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Mistakes made while building early guitars

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Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby James Gates » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:57 pm

I encounter fear alot, but I know that through my mistakes, I learn.
Often I have posted questions on the old forum without finding the answer I needed.
Why?
Because, I was afraid of making mistakes and wanting to short cut my education by benefitting from what you learned with your mistakes.
We get alot of first time builders who are asking us to make decisions for them that they should make for themselves. Why? because they are afraid of making mistakes.
So, anyway, I thought with this discussion not matter how brilliantly you are as an instrument maker, to post some mistakes you have made and what you have learned from them.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Mike Baker » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:47 pm

The biggest mistake I made on my first guitar was not drawing it out full size, and working from that. I built it by "the seat of my pants", so to speak. Just saw it in my head and built it. The guitar came out playing and sounding great, but there were a lot of things about the way it was built/looked that could have been avoided if I had drawn it out in full scale and worked from that. You live and learn, but I'll never build another instrument without a full sized plan again.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Tim Douglass » Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:12 pm

I think my biggest mistake, and one that I continue to make, is that I become paralyzed in the planning and analysis phase and don't get to actually building. My woodworking chops are good enough to hide just about any mistake, but I obsess about it so much that it takes me twice as long to do anything as it should.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Simon Magennis » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:43 am

Hanging out on the 'net instead of getting on with it. ;-)
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Bryan Bear » Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:47 pm

The biggest mistake I made is also the easiest one to fix. It's a good thing too since I seem slow to learn my lesson. Trying to find work a rounds for tasks that intimidate me! I wish I had all the time back that I wasted hatching up schemes to get away without having to do task X or making/waiting for tools to do it for me. I would have been better served using that time to practice the methods I recommended by people who have actually done this. A prime example that I'm sure most newbies can relate with is side bending. I spent an enormous amount of effort reading and thinking about ways to do this before I figured out what everybody already knew. I have tried all sorts of things before I broke down and bought a blanket. The funny thing is even though I have a blanket, I now prefer to use a hot pipe. . .

The lesson I keep learning is that the traditional way is not nearly as difficult as you might think, so go ahead and start practicing. . .
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby John Hall » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:38 pm

You can't fear mistakes , in fact welcome them . Often you will learn more from a failure than you will from success. In your early building you are thinking that you may know more than you do , so when the unexpected happens . you learn from it. Most errors are minor and technique related. To be honest most early guitars are exercises in process.
John Hall

Learn from others mistakes, You can't make them all yourself
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Robert Smallwood » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:27 am

On my first build - a 'bolt on' SG - I thought that you made all the bits and screwed them together for a 'guaranteed' Eureka moment when Jesus beams shone in through the shop window on a perfect creation...
well...
a number of things didn't fit perfectly at all..the most telling was that I'd sanded a bit too much off one side of the heel..not a lot but you can see it. I never dreamed that as you went you actually put things together to MAKE THEM FIT..that's the lesson..MAKE it fit.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Shawn Ball » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:57 am

I think one of the biggest mistakes I made on my earlier guitars was trying to dimension the neck width/string taper exactly on the saw as opposed to going slightly oversized and then sanding to fit. I ended up with sloppy neck joints that I then had to use veneer to "shim" on either side in order to tighten up the joint.

Also, routing truss rod channel too deep/carving the neck too thin. On my second guitar, I had the truss rod crack right through the back of the neck and leave a gaping hole under the nut/first fret, and then a crack that ran all the way up to the 7th fret. That "guitar" became firewood so fast, it's not even funny. But we live, we learn, and we get a decent set of digital calipers.

Like my tag line on TalkBass - "Turning exotic woods into sawdust and firewood scraps since 2002..." - People laugh (that was the idea) but it's so true, sometimes.
SDB Guitars - turning exotic woods to sawdust and fireplace scraps since 2001 :)
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby John Tuttle » Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:55 am

My biggest lesson learned was understanding humidity and its effect on the build process. I live in Minnesota and early on I built a few guitars in the summer and the following winter when the humidity dropped my guitars cracked in a BIG way - tops and backs.

In frustration I made a call to a local guitar builder you may have heard of, Jim Olson. Jim couldn't have bee nicer. He spent 20 minutes educating me about the perils of MN humidity on guitar building and ow to overcome them. He also related some great stories of his own about experiencing the same issues early on which made me feel a whole lot better about the learning process..
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Joe Dovidio » Thu Feb 02, 2012 12:05 pm

I'm with the theme here.I have sanded too much off neck heels, drilled holes too deep. you name it. but we learn a lot from this. me being an auto tech for 30 yrs or so. I have learned so very much in the field especially in my younger days by my mistakes it stays for a lifetime that is how experience pays off in the end.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby KD Williams-Shimomura » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:05 am

I made a total n00b mistake on my first solid body; tried to use a handheld scroll saw to cut the angles on my solid body's contours rather than planing, drilling, and/or sanding them out to shape. Rough edges and irreversible marks/damage galore when I cut too deep in a few places... had to scrap that body sadly...

