Custom Dreadnought Guitar # 44 129


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

This bearclaw Sitka spruce and mahogany dreadnought is patterened after the very best of the vintage guitars. The stark ebony-and-celluloid trim is nicely set off by the bearclaw top, warmed with a touch of aging toner. The sound is crisp and articulate, and very well balanced, and with all the oomph you'd expect from a dred. This one's a keeper, for sure. Too bad I can't; it's a custom build for a repeat customer.

Construction Photos

This sitka-topped mahogany dreadnought guitar gets underway with the joining of the plates and the bending of the sides. The sides are placed in an external form to dry. The top for this project was joined at an earlier date and the rosette channels had been cut, so all that remains to complete the rosette is to install the purfling lines. The mahogany neck and tail blocks are fabricated and glued to the sides.

The top and back are thicknessed and cut to shape. The rosette is scraped level with the top and the soundhole is cut out. The bracing is laid out on the top and back, and the bridge patch and back reinforcing web are glued in. The side reinforcing braces are glued in place.

The bracing is roughed out of red spruce stock, radiused to fit top and back, and the x-bracing is fitted together and recessed for the bridge plate. The top bracing and kerfed lining are glued in place. The back braces are shaped, and the center web is cut away to receive them.

The back bracing is glued in place with hot hide glue. The bracing is tap tuned by trimming the bracing; I'm listening for a multitude of musical notes with no dead spots, and lots of resonance. The sides are shaped to receive the domed plates.

The lining is notched to receive the bracing. Hot hide Glue is applied to the gluing surfaces and allowed to dry, then the parts are clamped together and the glue is re-activated with a blast of steam. The top and back are trimmed flush with the sides, and the celluloid end graft is installed.

The perimeter of the top is thinned with a random orbit sander to loosen the top an additional bit. A recess is cut for the celluloid binding. The herringbone purfling for the top is shaped to the recess, then glued in with hot hide glue. Celluloid binding is then glued around the back and top.

Since the adhesive I use on the celluloid binding tends to swell the material, I'll allow it to "cure" for a week or two before I proceed. When the bindings have cured, they're scraped level. A specialized fixture is utilized to cut a perfect dovetail joint that attaches the neck to the body. The neck heel is formed on a spindle sander.

It's beginning to look like a guitar. The fretboard is radiused and matching slots are cut in the fretboard and neck to receive the carbon fiber reinforcing. Fret slots are cut on a dedicated radial arm saw. Mother of pearl position markers are installed, and the frets are pressed into place.

The "Skipper" logo is cut from mother of pearl and recessed into the headstock overlay. Channels are extended into the guitar's head block to receive the carbon fiber reinforcing. The truss rod is installed, and the peghead overlay and fretboard are glued to the neck.

The headstock is cut to shape, and shaping begins on the neck. The volute and neck heel are shaped, and the fret ends are beveled even with the fretboard. Now it's time for final sanding and finishing.

The bridge and neck areas are masked off from finish. The top is given a coat of aging toner, and the back, sides and neck are stained a rich mahogany color and given a coat of vinyl sealer. Then the pores are filled with a black filler. When it's fully dried, the bindings are scraped clean.

A second coat of vinyl sealer is applied, and then a series of nitrocellulose lacquer coats are sprayed on. The instrument is lightly sanded between each series of coats. When it's reached adequate thickness, the final coats are sprayed on, and it's allowed to cure for ten days to two weeks before it's buffed out and set up. Then the finish is wet sanded with Micro-mesh abrasive paper.

The finish is buffed on a flannel wheel. The tuning machines are installed, and the neck is glued to the body. The bridge masking is peeled away. The bridge is finished and glued in place.

The nut is shaped and slotted. The pickguard is fashioned and installed, and the saddle and bridge pins are fitted.

A bit of setup work, and this one's ready to roll.

Thanks for watching this project.

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