Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Idiot's Guide to Guitar Building

As I was working on my guitar last night, it occurred to me that I've been at it for almost four months now and, at the rate we're going, it looks like that could be a third of the way there. And, despite my whining and moaning about a lack of progress lately, things are starting to come together. At least it's starting to look like a guitar.

In the past two weeks, I've glued the sides together with the end block and neck block, finished the rosette once and for all (you'll notice I declined to take picture this time - too much bad luck) and added half of the kerfing (that's the strip of wood you glue to the insides so that the top and back has a surface to which they can be glued).

It strikes me that a good deal of the work we're doing requires only modest woodworking skills. Of course it helps to have Ted looking over my shoulder so that he can stop me before I do something really stupid. And learning how to properly use a plane or a chisel is important, but it's not exactly rocket science, either. So I think it's really the tried and true techniques of guitar building that are the most important part of building a good one, rather than the amazing skill of the builder. Don't get me wrong - a fantastic craftsman is going to build a better guitar than mine will be. What I'm getting at is that, so far at least, it seems that a person with modest woodworking skills like myself can build a guitar without too much loss of self esteem. No doubt my having said that will ensure the necessity for me to complete tasks of great skill in the coming weeks. Bring it on, I say!

So it looks like the next steps are to finish the bracing of the front and back, which is extremely important. Once the braces are fixed in place, they need to be shaved down so that they're as light as possible, but still strong. Apparently, this is where the real artistry of guitar building comes in. In the final steps before gluing the top and back to the sides, you're actually "tuning" the guitar - tapping the wood and listening to it resonate, and seeking just the right sound. It's all about balancing strength with flexibility. You want to the wood to vibrate freely but not collapse.

I'm starting to get pretty excited about it all. You know my motto: "If nothing else it will have six strings and make a good drum." And it looks like it won't be long before I have my drum!