Carving acoustic guitar braces is a stressful activity for most beginners. For many, this is the first time they have ever carved anything before. Here are a few helpful tips to make the process easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful.
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- Take thin shavings with every pass.
- Use a very sharp chisel.
- Listen to the changes in the top as you remove material.
- Work from a good set of plans or directions.
- Don’t worry about perfection.
Thin Wins When Carving Braces
If you only learn one thing about working with a chisel, then make sure it is to take thin shavings with every pass. Thin shavings are easier to control. They reduce the risk of breaking a brace, and make the process less stressful. If you have to remove a lot of material, enjoy the process and take thin passes until you reach your target depth.
Carving acoustic guitar braces absolutely requires the use of a sharp chisel. Sharp tools are a pleasure to use. Dull tools cause damage, and can be dangerous. Sharp tools cut better, and require less force to make each cut. They go where you want them to go, and make the process much easier.
Early in my woodworking adventure, I sent a chisel through the top of my left hand. I didn’t take the time to sharpen it, and instead I kept forcing the tool until it slipped. This is a terrible practice, but I escaped with only a small scar and a lesson learned. As woodworkers, we need our hands, and sharp tools help make sure we keep them.
Next, listen to the changes as you are carving acoustic guitar braces down to size. As you remove wood, the tone will change. Pick up the soundboard frequently. Balance it on one thumb by the top of the soundhole, and tap where the bridge will be. Listen to the sound, and listen to the duration of the sound.
As you remove material, the sound will lower, and the tone will lengthen. Listen and remember what you hear. There is no secret tone to wait for, it is all just a matter of experience and feeling. You may not notice much at first, but over time you will hear the changes.
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These tips on carving acoustic guitar braces will help you get through the process with better results, and less stress.
As a beginner, work from a good set of plans or directions. The experienced makers give you guidelines to follow for sizing, and this will make a good sounding guitar the overwhelming majority of the time.
A master would be able to make some tweaks to it and get better sound based on the condition of the top plate, but you will do well with the guidelines they give.
Finally, don’t worry about perfection when carving acoustic guitar braces for the first few times. If you worry too much, you will forget to enjoy the process. A lot of guitar making is done by machine, but carving acoustic guitar braces by hand connects you to luthiers of the past.
There was once a time when instrument makers worked by candle light without power, and made some of the best instruments the world has ever known. This connects you to them because you are doing the very same thing. Enjoy this part of the process, and the quiet shop time that comes with it.
Hear the sound that the chisel makes as it shears the wood from the top of each brace. Feel the experience as it happens. This is one of the most peaceful times in making a guitar, don’t worry if it’s not perfect.
I hope this helps you have more peace when carving as a beginner. My book is written on the principle that anyone can make an acoustic guitar, and I believe if you stress less through the process, you will end up with a great sounding guitar.
If you have any questions on carving acoustic guitar braces, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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