Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

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Jordan Fox
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Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

Hi everyone, I would really appreciate some advice...
As a background, I have never built an acoustic guitar. I have built an electric (essentially assembled from parts) and built one of those cigar box guitars. I've done most of the basic repair and setup work on my own guitars. I have done a lot of carpentry related work, so working with wood isn't entirely new but I know building an acoustic is a tricky job that requires a lot of knowledge and skill. I am anticipating my first build to be more of a learning process, but I hope it will at least turn out be playable and decent to look at. As a guitar player, I prefer smaller bodied guitars.
So here would be my question...
Should I start with a certain body type for my first build? My choice would be to build a parlor. If I have a good plan to work from will I be ok with it? Or should I start with a larger bodied guitar that can handle all the tension a little easier? Something like a 000 or OM. The benefit of the OM would be that I've seen preslotted fingerboards for that scale length. Or is slotting my own fingerboard manageable with the right measurements?
Thanks everyone! I'm saving up and planning right now but I'm sure I will be scouring these forums quite a bit over the while!
One more question if you have time...how many people were surprised at how well their first guitar turned out? Did anyone's first turn out a total flop?
Thanks!

Robert Russell
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Robert Russell »

Hi Jordan,
I saw your post in my thread on my parlor but since you started this thread I will answer the best I can here. I am sure others will have more advice for you so mine may be different that some of the more seasoned builders here. I have been repairing guitars for quite some time now but that was my first build. I asked around and got very good advice to start with a kit even though I have plenty of repair experience. I ordered my kit pre-serviced since I didn't have some of the tools that were required to build from scratch. My kit started out as a 12 fret parlor with pre-bent sides, carved neck and slotted fretboard. I decided to change it to a 14 fret so I had to make changes from the original plan (moving the bridge and the X-bracing) and I clearly deviated from the plan by styling it after the 1800's classical that is pictured in my thread. Since I already had experience repairing and rebuilding guitars I was comfortable doing a lot of the changes I decided on. My next one is in the planning stages right now but it will be from scratch.

I would highly suggest that you follow the same advice I got in doing your first one. Order a kit and have some of the parts pre-serviced so you can concentrate on completing it and not get bogged down in the details of things you are not comfortable (or don't have the tools) doing. I don't really think it is important what size guitar you build. I personally like parlor sized guitars and am drawn to the Romantic Era of guitars so that is what I built. I say do what you like and you will retain more interest in completing it.

I was told (and now believe) I will learn a lot from building a kit (and I did). The parts you are not confident with will already be completed and that will give you time to research more on how to properly do those things. When you see it come together it will give you a lot of really good info on how to build it all from scratch.

Good luck on your first,

Bob

Jordan Fox
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

Thanks! Much appreciated!

Freeman Keller
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Freeman Keller »

I have built 000, 00 and a parlor (which I call an 0 but its probably closer to a Martin size 2). There are pictures of the parlor in the thread about parlor plans. If that's the size you want LMI does have plans and a kit which you can customize any way you want - mine was one of those kits.

If you do decide to scratch build you can buy preslotted fretboards for any scale you want (LMI and others). After 15 guitars I still buy preslotted boards - it just hasn't been worth it for me to build the miter box and do all the measuring.

The advantages of a kit for your first one are well documented - mainly that you need to buy less special tools and some of the operations that you can really screw up are done for you. You will still be challenged but have a better chance of success (you can do your scratch build for number two or three..)

Here are the parlor (kit), mahogany 00 (scratch) and 000 (kit). The 000 was my first guitar, it still gets a lot of play

Image

Last thought - an OM or 000 has a sound that you might be happier with. Parlors tend to be a little boxy sounding and focused more on the treble. Not that that is bad, they are just little guitars

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John Kingma
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by John Kingma »

Jordan, I have built one acoustic - for one of the Challenges on this forum. It was VERY basic.. just a box... no bent sides... and it turned out pretty well and it gets quite a bit of play time. (I keep it at my cottage).

