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New Archtop

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2018 8:39 pm
by John Clifford
I just finished another archtop. I got the idea for the string retention system on the tailpiece from Alan Carruth. Thanks Al! I think he got it from someone else - so it goes. I'm kind of into celluloid, and I used quite a bit of it on this guitar. What do you think?

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 9:24 am
by Chris Richards
Stunning work, I long for the day when I get good enough at building to do a totally natural finish without the need for paint somewhere to cover up the odd blemish! I love the celluloid it looks really classy...

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 9:42 am
by Christ Kacoyannakis
Beautiful work! Lots of nice details. About your tailpiece, do you find that providing more afterlength for the high strings makes them feel looser? Normally the low side of the tailpiece is shorter, to give more afterlength to those strings. In my mind, if the whole afterlength principal works, you need the high strings to feel looser, because those are the ones that players use more for bends.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 11:11 am
by John Clifford
Chris Richards wrote:Stunning work, I long for the day when I get good enough at building to do a totally natural finish without the need for paint somewhere to cover up the odd blemish! I love the celluloid it looks really classy...


Thanks Chris! The funny thing is, one of the reasons I do natural finishes is because I nearly always find blemishes (like sanding scratches) after I start the finishing process, which I then need to go back and correct. If you've stained the wood or applied a colored finish, this is a big problem. With a natural finish, it's much easier to fix. I use shellac (french polish), which is very forgiving of my mistakes.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 11:17 am
by John Clifford
Christ Kacoyannakis wrote:Beautiful work! Lots of nice details. About your tailpiece, do you find that providing more afterlength for the high strings makes them feel looser? Normally the low side of the tailpiece is shorter, to give more afterlength to those strings. In my mind, if the whole afterlength principal works, you need the high strings to feel looser, because those are the ones that players use more for bends.


Thank you! A longer string length definitely makes them easier to bend, so I agree with you that longer treble strings make sense if you are aiming for that. Although to be honest, I design my tailpieces based more on how they look than on any sound scientific principles.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2018 1:22 pm
by Alan Carruth
That's the string retention system that Geoff Elliot devised for the harp guitar that he helped John Sullivan make for John Doan, or, at least, that's what I've been told.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2018 2:53 pm
by Paul Rhoney
Fantastic work John, it's beautiful.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 1:24 pm
by John Clifford
Thanks Paul.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 7:01 pm
by Greg McKnight
Wow! Beautiful guitar.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 6:14 pm
by Beate Ritzert
Wow, really beautiful.

BTW: what kind of bracing? parallel, cross or something custom?

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 11:29 pm
by John Clifford
Thanks for all the nice comments.

Beate, it's X braced. Just the two cross pieces on the top.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 12:04 pm
by Steve Sawyer
Since I'm only working on my second solid-body, I'm a long way from doing anything like this, though Mike Conner's build logs for his archtops give me hope that someday...

Then I see something like this, and think I shouldn't even THINK about doing one of these.

Wow. That is one drop-dead, gorgeous guitar, John!!

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 2:17 pm
by John Clifford
Thanks Steve, but don't hesitate to try archtop building, if you are so inclined. In some ways, they are much simpler than modern "flattop" guitars.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 4:55 pm
by Barry Daniels
Really!!!?

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 9:20 pm
by John Clifford
Barry Daniels wrote:Really!!!?


Yeah, really. The sides on an archtop are generally a uniform depth, so the geometry is simpler, the bracing is much simpler (although fitting them can be a little tricky), you have more margin for error in setting your neck angle, and you can finish the whole top without worrying about having to glue on a bridge. The part that intimidates people is the carving, but that's also the most fun part. You just need a plan for how you're going to define the arch (see Benedetto book), the right tools for the job, and some perseverance.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 8:10 pm
by Beate Ritzert
Steve Sawyer wrote:Since I'm only working on my second solid-body, I'm a long way from doing anything like this, ...


No, You aren't. My 2nd guitar was an archtop, and it sounds really fine.
No 1 and 2 are semi hollows.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 8:41 am
by Mike Conner
John Clifford wrote:
Barry Daniels wrote:Really!!!?


Yeah, really. The sides on an archtop are generally a uniform depth, so the geometry is simpler, the bracing is much simpler (although fitting them can be a little tricky), you have more margin for error in setting your neck angle, and you can finish the whole top without worrying about having to glue on a bridge. The part that intimidates people is the carving, but that's also the most fun part. You just need a plan for how you're going to define the arch (see Benedetto book), the right tools for the job, and some perseverance.


John describes the advantages of the Archtop vs flat top build really well. For me, it was an interesting challenge to work out how to carve the plates, and I preferred doing that over coming up with 25' and 15' radius sanding dishes and sorting out the more elaborate bracing configuration of the flat tops.

The other side is that there was less definitive information available for Archtop construction compared to flat top details. The Benedetto book helps, but there are quite a few details missing. That's why I compiled the Journal in an attempt to write down and share what I learned.

Lastly, I just think archtops are cooler!

To John: The guitar looks assume, and I really like the way you got the maple curl to "pop".
//mike

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2018 5:28 pm
by Barry Daniels
You guys make some good points. I am sure my bias comes from having only built two archtops but a bunch of flat ones.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2018 6:11 pm
by Randolph Rhett
There is MUCH less information on the acoustic properties of archtops than flat tops. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to have a reference like the Gore book to help define the acoustic properties of an archtop. It is way too easy to end up with a harsh sounding guitar with little acoustic presence. All you usually have is an inch thick piece of wood and Bob Benedetto’s plans (which having built to them I am convinced have little in common with his actual built guitars).

But the actual construction is a bit simpler in many was to a flat top. Shhhh... just don’t tell anyone.

Re: New Archtop

PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 8:35 am
by Brian Evans
Benedetto's (Bob is retired now and doesn't build anymore) mostly builds electric guitars now. When I visited last month the only acoustic guitar there was the 50th anniversary guitar. With that said, I got the strong impression that they build guitars very close to the book and plans, they vary bracing to accommodate pickups set in to the body (their "electric" guitars all have set it pickups, so all of the guitars I saw in progress where braced to electric patterns). But the guitars themselves and the processes being followed looked very very similar to what I do - just cleaner and better. And more automated. Necks and some bodies are CNC, they have a nicely built copy router, they have manual hydraulic presses for laminated plates, inlay is CNC. But the woodworking is very familiar. I met the guy in charge of finishing, he was sitting at a bench scraping colour off binding with a box-cutter blade wrapped with tape - I've done that a bunch in exactly the same way. I met the head luthier who was trimming f-hole binding with a very sharp chisel, just like I do. As far as more or less complicated or hard to build than flat tops, I do have an opinion. I think that bending the sides and the neck are about identical, except that archtops need an extension - but so do some classical guitars these days. I think that flat-top top and back plates and general construction are way more complicated than archtop plates, but far easier to build. I know that I have a friend who can build the top and back of a classical guitar start to finish in around a week, and I can't carve a top, much less a back, in a week. So for me archtops are a lot simpler than a flat-top, but a lot harder to build. In both cases decorating (inlay, binding, purlfling, inlaying back strips and tail strips) is usually harder and longer, and requires more skill by far, than actually building the guitar.

Brian