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Building my second kit - LMI Classical

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LMI Classical – Feb/March 2006

LMI kit – sides and binding prebent, Spanish heel neck preshaped, top and back glued up with rosette and back stripe installed. Mahogany and spruce bracewood

Top marked for traditional 7 fan bracing pattern

Top braced

Back braced

Body in mold getting kerfed

Body and top in mold

Ready for the back

Back routed for binding


Gluing on the fretboard

Locating the bridge

Ready to fret

Filing the frets. Protect the headstock and top


There are several pictures of the finished Classical on the “show it off” forum

Apr 05, 06 | 5:53 am
Bill Cory

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Freeman -- Very nice! How long did it take you to build this kit?

Apr 09, 06 | 3:27 pm

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This is my first post to the forum.

Thank you very much for posting this.

I've been reading everything I can about guitar building but much of it is focused on the steel strings. This helps a lot as I'm considering the LMI serviced flamenco kit for my first build.

I too would be very interested in the hours you put into this.

Sep 09, 07 | 6:12 pm
Ken Hundley

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Looks great, how does she sound?

Sep 10, 07 | 6:52 am

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Thanks Damian and Ken. I never really keep track of the hours - sometimes I go out to the shop and it seems like nothing gets done, sometimes wood chips and time just seem to fly. Each of my kit builds has taken about 6 month of preparation - reading, ordering, building up steam..., about a month or 6 weeks of part time work in the shop (evenings and some weekends, but certainly not every day), and another month to 6 weeks for the finishing. So lets say three months from start to finish.

Damian, I'll recommend Cumpiano's book as good background information on classical construction - that and the dvd were all that I used (as you can see in the pictures I did not build on a traditional solaria, but built a modified mold like I had used on my steel string). If you build a mold make the sides thicker. The Spanish Heel adds a whole new element to construction - I clamped the neck and top to the workboard, then fitted a mold around it to hold the sides and back while clamping. Sort of my own idea and it worked, but I was pretty much winging it.

The idea of planing relief (and to a certain sense, the neck angle) into the neck is kind of different too - the work board holds the neck and top angles pretty much constant as you build, but the relief is actually planed into the fretboard before fretting. I had a couple of buzzy frets but they dressed out OK. BTW - ebony is really brittle to hand plane and wants to chip - use a really sharp plane blade.

As to how it sounds - to me pretty good but I am not a classical player (all I know is Classical Gas LOL). People who have played think that it is light and responsive, and my son seems pretty pleased with it. I may make another for my self one of these days.

Sep 10, 07 | 10:46 am

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Great looking guitar! I have decided that once I finish the 3 I have going now, I will try a classical. The only thing that has me concerned is making the neck joint from scratch and planing relief instead of using a truss rod. I will get Robbie Obriens video so that should help.

Again, good job, I really like your rosette.

Sep 10, 07 | 12:23 pm

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Thank you for the reply.

I intend to get right into it when/if it happens (still not 100%). It seems these take in the order of 100 hours, rather than say 500. That's what I needed to know.

I've read that book, borrowed from the library. I think I probably need to buy it as you say.

I don't understand the term solaria ?

Anyway, thanks again. Info on classical building is much scarcer than steel strings as far as I can see.

Sep 10, 07 | 2:33 pm

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I may have the wrong term, but I believe the flat surface that is traditionally used to build a classical guitar on was called a solaria (solarea?). Anyway, lets just call it the work board. It needs to be slightly radiused or have a rim to allow for the domed top and I clamped the top down thru the sound hole (be sure to do it in such a way you can get the bolt and nut out <g>). The workboard also holds the neck in alignment with the top - it will take come careful calculations of fretboard and bridge thickness to make sure the neck angle is right. With the Spanish Heel the sides fit into little grooves in the neck block (that is why you really can't reset the neck on a classical).

Traditionally the sides are just clamped vertically to the workboard - I wanted the mold to hold everything at right angle. After the back is glued on the neck angle was sligthly corrected based on the bridge, then the fretboard was glued on. The relief is planed into the f/b - of course there is not truss rod in a classical, and it looks kind of weird because the f/b is thinner in the middle. Some builders apparently plane the neck itself and keep the f/b the same thickness, but this is the way it was described in the video.

I no longer have the video so I can't check the details but I do have Cumpiano's book. I would also recommend joining the musical instrument makers forum as there are a bunch of classical builders who hang around there (and lots of good information in their archives).

