Seeking Input on New Builds

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John Reid
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Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:48 pm

Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by John Reid »

I’m gearing up for my next build after finishing my first in Jan. I’m going to try and build two together. First build was an OM, and I’m going to stick with that for now.

I have four siblings. My idea is to give my next four guitars to them, including these next two. None of them really play guitar much, if at all, but they will be kind and forgiving recipients as I learn how to do this stuff.

So, given that they probably won’t use these guitars very much and probably won’t be all that careful about things like humidity (they live in the New York, Mass and North Carolina), I was trying to think of things I could do in construction that would lessen these issues. That is, make the guitars a bit more robust than my first.

My thoughts along these lines are to
make the top and back thicker
make the bracing thicker
should I not scallop the braces?
what else?

I figure making things thicker, at some point, adversely affects the acoustics, but I have no idea where the tipping points are – as in how thick is too thick?

I’d love to hear any input people might have.
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Re: Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by jread »

Interesting idea and topic. How to make them last without much care and feeding.

My 1st several builds were gifts too for the same reasons. Those are about 2 years old now and still going strong. I recently got a good look at one of my 1st builds that is heavily used by a professional player. It is a very light build. The back and top are a bit thin and uneven as I did those by hand w/ a bench plane. The bracing is very light and scalloped. I noticed a grainline crack in top and even though the instrument is exposed to very dry Colorado air, the heat of a the touring van, and who knows what else, he tells me that the crack was from a bump into table not the environment.

The only real issue that has popped up with my builds are that a good number of bridges started lifting and needed to be pulled off and glued back down. This was mainly due to inexperience with hide glue and how to prep the surface under the bridge I think. They seem to be staying on a lot better now. Surprisingly there has been no issues w/ the dovetail joints. I assumed this would be a big source of my problems but so far none have reported any significant movement in the neck set. The biggest thing I notice when look at those early builds is that I've improved in shaping the nut and slots, and my fret ends were a bit messy back then. Uneven binding thickness was a big issue early on too.

I don't have answers to your questions but I would build them normally. Since they are family gifts, it will give you a good chance to watch them over time and you can address any issues and learn how they age. This will give you a good idea of what to expect when you send one out into the world on its own.

I have scalloped all my guitars but lately I'm liking the chunky fat sound of some Gibsons like the J50. I think I need to try to build one like that.
Stray Feathers
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Re: Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by Stray Feathers »

Maybe you can learn from the big manufacturers. Seems to me that most commercial guitars (maybe not the really high end ones) are slightly overbuilt, because they don't know who will buy them and where the guitar will live, and they don't want a lot of warranty issues or repair complaints. And if your siblings are as obliging as you say, maybe they will go along with some experimentation. I would love to make two guitars as nearly identical as possible, for example, but one braced like a Martin, and one like a Larrivée or Gibson, say, and learn from how they turn out. It might be a challenge finding two tops and two backs cut from the same billets. Bruce W.
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Re: Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by tippie53 »

over building isn't a good thing. No matter what at some point any wood instrument is going to need some maintenance so build it as though it will be out there for others to see and hear. So let me address your questions based on 24 years experience
make the top and back thicker
tops should be about .115 this is a good thickness.

make the bracing thicker OM uses 5/16 braces and don't make the scallop any lower than 5/16
they should be about .600 in high at the X joint

Back depend on species so in most cases about .095 to .105 is safe
sides .075 is a good point to bend and should be good.

What matters most is out of your hands and this is how will the guitar be stored so be sure to
explain that the guitar should be humidified

hope this helps. over building don't help the guitar all that much.
John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center
president of Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans
John Reid
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Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:48 pm

Re: Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by John Reid »

Good points. And thanks for the detailed input on thicknesses. I know on my first build I unintentionally made my top too thin from over sanding. I think I’ve sanded to the thickness I wanted then, to fix something or other I did some more sanding and then before I knew it, I’d done too much. I guess experience will help me see ahead better. One of the many mistakes I’ll try to use to improve.

I like the notion that since they are going to siblings, I can check up on the guitars now and then and see how they hold up. That should be good information. I hadn’t really thought of it that way.
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Re: Seeking Input on New Builds

Post by MaineGeezer »

One thing you could do that might help, and probably wouldn't hurt, is to add a couple extra side braces to the sides.
Don't believe everything you know.
Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
When things are bad, try not to make them any worse, because it is quite likely they are bad enough already. - French Foreign Legion
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