How to Brace the Back Plate – Guitar Making Tips

When you brace the back plate on your acoustic guitar, there are a few things to consider to make the process go smoothly. Arguably, bracing the back plate is easier than bracing the soundboard. There is less going on. Even so, paying attention to a few details can help you along the way to a great sounding and structurally sound acoustic guitar.

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Guitar Making Tip No. 8 – Bracing the Back Plate

how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsThe finished back plate of an acoustic guitar is a very simple piece, and is all about structure and support for the instrument. The back of the guitar acts like a baffle.

It reflects vibrations back towards the soundboard. It also supports the sides, and gives the guitar structure.

On most guitars, a ladder style of bracing is used on the back plate. This is an easy way to add strength to the piece. There will be differences in how makers do their back bracing, but that is perfectly fine.

The important thing is that you follow the plan that you are working from on the first few guitars. Doing so, you will ensure that you are getting the best possible structure in place for your acoustic guitar.

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how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsOne of the ways that I make the process of bracing the back plate easier is to carve the radius on all of the braces at the same time.

It only makes sense, because the radius is the same on the guitars that I make.

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Refer to your plan or the instructions in your book, and see what the radius is. Once you know that, make a template, and you can easily transfer the measurements to the braces.

Tack glue them together into one solid block, and then you can carve the bottoms to that same curve as your template. Using a hand plane works well for this process, or you can use a belt sander. Finish with a sanding block to smooth everything out, and your braces will be ready to go.

Handling the Center Seam Reinforcement

how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsThe center seam of the back plate needs to be solidified a little before attaching it to the rest of the guitar. After all, it’s a very long glue joint that only has about 1/8″ of gluing surface.

A good bend, and the pieces can split apart.

The best material for this is a long strip of Spruce from a soundboard. Not only is Spruce a light weight wood that is strong, but you will most likely have a little drop from your guitar top that you can use.

See Also: 50 Things I Wish I Knew When I started Making Guitars

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This saves you money, and you can use the excess instead of tossing it. When you cut the pieces, make sure that the grain will be running perpendicular to the center joint on the back plate. If the grain runs in the same direction, it will not have the same strength, and will not hold the back plate together as well.

how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsSome guitar makers install a full length center seam reinforcement on the back, and others install smaller pieces in between the braces. It does not matter which way you do it.

The only difference between the two methods is that it can be a little easier to get a tight fit without any fuss if you glue in a full strip.

When you glue in a full strip, you end up chiseling out a small section for the brace to pass through. Since the chisel is very sharp, and you can cut very precisely, you end up making a slot that is just big enough.

This perfect fit is a little harder to achieve with individual strips, but it can still be done. Don’t stress too much about a super perfect fit, just make sure the seam is reinforced well, and that the pieces all touch each other.

Use Cam Clamps to Curve your Back Plate

how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsSince the braces are already carved with a radius on one side, and the back plate is more flexible than the braces, all you need to do is clamp the two together.

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When you do, the back plate will bend to the shape of the braces.

As long as you get the radius correct on the braces, the back plate will take whatever shape you clamp it to. Using a set of long reach cam clamps helps grab the pieces and hold them tightly while the glue dries.

Each brace helps pull the back plate into a nice radius, and once dry, the plate will remain like that. I recommend that you make a bunch of cam clamps rather than buy them. They can be expensive, and you are more than qualified to make them if you are making an acoustic guitar.

how to brace the back plate guitar making tipsFrom this angle you can see how the shape of the back plate conforms to the shape of the braces. The cam clamps grab from the top and the bottom, and they can reach really deep into the piece.

When you make a set of these clamps, consider that the deepest you will probably need to reach is about 8 inches. That will get you from the edge of the lower bout to the center of either plate.

The clamps still work just as well at a shorter distance, so making them all the same just works out. The clamps provide just enough pressure to do the job, and are super inexpensive when you make them yourself.

If you have any questions about How to Brace the Back Plate – Guitar Making Tips, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.

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