Good luck, take pictures, and have fun

Sep 11, 07 | 6:26 am

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Well I've jumped in and ordered the kit from LMI. Industry serviced Flamenco kit with rodewood back/sides, AAA top, ebony binding and inlayed rosette.

Your logic is good. I'll have to make a study of the materials that come with the kit to decide what will be easiest for me. Mixed feelings about it all. Excited but also nervous it'll all go pear shaped.

I've ordered the glue from LMI but am looking at the water based laquer from stewmac, clear pore filler and the sealant and laquer, brushed. Haven't decided about abrasives yet. So many decisions. Will probably get machine heads locally or on ebay.

Anyway, thank you again for your replies. The posts in this forum are very reassuring.

Sep 11, 07 | 4:09 pm

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Outstanding! My LMI kit came with very nice tuners, yours might also. I frankly don't know much about flamenco guitars other than the use of cypress and the very lightly built tops, but don't they frequently have friction tuners? My LMI kit came with a wonderful set of hand drawn plans of Segovia's 1937 Hauser - I like to say my guitar is a copy of the one the Master called the best in the world. Yeah, right....

I've use Stewmac waterbased on my 12 string and my mandolin and have mixed feelings about it. It is certainly more environmently (and health) friendly, and is much safer to spray. I used a little detail gun and my home compressor and built the spray booth out of a cardboard box. Big problem with waterbased in my opinion is that the coats don't melt into each other as well and it is possible (probable) that witness lines will appear. Dan Erlewine's book on finishing covers a lot of the techniques but IMHO nitro is a nicer (but much nastier) finish. If I was ever going to build another classical (and I may <g>) I would consider doing a French polish just to keep everything as traditional as possible.

Definitely join MIMF and spend all your time lurking in the archives and Cumpiano's web page has a lot of great info in the question and answer section. I'll try to help too if I can.

Sep 12, 07 | 6:17 am

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Sure looks good, Damian. In my thoughts, there was something like that.
What about the mold? did you made it? Is it good to use same finishing of acoustic guitars? Why they don't use common mortase-tenon to join neck and body, but they use a solid, unique piece neck-block?

Nov 27, 07 | 8:23 pm

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Beppe, to repeat some point that I made above, the classical neck joint (no pun) on a classical guitar is the "Spanish heel" - a completely different attachment than is used or necessary for a steel string. I know there are some modern nylon string guitars (both the Martin and the Taylors) that used M&T joints, but in my opinion these are "hybrids" (they have X braces instead of fan, narrower radiused fretboards, etc), If you are building a copy of a Hauser, why do it the same at he did?

The Spanish heel adds a few twists to the built. First, the neck is not "set", the angle is built if from scratch. Most classicals are built on a workboard ("solera") and the neck and top are clamped to the board, then everything else is built up from that. Many builders use no mold at all - I liked the idea of adding one to the work board and sort of jury-rigged something to go around the heel. I was a little flimsy but it worked - I don't know how others do it if they use a mold.

The neck does not have a truss rod - the relief is planed into either the fretboard or the neck itself. Some builder also plane a little "twist" into the neck to gain more clears for the low E than the high (or you can make the saddle higher on the low E side). I planed the fretboard (it was pre-slotted from LMI but too thick - I had to have it thicknessed by having the bottom sanded. Planing the fretboard has three problems - (1) ebony chips pretty badly at the fret slots, (2) you will have to deepen the slots in the middle of the board and (3) the board will look weird since the middle is thinner than the ends (Cumpiano says this offends some builders). The other option is to plane the neck itself - this would seem to be problematic with respect to changing the angle that you have carefull held with the workboard and mold.

One minor effect of the Spanish heel is that it is very difficult to "reset" the angle on the finished guitar. I have heard of heating and "slipping" the neck joint on classicals that have gone all wonky, but it certainly isn't as easy as steaming the neck off with a nice dovetail.

I finished this one in nitro - the classical finish is French polish but that seem to be a pain in the rear. I go back and forth between nitro and water based lacquer - I do know that I should have done a second pore fill on this one. As I said before, if I ever built another I might consider French polish.

Nov 28, 07 | 7:11 am

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Thanks, Freeman, as usual in a forum, I find more problems than before.
But I must admit that I never read any book on classical guitar. Ive many -maybe too much- on acoustics, but in the end My acoustic Stewmac is becoming very nice and without any problem. I'm waiting to hear the sound!
Anyway, I'm in contact with John Hall for some hints and maybe a kit and a mold. Who knows? I've never seen -In Italy- a classical Martin. Is it a good classical guitar? I have a Yamaha, and have had a cheaper Yamaha for thirty years before, but I played for long time a Kono and a Ramirez, and I was satisfied with them all. Let's see what I'll find in the future...

