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  1. #1
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    Is the ES175 Symmetrical or is My Plan Wrong?

    I have been studying the plan for an ES175 created by Australian Luthierie Supply, which is about all you'll find if you search for ES175 plans! I was trying to make the template for the mold by tracing the "bass" side of the guitar and then flipping it for the treble and adding the cutaway. But when I checked the result by laying it on the plan, I kept coming up with an error.

    Folding the plan over and holding it up to the light, I realized the plan itself has the guitar notably wider on the treble side of the centerline than on the bass (see attached pic).

    I then measured, and found that the plan has the waist at 120mm on the bass side, 127mm on the treble side, then at a line a bit higher on the guitar, it is 130mm on the bass side and 137mm on the treble side.

    So... is the ES175 actually not a symmetrical design or is this plan varying from the shape of the guitar?

    Is the ES175 Symmetrical or is My Plan Wrong?-img_5943-jpg
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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  3. #2
    Not to open an old much-discussed can of worms, but to my eye, different era 175 guitars look different.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 01-29-2017 at 03:14 PM.

  4. #3
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    The plan is likely to be correct. The cutaway portion is probably changed slightly to relax the curve a bit for easier bending of the wood. This is only a guess but I can't imagine the plan would be that far off from the example it was drawn from.

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    The plan is likely to be correct. The cutaway portion is probably changed slightly to relax the curve a bit for easier bending of the wood. This is only a guess but I can't imagine the plan would be that far off from the example it was drawn from.
    Thanks for the suggestion. I need to measure my ES175 to see whether perhaps it also is a tad asymmetrical.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  6. #5
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    Take a look at photos of the Howard Roberts fusion and the asymmetricality is really obvious. It looks like the treble side is an inch wider. So I would not be surprised if the ES-175 is asymmetrical.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  7. #6
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    I will definitely measure my 1959VOS when I get home tonight. This is most intriguing!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  8. #7
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    FWIW, my Epi ES175 is too hard to measure, with the pickup switch and pickguard being in the way, and I'm not going to remove them just to measure. But my Benedetto and Eastman are both asymmetrical, with the treble side being just slightly wider.

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    FWIW, my Epi ES175 is too hard to measure, with the pickup switch and pickguard being in the way, and I'm not going to remove them just to measure. But my Benedetto and Eastman are both asymmetrical, with the treble side being just slightly wider.
    That seems to be what I'm hearing from several sources.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  10. #9
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    For what it's worth, I"ve laid this plan on my 1959VOS ES175, a 1990s ES165, an Epiphone ES175 Premium, and a Loar LH650 and it does not really match any of them.

    It seems that the notion of the 16" archtop with a sharp cutaway is a fairly elastic specification.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    FWIW, my Epi ES175 is too hard to measure, with the pickup switch and pickguard being in the way, and I'm not going to remove them just to measure.
    Measure the back?

  12. #11
    Just measured my mid-70s 175 from the centre of the fingerboard at the top fret, to the left and the right. To the right (where the cutaway lies) to the outer edge of the top, is a fraction over 14 cm. To the left is almost the same, maybe 2 or 3 mm more. So it's almost symmetrical, but not quite.

  13. #12
    I wouldn't trust the plans at all! I bought some L-5 plans but threw them out. They were just a rough approximation, junk drawn up by someone who saw a gap in the market.

    I would bet the 175 should be symmetrical, but that the neck is sometimes put in slightly off at the factory. These things aren't precision items like a swiss watch or a F1 car engine. I bet there is a fair amount of "artistic licence" involved, especially if a blemish needs to be avoided or something like that.

    Are you an academic Lawson? I studied for a doctorate in engineering and one thing I realised was that a lot of technical papers are pretty useless if not plain wrong, and papers are peer reviewed so there should be some selection, but it often fails. I bet you find the same. A lot of books about jazz guitar a rubbish. Most content on the internet is complete crap. Youtube is rammed with flat earth videos, as I found out trying to find a video of on board footage of one of the Apollo missions. Unless your plans are from Gibson, who knows who drew them and what they used as a template! If you've got the real thing, there can be no better template than that!

