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Old 12-09-2004, 09:28 PM   #1
CorduroyEW
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Corduroy's Acoustic guitar build (tutorial)

Some people have expressed interest in having an acoustic build on the site so here you go.

This guitar is being made for an Illinois musician that is getting ready to record his 1st album. He needs something that will sound good in the studio and on stage as well as just something to practice with and all of those things are taken into account when we decide on a shape, size, sound hole placement, materials... Everything an acoustic makes a difference. From the shape of the headstock to they type of finish.

After many many MANY hrs teaching him how to figure out what he wants from his guitar, we decided the best materials would be:
Cocobolo back and sides
Curly Sitka Spruce top (cutting permit 70203 tree #2)
Honduras Mahogany neck
Mahogany back bracing
Spruce top bracing.
Standard sound hole (only because of looks. Offset would have given him a better sound for his purposes)
Goncalo Alves binding.
Ebony Fret board and bridge.
KTM9 finish

Something to keep in mind as I work through this is that some people take mathematic equations, and science and stuff and apply that to every aspect of guitar building. Other people just go on intuition and do what feels right to them. Both ways work very well for some people and not at all for others. I build by intuition so I do a lot of it by saying "that looks right" and "that feels right"

We decided that for the body size he needed something with a unique body style. When compared to the Martin Dread, he wanted a larger lower bout (for more bass) a smaller waist (for more balance) and more rounded upper bout (easier to hold) so what I did was I measured out how tall I wanted it to be and how wide I wanted the upper and lower bouts to be then I drew half of the guitar freehand. and this is what I ended up with.
http://www.msnusers.com/CorduroyEW/...oto&PhotoID=550

Then I folded the paper over it's self and cut it out so that I would have a symmetrical shape.Here is is with all the bracing drawn on. Be aware that I put the back and top bracing on and I also drew a couple different styles of bracing just in case he and I decide we want to do something other than martin style bracing.

http://www.msnusers.com/CorduroyEW/...oto&PhotoID=551

edit: It looks like it won't let me post pics from MSN so I'll do the rest from photosbucket instead. Sorry about the links.

edit again: I got the links fixed. If you feel so inclined you can rummage around the rest of my pic site to see a bunch of pictures of the other guitars I'm working on right now too.

Last edited by CorduroyEW : 12-09-2004 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 12-09-2004, 09:41 PM   #2
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This guy want all the "good stuff" you get from a hand made guitar. He wants the enhanced sound and the attention to details but he doesn't want the "hand made look." So that means I had to make some special tools and molds to help keep everything as consistent as possible.

Today I made a mold and bent his sides.

I started with 4 pieces of MDF that I screwed together to make a solid block.


Then I drew the outline of his guitar onto the top piece. Looked at it and made some final adjustments to make sure it was what we need.


THen I cut on the line with my bandsaw, Took all the screws out and started putting together my jigs. The inside portion will be what I use to bend the sides with. The outside will be what I place the sides in when I go to assemble the guitar.


Once my molds are made I get to start bending. When bending cocobolo with molds you soak it for about 5 min, then you wrap it with wet paper towels and tin foil.



Then you slowly heat the wood wrap it around the molds and clamp it down.



This method doesn't use as much heat as bending with a hot pipe so the wood won't just stay where you want it. You have to leave it clamped for a while. So I'll be able to take the sides out and see how they look in a week or so.

On a side note I did deliberately make one side a little bit smaller than the other. This is because when the guitar is perfectly symetrical the sound waves will collide with each other inside the guitar and you will get wave cancellation. Basically this means the guitar won't sound as good.
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Old 12-09-2004, 10:04 PM   #3
chrisb0109
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this looks great. I can't wait to see the progress.
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Old 12-09-2004, 10:34 PM   #4
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^ Me too.

Just out of curiosity, how much do the materials cost, and how much will you charge for the finished product?
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Old 12-09-2004, 10:59 PM   #5
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This guitar will cost me about $800 to build after you figure in the cost of jigs and tools that I will have to make speacial for this instrument.

