Body Build Order

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Body Build Order

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Dec 10, 2017 11:55 pm

In a different thread we discussed the various steps, and the order in which they could/should happen.
I would like to start a discussion about the steps of building a body, and the possible order in which the steps should be taken.

I posted this in the previously mentioned neck order thread also, but I feel this topic is important enough to give it its' own thread.

I have joined and glued the back plates, and tomorrow will do the same for the top plates.
I am thinking the plates should be thicknessed next.
After that, most likely bracing.

I do have some questions surrounding shaping the sides before bending them.

Anyone want to help me? :D
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Brian Evans » Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:34 am

I seem to always start with the sides. Cut to width, thickness, prepare the body form, bend to suit. I use a plain old iron bender with a BBQ starter element inside. 3" steel tube squished to give varying radii. Damp with water (not soaked), keep the wood moving constantly, you can feel when the wood turns plastic and suddenly is flexible. Aside from the waist and cutaway try to heat and bend the largest possible area at once - keeping the heat and bend spread out over a long portion of the side will reduce kinking. Once both sides are in the mold, I cut the end joints and install neck and tail blocks. Next I install linings, either solid or kerfed depending on what I am doing. If I am doing a side port, I laminate a piece of bent side to make that part double thickness. Lately I have been using side braces full height on the sides and quite thick, in theory that will make the sides stiffer and increase the impedance mismatch between plates and sides which I have in my mind is potentially a good thing.

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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:01 am

After I join the plates, I set them aside and build the rim. I always let the plates dry for at least a week, if not two, before I sand them to thickness. I use hot hide glue for the plate joints. The swelling of the wood immediately after joining would leave a depression along the joint if the plates were sanded too soon. I learned this in my first few builds.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bryan Bear » Mon Dec 11, 2017 12:07 pm

My build order changes a bit depending on what I am working on or if anything needs to be resawn or sourced, but generally I stick to the same basic order. I have a spreadsheet that lists all the steps I need. It is divided up in sections like "stock preparation," "box assembly," "neck construction". . . each section lists the order I prefer (or need) to do steps in for that general task. This lets me move to another aspect of the project if I am not able, for whatever reason, to do the next task on say the box. Here is my basic approach:

Resaw -- If needed
Joint top and back -- I too like to have the plates jointed well before I thickness them so I can be sure all the water form the glue line has equilibrated. During this time, I work on other stock prep like making linings if I am out or making binding purfling logs, neck and heel block. . .
Thickness stock -- back and sides get taken down to where I want them and the top is rough thicknessed to allow for leveling the rosette
Install rosette -- again allow plenty of time after if I have used water-based glue. Depending on the fit of the rosette I will use CA or water-base if I want to swell it up to fit better.
Bend sides
Glue blocks and side reinforcements
rough in the rim contours if needed before the linings go in
fit and install laminated linings
drive the bus and flatten the upper bout to get the neck angel/string height I want
cut sound port
Install end graft
Brace and carve the back
Level rosette and final thickness the top
Brace and carve top -- I like to do this when I know I will have a good chunk of time to be able to close the box soon after bracing the top.
Fit and glue top and back
flush up the plates to the rim
block sand the body -- I like to get everything as flat as possible before I rout for my bindings but just rough grit not final surface prep. If there are spots that still need a bit of work but the router bearing will not touch it and I feel that taking care of it will not cause me to thin the bindings too low, I will leave it.
install binding and purfling -- I try to have the bindings flush or a little inset from the sides; I avoid having them sit proud. I want to bring the sides to meet the bindings rather than having to sand the bindings and risk them getting thin in some areas.
final blocking of the body to get everything level.

I have been drilling out my neck bolt holes after the rim is profiled (when I install the soundport) but I have been kicking around the idea of tooling up to drill and counterbore them after the box is closed and the neck inserts are done. I havent' decided yet. It can sometimes be a pain getting the neck inserts (or hanger bolts if that is what I am using) to align perfectly with the holes in the heel block. Sometimes I wonder if it would be just as much of a pain to line up the holes with inserts in the neck. . .
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Randolph Rhett » Mon Dec 11, 2017 1:54 pm

Many years ago I did a industrial workflow chart for the lutherie program at the school. Like many industrial workflow, there are many components and subcomponents that come together to form a guitar. If you are working alone, it really doesn't matter too much which subcomponent you are working on at any given time so long as at each stage of joining the subcomponents into a subassembly you have them all of them completed.

Starting from a completed body, it has a top, a back, rims, and head/tailblock. Each have their own subcomponents. The top has a rosette, it has the jointed and glued top wood, it has bracing. In addition to the back plate, the back often has a graft along the seam and bracing. So on and so forth. You can break down each of those subcomponents further. The back braces have to be milled from a block of ...? They have to be dimensioned. They have to be radiused along the bottom and shaped on the top. Etc.

