The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

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The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Phil » 03 Jan 2013, 22:08

As mentioned elsewhere, 2013 is a sabbatical for me, I’ll be doing a couple of personal projects and a couple of work-related studies. My first personal project is this acoustic guitar. I’ve wanted to build one for years but never had the time. Now’s the right time to get busy with it :)

I’ll do this thread as a bit of a tutorial, I assume there’s not a lot of people who’ve seen threads on building acoustic guitars on this forum so might as well get right in the details and show every step of the build, after all you’ve seen plenty of Jazz bass builds but this one will be completely different.

This is my first acoustic build so I’ve had to do quite a bit of reading, studying, researching and jig building to get started. I think I’ve got close to 10 books on building acoustic guitars by now and several videos, the research and reading on the subject is probably spanning a couple of years so even though this is my first, I’ve certainly built that thing in my head over and over again quite a few times.

This guitar will be a clone of a Gibson J-45 dreadnought acoustic guitar, its actually a gift for an old friend of mine back home who’s a lefty and has been complaining about the lack of decent instruments for him, I thought it would be a nice gift, he asked for it to be sunburst. The first part of the project was for me to get familiar with the guitar’s design, I checked out the Gibson J-45 webpage and googled pics of them. I’ll be building it with the specs shown on the Gibson page, the only difference being I’m using wood I’ve got lying around the workshop to keep costs down. The top will be Sitka Spruce, the back and sides are figured Tassie Blackwood, the sides were a gift from Bill (thanks!) and the back was bought through Australian Lutherie Supplies (or whatever their name is) some time ago, the neck will be made from Tassie Blackwood I have in stock and have some sort of Rosewood fingerboard from my stash. I bought plans online for the J-45 model, not satisfied with one set of plans, I also bought the Stewmac plans, at least I can compare between them :lol:

First step in the build is to prepare all the jigging required, the first and probably most important bit was the mold. As an asides, the problem with having LOTS of reference material is you find out dozens of different ways of doing one step and its pretty much up to you to choose which one to use, so for the body mold, I had choices of inside or outside molds and depending on the way I was going to bend the sides, I’d either need one, the other or both, in the end I went for the cheapest easiest method which was an outside mold and sides bent the old fashioned way with a heated pipe.

For the outside mold, there’s quite a few designs out there, from the cheap ass, adjustable to expensive, here’s a few pics for reference. (so it gets less boring to read all this :D)

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The last pic of the LMII mood is the one that caught my attention, I thought the mold looked damn sexy and I really liked the idea that the sides were going to be under pressure and have a tight fit in all areas instead of just in the bouts like on other models. These are unfortunately about $100+ shipping from the US so armed with the pdf plans of the Dreadnought I bought, I imported the file into RhinoCAD and created a similar mold in the shape of the J-45, I created CNC cutter paths and machined a half side of the mold to create a template.

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I modified the lines of the sides to create the inside part of the mold and machined that too.

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With these two templates, I cut off and shaped several thicknesses of MDF, plywood and paticle board I had lying around to give the thickness needed for the mold and glued all that together, there’s a few pics missing here but the end result is this. While I was there I thought it would be cool to machine my logo in there :D The two halves of the outside mold is held with bolts and threaded knobs to be able to separate the halves when required.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Phil » 03 Jan 2013, 22:44

Next up is the rosette cutting jig, I need this circle cutting jig to insert the rosette and purfling around and also for cutting the soundhole. This one here is the Stewmac version, nice quality but I decided to make my own from plans found in my reference books

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I liked the idea of having that transparent so that was my chance to use a bit of perspex I bought years ago to use as template material and never used. So from the plans I measured up everything to make it fit on my laminate trimmer

The paper covering the perspex has been measured up and drawn where the cuts will happen, I’m using the laminate trimmer in question to machine these bits
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A cut with an angle bit was used to cut this to create a track for sliding the two parts of the jig to make different diameter circle cuts
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More details cut from the part
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The second part is cut
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The two pieces assembled, ready to get the router attached to it.
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Might as well show how to use it :D Here is the Sitka Spruce top being glued together, it arrived from Stewmac in two bookmatched halves, I thicknessed it and then glued as shown
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The top after gluing
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I used scrap plywood as support for the top during the cutting operation, the plywood was also useful to do a practice run to check on the diameter and depth of cut
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I checked out on the ply to see if the purfling/rosette would fit, the rosette on this guitar is actually as simple as it gets, its just two bits os white/black/white purfling next to each other like the J-45, as a first I didn’t really feel like making a complicated one anyway
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So I finally clamped the top on the plywood support (after having sanded the glue lines away from the previous step), drew the body on it and lined it all up, drilled a pilot hole in the middle of the soundhole and cut the rosette, and glued the purfling in
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and then put some scrap ply in my go-bar deck and clamped it
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After removing it from the go-bar deck and scraping and sanding it flush, we get a nice rosette :)
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As an aside here’s another jig I had to do in my spare time, the go-bar deck which is pretty close to essential for clamping all the bits and bobs during the build, there’s nothing very complicated there, two thick plywood plates, 4 fat threaded rods and some nuts, I used wingnuts on the top plate to make the height of the go-bar deck adjustable. These things are kinda genius in simplicty, its just bar cuts slightly longer than the height of the deck that are bent between the two plates exerting pressure on the part being glued under it, its pretty cheap to build too from bits and pieces at Bunnings.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by basshack » 03 Jan 2013, 22:45

And subscribed!
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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Phil » 03 Jan 2013, 23:17

Cool, thanks Blaine :)

The blackwood back
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Being glued together
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Looking through the mold to decide which part of the back to use
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A reinforcement strip is cut from the Spruce top and glued in the middle of the joint as reinforcement
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Next bit was to cut the four back braces and fit them. For the guitar I chose to use a 15 ft radius for the back and a 28 ft radius for the top, these were some of the more frequent radiuses found on acoustics and I could get the radius dishes easily from Stewmac, I bit the bullet and paid for these, making those would have been some major work and a huge PITA I’m sure. A radius dish looks like the bit of MDF lying on the ground next to the go-bar deck in the picture above.(previous post where I introduce the go-bar deck) Its simply a block with a portion of a 15ft (or 28ft) radius sphere cut into the MDF.

