Custom Dreadnought Guitar #61 179

Completed August, 2017

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


This custom build is for a Texas customer who recently heard and played one of my guitars and decided he just had to have one. This one is all about sound, with a red spruce top and mahogany back and sides.

Construction Photos

As usual, construction begins with the joining of the plates with hot hide glue. A head block is fabricated and glued together. Mahogany sides are sanded to finished thickness and cut to the proper profile. Just because I'm in the mood, I bend the sides over a hot pipe rather than utilize a heat blanket in a side bender, always checking the curvature against a template. This is a job I've always enjoyed, and do so now.

The top is sanded to finished thickness and cut to shape. The rosette slots are cut on the drill press, and the purfling lines are glued in place. Then they're scraped level with the top. The soundhole is cut out. The back is sanded to thickness and cut to shape.

The bracing pattern is laid out on the inside of the top. Bracing stock is cut to the proper dimensions. The x-braces are notched, and a maple bridge plate is fashioned. The bridge plate is glued in place with hot hide glue. The x-bracing is glued in next, followed by the balance of the top's bracing. The bracing is first taken close to finished shape, leaving just enough wood for tap tuning.

The sides are placed in an external form, and the head and tail blocks are glued in place. The back's center web is glued in. The back bracing is radiused and sanded to a parabolic shape. Notches are cut in the back web to receive the bracing. The bracing is shaped close to final dimensions, then glued in place.


Mahogany lining is shaped and kerfed on the bandsaw. Full-width side-reinforcing strips are glued in between sections of lining, then a thinned piece of lining is glued in over top the bracing. The neck-to-headstock joint is cut.


The neck heel is glued up. The plates are tap tuned by tapping and listening while shaving wood from the braces. I'm looking for lots of musical notes with no dead spots. The braces are marked onto the sides, and recesses are cut to recive them. Hot hide glue is applied to mating surfaces and allowed to dry.


The parts are clamped together, and the glue is reactivated with a jet of steam. The truss rod slot is cut in the neck. The neck is cut roughly to shape. The body is removed from the form, and the edges of the plates are routed flush with the sides. A recess is routed for the end graft.


The celluloid end graft is fitted and glued into place. The perimeter of the top is thinned with a random-orbit sander to increase resonance and sensitivity. The binding and purfling channels are routed, and the binding and purfling lines are glued in. The guitar is mounted in a dovetail jig.

Both parts of the dovetail are routed without removing the guitar from the jig. The resulting joint is a tight fit and is aligned in all planes with virtually no hand work. The neck heel is shaped. The ebony fretboard is sanded to a 16" radius.

Fret slots are cut. The fretboard and neck are cut to the same template. Matching slots are routed in the fingerboard and neck to receive carbon-fiber bars. The peghead is cut to shape. The neck is roughly shaped in the neck-to-headstock-joint area.

The headsstock is glued to the neck. The rosewood overlay is roughly shaped and glued to the headstock. Mother-of-pearl fretboard position markers are recessed into the board. Fretwire is bent to a 16" radius and cut to length. The frets are set in a thin line of hot hide glue.

The frets are pressed into place. Side position markers are installed. The "Skipper" logo is cut from mother of pearl and recessed into the headstock. The pearl is set in a mixture of epoxy and wood dust, then sanded level.

Slots for the reinforcing bars and truss rod are extended into the body. The tortoise heel cap is glued on. Carbon-fiber reinforcing bars are glued into the recesses on the bottom of the fretboard. The truss rod is set in a few dots of sealant to prevent future rattling. The fretboard is glued to the neck. The bindings are scraped level with the surrounding wood.

The body is sanded to 320-grit. The neck is shaped, and the volute area is refined. The bridge is located, and the areas to remain unfinished are masked off. A dilute dichromate solution is yellowish against the mahogany, but overnight will oxidize the wood to a rich red-brown.

The top is given a light coat of aging toner, followed by multiple coats of pore filler, with drying periods and light sanding between coats. The instrument is again lightly sanded and given a coat of vinyl sealer. The the first of two series of three coats of nitrocellulose lacquer is applied. The following day, the instrument is lightly sanded and given a second series.

After a 24-hour drying period, the instrument is sanded perfectly level. This is a tedious job that requires close attention to prevent sanding through the very thin finish. The instrument is given two thinned coats of lacquer, then allowed to cure for 10-14 days before the finish is rubbed out and the instrument is set up. When the lacquer is cured, the instrument is wet-sanded with Micro Mesh paper, then buffed on a flannel wheel. The frets are leveled and dressed, and the Waverly tuning machines are installed.

The masking is removed from the neck and bridge areas, and the neck and bridge are glued on with hot hide glue. Nut, saddle, picktuard, and bridge pins are fitted and installed. With a bit of setup, this one is ready for a trip to Texas.

Thanks for watching this project

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