Guitar making is my primary woodworking activity, and I love sharing how anyone can make a guitar if they give it a try. Here are several articles containing instructions for making jigs, construction theory, and fun guitar making projects. I hope they help you on your way to making your first guitar.
Guitar Making Tip Number 741 is about the circle cutter. On the drill press, you can buy a tool called a circle cutter, or wing cutter. This is a great option for rosette making. The tool makes large round cuts in wood, and can be used for a lot of things. Here is how.
Rosettes and Cutting Circles
There are a number of ways to hand cut rosettes. They have been hand cut for centuries, so you are in good company if you hand cut yours.
The only down side to hand cutting the rosette cavities is that its time consuming. If you are half way good with a chisel, you can do the job if you are patient.
However, getting the outside and inside lines nice and straight can be tough as a beginner.
An alternative that can give you a lot of help with the bordering of your lines on concentric ring or round rosettes is the circle cutter. This tool fits in the drill press chuck, and you can move one or two cutters on a shaft. The cutters are locked in place, and advanced into a piece of wood. Spinning, they cut circles according to how they were set. Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 741”
Guitar Making Tip Number 794 is about epoxy based inlay. On a guitar, the inlays can be tough is you are trying for more than dots. Working with epoxy and additives allows you to create a liquid inlay. This is great for a number of reasons, and here is why.
Inlays and Guitar Making
In the beginning, doing more than dot inlays on the guitar can present a real challenge to any new guitar maker. After all, there is already so much to learn, now you have to learn how to inlay too.
Thankfully, there are alternatives to traditional inlay. With normal inlay, you have to create a cavity that matches an inlay piece. This involves tracing the piece, cutting the cavity, test fitting, and then fine fitting.
You can spend hours getting the pieces to fit well, and then one small mistake with the Dremel and you put a giant gouge in your inlay cavity. It’s rough stuff.
Thankfully, you can take advantage of something that the wood turning community has known about for a long time. This kind of inlay lets you accomplish just about the same look but with far less fuss… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 794”
Guitar Making Tip Number 649 is about the neck to body joint. This is one of the locations where you can lose the most vibration. The neck and the body do a lot to help the guitar make sound. Getting the joint correct makes a difference, and here is how you do it.
How the Neck and Body Work Together
The neck and the body work together to hold the strings in place. They also set the scale length, and resist the tension and pressure that the strings apply.
On the guitar, the neck is also tied to the body in a mechanically disadvantaged location. It hangs out into space, and needs a lot of strength at the bottom to keep it from waggling around and losing energy.
The most effective thing that you can do to ensure a great sounding guitar is to make this joint a top priority.
While there are lots of thoughts out there on the type of joint, or the virtues of one method over another, the truth of the matter is that all of the joints are just fine. What you need to do is pick one that you can execute really well… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 649”
Guitar Making Tip Number 733 is about getting help from the woodworking store. In most wood stores, they have machinery in the back. In most cases, they will make a few cuts for you for a price. This is great for the new guitar maker, and here is why.
Getting Help as a Beginner
As a beginner, it can be hard to find access to all the tools that you will need to make a guitar. Especially if you are brand new, and have nothing, finding the tools can be a real challenge.
This is where the wood store and the woodworking store come in handy. A wood store will typically have machinery in the back that they use to cut and prep their materials for sale.
A good store will also let their customers know what they have, and how much a cut or a pass will cost.
In the event that you need access to a larger saw, or a thickness sander, working with the wood store is helpful. I recommend that you do at least this one thing though before you count on getting help from your local store… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 733”
Guitar Making Tip Number 731 is about using the rosette area to showcase a little woodworking flair. If you are comfortable woodworking, then you can use the rosette to show a little skill without worrying about ruining the sound. Here is how.
Rosettes are a Beautiful Focal Point
When you look at a guitar, one of the first places that you look is the rosette. It’s right there on the front of the guitar. In most cases, it also contrasts, so it really screams for attention.
This is a place that you can go a little over the top with in a safe way. The rosette does influence the sound to a point, because the stiffer area around the soundhole opening helps reduce vibration loss.
However, once you have something stiff in place around the soundhole, the look really doesn’t have much of an effect.