I won't tell the price of this particular guitar because I promised the (future) owner I wouldn't tell anybody. I will tell you that the blackwood guitar that I posted in the gallary got me 2k and an all expences week long trip to London. My prices will range from $800 low to $5000 high. My hourly wage comes out to about the same on every guitar and it is less than minimum wage. Some things take much longer to do than others and some materials can cost a LOT of money. Those prices will go up significantly in 2 years (after I complete my apprenticeship in the UK) I probably could raise my prices some now (given the length of my waiting list) but I don't feel it's fair to charge people Top dollar when I have only 2 years building experience.

Edit:I guess I couldl tell you that the blackwood guitar that I posted in the gallery got me 2k (mostly went to materials) and an all expenses paid week long trip to London.
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Last edited by CorduroyEW : 12-09-2004 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 12-10-2004, 01:15 AM   #6
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Finally, a good accoustic building thread. Good job Corduroy. When you finish your apprenticeship will you be making electrics aswell?

Also, is this guitar be an electric/accoustic? Considering this is for the studio?
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Old 12-10-2004, 05:29 PM   #7
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Corduroy - What do you heat the wood to bend it with because I would really like to know for when my friend and I begin our acoustic project.

Also, if I were to use a mold that was just the outer part and use a hot pipe and bend it around that would it work?

Finally, would a cutaway prevent the loss of sound (where you need one side smaller) from happening?
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Last edited by Bother : 12-10-2004 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 12-10-2004, 08:55 PM   #8
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Yes, nice one Corduroy.

Finally a "making an acoustic thread"
I will follow this with excitement
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Old 12-10-2004, 09:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by xifr
...When you finish your apprenticeship will you be making electrics aswell?

Also, is this guitar be an electric/accoustic? Considering this is for the studio?


I do make electrics. The actual construction posses of an electric is really pretty simple. Unfortunately my knowledge of things like switches, caps, pots, and pickups is all very basic. I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to learn that stuff but I've been really happy playing fender, Gibson, and Gretsch electric guitars so I haven't seen the urgency of trying to improve on there already very good designs.

The guitar I'm building in this tutorial will be fitted with a b-band bridge plate pickup but that won't be done untill after he has recorded the album. It is always best to record your acoustic with a condenser Mic because they give you more depth and color.
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Old 12-10-2004, 09:53 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bother
Corduroy - What do you heat the wood to bend it with ...

...If I were to use a mold that was just the outer part and use a hot pipe and bend it around that would it work?

Finally, would a cutaway prevent the loss of sound (where you need one side smaller) from happening?


I'll answer those in order.

1 To heat the wood (when using a mold) most people use a silicone heating blanket. That is the easiest but the blankets cost a LOT of money. $300 for a whole set up (including a power supply or shutoff switch) I can't afford that so I heated the waist (cos you have to bend that 1st) with a blow torch set very low. You have to be careful when you do this because it's easy to scorch the wood. I wouldn't even say I recommend it but I've had a lot of practice and it was a cheap way to go. After I got the waist clamped down I turned on my stove to burner and slowly rolled the upper bout over the burner and clamped it, then I rolled the lower bout and clamped it. So long answer short, I used a blow torch my stove to heat the wood.

2 Yes just the outside will work just fine.. Actually you don't need a mold at all if you are using a hot pipe. Just make a cardboard cutout of half the guitar and use that as a template to bend it too. Perhaps when I have some time I'll add a little section on bending with a pipe to this thread.

3 the cutaway will *help* prevent some of the wave cancellation but it won't eliminate it. This guitar will have a cutaway before it's finished but I still made an effort to make the treble side just a little bit smaller than the bass side and I made the back just a little bit smaller than the top. We are only looking at less than 1/8" total difference and it's not something most people will be able to see even when they are looking for it. The difference (in sound) between symmetrical and asymmetrical guitars is also very small but in this business a lot of very small things is what gets people to buy your guitars over a Martin.. However you don't need to worry about that on your 1st. It won't be symmetrical no matter how hard you try. After you have built 5 or 6 you will start to be able to see how things relate to each other and you will be able to modify for the sound you want. Most builders do make their guitars symmetrical because that works well for them. I am the exception there.
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Old 12-10-2004, 11:49 PM   #11
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Cutting the neck
Here is the block of wood that I start with


At the moment I'm cutting 4 necks. I cut them 7/8" thick to begin with. The big block on the end will be turned into heelblocks and end blocks.


