Slope-shouldered Dreadnought Guitar # 43 126

Completed December, 2013

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

This slope-shouldered dreadnought guitar features a master-grade Lutz spruce top and premium East Indian rosewood back and sides. An ebony neck and bridge are set off by a mother-of-pearl whitetail buck on the rosewood headstock and white oak leaves and acorn on the 12th fret. Tortoise binding and pickguard lend it an extra touch of class, and Waverly tuners offer the ultimate in function and beauty. This sound is what I've come to expect from Lutz-topped slope dreds: big and bold with a sizzle other combinations just don't offer.

Construction Photos

Construction of this guitar begins with the joining of the Lutz spruce top and East Indian rosewood back. The rosewood back and sides are sanded to final thickness, and the back is joined and the sides are cut to shape. The sides are dampened, wrapped in paper, and placed inside a stainless steel and heat blanket sandwich. The sandwich is placed in a bending form. When the sides are adequately heated, first the waist is formed, and then the upper and lower bouts are pulled into shape. The slats are removed from the bending machine and placed in a form to cool and dry. Head and tail blocks are fashioned from mahogany and glued in place with hot hide glue.

The outline and bracing layout are marked onto the back. Reinforcing trips are glued to the inside of the ribs. Mahogany lining is shaped on the drum sander, then kerfed on the bandsaw. The kerfed lining is glued to the ribs, with a small reduced-thickness section at each reinforcing strip. Red spruce brace stock is cut to square dimensions, then shaped on the belt and spindle sander. The back reinforcing web is glued in place, then crowned with small planes. The web is notched to receive the back bracing, and it is glued in place.

The top is sanded to thickness. A channel is cut for the abalone rosette. The abalone pieces are cut on a specialized fixture that cuts both inside and outside radii with one pass. The rosette pieces are glued into the recess, and the purfling grooves are cut with a fly cutter; the purfling rings are glued in place. The sound hole is cut, the top is cut to shape, and the bracing is laid out on the inside of the top. The maple bridge plate is shaped and glued into place with hot hide glue.

The top bracing is partially shaped, and the x-braces are recessed to receive the bridge plate. The balance of the bracing is glued in with hot hide glue. The top is tap tuned by shaving the bracing while listening for a plethora of musical notes with no dead spots. The back bracing is similarly shaped and tuned. The ribs are sanded to an arch that matches that of the plates and are notched to receive the bracing. Hot hide glue is applied to the gluing surfaces and allowed to dry. The top plate is then clamped to the ribs, and the glue is reactivated with a blast of steam.

The body is then removed from the form, the back is clamped in place, and the procedure is repeated. A recess is routed for the tortoise end graft, and it's fitted and glued into place. The perimeter of the top is thinned with a random orbit sander. The tortoise bindings are routed and glued in place with a teflon strip termporarily in the place of the abalone purfling. The teflon strip is then removed, and abalone purfling is fitted into the slot.

The neck is roughed out and the truss rod slot is cut. A specialized fixture guides the router as it cuts the matching dovetails on neck and body. The neck heel is shaped on the spindle sander, and the neck is roughly cut to profile. The ebony fretboard is sanded to a 16" radius. A sliding table saw jig cuts matching slots in the fretboard and neck to receive the carbon fiber fretboard reinforcing bars.

Fret slots are cut on a dedicated radial arm saw. The fretboard is cut to shape. Inlay begins with a graphic that's broken down into a paint-by-number scheme, then reduced to fit the peghead. The inlay is built piece by piece. A pair of oak leaves and an acorn are cut for a 12-th fret inlay.

The inlay is recessed into the peghead overlay and fretboard and epoxied in place. The overlay is glued to the peghead. The peghead is roughly cut to thickness and shape. Frets are glued into the slots with a bit of hot hide glue, and side dots are installed. Carbon fiber reinforcing bars are glued into the back of the fretboard, and the heel cap is glued on.

The neck is further shaped with rasps and scrapers. Slots are extended through the head block to receive the reinforcing bars. The fretboard is glued to the neck with hot hide glue. In my short experience with Lutz spruce, I've found that the pores pick up dust very easily. Therefore, I fill the rosewood pores with epoxy and give it a coat of vinyl sealer before I finish sand the top.

The neck is brought to its final shape and sanded, and the bridge is located. The neck and bridge areas are masked off from finish. The neck is stained and the pores are filled, and the finishing process begins. When the lacquer is fully cured, the instrument is wet sanded.

Then it's buffed on a flannel wheel. The neck and bridge are glued in place, and the instrument is set up.

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