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Upper tone bar fitted wrong!
Author
Post
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 67
I should have kept my mouth shut about only making cosmetic errors. Today I fitted the upper tone bar and while I was preparing the next stick of wood for the lower tone bar a horrible thought crossed my mind ... yep I fitted it the wrong way round.

I am following Alex Willis OM ver in 'Step by step' and the plans show that the upper tone bar is higher at one end than the other. I fitted it with the high peak towards the centre of the soundboard whereas I think it should have been towards the edge of the soundboard.

So ...

1. Do I leave it, fit the lower tone bar in the same direction
2. Leave it, fit the lower tone bar in the correct direction
3. Carefully remove it and fashion a new upper tone bar
4. Go out and get a beer and hope the guitar fairies corrects it for me

Would appreciate your guidance on this one guys. I am sure I am not the first to do this so someone will know how much it will effect the sound (tone)

Paul

Mar 13, 10 | 11:39 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
As far as sound quality -- with all due respect to Mr. Willis that design was pulled out of thin air so that is not a concern -- keep the bracing fairly light and the guitar will sound fine. Personally I'd shave that hump off there and make the bass/tone bars look similar to the standard Martin Non - scalloped shape. Since that will make the top lighter overall it, in theory should be more responsive --- Roger Siminoff is of the opinion, based on his tests that scallopping does nothing to improve sound quality. $.02

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Mar 13, 10 | 2:43 pm
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 65
Thanks Ken ... so if I make the tone bars a uniform parabolic shape without the 'hump' that makes it about 6mm thick and about 10mm high. Is that ok?

So I assume that you would construct the finger braces in a similar fashion.

I appreciate your input. Just goes to show that you can't really go wrong ... you just change your design.

I've been meaning to buy a book 'Making Master Guitars' bit expensive but I am told it's excellent. Perhaps now is the time to invest. Maybe I could learn some of the science behind guitar building!

Mar 13, 10 | 4:03 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
6x10 mm should be plenty strong --- Gibson's 1/4" (6mm) tone bars are thinned to a pointy taper plus scallopping. As for the finger braces -- as light as practical, seems like the scallop in the center is pretty commom feathered out to practically nothing. The main purpose for the FB's is to prevent cracks along the grain.

Ken

Mar 13, 10 | 4:14 pm
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 65
Excellent ... thanks alot Ken.

Mar 13, 10 | 4:32 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Paul, I built my daughter's parlor from plans on the LMI site, got it all done, then realized something looked really wonky. Went back and looked at my photos and sure enough, the (single) tone bar is on bass-ackwards. Posted a question at MIMF and someone chuckled that that was a fairly common problem - the plans are drawn as tho you were look thru the top from the top.

If I had discovered it earlier I would have chiseled the brace off and made a new one, but the box was closed up so I let it be. In theory it should affect the balance between treble and bass, but frankly the little git sounds pretty darn good. And really, this is exactly what happens when people convert a righty to lefty.



Ken, it is my understanding from both reading Siminoff's book and his seminar at the last GAL, that scalloping, particularly tone bars, makes a huge difference in sound - that is his whole idea of tuning tops. Braces have less effect on the balance of base to treble - Roger says they are primarily structural.

My limited A/B testing was when my old D18 was hotrodded - I can't say the balance changed but boy did it get louder.

Mar 15, 10 | 8:00 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
per Roger Siminoff -- Luthier's Handbook page 46

The peaks at the outer ends of the scalloped braces serve no great purpose unless: 1) you plan to taper the outer edge of the soundboard as previously mentioned or 2) you have a means of carefully tuning the various nodes of the soundboard by controlling the loaded center (the peak) of each node (which I donít).

It all goes back to the comparison requirements, if you don't have sample "A" and sample "B" you have no idea what so ever which is better and if you did, than it's still subjective -- is steak "medium" better than steak "rare"?


Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978


Mar 15, 10 | 8:30 am
Adaboy

Total Topics: 64
Total Posts: 509
If you carry that argument far enough, it would be difficult to determine if any change makes an improvement. Agreed that not everyone wants the same sound, but if you have a particular sound in mind, an honest evaluation is a resonable way to detect improvements from changes. Freeman's "hot rod" example is about as close to an A-B comparison as you can get. In my mind, it's better than comaring two similar guitars as there are less influences from other variables. Granted, using memory (or a recording) isn't perfect......so you still need to be honest with yourself.

Mar 15, 10 | 9:51 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
The thing that pisses me off about the hot rod example is that I did not record it before sending it off to have the work done. I am normally pretty anal when I do these things - I've posted before about the pin and string tests, and the cone swap in my reso. I just kick myself for not doing the D18.