The point being that there is no one process that is going to work for everyone. The best suggestion I have is to use some organizing principle and start working out your own schedule. I like the old Toyota method of starting with a completed product and working your way back. Guitar ready to play! What needed to happen just before that? Action set. What needed to happen just before that? Relief set. Right before that? Nut slots cut. Before that? Etc. It will probably be wrong ;-), but slowly you can refine it. I've been building for almost 20 years and I think I have my process about 60% there!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:52 pm

My build order is dictated by the fact that my shop is a small corner of a three car garage, that also contains four cars, two motorcycles, several bicycles, kayaks and my climbing wall. What I'm saying is that its a pretty small area. I keep three power tools in that area - my band saw, belt sander, and drill press. Everything else is stored in the attic of the garage - when I want them I have to climb a ladder and lower the tool with some ropes and pulleys. Therefore my process is very parallel with each task kind of dependent on the tools or fixtures available. For an acoustic it might go like this

- shoot and join the sound board and back. Maybe inlay the rosette, maybe not
- since I don't have a thickness sander I take the plates and sides to a friend that does - he lives about 50 miles away, that takes up a half a day
- lower the table saw from the attic. Since I build in an outside mold I cut the mold with the table and band saw, the "innie" becomes the bending form. While the table saw is down I rip the braces and prepare the neck pieces (I do a stacked heel/scarfed head neck). I put the neck together and do as many things as I can with the table saw and square sides (mostly the heel). Put the table saw away
- lower the router table and do the truss rod slot and a few routes that work on the table (neck block mortise). Put the router table away
- lower the Fox bender and bend the sides and binding. Put the sides in the mold, tape the bindings to the bending form and put them under the bench. Put the Fox bender away
- lower the go bar deck and put it together, lower the radius dishes. Brace the top and back in the go bar and dish, start assembling the rim in the mold. Sand the kerfing with the radius dish. Disassemble the deck and put it away.
- put the top on the rim. Take it out of the mold and rough set the neck (I've been building the neck as another parallel operation). Drill the holes for the bolts. Put the rims back in the mold, glue the back on. Put the mold away.
- assemble my little floating router and bolt it to the work bench. Get the carrier down, route the binding channels. Route the headstock binding. Bind things. Put the router stuff away.
- get the compressor out, lower and assemble the cardboard spray booth, paint. Put the paint stuff away
- hang it up for 30 days. Lower the buffer, sand and buff, put the buffer away

I think you are getting the picture, lots of things going on simultaneously and lots of thinking about the order to do them. After 24 guitars I'm starting to get it figured out.

ps - obviously for an arch top or a semi-solid or a solid body some of the steps are different. One thing I've learned here is to think of things that I would do thru a sound hole if I had one (like electronics, masking holes, etc) that needs to be done with the back off.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:15 pm

Bob Gramann wrote:After I join the plates, I set them aside and build the rim. I always let the plates dry for at least a week, if not two, before I sand them to thickness. I use hot hide glue for the plate joints. The swelling of the wood immediately after joining would leave a depression along the joint if the plates were sanded too soon. I learned this in my first few builds.

Thanks for the important tip Bob. I will set them aside for a week or so.

Randolph Rhett wrote:Starting from a completed body, it has a top, a back, rims, and head/tailblock. Each have their own subcomponents. The top has a rosette, it has the jointed and glued top wood, it has bracing. In addition to the back plate, the back often has a graft along the seam and bracing. So on and so forth. You can break down each of those subcomponents further. The back braces have to be milled from a block of ...? They have to be dimensioned. They have to be radiused along the bottom and shaped on the top. Etc.

I've been building for almost 20 years and I think I have my process about 60% there!


Yeah, I've been studying this project for a few years and just now am getting started. I think I have a plan, but wanted to check with a few others to help get my thinking straight.

Freeman. I can only say I admire your determination. I'm getting a bit older and I honestly don't know if I would persevere under those conditions. :D
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Freeman Keller » Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:18 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:Freeman. I can only say I admire your determination. I'm getting a bit older and I honestly don't know if I would persevere under those conditions. :D


Well, I'll turn 73 in a couple of months, I'm too old to build my dream shop. However doing all this show that you can accomplish quite a bit with relatively little. Working in parallel isn't a bad way to work

Image

fwiw - yesterday I started a new build. I cut up the neck pieces and glued them up, today I cut the heel tenon, went up to my friends and thicknessed the plates (then did a lovely hike with my wife on the way home), came home and started cutting out the MDF for the mold and bending jig and glued the top together. Also threw another coat on a barncaster that I'm building and checked out a 1959 Harmony that needs some work. Perseverance.......
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:41 am

I stand corrected, and in admiration of your dedication Freeman!!
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Freeman Keller » Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:56 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:I stand corrected, and in admiration of your dedication Freeman!!


