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Shoestring Acoustic Guitar Build Anyone Can Do

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by printer2, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Had some thoughts in a thread of mine, think it is worth pursuing.

    More to think of. Just looked at tops from one vendor, for a ukulele sized top, 16" x 5 1/2" for a princely sum of $5. The Martin size five is 10 3/4" wide. Might narrow it down a little. Also allow for six inch boards which are just shy of 5 1/2" in home centers. Just did some measurements. A 16" body length dreadnaught shape would need just shy of 24" sides.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018

  2. tdoty

    tdoty Tele-Meister

    150
    Oct 17, 2011
    Opelika, AL
    With some looking, quartersawn poplar and "whitewood" are available....think 1x12 and 2x12 as source material.

    I've tossed this one around a few times myself. For some folks, Home Depot carries maple up, and lots of it is flamey (you just have to live a good bit north of where I am). Maple sides, back, neck, and fretboard are an option. I have some resawn for fretboards, and more that could be resawn. My bandsaw only has a 6" resaw capacity (need to fab up a riser block, just haven't found the raw material). Poplar back, sides, and neck are an option too. Might be a little soft for a fretboard - has anyone tried roasting poplar?

    Getting wood in guitar dimensions can be the tough part. For acoustics, everything (commonly available at the home center) is too thick. For electrics, everything (commonly available at the home center) is too thin. I have a planer, so I could just plane a 1x12 down to 1/8"-ish.......but that's not a cheap tool either. I don't know if I have the patience to hand resaw enough wood for a top...let alone hand planing it just to prove it can be done.

    I do have some cherry and some ???? that a friend sawed. The ???? was supposedly poplar, but, well, it isn't. Those are outside the lines of a home center build though.

    Just some thoughts from the peanut gallery.
     

  3. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    We do not have much of a selection of hardwoods at our HD, oak and maple, not that I have anything against either as they make fine guitars. Nothing quartersawn or even close. What I do find once in a while is their better pine boards are occasionally clear straight grained and some of it quartered. I was debating doing a guitar out of a board I have and use a 2"x4" for a neck. While the stuff is easy enough to work with it can be temperamental to bend. Originally I had the idea of someone planning the wood down to size with a drill press. Make a little disc attached to a bolt and put it in the chuck. Stick sandpaper on the bottom and set your height then feed your wood into it. Sort of a sandpaper safetplaner. Can't take credit for it I think I saw it on a ukulele site.

    But then I thought not everyone has a drill press, especially the people I want to reach with this project. You could always use an old plane if you could find one but let's assume you can't. Resaw with a handsaw does seem like a chore but if it is only a half hour to hour out of your life (have to take a break or two in between) then it is reasonable. A budget handsaw could be had cheap. To get the wood to proper thickness then use the idea of a router sled but rather than a router have a block of sandpaper. Yeah more muscle work but if you don't have the tools or money for them you got to get sweaty and dirty. Speaking of, so far my list of needed items. The drill and bits could be borrowed as you need them for a operation or two, otherwise low tech technology.

    Square
    1/2" Chisel
    Bastard File
    Hand Saw
    Coping Saw
    Caliper measuring
    *Drill - bits
    Clamps - 2
    Screwdriver
    Clothes iron

    Sandpaper
    Twine
    Glue
    Masking Tape
    Razor Knife Blades
    Needle files

    As far as the size of guitar I found one of my earlier ones that seems to fit the bill. I have been trying to size the body to use 16" x 5.5" wide top and back wood with 3.25" x 22.5" long sides. This is these are the sizes that I have seen baritone ukulele sets being sold. Forget about buying wood and working it down to size, wait for it to come in the mail if you are so inclined. Or I could just assume the builder will manage to get the right size wood somehow, list some options, even going to a three piece back, buy a parlor set.

    I think I will do what I first envisioned. Doing the Martin sized guitar and just concentrate how to build the thing with the fewest tools. I'll use a raw spruce top, get it to thickness. Hand resaw some poplar, use it for the neck also.
     

