Custom 000-S Guitar #55 161

Completed May 2016

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

This custom build for a midwest customer features a red spruce top and East-Indian rosewood back and sides. Also included are a slotted head and Waverly tuning machines. A custom wide neck and string spacing certainly don't hurt the playability, and it sounds just as good played through the K&K electronics as it does acoustically: open and sweet and vibrant.

Construction Photos

As always, construction begins with the choosing of the woods and the joining of the top and back plates with hot hide glue. The plates and sides are sanded to thickness. Recesses for the rosette are cut with fly cutters on the drill press.

The rosette lines are glued in place and scraped level. The soundhole is cut, the top is cut to shape, and the bracing pattern is drawn on the inside. The maple bridge patch is glued in with hot hide glue. The head block and neck blank are fabricated and glued together. The ebony overlay is glued to the peghead.

Red spruce bracing blanks are cut. The bracing is partially shaped before gluing to the top and back. The x-braces are fitted together with a recess for a small top patch; they're also recessed to fit over the bridge patch. The bracing is glued to the top.

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The back is cut to shape. The bracing is again partially shaped and glued to the rosewood back with hot hide glue. The spruce center reinforcing web is fitted between the back braces and glued in place. The sides are sanded to finished thickness, then cut to shape. They're slightly dampened, then wrapped in Kraft paper. A sandwich of stainless steel slats, side, and heating blanket is created and placed in the bending machine. When the wood is heated, the waist is pulled down first,

followed by the lower and upper bouts. When the sandwich is cooled, the side is removed and placed inside the external form. The head and tail blocks are glued to the sides. Mahogany lining is kerfed on the bandsaw,

then glued to to the sides. To allow for reinforcing of the entire width of the sides, the lining is notched out. The reinforcing strip is glued in, and the notches filled with a reduced-thickness piece of lining. The ribs are temporarily removed from the form, and the celluloid end graft is installed.

The top and back plates are tuned by constantly tapping and listening while carefully trimming wood from the braces. I'm looking for a wide range of musical notes with no dead spots, along with livlieness and resonance. The sides are notched to receive the bracing. The top and back are glued to the ribs with hot hide glue.

The neck is cut roughly to shape, and a template is affixed to the back of the peghead with double-sided tape. The exterior is trimmed on the router table. Holes are drilled for the tuning machines, and the inside slots are cut. The template is removed, and the peghead is sanded to final thickness. The body is removed from the external form, and the overhanging edges of the top and back are trimmed flush with the sides.

The edge of the top is reduced in thickness with a random-orbit sander to increase the instruments responsiveness. To protect the top during construction, it's sealed with a coat of shellac. The recess for the binding and purfling is created, and the bindings are glued in place, then scraped level with the surrounding wood.

A specialized router jig is used to align and cut matching dovetail joints in the neck and body. The ebony fretboard is slotted on a dedicated radial arm saw. The neck heel is roughly shaped. The final fitting of the neck and fretboard to the body is done by hand.

Matching recesses are cut in the neck and fretboard for carbon-fiber reinforcing rods. Mother-of-pearl position markers are inlet into the fretboard. The frets are set in a bit of hot hide glue and pressed in place. Side dots are installed. The carbon-fiber bars are set into the back of the fretboard. The logo is cut from mother of pearl and recessed into the

peghead overlay, then set in epoxy mixed with ebony dust. The channels for the carbon-fiber bars and truss rod are extended into the body.

The slotted peghead is squared in the corners and ramped into the nut area. The fretboard is glued to the neck. The neck is shaped and thoroughly sanded, then the mahogany is darkened with dichromate. This instrument has a custom string spacing, so I need to redo some of my bridge jigs.

The bridge is fashioned from ebony. The bridge is located on the top. The unfinished areas are masked off from the neck and the back and sides. Epoxy pore filler is applied to the rosewood and mahogany surfaces. This process is repeated on each of the next two days, with sanding in between applications.

The pore filler is sanded away to leave a smooth surface. The top is sanded, and the bridge area is masked off. The top is then sealed with a different type of pore filler. The following day, the top is lightly sanded and a slight aging toner is applied, followed by a coat of vinyl sealer. Over the next several days, series of coats of nitrocellulose lacquer are applied, with adequate drying time and light sanding between series. In high-humidity times, like we're experencing now, two days of curing are sometimes required between series of coats. Then the instrument is sanded perfectly level and given a final pair of coats, then it's allowed to cure for two weeks before final rubout and setup. When the finish is fully cured, the instrument is wet-sanded with MicroMesh paper. The Waverly tuning machines are installed while the neck is still loose from the body.

The neck is glued to the body, followed by the bridge. Nut and saddle are fitted, and electronics are installed. Some strings and a bit of setup, and it's ready for shipment.

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