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From board to guitar set?

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From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:47 pm

Hello,

As I gradually get my shop back into commission I'm finding new treasures. I'd like some advice on how to deal with this board. I pulled this off my wall and planed some roughness off to see what it was and I'm pleasantly surprised by what I found. This is hard maple that is 64" (163cm) long, 9" (23cm) wide, and 2.5" (6.4cm) deep. It has moderate curl and is quarter sawn. Here's one end.

IMG_0980.JPG
End Grain


And here's the face.

IMG_0979.JPG
Width


First question. Is this good material for an acoustic guitar?

If so, how do you folks go from a board to back and sides? I can resaw up to 10" (25cm) so that's not what I mean. What's the whole procedure you use? How do you select back and sides areas of the board?

How thick do you try to resaw? I have sawn veneer down to 1/16" (1.6mm) with my bandsaw. What's the normal starting thickness for backs and sides? Are they the same?

This board is over 30 years old. Once I resaw should I stack it for a time period?

I also have a nice walnut board that seems usable for an acoustic. Is maple so hard to deal with I should start with the walnut?

So many questions!

Thanks,

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Bryan Bear » Sun Sep 11, 2016 9:20 pm

That's probably not suitable for an acoustic guitar. Send it to me and I will ensure that it is disposed of properly. If you aren't sure, feel free to cut a back and side set off and send it to me for further examination.
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Sun Sep 11, 2016 10:16 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:That's probably not suitable for an acoustic guitar. Send it to me and I will ensure that it is disposed of properly. If you aren't sure, feel free to cut a back and side set off and send it to me for further examination.

Ha! I take it this might be an OK stick of wood? Most of my stock is very roughsawn and I never looked closely at a lot of. I closed my pro shop 30 years ago and I seem to remember getting a nice load of maple really cheap at some closeout right near the end. I put it all in storage and I'm just now taking a block plane to the ends in search of quartersawn pieces. This board weighs a ton!

So, what's next?

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Sep 11, 2016 11:34 pm

Like Bryan said, send me some!! :lol:

That piece of maple looks like it has some nice flame.
The kind of acoustic you are going to build has a lot to do with how you start.
I know you are working on an archtop. Is that what you plan for this piece?

If it is a regular flat top, then I would start by cutting the piece to length. 22 inches or so, depending on your guitar plan.
Then I would cut it to a width a bit larger than what you need. There's no sense trying to re-saw any thicker than necessary.
The extra will be used for jointing your plate, and the rest trimmed after gluing the back, or top, depending again on your purpose.
If your band saw is a good one, then resaw it to around 3/16 or 1/4. Your final thickness will end up around .100 or maybe a bit less for the back. Again depending on your use, a top may be thinner yet.

Remember to mark your pieces on the edge, so that you can book match them after cutting.
Guys!
If I have given bad advice, please let me know.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Randolph Rhett » Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:43 am

I always start from rough lumber. Assuming it is seasoned and dry I don't then try to season the billets. Usually from 8/4 stock, but how nice to start from 10/4. It's about laying it out for good yield.

You can make a lot of flat top back "sets" with that wood. You will want to resaw from +20"x+8" blank. You burn a lot more wood for a carved back. On archtops I work from a 22"x9"x8/4 blank and book match it.

For sides I cut rough lumber to 32"x5" flattop and 32"x3.5" archtop. Necks, it depends on whether I am making a stacked heel/scarf or laminate, and that often depends on whether the rough board is flat or quartered. Laminate wastes more wood, but works with flat sawn. I usually cut blanks that are 5"x 18" and need two for one neck. Quartered wood I can get a neck out of a single blank roughly 3"x38".

Once I have the billets cut from the rough lumber I just square and true them and start milling them into parts. Eg. Cut the laminate profile for the necks, or resaw .150" slices for the tops/backs.

I have seen (and been persuaded by) the arguments that if you are building professionally $6k and up instruments it is a waste of your time to start from raw lumber. Focus on what gets you the Bucks. Likewise the hobbyist who wants to build one guitar from some exotic wood. But if you are a woodworker, there is no reason you can't break down 8/4 rough lumber and make guitars. If you were making a federalist high boy, you wouldn't expect to buy all your drawer fronts pre-milled for you.
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Mon Sep 12, 2016 9:50 am

Mr. Rhett says
"I have seen (and been persuaded by) the arguments that if you are building professionally $6k and up instruments it is a waste of your time to start from raw lumber. Focus on what gets you the Bucks."

What ever happened to Lutherie that causes a man to be in it just for the bucks? This philosophy turns a craftsman into a robot, in my mind. Oh I know many pundits who are one man machine shops and swear their's is the best and only way.

