Building an ARCHTOP Guitar - Page 3
November 9, 2010
Tonight I finished binding the F-holes. I'll do the super-fussy cleaning them up later, but for now
I'm calling them done (as usual, I need to apologize for the dueling light sources that make the top
look green and nauseated):
Not a perfect job but it was only my
second-ever f-hole (the first is about seven
inches to the right of this one)
This was a pretty tricky operation.
Originally, preparing for this, I had used
my handy-dandy-brand-new binding
laminator from Stewart-McDonald to
create a whole big length of this WBW. In
fact, you saw it hanging over the drill press
on the last page. But what I found out
(after I had laminated it, duh) was that
plastic binding this thick will simply not
bend like this. You can see that it's made
with four pieces, two which do the loop
and two that are more gently curved. The
loops I did one layer at a time, gluing the
white piece to the wood, then putting on
the black, then the other white one. I found
I could use the pre-lam for the lesser
curves, so it wasn't totally wasted.
Of course I'll use similar binding on the
body and the pickguard. I may even bind
the neck and headstock if I'm feeling frisky.
November 11, 2010. Thanks, veterans.
When we carved the maple back on the template router (awesome as that was) we made a slight error
in the overall depth of cut. The 'relative' depth was fine and I got a lovely duplicate of my back
template, but it was a bit thick. You want the back to be an even 3/16" thick, but it came out 1/4" at
the edges. So I had to figure out how to remove 1/16 from the flat side. So I had an idea: I put the
back in its cradle, carved side down. I used handplanes to make sure the flat side was actually flat.
Then I set my router for a 1/16" cut and crosshatched the flat side like below. I made sure to leave
enough wood to support the router and not cut farther than 1/16th. Then I took my trusty No. 5
plane and knocked off the high spots. And my depth-at-the-edge is now 3/16th, just like it should be.
Next I'll carve the inside of the back.
Also, I glued the parallel braces to the top. Next job there is carving them to the correct profile.
By the way, I have come to a decision on the electronics. While I had originally planned on two humbuckers
like the classic bigbody Gibsons (L-5, ES-350, Super 400, etc.), I am now balking at the thought of cutting
big holes in my lovely top, and have decided to go with a floating pickup that will attach the pickguard,
similar to the 'target' guitar on the right at the top of the first page of this blog. That'll make it a bit more of
a one-trick pony, but I've already got guitars for rocking out on, you know?
November 12, 2010
Here is the top with braces installed, glued and trimmed.
And here's the state of play on the back: outside carve basically complete, inner carve soon to commence.
The darker area in the left center lower bout is sanded more thoroughly and so the figure stands out a bit
November 15, 2010
I had told myself that I wasn't going to continue down the road of showing EVERYTHING at the risk of
boring my readers, but what the heck. Here is the back after I did the initial drill-holes-to-
determine-depth thing and I've started whacking away at it with mallet and chisel. The larger, more
crater-like depressions in the near corner are where I started this process with a round-nosed router bit
chucked in the drill press, but that created loads of vibration so I went back to the drill bit for the majority
The hole-less area in the middle is that way because it's out of reach of my drill press.
And here it is after a couple of hours work with the chisel and the roundbottom plane... For these
operations the hold-down bars at the ends weren't strong enough and I used a good bit of
double-sided tape to keep the back from sliding around in the cradle.
December 16, 2010
The past month has seen me finish up the inner carve of the back and do some work on the
sides. The sides came from the lumber mill quite a bit thicker than they needed to be, so I I used
Paul's drum sander to take them down to a thickness of around .085 inches, =then I ripped them
to the proper width (just under 3 inches). Then we used the side bending machine that Paul made
to bring them basically into shape.
This odd-looking thing is a
machine for bending guitar sides.
1. The mold/template over which
the sides are bent (detail below).
2. Steel sheets to enhance and
further the heating.
3. Blocks attached to springs to
keep pressure on the sides so
that they stay aligned with the
4. Screw to push down on the
5. Electric plug for the 3
100-watt light bulbs inside that
supply the heat.
Here's an illustration of number 1 in the
photo, the mold. Basically it's two
pieces of plywood that hold the metal
bars over which the sides are bent.
This arrangement provides the space
for the heating elements (lightbulbs)
and allows the heat to reach the sides
Here are the sides after bending in the machine. Not bad, and whole heck of a lot less trouble than
bending on a pipe. That is if someone has already taken the trouble to build the machine...
Nice as they look though, they will need some more work on the pipe. The curves will need
some touchup work, and I'll have to bend the cutaway by hand on the pipe of course. And as is
apparently not at all uncommon with curly maple, there were a couple of breaks.
I fixed the breaks with superglue, using curved cauls that I coated with wax to prevent gluing them to
Bending the cutaway has me really worried. Both sides broke at the waist using the bending machine -- I can
only guess at the carnage when I try to do much sharper curves by hand. But I went ahead and made myself a
little cutaway pipe... here it is next to its bigger brother. I didn't have a pretty piece of slate handy so I made do
with a chunk of paver stone. And I'm not actually what this new pipe will do to the wood when it's heated
(stains? scorches?); I'll do some thorough testing before I use it on my actual sides.
December 19, 2010
Cutaway anxiety? Ha HA, I laugh at my cutaway anxiety. I rule. Well, mostly.
As you can tell, I began bending the cutaway, and it has gone surprisingly well. Just a couple of minor breaks
so far, quickly (though perhaps not invisibly, grumble grumble) repaired with cyanoacrylate (superglue). My
little pipe worked quite well with no staining or scorching. Next time in the shop I'll finish up with side bending
(and fix those flat spots) and then I guess it's time for side bracing and kerfing!