Anyway, my son and I are going to start a couple acoustics when it gets closer to spring time (Too cold out in the shop this time of year). I'm located in Grimsby... so perhaps when you get started we can chat a bit, maybe get together and share some info.

JK
John Kingma,
Builder of Fine Sawdust & Expensive Kindling

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I've gone the other route; I'm going to build from scratch for my first acoustic. How bad a mistake this may be is yet to be determined. :lol:

I started out doing repairs also, and have been a hobby woodworker most of my life. I have now built 10 electric guitars. In that process I have aquired a lot of the tools needed.
I do plan on building more than one, so that makes the jigs, radius dishes, and molds that I have now built, a bit more sensible.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Jordan Fox
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

Thanks everyone! This is great. John, that sounds like an awesome idea. I'll keep my eye open for your posts. I am thinking of a spring time start as well, I am losing the battle against low humidity in my workshop right now!
In order to spread the cost out I am planning on using as many pre done parts as possible and buying parts as I go. I love the idea of a kit but won't be able to get that much money together all at once. I have most of the tools already so it's just a matter of materials. The only operation it looks like a can't avoid going this route is side bending, gotta learn sometime I guess!
Freeman, those guitars are amazing, it's a nice little family photo you have there!

Freeman Keller
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Freeman Keller »

Thank you. I looked at LMI's site and it seems that they no longer offer the parlor kit (?) but they will bend sides to that shape (the Antes plans) for fifty bucks. That's pretty reasonable if you buy the wood from them and if you want to used wood binding they will also bend that for you.

https://www.lmii.com/products/tools-ser ... es-binding

I had them bend sides for my first couple of guitars, then when it was obvious that I was hooked I bought a Fox style bender (the whole shebang was about $500). I also made a hot pipe out of 2 inch pipe and a propane torch - probably less than 50. Each time I make a new guitar I need to build a mold for it - the inside pieces of the mold become the form for my Fox bender - if you are curious about that I can post some pictures.

One other thing to think of about buying your materials - they tend to ship in a fairly large box that can get expensive. Even if you are not buying a "kit" you might want to consider buying all of the materials at one time from the same source to save shipping. You can use the LMI kit wizard to make a list of everything you will need whether you buy it from them or somewhere else.

Jordan Fox
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

I had no idea I could get the sides bent! I was going to spend more than $50 on the materials to build a side bending jig and heat pipe set up anyway. That is a super helpful tip, thanks!

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Patrick DeGreve
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Patrick DeGreve »

Hi Jordan, welcome to the forum. Just a few years ago I was starting my first acoustic guitar, and I remember being very reluctant to start. I am so glad I jumped in and built my first. i say first because, as you will hear most of us are so excited about our first, we are hooked, and can't stop building. Looking back I am still surprised at how good my first came out, and sounds. I play it all the time. I would advise you to work from a book and a good set of plans for your first. You can make small changes if you want, but a good set of plans will give you soundboard thickness, side thickness, bracing patterns, and much more. There are several good books out there. I think the Compiano book is the most complete, i started with the Kinkead book. Most come with a set of plans. As far as having Lmii bend your sides for you, that's fine if you are really concerned about that process, but I will say that I am glad I bent my sides for my first. It gave me the experience and is not as hard as it looks. I bought a set of plans for the Fox side bender, and followed the instructions. It cost very little and I am still using it all the time. Lmii sells practice sides, and RCtonewoods.com sells orphan sides for $6.00. This gives you the practice bending without much cost. Whatever you decide, go for it and keep us informed of your progress. This forum is full of members who can answer any questions you may have. Good luck, and welcome to the forum.

