Help me design a beater

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Matthew Lau
Posts: 513
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Help me design a beater

Post by Matthew Lau »

Dear MIMF,

I've been away for a while because I've been focusing on my day job, more training, buying house, more craziness...aaargh!
More recently, I wish that I had a decent beater for when life gets crazy...

I was looking at the Ed Sheeran Martin LX1E when it struck me---I *build* guitars (albeit badly and clumsily).
Why the heck am I thinking of plunking $450 for a HPL guitar?

I haven't built for a long while.
I'd like a little project to get me back to building.
If it's ugly, I can claim that it's intentional.

Can you guys help me design a decent "beater" guitar?
I'm thinking of something that isn't too affected by humidity changes...solid wood...sounds decent...cheapish...short scale...fits in an overhead bin...can be built with mostly hand tools.

I'm tempted to do an almost all Alaskan Specialty Woods guitar for kicks--keeping things American and non-exotic would be really cool!
(Cedar top, Alaskan YC back and sides, Alaskan YC neck--maybe stratabond?, Braz rw bridge, preslotted fretboard, etc).
Realistically, I may just buy the guitar...as electronics and materials would likely end up costing the same.

However, it would be really cool to possibly build this...

-Matt, with a bout of insomnia.

ps. I have a set of plans for the L-00 (MIMF, thanks Mark), OM, OOO, Gibson L-0 (Robert Johnson), MIMF parlor guitars, and several classicals.
Would you recommend that I start from scratch, or follow some older model?

pps. In my wood stash, I have some back sets: mahogany, Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Indian Rosewood
Tops: Redwood (LMII), Pre-war Adirondack Spruce (Don't want to use these, they're really splitty), Euro spruce (saved for Muriel's guitar)
Necks: port orford cedar. Mahogany.
Bridge: Mad RW, Braz RW (I'll call it IRW to the customs), Mac Ebony.

Alan Carruth
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 1:11 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Alan Carruth »

Several years ago I built an OM out of Persimmon wood, to try it out. If I ever needed a 'street fighting guitar' that would be the wood I'd use; it;s the toughest stuff I've ever run into. It's not hard to work, but it is dense, and very hard to split. It bends well enough, although you have to lean on it.

All of my 'test mules' use a removable neck. I cut the fingerboard off a bit on the bridge side of the body fret (12 or 14, whichever), and put two small pins in it. These fit into holes in the fretboard stub that's glued to the top. In the neck there's a reinforcement of 1/4" aluminum, sort of 'L' shaped, that tapers out at the ends of both legs. It's maybe 3/8" deep at the body end. The end of the neck doesn't actually touch the side. Instead, I use a bolt that runs parallel to the strings through the heel into a T-nut on the inside of the neck block, down at the bottom of the box. You could put in a setscrew that bears on the side to establish the neck angle: I tend to use a small block of scrap wood. You can remove the neck if you're flying; a small body like an OM or 00/Classical will fit in the overhead nicely, and the neck can go into your checked bag. There's lots of scope for improvement on this, but the basic idea, which I copped from Walter Stanul, works very well.

Kerry Werry
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:21 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Kerry Werry »

Ok Al That sounds real interesting.. any photos.. come on you knew someone was going to ask ;-)

Thanks

Kerry

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1511
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

You want it cheap and tough? Use scrap formica (from a cabinst shop dumpster) for the back and sides and WRC from a lumberyard for the top. WRC seems to move less than spruce and although dented easily, seems to take humidity and temperature changes better. Do cloth reinforced epoxy fillets instead of linings. I make necks that detach and fit inside the body, and with a parlor size guitar it makes a pretty small package.
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Matthew Lau
Posts: 513
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Matthew Lau »

Clay and Al!
Just the guys that I wanted to hear from!

Al, I'll never forget your guitar at Healdsberg--Osage Orange, really amazing sounding classical with good note-to-note separation, musicality, balance.
I'll be using a simplified version of Kif's neck joint--just one bolt for connection, and one for adjustment.