Nov 28, 07 | 10:29 am

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There is far less information about building classicals - Cumpiano is highly recommended. Not sure if John can do a classical kit for you - the only ones I found were LMI and some place in Spain.

I did not call the Martin a "classical" - it is very different. Willie Nelson's Trigger is an example, and remember their great parlors from the turn of the 20th century were gut strung originally. The current models are their N (I think that stands for New York or something) models. I doubt that anyone (except Willie) would say that Martin builds great "classical" guitars.

Nov 28, 07 | 10:51 am

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Just to clarify, Freeman built the guitar above, not me. I just asked him a lot of dumb questions :)

If you bend your own sides you can make them the exact shape you need and not use a mould. If you get sides prebent you'll almost certainly need a mould.

The spanish heel predates the seperate neck. It's still used on classicals because of tradition and because the much lower tension of nylon strings means they go wrong less often, but you do have to get it right first time :)

Australian Luthiers supplies has a classical kit which uses a dove tail and has the sides pre bent and pre joined. That might be of interest to you ?

Nov 28, 07 | 4:28 pm

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Hi, Damian, I wrongly wrote your name butmeant Freeman.
Now, it seems to me that the only question is the neck joint and the braces.
I guess all the other parts -sides, back, top, bridge, finishing, binding, peghead- are same difficult than acoustic ones.
Can I use a neck joint like on acousticals? I guess yes.
Can I find a trace for the top and bottom internal bracing? I guess yes.
Soon or later, I'll build a classical kit guitar!
Thanks again


Nov 28, 07 | 9:10 pm

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Looking at your pics makes me curious, I thought the neck with that serviced kit had a heel. Yours does not, is that an option with lmi? I'm planning to gety the cypress flaminco kit (serviced) I would have expected the heel, or is that just a flaminco thing and the standard models just have the connected neck block? I must sound like a total idiot, sorry.

Also, is it just me or are your fan braces very large? Looking at my Taylor and alvarez they seem so small. Thanks

Sep 20, 08 | 6:06 am
Bill Cory

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Nylondude -- You might get a response from Freeman, but he hasn't been around here for a very long time-- I think he's moved on somewhere. Note that the kit in this thread was built in 2006.

Sep 20, 08 | 6:17 am

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Nylondude, I recently completed an LMII classical and it had the same neck. The neck in the photo is a one piece with the heel attached. If you go down to the picture labeled 'Ready for the Back', you can see were the sides merge into the one piece neck and block.


Sep 21, 08 | 5:11 am

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Freeman: Great looking guitar. I am building the samer LMI classical and am at the point where I am shaping the ebony fretboard. I will soon be putting in the frets.

Would you elaborate on the finish you used. I have read my books and watched Robbie's finisihing video and still can't make up my mind.


Sep 21, 08 | 3:16 pm
Bill Cory

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Norm, et al -- You should email Freeman directly. He's not posting here anymore - don't know why.

Click on his name beside any post; it will show his profile box. If the "email" link is blue, you can mail to him direct from this forum. Include your regular email address so he can reply.


Sep 22, 08 | 5:41 am

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Hi guys. Wandered by the forum and saw my old post about the classical. I guess I can answer the questions quickly.

1) The LMI kit is a classic (no pun) Spanish heel. I simply added the outside mold to the solera. There is no reason you can't use a dovetail or M&T, but classicals aren't built that way (the Taylor and Martin "hybrid" nylon string gits are, however)

My bracing follows the exact measurements from Segovia's Hauser (the plans even give all the top thicknesses at many points).

Bracing seems to be one place where classical builders are experimenting far more than steel string - all the composits and lattices and stuff, but I you want it to sound like a 1937 Hauser you probably should use some sort of fan bracing. Remember that a classical has about 1/2 the top tension of a steel string, brace it like a dread and it will sound dead.

2) Finish on my first two guitars was rattle cans of nitro cellulose lacquer. It is cheap and easy, dangerous and toxic. Since then I have switched to waterbased lacquer - it has a few more problems but is much safer and less toxic. This particular guitar was nitro (and should have had two applications of pore filler)

If I was going to really stay true to tradtion it should have been French polished, but this seemsOK.

Oct 04, 08 | 1:44 pm

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