Keeps me out of trouble. Well, maybe not trouble but at least it keeps me out of jail.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:21 am

In one of my earlier posts on this thread I mentioned cutting the sides to shape, before bending.
I want the guitar body to taper from about 5 inches thick in the lower bout, to around 4 in the neck area.
I believe those numbers are fairly consistent with what I have read on this forum. (please correct me if I am wrong)

This raises the spectre of A LOT of planing and sanding to get the back and top to fit.
How can I pre-cut the sides to minimize the amount of work required afterward?
I have seen templates for this but I do not have one.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bryan Bear » Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:14 am

Gordon Bellerose wrote:In one of my earlier posts on this thread I mentioned cutting the sides to shape, before bending.
I want the guitar body to taper from about 5 inches thick in the lower bout, to around 4 in the neck area.
I believe those numbers are fairly consistent with what I have read on this forum. (please correct me if I am wrong)

This raises the spectre of A LOT of planing and sanding to get the back and top to fit.
How can I pre-cut the sides to minimize the amount of work required afterward?
I have seen templates for this but I do not have one.


I'm interested to read about this too. I have never been one to profile before I bend and since I make my own shapes I have never had a good handle on how I would do it anyway. I have been bending my sides in rectangular form then using Japanese saws and plane to rough in the profile I want before putting in the lining and finally sanding the rim in the dish. It only takes a few minutes to do it that way so my motivation to change has been low. But I'd love to know how to generate a template based on a novel shape. I'd especially like to know how to do it with a Venetian cutaway because those are a little more annoying to rough in by hand.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:43 am

Make a poster-board template of the side of an already completed guitar. Cut your flat sides out at least a 1/4" wider than the template to allow for additional shaping and fitting.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bob Gramann » Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:47 am

On a new shape, I line half the inside of my mold with masking tape, making sure to keep the bottom edge of the mold and the bottom edge of the tape exactly matching. I put the mold in my radius dish. Using a large enough washer that the hole of the washer never dips below the gap between the mold and the dish, with a pen in the washer, I drag the pen around the inside of the mold drawing the profile of the side onto the masking tape. I put that tape, guided by a straight edge, onto a thin piece of plywood and cut along the drawn line, thus making a template for the side. It still requires some sanding after assembly, but not nearly as much.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bryan Bear » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:10 pm

Next time I do a cutaway, I'll be sure to do that. I have 3 sizes that use the same curves but the lower bouts are spread out changing the proportions of the upper bout relative to the lower bout but using the same mold and bending forms. So in reality, I would just be adding length to the tail end of the template for the larger bodies.

I assume that if I want to make a guitar deeper or shallower, I would use the same shape template but add or remove real-estate from the center (over the length of the template). Do I have that right, or am I missing something obvious?

Edit: Thanks Bob, you posted while I was typing. That sounds like a good plan!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Bob Gramann » Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:49 pm

Exactly. Determine your depth by how much you leave in the center. On bigger bodies, I cut a top profile as well. On smaller bodies, the 25’ top radius doesn’t leave large gaps, so I just sand it. I do cut the sides deep enough to allow for some sanding.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Todd Stock » Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:37 am

Sides and top/back are independent processes until the rim is ready for plate fitting for closing.

Rim Construction:

- Lay out, thickness, and sand interior of sides to P220
- Label and add indexing to sides (I mark the outside neck end with a single tape square for a full side and two tape squares for a cutaway; waist is marked with tape flags that index in the bender. I always work with neck end of side to my left, and blanket connection in bending stack is always to the left...consistent procedure avoids bending sides in reverse)
- Bend sides (I profile after the rim is assembled; otherwise, profile after thicknessing and sanding)
- Scrape/sand sides where neck and tail blocks will fall (the entire side needs to be cleaned up
- Trim and fit joint at neck and tail block (and at Florentine cutaway)
- Fabricate neck and tail blocks (and Florentine)
- Fit neck and tail blocks (and point block on Florentine)
- Glue up neck and tail blocks (and point block on Florentine)
- Profile top and back (most of this is done with a tablesaw in my shop, but lots of other methods)
- Mill and install corner piece(s) for cutaway
- Sand interior to P220
- Lay out and install side tapes or reinforcements
- Sand and prep side tapes for linings
- Install linings
- Sand rim to flush linings (done in radius dish)
- If bolt-on, lay out and drill neck block bolt recesses and holes
- Bevel tail block to lining width
- Shellac side tapes if done with hide glue, then clean up interior with scraper and sandpaper in prep for closing box

Top and back prep:

