Slope-shouldered Dreadnought Guitar #48 150

Completed May 2015

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

This slope-shouldered dred is my 150th instrument, and it's simple but quite special. A beautiful red-spruce top is paired with an East-Indian rosewood back that has great color. An abalone rosette and simple purfling scheme accent the beautiful wood grain without detracting attention from it. Waverly tuners top off this high-quality instrument. The sound is all I could ever hope for: the instrument responds to the lightest touch, but doesn't break down when ridden hard. The volume is tremendous, but the sound remains complex and musical even when pushed to the limit. I'll put this guitar up against any out there.

I've finally taken the time to put up a couple of sound clips that will allow you to get a sense of this guitar's tonal qualities. Please excuse my musical expertise, or lack of.

Here's one small comment from the new owner of this fine guitar:

I can without any hesitation say that this is the most outstanding guitar that I have ever owned.

For more of his review, visit our Testimonials page.

Construction Photos

Construction begins with the joining of the red spruce and rosewood top and back plates with hot hide glue. A special gluing fixture clamps quickly, and holds the pieces together and in alignment while the glue cures. The head block is fabricated and glued together with hot hide glue. Pockets are cut to make the truss rod accessible either through the upper brace, without removing the strings, or from within the body. The top is sanded level, and the back and sides are sanded to finished thickness. The sides are marked and cut to profile.

The ribs are slightly dampened and wrapped in paper. A sandwich of stainless steel slats, rosewood, and heating blanket is placed in the bending machine. The adjustable external form is set to the proper shape. The ribs are removed from the bending machine and placed in the form. The head and tail blocks are glued to the ribs.

Rib-reinforcing strips are glued into place. I've repaired a number of vintage guitars that have cracked along the edge of the lining, where the side reinforcing strips stop. For this reason, my reinforcing strips extend the full width of the ribs, then the kerfed lining is fitted around it. This is labor intensive, but makes for a more structurally sound instrument. A specially built device cuts both the inside and outside radii of segments for the Abalam rosette.

A channel is routed for the pieces, and they're glued into place. A fly cutter on the drill press cuts grooves for the purfling lines, and they're fitted and glued into the slots. The rosette is scraped and sanded level. The sound hole is cut out on the drill press.

The top and back plates are sanded to final thickness and cut to shape. The bracing pattern is laid out onto the inside of the top plate. The maple bridge patch is fabricated and glued into place with hot hide glue. The rib assembly is removed from the form, and a recess is cut with knife and chisel for the end graft. A celluloid end graft is fitted into the recess and glued into place. Blanks of red spruce bracing are cut to size.

The braces are partially dimensioned, leaving enough wood to allow for later tap tuning. The x-bracing is notched together, and a recess is cut to receive the bridge plate. The braces and center seam reinforcing are glued in with hot hide glue. The bracing is shaped with planes and chisels. The plates are tap tuned by listening for a multitude of different musical notes with no dead spots. The results are carefully recorded.

The ribs are shaped to the plates with arched sanding blocks. Notches are cut in the kerfed lining for the bracing. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. The components are clamped together, and the glue is reactivated with a jet of steam. The guitar body is removed from the form, and the overhanging edges of the plates are trimmed flush with the ribs.

While the edge of the soundboard is visible, it's reduced in thickness around the perimeter; this "loosens up" the top and makes for a more resonant instrument. The binding and purfling grooves are routed. Though I'd planned an elaborate instrument for this my 150th, the wood is so beautiful that I've opted for a very simple b/w/b purfling line and plain ivoroid celluloid bindings. The bindings are glued into place. The adhesive that I use slightly swells the ivoroid, so the body is set aside for a week or two so that the glue can fully cure and the bindings return to their original size before they're scraped level.

A quartersawn mahogany neck blank is glued up with hot hide glue. A slot for the truss rod is cut, and the neck is roughly cut to shape. A specialized alignment jig facilitates the cutting of the dovetail while maintaining perfect plane and alignment. This fancy neck-to-headstock joint not only makes a strong joint, but also creates the volute on the back of the neck and maintains longitudinal grain through the headstock. The heel cap is glued in place, and the neck is fitted to the body, ready for shaping.

A sliding jig for the tablesaw cuts matching slots in the neck and in the back of the fretboard to receive full-fretboard-length carbon fiber bars. The slots are filled in where they cross into the headstock, and the rosewood head plate is glued in place. The headstock and neck are cut to final profile. The fretboard is sanded to a 16" radius, and fret slots are cut.

The neck is shaped with planes, chisels, and rasps. The volute is cut with a sharp chisel. Mother-of-pearl and abalone inlay is cut with a jeweler's saw, then recessed into the wood and glued in place with epoxy.

The finished inlay consists of simple but elegant logo and "Lazy O's" position markers. The carbon fiber reinforcing bars are glued into the slotted fretboard. Mother-of-pearl side position dots are glued into place. Frets are set in a thin line of hot hide glue, then pressed into place. Slots to receive the reinforcing bars are extended into the guitar's body.

The adjustable two-way truss rod is set in a few dabs of silicone to prevent rattling. The fretboard is glued to the neck. At this point, the guitar is structurally complete and ready for final sanding and finishing. The bindings are scraped flush with the ribs and plates. A series of jigs is used to shape the ebony belly bridge.

The bridge is accurately located on the top, and the area beneath it and the neck are masked off. The body is given a coat of vinyl sealer.

Dichromate is applied to the mahogany neck. It goes on light yellow, but in a few hours turns the wood a beautiful, rich mahogany red. Pore filler is applied to the rosewood and mahogany. After it's dry, the filler is sanded smooth and another coat of vinyl sealer is applied. Then gloss lacquer is applied in a series of coats to build a finish that is thin but durable. The instrument is sanded perfectly level in preparation for the final coats.

The final coats of lacquer are applied, and the instrument is set aside for 10-14 days for the finish to cure. Setup begins with wet sanding with Micro Mesh paper to 4000 grit. The finish is buffed on a flannel wheel. The neck is glued to the body.

The masking is removed from the bridge area, and the bridge is glued to the top. A celluloid pickguard is fashioned, and the edge is beveled and buffed. Waverly tuners are installed. The pegholes are reamed to fit the pins, and a bone saddle is shaped and fitted to the slot. The pickguard is installed with transfer adhesive. A bone nut is fitted and a set of strings is put to use, and the instrument is ready to go.

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