Attaching the Plates – Guitar Making Tips

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Attaching the plates to the sides of the acoustic guitar is where the body really starts to take form. This is the part of the process where you finally feel like you have a real acoustic guitar on your hands. The process is fairly straight forward, and these few tips can help you along the way.

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Guitar Making Tip No. 10 – Attaching the Plates

attaching the platesThe first tip for attaching the plates is to assemble the sides and the plate for some marking and measuring.

Line up one of the plates so that the center line is where it needs to be. Then, make marks under the plate for where the braces need to be trimmed.

This can vary depending on your construction method. Some makers cut the braces before the kerfing, and some allow them to go under the kerfing.

I prefer to let them go under, so I make marks right where the side will hit the brace. The 1/4″ or so beyond that will end up going under the kerfing.  

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attaching the platesUse a fret saw or other small saw to cut the braces to length. This is typically pretty quick, but be careful not to mar the plates.

Then, use a chisel to remove the piece that you have designated as waste. Chisel the piece off in sections to avoid any of the plate coming off too.

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Now you can mark your kerfing where the braces will pass under. Then, you use a chisel or a Dremel to cut pockets for the braces to fit under. It is important to make sure that you only remove enough material for the plate to sit flush, and no more. The kerfing needs to hold the brace down slightly, so only remove enough.

Resist the temptation to hog out the kerfing to speed up the process. The point of the braces going under the kerfing is added strength. The kerfing will hold the ends of the braces down in the case of glue failure. It won’t save the whole brace, but it can add to the working life of the instrument.

You Can Never Have Too Many Clamps

attaching the platesAttaching the plates requires a lot of clamps, or a long band if you are using that method. I have never really tried it that way before, and I am more comfortable using clamps, so that’s what I do.

I recommend doing a dry run when attaching the plates, just to make sure that everything is carved out properly.

The last thing you want to do is get everything covered in glue and find out you have one more brace to trim. This is a disaster, and can really set you back. You will have to wipe off the glue, trim the brace, and do another dry run to make sure it’s good to go. This is time consuming. Far more time than it would take to do a quick dry run.

attaching the platesAfter the glue dries overnight for a nice strong bond, remove the clamps and check your work.

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Look for areas that have gaps. As long as you don’t have any glaring openings, you are on the right track. Unfortunately, removing the top is pretty much out of the question at this point.

If you do have some larger gaps, the addition of binding may cover them. As long as they are not all over the place, the structure of the guitar should be fine. Adding the binding will hide the gaps from the outside, but they may be visible inside. Check near the sound hole to see what it looks like from the outside.

Do a Dry Run and Get a Good Seal

attaching the platesThe biggest takeaway from this guitar making tip on attaching the plates is to do a dry run and really test the fit.

This is going to take a little time, but you can guarantee a good fit. Guitars are not made with magic. They are a sum total of how well you do each small process in building.

Sealing the body well by making a good joint when attaching the plates is an important part, and one of the many small processes. Do a comprehensive test fit, and don’t even think about reaching for the glue until the plates go on the sides very easily. If you have to fight it, then you need to do more work. Don’t rush. Once it fits, you will ready for gluing.

If you have any questions about Attaching the Plates – Guitar Making Tips, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends online.

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It helps me spread the word, and encourages more people to experience the joys of making something by hand. Happy building.

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