulbous-handled jobbie right in front is the crowning file, whicb is
shaped to restore a rounded top to the frets after levelling. Use this just until the file marks are gone. Don't
overdo it or you'll de-level (unlevel?) the frets. With the right file this really doesn't take too long. Then I use
1000 or 1500 grit sandpaper on the frets to eliminate any roughness and after that polish them with 0000 steel
wool, which really gets them shining.
Next I'll use my small triangular file to clean up any roughness on the ends of the frets.
In this picture you can also see that I've removed the masking tape from the bridge area. I used a wide chisel to
gently cut the lacquer inward all around the tape and then pulled it off slowly. No problems. And after all my
hand wringing about the extra 'lip' of lacquer around the tape, I found that it is pretty easy to actually put a bevel
on the lacquer itself and take that lip down. I'll put a similar very slight bevel on the underside edges of the bridge
and everything should be swell.
April 26, 2009
Well things are beginning to move along quite smartly now. Today I glued on the bridge. And, I realized that I'm gaining
at least a tiny bit of wisdom. Before I started spraying the laquer I had laid out the bridge position (since I was masking it
that was pretty much a given). I had put a little knife mark where the front center of the bridge was to go, and scored a
very light alignment line across the front to make sure it was square to the neck. The first thing I did was to doublecheck
those markings, since things might have shifted just a hair since I fit the neck so long ago. The piece of tape on the top
was holding down a thread with which I was doing just that. But they were still right on the money (yay!). So then I
washed the bottom of the bridge with naptha (the bridge is theoretically made of an oily wood so some say it helps
Now here's where the wisdom comes in. Previously I would have gone ahead and glued the bridge on at this point. "I'll be
careful clamping and make sure it doesn't slide around," I would have said. But I took a little bit more time and used the
same trick that one should use when gluing fretboards to necks (that I didn't with my first acoustic and did with this one
-- yet another tiny piece of wisdom). To wit: securing the bridge with nails while clamping it. First I used double-sided
tape to temporarily fix the bridge in its final position. I found a drill bit that exactly matched a couple of nails and drilled
through the bottom of each end of the bridge slot and through the top (and bridge plate). So when I was ready to glue I
put wax on the nails and put them through the bridge and into the top to hold the bridge exactly in position as I clamped
up. When everything was secure, out came the nails. And now I have predrilled wire holes should I decide to put in an
undersaddle transducer in the future.
May 15, 2007
If you were paying really close attention to the photo of the two guitars above, you might have noticed a problem with
No. 2. If you didn't, don't feel bad because I didn't notice it either... until I installed the tuners, that is. I didn't cut the
relief 'ramps' at the lower end of the slots so the strings will have a clear shot from the tuners to the nut. D'oh! Just
when I thought I was free and clear, it was back to the shop and file, file, file. Then it was back to the spray booth to
spray, spray, spray AGAIN! Thankfully, just the headstock this time. Here's a shot of the completed headstock with
tuners installed, and a roughed-in nut. Compare this with the photo above and you'll see what I'm talking about.
So now I really am ready (knock wood!) to get started making this thing sing. I'll figure out the proper spacing and
placement for the strings on the nut, carry the string spacing down to the bridge, rough out a saddle, and start fiddling
with the nut and saddle until it's set up correctly. I'll do that by filing material off the bottoms of the nut and saddle if
necessary, slotting the nut for proper spacing and string height, and setting up the saddle for proper string height and
hopefully proper intonation. No. 2 is now just waiting to be kissed by her prince so she can wake up and sing.
Oh, I also need to decide about a pickguard: Either no pickguard, black, or transparent. I'm leaning towards
transparent, but anything could happen.
May 18, 2009
This guitar has certainly not been without its lessons. Remember back when I said that next time I'd delay gluing on the
bridge until after finishing? I found another reason why that's a good idea. Here I am, getting ready to work on the
saddle. The straight edge is resting on the roughed-in nut and the saddle blank, and I'm measuring the initial string
clearance so I can start removing material (see the feeler gauges?)...
... and I discover that the bridge is not tall enough. Or the neck angle is too steep, whichever you prefer. Gaaaaah! To get
proper string height the saddle would have to be ridiculously tall, protruding even more than the > 1/4 inch it does now.
The lesson: in the future I will delay making the bridge until fretting is done and the neck is on; that way I can determine
directly how tall the bridge needs to be. As it is I'll have to decide on a solution... hopefully one that involves one or two
backward steps and maybe a day or two rather than eight or ten steps and a couple more months.
September 1, 2009
Since April a lot has happened, and I have gone forwards and backwards, forwards and backwards. I messed with the
bridge/saddle and I managed to get the action around where it needed to be! For a brief, shining moment (couple of days) I had
me a guitar. I was taking pictures, and deciding on pickguards...
...or maybe no pickguard. And you know what? It sounded good. To my ears,
very good, especially for a brand-new non-played-in guitar. But then, as has
happened so many times during this build, a minor catastrophe: the bridge cracked
at the right end of the slot. The saddle was tall to begin with, and my endless
futzing trying to get the saddle fitted had left the slot sort of sloppy as well.
Cracked bridge = bad.
So I removed it. Carefully, using a heat lamp. I shielded the body with -- shhh --
asbestos (I was very careful) and managed to get it off without marring the rest of
the top at all! Happy day. I plugged the bridge pin holes in the top with dowels
which I glued in, then cut and sanded flush.
I got a new bridge blank and took it to a machinist buddy to cut the saddle slot on a
milling machine. Now I got me a non-sloppy slot (understatement... my slot is
way more precise than any bridge saddle I could find or make). Now I'll do the
pyramids, contour the bottom to match the soundboard profile, polish it up, slap 'er
on and start picking. I'm going to skip lacquering the bridge this time, becase a)
I'm seriously ready for this guitar to be completed and b) the new bridge is of the
same wood as the fretboard, with the same
two-tone-with-a-black-line-down-the-middle thing going on. So I'll leave it, like the
fretboard, bare, just sanded and polished..
September 21, 2009
OK, so here it is. New bridge installed, black pickguard
affixed. There will be a further amount of setup to be
done... there's one high fret around 11 or 12, and the
action could be lowered a bit, but all in all a very
serviceable guitar. For the purposes of this website I'm
calling it done.
The tone is very round, with much more depth than my
first guitar. I'd almost call it dramatically different... but
that's not such a big surprise since as opposed to No. 1
this guitar has a significantly larger box, a thinner top, and
Spruce top and bracing (presumably Sitka though I don't
know for sure); mahogany back, sides, and neck;
Madagascar roseweood fretboard and bridge. Bone pins,
Corian (r) nut and saddle, Grover Sta-Tite tuners, MOP
dots, lacewood rosette.
September 29, 2009
My new bridge, machine-cut slot and all, cracked in
exactly the same way the first one did: along the grain,
right at the treble end of the saddle slot. Obviously
there's just not enough wood there and I need to
redesign. A job for another day. Interestingly, the guitar
doesn't sound all that bad, even with the crack...