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Mistakes made while building early guitars

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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:13 pm

Louie Atienza wrote:My tablesaw has been my bench for a long tome, since everything else seems to pile on the bench. Needless to say, I can't tell you how many times I've set stuff down on my "bench" only to have it scratched up by the tablesaw blade I forgot to retract...


or how 'bout little dried drops of wood glue left on the work bench. You get done working the top side only to find that you've put huge gouges and scratches underneath.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Peter Wilcox » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:04 pm

Louie Atienza wrote:My tablesaw has been my bench for a long tome, since everything else seems to pile on the bench. Needless to say, I can't tell you how many times I've set stuff down on my "bench" only to have it scratched up by the tablesaw blade I forgot to retract...

I have a bandsaw, tablesaw, jointer and two benches with usable surfaces. I always keep one clear, so when I need to use another I can take the stuff off it and put it on the clear one. Musical surfaces.

It sure wastes a lot of time moving things around, not to mention stuff falling on the floor all the time, and time spent looking for things. I'm going to clean off a couple more surfaces today - I promise!
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Tim Douglass » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:11 pm

Peter Wilcox wrote:The reason it happened is because I have parts, tools, scraps of wood, and all kinds of crap piled on my bench, so there's no place to put anything down. I need to learn to straighten things up more often.


Ouch! And doubly so because my bench has always been in pretty much the same condition. I'm always trying to maximize my shop time so I don't want to take time out to clean up. The result is chips, shavings, clamps, tools, jigs, papers, etc. etc. etc. taking up every inch of the bench. If you want motivation to clean it up, do as I did last Spring - dump a freshly mixed batch of shellac over onto your current project, it is truly amazing how much bench-top 6 ounces of shellac will mess up! This is what is known as a vocabulary building exercise.
Last edited by Greg Robinson on Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Fixing quote tags.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Jim McConkey » Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:08 am

When I built my first bouzouki/octave mando I did not use a form. Despite my best efforts, after I glued the body up the extended center line down the fretboard ended up about 1/4" (6mm) off center at the tail. A square end fretboard just looked wrong over the soundhole. The headstock had a tulip-style wave, so I put a similar wave at the end of the fretboard. Now it looks completely intentional and hides the off-center goof well. I build too many one-off instruments to want to spend all my time making forms and molds, but maybe a universal sort of form (vertical bars that slide in slotted holes in a workboard) might be a good idea.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby John Kingma » Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:52 pm

Why limit the discussion to mistakes on early guitars. After almost 50 guitars I still make mistakes on every one of them... and some of the latest ones have been real doozies. :oops:

I'm sure most everyone else is in the same boat. :mrgreen:
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Ron Belanger » Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:11 pm

:D Ah it does my heart good to read through this catalogue of mistakes and errors and know that I am in very good company. My latest goof involved cutting the neck angle on the heel in reverse and ending up with a neck that was 1/8 in. too short. One of my first was losing the bearing on the router bit and putting a lovely half moon in the top lower bout. Did that one twice. Made it into an opportunity to do some nice pearl inlay. :lol:
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Matthew Lau » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:54 am

Hmmm, too many to state.

My biggest one is trying to compensate for a dumb mistake.
I'd bought a "fully serviced" classical kit from LMII.
The fretboard was 12 mm thick ebony, not the expected thickness.

Rather than send it back, I tried to work with it.
I tried to compensate by shaving the cedar neck, but ended up with a ridiculously neck-heavy guitar.

Lesson: never, ever go with something that you feel uncomfortable with.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Celeste Hall » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:00 am

The only one I have not yet recovered from was choosing to bind my first body, without bothering to read anything about how to do bindings. I usually get away with just "going for it", but that was 2005 and the body is still wrapped in a T-shirt waiting for me to finish it as is, or swallow my pride and route the binding out and start over.

