Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Small Acoustic Archtop

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by richa, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Been dancing around this for a couple months now. There are going to be a fair few firsts for me in this build and wanted to test the waters a bit (in other words I'm a coward and didn't want to kick off a thread and fail out of the gate :D). I've been posting a little on other threads with stuff related to this but I think it's time to pull it together and kick off the build thread. For the first few posts I'll just be tying together all the rabbit trails I've been going down lately.

    I like smaller body guitars (including cigar box guitars). In fact I primarily think of myself as a CBG builder. But lately sometimes when I start out to do a CBG it sometimes goes somewhere else:

    P9034478.jpg 20161223_150950.jpg

    So I've been itching to do something with an archtop. I was thinking I would do a smallish tear-drop four-string because it would be a pretty easy carve (as such things go). But after noodling on it a bit and doing some planning it sort of turned into a small 6-string acoustic archtop. It's a practice build (aren't they all) in that I don't want to spend money on pricy wood - trying to do with what I have sitting around the garage...mostly. And I may not be too fastidious about some things...we'll see.

    I'm using a 1933'ish Epiphone Olympic as a baseline - like the one that David Rawlings has been making scarce. It's not meant to be a replica. There are definitely some visual design elements I will try to follow pretty close (the f-hole shape being one I think). And definitely some I won't - I'll probably do a natural finish or close. Don't really want to do paint.

    Things that are settled... probably...maybe:
    • Scale Length - 25.5"
    • Width at lower bout - 13"
    • Sepele back, sides and neck
    • Douglas Fir top
    • body binding of some type

    Things not settled
    • Fretboard - don't really have anything all suitable. Might try to find another rosewood derivative off-cut somewhere but can't really count on that. I've got some Jotoba that might meet the case. But it's a pain to handle and I don't know if the color will work (kind of orangey brown).
    • Pickups/Pickguard - Not sure. Really want to focus on the acoustic. Might try to leave provision for a pickguard and pickup after the fact. But I have nagging thoughts about a neck pickup.

    Basic geometry like so:

    Diagram (800x409).jpg

  2. oldrebel

    oldrebel Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Oct 23, 2011
    Lynchburg Tennessee
    Sounds like a good plan. I'll be watching.
    richa and double_a like this.

  3. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    So here's the short version of various escapades.

    There was this
    Which led to this

    And this
    Which didn't quite work (maybe MAP gas would do it). But led to this

    Which did work and led to this

    Then theres this

  4. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    And this

    But led to this

    And a fairly encouraging practice bend


    That led to

    And a more reliable way to get this

    Excuse me now because if I want milk for our cereal tomorrow I've got to grow some hay to feed some cows.

  5. Reckless Rat

    Reckless Rat Tele-Meister

    Feb 26, 2014
    Those little planes are awesome! I have thought occasionally about the Ibex violin planes, but it's hard to justify the price (unless I start making violins professionally).

    Welcome to the baby archtop revolution! We have cookies They're dead loud and good fun!
    Barncaster, cnlbb and richa like this.

  6. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    That's what I wanna hear! But I'm good with cookies too. :D

    No joke! I didn't think violin making was so lucrative though.

    The basic approach is from here. But there are a few things to be aware of. You need to get the steel hot enough to demagnetize (a magnet shouldn't stick). I couldn't do it with the torch but he was using MAP gas so maybe that would het it done. Charcoal and a blow dryer ala instead Paul Sellers worked a treat.

    Also the way you adjust this is by tapping with a mallet on the back to back the blade out and on the blade to drive it in. The you tap the wedge to set it. I would put more lip on the wedge cause it needs to be shorter than iron.

  7. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Need to rewind a bit. Sometime after the practice neck joint I figured I should get the front and back plates glued up. I hadn't really thought through all the other "prep" I needed to do at that point. But the starting the plates got me thinking about carving and that led to the thumb planes and it all sort of snowballed from there. Anyhow...

    Started with a piece of reasonably quartered sepele and a piece of reasonably quartered and straight grained clear fir.

    Barncaster likes this.

  8. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Then somewhere around doing the practice bend I started on the form thingy. Thought about trying to do this without one. Then thought I'd make due with a shallow one.

