Acoustic Guitar Bracing Tips – Guitar Making Tips

There are a lot of things to consider when working on your acoustic guitar bracing, and the braces themselves have a large effect on the tone of the guitar. In the beginning, it is important that you follow an established plan, which was covered in the previous guitar making tip. These tips are more about the process, and how to get them all glued down.

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Guitar Making Tip No. 7 – Acoustic Guitar Bracing Tips

bracing the top guitar making tipsSpend a little time in the beginning laying everything out right on the soundboard. If this is your very first build, laying all the pieces out before gluing anything can be a huge stress reliever.

While the pieces are not covered in glue, you can set them out where they need to go, trim them, and make adjustments. Once you have a mess of glue on the pieces, making adjustments or moving a piece becomes difficult.

Lay them all out, and start cutting and shaping them to fit well. The more time you spend here, the less time you will have to spend later. The fight is easy at this point, so change things now before it becomes more difficult.

Also, if you are not very comfortable carving with a chisel, this is the time to take action. The more you get the bracing in shape now, the less you will have to carve by hand later. You will still have ample opportunity to learn about carving, so don’t worry.

There will still be plenty that needs to be shaped, even with extra attention at this step.

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Scallop your Braces before Gluing

bracing the top guitar making tipsOne thing that I really like to do is pre-scallop my braces before I glue them down. Now this does not mean that I do the entire job first, only some of it.

On the finger braces in particular, I like them to be really thin. I take them to the belt sander and do about 70-80% of the shaping before they are ever glued to the soundboard.

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Shaping the braces before they are glued to the soundboard is not something new or odd. Many prominent acoustic guitar companies pre-shape their braces before they are installed. The difference is that some of those companies don’t do anything to them afterwards.

Shaping a portion of the braces still allows you to learn the chisel. It also still allows you to see how removing wood changes the tone of the top. All of these things are important, but they all take time.

Tuning the Top and Learning How it Works

bracing the top guitar making tipsOne of the most mysterious and interesting aspects of acoustic guitar making is tuning the plates.

This is something that just takes time, and you need to build several instruments to really hear the differences.

Over the course of those first several instruments, you will begin to understand how wood removal effects tone. The first instrument will be just shooting into the dark.

The real reason that you want to pay attention to what is happening as you remove wood is that it will give you a frame of reference. The changes that you hear, and the process that you perform will give you a baseline of information.

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From that information, you will be in a better position on the second top. The same thing will happen on the third, and so on.

bracing the top guitar making tipsAs you build several guitars, you will by consequence be building a mental database of what happens when you carve the braces.

That database will not be something that feels super concrete, but you will start to develop that “feeling” of what needs to be done.

It’s an odd thing when the intuition side of acoustic guitar making kicks in. It’s not something that can be rushed, and it just takes time and experience.

In the beginning however, do not worry a ton about not knowing exactly what to do. There are ways around not knowing that stuff at first, and the best way is to follow an established plan.

Follow a Good Acoustic Guitar Bracing Plan

bracing the top guitar making tipsFor your first several guitars, do not worry about the bracing pattern and style too much. Just follow a good plan.

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Plans are based on averages, and in general yield a decent instrument. A guitar maker who has years of experience could make the instrument better, but it won’t be bad.

The danger comes when you start dicing up the braces without much frame of reference on what it will do. The best possible scenario is that you somehow jackpot and carve the world’s most perfect sounding guitar.

The likelihood of that is pretty low. What is the most common is that you end up with a guitar that could have sounded better.

The worst case scenario that can come from chopping the braces too much is that you end up with a top that cannot support the tension of the strings. This will cause a structural issue that may manifest itself early, or in a short amount of time.

The defect can render the guitar useless, and even break the instrument under it’s own tension.

These acoustic guitar making tips all have to do with bracing, and what you can do to ensure success on your first few builds. The biggest take-away that you should leave with is not to worry too much in the beginning.

Bracing is an art at the top end, but it’s just a matter of following directions in the beginning. Follow a good plan, incorporate some good tips, and you will be just fine.

If you have any questions about Acoustic Guitar Bracing Tips – Guitar Making Tips, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.

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