Custom 00-S Guitar #50 154

Completed November, 2015

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


This very special custom guitar rests at the pinnacle of my lutherie achievements. A master-grade Carpathian spruce top is matched with a very special set of curly cherry back and sides. Also featured are a sound port, a beveled armrest, and custom-made Waverly engraved tuning machines. Walnut of different appearance is melded in neck and bindings to create exquisite accents, and a fine-line purfling strip ties it all together. The inlay is intricate, but subtle. This is one I won't forget.


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Construction Photos

Construction of this instrument, as with all, begins with the joining of the top plate with hot hide glue. This fixture provides uniform clamping pressure while keeping the bookmatched halves perfectly aligned and on an even plane. The top is removed from the clamping fixture and sanded to a uniform thickness. The curly cherry sides are sanded to finished thickness and cut to profile. A section of highly figured walnut is bookmatched and glued together for the rosette. Since the inner construction of the guitar will be visible through the side port, I've added just a bit of visual interest by carving in deep relief the serial number into the head block. The head block is assembled with hot hide glue.
The walnut for the rosette is sanded to thickness, and a paper template is used to locate the most appealing grain pattern. The walnut insert is cut out, and a matching recess is cut in the top. The insert is glued in place and clamped overnight. A channel is routed for the outer ring of abalone.
A two-headed cutter cuts both the inside and outside radii of the abalone with a single pass. The pieces are glued into the recess. A fly cutter is used to cut the various purfling rings. The center, curly section of the walnut neck is laminated with a white purfling line and one of the outer, straight-grained halves of the neck. After the glue is dry, the center section is tapered to a point at the headstock end. The other purfling line and other half of neck are glued to the first assembly.
Curly walnut bindings are ripped from larger stock, and a white purfling line is glued to one edge and clamped with a long rubber band. When the glue has dried, the strips are sanded to finished size. The outer purfling lines are glued in place, and the rosette is scraped level. The inner abalone ring has "twisted" purfling lines, and is in large part cut by hand. For this final ring, the abalone pieces are fitted by hand.
The finished rosette. My adjustable external form is set for 00-S size. Binding strips are lightly taped to the sides to be bent at the same time. A sandwich is created of stainless steel slats, heating blanket, Kraft paper, and the cherry sides. The wood is lightly dampened, then heated with the blanket. The waist is first pulled into shape, followed by the lower and upper bouts.
After the sides have cooled, the bindings are removed and they're placed within the external form. The head and tail blocks are glued to the ribs. The neck is cut to profile, the truss rod slot is cut, and the peghead ears are glued in place.
A template and router bushing are used to cut each half of the back and the tapered, free-form backstrip at the same time to give a perfect fit. A white purfling line is inserted between the parts, and the back is glued together. The following day, the back is sanded to finished thickness and cut to shape. Here you can see how the tapering center section of curly walnut will continue through the neck, coming to a point at the top of the headstock.
The top is sanded to finished thickness and the soundhole is cut out. The bracing pattern is laid out on the inner surface. A mahogany supporting structure for the beveled-edge armrest is formed from mahogany.
The shaped piece is glued in place with the aid of temporary cauls. The back bracing is radiused on the spindle sander, then shaped. The tapered center reinforcing strip is glued in place with the finished braces serving as spacers. When the glue is dry, the back braces are glued in place with hot hide glue.
The maple bridge plate is glued in place. The top bracing is shaped first by a template, then by hand. The x-bracing is recessed to receive the bridge plate and half-lapped together. The top bracing is glued in place,
working from the major braces to the minor ones. Walnut, mahogany, and white fiber strips are ripped for the plies of the laminated lining. The strips are glued and clamped to a temporary form with long strips of rubber bands. The strips are marked and cut to the shape of the sides, then cut to a uniform width.
The edge is beveled, and the strips are glued to the ribs. When the back linings are dry, the process is repeated on the top. A small cross-joint splice is fitted and glued into the top's x-brace.
A very thin strengthening patch is installed in front of the bridge, along with a narrow center joint reinforcing strip. The sound port is cut in the upper side bout. Laminated side reinforcing strips are glued in place. The background for the serial number is darkened with a bit of dichromate. Final tuning of the tip is done by tapping and listening, lightly shaving the braces as I look for a multitude of musical notes with no dead spots. The tail block is beveled to provide a gluing surface equal to the surrounding lining.
The top and back are arched to match the radius of the top and back plates. Mortises are cut to receive the bracing. Everything is given a test run to make sure all fits perfectly. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. The top is clamped to the ribs, and the glue is reactivated with a jet of steam.

The process is repeated with the back. The completed body is removed from the external form and the glue is allowed to fully dry. Inlay begins with a light sketch of basic lines, then is developed into a plan. The edges of the plates are trimmed flush with the sides, and the sides are sanded level.

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