Guitar Making Tip Number 119 is about how taking material from the braces affects the tone of the guitar. Taking material from the tops of the braces weakens the structure more than taking material from the sides. Here is how you decide what to do.
Carving the Top and Carving the Braces
As you carve your braces, you will notice that the tone of the top changes as you cut. When you want to drop the tone very quickly, you take material from the top of the braces. When you want it to drop more slowly, you take it from the sides of the braces.
This is basic physics, because the height of the braces is going to have the biggest effect on the strength of the top. As you carve, you will hear the changes in the top. Over time, and through carving many tops, you will learn how to decide what part to remove stock from.
As a beginner, you should follow the recommendations that the plans or the ABC book outlines. These are going to give you a right down the middle explanation, and make a good sounding guitar. In the expert hands of a master, the top could be made better, but it will still sound good. Here is what you can do as you learn the art of carving the top…
Look at How Other Tops are Carved
One of the best ways to see how the brace carving works is to study tops. Thanks to the internet, there are tons of pictures that you can go through. You can also get a mirror and go inside some of the guitars you already own.
Pay attention to the look of the braces. Check out the sizes, and look at the shape of the individual braces. Are they all squared off? Are they carved? Do they look like they were shaped on a machine before they were glued into the guitar?
All of these questions can lead you to understanding how the inside of the top works. You can then use the information to decide the best way to alter the responsiveness of the top as you see fit in your design.
If you have a lot of material, and your top tones out really stiff, then taking material from the tops of the braces will make the biggest impact. As you remove height, you remove strength, and the top will have more flex.
As you come closer to your sound, removing material from the sides of the braces lowers the tone without taking away too much strength. Since the height is one of the biggest strength factors, you only reduce the stiffness of the brace a little bit by taking from the sides.
As you combine these two methods of material removal, you will see how the look and size of the braces makes a big difference. Over time, you will feel more and more comfortable, and you will carve the braces much more intuitively.
Guitar Making Tip No. 119 – Wrap Up
As you carve the braces, the way you remove the material will have a big impact on the strength of the top. The tops of the braces give up the most structure, and allow the top to flex more. The sides give up far less structure.
Learn about the way that the braces are carved, and follow an established plan for the first few instruments. As you plan out these designs, you will see how and why the braces are made the way they are.
Once you are comfortable with the process, you can make a much easier decision about how you carve in the future. You will understand the process more intuitively, and it will before more of a feel exercise than a practical exercise.
1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners
Tip No. 119 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.