Aug. 2016 Phoenix Guitar Co. Guitarmaking class

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Before the class starts, I’m doing some prep work.  First, I’ll glue up a sandwich of mahogany, maple, and walnut veneers, to make neck blanks.  The sandwich starts with mahogany on the bottom, getting a layer of titebond.



Now, the glue is spread, using an old gift card.  I keep a bunch of these for this purpose.



After all the layers are glued and stacked, the sandwich is clamped, and left to dry.  We should get two necks from this stack.  We won’t be needing this for a couple of weeks.



Jeff, one of the students in this class has chosen sides and back from a cocobolo log I had leaning against my wall.  Here, the board is being resawn.



Here’s what the slabs look like—Not too bad….



After some planing and sanding, Jeff is gluing up his back.  He’s come in during the prep work to help out and learn more about the process.



Now Jeff has put the back halves together, and is using a plate joining jig.



He taps in the wedges to tighten and clamp the back together and hold it down nice and level.



While the back is drying, I’ve cut one of the sides to size, and am spraying it with some water, getting ready to bend it.



After wrapping the side in parchment paper and aluminum foil, and put the heat blanket over it.  Spring steel layers are on the top and bottom of the stack.



The whole stack is put into the bender.  Jeff will bend the non-cutaway side.



Here’s the cutaway side, after bending, getting clamped into the mold by Jeff.



This is actually the first day of the class.  Prep is done.  In this photo you see Vic.  He is a good friend of Jeff’s, and flew in from New Zealand to take the class.  That’s definitely the distance record for this class.  The previous record was New York last January.  Anyway, in this photo, Vic has bent one side, and is clamping it into the mold.


While Vic is working on bending and clamping his side, Jeff is working on his rosette.  He has cut the circles using a laminate trimmer on a circle cutter, and is currently gluing in a piece of b-w-b purfling.


Vic now cuts his rosette, using the laminate trimmer.


Here are the two rosettes, all done.  They look great.  Jeff’s top is englemann spruce-on the left.  Vic’s top is cedar.  Both guitars will be Nylon String OM’s.  Jeff’s will be a cutaway, sides and back of cocobolo, and Vic’s a non-cutaway, sides and back of koa.


Now, we’re ready to work on the backs.  Here, Vic is shown cutting off a piece of his top to use as a back strip.


I’m giving a brief demo of sanding down the back strip to size, using an edge sander.


After both guys prepare their back strips, they glue the strips over the center seam of the back, then, with tape protecting the back, they sand the strip to shape.


Next, Jeff is sanding a 25′ radius onto his back braces, using the edge sander.


After sanding the radius onto the braces, they are given a rough shape using the bandsaw.


Here are both guys cutting the back strips to allow for gluing in the back braces, and placing the braces into position.


The back braces get glued and clamped into position using a go-bar deck.


Here are both backs, braces all glued up, and glue cleaned up.  This is the end of day one.



At the start of day two, the guys cut the overhanging sides from the molds, and clamp the molds together.



Then, they start to glue in the endblocks and headblocks.



Here is Jeff’s cutaway,



and Vic’s non-cutaway, with endblocks and headblocks all glued and clamped in–and glue squeezeout cleaned up.



Now, with the endblocks and headblocks gluing, we go back to the tops, and start to glue in the top braces.  We start with the upper and lower face braces (on either side of the sound hole), along with the bridge plate.




While the upper and lower face braces and the bridge plate are drying, the fan braces are prepared by using a dremel tool to route out the thickness of the bridge plate, so the braces will fit properly into position.



Here is one of the braces, being fit over the bridge plate to test the cut.



Once all the fan braces are fit, they are glued down, using the go-bar deck.



While the braces are gluing, the guys start fitting their sides to the mold.  First, the clamps are removed, a set of go-bars are used to push the sides firmly against the mold.  After the go-bars are in place, Jeff is using a hand plane to reduce the height of the guitar side over the mold.  These molds are designed to be exactly the final size of the sides.



Once planing gets the sides close. a hollow mold board with a 25′ radius (coated with sandpaper) is used to sand the sides, endblock, and headblock to exact size.



