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Classical guitar kits

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Has anyone built a classical guitar from a kit? How did the experience compare with building a steel string? Could you recommend a good kit and support books and DVDs? Thanks and Happy New year. Frankp

Jan 02, 10 | 11:58 am

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LMII sells classical guitar kits. You can use the kit wizard to change parts and cut back or add services depending on your experience level. I thought the quality of parts was excellent. They also include a set of plans and a DVD of instructions by Robbie O'Brien.
The DVD left me wanting as it was basically still shots with voice overs. It was informative, but I would have liked to see some of the processes being done. Robbie has done a bunch of great You Tube videos and post links here occasionally.
As for books I liked Classical Guitar Making by John Bogdanovich. I felt Jim Williams' and Irving Sloane's book left to much unsaid. John's book was more informative and contained color pics which I find to be more detailed than black and white. Bill Cumpiano's book covers both steel string and classical guitar construction, I would put it second to John's book for classical construction. But if you don't have it and plan to build a steel string, you may want to start with Cumpiano's Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology. It's only a few dollars more and covers both pretty in depth and could save you some money upfront.

Just my opinions. Lance.

Jan 02, 10 | 12:28 pm

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Thanks for the advice... Generally speaking, would a novice better off starting with a steel string kit and tackle a classical later? Or visa vers for that matter? Frankp

Jan 02, 10 | 12:34 pm

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I don't think it matters. I would say you just need to pick one and take your time as you work thru the process. If you make a mistake, walk away and don't rush to correct it, think about what the best fix may be. Don't be afraid to ask here for advice. One or more of us may have already made the same mistake and can propose solutions. If you're not sure what you plan to do is correct, ask, you'll see multiple options/opinions. We have a wide range of experience on the site from professionals (John Hall, Ken C) to first timers. From woodworking experts to hobbyists.

Here are some of the major differences that I came across:
The neck joint -on a SS this is normally a two piece joint the neck and the neck block - either dovetail or mortise and tenon with bolts (bolt on). On a classical the neck is one piece and the sides fit into slots on the side of the neck heel.
The bracing pattern - SS almost always use some varition of an X brace pattern. Classical use fan bracing which is a much lighter bracing pattern.
The neck width - a classical is wider at the nut and saddle, so a precarved neck for a SS won't work. (LMII has precarved classical necks)
The top - on a SS there is normally a slight rounding to the top which needs to be factored into the neck angle. On a classical the top is flat.

Jan 02, 10 | 3:48 pm

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Total Posts: 668

A few comments: The Spanish heel neck joint is quite different from a set neck - you need to be much more careful with getting the angle right as you build. Building on a solera will be much different than a conventional jig - I used a combination of a work board and a small body mold. Normal deep clamps aren't deep enough for a classical bridge. Since there is no truss rod you actually plane the relief into either the neck or the fretboard - a fairly tedious operation. I used nitro but a classical would be a good candidate for French polish.

The LMI dvd is good and I highly recommend Cumpiano's book. I'm happy to help in any way that I can.

Jan 03, 10 | 8:41 am

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Here are a few more pics of it. This was a gift to my son and since I'm not much of a classical player I really can't comment too well on how it sounds (or plays). I'm satisfied, however and sometimes think I will build another for myself.

It would be fun to do a rosette from scratch but that is a complete pain so the pre installed LMI rosette was nice.

Jan 03, 10 | 8:46 am

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Can classicals be built with your general set neck? Is there a big reason for spanish necks? Not trying to change the topic of this post, just sounds relevant.


Jan 04, 10 | 7:57 pm
Ken Cierp

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There is no reason a Classical cannot be built with a non-Spanish heel neck system, I've built several. Also, some modern models even have truss rods.

As a matter of fact, the mold that LMII sell to match it's Hauser kit dictates that the guitar be built with a MT or DT neck --- the advertising states that requirement.

In my view, Cumpiano's approach to guitar building is not engineered, its too complex and depends on trial and error assembly methods. I understand when questioned about this, his comment was that the book was written decades ago and he now does things differently.

Sloane's book is a nice base for the new comer --- but by no means a simple process, however the methods yield repeatable results.

Overholtzer's book describes how to build a clone of his award winning guitars, again not simple. But not error prone like Cumpiano's methods. This guitar has a very, very thin top --- I have yet to build one, but someday would like to make a copy.


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 05, 10 | 4:37 am

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Total Posts: 668
Dan, there is a whole new group of nylon string guitars (lets not call them "classicals" right now) that are built more for steel string cross overs and jazz players that have radiused fretboards, cutaways, X bracing and set necks. The nylon string Martin and Taylor are both built this way, and there are many from the Asian builders. There is absolutely no reason you can't re-engineer the design this way, just like steel string builders are experimenting with sound ports, bevels, different sound hole locations.

Interestingly, there is probably more experimentation going on right now with builders of more "classical" nylon strung guitars with lattice braced tops, carbon fiber, nomex and all kinds of other wild things than in the steel string area. A look thru the GAL publications or at will show things that were unheard of a few years ago. These tend to have the wide flat necks and some are even being played by the great classical masters. I don't see this very much in the steel string world yet.

Lastly, there are still a lot of builders who are trying to emulate the great classicals of the past - the Hausers and Torres and other wonderful guitars that you associate with Segovia and the past masters. I actually picked up and played a 1930 Hauser that is one of only 90 in existance and is valued somewhere in the 6 figures - I now understand why Segovia called his the best guitar he ever played. To me this is like trying to duplicate a prewar D-18, and many steel string makers are striving for that.

The Spanish heel neck is the "classical" way to do it and it is traditional to build on a solera. Since the string tension on a gut strung guitar is about half that of a steel string, they frequently have no truss rod (altho they do have relief planed into the neck), they rarely require resets (it is possible to slip the neck joint but very difficult) - so builders attempting to duplicate the Hauser or Torres sound usually use those methods (just like those of us trying to duplicate the prewar martin sound tend to use dovetails).

The OP asked about classical kits and if anyone had built one - the only one that I am really familiar with is LMI's reproduction of the 1937 Hauser which is what I built. It does have a Spanish Heel neck, no truss rod, and I was very satisfied with the outcome of my build. I built on a workboard (you need some way to hold the neck in alignment with the top from the very start) but I also used a minimal outside mold to hold the sides in alignment. The wingnut and piece of wood in the soundhole holds the top clamped to the workboard (solera), the neck is shimmed to create the angle to the bridge location.

In many ways it was much easier than trying to set a dovetail neck joint after everything is done - the neck angle is held constant during the entire build. Here it is off the workboard but still in the mold - you can see how the sides notch into the heel

It was interesting that at the 2008 GAL conference I met David Freeman (no relation) who builds all of his steel string guitars, including a beautiful 12 string, using Spanish Heel. When asked what he did when they needed a reset he says they never do - his guitars are that stable. Now I don't know of any pre-war Freeman's to test that, but he was pretty confident. Here is his website

Jan 05, 10 | 6:09 am

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