- Thin top to joining thickness (we use a minimum of .140", but usually as thick as we can manage)
- Lay out top, joint, dog-ear center joint on one of the sides, then join
- Thin back to joining thickness (we use a minimum of .125", but usually as thick as we can manage)
- Lay out back
- Mill and fit back trim (if used...we usually sandwich trim and mahogany filler to get to back thickness)
- Joint back, dog ear, and join back (with back trim if used)
- Sand top to rosetting thickness (usually 0.005-0.010" thinner than joining thickness - just enough to smooth up the show face)
- Install the rosette
- Sand the rosette flush and then reduce top thickness to target thickness (this is the starting thickness for top tuning...for us, this is a flex and feel thing, but other approaches use deflection testing, nodal pattern, etc.)
- Mill the sound hole (we save the offcuts and label for student, guitar, etc.)
- Smooth and radius the edge pf the sound hole
- Sand the back to final thickness
- Make up the bracing kit:
--Rip out all top and back braces and sand or plane to dimension
--Thin the top offcuts being used for the back center graft to 0.100"
--Mill the bridge plate to thickness and width
--Radius the back braces to 15', the X, fingers, and tone bars to 28', and the UTB to 60'
--Lay out and drill drill truss rod access hole in UTB [we use 6mm for our 5mm wrench; for smaller wrench sizes, use smaller holes and space the end of the hole 1/16" in from the soundboard edge)
- Lay out back bracing on interior of back
- Install center graft on back
- Profile center graft
- Notch center graft for braces
- Install back braces
- Lay out the top bracing
- Mill the X joint, dry-install X and UTB, trim brace ends to meeting angles (ends of fingers, tone bars, and sound hole braces), then fit bridge plate
- Radius glued face of bridge plate to 28'
- Install X, tone bars, fingers, and bridge plate on top in 28' dish
- Install UTG, UTB, and sound hole braces on top using a flat caul (this preloads the 60' radius UTB to avoid a concave upper bout)
- Shape back bracing/voice back
- Shape top bracing/voice top

Assembly of Rim and Plates:

- Fit back to rim (notch for brace ends and neck/tail block)
- Fit top to rim (notch for UTB and upper arms of X only)
- Glue back to rim (we let this dry 20 minutes, then pull out of go-bar deck to clean up any hide glue runs or squeeze-out)
- Glue top to rim
- Trim overhang
- Scrape and block sand sides to flat and true
- Sand and final voice top and back
- Bind (worth another thread for order and fine points)
- Mill neck mortise or dovetail socket
- Sand binding edges to radius (but not where fretboard needs a nice, square corner to meet body)
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:18 am

Barry Daniels wrote:Make a poster-board template of the side of an already completed guitar. Cut your flat sides out at least a 1/4" wider than the template to allow for additional shaping and fitting.

Barry. I had thought of that, but I do not have another guitar in the shape I am building. Is there a way to come close? I am building a dread with a cut away.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Freeman Keller » Sat Dec 16, 2017 1:02 pm

Gordon Bellerose wrote:
Barry Daniels wrote:Make a poster-board template of the side of an already completed guitar. Cut your flat sides out at least a 1/4" wider than the template to allow for additional shaping and fitting.

Barry. I had thought of that, but I do not have another guitar in the shape I am building. Is there a way to come close? I am building a dread with a cut away.


I assume you are building from plans. Take them to Kinko's and get three prints made. Put the original away for the future. If you get them digitally you'll need to have Kinkos or an engineering company print them anyway, just get several copies. I glue one set to some thin MDF with contact cement and cut it out to make the template. I'll also make templates for the headstock shape, neck cross sections and any other things I want to duplicate.

As far as the cut - if your plans don't include it you can always sketch it on one of the copies and figure out what to do with braces, the neck block etc. I modified a set of 000 plans into a double ought by just sketching the new curves and it came out very nice.

Edit to add, in keeping with your build order topic, on the OM that I just started a few days ago, yesterday I glued the back center strip on the back and installed the rosette in the top. I glued some scraps of coco together to be the head veneer and I got all the parts of my side bending machine ready (I'll bend sides today) and the mold and go bar are assembled. The neck is all glued up and I've roughed out the tenon. So, at least four parallel operations.
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Re: Body Build Order

Postby Freeman Keller » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:19 pm

On my last post I said I was starting an OM. This is two weeks later with Christmas and a cold shop and skiing all conspiring against me. However I have made some progress on multiple fronts

IMG_3997-2.jpg


Neck is built up, ready to start shaping. Rims are kerfed, top and back braced. Lots of sanding and cleanup to do on all of them but they are sort of ready to go together. Also bent the binding at the same time as the rims and made a piece for the head plate from scraps from the back.
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