Guitar Making Tip No. 314 is about making the back plate. Thee back plate of the guitar is a very large surface. Even though it may not be the center of attention, you need to make it with care, because mistakes will be easy to see.
The Back of the Guitar
Most of the time, unless the back of the guitar is covered in some really elaborate inlay, it’s not really advertised as a focal point. The other exception to this rule is when you have a really interesting looking piece of wood.
Unless there is a big reason to look hard at the back plate, it will never be more than something that is locked upon occasionally.
However, the person that own it will see it a lot, and they will see it every time they pick up the guitar to play. For this reason, you should give the back plenty of attention, even if you are leaving it plain…
How to Care for the Back Plate
If you are looking for ways to add custom elements to the guitar, and you want to do more with your back plate to make it a focal point, my 25 Simple Ways to Customize Your Guitar Without Altering the Tone is a great read.
If you just want to make a simple back plate, there are still some ways that you can make it exceptional. The easiest is to watch your center joint. Most book matched pieces are off by a small amount. This means you may need a little adjustment to make it look perfect.
When you bring the center joint together, look at the grain. If you slide the pieces up and down a little, you can make the grain match better in a lot of cases. Make sure to place the pieces the same way when you put them in your Baton Press.
Doming the Back Plate
It’s important to work a slight dome into your back plate. This is for structure, sound, and also for looks. A flat plate does not look as good as a domed plate, and the flatbed over such a big surface can actually do something unexpected.
A flat back plate can actually look concave, or dented inwards. Even though the plate is flat, the look can sometimes make it appear to be caved in, and that is not good. A slight dome can be achieved by carving the braces to a curve before gluing them to the plate.
Using Attractive Binding
A very simple way to add subtle beauty to your back plate is to use binding. The easiest is to just tie in the same binding scheme from your sides. For most guitars, this would mean ordering one more strip for the back, and any matching purfling.
Install the strip by running a router down the center seam, and adjusting until you get the fit to be snugs but not tight. Glue the pieces in place, and then sand them flush when the glue has dried. You can use a scraper or sand the strip flush.
This matches the rest of the binding, and it’s a classic look. For a very large surface, it’s amazing what a single strip of wood can do to the large solid colored plate. The binding breaks up the sameness, and also matches the rest of the guitar.
See Also: Make Your Own Binding Strips. It’s easy, and you can save a lot of money.
Your homework is to think about your back plate more. This is such a big area that you should celebrate it a little and make it look good. Even if it just looks good to the person that ends up owning the guitar.
If you can do that for just the one person, you will end up making them happy every time they put on the guitar. That is a great feeling, and though you may never know it, you are the one that gives it to them.
If you are not concerned with over doing the back plate, then make the simple design look amazing by at least matching the book match better. For a step up over that, run a single matching binding strip down the center of the back.
Guitar Making Tip No. 314 Wrap-Up
Guitar Making tip number 314 is about the back plate, and how you should invest a little time in an area that is so big. The back plate may never really be a focal point, but it can be well made and still have simple class and good looks.
Mach the back pieces well, or use a single binding strip if you want an easy solution that makes a great looking back plate. If you want more, you can always do inlay work, or other custom designs.
The surface is really big so if you can see it as a blank canvas, you can do a lot. Maybe you like carving, or small inlay? Either way you go, adding more to the back plate and making it look great is another way you can make a great looking guitar.
1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners
Tip No. 314 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.
While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.