00-Slope-Shoulder Guitar #57 171

Scheduled Completion February, 2017

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

This guitar replaces my "shop guitar," which I recently sold. A red spruce top and mahogany back and sides are accented by an amber-through-tobacco brown sunburst, Macassar ebony fretboard and headplate, a slotted headstock, tortoise bindings and trim, and Waverly tuning machines. This instrument has a wonderful airy, open, dry sound reminiscent of vintage instruments of this general size. Please forgive my playing on these sound clips; with the advance of my arthritis, my ability to get through a song without derailing is very nearly a thing of the past.

Additional specs: 1-11/16" nut width; 16"-radius fretboard; dovetail neck joint; "corner" position markers; two-way adjustable truss rod plus carbon-fiber reinforcing bars; Ziricote bridge; 24.9" scale length; all-hide-glue construction; bone nut and saddle; gloss nitrocellulose finish; hardshell case; fully warranted.

List price on this guitar is $4,625. It's a demo, but like all my demos, is for sale. I'll reluctantly (I love this little powerhouse) take $3,450 for it. 48-hour approval, PayPal accepted.

Construction Photos

As always, construction begins with the joining of the top and back plates. A head block is formed and glued together with hot hide glue. The mahogany sides are sanded to finished thickness and cut to size. My adjustable external form is set to the proper size. A sandwich of stainless steel slats, dampened and paper-wrapped side, and heating blanket is inserted into the side bender.

The sides are pulled into shape and allowed to cool before removing from the bender. The sides are trimmed to length and placed within the external form. The head and tail blocks are glued in place. Kerfed lining is glued in place, then notched out to receive full-width mahogany strips that reinforce the sides from cracking over time.

The reinforcing strips are glued in place, then thinned sections of linings are replaced over top. A channel is cut for the abalone section of the rosette. A designated cutter cuts the curved sections of inlay. The pieces are glued into the channel, then the balance of the grooves are cut and the purfling lines are glued in.

When the glue is dry, the rosette is scraped level with the surrounding wood. The top is sanded to finished thickness. The soundhole is cut out, and the top is cut to shape. The bracing pattern is laid out on the inside of the top. A maple bridge plate and small spruce stiffener just ahead of it are glued in place. The back center web is formed and glued in place.

Bracing stock is cut from straight-grained billets of red spruce. The braces are shaped and fitted to each other. The x-bracing is recessed to fit snugly over the bridge plate. The top braces are glued in with the assistance of go-bars for clamping.

The back braces are shaped, and the center web is notched to receive them. Since the go-bars are tied up with the top bracing, clamps are used to glue the back braces. The ribs are temporarily removed from the external form, and the recess for the end graft is routed. The tortoise celluloid end graft is fitted and glued in place. The ribs are shaped to match the arching of the back and top. The lining is notched to receive the bracing.

Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. The plates are tuned by tapping and listening while shaving the braces. I'm looking for not a particular pitch, but a lot of musical notes with no dead spots. When the plates are tuned to my satisfaction, the top is clamped to the ribs and the hide glue is reactivated with a jet of steam. When the glue is set, the process is repeated with the back. A mahogany neck blank is cut to shape. A Macassar ebony fretboard is radiused, fret slots are cut, and it's fitted to the neck.

A Macassar ebony headplate is glued to the headstock. A piece of Corian is turned into a rod, then fitted into half-moon recesses on the edge of the fretboard. The rod is trimmed away, leaving position markers viewable from either plane. The body is removed from the external form, and the overhanging edges of the plates are trimmed away

The perimeter of the top is thinned with a random-orbit sander to increase the responsiveness. The binding and purfling ledges are routed, and the trim is glued in place. A template is fastened to the headstock with double-sided tape, and the headstock is trimmed to shape on the router table.

Holes are drilled for the tuning machines, then the slots are routed. The dovetail jig is zeroed with a straight edge and dial caliper. Then the straight edge is replaced with the guitar, and the jig is aligned to cut the dovetail.

The result requires only minimum hand work for a perfect fit. Matching slots are cut in neck and fretboard to receive the carbon-fiber reinforcing rods. A slight groove is routed on the bottom of the fretboard, and a white accent purfling is glued in its place. Frets are set in a thin line of hot hide glue and pressed into place. The mother-of-pearl logo is cut from a blank, and a matching recess is routed into the headstock overlay.

The logo is set in epoxy, then sanded flush. The tuner slots are elongated to allow for string clearance above the nut. The carbon-fiber reinforcing bars are glued into the slots in the back of the fretboard. The slots are extended from the neck into the body for the adjustable truss rod and carbon-fiber reinforcing. The tortoise celluloid is fitted and glued on. The fretboard is glued to the neck.

The binding and purfling are scraped flush with the body. This super-light body weighs only 29.9 oz! I get my first glimpse of the guitar as it will be when finished. The neck is shaped with planes, scrapers, rasps, and sandpaper. The instrument is thoroughly sanded. The mahogany parts are given a coat of dilute dichromate which oxidizes the wood to a rich mahogany hue.

The darkened parts are given a coat of vinyl sealer. The mahogany's pores are filled with a water-based compound that dries quickly and sands smooth. A bridge is fashioned from ziricote, a dense wood that matches well the fingerboard's ebony.

The bridge is located onto the top. The neck, bridge, purfling, and rosette are masked off from the staining process. The sunburst top is applied from dark shades to light.

The masking on the purfling and rosette are removed, and the instrument is allowed to dry overnight. The instrument is lightly sanded, the fretboard is masked off, and the instrument is given another coat of vinyl sealer. The following day, the first of two series of three coats each of nitrocellulose lacquer are applied, with light sanding between series. Then the instrument is sanded perfectly level. This is perhaps the most demanding and time-consuming process in the construction; the finish is very thin, and great attention must be taken to not sanding through to the wood below. Then the instrument is given two final thinned coats of lacquer, followed by a 10-14 day curing period before final rubout and setup. When the finish is cured, it's wet sanded with increasingly finer grits of MicroMesh paper, then buffed on a flannel wheel.

The masking is removed, and the fretboard is scraped clean of any finish that infiltrated under the tape. The frets are leveled and the ends are shaped. The masking is removed from the bridge and fretboard area. Remember when I weighed the sanded but unfinished body? The weight was 29.90 oz. My finishes are always just not quite perfect, and there's a very good reason. A perfect finish is easy to achieve, but it's thicker than I want it to be. I try to tiptoe along the line between a good-looking and long-lasting finish without compromising sound. The weight of the finished body is 30.85 oz. This means that the total weight of stain, pore filler, and finish is 0.95 oz, less than the weight of a first-class letter. That's thin! I wish I'd thought to check this before. The neck is glued to the body with hot hide glue.

The shaping of the bridge is completed, and it's glued to the soundboard, also with hot hide glue. The instrument is allowed to hang overnight while the glue fully cures. A tortoise celluloid pickguard is shaped and transfer adhesive is attached to the back. Setup of the guitar hit a small speedbump today when I accidentally dinged the top; I've touched up the finish, but it will have to cure over the weekend before I can complete the setup.

Nut and saddle are fashioned from bone blanks. Tuners, pickguard, strap buttons, and strings are installed. Good friend and fellow luthier Bob Holcomb takes the new guitar for a test drive. When it meets his approval, it's ready for the case!

Thanks for watching this project

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