Guitar Making Tip No. 170

Guitar making tip number 170 is about practicing carving the braces. This is a basic skill for all guitar makers, and thankfully it’s easy to master. The beauty of this kind of practice is that you don’t have to worry about ruining a guitar. This is very close to the real thing, but not actually attached to a guitar. Here is how you do it.

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Practice Carving the Braces

guitar making tip number 170 practice carving the bracesThe first thing you are going to need is a piece of Spruce that you would normally make guitar braces from. Cut it into several smaller pieces, following the directions from a book or a set of plans. Make sure to cut as many different styles of brace as you can.

Once you have all of these pieces, you need to glue them to something. I recommend a 2X4 or something similar. Cut a piece that is a little longer than your longest brace, and glue them all down with some space between them for carving.

Next, clamp the board to the bench or grab it with a vise. Now, you can practice carving the braces down to final shape without worrying at all about making mistakes. If you do, just carve the brace away and replace it with a new blank. Once you are confident that you can carve your braces well, then you can complete the process on an actual guitar.

This kind of practice is great, because you are working in a consequence free environment when it comes to how the guitar will turn out. Since there is no guitar to ruin, relax and learn about carving. Here are a few things to focus on as you practice…

Learn What the Chisel Can Do

A well sharpened chisel is a fun tool to work with. A good edged tool can slice through wood like a light saber, and is an absolute pleasure to work with. In the beginning, learning how to use a chisel well can sometimes slow down the process of carving the braces. You have to learn something else before you learn what you want to learn.

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In order to learn how to carve your braces, you need to learn how to use a chisel. My method of gluing brace blanks to a piece of wood and carving them accomplishes both at the same time. Not only are you learning how the chisel works, but you are learning how to shape your braces.

Spend time with the chisel and really get used to it. Stop when the cutting seems to be weaker, and hone your tool again before resuming. You want to use a sharp tool at all times in order to get the best use from it. Learn how to hold the chisel, how the cuts feel, and what you can and can’t do on your practice board before going on to the real thing.

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Sharp Tools and Carving the Braces

You have probably heard it a thousand times as a woodworker, but sharp tools are important. Not only do sharp tools work better, and safer, but they also do something that is not as obvious. They help prevent you from giving up on an edged tool because you had a bad experience.

Most people that give up on edged tools can trace it back to a bad experience. They tried the tool, and didn’t get the results they wanted, so they stopped using it. In most cases, this can be attributed to a tool that was not sharp enough to make the process work the way it should have.

You wouldn’t use a power sander without sandpaper. That just makes sense. The same goes for edged tools. If you are using an edged tool that is not razor sharp, then it’s like trying to use your router without a bit. This is just how edged tools were designed to work. You cannot expect them to perform when they are not sharp. It’s as basic as plugging in your power tools.

Enjoy Your Practice

When you are practicing, enjoy it. Really block out everything else and focus on learning the skill. Feel the way that the chisel removes wood. See what happens when you adjust your angle of attack. See what happens when you skew the chisel a little while cutting. Try out several things in the practice environment.

When you try out things you are wondering about in practice, you discover what works in a safe way. When you find out that attacking with the chisel at too steep of an angle causes you to dig out too much of the brace, you learn what will happen on the guitar if you did the same thing. When you carve into the grain, you may notice that a big chunk tries to come loose.

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All of these small discoveries become data points that you assemble in your mind. You learn what the tools can do, and what they can’t. You learn what is comfortable for you, and how to get the results you want from your tool. I recommend looking at a few good YouTube videos on using a chisel. They can get you started with the right technique.

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