At this point, we start gluing on the kerf.  In this photo, you can also clearly see the go-bars used to hold the sides against the mold.  These will stay in place until the top and back are glued on.

This is the end of day 2.



At the beginning of day 3, the guys start carving their top braces.  They are using curved sole planes and sandpaper to shape the rough braces.



Here are the tops, braces all carved–looking very nice.



Now, they start carving their back braces.  Here, they use a standard block plane to thin and shape the braces, a curved sole plane to carve the outer wings of the braces, and sandpaper to clean things up.



And here are the back braces–also looking excellent.



While they are carving, I cut the necks out of the blank I glued up during class prep.



Before we can start fitting the top and back, the guys use the hollow mold forms to level down the kerf that was glued up yesterday.



Here, Vic is shown with his back being fit onto the sides.  He is marking excatly where the braces will tie into the kerf.



Here, Jeff is using a dremel tool to cut out the pockets in the kerf that the braces will fit into.

After fitting the back, we fit the top, getting ready to glue.



Here is Vic’s back, being Glued,



And here is Jeff, clamping up his back.



After the backs have been left to dry for 1/2 hr or so, we take off the clamps, clean up any squeeze-out, and glue on the tops.


This is the end of day 3.

At the start of day 4, we take the bodies out of the molds, and prepare to route off the top and back overhangs. You can see the markings on the top that show the directions to run the router.


Here, Vic is routing the top flush with the sides (or as close as possible).


The same job is repeated by Jeff…


Here, Jeff is routing his end graft.


Now for some sanding. You can see Jeff’s completed end graft.


Vic is gluing purfling onto the edge of his binding. We don’t typically do this in class, but these guys wanted to see how it’s done.



At this point, we spray a layer of shellac onto both guitars. The next step is messy, and the shellac helps protect the wood from dirt and glue.


Vic is cutting his purfling slot


And to end the day, Jeff cuts his purfling slots.

This is  the end of day 4.


At the start of day 5, we finish cutting binding slots.



The guys have decided to miter their purflings between the bindings and the end graft. This step is very time consuming, and I typically charge more to do this in a class…


Here they are, starting to work on their bindings.


Vic is taping his bindings as he works around the top of his guitar.


While the guys are working on their bindings, I start preparing fingerboards. Vic has brought a board of Pohutukawa from back home in New Zealand to use as his fingerboard (it looks a lot like cherry). It’s quite hard, so it should work ok…

This is the end of day 5.


As day 6 begins, Jeff is sanding and scraping bindings, purflings and glue.


Vic is doing the same…


In the meantime, I’m starting to prepare the necks. First is to route the truss rod slots.


Next, the neck is clamped into a jig that holds the headstock at the proper angle while it is put through the jointer. Thanks to Tom Ribbecke for this idea.


Here’s the neck, being put through the jointer to joint the proper angle onto the headstock.


Now, I use a jig to cut most of the excess off the neck blank, to make carving a little easier.

Day six ends with necks being about ready to carve, and the bodies being nearly done with sanding.



Day 7 begins with getting the final touches on sanding the bodies clean–some by hand,



and some with a random orbital sander with 220 grit paper.



In the meantime, we get the “ears” glued onto the headstocks–since the nylon string headstock is slightly wider than the neck stock that was glued together.



Next, I’ll use a router and cut the mortises into the bodies, and the tennons into the necks.



After putting a hangar bolt into the neck tenon, and drilling a hole into the body mortise, we initially get the necks put onto the bodies, and start checking for the fit.  We’ll spend the next couple of hours pre-fitting the necks.  It’s a lot easier to do it now than it is after the fingerboard is glued on…



Next, we start preparing the fingerboards.  Here, Jeff is trimming down  his fingerboard, getting ready to route it to shape.



Here, Jeff has the fingerboard template, held to the fingerboard with a vacuum, and is trimming the fingerboard to the proper size.



Vic now repeats the process with his fingerboard.



Finally, Here is Jeff, using a jig to help him glue on his fingerboard binding.  We also put on t a thin layer of maple purfling.  He’s cleaning glue out of the fret slots.

This is the end of day 7.



At the beginning of day 8, Vic is shaping his heel, using the belt sander.