My lesson:
NEVER TAKE SHORTCUTS!!!

Do the work properly the first time and you won't have to scrap your project.
"Speak useful words or be silent." -The Hávamál
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Mark Wybierala » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:49 pm

Early on, I worried too much about neck joints being fragile -- they're not. I can hold a typical bolt on neck in the pocket with the guitar strung to pitch with three fingers. Not to say that you shouldn't have a decent joint when glueing a neck but rather that in the big scheme of things, the neck joint is quite forgiving.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Jeff Mills » Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:15 pm

My biggest mistake was not knowing how to handle two way truss rods. Instructions were easy enough but didn't address what to do with random here and there rattle - uggg... After carefully sanding the finger board off the neck and planing the neck to get it flat again - a idea hit me - I why not try silicone? After putting anti-seize on the threads of the rod, I laid down a bead of silicone in the slot and pressed the rod down into into the slot. Silicone ooozed out all up and down the slot, so I let it dry over night then shaved off the access silicone and glued down the fingerboard - worked like a champ - no more rattle :) It was one of my more brilliant moments, those moments are few and far in between but they do happen :mrgreen:

Experience is a strange thing - You get it right after you needed it.
Experience is a strange thing - You get it right after you needed it.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Henrique Schneiter » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:38 pm

Oh, my list is long...

A bad one I can remember now was a "flying router". The router got out of control while routing the pickup cavity and damaged the top. After a lot of sanding, the remaining hole was filled with thickened PU finish. Luckily, that hole ended being under the LP-style pickguard.

These things must be held REALLY tight while working.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Louie Atienza » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:18 pm

Hmmmm I don't know if the servers have enough space! Some of my greatest hits...

- Arching a rear-route eStrat body... AFTER pocketing the control cavity!
- My first, non-trussrod necks, strung up with 12's...
- Countless burned templates and ruined blanks from self-destructing pilot bearings.
- Trying to use wood glue in 30 degree shop, and expecting it to hold in 70 degree house.
- Thinning acoustic backplate with belt sander.
- Carving a neck BEFOR routing trussrod channel (for a 1-piece neck)

Most of my "mistakes" were actually short-cuts. The good thing is, after the frustration of a short cut plan blows up on my face, I end up doing it the right way, and learned a lot from what I've done wrong.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Bill Hicklin » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:15 pm

Planing the back plate w/o a thickness gauge. The edges were great as far in as my dial calipers reached- it's the light shining through the middle that's the problem......
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Mon Feb 13, 2012 4:28 am

Not paying attention while running my first acoustic top through the surface sander... and not realizing to check the thickness before going ahead and assembling the guitar. I ended up with an assembled guitar body with a 3/32" WRC top... (oh yeah, I under built the bracing to go along with it)

Just this week I was working on a classical guitar for a friend and sanded through the top veneer. Still don't know what to do about that (I'm thinking a tobacco burst should hide the bad spots???)

sanded all the way through my purflings one time... ( are you guys noticing a trend here?)

Leaving my sides and top and back plates lying on the floor in my office overnight. How could I have known that the town was going to flood that particular night bringing no less than 6 inches of water into the whole building???

Jeff Mills- "Experience is a strange thing - You get it right after you needed it." I love that :-D
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Ben Loutrelle » Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:16 pm

Not fixing leaky valve above my bench until after it's dripped on a completed body and caused the sides and top to detach at the upper bout.

Not reading about what the correct neck angle is meant to be on a solidbody and having to recess the pickguard to accomodate the setup.

Not checking of the neck is dead flat planed before gluing on the fretboard. Having to de-fret, re-radius fretboard, and re-fret.

Using old hide glue (bottle) and having a repaired headstock snap off.

Tearing apart completed guitars to rebuild them again.

Working on anything when I'm angry. Worrying about what I'm going to do wrong. Fear of following through with design ideas because they seem too hard to do.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Peter Wilcox » Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:04 pm

I'm building my first acoustic instrument - an Irish bouzouki. The top is Douglas fir. I knew it was brittle, and tried to avoid dropping it, but it just seemed to fly out of my hands onto the concrete floor about 2 hours ago. That's the headblock, tailblock, and a little extra piece at the top of the pic.

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.
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Re: Mistakes made while building early guitars

Postby Louie Atienza » Tue Feb 14, 2012 2:41 am

Peter Wilcox wrote:I'm building my first acoustic instrument - an Irish bouzouki. The top is Douglas fir. I knew it was brittle, and tried to avoid dropping it, but it just seemed to fly out of my hands onto the concrete floor about 2 hours ago. That's the headblock, tailblock, and a little extra piece at the top of the pic.

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.


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...
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