Saturday, March 3, 2012

On the Road Again

Carving the top
I really enjoyed carving the neck of my first guitar. It might even have been my favorite part of the process. The only caveat is that the very thing that makes it so much fun - the freedom from precise measurements and the chance to be creative in the process - is also the thing that can make it a bit scary. Carve too little and you have a neck that feels like a baseball bat. Carve too much and you have a toothpick or, more likely, a broken neck.

So now that I'm building an archtop, which requires many times more carving than the flat top did, everything is magnified. There's plenty of fun to be had shaping and carving it, but there's also plenty of heartburn over the possibility that one false move could really ruin your day (to put it mildly). And it's surprising to me how little of the guitar's proportions are set in stone. The shape of the instrument is set because we're using a template. But the contour of the top is just a matter of feel. And this is important, since the degree to which the top is arched is very important in the way it will ultimately sound.

Using terraced sections to visualize the arch
From what I've learned, in general, more arch means a deeper, fatter sound, like a typical jazz guitar. Less arch provides more projection and punch and a crisper sound, which is what I'm after. That's a good thing, because I found myself with too little wood to make a deep arch on the top. And it provides a good illustration of the process of learning to build guitars. It's not as hard as you might think to make a very good guitar. Making a very good guitar to exact specifications, on the other hand....Well, that's an entirely different matter. It so happens that I wasn't interested in building a guitar that sounded like a typical jazz instrument with the fat sound. But if I had, I'd be happily altering my expectations right about now. Maybe someday I'll be good enough that that sort of adjustment won't be necessary. Until then, I'm perfectly happy with the approach.

After cutting out the back
With the carving of the top well underway, the time came to do some work on the back. And it appears I got lucky, because Ted and my classmates have been raving about the beauty of the maple for my back. All of our wood came from the same order, but I got the pick of the litter, apparently. And it's beautiful, indeed. The photos don't do it justice, but once it's finished, sanded, and lacquered, it's going to be magnificent.

So I got started with the first steps. First, I planed it flat so that it can be run through a sander to even it out, then I cut out the shape. And that's all the time I had. I'll get back to it next week.

After what feels like a pretty slow few weeks, true to form, it looks as though we'll see some tangible evidence of progress. It looks like we might even be gluing the sides to the end and tail blocks next week. Then the pieces will start going together fairly soon after that. But if you remember anything from my predictions on the first guitar, don't quote me on that.