Jeff is pulling sandpaper along the shoulders of the neck, where it touches the body, to adjust the neck angle.  Jeff is adjusting his neck side to side in this photo.



After a few pulls of the sandpaper (like about 25), Jeff uses a homemade jig to measure his neck angle.



Vic has placed his fingerboard onto his neck to check his vertical angle, against the bridge



Once we’re happy with the initial neck set, we get ready to glue on the fingerboard.  First, we glue in the carbon fiber rods…one on each side of the truss rod.  These get epoxied into the neck slots.  The green tape is to keep the glue only in the slots, and keep the surface clean.



While the epoxy is  drying, the guys start cutting their  inlays.  T’hey’ll finish up the inlay step tomorrow.



At the end of the day, both guys get  their fingerboards glued on.  Here, you see Vic’s fingerboard.

This is the end of day 8.



At the beginning of day 9, we glue on the headstock laminates.



After about  45 minutes, while the guys are working on their inlays, I take the necks and start trimming close to the fingerboards, and get ready to route the necks down to the shape of the fingerboard.



Here, I’m triming the headstock on the router.  There is a headstock template, screwed to the headstock.



Next, the guys use the router to trim the neck to the fingerboard.  Vic goes first…



Followed by Jeff.



Now, I sand the headstocks to thickness, using a belt sander.



Next, here is Vic, drilling the tuning machine holes into the sides of the headstock.



Once the tuning machine  holes are in, we drill multiple holes in the headstock,  where the slots will be routed.



Now, the slots are being routed.



Here, Jeff is finishing up cutting his inlay into his headstock, using a Dremel tool.



All done, Jeff sands the inlay level.

This ends day 9.



At the beginning of day 10, Vic begins carving his neck.



Jeff is putting in his side dots.



Next, he starts working on carving his neck.



Vic uses a long sanding block to finish shaping the neck, to keep it straight.



After the main shaft of the neck is done, Vic begins shaping the heel.



Jeff is also shaping his heel.



Next, both guys get the neck re-fit to the body, now that the fingerboard is on,  Not a lot of re-fitting, but necessary anyway.



The slots in the headstock are now carved using a large rattail file.



Getting ready to apply grain filler, those parts of the neck that don’t get filled, get taped off.



Finally, the last thing of the day, grain filler is applied.  We put on 3 coats.

This is the end of day 10.



At the beginning of day 11, we fit the necks, and put tape under where the bridge and the fingerboard will be.



The rest of  the day (a very long day), we are spraying.



We spray 5 coats on the sides and back, then turn the guitar over, and spray 4 coats on the sides and top (also about 12-13 thin coats on the neck).

This is the end of day 11.



At the beginning of day 12, we start out by sanding everything level.  We use Abranet (400 grit) and dry sand the whole guitar.  We also dry sand the neck with 400 grit.



Both Vic and Jeff use random orbital sanders to sand the bodies.  The neck is done by hand.



Then, it’s back to spraying…the same amount  once again.  This gives us between .003 and .004 finish thickness on the tops, and a little more on the sides and backs.  We are using EM-6000 water base lacquer.  Since these are both nylon string guitars, we want a thin finish on our tops.


While waiting between coats, the guys prepare their bridges.  They were pre-made–but they glued ebony pieces on the front and  back of the tie blocks.

This is the end of day 12.



We start day 13 with final sanding.  This time we start with 600 grit.



Then we move to 1000 grit…



Then 2000 grit, followed by 4000 grit.



Now the necks…



After sanding to 4000 grit,I give a brief demo of buffing.  Buffing is pretty quick after sanding to 4000….



Then the guys try their hand at it.



After buffing, we peel the tape off where the fingerboard will be glued to the neck.  Then scribe around the fingerboard, and use a chisel to remove the lacquer to the edge of the fingerboard.



Time to glue and bolt on the neck…



While the neck is drying, we peel the tape from under the bridge, scribe around  the bridge position, and use a chisel to peel away lacquer to the edge of the bridge.



Once the bridge area is cleared, it’s been long enough–so we remove the fingerboard clamps, and glue and clamp down the bridge.  This is Vic’s guitar.



And this is Jeff’s guitar.

This is  the end of day 13.





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