  4. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    56
    Jun 7, 2017
    GCDB
    Many places have a "tool library" a kid might need a adult to set up an account, but that would really drop the cost. Another option is to start your own box, tools are pretty abundant in suburban areas at yard sales and I have gotten incredible bargains from Habitat for Humanity Re-stores. the tools on yor list would probably cost less than $20 all in from these sources, and most of what I have is of VERY good quality, old school US made Stanley, Craftsman Channel Lock etc. I even have two Philadelphia made Disston saws that were $2 each..
     

  5. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Don't discount a 3 pc or even a 4 pc top made out of pieces of a 4 x 4 which can generally show quartersawn/ rift like grain. If the wood is dry and the joints are good it should work just as well as anything else.
     
    crazydave911 likes this.

  6. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    The whole tool thing seems pretty simple for us but I try to dumb down the amount of technical expertise that may be available to the person. My brother-in-law has no woodworking experience and he passed it along to his kids. My niece married a handy guy but they have a young family and while he would probably like to build something they have very little in excess funds. But yes tools come around but it usually takes time. One of the big ones in building an acoustic is clamps. Gluing the top or back on can easily take 20+ and even a fretboard I will have a dozen on. Thinking of old school practices for that, rope or twine.

    And then I just take for granted having a vice to work on. What if the person has a kitchen table rather than a workbench? How do you clamp something solid so you can work on it? I was thinking also as a tool having a section of shelving. Throw a piece of sandpaper on it, clamp a straight section of a 2" x 4" on it and use it to joint your edges so you can glue them together. I saw a video of guitars being built in a village where the windows have no glass. Lot of hand method being used to build with, labor is cheap there.

    I was debating on how quartered the wood would have to be for a top. Much easier to find stable wood that is flat sawn. Not quite as stiff as quartered but if you are doing a nylon guitar then the fan braces should be up to the job if they are a little taller. The downside is that the wood shrinks and swells more with humidity changes and you get different action heights. Not great on a steel string but nylon fretting the strings when they are a little higher is no great effort. I was even looking at some 2" x 8"s thinking of the quartered section in the middle moving to rift at the edges, might even allow for more bass with the less stiff wood on the perimeter. And then I looked at some laminated shelving, too many knots. :rolleyes:

    Yeah a lot of things to try, I don't think the wood selection would be two important. I think getting the skills across and the belief that even they can do it is the greater value. After that, well you know, you can't just build one.
     

  7. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Well there went my morning.





     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018

  8. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Nothing new, just noticed Stewmac's 'Building an Acoustic Guitar Kit' ad has been following me around on the internet. And I thought it was suppose to be Big Brother that is watching.
     

  9. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Have a 6" board, maybe use it for the top back and sides. Try using a handsaw to cut out the sections then resaw the board, split it down the middle.

    [​IMG]

    That was doing it the hard way. The board sticking up out under the top pieces is the sides. I didn't notice the saw wandering away from center and ruined the one side. Enough of that, took the top to the table saw and cut all around, I have a small blade on it right now, then finished cutting it with a hand saw. Noticed the section that I was going to use for the back has developed a split sice cutting it around with the table saw.

    [​IMG]

    Wanted to know if you could clean up the wood with a small plane. The top one is unplaned the bottom planed. It works well enough but just flexing the wood I could tell the major weakness of the flat sawn section, the ellipse portion. So much for this wood. Learned it is not worth the trouble to use wood not suitable for instrument making. Not bad wood, just cut wrong for our purpose.

    [​IMG]

    Now I have two options. I have a spruce rough sawn top that needs to be taken down to size and some poplar that is again flat sawn but the wood is more or less homologous and should be easy enough to work. Or I could use some pine that is mostly quartered and clean, resaw it for the top and back and use a clean 2" x 4' for the neck. I already have a guitar in the works built with the spruce (I'll get around to finishing it), maybe the poplar is the way to go.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
    guitarbuilder likes this.

  10. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Maybe a few more tools than used here.

     

  11. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    But I am an inquisitive type. Is it really the flat sawn part really that floppier? I through the pieces through my drum sander and it seemed like the cathedral part just got planed off deeper and naturally was flimsier. I joined the two together, did not take a picture of the steps. I will have to do that with the back. In the picture I also have a 2" x 4" with the most common cut that is usable for us. I cut it in half and am going to glue the same side to itself to help counteract the movement of the wood in temperature and humidity changes. I grabbed the back and side wood from another board. It was not as good as the one I mucked up with the handsaw. I didn't want to bother going to Home Depot to get one piece of wood.

