Custom Slope-shouldered Dreadnought Guitar #59 176

Completed August, 2017

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

This slope-shouldered dreadnought guitar sports a red spruce top, mahogany back, sides, and neck, and just enough subtle touches to make it a truly custom instrument. Waverly tuning machines, walnut rosette, and tortoise binding and pickguard add touches of class to this great-sounding instrument.

Construction Photos

Construction begins with the joining of the plates. What a beautiful piece of red spruce! The neck/headstock joint is cut, and the neck heel is laminated, all of quartersawn mahogany. The head block is assembled with hot hide glue. The mahogany sides are sanded to finished thickness, cut to profile, an a sandwich of sides, paper, heating blanket, and stainless steel slats is placed in the bending machine.

As the wood is heated the waist is brought down, then the upper and lower bouts. When the wood has cooled, the sides are removed from the bending machine and placed in an external form. The neck and tail blocks are glued to the sides. The plates are sanded to finished thickness.

The spruce center web is glued to the back with hot hide glue. Mahogany lining is shaped and kerfed and glued to the ribs. Side reinforing strips extend the full width of the sides, and are covered with a thinned section of lining. A ring is cut from walnut for the accent strip on the rosette; it's recessed into the top, and glued in with hot hide glue.

When the glue is dry, the purfling lines are cut, and the purfling is glue din place. When all is dry, the rosette is scraped level with the top. The top is sanded to final thickness, and the soundhole is cut out. The plate is cut to shape and the bracing pattern is scribed on the inside. The maple bridge plate is glued in place with hot hide glue.

The x-bracing is shaped, notched, and recessed to receive the bridge plate. Then the bracing is glued to the top with hot hide glue. The remainder of the top's bracing is partially shaped and glued in place. The back bracing is similarly partially shaped. The center web is notched to receive the bracing, and the bracing is glued in with hot hide glue.

The plates are tuned by gradually shaving bracing while tapping and listening until I reach a multitude of musical notes with no dead spots. The end graft is routed and glued in place.

The sides are shaped to match the arching of the plates. Notches are cut to receive the plate bracing. Hot hide glue is applied to mating surfaces. The parts are clamped together and the glue is reactivated with a burst of steam. The body is removed from the form, and the edges of the plates are trimmed flush with the sides.

The perimeter of the top is thinned with a random-orbit sander to increase its responsiveness. The binding slot is routed in the edge. Binding and purfling are glued in place. The truss rod slot is routed into the neck blank. The dovetail jig is aligned to straight planes and proper alignment.

Then the guitar body and neck blank are inserted into the jig, and the two parts of the dovetail are routed. The neck heel is shaped on the spindle sander. Only a few minutes handwork remains for a perfectly fitted neck joint. The neck is routed to final size.

An ebony fretboard blank is sanded to a 16" radius. Fret slots are cut, and the fretboard is cut to shape. Matching slots are cut in fretboard and neck to receive carbon fiber reinforcing bars. Mother of pearl position markers are installed in the fretboard. The headstock is shaped on the router table.

The neck is roughly shaped in the volute area, and the headstock is glued to the neck. The ebony overlay is glued to the peghead. A paper pattern of the "Skipper" logo is glued to a blank of mother of pearl, and the logo is cut with a jeweler's saw. The inlay is recessed into the headstock, set in epoxy, and sanded level with the overlay.

A tortoise heel cap is glued in place. Frets are cut to length, set in a thin line of hot hide glue, and pressed into place. Side position markers are installed. Slots for truss rod and carbon-fiber reinforcing bars are extended from the neck into the guitar body. The bars are glued into the fretboard slots.

The adjustable truss rod is set in a few dabs of silicone caulk to prevent future rattling. The fretboard is glued to the neck with hot hide glue. The neck is shaped, and the instrument is sanded to 320-grit. The mahogany is darkened with a dilute solution of dichromate. The bridge is located, and the bridge and neck areas are masked off from finish.

An aging toner is applied to the top, and the entire instrument is given a coat of vinyl sealer. Pore filler is applied in several coats, with light sanding between coats. The following day, the instrument is lightly sanded and a coat of vinyl sealer is applied. The next day, after another light sanding, the first of two series of three coats each of nitrocellulose lacquer is applied, with an hour between coats. After two series, one day apart, the instrument is sanded perfectly level, then two additional light coats are applied. Then the instrument is allowed to cure for 10-14 days before final finishing and setup. When the lacquer has fully cured, the instrument is wet-sanded to 4000-grit. This leaves a beautiful sheen just short of a hard shine. The frets are leveled and dressed, and the fretboard is cleaned.

Waverly tuning machines are installed. The neck and bridge are glued to the body. Bridge pins, saddle, pickguard, and nut are fitted and installed. A bit of setup work, and this one is ready to make some music.

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