I also can't say for sure if it was the scalloping or the bridge plate that made the difference (probably the sum) nor do I know if Bryan actually did a "peak" and dip type of scalloping or mearly reduced the mass of the brace in general. What I do know is that when the old git came home and I first played it my wife said "you are playing louder tonight". It was then played along side a D18GE and a 1937 D18 (the grail) and we all felt it held its own nicely. Remember that this was one of those "over built" guitars from the non-desirable 70's.

Last comment, I watched Roger voice the top of a mandolin and the strobe tuner definitely showed a change in resonate frequency as he shaved the tone bars. And fwiw, here is Dana Bourgeois flexing and tapping a top plate



And here is Michael Cone's attempts at measuring the resonate frequency of a classical so he could duplicate it for a customer. This was a very highly mathmatical presentation - I'm an engineer, but still only understood a small portion of it. Those are tiny strain guage and acoustic sensor and he is driving the top at different frequencies. The guitar is isolated on the floating table. Cone commented that one thing he did with this guitar is to identify a 440 hz wolf note (and eliminate it).



I'll go back and reread Siminoff's book - I'd like to revisit what he says about braces (remember Roger is primarily a mandolin guy and didn't have a whole lot about guitar in his book).

Mar 15, 10 | 10:24 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
All that is swell but here, we are talking about establishing a starting point -- not a refinement. But that said honestly, I am one of the tap tuning -- disbelievers --- I certainly have loosened up tops by shaving braces that's why I assemble the back to the rim last.

I think a look at the Willis brace pattern is necessary to really understand the question that was asked here. The tone bars do not have a peak or a scallop they are odd and contrived. I don't think this is a thread about tap tuning?

BTW I actually did built two almost identiucal "D" size guitars one using Roger's original sytem and a real Peterson strobe tuner -- assuming I did it all correctly --- no one including myself could here any difference. Again to me it is subjective and my results did not yield any value added improvement. In the world of guys who do this stuff for a living I am not alone in this view. But the subject is interesting and I respect those who are pursuing the idea further.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Mar 15, 10 | 11:10 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I don't often totally agree with William Cumpiano but on this issue we are in perfect alignment --- this sums up my experience relative to shaving braces.

You do not "tune" a top like you "tune" a radio receiver to receive signals of certain frequencies. You are not tuning a tuning fork. You tap a top to receive a very broad general sense of how stiff it is. You can't "see" how stiff it is. You can't "feel" how stiff it is (if you flex a free braced top you might break it!) You must "listen" to how stiff it's become. You must listen to it as you pare it down, until you reach a familiar "sound" that it makes when it has reached the point that you have left it before with good results. That's why you must make several guitars before you get the "idea." Your aim is not to "tune" the top to a specific bell-like note or range of notes.

Remember that when the edges of the top get fixed onto the rim of the soundbox, it is not a free plate anymore, it becomes a bound plate, a totally different animal from an acoustical systems standpoint.

In fact, rather than "tuning"the top, I actually "de-tune" it, working it until the sounds it makes when tapped sound dispersed and indistinct. But just until. If I hear a clear bell-like note when I tap it, that's telling me that it's way too, too stiff and I have to bring it down. You hear that clear note best just after it's freshly (an thus, massively) braced, and its waiting for brace carving and shaping with the plane, chisel and sandpaper.

The more material you remove from the braces and from the top's actual thickness, the lower in pitch its tapped sound. If you can hear any focused musical tone when you tap a top, it is still too stiff, too massive. Most amateur builder's first guitars are impossibly massive, because they simply have not developed a sense of proportion that comes with refining their awareness of the precise resilience of the material. My aim, the aim that works for me, is to remove all the material from the top of the guitar which is not needed to support the string tension and its accompanying physical distortion. If you still want to learn about tapping the top until you get a certain note, go to another luthier to explain it to you. I don't do that. I'm not interested in that, because I know how widely and how unknowably the tops acoustics changes when you add the rest of the guitar to it.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Mar 15, 10 | 12:31 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Also from Cumpiano's statement:

"My aim, the aim that works for me, is to remove all the material from the top of the guitar which is not needed to support the string tension and its accompanying physical distortion."

Siminoff shows a design for a fixture to do this before the top is assembled to the guitar -- very cool -- some day I will get around to making one.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Mar 15, 10 | 12:38 pm
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 65
Wow ... I hope I don't make too many mistakes. lol. Only kidding.

This was interesting although I have not read either of the builders being quoted so I cant comment but it has got me thinking there is a whole lot more to this guitar building game than i even thought of! Might be asking for a book or two for my next birthday then.

