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  1. #1

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    Hey all,
    Longtime guitar player and have been deep diving into jazz the last 2+ years. Also longtime hobbyist woodworker and decided when the pandemic lockdown kicked in that I would finally have a go at building an archtop. I have owned the original Benedetto book for 15+ years and got a copy of volume 2 along with the full size plans fro Stew-Mac.In mid-July I started building the mold from plywood and purchased a nice piece of 4A spruce that the shop re-sawed for me for the book match. Glued that baby up and started after it following the process. I don't have a floor mount drill press so I'm improvising a bit with a cordless drill...all good. It took me until the end of August and I have a 98% complete top. Happy! Picked up some cheap finger planes along the way and then also an Ibex (well worth it). Re-learned how to properly sharpen irons on a whetstone and the process went well.

    Now I'm into the back, which is a book-matched piece of tiger maple. This piece of wood was a good price so it has a couple of small imperfections but it's all good...it's my first guitar. I'll be happy if it works like a guitar should when I'm all said and done. But boy if the spruce took a month and a half this piece of maple is going to take twice as long....

    I have some pics and videos here and there and will attempt to chronicle the process as best I can along with lessons learned.

    Here we go.
    Last edited by mbar65; 12-30-2020 at 12:29 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    Hey all,
    Longtime guitar player and have been deep diving into jazz the last 2+ years. Also longtime hobbyist woodworker and decided when the pandemic lockdown kicked in that I would finally have a go at building an archtop. I have owned the originally Benedetto book for 15+ years and got a copy of volume 2 along with the full size plans fro Stew-Mac.In mid-July I started building the mold from plywood and purchased a nice piece of 4A spruce that the shop re-sawed for me for the book match. Glued that baby up and started after it following the process. I don't have a floor mount drill press so I'm improvising a bit with a cordless drill...all good. It took me until the end of August and I have a 98% complete top. Happy! Picked up some cheap finger planes along the way and then also an Ibex (well worth it). Re-learned how to properly sharpen irons on a whetstone and the process went well.

    Now I'm into the back, which is a book-matched piece of tiger maple. This piece of wood was a good price so it has a couple of small imperfections but it's all good...it's my first guitar. I'll be happy if it works like a guitar should when I'm all said and done. But boy if the spruce took a month and a half this piece of maple is going to take twice as long....

    I have some pics and videos here and there and will attempt to chronicle the process as best I can along with lessons learned.

    Here we go.

  4. #3

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    I hope you’ll post pics so we can cheer you on, every step of the way!

  5. #4

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    I'm very much looking forward to it. Thanks in advance.

  6. #5

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    Here's a link to a short clip. Sorry to make you have to go over to my YT channel but it's kind of the only way with video postings. At least I can't figure out another way.



    All comments and questions welcome as we move along.
    Cheers,
    Mike

  7. #6

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    Here I'm using an oscillating spindle sander to bring the shape of the guitar body into spec. on the top. As you can see I've glued the pattern directly to the wood and will drill all the holes for the next step to rough out the contour of the top. That's coming in a subsequent set of pics and/or vid.

    By the way I've roughed out the shape just with a handheld jigsaw. I do not own a band saw. I purchased the OSS and the thing is money. I'm very happy I bought it...



    Thanks for following along.
    ~Mike

  8. #7

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    I don't have a drill press so I did some math and with a piece of painters tape acting as a depth guide, I'm drilling the holes of the pattern with this manual method. It took a whole lot longer but was a totally fine way to do it.


  9. #8

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    Here's a short clip of some of the details of how to carve the back of the guitar.


  10. #9

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    Here I'm walking you through my process for getting close to the final dimensions and curvatures for the outer surface of the back. I'm probably 1-2 hours away from completing the outer surface and then I'll be flipping the piece over and doing the inside. I'm planning to use a plunge router for the hole drilling because I don't have a floor mounted 12" drill press and I do not want to hand drill the holes again like I did for the top. The plunge route method with a down cut spiral bit to the proper depth should work great.


  11. #10

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    Here is the next installment....my modified process for roughing the inside of the back. Hope to be on to F-Holes and the sides in January 2021.


  12. #11

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    Hey Mark. How's it coming along?

