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  1. #26

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    Got the carving cradle/clamp cauls out of the clamps yesterday and got the top and back plate wedges glued up.

    The Sitka spruce top came in the standard wedge form. The bottom (inside) when laying on the table wasn't flat, and the edges I jointed didn't come together well because it wasn't jointed. The wedges measured approximately 8 1/2" each, and the jointer max is 8". This made me nervous to cut down to near minimum to run a pass on the jointer, but I decided that it was necessary to do in order to have a super-tight glue surface. So, I took the plunge and was super careful to cut at exactly 8" on the table saw. I ran through one pass (1/16") on the jointer to flatten the bottom surface, and then re-jointed with one pass the edge to 90 degrees. This helped significantly. However, I still refined the glue surface with a Lie-Nielsen #4 hand plane. These are the dry-fit tests of the top plate:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2508-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2506-jpg

    The maple back plate was entire milled square to just over 15/16", so I didn't need to do much tweaking. I took a few passes with the hand plane to refine the seam, but otherwise was ready for glue-up after milling.

    Remainder pix are post-gluing of top plate, back plate, and in the clamps:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2511-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2512-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2509-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2513-jpg
    Last edited by sbeishline; 05-11-2019 at 05:00 PM.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbeishline
    I entered the general wood working world about a year ago...
    In a pretty big way, it appears!

  4. #28

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    Welp, Benedetto’s contour map templates are great if you’re making a 17” instrument. However, it’s not straightforward for other sizes.

    For anyone who needs to transpose for other body sizes, the X-value is 6.8. You get that by using his known values with the equation: 17” = X x .25 (250% enlargement of his included template), and solving for X. So basically you multiply 6.8 by whatever percentage you need to get to the desired lower bout width. So for mine, I determined by trial and error 6.8 x 2.1875 = 14.875, or 14 7/8 (my guitar lower bout width). Because Kinko’s big printer doesn’t have an option for decimals, I went with 219% and it came purdy close:

    First-timer Archtop Build-1c222643-be57-449c-ba76-87ba215b1739-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-409af764-5ca3-4330-83ac-874d5a204e8f-jpg

    Similarly, I had to scale DOWN the arching templates, which come full size for a 17” body. For this, the employee at Kinko’s had an old school proportional scale, which resulted in downsizing came to about 86.5% from original size and they look pretty good, too.

    First-timer Archtop Build-ed444726-dbf7-4593-acff-9a48113d00fd-jpg

    I will probably create some Masonite templates from the printed arching shapes to use when carving.

  5. #29

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    Welp. Anyone notice what I did wrong in one of the photos of the maple back plate up there?

  6. #30

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    First derailment. For the side I selected as the outside of the back plate, I traced and cut out the shape backwards. Which leaves 3 options for that piece:

    A. Use the other side as the outside (asymmetric color and not nearly as pretty):

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2570-jpg

    B. Save the pieces for another instrument with a maple top.

    C. Use the piece as a back for a lefty for my buddy, Mezlo.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2571-jpg

    At any rate, don't be sad - that just means more wood working! I milled up an extra piece I had from the maple I used for the sides, and turns out the figure is much nicer on that one anyways. Will glue that up and retrace with the guitar cutaway on the OTHER side. As I said before, it's an easy mistake to make!

    PS - I just set the shell on top for the photo - I'll flip it before I trace it on!!!!

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2572-jpg

  7. #31

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    I hadn't yet realized I had cut the back plate out backwards when I did the spruce top plate, which was probably a good thing because I didn't want to mess up the top.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2557-jpg

    First-timer Archtop Build-57844658850__13f2031b-25e2-4a09-bcc5-6cc179ed9108-jpg

    I had just started to band saw out the shape, when...... SNAP:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2564-jpg

    Ugh - not sure why that happened as I had been using this previously. Anyways, I had to audible to the 1/2" blade. Because the blade was a bit wider, I had to make a bunch of relief cuts; however, overall it came out okay. The graphite pencil lines you see are for the 16" guitar that came on the piece from Alaska. I cut to blue lines that are harder to see in these pics.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2569-jpg

    Next steps for the top plate will be to refine the rough band saw cut on the spindle sander and then mark the top with the contour map.

    First-timer Archtop Build-57844405842__cc53f6e1-ce69-4c58-bdc1-eee0e067c1eb-jpg

    Overall, it's sort of starting to come together to look like a box!