I have gathered wood over my lifetime and really enjoy building from beginning to end. Yet, I do prep work like making batches of neck and tail blocks, lining, neck blanks, etc. because that does make projects go together more smoothly. But I love hauling out a piece of old dried lumber and slicing off some sets that will become guitars.

Just look at the joyful comments of coveting this mans nice maple...and the fun he's gonna have. That's the way to do it! And get paid very well for it as well!
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Brian Evans » Mon Sep 12, 2016 10:11 am

If you are building professionally, I guess you have a job, not a hobby. You need to pump instruments out at a rate that sustains your lifestyle. People say if your work is also your hobby, if you love what you do, you'll be happy. I turned something that I loved into a job and it ruined it for me. Once it was work, it was work, end of story. I wouldn't do it unless I was getting paid. Surprised the heck out of me, but there you go.

I build from rough stock. I would personally get some book-matched archtop sets out of that board. With the length of it I might do one set, then the rest for sides and necks. You could obviously get many more flat-top sides and backs out of it.
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Sep 12, 2016 10:25 am

Stephen Neal Saqui wrote:What ever happened to Lutherie that causes a man to be in it just for the bucks? This philosophy turns a craftsman into a robot, in my mind.

I dunno that I'd agree with that. While I agree with the sentiment that milling involves the thrill of discovery and selection of the woods for your works, I think that Randolph's point is that there isn't much craftsmanship in milling lumber, and if you're trying to make a living you do have to weigh the make/buy decisions.

I have experienced the same phenomenon that Brian describes - I've taken two furniture commissions and swore I'd never do it again because it turned it into a job with deadlines and deliverables. But I envy those that can retain their ability to indulge their craftsmanship and do so within the constraints of running a successful business. But you can't be successful commercially while remaining true to your craft without making a distinction between your "secret sauce" (the design and craftsmanship) and the supporting activities (which can include milling, and for some, finishing). Time is limited, and you have to use that limited resource wisely.
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:07 am

Gordon Bellerose wrote:Like Bryan said, send me some!! :lol:

That piece of maple looks like it has some nice flame.
The kind of acoustic you are going to build has a lot to do with how you start.
I know you are working on an archtop. Is that what you plan for this piece?

I was thinking this would be an acoustic flat top. I want to make a few of those before I tackle an archtop.

Gordon Bellerose wrote:If it is a regular flat top, then I would start by cutting the piece to length. 22 inches or so, depending on your guitar plan.
Then I would cut it to a width a bit larger than what you need. There's no sense trying to re-saw any thicker than necessary.
The extra will be used for jointing your plate, and the rest trimmed after gluing the back, or top, depending again on your purpose.
If your band saw is a good one, then resaw it to around 3/16 or 1/4. Your final thickness will end up around .100 or maybe a bit less for the back. Again depending on your use, a top may be thinner yet.

I should be able to get 3/16" slices, I've done a lot thinner than that before.

Gordon Bellerose wrote:Remember to mark your pieces on the edge, so that you can book match them after cutting.
Guys!
If I have given bad advice, please let me know.

Seems good to me. Thanks.

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:14 am

Randolph Rhett wrote:I always start from rough lumber. Assuming it is seasoned and dry I don't then try to season the billets. Usually from 8/4 stock, but how nice to start from 10/4. It's about laying it out for good yield.

Yes, this is what I'm wanting.

Randolph Rhett wrote:You can make a lot of flat top back "sets" with that wood. You will want to resaw from +20"x+8" blank. You burn a lot more wood for a carved back. On archtops I work from a 22"x9"x8/4 blank and book match it.

For sides I cut rough lumber to 32"x5" flattop and 32"x3.5" archtop. Necks, it depends on whether I am making a stacked heel/scarf or laminate, and that often depends on whether the rough board is flat or quartered. Laminate wastes more wood, but works with flat sawn. I usually cut blanks that are 5"x 18" and need two for one neck. Quartered wood I can get a neck out of a single blank roughly 3"x38".

Once I have the billets cut from the rough lumber I just square and true them and start milling them into parts. Eg. Cut the laminate profile for the necks, or resaw .150" slices for the tops/backs.

Great, thanks for the details of what you'd do. I think I can see the areas for backs and sides in the board. If I can set up my bandsaw optimally I should be able to get 8 sets for a flat top or 2 sets for an archtop.

Randolph Rhett wrote:I have seen (and been persuaded by) the arguments that if you are building professionally $6k and up instruments it is a waste of your time to start from raw lumber. Focus on what gets you the Bucks. Likewise the hobbyist who wants to build one guitar from some exotic wood. But if you are a woodworker, there is no reason you can't break down 8/4 rough lumber and make guitars. If you were making a federalist high boy, you wouldn't expect to buy all your drawer fronts pre-milled for you.