    [​IMG]

    Made more shavings. The knots are a problem, try to avoid any wood with them if you can. I could take the wood down to the thickness I want with the plane but I used my drum sander as, well I am lazy.

    [​IMG]

    So I decided to go with the spruce crappy board just to see if it can be done. Might do a poplar build or I have some maple for a little guitar. I think I will do a basic build on this one and maybe go a step further on the next one. A buddy wants me to build him a guitar that he can stick up on the wall, he just can't believe I can make these. He used to work in a furniture factory and he knows how stuff is built that way. The building the thing by hand stuff just blows him away.
     
    Scooter91 likes this.

  12. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Jointing the edges. Marvelous looking 2" x 4" isn't it? Next time I will check the focus. I used the 2" x 4" as a square to run the top and backs over. I have a short length of laminate shelving I clamp to as a flat surface. At first I ran the two over the sandpaper together, then I candle the edges. You hold them together and hopefully the joint is so good no light leaks through. Of course that was not the case. The ends had more sanded off which gave them a barrel shape. I touched up the middle sections separately until they matched well enough. A very tedious method.

    Normally I clamp them down and leave a gap between them with a little less room than would fit my router bit. I have my straight edge (carpenter square) clamped on the one and run the flat of my router against the square and run down the gap. A little bit of a setup time and done in a minute. The sandpaper method took me a half hour. What I do to be famous.

    [​IMG]

    I am up to four clamps now. You stick a thin length of wood down the middle under the two edges and clamp down the 2" x 4"s. Then you pull the length of wood and press down on the joint. The edges are now under pressure. Too much and they just teepee up, not enough and they are not snug. After trying it a time or two you unclamp the one and run glue on the edge. Put it up against the side clamped down and rub the edges together to get glue all over them. Then clamp down again and pull the stick. If you messed up and you have too much tension just partly unclamp one clamp relaxing it and clamp again, do the same for the other end. I also put a strip of packaging tape down the center on the shelving board so the glue won't glue your wood to it. Wax paper will do the same thing for you.

    [​IMG]

    Top and back joined, I decided to make a smaller guitar that fit the wood. Just moved my template in a little. Bending softwood is tricky, we will see how it goes tomorrow. The sides are 0.080" thick.

    [​IMG]
     
    guitarbuilder likes this.

  13. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    The router method you described was a jig I used at GRD. Basically it was a piece of plywood with two long clamps that held the top/ back pieces in place and acted like a fence. The lowest bottom piece allowed you to put it in a bench vise to hold it at a better work level. Bolts, washers, and wingnuts went into those 4 holes to do the clamping.

    By doing it that way, any irregulararities on one side would be on the mating side. It worked reall

    y well. I don't remember what happened to the one I made, but it isn't around any more. With all the talk around here about leveling frets with a marble door threshold, I bet a long piece of sticky back 100 grit abrasive strip on top of a marble threshold from the home center, along with a fence of some type, would shorten your jointing time up....:) I'd push in shorter strokes in one direction only along a longer strip.


    jig.PNG
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018

  14. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Yeah I have a bunch of cut offs from work of man made marble for countertops. I am just working at the lowest level that somebody starting out with nothing might come up with. I could have said you can joint boards with sandpaper, and I have when I first started, but I wanted to go through the whole painful process of doing it the hard way if that is all the person has available. Good thing you mentioned the marble, if a person went to a firm that does kitchens I bet they could get some crap pieces from them. I like the wingnut clamping of the jig of yours. Might have to make one.

    I have looked at the top and back, I think I might want the knoty back for the front for its personality. The original top is a little thinner than I want for a back I may have to brace it stiffer. The side bending is my next chore. There are tricks to help bending wood, one is a veneer softener called SuperSoft II. It does help especially if you are using figured wood. It is reasonably priced but about the only way you can get it is by main order. Not bad in the U.S. but coming into Canada the shipping and duty was more than the price of the bottle. An alternative that I have used before getting the SSII is soak the wood in fabric softener for a day before bending. Wipe the wood and then rinse it and wipe it dry so it is only damp. Can't speak for the methods with all woods but I had luck with it where I broke a piece and soaked the second.

