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  1. #1
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    Dreadnaught guitar build

    Thought I'd share my latest project w/you folks -- a six-string Dreadnought-sized acoustic guitar of my own "square shoulder" pattern. I play mostly bluegrass and country/western with a bit of fingerstyle so this guitar tries to strike a balance of both via a few modifications to the bracing (scalloped Martin "forward" X style) and soundhole (smaller diameter). Basically, I build what I like to play.

    Woods are Sitka Spruce for the soundboard, spruce front/back braces, Claro Walnut sides & back, Mahogany neck, Ebony fretboard & bridge. Bindings & rosette of Ebony & Holly.

    At this stage, the "box" is closed (meaning the back is attached) and the work remaining is to 1) install bindings, 2) profile the fretboard & install frets, 3) glue down the neck & carve it to shape 4) finish w/nitro lacquer, 5) install nut& saddle/bridge, setup & play. I typically keep decoration to a minimum and let the wood speak for itself (yes, pun intended), so no mother-of-pearl inlay or abalone purfling.

    I'll post more pics and maybe a sound sample when I get 'er strung up and singing. Maybe mid Oct, if I can get enough time away from work & chores. Speaking of time, if I were completely honest about it, I'd say I'm about 120 hours (basically 10 long days) into it with probably 50hrs more to go.
    I'm eager to hear how this one turns out. With no finish other than a wipe of shellac to protect the spruce, I can feel the soundboard & back vibrate when I speak, and a tap on the front or back makes my other guitars "ring" sympathetically, which leads me to believe it will be easy and responsive. It has a nice bright taptone.

    Tip 'o the hat to Tarhead [this is the spruce you brought back from California] and to & Bobby G for his "pony express" run back here to Chapel Hill. Thanks, guys!!
















    There's a bunch more pics in my gallery if you're interested.
    --
    Jon
    Last edited by JonT; 09-09-2011 at 09:27 PM. Reason: added pics

  2. #2
    Senior User CrealBilly's Avatar
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    wow - cant wait to hear her sing


  3. #3
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Lookin' good! How thick did you go on the top?
    ‎"Good things happen to people who underestimate their setbacks."-Jason Isbell

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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarhead View Post
    Lookin' good! How thick did you go on the top?
    Just shy of 1/8", knowing some more will get scraped away during finishing. I'd like for it to settle in closer to 3/32 in the end.

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    Returning Member Mt. Gomer's Avatar
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mills View Post
    wow - cant wait to hear her sing
    Me too! That's gonna be beautiful!!!!

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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Looking great.. Wishing I lived close to durham so I could come see this. I would love to build my own acoustic. Just need to get up the courage to try it someday. Good Luck with it.

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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Oh yeah I meant to ask did you build your side bender yourself?

  8. #8
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Thanks for the kind words.
    Quote Originally Posted by rcflyer23 View Post
    Oh yeah I meant to ask did you build your side bender yourself?
    Yes, shop built. But don't be fooled -- it's not as sophisticated as you might think. It's basically just a big 3/4" plywood jig for holding the interchangeable side molds and a couple clamps pulled by springs, and the veneer press screw at the top which is used to press the "waist".

    There's also a removable attachment which is used to press in the "cutaway" section.

  9. #9
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Quote Originally Posted by JonT View Post
    Thanks for the kind words.

    Yes, shop built. But don't be fooled -- it's not as sophisticated as you might think. It's basically just a big 3/4" plywood jig for holding the interchangeable side molds and a couple clamps pulled by springs, and the veneer press screw at the top which is used to press the "waist".

    There's also a removable attachment which is used to press in the "cutaway" section.
    That's nice.. I've seen a few for sale but thought it would be fairly straight forward to build. Maybe in the next year I can start getting up the courage to do an acoustic.

  10. #10
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Quote Originally Posted by rcflyer23 View Post
    That's nice.. I've seen a few for sale but thought it would be fairly straight forward to build. Maybe in the next year I can start getting up the courage to do an acoustic.
    Jump in and give it a try. Get the Cumpiano & Natelson book, "Guitarmaking, traditions and technology" as a starting point. There are dozens of other books on the market and each have their own techniques, approaches & tips, but nothing is as comprehensive and clear as C&N.