Jordan Fox
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

Thanks Patrick. I have been wanting to do this for about a decade and am finally able to prioritize some funds to make it happen. I've read Cumpianos book and will be using it to help me through the processes, and have heard the Antes plan from LMI is very complete and easy to work from. That is my plan so far. This forum is great, I'm glad I stumbled across it! Great advice is all over the place here!

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Barry Daniels »

Word on the street is that the Antes plan will result in an over-braced guitar.
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Mark Swanson
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Mark Swanson »

I have the Antes plans, and I can tell you it is way over-braced. You can use the plan, but do some research by looking at other plans and you'll see how the brace dimensions are different.
  • Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff

Freeman Keller
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Freeman Keller »

Unlike most plans, the Antes ones are drawn as tho you were looking thru the top (X ray vision) while most of them are the back of the top. It is fairly easy to build a guitar with the tone bar running in the wrong direction - ie a left handed bracing. Don't ask me how I know this.......

Jim Kirby
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jim Kirby »

Freeman Keller wrote:Unlike most plans, the Antes ones are drawn as tho you were looking thru the top (X ray vision) while most of them are the back of the top. It is fairly easy to build a guitar with the tone bar running in the wrong direction - ie a left handed bracing. Don't ask me how I know this.......
Do you know that it made a difference? I'm not sure that it makes a difference which way the asymmetry in a bracing pattern goes. If you know the reversal made a difference, I'd be curious to know.

Todd Stock
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Todd Stock »

Antes Size 2 and Size 5 plans will build a decent guitar with change in bracing to 1/4" x 1/2" X, 1/4" x 7/16" toners, and 1/4" x 5/16" fingers. UTB to 1/2" x 3/8". This assumes a scalloped and tapered bracing scheme...for tapered (what some folks refer to as parabolic), more trimming required. The body shape on the Size 2 is closer to Washburn than Martin, but a decent looking guitar.

My suggestion for a first build is for a guitar with very detailed, accurate plans and bracing profiles that will result in something not too terribly overbraced. McRostie's herringbone dread and 12 fret 000 are both good, and the 000 in particular makes a nice instrument.

Steve Denvir
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Steve Denvir »

Hi Jordan, I'd be happy to bend your sides for you, no charge, but I'm a bit of a hike from Hamilton. I'm a little bit North of Cobourg, a good 2 hour drive. Tony Karol lives in Mississauga, and actually teaches guitar building. You might be able to reach out to him and come to some sort of arrangement.

Good luck

Steve

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Karl Wicklund
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Karl Wicklund »

See if you can connect with another builder willing to help you out. I built my first instruments with help from a hobbyist friend of mine. He was very much self-taught, and I now know many of his techniques were a little wonky. However, I love playing the twelve string we built together despite the drywall screw through the center of the dovetail. If nothing else it taught me not to be scared of the wood or the process.
Kaptain Karl

Chris Lounsbury
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Chris Lounsbury »

Jordan, I am a builder in Hamilton and I would be happy to discuss this in person. If you look at my profile you will find my website, where you can find my contact info.

Jordan Fox
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Re: Advice for first acoustic please! - body size

Post by Jordan Fox »

Thanks everybody, Chris, I will definitely be in touch when the time comes, thanks! As part of the planning process, I have been experimenting with some scrap materials and practicing bending sides, planing to thickness etc and what I am finding is that I need to get/build a proper bending form and another form that will hold the bent sides after the clamps are removed. Using leftover woods from other woodworking projects has taken the fear out of screwing up because it doesn't matter if I have to start over or trash the material (it was going to the dump anyway). I will feel a little more comfortable when the time comes to actually bend the sides to use for a geetar. I used my wife's clothing steamer during the process and the wood bent easily, but sprung back considerably once the clamps were removed. I put some nails (to make the general shape of the body - this won't be what I use for actually making a guitar but it helped see if the theory would hold up) in a plywood board to see if placing the bent side into a form would help keep the shape and it did the trick. So now I need to make a firm decision on body shape, make a bending form and assembly form and get a good set of plans.

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