If you are a new guitar maker, and are struggling to learn woodworking at the same time, stick with a store bought or basic rosette and it will be a much easier process. However, if you are a woodworking master, then you really should make the rosette something to admire. Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 731”
Guitar Making Tip Number 624 is about fretting the neck. When you hammer your frets, especially as a beginner, lots of bad things can happen. Here is how you can still fret your neck and not worry about all the bad things.
Fretting the Neck as a Beginner
In the beginning, fretting the neck is scary. It’s a completely new skill for most, and a lot depends on the fretboard being right.
This causes stress, and sometimes it can cause people to rush through the process. Rushing just makes it worse, and everything spirals out of control from there.
The biggest problem with fretting in the beginning is hammering. It really does take some skill and practice to hammer in the frets without damaging anything else. It also takes skill to seat them well.
With the alternative methods to fretting available to guitar makers, it’s a surprise that some people still use the hammer. Pressing frets into place with a caul is a much better method, and it alleviates a lot of the problems associated with hammering. Here is how… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 624”
Guitar Making Tip Number 618 is about making the neck from a denser species to help control vibration loss. The neck is one of the largest sources of vibration loss in the entire guitar system. Here is an easy way to reduce it.
How the Guitar Neck Loses Vibration
The body and the neck of the guitar are interlocked, and they create the distance between the nut and the saddle. This sets the length of the string, and then tension is added.
When the string is played, the neck has to hold on tightly to keep the string vibrating. The more wobble the neck has, the more vibration you lose.
The neck is also at a huge disadvantage mechanically. Think about trying to hold a door open while someone else is trying to close it.
If you hold on from the inside edge closest to the hinges, you will not be able to overcome the force of the door closing. You have no leverage. However, if you push from the edge farthest from the hinges, now you have more of an advantage, and it’s easier to do.
The guitar neck is the same way. It’s only holding on by the inside edge, and it hangs way out into space, which makes it hard to keep it from losing vibration energy. There is however something you can do to make it lose a little less energy… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 618”
Guitar Making Tip Number 833 is about making square holes. A round bit cannot make a square hole, so you need to think about that in your inlay design. There are a few ways to make it work, and here they are.
Making Cavities for Inlays
The most common time that you will be making a hole for something else to fit inside is when you are doing inlay work. It’s important when making your design, that you consider the tools you will use.
A tool with a spinning bit cannot make a sharp corner. If you are using a Dremel tool, even with a very fine bit, all of your corners on your inlay cavity are going to be rounded.
If you make a plan around that fact, then it will be no problem. However, if you need to have really sharp corners in your design, there is something you can do as well.
It’s all about the planing stages when it comes to making a great looking inlay. You need to think about the tools you are going to use, and design your inlay accordingly. Here is what you can do to get a great looking inlay, no matter the sharpness of the corners… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 833”
Guitar Making Tip No. 870 is about binding. There is something very pleasing about a simple binding scheme. Done well, a single species binding design can set off the body of an acoustic guitar really nicely. Here is how you do it.
Binding the Guitar for Beauty
When most people think of making something beautiful, they think elaborate. They design something over the top, that has never been done before.
In many cases, this does result in a beautiful project, but there is another way that works too.
Instead of going to the elaborate side of design, try going to the simple side. It’s more difficult to design something with less moving parts, but it’s also very rewarding to accomplish a win.
A simple design, well executed, can be a gorgeous marvel to behold. It can also be much better looking that an elaborate design. It really depends on what you do and how you do it. However, there is something really beautiful about a single contrasting species of binding strip around the outside of a guitar. Here is why… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 870”
The best way to practice woodworking skills is in a consequence free environment. When you practice this way, you remove all of the burdens that make the task more stressful. You will also grow quicker, because you have less worry. Here is how you do it.
Practice Woodworking Skills
Woodworking requires practice. Most of the time, new woodworkers tend to practice on whatever they are building.
While this works for projects that you have no intentions of selling, it can be a little bit stressful for projects that have a greater purpose.
Practicing on the go means that you have to make decisions about what you are capable of as you make the project. This inherently lowers the mark that you strive for in practicing.
A much better way to practice is by working on something that has absolutely no consequence to you. When the piece has no value that you are worried about ruining, you free yourself to take risks, try new things, and really learn a new talent. The trick is finding a way to make it consequence free, and then making that a part of your practice routine by… Read more “The Best Way to Practice Woodworking Skills”