    20170611_165458.jpg 20170611_170224.jpg

    But all through the practice bend I had it doubled in half - and it was kinda nice. So I decided I may as well go all in. I find it ironic that I've managed to avoid buying or using MDF for anything my whole life. Then when I finally do it's to build a guitar. :confused:

    20170617_152102.jpg 20170619_194124.jpg

    Well I still don't know what I'm doing but searching through TDPRI build threads and YouTube sure does make you feel like you do. :D

    Just put the cauls in that tonight so that brings us up to real time.

  9. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Cool looking build. I'll be following, cos thinking of something similar in the future. What's the thickness of your sides, back and top?
    richa likes this.

  10. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    Excellent! We have us a build thread. Your sides and cauls are a much better fit for your mold than mine were. I needed a bunch of clamps in addition to the cauls.
    richa likes this.

  11. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    It's been a fun bunch side trails so far. Go for it!

    Target before sanding:
    Sides - .100"
    Top and back thickness - 7/32" at center 5/32" at edges
    Depth of arch top - 1/2"
    Depth of arch back - 5/8"

  12. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Thanks! I wasn't sure how close the cauls actually have to be. There's still gapping but I don't think it's gonna matter much.

  13. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Oh yeah... way back before hardly anything else started working these out. One for each surface.

    Contour.jpg Contour2.jpg

  14. Mat UK

    Mat UK Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Feb 17, 2009
    London, UK
    This is such a cool build
    wayloncash and richa like this.

  15. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Yup...I I've got this whole planning and tool building and experimenting thing we just have to see if I can build a guitar! o_O
    Mat UK likes this.

  16. Daniel94

    Daniel94 Tele-Meister

    Oct 31, 2016
    Odessa, MO
    I'm liking this build! Can't wait to see you carve the top and back!

  17. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Thanks. Kinda looking forward to the carve myself. It's tempting to jump right into it...and it might even be the next logical step. This one is a bit more of a jigsaw puzzle. But having the final top would be useful and maybe necessary sooner than later.
    Daniel94 likes this.

  18. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Aug 3, 2010
    Loganville, Ga.
    Now that intimidates the heck outta me!
    Glad you're man enough to tackle it. (With all due respect to the lady-luthiers we have here, whom I'm sure are woman enough to tackle it!)

  19. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Washington's more a question of needing to reduce the problem to paint by numbers than masculine fortitude of any description. Keep reading if you're not convinced. :)

    “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” - Bonus points to the person who can come up with the reference (without using Google).

    I had this really nifty idea. Laser printer toner is heat transferable. So I thinks "self...why not print out the contour map and use an iron to transfer it to the front and back plates?" Now perhaps some of you are already cringing to yourselves and seeing disaster looming on the horizon. So to spare those of a more tender constitution I will just say up front that the worst did not happen. But it didn't work very well either.:cry:

    So I fussed around lining up the printouts and taping them together.

    Then set it face down and taped it in place


    Ok - so not a total failure, but a long way from a success. You will notice I had clamps on the piece. I was deathly afraid the heat would release the glue joints. Even with the clamps I wasn't keen on the idea of getting it hot enough where that would be a possibility - so I really kind of wimped out.

    If I was gonna do this thing I would get one of those little craft irons with a crank it up to get a transfer as quickly as possible (sort of like soldering) while avoiding the joints proper. But in fact a much simpler idea occurred which you might guess from the first picture. Just tape the silly thing to the plate and drill through the paper. :rolleyes:
    wayloncash, Zepfan and Daniel94 like this.

  20. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Long post - but I'll try to have lots of pictures to make up for all the words. :)

    I started this process using 1/2" end mill to "drill" flat bottom holes.

    Sticking the paper on didn't work.

    Maybe trying to stick the paper to the wood would be a good idea if I used a spray adhesive that wasn't ancient and didn't stick like uh…a thing that doesn't stick well. But in the end I didn't have such a thing and it just wasn't worth it. It took maybe 15 minutes to transfer the contours to the plate with an awl and mark them. Definitely connecting them with pencil is a good idea - the little marks are hard to see and get confusing near the waist where everything bunches up.

