Custom Dreadnought Guitar #52 157

Completed February, 2016

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


This is a straight-ahead, full-bore bluegrass guitar with mahogany back and sides and a red spruce top. The sound is exactly what a great dred should be: like a bad bull with attitude. 1-11/16" nut width. Ebony fretboard and bridge. Bone nut and saddle. Waverly tuning machines. All hot hide glue construction. Tortoise celluloid binding and pickguard. Hardshell case.

Here are a couple of sound clips. Please excuse my shoddy playing, and listen to the power of this instrument

Construction Photos

As always, construction begins with the joining of top and back plates and the assembling of the head block, all with hot hide glue. The top and back plates are sanded to the proper thickness. The rosette recesses are cut with a drill press and fly cutter.

Shellac is brushed into the recesses and allowed to dry. The rosette lines are fitted into the recesses, and thin cyanocrylate glue is wicked in. The rosette is scraped level. The soundhole is cut. The bracing layout is marked onto the inside of the top. The maple bridge plate is fabricated and glued in place with hot hide glue.

A matching, angled birdsmouth is cut on headstock and neck. A channel is routed in the headblock and neck to receive the truss rod. The heel assembly is glued together. A very thin spruce patch is glued in between the x-bracing and the bridge plate. This adds only an infinitesimal amount of weight to the top, but helps prevent the dimple that appears in this area over time. Braces are shaped on the spindle sander.

The x-braces are recessed to receive the bridge plate. The balance of the top bracing is glued in place. The sides are thicknessed and cut to shape. A sandwich of stainless steel slats, heating blanket, and moistened and paper-wrapped sides are placed in a bending form.
My adjustable external form is set to a dreadnought shape. The bent sides are placed in the form, and the head and tail blocks are glued to the sides. The back is cut to shape, and the bracing is shaped and glued in place. The back's center reinforcing strip is glued in. A recess is cut for the tortise end graft, and it's glued in place.

Mahogany lining is shaped on the thickness sander, kerfed on the bandsaw, and glued to the ribs with hot hide glue. The lining is notched to receive thin side reinforcing strips.

The strips are glued in place, then the lining is filled in above the strips. This is a tedious job, but one that prevents the side cracks that follow along the edge of the lining on so many vintage guitars. The bracing is shaved to tune the top and back. Wood is gradually removed to produce soundboards that produce a multitude of musical, resonant notes with no dead spots. The bracing is marked onto the sides, and the sides are notched to receive them. Hot hide glue is applied to mating parts and allowed to dry. Then the parts are clamped together, and the glue is reactivated with a jet of steam.

The process is repeated on the back. The instrument is removed from the external form, and the overhanging edges are trimmed flush with the sides. The binding slot is routed, and the binding and purfling is glued in place. The bindings are scraped level with the wood, and the instrument is lightly sanded.

An ebony fretboard blank is sanded to a 16" radius, then slotted on a dedicated radial arm saw. The neck and fretboard are cut to profile and fitted together. The dovetail joint is routed, and the neck is fitted perfectly to the body. Slots are routed for carbon fiber reinforcing in the area of the fretboard that extends over the body.

Slots for the truss rod and for the carbon fiber reinforcing are extended into the body. The headstock is glued to the neck, and the rosewood overlay is then glued to the peghead. Fretboard position markers and side dots are installed. Frets are set in just a bit of hot hide glue, then seated with a press.

The "Skipper" logo is cut from mother of pearl, then inlet into the peghead overlay and set into epoxy. The truss rod is set in a few dots of silicone. The fretboard is glued to the neck.

The neck is shaped with an assortment of spokeshaves, chisels, and scrapers. The instrument is thoroughly sanded. The neck, back, and sides are given a coat of dichromate to oxidize the mahogany to a rich red-brown.

Unfinished areas are masked off. System 3 epoxy is accurately proportioned on a digital scale, and applied to fill the pores in the mahogany. After a 24-hour curing period, the surface is sanded and the pore-filling process is repeated.

The filler is sanded level. The bridge and soundhole are masked off, and the instrument is given another coat of sealer, followed by the first series of lacquer coats. After the first series of three coats, the instrument is lightly sanded and the series is repeated. Then the instrument is sanded perfectly level, and two final coats of lacquer are applied. The finish is then allowed to cure for 10-14 days before final rubout and setup. When the lacquer is fully cured, it's wet sanded with Micro Mesh paper,

then buffed on a flannel wheel. The tuning machines are installed before the neck is glued to the body. The bridge is given final shaping and sanding. A temporary clamping caul is attached to the inside of the bridge plate with two thin strips of two-sided tape.

A piece of split vinyl tubing protects the edges of the soundhole while the bridge is glued with hot hide glue and clamped in place. A pickguard is cut from a larger piece of tortoise celluloid, then shaped on the router table and by scraping. Transfer adhesive is applied to the back,

and it's installed on the guitar. A bone nut is shaped and fitted to the slot. A bit of setup work, and this one's ready to hit the bluegrass trail.

Thanks for watching this project


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