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2568-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2566-jpg

  8. #32

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    After you carve your back plate the appearance of the grain lines will change to some extent anyway. After carving you will see the same grain lines in the center of the plate and the outside of the plate will show more of the grain lines from the other side of the plate. So predicting the final look of your grain lines will change after carving is completed no matter which side you use. It is important only if your plate halves are well book matched.

  9. #33

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    I second Matt. You have no idea how much you carve away. Maybe 80%-90% ends up as chips on the floor. In fact, if you did have a beautiful book matched face before carving you probably would be deeply disappointed when you are done. The only plates that are perfectly book matched when done are laminated.

    If you have good wood, carve away. Let the wood speak for itself.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  10. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by rlrhett
    I second Matt. You have no idea how much you carve away. Maybe 80%-90% ends up as chips on the floor. In fact, if you did have a beautiful book matched face before carving you probably would be deeply disappointed when you are done. The only plates that are perfectly book matched when done are laminated.

    If you have good wood, carve away. Let the wood speak for itself.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman
    After you carve your back plate the appearance of the grain lines will change to some extent anyway. After carving you will see the same grain lines in the center of the plate and the outside of the plate will show more of the grain lines from the other side of the plate. So predicting the final look of your grain lines will change after carving is completed no matter which side you use. It is important only if your plate halves are well book matched.

    Really appreciate your direction guys.

  11. #35

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  12. #36

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    It’s coming along very nice - thanks for sharing your build. I’m looking forward to following this until completion.

  13. #37

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    So, I decided to go with the Safe-T-Planer (STP) from StewMac instead of the drill hole map for the outsides of the top and back plates. Being that I had band-sawed a new back plate out of a maple after I figured I screwed up the first tracing, I decided to use the "lefty" piece as a practice piece to get some experience.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2581-jpg
    First, I first cut out the enlarged Benedetto contour guide into its various map lines.
    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2607-jpg

    I then traced the central-most contour and used the STP to cut down to the indicated depth. Back and forth I went to tracing the next level down and STP'ing that level using the Infinity set-up blocks (seen above) for the particular height level. As you can see from the photo of the ziggurat below, I learned a few things:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2612-jpg

    The first couple of levels were minimal removal and the STP seemed to work pretty well. The cuts were fairly clean. As I got down to the 3rd and 4th levels, the drops were thicker and the cutting became quite a bit more difficult and the overall cut surface didn't seemed to be as tidy as expected. Because I was cutting such a thick amount, I decided to take it over 2 depths. Despite this, it was pretty slow going, and the STP became very hot and was scorching the wood. Eventually, I decided to call it quits for the night and walked away wishing it could've gone a bit easier and chalking it up to the hardness of the maple. Fortunately, I had the peace of mind knowing that piece was able to be used as practice.

    When I got back to the bench, I wanted to inspect the STP cutters to see if the work/heat caused any sort of damage to the blade temper. The cutters have 2 blades, so you can flip when the one wears out, breaks, or whatnot. Welp, good news bad news. It turns out that one of the cutters was turned so that neither of the blades was exposed, so I ultimately cut the practice piece with only 2 of 3 functional blades!

    I also learned that it's probably better to take more passes with less cut thickness, which makes for more back and forth, but likely saving a lot of physical effort, strain on the STP, better cuts, and overall time. I think this equates to a general life lesson: don't try to take too much at one time.

    The other general woodworking lesson that was reinforced is: make sure your tools are in good working order before you use them.

    At any rate, knowing the cutter was hidden, I fixed it and decided to see what happened when I went back to the practice piece. Needless to say, the cutter was MUCH smoother, cut better, and was nearly effortless to spin around each level and saved a ton of time. You can easily appreciate this in the few extra levels I cut where the wood scorch was located.

    Finally, I should note Benedetto's contour guide (although it's instructed to be just that, a guide), only includes 5 levels for the contouring. Using the STP, I'm feeling like it may be advantageous to make more contour levels to ease out the contour gradations (assuming that's the goal for your desired arch, of course).