  14. #13
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    Measure the back?
    There is no easy way to find the exact center on the back. It has a strap button, but I can't be sure it's in the exact center. Other than that, there is nothing.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by plasticpigeon View Post
    I wouldn't trust the plans at all! I bought some L-5 plans but threw them out. They were just a rough approximation, junk drawn up by someone who saw a gap in the market.

    I would bet the 175 should be symmetrical, but that the neck is sometimes put in slightly off at the factory. These things aren't precision items like a swiss watch or a F1 car engine. I bet there is a fair amount of "artistic licence" involved, especially if a blemish needs to be avoided or something like that.

    Are you an academic Lawson? I studied for a doctorate in engineering and one thing I realised was that a lot of technical papers are pretty useless if not plain wrong, and papers are peer reviewed so there should be some selection, but it often fails. I bet you find the same. A lot of books about jazz guitar a rubbish. Most content on the internet is complete crap. Youtube is rammed with flat earth videos, as I found out trying to find a video of on board footage of one of the Apollo missions. Unless your plans are from Gibson, who knows who drew them and what they used as a template! If you've got the real thing, there can be no better template than that!
    Yes indeed I'm a member of the "Academic" tribe and understand what you're talking about. "Blind peer review" can easily become "blind group think."

    I'm trying to ease into guitar building and so I'm buying and studying plans while looking for good deals on materials and tools. So studying the ES175 plan was raising these questions for me. I'll try to measure my own 1959 VOS today.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  16. #15
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    When I look at the folded plan, it looks like the cutaway would be too small and " sharp " looking if the it had the same shape as the bass side does. The mold can always be altered if you don't like the final body shape you get. Oftentimes guitars that feature a cutaway are not symmetrical from bass side to treble side. There are no doubt some variations within a model like the ES 175 that has so many examples in existence.
    Last edited by Matt Cushman; 01-30-2017 at 02:55 PM.

  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    When I look at the folded plan, it looks like the cutaway would be too small and " sharp " looking if the it had the same shape as the bass side does. The mold can always be altered if you don't like the final body shape you get. Oftentimes guitars that feature a cutaway are not symmetrical from bass side to treble side. There are no doubt some variations within a model like the ES 175 that has so many examples in existence.
    True. I wrote ALS and got a very nice reply. They are saying they used a very early model (the plan has cutouts for P90s) and that it was indeed asymmetrical.

    I just measured my own VOS1959 ES175, which I know is not going to be identical to the earliest models, but found that it was indeed symmetrical.

    I took the butt-joint on the end as the "Center" and laid a line of low-tack tape up the back bisecting the angle of the bottom curve and hitting the neck heel dead center. From there I ran two lines perpendicular across the center to the waist and to the upper bout just touching the bottom of the cutaway.

    I came up with the waist being 4 7/8" from centerline to outside of the binding, upper bout 5 3/4" from centerline to outside of binding. Both were the same give or take 1/16" as my best estimate of a measurement error.

    Since the difference on the plan was 7mm, I think I can say that my own guitar is symmetrical (cutaway excluded) and that this plan is not.

    I still can easily envision them using an early copy of the ES175 that was not perfectly symmetrical. I think they drew their plan accurately to what they had and in good faith. I'm just trying to decide how I want to proceed. If I go with assymetry, then I can stick with the measurements on this plan. If I change it, then I have to be really careful converting other measurements.

    Or... am I making this already way too hard?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  18. #17
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    I would just go with the plans, it's a lot easier, and not really noticeable. You had to go to some lengths to really see that the plans are asymmetric. I don't think you or anyone else can tell just by looking at the guitar that it's just very slightly asymmetric, so why make things more difficult for yourself?

  19. #18
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    I don't know if you've already built a lot of guitars, but if this is your first let me offer some friendly advice. I help teach a guitar building class at a local college. Every year I tell students two things:

    1) Your first hand built guitar will probably be better than 90% of factory built guitars, so don't over think it. BUT....

