19-Sept-2012 This is a new model guitar for me and Portland Guitar so there is a bit of research and design work to be done before I start making sawdust. My strategy is to take time to envision what the final instrument will look like and then develop the tools and processes I will need to realize that vision.
19-Sept-2012 In these first few pictures I am drawing out the shape of the body. I use this flexible drawing aid to create a smooth set of curves. I am using the shape of a Gibson's ES 335 as a starting place. However we are going to have two Florentine cutaway sections framing the neck rather than the rounded cutaways typical on an ES 335.
19-Sept-2012 The strategy I have adopted is to create a set of forms and templates that will allow me the flexibility to build a variety of guitar models. In this picture I am laying out the posterboard template I created on a piece of Plexiglas. I will use the Plexiglas template to layout the top and back pieces. The Plexiglas lets me see the figure of the wood as draw the outline of the guitar. This template doesn't include the cutaway sections that this guitar will have; these will be added later.
19-Sept-2012 I use my bandsaw to cut out the Plexiglas template.
19-Sept-2012 And then I use my oscillating sander to trim the edges to their final shape.
19-Sept-2012 The method I use to build guitars is to use a side bending machine and a bending form to shape bend the sides and then another set of forms to build up the body. In this picture I am using the template to draw the shapes for the forms.
19-Sept-2012 The form are symmetrical down the center of the guitar so to insure that the two halves are identical I join the two haves together back to back and then cut and shape them both at the same time.
19-Sept-2012 Here you can see the doubled up set of bending form sides being sanded to their final shape.
19-Sept-2012 Wigglewood has been one of the great discoveries I made in developing my tool set. Wigglewood is used in the construction trades to build architectural details like curved walls or stairs. Wigglewood is a bit like plywood but is flexible in one direction. Here I am cutting the wigglewood for the surface of the bending form.
19-Sept-2012 To make sure the surface of the bending form is stiff enough I use a double layer of wigglewood. Here I am screwing the wigglewood I love that name to the bending form sides.
19-Sept-2012 A couple of clamps press the wigglewood into the waist. Having the right tools makes a big difference in making a high quality instrument. I am a clamp aficionado. If I see a clamp that will perform a unique function I'll pick up a few of them. It really helps to have the perfect clamp for the job.
19-Sept-2012 I continue to work my way over the lower bout screwing down the wigglewood every inch. When I am finished I trim the end off.
ESJ 2.1.56 build
ESJ 2.1.56 build
19-Sept-2012 To fasten the inside layer of wigglewood to the form's frame I use wood screws every inch.
19-Sept-2012 With the first layer in place I press the two halves of the form together with a couple of clamps.
19-Sept-2012 When I build an acoustic guitar I use a set of forms to shape the top and back. These forms are essentially shallow bowls. To build a guitar I need the edges of the rim to follow the shape of the top and back bowls. To sand the rim to the final shape I put a large piece of sand paper on the bowl and use it to sand the edges of the rim to shape. Here you can see the sandpaper on the top form.
19-Sept-2012 Here I am sanding the first layer of the rim to the shape of the back plate. I usually place a ten pound weight on top of the rim and then push the rim back and forth until the edge of the rim touches the back formeverywhere. I use a magic marker to mark the edge of the roughed out rim when all of the magic marker is gone I know I am done.
19-Sept-2012 To build up the four layers I want on the rim form I carefully trace out the shape of the rim on to three pieces of wigglewood and cut them to shape.
19-Sept-2012 Then I glue and press the three pieces onto the outside surface of the form. Here I have started the gluing process by clamping down the end of the three pieces of wigglewood to the end of the rim. This way I will glue up all three pieces at the same time. To finish the form I will build up the top and back sides of both halves of the body form.
19-Sept-2012 Here I have used lots of clamps to press the three pieces of wigglewood in to place. I buy these clamps by the hundreds; the luthier's sage says "he with the most clamps wins."
19-Sept-2012 Now with the forms more or less finished I am ready to start work on the guitar itself. This guitar is going to have a carved top made out of Sitka Spruce and a shaped back made out of Walnut. Here I am using my drum sander to sand the two halves of the top to the same thickness about one inch.
19-Sept-2012 When I glue the two halves of the top together I want a joint that is all but invisible. To get a good joint I need to make the two edges to be glued together to match up perfectly. Here I am preparing one edge with a straight edge sanding block.
19-Sept-2012 I spread a bit a luthier's white glue it dries hard and clear on the prepared edge.
19-Sept-2012 And then I use a few clamps to press the two halves together.