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2621-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2622-jpg

    Next up, I'll be starting to practice planing this piece with various planes. I bought 3 luthier-specific planes for this project, although I am thankful my woodworking coach and good friend has Lie-Nielsen general woodworking planes (low-angle block, #4, #62, etc- Thanks Steve!):

    1. D'Angelico -Lg
    2. Veritas detail palm plane (equates to Ibex 10mm except has palm handle)
    3. Lie-Nielsen 101 violin maker's plane
    Last edited by sbeishline; 05-11-2019 at 05:05 PM.

  14. #38

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    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2640-jpgFirst thing I did today was take a pass with the STP to bring the edge of the practice piece to 1/4". I didn't do this to a uniform width from the edge:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2632-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2633-jpg

    As mentioned in a previous post, I am using these 3 handy little planes:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2634-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2635-jpg

    I started off on the outer lower tiers using the Lie-Nielsen 101 plane and that thing is fantastic. Really nice blade and if the surface is agreeable, it shaves down quickly, easily, and smoothly. Once the areas get a bit too curvy, the D'Angelico plane works nicely. I read some unhappy reviews on this and hesitated a while before I deciding on which one to get, but it's solid. Strangely, as I had read from a "this thing doesn't work review," lmii sends this thing out with the bevel up in the plane and it is meant to be a bevel-down plane.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2636-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2637-jpg

    Additionally, I am using some gouges to assist the carving process: 3/8" #7 sweep, 5/8" #6 sweep, and 1" #5 sweep, as well as a smaller sized fairly old german curved gouge (seen in pic below), which was my grandfather, Sam's.

    First-timer Archtop Build-57928557621__62408c6b-e002-4153-9069-8a3c02b4e76b-jpg

    I'd say the groove I found was, maximize area first with LN 101, blend with D'A and gouges, and when the ledges from tier were close, I'd smooth it close with the Veritas.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2640-jpg

    At the very end of the session, I gave it a smoothing with an orbital sander (limited time wise from getting it finished). Took some pics with the lights off to illustrate the curvature:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2645-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2643-jpg

    Overall, I'm pretty happy with my first carving/planing experience. Also, I think that I cut the 1/4" tier too wide as the arch doesn't blend equally all the way towards where the recurve will be. I think on the real pieces, I'll make more tiers with shorter distances to make the hand work less tedious and more nicely arched. Likely, easier said than done.

    Next up... practicing drilling the inside contour and carving the inside arch.

    PS - I still need to get some scrapers.
    Last edited by sbeishline; 05-21-2019 at 07:22 AM.

  15. #39

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    She's looking good from here. When you remove wood from the inside area, it is possible to see some movment at the outside edge of your plates. Some plates stay flat as you carve them and some don't. So it is best to leave the edge a little thick and then after you carve the inside most of the way. Then go back and thin down your outer edges leaving the recurve until final carving.

  16. #40

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    Attempted to make the practice piece back plate outside arch transition a bit better near the recurve area:

    First-timer Archtop Build-57948943839__c5fd2291-f9ca-4c81-910e-ee7a771289fa-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-57948941006__a1d2524a-9316-4b12-bc07-ddf045228892-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-57948945885__27161ee2-eab7-4cd5-913b-92385ce58087-jpg

  17. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbeishline
    Attempted to make the practice piece back plate outside arch transition a bit better near the recurve area:
    Looks really nice. Good job.

    The transition from recurve to arch is abrupt by American standards, but reminiscent of German carves. That’s can be a good thing.

    Google german carve to see what I mean. If you don’t like it, you can always soften that curve before you carve the inside.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  18. #42

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    I decided to make a depth stop as instructed in the Benedetto book for drilling out the wood waste of the inside arch. For the first removal, I used a 3/4" Forstner bit. Then to remove the remainder of the wood between the 3/4" holes, I used a larger, ?2" Forstner bit. This went pretty quickly overall.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2650-jpg

    I then got out the carving gouges and mallet and had at it. This requires a lot of physical energy and hacking away. Unfortunately, the Forster bits left lots of uneven surfaces, making for tedious gouging and difficulty getting a decent surface to run the D'A hand plane through:

    First-timer Archtop Build-57948947210__399f1b2f-a079-4e0e-8487-daa5cd5ca0b6-1-jpg

    Next session I got to continue to gouge and plane a bit more and have started to use the Veritas 10mm detail palm plane, as well. This is where it stands currently... still needs a bit of work to get the transition.