    And I abandoned the idea of using the end mill. It tended to get clogged and I didn't feel comfortable with it - kinda hard to manage in a drill press so I really can't recommend it (so don't say I didn't tell you so). I ended up using a 1" forstner bit and filed off the center point to get as flat a surface as I reasonably could. This meant that I would only be using every other contour which is really just fine (even fewer at the waist - more on that in a bit). I knew the contours I had generated were probably overkill but easier to skip lines than try to add them in the middle of things. The thing I don't like about the forstner bit is that it leaves a fairly deep score on the perimeter of the hole. This could be a good or bad thing...jury is still out, more later.

    Can't get all the way to the center with my drill press (6" from edge is the most)
    20170622_193645.jpg 20170623_191041.jpg

    Doing the inside of the back first. Trying to leave enough material to support the piece when I do the other side. Starting with the deepest holes (near the center) because if you start with the shallow holes (near the outside) you will wipe out all your interior contour markers if there is any overlap (there will be as you approach the waist). When this happens the bit will overhanging the edge of the previously drilled step. So how much overhang can you get away with? At a bare minimum the center of the bit needs to be contacting wood with some room to spare - otherwise it will try to wander. You can see I was living a bit dangerously and it really wasn't worth it in terms of increased waste removal or wear and tear on nerves. I suppose a person could use a much smaller bit and avoid this problem altogether. Doing it that way the bit would really just be a depth marker because it wouldn't remove much waste.

    But I just stuck with the 1" bit. As I approached the waste area and the bit was not well supported I would just skipped that area. At some point as you drill the outer contours there will be enough material to support the bit. This means the steps are pretty abrupt in this area - but that’s consistent with the shape of the arch here so it seems fine. Ok so why am I making such a big deal out of this? I mean what's the worst that could happen? Ah ha I say. I just happen to have some newly acquired first-hand experience with this.

    I mean - what could be so hard about drilling a few hundred holds in a piece of wood. If I try real hard I can almost convince myself that in the deep dark recesses of my memory I knew that a lot of drill presses use a tapered arbor onto which the chuck is just press fit. But it's been an awful long time since this information was front-of-mind. Side loads on the bit are particularly effective at popping the chuck off arbor. Side loads are what you get when the bit isn't well supported by the material it is cutting and tries to wander. Let me tell you having the chuck come off when you're in the middle of this operation is a bit startling. It's not as catastrophic as it could be. No projectiles or anything like that. It stops spinning almost immediately and the business end tends to be embedded in a chunk of wood - but it tends to go ****-eyed and gouge the work piece. Not great when your shooting for a target depth. In a bad case you could end up starting over. I'll probably have a bit of a gouge on the inside of the back but nothing I can't live with. I ended up slowing down the drill (about half way) to keep vibration down and going pretty slow to make sure the bit wasn't being worked to hard.

    It's pretty slow going over all and a bit nervy. But basically worked as advertised.

    Here's the front of the back.

    I've only got one gouge that's worth anything and it's a pretty good #9. I'm not a dab hand with gouges. But a lot of the same rules about watching grain direction seem to apply as using chisels for cutting joints and waste removal. The trick seems to be is to make sure the angle isn't too low when chiseling material out - or you get a splitting action which can easily take out more material than you want. You're trying to get ice cream scoops rather than splinters. So you need to pay attention to whether the gouge wants to dig in with the grain direction or is being pushed out by the grain direction. You want the latter (especially if you're using a mallet to remove a large volume like the center area of this piece. This is not that different than digging out a mortise with chisel.

    The long smooth trough is where the grain was trying to push the gouge out of the wood and the mallet was pushing it in. Nice work when you can get it. The grain reversals in sepele are a challenge here. The trough below that was cut in the same direction but ran into a patch of contrary grain and the gouge wanted to bite and dig in. Ended up with splitting.

    Another example of splitting

    What worked even better, at least for this wood, was going cross grain. The gouge was much easier to control overall.

    I used the gouge to know of all the castles too. For the most part these didn't give much difficulty. I mostly just set the gouge against it and gave it a tap and the piece would cleave off. As long as I didn't try to take the whole thing all at once they came away cleanly.

    Easy to get carried away. I may be past target depth is some areas by a little. I'll probably avoid using the gouge much on the outside face and break out the thumb planes earlier in the process.

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