Building an ARCHTOP Guitar - Page 5
July 22, 2012
Yesterday I re-entered the fray. First I removed the binding from the back using a Dremel tool in a
stationary fixture. That went pretty well, though I got an unwelcome lesson in just what a mediocre
job I did of gluing the binding on in the first place! It looked really nice but a lot of it just came right
So that left me with, on the one hand, an opened-up body, giving me access to the cutaway area
where I'll build up the thickness of the top with veneer. Then I'll reattach the back, cut away the
binding from the top, and then re-bind the whole guitar.
But first (of course!) there is another problem to deal with. I used a heat lamp to remove the back, and at
the neck block area the glue at the center seam softened and the seam began to separate. I tried --
unsuccessfully -- to fix this by heating the separated area, attempting to resoften the glue and clamp from
the side (using little hot-glued cauls). Evidently what I'll need to do is separate the halves of the back,
clean them up, and reglue them. That promises to be an interesting procedure!
July 29, 2012
I figured out how to use the macro function on my camera! For years I've been struggling to get good
closeups... now I have them and it's sort of uncomfortable displaying my dodgy handiwork in such
detail but here we go:
This is my first step in building up the wood at the cutaway. I didn't take a photo before beginning, but
a big part of the problem was that unbeknownst to me some chipping had taken place, leaving the top
feather-thin in one spot particularly. I'm guessing that I never got a good glue contact between the
linings and the top at this point, and -- unsupported by linings -- the top chipped when I routed for the
bindings. Anyway, first I filled the really thin spot with a couple of chips of spruce...
You're looking at the underside of the top right at the base of the cutaway. I have knocked away the
linings to give me access to the top. The black/white/black you see is the underside of the purfling; the
shiny white is the inner layer of the binding. So first I filled the deep chip, with spruce; then I leveled
the area with some walnut veneer:
This leveled the area between the last intact binding on the left and the edge of the chip where you can
just still see a bit of pufling to the right of the walnut veneer (the area to the right of the purfling
remained sufficiently thick). Then I added a fairly large piece of mahogany to bolster the entire area
and give a good flat surface for gluing in the replacement linings.
...and then I replaced the linings. Not the prettiest linings ever, but I hope functional.
And a shot of the completed repair from outside will finish off this story:
The binding and purfling visible in the previous shots has been removed. You can see in the very center
the deep chip I filled first, and just how thin was the top at that point. Between that and the purfling on
the left you can see the walnut veneer and the mahogany piece as well.
All this ugliness will in due time be covered up again by binding, but first I have to re-joint and reattach
August 11, 2012
Did some stuff! Now I turned my attention back to the back. I spent quite a few minutes imagining not
fixing the gaps that had appeared in the center seam. Would it really be that bad, held against my belly
like a secret? Yes, yes it would. So I proceeded to separate the halves using a heat lamp and a thin
That done, I made a little (3"x30" or so) flat 90 degree surface and used double sided tape to affix 220
sandpaper, making a nice smooth seam-truer-upper. With this I trued up the edges of the seams. Then
I traced the outsides of the halves on 1/2 inch MDF and made gluing cauls. Then I glued up the halves
of the back.
Then after resurfacing the gluing surfaces of the linings and the back, I put the thing back together:
To preserve the alignment of the back vis a vis the binding channels, I made some thin tabs that I hot
glued into the binding channels all around the edge. I made them thick enough so that the back butted up
against them but thin enough so that they didn't interfere with the gluing caul. I had to do a trifle more
sanding on the center seam than I wanted to, so the back is now just a hair smaller than it was, which will
necessitate widening the binding channel by about .020. I'll handle that by adding one extra strip of black,
which will be better anyway (black on the inner edge).
Next: Let's bind this thing again!
Not as easy as it sounds. I bound the back again, this time with four laminations (b/w/b/w) because the
re-cutting and cleaning of the binding channel had deepened it a bit. But I miscalculated and the four
laminations were too wide so when I scraped it flush the outer layer got too thin and yadda yadda yadda
so I had to cut THAT binding out and do the whole thing over but NOW I have just finished gluing on
the back binding and this time it was a good job. I'll get that cleaned up and scraped down and move on
to the top binding, and when that's done I'll be back to where I was before I had to take four steps back!
That will be a good day.
September 8, 2012
OK! Binding cement dry, I took off the tape and rough-scraped the binding top. Haven't scraped the
sides flush, and I'm gonna have to do some more work on the curvature/profile of the back, but it's
definitely progress. I'll have to splice in a little bit of binding there at the corner; StewMac's binding
strips are just a little too short for a big ol' cutaway guitar like this
I like the b/w/b/w a lot.
September 10, 2012
Back in the saddle now. Top and back are bound and more or less complete. I filled the gap in the back
binding and re-bound the top. Sides mostly scraped clean of cement and bindings scraped flush. I have
finally gotten back to the point I was at back in April 2011!!
October 6, 2012
So today I actually took a step forward! I worked on the neck by cutting the scarf joint in my neck
blank and then regluing to form the headstock. To accomplish this I took a page from Paul Lloret's
book and built a jig that allowed me to cut the (14 degree) joint on the tablesaw. This is FAR preferable
to cutting it by hand or on the bandsaw, which I had done each time before.
This worked very cleanly and accurately; it only took a couple of minutes to true it up so that it was
ready for gluing. I glued it up as I have done before: The black clamps hold each piece fast to a flat
surface (my tablesaw top) and then I glue and clamp the pieces together like so. Wax paper protects the
saw table and prevents me gluing the cauls to the neck...
There's a good bit more work to do to on the body... a few little gaps to fill, final scraping and sanding,
etc., but I'll wait until it's closer to finishing time for that. Truss rod, fingerboard, and headplate are
ordered and on their way, so I'll work on the neck for a while now...
Here's a not-very good shot of the back. The binding looks all screwed up here... it's really not.