I am planning on being an amateur forever. I might sell a guitar or two to support the habit but it won't be a job. I want to use as much material I have on hand as possible before I buy more wood. I have so much wood is almost embarrassing.

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:20 am

A small, relevant addendum with a true story. If I've told this before just tell me to shut up.

Once back when I was a working pro woodworker I was in my shop trying to get a piece done for a customer. I'd been there for a long time and was tired. My brother-in-law stopped by to visit and walked into the shop and looked around. When I was able to pause for a second and say hi he said, "Man, would I love a shop like this to play in!"

My response was, "So would I."

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Bryan Bear » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:28 am

I forgot to weigh in on how you should cut it, but it looks like you got some good answers. I'll add that I would not go looking for neck blanks in that particular board. I say that because you say you have a lot of this wood and have been looking for quartersawn boards. . . I take that to mean you have some flat sawn stock of the same wood. This is where I would go looking for matching necks. If you cut necks from this particular board you will either have a vertical grain neck without quite enough wood for the heel (assuming we are not doing bolt-on electrics) or flatsawn necks. I don't know how to add heel depth on curly maple and make it look nice; flatsawn necks would probably be okay but since you have other stock, I'd go that route. You may find thick enough flatsawn stock to get you vertical grain neck stock or you could laminate flatsawn stock with a contrasting strip and end up with vertical grain (the latter would be my personal choice).

Keep in mind that you will also have some surprises once you open it up. You could end up with some sets with inclusions that ruin the look.

As for cutting sides, think about what type of guitar you are likely to want to make in the future. I typically don't make deep bodies so I would possible get two 4.5" side sets from a 9" wide board, that would certainly work for archtops but maybe not if you want to make deep acoustics or ABGs.

Lastly, I would avoid the temptation to cut a whole bunch of sets while you are set up for resawing. You may find that you tire of making curly maple flattops and have 50 sets laying around. Of course, you could always sell/trade them for different timbers. But, in a few years you may be into some other woodworking interests and wish you had that stock.
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Eric Knapp » Mon Sep 12, 2016 12:25 pm

Bryan Bear wrote:I forgot to weigh in on how you should cut it, but it looks like you got some good answers. I'll add that I would not go looking for neck blanks in that particular board. I say that because you say you have a lot of this wood and have been looking for quartersawn boards. . . I take that to mean you have some flat sawn stock of the same wood. This is where I would go looking for matching necks. If you cut necks from this particular board you will either have a vertical grain neck without quite enough wood for the heel (assuming we are not doing bolt-on electrics) or flatsawn necks. I don't know how to add heel depth on curly maple and make it look nice; flatsawn necks would probably be okay but since you have other stock, I'd go that route. You may find thick enough flatsawn stock to get you vertical grain neck stock or you could laminate flatsawn stock with a contrasting strip and end up with vertical grain (the latter would be my personal choice).

I have lots of flat sawn maple and I'm planning on making necks with that.

Bryan Bear wrote:Keep in mind that you will also have some surprises once you open it up. You could end up with some sets with inclusions that ruin the look.

Good advice, don't count my chickens, etc.

Bryan Bear wrote:As for cutting sides, think about what type of guitar you are likely to want to make in the future. I typically don't make deep bodies so I would possible get two 4.5" side sets from a 9" wide board, that would certainly work for archtops but maybe not if you want to make deep acoustics or ABGs.

I don't think I'll get clean 4.5" sections from this board. It's 9" in the rough and it's not perfectly straight.

Bryan Bear wrote:Lastly, I would avoid the temptation to cut a whole bunch of sets while you are set up for resawing. You may find that you tire of making curly maple flattops and have 50 sets laying around. Of course, you could always sell/trade them for different timbers. But, in a few years you may be into some other woodworking interests and wish you had that stock.

This is very good advice that I had not thought about. Once the bandsaw is setup for resawing I would be tempted to just keep going until it was all done. I think one set at a time might be better for a rookie like me. I have no idea what I want to do after finishing the archtop salvage I'm working on and the flat top I'm setting up for. I will have to cut the back and sides to length but after a set is resawn there will still be thick slabs left.

Thanks,

-Eric
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Re: From board to guitar set?

Postby Brian Evans » Mon Sep 12, 2016 3:45 pm

I would cut it a fair bit thicker than you need it, so you can true it up if it moves a lot. I've had wood that was 40 years old warp terribly when I opened it up with a resaw.
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