Guitar Making Tip No. 231 is about preventing plate scratches while carving and sanding the internal braces. There is one easy trick that you can do to protect the inside of the plates, and you probably already have the item in the shop. Here is what you do.
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Preventing Plate Scratches on Your Guitar
As you sand and carve the braces, you will come really close to the plate itself. Whether this is the top plate or the back plate does not matter, on both jobs you will come really close to the plates with your tools.
If you accidentally strike the plate with the chisel, or rub over it a few times with your sandpaper, you will leave scratches that are easy to see. When you do that, you will need to go back and sand them out, which adds time to the build.
Even the most careful luthier can make a mistake and scratch something that they did not intend to scratch. That’s why they call it an accident, because it’s not intentional. As a beginner, you are at more risk of contacting the plates with your tools and sandpaper, simply due to inexperience. Either way, this is the only thing you need to prevent these accidents…
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Prevent Scratches with Masking Tape
All you need to prevent these little mistakes is some masking tape. Before you start carving the braces, lay down a couple layers of masking tape right next to the braces. For chisel work, I recommend two layers.
Even with a couple layers of masking tape, the chisel can still damage the surface below. The point is to soften the blow, so if you are being careful it should do the trick. If you are more aggressive, then you might think about using a sheet of thin, hard plastic.
Once you have all the tape laid out, you can start carving. Do the process the same way, and just be a little extra careful with the chisel. If you do miss, the tape can be enough to prevent anything serious.
If you use Sharp Tools, you will worry less about accidents, because the tools will go where you want them will less force.
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Masking Tape for Sanding Scratches
Where masking tape really stands out is for scratch prevention. Sanding scratches happen so quickly, and it takes very little pressure. You can actually end up making a bunch of them without even really noticing until later in the process.
As you sand, you will be happy that you have the masking tape in place. It only takes a couple minutes to put on the tape. Also, masking tape is very inexpensive, which compared to the time it takes to repair the scratches, is a great deal.
Once you lay out a couple strips you will be a pro. Taping next to the braces is easy, because the braces guide the tape into place. In sections where the braces meet, you can trim the tape for the corners, and then just trail it off the edge of the top or back.
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What Kind of Masking Tape to Use on Your Guitar
Not all masking tape is the same. Some of the really cheap stuff is very strong, even though the essence of masking tape is lower tack strength. There are some problems that can come up when you pull cheap masking tape off your plates, in particular your top.
When you pull strong tape, it can pull wood fibers from the top. This can leave sections where the top does not look as good. You can prevent this by buying better masking tape, and it only costs a tiny bit more.
Look for the blue painters tape, and don’t buy the store brand. That stuff is just regular masking tape that is blue instead of brown. Get a good, name brand, low tack painters tape that will not betray you when you pull it from the surface.
Guitar Making Tip No. 231 Wrap-Up
As you carve and sand the braces, you will inevitably strike the plates, no matter how skilled or careful you are. It’s more common with sandpaper, because you can create light scratches without even knowing you are doing it.
The easiest way to prevent these scratches is to use masking tape. Buy good tape, and apply it at the bases of all the braces. Then, you carve and sand as normal. If you accidentally come off the brace, the tape can help you prevent damage to your top and back plate.
If you have any questions on Guitar Making Tip No. 231, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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