So for the bracing I could either shape them by sanding them in the dish until they fit it perfectly but instead I chose to cnc a 15ft radius in a template and use that to cut my braces on the router table.

My 4 square braces for the back trimmed to lenght and width ready to be radiused
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The cnc’ed template made from scrap mdf, the two ends of the template show how deep the radius is. The template is flat at those ends and right in the middle where the pencil line is, one brace is sticked under the template
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The 4 braces once the radius has been cut in them
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The reinforcement strip needs to be cut in the areas where the braces will need to be glued, this needs to be cut flush so the braces have a tight fit between the strip
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and then glued and clamped inside the radius dish so the back takes the shape of the radius
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once the back is out of the deck, notice square braces
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Now the cool part, shaping and tuning the back plate, if there’s one thing that books and internet forums can’t teach you is how to tune the plates, videos are an absolute delight when it come to this part, especially if the guy making the video knows what he’s talking about (you’d hope so?!?) I saw quite a few videos on acoustic guitar repairs and building over the years and honestly, the one I like best is the Robbie O’Brien online course videos, which is little more than just a crapload of tutorial videos, about 40 hours of training in total, the whole course is like $220 but the great thing is he sells them between $15-40 per chapter, awesome as I didn’t want to have them all anyway, so I spent about $100 and got all the teaching I wanted. The one chapter on how to shape and tune the backplate was invaluable, he was really good at showing what to go for in sound and showed plenty of before and after to see the differnce in tone. Anyway... so I tuned the back, I’m pretty happy with my result and the back is good to go, enough for today, rest to come later :)

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Bill Paulin » 03 Jan 2013, 23:33

It all looks really good and you have made a hell of a good start. I see the new plane is earning it's keep.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Phil » 03 Jan 2013, 23:44

It's a fantastic tool, that thing is great, I might have to start shaping everything with only planes and chisels from now on *cough, cough*

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by mkat » 04 Jan 2013, 00:42

You didn't waste any time, straight into it. Looking good, do tell about the plane...
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The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by jamiesdad » 04 Jan 2013, 06:22

Looks awesome phil
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The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by PilbaraBass » 04 Jan 2013, 06:36

Fascinating stuff.
'98 Carvin AC40, '07 Squier JDAV, '91 P-bass, '96 Ibanez ATK300F, '15 Ibanez SR605
Kanye West wrote:My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Phil » 04 Jan 2013, 07:28

mkat wrote:You didn't waste any time, straight into it. Looking good, do tell about the plane...
The jigs have been built in my spare time over the last 4-5 months or so, you're just seeing the pics all at the same time :D the plane is a Veritas DX60 block plane. I wanted a really good plane for a while, I was using a crappy Stanley block plane bought cheap on Ebay before that and it sucked. Since my hand plane experience consisted of shitty ones, I didn't really know the joys of using a good one, decided I wanted either a Lie-Nielsen one or the Veritas one, in the end i got this one simply because its was easier to find, Carbatec sells them. i brought it over to Bill's place when I first got it and the man pretty much freaked at how great it was, I had no idea... I do now, its sharp as and very precise, its a joy to use compared to the one I had. The blade and mouth are very easily adjusted too which makes a world of difference in the cuts you make.

... And that's all I've got to say about that. :D

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by basshack » 04 Jan 2013, 08:29

The Carbatec catalogue is an evil piece of literature. My step-father keeps sending me his old copy in the hope I'll get back into woodwork again. Good thing the shed is full of junk or I'd be properly broke in no time stocking it with tools from them.

With the progress made so far I think you'll be finished in well under a year so I can dump my new Fender P and get you to build me a proper one earlier than planed hey??
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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by PilbaraBass » 04 Jan 2013, 09:12

I was fortunate enough as a kid to be able to use planes that my dad had. He had (still has, I suppose) several and man, the difference between a good plane and a suspect plane are like night and day...
There’s no better feeling than taking a razor sharp plane with the blade set just right and running it through a piece of timber. Those beautiful curls that come through the mouth and that sound of “shhhhhhhhhh-ick” , “shhhhhhhhhh-ick”

Man, I wish I had a wood shop :shrug:
'98 Carvin AC40, '07 Squier JDAV, '91 P-bass, '96 Ibanez ATK300F, '15 Ibanez SR605
Kanye West wrote:My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by mkat » 04 Jan 2013, 09:28

Phil wrote:I wanted a really good plane for a while, I was using a crappy Stanley block plane bought cheap on Ebay before that and it sucked. Since my hand plane experience consisted of shitty ones, I didn't really know the joys of using a good one
I know what you mean, I have a couple of Stanley block planes too and they're a bit of work on top of the work that needs to get done :lol:
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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Bill Paulin » 04 Jan 2013, 12:26

On woodworking and luthiery sites you will find endless threads about " tuning " a plane. What they're on about is lapping the sole and cutter to get them truely flat. All that work is done on the Veritas DX 60.

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Re: The Year Off, Dreadnought Acoustic - #26

Post by Aussie Mark » 04 Jan 2013, 13:44

And here I was thinking I was a great DIY guy because I buillt a pedalboard.

Beautiful work, Phil

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