Custom 1-17 Style Guitar #62 180

Completed October, 2017

(click any of the thumbnails for a higher-resolution photo)


This neat little guitar -- my last commissioned build before I retire -- replaces a beautiful little Martin guitar that's giving up the ghost after many years of service. With all-mahogany construction, this instrument also features a slot head and a wider, v-shaped neck, just like the original. While it retains the light-as-a-feather and super-responsive qualities, behind the visible features it also incorporates some more modern ideas like carbon-fiber reinforcing and an adjustable truss rod.

Construction Photos

Construction begins with the joining of the plates with hot hide glue. Though I actually have a plan for this model (that's different!), I still need to make some templates. My adjustable external form is set to the proper size and shape. The sides are ripped from a mahogany blank and sanded to thickness. The sides are cut to profile.

The sides are bent across a bulb-heated pipe, always checking against both the template and the form. A modernized head block is constructed. The head and tail blocks are glued to the sides. A recess is cut for the rosette.

The rosette lines are glued in place with hot hide glue. When the glue is dry, the rosette is scraped level with the surrounding wood. The top and back are sanded to finished thickness. The soundhole is drilled, the plates are cut to shape, and the bracing patterns are laid out on the insides. The back reinforcing web and bridge plate are glued in place. Red spruce stock is sized for bracing.

The x-bracing is shaped and notched to receive the bridge plate. The top's bracing is glued in half at a time. The back reinforcing web is notched for the back bracing, and the bracing is glued in place.

The first half of the kerfed lining and side reinforcing strips is glued in place. As you can see in the photos, my side reinforcing strips run the full width of the sides, and the kerfed lining is fitted around them. The top is tap tuned by carefully shaving the bracing while tapping and listening for a multitude of musical notes with no dead spots.

The sides are sanded to the arching of the top and back. The sides are notched to receive the bracing. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces of top and sides, then allowed to dry. The parts are clamped together, and teh glue is reactivated with a burst of steam directed through a small tube. The process is repeated with the back. The body is removed from the external form and the edges of the plates are trimmed flush with the sides.

A mahogany neck blank is cut roughly to size, and the truss rod slot is routed. The neck heel is roughly shaped. A straight edge is used to "zero" the dovetail jig. The straightedge is replaced with the guitar body, then aligned on all planes. The jig is separated into its two pieces, and the matching dovetail sections are routed.

The result is a perfectly aligned joint that needs almost no hand fitting. The neck heel is further refined. A rosewood fingerboard blank is slotted, radiused, and cut to shape.

The neck is cut to match the fretboard. Matching slots for carbon-fiber reinforcing bars are routed in neck and fingerboard. The rosewood headstock overlay and heel cap are glued in place. A shop-built acrylic template is affixed to the back of the peghead with double-faced tape. The outside of the peghead is trimmed on the router table. Another template facilitates the drilling of the tuning machine holes.

Finally, the peghead slots are routed, the template is removed, and the peghead is sanded to final thickness on the spindle sander. The peg slots are elongated to allow for string clearance. Mother-of-pearl fretboard dots are installed. Frets are cut to length, bent to the proper radius, and set in a thin bead of hot hide glue. Slots for the truss rod and for the carbon-fiber reinforcing bars are extended into the body.

The carbon-fiber bars are glued to the recesses in the fretboard. The truss rod is set in a few beads of acrylic caulk, and the fretboard is glued to the neck with hot hide glue. The original guitar has no headstock inlay, just the "Martin" name stamped on the back of the headstock. In keeping with the spirit of that, I've decided to inlay my logo on the back of the headstock, not the front. Additionally, I'm doing it in black mother of pearl that won't "jump" out at you. A paper pattern is glued onto the pearl, then the shape is cut out, inside areas first. The inlay is inlet into the back of the headstock.

The inlay is set in a mixture of epoxy and wood dust. The neck is shaped with planes, rasps, and scrapers. The instrument is thoroughly sanded. The bridge has wider string spacing than any of my jigs, so I fabricate a rosewood bridge by hand.

The bridge is accurately located with the assistance of a shop-built jig. Dichromate is applied to all the mahogany parts; this oxides the wood to a nice mahogany color. Areas to remain unfinished -- the fretboard and bridge and neck areas -- are masked off.

A coat of vinyl sealer is applied and allowed to dry overnight. The instrument is lightly sanded, and water-based pore filler is applied. After another overnight cure and light sanding, the instrument is given another coat of vinyl sealer. Then the first of two series of three coats each of nitrocellulose lacquer is applied, allowing adequate drying time between both coats and series. Then the instrument is again sanded level, and two very thin final coats of lacquer are applied. Then the instrument is allowed to cure for 10-14 days before final buffing and setup.

When the lacquer has fully cured, the instrument is wet-sanded with Micro Mesh paper, then buffed on a flannel wheel. The masking is removed, and the neck is glued to the body. Final shaping is performed on the bridge, and it's glued to the top. A tortoise celluloid pickguard is fashioned and installed.

Original-style slot-head tuning machines are installed. A bone nut is fashioned, and strings are installed. After a spate of setup work, it's ready to make music.

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