Clay, I still think that your "laminate" brazilian rosewood guitars are stunners. I think that your travel guitars were some of the ones that got me into building. I will avoid formica though, as (a) It doesn't bring me pleasure; (b) I'm exposed to enough environmental toxins as it is....I'll be building out of an apartment in SF with minimal dust control using mostly hand tools (bowsaw anyone?).

-Matt

Doug Shaker
Posts: 274
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:21 pm
Location: Palo Alto, California

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Doug Shaker »

Clay-

In what manner are the necks placed inside the body? No obvious answer presents itself...
-Doug Shaker

Paul E Buerk
Posts: 66
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:25 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Paul E Buerk »

You might want to consider using Douglas Fir for the top, as I've found it to be pretty durable. Not sure I'd push the durability envelope on any wood top, though.

I've built a bunch of these guitars, designed to fit in a Strat gigbag and fit in overhead compartments easily. It's not really short scale since it's 25". It's also a good candidate for stringing up with Nashville tuning.
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Jason Rodgers
Posts: 1554
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:05 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Cool design, Paul! Lotsa circles. What sort of bracing do you have under the hood with that small bridge footprint? I'm all for Doug Fir as a top wood and have an instrument in progress with a top made from an old stair tread from my house. You have to select DF carefully, though. Find stuff with really fine latewood lines: if there's too much orange going on, it'll just be a brick. I replaced all 14 treads in my house with oak, and I only kept two that were lighter in color and weight.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1511
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Hi Doug,
There is a port at the bottom of the guitar that the neck slips through. The neck block is hollow and the peghead is held by that.
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Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1511
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

The bolt that secures the heel at the "neck end" is reversed and secures the heel at the port. I posted a few extra pictures to show the neck attachment and the string attachment at the bridge. These are small modifications to make a full size instrument "travelable". When not being transported the guitar can be kept strung up and used as a regular guitar without any loss of function.

Paul E Buerk
Posts: 66
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:25 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Paul E Buerk »

What sort of bracing do you have under the hood with that small bridge footprint?
They have a simple X Brace pattern, 90 degrees with two finger braces. I'm trying to remember if I've used "Musser Bars" on any of these.

Matthew Lau
Posts: 513
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Matthew Lau »

Thanks for all the input!

I apologize for being absent for so long.
I've been really tied up with certain projects (remodel).
I'm looking forward to the time that I can just go back to the wood.

I have a set of "beater grade" honduran mahogany (complete with burn marks...the firemen were amused).
I'm thinking of making a smaller body guitar with a short scale.
The neck is from the cutoff bin...I bought a $4 neck blank of spanish cedar.

Clay's idea looks *really* nice.
Any recommendations for the top?
I have a surplus of old growth Adirondack spruce that acts like brittle cedar.
Should I use that?

This might end up being a most luxurious beater!

Clay Schaeffer
Posts: 1511
Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

WRC seems to stand up well to temperature and humidity swings, but isn't very dent resistant. Spruce is a bit tougher, but maybe not as forgiving of humidity changes. If the "beater" will actually get beat, then maybe Sitka or red spruce, if the guitar will change from wet to dry conditions often and quickly then maybe cedar would be my choice.
HPL doesn't really present any environmental toxins, is pretty tough and doesn't react to humidity changes much.
Below is a guitar with back and sides of an HPL/wood composite material called Alpikord
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Matthew Lau
Posts: 513
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hmmm, I'm in California--San Francisco.
I sometimes work in Half Moon Bay or San Mateo (not sure about humidity swings?)

The main humidity issue may be from airplane travel (going off to conferences and classes) in who knows where.

I'm not the type to bang on my guitars, but life happens.
I mainly play fingerstyle with very light strumming.
Since I french polish my instruments (all 4 of them that I made), I *really* hate people that ding up the finish.

Hope that helps.

jack williams
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue May 22, 2012 4:24 pm

Re: Help me design a beater

Post by jack williams »

That L-00 plan you have with mahogany back and sides and an adirondack top ... simple rosette binding only no purfling 1/4 inch bracing... keep it simple... light... it could make for a great guitar... by the way, what is splitty adirondack... runout?...I don't understand..... really any of the plans you have could make for a great adi/mahog guitar.... one of my fav wood combos..... but if you build, you know all of this.... jack

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