To do my part to help save the environment (I'm kind of a hippy that way) I do not use 1 peice necks. These ones will be 5 piece but sometimes I will do laminate necks too. Whatever I have material for. The multiple piece necks are stronger and more stable than one piece necks anyway. It takes a lot longer to do it this way but you help save the supply of honduras mahogany (which is endangered)

Here I'm cutting the scarf joint for the headstock




once cut I take the piece I'm using for the headstock and cut it down to 1/2" thick. This will get thinned down more when I smooth it out.

Here I'm prepping the parts for gluing. The joint has to but perfectly otherwise you risk a broken headstock.






Finally I add some tightbond (wood workers glue) let it sit for a min to soak into the wood and I clamp it.

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Last edited by CorduroyEW : 12-10-2004 at 11:52 PM.
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Old 12-11-2004, 08:09 PM   #12
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lookin good. keep the pics comin
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Old 12-12-2004, 02:29 PM   #13
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do you have a website to get your name out there?
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Old 12-12-2004, 02:45 PM   #14
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man, that is amazing...

*runs upstairs to play acoustic guitar*
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Old 12-12-2004, 03:24 PM   #15
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is that a grizzley)sp?) bandsaw?
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Old 12-12-2004, 07:04 PM   #16
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Nope, It's a 14" P O S harbor freight special. Cost me $250 brand new last year. It's really good for the price and I would recommend it as a good 1st bandsaw for the beginning luthier on a budget, but it is definitely not top of the line. Grizzly saws are a lot nicer than this. It will, however, keep me going for the next 2 or 3 years but eventually I'm gong to get a 18" Delta so that I can resaw a 2pc back. Right now I can only go 6" tall instead of the needed 8
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Old 12-12-2004, 07:14 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by DarkHorse85
do you have a website to get your name out there?


No website yet. I guess I just haven't needed one. So far I've been fighting people off with a stick because I'm trying to do this and keep a real job and then I through is the whole single father of 3 kids into the mix. I'm sure after I start doing this full time I will need to put up a web site, but on my current work schedule I have people waiting a more than a year to get there guitar and I don't want it to get much longer than that.
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Old 12-15-2004, 09:45 PM   #18
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I realized today that I didn't really prepare you guys with this thread. I just kind of jumped into it. So I'm going to step back and explain some of the preliminary stuff that I do before I start bending sides.

When I build a guitar I start completely from scratch. To give you an idea of what I'm working with here is a pic of one of my stacks of wood. I have a lot more than this.


After I get an idea of what type of music the person is going to be playing and why they really want to have there guitar do I make some suggestions for types of material. In the end the choice is their's but most of the time people really don't know what they want. In this case the customer had a specific piece of cocobolo in mind before he even approached me about building a guitar for him.

So now I have the back and side ready and it's time to pick the soundboard that will complement it best. I went though my stacks of spruce tapping on each board and listening to it ring. Then I found the 2 that complemented the cocobolo's tone the best. 1 was Master grade Sitka. No color, straight grain, 32 grain lines per inch, no runnout and most importantly it sounded perfect. The other board was what I like to call "character wood" Under normal grading standards it would have been graded very low but this is so different that it becomes a class all it's own. It has curl (like curly maple) wavy grain, tones of color and it came from a world famous tree known for producing the best tonewood in the world today.



He ended up choosing the one with color because of how it matches his back and sites.

After we got the top now it's time to choose things like headplaits,f retboard, bindings... All that stuff. Here is one of the hundreds of pics I took for him so that he could see how his back and sides and top would look with various bells and whistles.



I hope none of this was too boring for any of you. If you have any questions about terminology or what we look at when we grade wood, or the characteristics of certain material or anything like that feel free to ask. I brushed over this pretty fast just because experience tells me that choosing materials doesn't interest too many people.
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:59 AM   #19
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^ Actually, I would like to know how to grade woood and what makes good tonewood. Also, can you tell if the wood is good in a guitar with a finsih on it? I've heard that you can knock on it to see if it has any dead spots.
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Old 12-16-2004, 12:39 PM   #20
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Isn't cocobolo dust toxic and extremely irritating? How do you adjust to this? amazing guitar, it's one beautiful piece of artwork
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