    Looking good!

  13. #12

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    Hey all it's Mike. The back is nearly carved scraped and sanded to final dimensions and I've located and drawn the f-holes on the top of the guitar. I hope to get those cut out today. I have some perfing and binding materials coming in this week. We'll put some perfing on the f-holes and then we'll be on to the x-bracing for the top. I have those pieces cut and planed to the proper starting dimensions. I'm having a lot of fun with this project but it is slowing going with the amount of time per week that I put into it which is probably only 3-5 hours. It's all good....another video up soon too.

  14. #13

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    The f-holes are in the top. The x-braces are made and fitted but not glued in yet. And now I'm into making wood purfling and bending it for the f-hole bindings.

    This is going to take some practice. I have plenty of scrap cherry and/or walnut that I can cut and sand into strips for practice material. I've made jigs to hold the bent wood to set it up. I tried a method today that I've seen online using a soldering iron to heat up the wet wood for bending. I immediately burnt the wood! Obviously the iron is too hot and I don't have one that is adjustable. Another method I've seen Rick McCurdy use is the bending iron using a lamp stem and some kind of a heat source in back of it. Not sure yet how that all goes together. He refers to it as the method in the Cumpiano book so I found that book and ordered it. We'll see what I can learn when it arrives. In the meantime does anyone here with experience have any ideas?

    I have to get a few more video clips up too for the additional steps I've completed.
    Regards,
    Mike

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    The f-holes are in the top. The x-braces are made and fitted but not glued in yet. And now I'm into making wood purfling and bending it for the f-hole bindings.

    This is going to take some practice. I have plenty of scrap cherry and/or walnut that I can cut and sand into strips for practice material. I've made jigs to hold the bent wood to set it up. I tried a method today that I've seen online using a soldering iron to heat up the wet wood for bending. I immediately burnt the wood! Obviously the iron is too hot and I don't have one that is adjustable. Another method I've seen Rick McCurdy use is the bending iron using a lamp stem and some kind of a heat source in back of it. Not sure yet how that all goes together. He refers to it as the method in the Cumpiano book so I found that book and ordered it. We'll see what I can learn when it arrives. In the meantime does anyone here with experience have any ideas?

    I have to get a few more video clips up too for the additional steps I've completed.
    Regards,
    Mike
    You started the guitar with top and back plates, and haven't bent the sides, correct?

    I have never bent/applied any binding before, but you may want to go the route I went with a piece of EMT conduit stuffed with aluminum foil and drill a hole for a little heater cartridge. I ordered mine from Grainger (let me know if you want more info on it). Then you can wire to a dimmer switch with control of temperature, and can use it for both the sides as well as the binding..

  16. #15

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    Correct...I have not bent the sides yet. These bindings are my first foray into moistening, heating and bending wood. Yes please let me know the details of your heat controllable bending tube. Sounds like a neat little design....

  17. #16

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    Wow—big project! Sounds like fun!

    I made a classical guitar from a kit once—turned out OK, nothing special—I think my daughter still has it.

    I will probably make an electric guitar like an LP from a Stew Mac kit in the near future. I have thought about flattop making from scratch, but that is a rabbit hole I have not chose to go down...yet...

    A good drill press is a really handy thing...I got a Jet tabletop on sale last year, and it was one of my better purchases.

    If you don’t have a press—which are easy to find at garage sales and Craigslist all day long btw—this is a reasonable compromise:

    Drill Guide - Lee Valley Tools

    Anyway, keep those updates coming!

  18. #17

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    As far as bending wood, you can get some bending irons for pretty cheap (or spend $270 for the Stew Mac version). There are YouTube videos on making your own as well.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...rh-qhn6SirQdUz

    You might try soaking the wood and heating with a heat gun. There are also very cheap steam boxes one can make for wood bending—again videos all over YouTube.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    Correct...I have not bent the sides yet. These bindings are my first foray into moistening, heating and bending wood. Yes please let me know the details of your heat controllable bending tube. Sounds like a neat little design....
    I used a 1-1/2” piece of EMT conduit about a foot long or so and stuffed it tight and full with Reynold’s aluminum foil (don’t use the cheap dollar store foil - it’s too light). Then drill a whole in one end with whatever bit size will fit the heater cartridge and make it long enough so you stick the cartridge all the way in.

