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Questions about StewMac Dread kit

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I just ordered the kit from StewMac, and have a few questions. First, I wanted to order a mold and radiused disks for it and can't remember what the dimensions for the disks are. Can someone help on that?
Second, since the top and bottom are radiused, it seems that a router or dremel riding on the top (or bottom) would be riding at an angle that is not quite perpendicular to the sides. Seems the bottom of the bit would ride further into the side wood than the top. Are there ways to comensate for this, or is it an issue at all?
Thanks.............more questions to follow, lol.

Dec 11, 09 | 5:36 am

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
If I recall, the martin radius are about 15 ft for the back and 25 for the top. It is possible to make your own radius dishes (there are several method, but the easiest is to build a cradle for a router and just route out a piece of MDF). I even heard of hanging your router from a 25 foot piece of rope and making a pedulum out of it.

There are other ways to clamp braces - for my first couple I just cut some 15 and 25 foot radius cauls on a band saw and there is a cool little trick of stacking business cards on your go-bar to clamp against. I guess that I am saying is that buying radius dishes for one build might not be necessary, but they sure are nice. You can also sand the top and back kirfing at the correct angle using those 15/25 foot cauls - just sand them flat to start with, then double sticky some sandpaper on the caul and work your way around the rim.

Same thing with the mold - you can buy one but they are very easy to build out of particle board or MDF. Here is one I made for my OM - when you cut the waist save the piece you cut out to make the spreader.

The StewMac instructions show a cheap and dirty inside mold made out of cardboard - mine was pretty easy and is so much stronger.

You are right about routing the binding and again there are all kinds of exotic router bases but I simply made a couple of 3 and 5 degree wedges (approximately the angle of the top and back) and taped them to my router base. Work very carefully, making the cuts in several passes, and keep checking with your binding. You will want the binding to stand very slightly proud so you can scrape it down, but only a couple of thou. StewMac instruction show shiming the router base and their stepped router bits make the job much easier. btw - binding is one of the trickiest part of the whole build - practice a lot on scrape before you touch router to top.

Good luck and have fun

Dec 11, 09 | 6:16 am

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Total Posts: 257
Freeman, thanks for the ideas above. I especially like the use of the scraps to make the cauls.
Took me a while to figure out how a 3 degree wedge would help....... I would have put it on backwards initially! The larger end of the wedge would be close to the bit, and the thin end would be at the edge of the router base if I understand the idea.
Do you have a picture of the 3 and 5 degree cauls you use to sand the kerfing and sides? I've seen some where about 22" piece of wood has angled blocks on one end with sandpaper. I guess one end of the long piece is held at the base of the box and the other end rubbed along the upper part of the box to get the angle, then switch ends to rub down the base. Is that the one?
Thanks so much for your help.

Dec 11, 09 | 6:31 am

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Total Posts: 668
I'll link some other pictures tonight - I can't access my photo archives from my work computer.

When I was laying out my braces, I made an autocad drawing with different radiuses, then transfered that to some scrap 2x4, which I then bandsawed to make a big long curved caul (actually made several of them). You can either use it in a go-bar (I home made my go-bar too following plans at StewMac, but my first few were built without it) or you can simple clamp your back and braces as you glue up. Here is one pic, but I've got some of the cauls in use that I'll find tonight

A trick if you are going to make your own mold is to cut out 4 pieces of MDF and clamp them together, then band saw them all at the same time. Make a copy of your plans, cut that out and use it as a template (you might need to take your plans to Kinko if you don't have a big copy machine). When I did mine I didn't use clamps (they get in the way of the band saw table) - I used flat head carriage bolts, then later used the bolt holes to align everything. At the neck and heel ends there are long pieces of MDF that hold the sides together - you can see 4 carriage bolts at each end. Here is another pic of the rim in the mold, I'll see if I can find some better ones tonight

And yes, the thick side of the wedge is next to the bit - put one on each side.

Last thought, as you work thru this, make lots of cauls and do it early. While the top is off make cauls that fit around the braces at the bridgeplate and under the neck extension, then put them away until you need them. I'm alway making funky little jigs and fixture - you'll get good ideas in luthier books like Cumpiano and Kincaid. Fwiw, here a a couple of threads that I posted here in my early building days - pretty basic shop and all

Dec 11, 09 | 6:58 am

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Total Posts: 190
Welcome to the forum Naccoachbob,
I would highly recommend the pruchase of Bill's Kit books available here on the site..LOTS of VERY valuable info on specific construction methods and tools/cauls etc. used for the Stu-Mac also helps support the site as we know it...and of course many will help here as well..just a thought...happy building! :)

Dec 11, 09 | 7:16 am
Bill Cory

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Total Posts: 3584
Bob -- You can get Stewmac's manual as a PDF (compete and free) on the "Free Information" page of their website. It is their document # "I-5295." Lots of good information there about that kit and in general, to answer most of your questions before you receive the kit.

Happy Building!

Dec 11, 09 | 10:49 am

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
Thanks, Ray.
I did buy both Bill's books and read some of each. Will get into the jigs, cauls, etc. pretty soon. Freeman gave me a good number of ideas.
Thanks also, Bill. I just d/l'ed the manual.
I've been reading a lot of posts in the different threads here, and the sharing of information from all has been very instrumental (no pun) in my deciding to dive in. You guys raise the comfort level tremendously.
Between the wife insisting that I don't open it until Xmas, and the need for the wood to acclimate, I decided to take the week after and hope to make progress then.
I'll go ahead and clamp the sides though, so they don't try to straighten out. Can I do that when they arrive? Or should that wait also?

Dec 11, 09 | 1:35 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Wouldn't hurt to clamp the sides, but if they aren't held in shape by some sort of mold, it's probably just as safe to leave them packed. In another week, they won't relax that much. Meanwhile, order a mold from Ken or John; the Stewmac cardboard mold is "okay," but most do better work with a rigid external mold.


Dec 11, 09 | 1:51 pm

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
OK, here are a few more pictures. Cutting out the pieces for a mold for the parlor

Here is the only good pic of one of the clamping cauls being used to sand the rim at 5 degrees (I was wrong, it is 16 foot). Another pic of the mold - pretty basic.

and the router with a couple of shims taped on the base

and the channels routed and ready for binding

Hope this helps

Bill - should this be moved to the Tools section?

Dec 11, 09 | 2:11 pm

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
Freeman, those pics helped a ton. Thank you so much.
As I said above, you guys are taking the fear factor out by leaps and bounds.
I've made some desks for my kids, so I'm not new to woodworking, but this cleared up some worrisome areas.
Bill and my wife seem to want me to wait until Xmas to form the sides, so I'll start learning patience - dang it.
Boys and their toys.
You made some very, very nice guitars. I hope you, and the others who have shown your projects appreciate the inspiration it gives to guys just starting out. Paying it forward seems like a pretty good thing.
Hope to add my .02 in pretty soon. I used to run a couple of websites for local soccer and the local high school. I think I'll create a site for this project and share my successes/mistakes as it goes along.
Again, thanks.

Dec 11, 09 | 3:21 pm

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