Was a little dissapointed nobody went for option 4 lol

Mar 15, 10 | 1:32 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Paul, option 4 is always a good one, here it is in conjuntion with Cumpiano's book



And very timely, there are at least four topics on braces and tuning soundboards over at MIMF right now

http://www.mimf.com/cgi-bin/WebX?14@36.UvMuaioBF77.0@.ee6b2a9

I always take note when Alan Carruth contributes to one of these. The nice thing about building these little boxes is there seems to be many ways to do it - at that GAL convention I cited earlier there were three lectures on different ways, plus demontration of Chladni patterns and other techniques.

Mar 15, 10 | 1:51 pm
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 65
Freeman: I think this is one of the things that has got me so hooked on guitar building. You can almost build the thing in any manner you like and something resembling a guitar will come out of it. At least that is the gist of what I am getting form all you experience luthiers. The skill seems to be learning how to change things to get the sound 'YOU' want from the wooden box.

I have just bought a book by Jonathon Kinkead and he has a different approach yet again.

http://www.kinkadeguitars.co.uk/reviews

Mar 15, 10 | 2:20 pm
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Paul, Kinkead's book sits on top of Cumpiano on my bookshelf, right next to two of the GAL Big Red Books (they are pretty spendy), Brozman's book on Nationals, Siminoff's on Tap Tuning and several vintage guitar books. All are good.

Next ones I want to add are Ervin Somogyi's new books. I love the paraphrase in post #11 here - says exactly what you are saying I think

http://www.mimf.com/cgi-bin/WebX?128@176.bvdVaJKgFta.4@.2cb6c4b7

btw - I think it was Mario Proulx who said he had built a hundred and fifty guitars before he was really satisfied with the sound - I was pretty happy with number one and very disappointed with number six. Oh well.....


Mar 16, 10 | 7:49 am
PaulF

Total Topics: 28
Total Posts: 65
To be honest Freeman, I am going to be happy with number one no matter what it sounds like or looks like because it is my first. I do, however, want to understand why it sounds the way it does and why changing this by 1/2mm changes that sound!

I have always had the scientific questioning mind ever since I left Uni

Seeing as we are talking about books I am trying to get some views on 'Making Master Guitars' but at £70 ($110ish) I want to make sure it is worth the momey!

Mar 16, 10 | 8:09 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
The library is your friend...

fwiw - number 1 and 3 are my daily players. 2 and 5 were gifts to my kids, but I have visitation rights. I'm still struggling with 4 (the mando). 6 is a monster, in more ways than one. 7 will be totally off the wall....

I haven't played my two Martins in several years since I built kits - they sit in the closet. However they are probably appreciating faster than my 401K so I'll just hang on to them

Mar 16, 10 | 10:57 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
You know, its interesting, the theory I have been hearing on the tone bar. I can't remember if it was Al Carruth or Rick Turner who talked about it, but they can't seem to measure the difference between the same guitar strung lefty or righty, and think that having the top assymetrically braced is more important than which direction the tonebar is placed. If most builders know it is going to be a lefty guitar, they reverse everything, but if it is converted, there doesn't seem to be any sacrifice at all in volume or quality. I would leave it, and I am sure it will be awesome.

Mar 16, 10 | 1:46 pm
Tony_in_NYC

Total Topics: 29
Total Posts: 448
I don't mean to throw gas on the flames here, but I had to comment on this when I read it. There was no way I could leave this alone and NOT comment. Sorry to stir things up:

[b]Ken Cierp[b] said:

" is steak "medium" better than steak "rare"?"

Ken...the perfect way to cook a steak is medium rare. Try ordering a steak well done at Peter Luger's in NY and the chef will come out and ask you if you are sure. So while medium and rare are acceptable ways to cook a steak, medium rare is the only way I order mine.
As for all this crap about braces and nodes and science and all the hullabaloo about which way the tone bar should face, here is what I think:
The strings have no idea which way the tone bar is facing. When you pluck the string it vibrates the top which in turn produces sound. The low E string does not only vibrate the bass side of the top, it vibrates the entire top. Additionally, the high E vibrates the whole top as well, not just the treble side of the soundboard. Since the direction of the tone bar does not change the area of the soundboard available to vibrate and thus produce sound, its direction matters not. Therefore, in my unscientific, marginally educated mind, and typically dirty mind, it makes no difference which way it faces. If you had used a 2X4 as a brace instead of the thin braces you used, that would have surely made a difference as you would have effectively reduced the area of the soundboard available to vibrate freely and the added mass would have killed the sound.
In conclusion, do not worry about the tonebar at all. Its a non-event. Instead, go order a steak, medium-rare, some creamed spinach and a beer and enjoy yourself. The guitar fairies will make sure the sound produced by your reversed tonebar come out in the right direction.
Now I am hungry for a steak.

Mar 17, 10 | 10:05 am



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