    Then just wire the heater cartridge to a light switch dimmer of your choice.

    I used a jigsaw to cut a whole in a block of wood to the diameter of whatever EMT pipe size you used and then put whole pipe system through it so you can hole it in your workbench vice. It’s def a temporary block, because it will scorch and eventually break. Use something better than pine, so it’ll last you past this one guitar. Haha
    Another New (and newbie) Archtop Build...-a8bfbce3-d696-4884-8623-c81eb185e334-png

    I used a 300w cartridge and it gets more than hot enough:

    TEMPCO Swaged Cartridge Heater, Lead Length 12 in, 120V AC, Watts 300 W, 57W'/'sq in, Diameter 3'/'8 in - 4NJX6'|'HDC12441 - Grainger

    Think I kept the dial at about 70% high and that was enough.

    I soaked my sides in the bathtub for about a half hour before I bent them. I would spray to keep wood from drying and burning during bending and I used the StewMac metal side bending strip to keep the steam in.

    It’s a pretty fun process.

  20. #19

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    Hi,
    I've been making good and steady progress on the build. I've successfully (1) bent and installed the bindings on the f-holes; (2) bent the sides (there is a learning curve there for sure (no pun intended)); (3) installed the tail and neck blocks and glued up the side sub-assembly, and (4) roughed out the neck and cut the truss rod slot. I'm gluing the kerfings and support braces on the sides now and that should be done tomorrow.

    I will get some video clips and pictures up. I built home made bending irons. They worked great.

    Does anyone have guidance on a neck tapering jig to cut the taper of 0.032" from the first to the tenth fret? I can find no details on plans to build said jig. I'm wondering if I even need to do this. I intend to spoke shave and rasp the neck to near finished dimensions with the profile of my current archtop as the model because I like the neck on that guitar. The truss rod I purchased from stew Mac is way too long and I'm going to have to cut and re-thread that guy to the proper length.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    This is going to take some practice.
    The guy I apprenticed to said, "Sam, the first two hundred are the toughest."

    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    Does anyone have guidance on a neck tapering jig to cut the taper of 0.032" from the first to the tenth fret?
    It's been decades since I've done it but FWIW my advice is to leave it waaaay rough until you have the truss-rod and fingerboard glued on. Perfecting the 0.03" taper can come after that.

    Think about investing in a cheap plastic dial-caliper. Measure your model neck at the nut, 5th, 12th etc. Rasp flat spots about 0.1" larger than those numbers perpendicular to the neck, then whack away until those flattened marks flow together. Then keep using the calipers for the fine work.

    I hope this is more than no help.

  22. #21

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    Good advice...I have the dial calipers and one of those wire profile gages where you push it into a profile and it retains that shape. So I can do a thorough job of measuring the "model" I'm going after with the carve. And I intend to get the truss rod in it and the fingerboard glued on before starting the shaping process. Slowly but surely sneaking up on it sounds like the way to go.

  23. #22

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    I've made great progress. I'm currently finish sanding the body and starting to contemplate process and technique for cutting the binding channels. I'm also in the middle of hand cutting the fret slots in the fingerboard. That's going just fine.

    I have a small router (laminate style) but as I research how to cut the binding channel I'm getting a bit freaked out at the thought of putting a power tool on the body. For first timers did you rout the channels or cut them by hand with a gramil tool and chiseling away the material?

  24. #23

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    Here is a picture of the glued up body of the guitar.
    Attached Images Attached Images Another New (and newbie) Archtop Build...-img_1029-jpg 

  25. #24

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    Nice! Keep up the good work!

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbar65
    I'm getting a bit freaked out at the thought of putting a power tool on the body. For first timers did you rout the channels or cut them by hand with a gramil tool and chiseling away the material?
    Yeah, that's a high-stakes moment. You actually are one sneeze away from spoiling hours of work. The two things I paid people to do on the flat-top I built were to rout for binding (for risk) and to spray lacquer (because gear).

    It's ok to draw on the expertise of others. You're allowed to learn some things this time and some more things next time.