    In one spot, the calipers say 0.15 near the recurve, which is a bit thin (goal of 3/16'") if not in the recurve area.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2667-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2666-jpg

    I decided to cheat a little bit for the real piece and bought the King Arthur Tools Lancelot wood carving disc (AKA small 4.5" chainsaw wheel) to use on an angle grinder in order to remove wood waste in a more even manor; hopefully, leading to a smoother transition from gross wood removal to gouge/hand planes.

  19. #43

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    FYI - as seen by my practice carve - and Rhett's observation - it's a pretty aggressive arch from the recurve. Because of this, the piece has not fit flat on the carving caul lip, and wouldn't work when it comes time to "close the box." Because of this, I used a router and basically cut a 3/8" rabbit in the caul lip, which solved the problem of the pregnant arch belly:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2663-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2665-jpg

    On the official back plate, I'll plan to make a smoother arch.

  20. #44

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    Since my last post, I made a lot of progress with the inside of back plate with the gouge, but mostly hand planes.. and eventually the orbital sander:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2678-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-57988989394__123297a1-e488-4f03-aa03-8383bc9bc0cd-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2680-jpg

    As seen, I also finalized the clamping/carving caul with the addition of a bolt/washer/nut with metal plate to hold the top/back plate in place. I just cut a scrap block to use as the leverage point. Also, I put some felt padding on the underside of that metal plate to protect the end of the wood.

  21. #45

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    As seen above in "Spoiler Alert" post, I had the replacement piece of maple for the back plate. Here it is in the ziggurat planning stage:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2690-jpg

    This was just to get an idea, as all but the lines and markings are erased when STP'ing that inner-most 1" contour. Then the paper template needs to go back on to trace the next outer level.

    Continued STP progress:

    First-timer Archtop Build-58001059757__0144370b-1953-4603-8093-020ac01e7e30-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2692-jpg

    You can see the 2 circular marks in the bottom of the last photo - for some reason the STP cut a little bit deeper than the 0.25" (to about 3/16"!).... fortunately, it didn't go deeper because that's the goal thickness.

    Here's my current progress with the hand planes (LN 101 and D'A):

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2699-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2700-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2701-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2702-jpg

  22. #46

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    Continued planing with the aforementioned hand planes, and added in the Lee Valley Detail palm plane for the more abrupt contours on the lateral (treble/bass) sides:

    First-timer Archtop Build-6cc7eb25-1a80-47fd-86e1-b2315d3049c3-jpg
    First-timer Archtop Build-f1a82d6b-ccc1-42c0-bda4-ad51fe7d25bd-jpg

    At this point, I’ll probably do a little bit of orbital sander on the outside and then drill the inside holes using a regular 3/8” drill bit. Although the Fortstner bit removes more wood than the drill holes, I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you’re going to do most of the wood waste removal with a mallet/gouge.
    Last edited by sbeishline; 09-07-2019 at 09:03 AM.

  23. #47

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    Took the plate right from the previous photos to the orbital sander to smooth things out:

    First-timer Archtop Build-58034377333__f7d0e8fd-8235-4b37-91aa-520190dedc87-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-58034376457__f73f85be-f387-49eb-bdd3-4b0d38e3885d-jpg

    Then back to the orbital sander. Oh. And back to the planes again..

    Funny, you find out that despite making it look pretty, you are often going back to the planes to continue easing the contour transitions.

    Current state of affairs:

    First-timer Archtop Build-58035038948__80b17eef-3753-4f89-a6ab-1a84ae1f6d6f-jpg

    Added pencil marks where the contour still needs to be refined:

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2734-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2735-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2733-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2732-jpg

  24. #48

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    With a bit more of the D'A and LN planes, I was able to continue to smooth the arch.. Smartly, my woodworking compadre suggested I try the contour gauge we bought for a previous stool project may come in handy. This was a good idea to help speed the refinement.

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2755-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2757-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2756-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2758-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2754-jpg

  25. #49

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    I realized from the previous maple practice piece that it's easy to end up removing wood and getting too close to the flat glue zone because of a lack of planning a good transition zone.

    So for the real piece, I lined up the back plate centerline with the guitar shell centerline and traced the inside of the kerfing and neck/tail blocks. Additionally, I used the 1/4" washer and traced a primary buffer and then free-handed a second 1/4" transition zone (labed T):

    First-timer Archtop Build-img_2761-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2760-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2759-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2762-jpgFirst-timer Archtop Build-img_2763-jpg

  26. #50

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