There are a whole lot of lessons there that I am resisting learning.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Markku Nyytäjä » Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:35 pm

Peter Wilcox wrote:
Louie Atienza wrote:My tablesaw has been my bench for a long tome, since everything else seems to pile on the bench. Needless to say, I can't tell you how many times I've set stuff down on my "bench" only to have it scratched up by the tablesaw blade I forgot to retract...

I have a bandsaw, tablesaw, jointer and two benches with usable surfaces. I always keep one clear, so when I need to use another I can take the stuff off it and put it on the clear one. Musical surfaces.

It sure wastes a lot of time moving things around, not to mention stuff falling on the floor all the time, and time spent looking for things. I'm going to clean off a couple more surfaces today - I promise!


Peter, that sounds exactly like my workshop. Assembling my latest build last Tuesday I must have spent 40 minutes looking for the neck attachment ferrules I had misplaced. Going systematically through every possible location I finally found them in my file & rasp drawer. A good thing is that I managed to clean the desk a lot and throw away a lot of rubbish. I should just do that more often.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Jamie Unden » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:37 pm

How about this: I was using a pre-slotted fingerboard with an MDF template to shape the outline. When I got done it fit the neck perfectly... but the slots were backwards! :o
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Charlie Schultz » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:37 pm

Hi Jamie and welcome over!
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Jamie Unden » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:20 am

Thanks! My new job has me hopping so I don't get to 'goof-off' like I used too. :lol:
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Peter Wilcox » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:43 am

On the bouzouki I am building (my first real acoustic instrument) I made a sound hole label and figured I'd glue it on just before I glued on the back, so I wouldn't have to do it through the sound hole later. After the back was on and I had a look at it, it was, of course, upside down. But if this is the worst mistake I make on this (I'm sure it won't be), I'll be quite satisfied.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Mark Langner » Sat Mar 03, 2012 9:58 am

On my first full archtop, I was determined to get a better neck joint than on my earlier prototype. The dovetail fit was good and tight, and when I tried to glue it in, it seated half-way in and would not budge in or out. Tightbond can grip VERY fast under pressure. GRRR! I took a rubber mallet and whacked the neck heel a few times to get it loose. It came out - and the neck block cracked. Did I read some things earlier about not doing anything in the shop when you are angry?
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Jason Rodgers » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:10 pm

Gawd, Peter, that sucks. Sounds like my shop. I'm just waiting for that to happen!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Peter Wilcox » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:09 am

It's OK. I just glued it all back together and carried on. The instrument is for learning experience anyway. I AM keeping some of the bench and tool surfaces cleaner though.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Markku Nyytäjä » Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:52 am

Here's a new one: Yesterday I was routing bird shaped inlay channels in a rosewood fretboard. Somehow I let my mind wander and routed a channel at the 4th fret instead of the 7th fret. I can't use it. Now I have a nice rosewood practice board and a good reason to shop for more wood. :oops:

Not all yesterday went to waste, though. I did turn a pair of nice 5 B maple drumsticks on my lathe. I'm giving them to a drummer friend for a tryout and feedback.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Mark Swanson » Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:54 am

I can't use it.

Sure you can...I have fixed mistakes like that in different ways, but one of the best ways is to "inlay" a new section of rosewood in-between the fret slots. Replace the entire area between the two slots with new wood, it isn't noticeable when you are done. Take care to try and make the best match and when the wood darkens a bit it's all but invisible.
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Markku Nyytäjä » Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:44 am

Thanks, I didn't think of that. There is still some extra wood left at the end of the fretboard that I could use. Maybe I'll give it a try, but I still think I'll make a new fretboard for this project. I want it to look its best. I'll use the old one in a prototype or something.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Arnt Rian » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:14 am

As I mentioned in the thread I just started about supplied air face masks, I have finally developed some pretty nasty allergic reactions to certain wood dusts. So my advice is to take this issue serious as soon as you start building; or be nonchalant, and pay the consequences!
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