    The other thing I have to figure out is how I want to put a radius on the back and top. I would just build on my radius dishes but the average person would not have one. Actually doing the top and back would not be too bad, just shim up and glue in bracing that was radiused. It is the side profile that is an issue. I will have to go online to see how others skinned that cat.
     

  15. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    I have yet to do a domed top or back. I just can't get excited about making or buying dishes, so I just keep doing what I learned initially. We made curved braces for the back. Basically the belt sander was used with an auxiliary table with a slot at the front of the aux table, parallel to the belt. In the slot was a piece of 1/8 x ? x 6" long piece of aluminum bar. The bracewood was clamped down and would overhang to a master form that pushed up against the metal bar. The belt sander would sand all the wood until the bar met the form and then it would stop. It's a pretty accurate process. Kind of like using a template bit, but on the belt sander. Those braces got clamped to the back and formed that arch.


    A compass was used to transfer the taper along the rims. We put masking tape on it to see the line. Then used a little plane to plane it down.

    After the lining was put on, A sanding caul with the same arch radius was used with coarse sand paper stuck on and sanded from front to back until the linings and sides had the arch in them too.
     

  16. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    I made my dishes, doesn't seem like a big deal until you are up to your armpits in sawdust. At least that is what it seemed like. At one time Martin used to radius their braces and have the back or top sit in a heating rack. It drove out the moisture and they clamped them up flat. When the wood reabsorbed the RH in the air the top and backs naturally domed. Lot of little tricks of the trade. I did a lot of work and just edited the pictures. Had enough I'll post them tomorrow.
     

  17. Mase

    Mase TDPRI Member

    92
    Apr 20, 2016
    Australia
    Cheers for doing this thread Printer, I always find what your working on interesting and informative.
     

  18. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Picked up a 1" x 2" board for a couple of bucks. There are knots in it but the grain is quartered enough to work with and I should get enough brace material out of it.

    [​IMG]

    Cut the offending bits out and what is left.

    [​IMG]

    Started to split the wood along the grain lines. Rather than running the length of the piece the grain runs out the edge of the board. Probably why they call it runout.

    [​IMG]

    Split the wood with a hammer and chisel. While the grain takes a curve further back I can get a usable piece out of this one. The grain line took a detour around a knot.

    [​IMG]

    More examples of why this is not choice wood. A couple of pieces will work though.

    [​IMG]
     

  19. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    I used a straight edge, file and block plane to square the piece up.

    [​IMG]

    A lot of waste to get a stick of wood. I can not imagine doing this without a vice of some sort. Even one that you can clamp on the bench.

    [​IMG]

    Drew a 15' radius on the piece. Remove the bulk with the plane and finish sand.

    [​IMG]

    The back brace locations.

    [​IMG]

    Gluing the bottom brace. Using the 2" x 4" and 1" x 2" to clamp the brace onto the back. I have some wedges in between the back and the 2" x 4" to press the back to the brace. I guess if the bottom brace were thinner and flexible you would not need to use the wedges.

    [​IMG]

    If you only had two clamps you would have to wait 30 minutes for the glue to dry before doing the next one. Since I have more clamps...

    [​IMG]
     

  20. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 24, 2010
    Canada
    Shaped both sides of the stick to 25' radius for the top. Since the pieces are not that high it was easier to radius both sizes and split down the middle. I used a razor saw to cut them. Flipped it around to do the other end and did the little bit in the middle cutting straight down

    [​IMG]

    While you can do the braces one at a time without a radius dish it takes a while. Glued up five braces at a time using the gobar deck method of clamping. I have a piece of plywood mounted to the floor joists above my bench.

    [​IMG]

    I wanted to double up the sound hole area. Cut a slice then use the plane, file, razor blade and then a little sandpaper. The small size and the two knots mad using the plane difficult.

    [​IMG]
     
    Amerman likes this.

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