    (edit: added the following...)
    w/r/t the side bender, there's a bit of an investment to get started.
    You'll probably want a set of plans. Here's a set for $12. http://ultimate-guitar-building.com/side-bending-jig/
    It will cost $20 or so to have these printed full-scale at Kinkos or Office Depot, etc. Then you'll need the silicone heating blanket (~$100), the sheet of birch plywood ($50) and the two veneer press screws you'll need ($20 each). Glue, screws, etc.
    So total will likely be around $200.

    A "heated pipe" bender is simpler and cheaper.I built mind for about $40 from a flattened 2" conduit pipe, an electric charcoal starter element and a rheostat for temperature control. However, bending with the hot pipe has a learning curve. As such it requires more talent to use than the "Fox" style bender.
    Last edited by JonT; 09-12-2011 at 11:45 AM. Reason: added bender plan link & info

  11. #11
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    I will get that book and start reading through it. I'll check out that site, I had not seen that one yet. Personally I don't have any desire to mess with Hot pipe bending. I'd rather take my time and build the jig and build something that I can replicate as I know I'm not going to build just one.


    Quote Originally Posted by JonT View Post
    Jump in and give it a try. Get the Cumpiano & Natelson book, "Guitarmaking, traditions and technology" as a starting point. There are dozens of other books on the market and each have their own techniques, approaches & tips, but nothing is as comprehensive and clear as C&N.

    (edit: added the following...)
    w/r/t the side bender, there's a bit of an investment to get started.
    You'll probably want a set of plans. Here's a set for $12. http://ultimate-guitar-building.com/side-bending-jig/
    It will cost $20 or so to have these printed full-scale at Kinkos or Office Depot, etc. Then you'll need the silicone heating blanket (~$100), the sheet of birch plywood ($50) and the two veneer press screws you'll need ($20 each). Glue, screws, etc.
    So total will likely be around $200.

    A "heated pipe" bender is simpler and cheaper.I built mind for about $40 from a flattened 2" conduit pipe, an electric charcoal starter element and a rheostat for temperature control. However, bending with the hot pipe has a learning curve. As such it requires more talent to use than the "Fox" style bender.

  12. #12
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    Brian Jessup
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Jon, how long have you been building guitars ?

    Brian

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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Quote Originally Posted by bdjessup View Post
    Jon, how long have you been building guitars ?

    Brian
    Hi Brian. Good question! I'm fairly new to acoustic building I suppose but in thinking about it, it's part of a natural progression and in retrospect seems somewhat inevitable that I would end up here. I've been playing since I was a kid (so 30 years on?) and repairing instruments for the past fifteen or so. I have a background in building street rods, so painting and bodywork/finishwork is second nature. But with guitars it began first as a necessity for my own consumption as I tended to play quite a lot and fret jobs and experimenting with various configurations as I churned through instruments, then as a convenience but also for friends and other musicians. From there, I progressed to repairing and refurbishing old instruments, making small changes, tweaking, refinishing, etc. But after one particularly rough Fender Mustang that needed darn near EVERYTHING fixed, I said to myself, outloud, "it would have been easier to just build this thing from scratch!" I still remember that moment. I paused and thought "yeah, it WOULD be easier to make one." So I started researching, reading up, asking questions & annoying all the area luthiers but simultaneously tooling up, experimenting, building components, moving up to larger assemblies, and found it all makes sense in a weird way. There are a few absolutely critical, key measurements, but with a lot of dimensions there is surprising freedom and flexibility left to the builder to experiment. The fun is being in the moment, thinking about each cut, each design detail and how it will come together to be part of the total work. But there's still the moment of surprise when you string it all up and see what you've got. Just like with kids, you can influence but you can't really change; the wood will be what the wood is and wants to be. Or as a great luthier (I seem to recall Wayne Henderson, Rugby VA?) once said "Not all wood wants to be a guitar." So the trick, then, is learning what wood you can teach to sing. And how.

  14. #14
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    Re: Dreadnaught guitar build

    Sounds a lot like my story Jon. I just finished my first D-35 like dred and have a 000 almost done with 12 string wood waiting for me as we speak. I have also been playing all my life and my son got me the above book for xmas a few years back. When I retired in 2006 I started woodworking and that got me to Guitar building. We will have to get together some time for lunch and compare notes. I live in Concord but get to Raleigh all the time. In fact, my son lives in Durham and that's were I'm headed tomorrow. We are looking at retirement places over in the Raleigh area.

    P.S. I do use a HOT pipe. Works fine for me for the number I might be building. Even with a torch. Nice meeting you here.

    Brian

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