Bookmatching the Plates – Guitar Making Tip

Did you ever wonder how they get that amazing mirror match look on the front and back of an acoustic guitar? This guitar making tip is about bookmatching the plates. The process of bookmatching is where you arrange the wood to create a mirror image. There is also a helpful way to glue your pieces together. It’s called a baton press.

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Guitar Making Tip No. 3 – Bookmatching the Plates

acoustic guitar making tips bookmatching the platesThe plates on nearly all instruments that are made from two pieces are bookmatched. This just means that the pieces look like a mirror match from the center out.

Look at the picture on the left. You can see that the grain lines converge on the center from both pieces.

The name bookmatch also comes from the idea that you could fold open the wood like a book, and the two showing faces will be matches to one another. Thankfully, unless you are milling your own wood, you will not have to worry about cutting the match.

The mill that supplies the tops and back will have already matched them for you.

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The only thing you really have to watch is the grain. When you arrange your two pieces, make sure that you see the mirror match look. If you fail to see the bookmatch, then flip one of the pieces over.

Keep rearranging them until you see it. Once you see your bookmatch, close the two pieces flat with the good faces together.

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The bottom edge (what would have been the “hinge” when you closed the two plates) is the edges that you need to joint before gluing the pieces together. This can be done on a jointer or by hand with a plane. It can be done with a router and a flush cut bit as well.

See Also: 50 Things I Wish I Knew When I started Making Guitars

Using a Baton Press to Bookmatch Your Plates

acoustic guitar making tips bookmatching the platesA baton press is a useful jig to make. It is essentially just a few pieces of wood, so it only takes a short while to put together.

This jig allows you to glue together the two pieces for the back or the top.

Most plates are going to me thinned to 1/8 inch or less. This is very difficult to glue. A small baton press solves the problem, and provides the clamping pressure while keeping the pieces flat for gluing.

All you need for the press is a piece of flat wood that is a few inches taller and wider than your plate. Then, three small boards that are as tall as your plate. Lastly, several clamps are needed to hold everything down.

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Arrange the pieces of wood like you see in the picture on the left. You want the center joint of the plate to be popped up about half an inch.

Clamp the pieces of wood on the left and the right, which sets the width between them. When this is done, essentially the distance between the two pieces that are clamped is slightly smaller than the width of the guitar plate.

When you press down the center of the two guitar plate pieces, it forces the center joint together. This is how the baton press works. You are forcing a slightly larger piece of wood into a smaller area, and the pressure holds the pieces together.

See Also: 10 Helpful Tips on How to be a More Productive Guitar Maker

Bookmatching the Plates and Gluing Them Together

acoustic guitar making tips bookmatching the platesOnce you have your press set up for bookmatching the plates, then you are ready to add the glue and clamp them.

Use a couple strips of waxed paper above and below the center joint. This will help keep you from gluing your project to your press.

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Apply glue at the center seam, and then press the plates flat against the bottom board. Then, use another long board to cover the center seam, and spread out the clamping pressure.

Finally, clamp that piece to the work board and allow the bookmatched plate to dry. This convenient baton press can be used for both the top and the back plates. You probably have everything you need to make it in the shop too.

Removing the Plate from the Baton Press

acoustic guitar making tips bookmatching the platesI like to give the plates a full 24 hours to dry before removing them from the press. It most likely takes less than that. However, a little extra security is nice to have.

The wax paper sometimes does make the glue take a little longer to dry. If you leave the pieces for 24 hours, you will be fine.

To remove the plate, start by removing the clamps from the sides first. If you remove the center clamps first, you risk the board flexing and breaking. Remove the batons on the left and right first.

Then, remove the clamps on the center baton. Peel off the waxed paper, and check your joint. It should be well dried, and no light should be showing through.

Keep the pieces for your baton press near each other. The next time you are bookmatching the plates on a new guitar, you will have all the pieces you need. This is a simple design, and a very easy to use press for your acoustic guitar top and back.

If you have any questions about Bookmatching 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 on Pinterest! Happy building.

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