Building an ARCHTOP Guitar - Page 4
February 3, 2011
Making some progress! I finished bending the cutaway and touched up the remainder of the
sides ... they had sprung back a good bit since I waited so long after the side bending
machine. The cutaway came out deeper than I had originally intended, which I like, in terms
of the actual fact of it, but which will make some extra work for me in altering the top and
back to fit the new profile. The good news is that the top and back are still thick enough in
those areas to be adjusted.
I joined the two sides together with neck and heel blocks ( I miscalculated the position of the
waist when we initially bent the sides, so there's a sizeable gap at the heel block that I'll have
to improvise to fill).
I have also started gluing on the kerfing; I'm about halfway through with that. So I'm
basically at the point that corresponds to this picture rom my first acoustic build:
I"ll add more details and pictures later...
February 10, 2011
Let's see... here are the acual archtop rims (sides) completed.. I'm just touching up the linings a bit:
Remember I said a little bit ago that miscalculating the waist point left me with a gap at the heel? Well
here's a story for you. First, the gap was uneven (not centered on the centerline). So the first thing I
needed to do with it was even it up. So I measured from the centerline and set about trimming the sides
to even lengths. I used a square and a knife to scribe my lines. I scored deeply with the knife and then
used a small chisel and eventually a shoulder plane on one side with great success. On the other side I
was working the same way, but * screwup alert * it was going more slowly than I wanted so I figured
the best thing would be to deepen the score with a chisel. Not so much. A couple of good raps on the
chisel and the side fractured along some short flame-grain:
This may have been not so much the act of using the chisel as maybe I hadn't completely leveled the sides
to the heel block so perhaps the vise was holding the rims but not the block... I"m not sure. But anyway,
it's a good look at the 'gap' I've been talking about, and also gives a clear look at just how short the grain is
in flamed maple sides and how quickly it runs out. No wonder it breaks at sharp bends!
I was able to glue it back together very nicely, and proceeded to patch the gap:
As you can see, I ran the grain the other
way and used white binding at the edges.
The imperfections along the top edge there
will be erased when I do the edge binding,
which will be white (from this angle
anyway) and should look pretty snappy (or
at least OK) with this patch binding. But
from here on out as far as I'm concerned
this is a design feature!
I also adjusted the cutaway on the top and
back to match the 'improved' cutaway
bend I did on the sides.
Also, I made clamping cauls for the top and back. These look an awfully lot like those carving cradles back
on page 1, and I thought hard about using the cradles for glueup cauls but I decided they were just too deep
and clumsy so I knocked these out of MDF.
Let's see, what else interesting happened?
Oh I know, I DROPPED A @#$%
Jorgensen clamp on my @#$% top!
That's not a bug over there by the F-hole,
it's a freaking GASH. The only reason I'm
alive right now and not out in the shop
with a Seppuku sword in my stomach is
that it will be nicely concealed by the
April 1, 2011
Quite a bit has happened in the past six weeks. I repaired the gash in the top and did a pretty good job
with it I think. I enlarged the hole into more of a wedge/boat hull shape and trimmed a little piece of
spruce to fit it, then glued it and clamped it tight. After trimming and sanding, with just a cursory
glance at the top you might even not see it. And like I said, it'll be directly under the pickguard, so I
think I dodged a bullet.
Can you spot the repair?
And I used these snappy cauls up there to glue on the top and the back. Now I have a rather
intricately-constructed box, which I predict will eventually become a guitar..
After that I spent a fair amount of time (and money!) going around and around with bindings. I had a
few false starts, messed up some lengths while laminating, didn't order enough, ordered the wrong
color, etc. etc. I still might be short a strip for the neck... Anyway, I finally got the body binding
and purfling prepared. The top binding will be the same as the F-holes and pickguard, with fine
b/w/b purfling. The back binding will be simpler, w/b/w/b and no purfling.
Here's a closer look. It's not perfect, and I
may dabble with it a bit more, but it's not
It'll look pretty bitchin' anyway.