    2) you still have to treat it as a practice build. You WILL make mistakes. It will NOT satisfy you. You WILL want to make a second (and third, and fourth).

    If you are going for a carved archtop, do yourself a favor and get the Benedetto book. No, you won't be making an exact Gibson clone. But if you follow the book faithfully you will end up with a damn nice guitar. You will learn what it takes to build an archtop guitar by hand. And you will find out what really interests you about building.

    AFTER you make that first one you can start to think about where you want to go with building. Are you looking to make a Gibson copy that is more faithful to a 50's L5 than any current L5? Do you want to make something along the lines of an Epiphone Masterbuilt De Luxe of the 30's? Are you in the vein of Ken Parker trying to push the envelope of modern design and construction?

    Only when the basics of building a guitar are in your woodworking hands will the symmetry of a specific set of plans for a specific model really mater.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett View Post
    I don't know if you've already built a lot of guitars, but if this is your first let me offer some friendly advice. I help teach a guitar building class at a local college. Every year I tell students two things:

    1) Your first hand built guitar will probably be better than 90% of factory built guitars, so don't over think it. BUT....

    2) you still have to treat it as a practice build. You WILL make mistakes. It will NOT satisfy you. You WILL want to make a second (and third, and fourth).

    If you are going for a carved archtop, do yourself a favor and get the Benedetto book. No, you won't be making an exact Gibson clone. But if you follow the book faithfully you will end up with a damn nice guitar. You will learn what it takes to build an archtop guitar by hand. And you will find out what really interests you about building.

    AFTER you make that first one you can start to think about where you want to go with building. Are you looking to make a Gibson copy that is more faithful to a 50's L5 than any current L5? Do you want to make something along the lines of an Epiphone Masterbuilt De Luxe of the 30's? Are you in the vein of Ken Parker trying to push the envelope of modern design and construction?

    Only when the basics of building a guitar are in your woodworking hands will the symmetry of a specific set of plans for a specific model really mater.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Thanks for the advice. I have been studying on this for some time, and have the Benedetto book and am watching the videos now.

    I have kind of a quirky plan. I have some laminated top and back plates and pre-bent sides already, so I'm thinking I will build a laminated body and focus on learning to carve and set the neck, assemble and finish. Since the tone wood is the biggest single cash investment in the build I though having the rest of the process clearly in mind and part of at least a growing skill set would be helpful. I also plan to practice my carving on construction lumber from the local Home Depot or Lowes.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  21. #20
    I would second rlrhett's cautionary advice.

    I did a couple of partscasters (2 teles and a strat). The strat is the most worthwhile--the fat neck and the strong blade pu's from Vintage Vibe make it a little different from your average strat.

    Even a simple solid-body offers lots of places to mess up. I was handicapped by the loss of my workworking setup: An apt. is definitely not an ideal workplace, and after the first one, I abandoned any attempts at finish work, and used pre-finished bodies.

    You could spend a lot of time and aggravation working on these, and find your playing, and practice time, is getting chewed up. That was my experience after a while. I couldn't wait to get them finished.

    I still learned some valuable things. Minor cosmetic stuff bothers me a lot less on guitars, and I've gotten some good deals on instruments that I probably wouldn't have looked at before. I learned a bit about guitar electronics and have done my own pu swaps.

    Still, no one person in the world knows how to run the NYC subway system: It takes a lot of specialized skill sets, and there is a reason for specialization.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 01-31-2017 at 10:18 AM.

  22. #21
    How did you et on with your archtop build?
    I found your post by chance while researching ES 175 top bracing and I must agree with an earlier reply that the Australian Luthier Supply plans are absolute junk! I wouldn't buy anything from them again.
    I'm currently building my 2nd archtop, my 16th guitar build. Its going well but with the first I ended up borrowing an Epiphone Sorrento from a friend and made my moulds/templates from that.
    I'd be keen to hear of your progress.
    Regards, Ken.

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