You are currently viewing Kit Guitar Forum archives. To view the current forums go to


Perfect bracing ends every time
enalnitram (Martin Lane)

Total Topics: 47
Total Posts: 338
I have struggled with getting my bracing to fit the rim neatly. And I realize I'm not the only person to have ever used a belt sander to shape brace ends.

But I was looking at my belt sander tonight (and the drill press sitting right next to it) and I suddenly realized that all I had to do was scooch the drill press table toward the belt sander, and then feed a test piece under the belt...

Jan 06, 10 | 6:22 pm

Total Topics: 11
Total Posts: 94
Don't you just love when the lightbulb goes on and the idea works?!!

Jan 06, 10 | 6:58 pm

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
Excellent. Hope I can keep that in mind for my next one. Great idea.

Jan 06, 10 | 7:00 pm

Total Topics: 29
Total Posts: 448
Wow! Thats pretty nice. A perfect curve that would be really hard to get by hand. Too bad for me, I dont have a belt sander.

Jan 07, 10 | 5:33 am
enalnitram (Martin Lane)

Total Topics: 47
Total Posts: 332
abt 9 months ago I was telling myself I was just a casual one-time builder, and I had no power tools.

then sometime between then and now, the bug hit.

got the belt sander for $20 (or was it $25) at a yard sale.

and I picked up the drill press last month off craigslist for $60.

got a porter cable laminate trimmer from amazon for $70.

a very old craftsman table saw (in GOOD shape, also from craigslist) for $30.

and it's not like i have cash laying around to throw at whatever I want, either. we usually just give money to each other in my family, so I just used up birthday and christmas presents on these things.

I'm going to take the concept a bit further and build a jig that sits in front of the belt sander, with two tops on it, for bracing to fit under the belt. one will be 15' radius and the other 25'. if I get it built soon I'll post a pic.

Jan 07, 10 | 7:56 am

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I used a similar trick of using a table saw to shape the neck heel on my carved neck. Getting both sides of the heel symetrical looked like it was going to be very hard, but by making a jig that would hold it in the fence I was able to make them the same radius at the saw blade. I'll see if I can find a picture.

I bought a belt/disc sander when I built my second one (I always say you will spend $500 on tools for the first, then get the things you wished you had for the second) and I use is constantly. They are wonderful for shaping braces, makeing cauls, and especially shaping nuts and saddles. Power sanding bone is kind of stinky however and of course, you alway want to wear a dust mask.

I don't own a drill press but I have one where I work. Invaluable for drilling tuners holes and bridges, and on my last build I used it to press frets (turned off, using the StewMac fret caul).

Guess I would put power tools in this order

Drill motor
Laminate router and a bunch of different bits (you can alway rent a router for your bindings, but I use it for all kinds of trimming, making slotheads, and making cauls.
Belt/disk sander
Band saw (particularly if you are going to make your own molds)
Table saw (low priority, you can do a lot of ripping on the band saw)
Dremel (depending on where in your building career you want to do inlay, rosettes and soundholes)
Drill press

I have my plates thicknessed at the local cabinet shop or from LMI. Because I work in a machine shop I can build things like drilling jigs on a mill, but most of those tools you can buy.

Jan 07, 10 | 11:16 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
If you are going to do your own builds, I would add a jointer/planer. Invaluable for getting good straight edges, flattening a fingerboard surface on both the neck and the fingerboard, and a number of other uses.

Again, for scratch building, and if you are in need of a winter project, I would add to the list a thickness sander. I built 75% of mine in about 4 hours of work spread over 2 days, and finished the rest up in bits of time the rest of the week. I think I spent $150 total, maybe slightly more...can't remember. I use mine at least once a week, figure no more than 15-20 hours building (or rebuilding) a week of guitars, cajons, and some furniture I stupidly committed myself too. It gets use all the time. If you are planning on going to the dark side and scratch building electrics, a planer is invaluable as well, though a lot figured woods suffer from chipout. It's still good at thinning down stock, then finish thinning it down with a sander.

Jan 07, 10 | 10:38 pm

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
Freeman - any tips on the fret press? I just had one delivered that I will use on my next build.

To all: have you used a bench drill press as a drum sander to cut the curves in your braces?


Jan 08, 10 | 2:46 pm

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
First, here is the follow up on using the table saw to shape the cheeks of the neck heel. I have simply raised the blade so it will cut a radius on the heel and put a stop (the plywood) so I can only cut so far into it. You can see several cuts on the part facing up

Here it is when done - perfectly symetrical. Now all I have to do is make the rest of the carving as good....

Now for Dave, not a great picture but you get the idea. That is my long neck caul clamped in the workpiece vice, the fret caul in the drill press. When I got to the frets over the heel I just put the bottom of the heel on a piece of cork on the drill press table. For the fretboard extension I made another simple caul for the vice. Just operate the drill press as normal - the neck will "rock" slightly against the caul to line it up.

I didn't precut the fretwire - that will give you something to hold onto while you run the drill down, clip it after its in place

I suppose you could use an arbor press the same way and you could certainly press frets into the board before glue up which would mean all you need is a level flat backing. I've never liked trying to glue a fretted board on to the neck, however I know people do it all the time.

The secret, as always, it to make good cauls to back up the pressing force.

Jan 08, 10 | 3:54 pm

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165

Jan 08, 10 | 4:31 pm
Chuck D

Total Topics: 5
Total Posts: 18
These are great tips and terrific pictures. Thanks for posting.


Jan 09, 10 | 6:26 am

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Dave, your other question about using a drill press as a drum sander is not im my case. I make my braces by bandsawing the rouch shape, thenI use my belt sander to radius them. I clamp all the back braces and both the X braces together and mark the 16 or 25 foot radius on both sides (made a couple of radiused sanding cauls long ago, I just use them as a pattern. On the belt sander take them down to the lines on both sides with them all clamped together, then do the final sanding on the 16 or 25 foot block (or a radius dish).

The tops are rough shaped when I cut them, then I do all the final scalloping with chisels after they are glued on the top or bottom. Don't have any pics of making the braces, lot of the scalloping process

Jan 09, 10 | 8:00 am

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
I understand.

Jan 09, 10 | 8:20 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
There is a neat drum sander called a "Robo Sander" that comes with an attached roller at the bottom. It is used for pattern sanding (I used it when I made my molds), and you could easily attach a radius pattern that you can make with acrylic or masonite, or whatever; attach your brace stock to it with double sided tape, set up your drill press table to right height, and feed your stock into the drum sander.
I have one, but have not used it for this purpose, but it will work.
I think I will use it for the build I'm working on now. What I have done before is pretty much what Freeman is doing, and it works good too.
If you already have a drum sander, just mark your brace and sand to the line, should also work fine.


Jan 09, 10 | 5:50 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
That is a clever idea for putting the scallop on the end of the braces. I did something similar using my high speed 2" wide belt grinder which has an 8" contact wheel, but put the scallops in after the bracing was glued to the top. I was also able to scallop inside of the braces too.
Thanks for sharing that idea!


Jan 09, 10 | 5:53 pm

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
Hey Kevin, that's exactly what I'll do.

Jan 09, 10 | 6:06 pm

You must be a registered and logged in member to post in this forum