I also amused myself by jumping way ahead and making the pickguard. I had planned to do the
tailpiece, pickguard, and peghead faceplate out of some slightly curly walnut I had on hand... but then
it occurred to me that I have a good bit of spankin' walnut burl that Paul Lloret gave me a few years
ago... so I decided to use that instead:
Anyway, while I was ordering and reordering binding, I amused myself by making the neck blank. I
had planned to laminate the neck of curly maple and walnut (walnut to match the pickguard and
tailpiece). And that's just what I did. Owing to the dimensions of curly maple I had on hand I had to
make the walnut strips wider than I wanted, though:
Here's the picture from Stewart-McDonald's
website. Looks easy, doesn't it? Just swab some
acetone between the strips and pull them through.
What could go wrong? Lots.
But, as you can see in the photo above, eventually I had my bindings worked out and ready to go and
it was time to rout the channels. For this task I am using a setup similar to the one I used on my Les
Paul. (about 2/3 of the way down the page). Since the top will have purfling I need to cut two
channels, a wide shallow one and then a narrow deep one. Anyway, I was doing the purfling channel
in small passes. I was just about to the final pass and it was getting late and I decided to stop and not
push myself and screw it up. So I left, came back a day or two later, and promptly screwed it up. I
can only think I subconsciously wanted to screw it up because it was such an egregious error, but
anyway I cut far too deep for about three or four inches before I realized it and stopped. This boo
boo freaked me out so that I didn't want to come anywhere near the guitar for a couple of weeks.
It's on the upper bout, just where it meets
the neck. You can see the 'correct binding
channel at the bottom; the patch (with the
arrow) is almost exactly filling the
monumentally awful cut I made with the
I thought of all sorts of options but
eventually decided to simply patch it with
spruce and let it go. I used a sliver of
leftover top wood. The grain runs wrong,
but being the same wood the color should
match, and the last pass for the binding
will make the repair even narrower. It's a
gaffe, but it was either patch it or
disassemble the box and scrap the top.
Here it is after gluing in the patch, before
trimming it level with the top:
It occurs to me (it probably occurred to you a long time ago) that guitar-making, for me, is mostly about
recovering from my mistakes. To that I have to say, yep. However I think it has a lot to do with the
fact that I'm only able to hit a couple of licks on it every now and then. If I had some continuity, if I
were able to generate some flow, I think it'd be different. As it is, it's like a long long answer to one of
those 'Lord grant me patience' prayers.
April 9, 2011
I got the top bound. You can see the bone piece that will bear the force of the tailpiece cable... I have glued
it in here but haven't yet filed it down flush with the top and side. The gap in the binding at the neck end is
irrelevant since it will be covered by the neck extension and fretboard. And the bad cut I had to repair?
Gratifyingly, the color matches perfectly and it's virtually unnoticeable.
July 9, 2011
For the last three months I have been working (slowly) on carving the recurve in the back and the top.
This was a painfully slow process... Partially because I didn't want to go too deep, so I went very carefully
using scraper and sandpaper, and partially because I haven't been all that motivated for some reason.
Anyway, I got the back done to my satisfaction and moved on to the top. This went a bit faster -- spruce
instead of maple -- and I was working on the cutaway area when I realized I had made a rather grevious
Remember way back up at the top of this page when I said:
The cutaway came out deeper than I had originally intended, which I like, in terms
of the actual fact of it, but which will make some extra work for me in altering the
top and back to fit the new profile. The good news is that the top and back are still
thick enough in those areas to be adjusted.
As it turns out, this was not completely true. I was trying to create a recurve at the cutaway and there
simply wasn't enough wood to do it. I was scraping and scraping, and the wood always seemed to be a
bit higher than the binding. Eventually (way too late) I realized that the binding was not firmly attached to
the wood at the bottom of the recurve and that in scraping I was just pushing the (progressively thinner)
wood down and scraping the binding. So now there's nowhere to go. I'm going to have to remove the
back so I can try to build up the top (from its bottom) at that point and try to get it to adhere to the
binding again. *deep sigh* I'll let you know what happens.
April 4, 2012
I was having another conversation about this with Paul... I was like "poor me, I'd have to make another
top and I just can't face it" and he made an excellent suggestion.
"Why don't you take the back off, thicken the top at the cutaway with veneer, then just re-do the binding
on the top?"
Hey! I thought. that'll work! It's kind of like what I said up there on July 9, but now it seems much
more manageable compared to what I had talked myself into. I may get back to working on this guitar
July 22, 2012
I'm back in the game! Turn to page 5 for the story, continued......