19-Sept-2012 If I have used the right amount of glue not too much and not too little I will get a string of squeeze out beads. Sidebar: When Sitka Spruce is well quarter sawn i.e. the annular rings are perpendicular to the surface we get what we call "medullar rays" or "silk" running across the grain. You can see the effect here running perpendicular to the glue line.>
19-Sept-2012 Here I am using my belt sander to rough out the edge of the back plates.
19-Sept-2012 To finish up the gluing edge I use this sanding tool to hold the plate perpendicular to a strip of sandpaper mounted on a very flat surface
19-Sept-2012 Since the back plate is relatively thin about 100 mils thick 100/1000 of an inch when the two halves are pressed together they will buckle. To prevent this from happening I use this jointing tool to hold the plates flat while wedges press the two halves together.
ESJ 2.1.56 build
21-Oct-2012 The next step in building the form is to cut out strips of wigglewood that I will glue to the outside edge of the form. This will help stablize the shape of the form and give me enough material in the sides to install 1/4-20 inserts.
21-Oct-2012 I use lots of clamps to make sure I get a good even set.
21-Oct-2012 After the glue has set up I trim the ends of the strips and join the two halves together with the angle iron cross braces. I use the top and back dishes with sandpaper attached to sand the edges of the form to match the shape of the dish.
21-Oct-2012 Lot of sawdust. Wigglewood is relatively soft and not too hard to sand.
21-Oct-2012 With the forms now closer to being finished I am going to turn my attention to bending the sides. Here I have put the two strips of book matched walnut for the sides into the heating blanket and buttoned everything together with truncated clothespins. The top sheet of spring steel is a new modification in my process. The spring steel prevents too sharp of a bend from happening and cracking the wood.
21-Oct-2012 The heating blanket assembly is positioned in the bending machine and I turn on the heater.
21-Oct-2012 After it has been heated up the wood gets quite pliable. I press the waist into place with the central shoe.
21-Oct-2012 The upper and lower bouts are pressed into place with the two rollers and springs.
21-Oct-2012 After cooking the sides for some time and letting them cool down the wood sets and takes on the shape of the form. These bent sides are pretty close to the final shape.
21-Oct-2012 But the final shape is set by the side form. To prevent spring back I store the sides in their forms.
21-Oct-2012 The cutaway section require a severe bend in the wood. To get the wood close to its shape I use a bending iron to heat the wood and give me a platen to work against.
21-Oct-2012 After a bit of effort the cutaway blanks are close to shape.
21-Oct-2012 I mount the cutaway inserts in the form and sand them to fit the dish.
21-Oct-2012 After I mark the outline sides I use a special bandsaw platen to trim the side blanks to the near final shape.
21-Oct-2012 To bend the kerfing it gets the same treatment as the sides. The kerfing is made from mahogany.
21-Oct-2012 After the kerfing has cooled down they retain their shape more or less. The outside strip of the kerfing is quite thin ~50 mil and is very flexible by itself.
21-Oct-2012 I apply a bit of glue on the slitted side of the kerfing strip.
21-Oct-2012 And then I use lots of clamps again to press everything into the side form. This method helps to ensure that the final shape of the side matches the shape of the form and sinceI spent a fair amount of time making sure the side form has the shape I am after the sides will have the right shape. good theory and with a bit of care it works
ESJ 2.1.56 build
21-Oct-2012 After the glue has set I sand the inside surface with a pneumatic drum sander.
21-Oct-2012 And clean up and shape the top edge.
21-Oct-2012 Here I am marking the section of kerfing that has to be removed for the mahogany end block.
21-Oct-2012 After carefully measuring its position I trim off the section where the cutaway's tip will break.
21-Oct-2012 To set the cutaway blanks to shape I mount them on the insert forms and bake them in an oven for a little while.
21-Oct-2012 After the blanks have set I glue them to the truncated sides with a bit of glue and a reinforcing strip.
21-Oct-2012 After the glue is set we have a funny shaped piece of wood.
21-Oct-2012 A very funny shaped piece of wood.
21-Oct-2012 Here I have mounted the sides in the form and am gluing the end block in place.
21-Oct-2012 The design of this guitar has a solid block of maple running down the center. This block holds the sides together and provides a platform for the electronic hardware. Here I am cutting off the interior core blank from a board of maple.
21-Oct-2012 I shape the front of the core blank to match the shape of the cutaway.
21-Oct-2012 And then I carefully lay out the pickup and neck wells on the maple blank.
21-Oct-2012 I use my milling machine and a 1/2 inch end mill to route out the wells.
21-Oct-2012 Here I am routing out the neck well.

ESJ 2.1.56 build


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