Where to start guitar building?

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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Doug Ingram
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Doug Ingram » Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:01 pm

When you look back on your first guitar, pretty much everything will be sub-optimal. At least in your own mind.

The Courtnall book is still the best overall single source to get started with if you can only start with one book. As Waddy says, too much info is hard to digest and make sense of. This book takes you through the process. Other books do have something to offer, but its best to figure out what you need to know so that you'll recognize your answer when you find it.

In the end, the work teaches you, if you pay attention. So just get started. Consider each component task individually and enjoy it for what it is. You only want to get to the end you will never enjoy the journey.

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Waddy Thomson
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Waddy Thomson » Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:40 pm

Actually, a really good book, though way out of date method wise, is the Irving Sloane book. It is very succinct, but ignore the part about boiling your wood before bending, even though it works. Otherwise, he covers all the bases, and it's a good, easy read. It will give you a good understanding of sequence. Bogdanovich is also a good book, though written to a specific type of building. His sections on making marquetry are particularly good, and the photography is spectacular. Lots of folks will tell you that your first is, pretty much, just a detailed woodworking project, so don't get to bogged down in the minutia. If you keep you senses about you and don't build too heavy, it'll be better than most production guitars you can buy. May not look like a production guitar, but it'll sound better than most. My first is still better than any guitar I'd ever owned before, not that I had any great guitars.
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Adam S. Vernon

Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Adam S. Vernon » Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:21 pm

Steven D'Antonio wrote:
Adam S. Vernon wrote: Ironically, people recommend Courtnall, and if you follow that book, your geometry will be suboptimal due to an error in the text. As in all things, YMMV.
Can you be more specific please for those of us who seem to have missed this error?

Steven
Yes, credit goes to Les for this post:

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=75439&p=821283#p821283

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Steven D'Antonio
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Steven D'Antonio » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:28 pm

Hi Adam,

OK thanks. In my case, where I gave up using the spanish heel after my first guitar I would have never even seen that error. I found it much easier to go with a dovetail and most recently a bolt on neck and haven't found ther to be any detriment to the sound of the instrument. I fact one senior builder who has been at it about 20 years longer than I have called my attention to a paper a couple years ago showing that bolt on necks actually end up having better sustain than any of the other alternatives.

Of course, I have no idea where my copy of that paper has dissapeared to.

Steven
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Doug Ingram
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Doug Ingram » Tue Oct 01, 2013 1:28 pm

Re: geometry.

I totally agree about how important it is for a first time builder to start getting their head around the issue of the geometry of the neck/FB/dome/saddle height.

It is easy to get carried away with the tonal effect of wood type, bracing, voodoo, etc...but in the end, the player responds first to the playability of the instrument. If this isn't there nothing else really matters much.

And, while we're adding to the library suggestions, my first was built from a book by Stanley Doubtfire. For its time it is probably the most advanced of the guitar building books. Very good photos, well laid out in a good progression, clearly written. There are also some nice stories about reputed builders in the back, including an early interview with Jose Romanillos. The guitar in the build is a kind of hybrid of a large body/long scale body with a Bouchet influenced bracing. Not a direction that I care to pursue now.

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romanticguitars
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by romanticguitars » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:31 pm

You'll find what works best or you... I too refer to the old Sloane book occasionally and find a lot of it useful... and I completely agree with Steven regarding the bolt on neck. I built my first guitar with the typical Spanish heel and thought okay that's fine but then I did a dovetail, and oh yeah I liked that better then I moved to a tenon and mortise bolt on neck and that's where I'll stay! I do think it helps with sustain, can't prove it but my ears aren't lying to me. Besides I like to experiment with the neck angle and with the neck being able to go on and off I'm able to play around as much as I want... that and there are advantages to working on the body and neck separately.
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"Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart." Segovia

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Eric Reid
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Eric Reid » Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:34 am

If you have some background in woodworking, and are patient, and precise by nature, you'll probably do a decent job working from any good plan. Jeff Elliot's Torres SE 114 would be a good starting point. Don't worry too much about "plate tuning" or ornamental details on your first. Sitka or Engelman for the top, and Indian rosewood for the back and sides. Watch your shop humidity. Doming of top and back plates is often omitted on plans. It matters. A 25' radius for the top lower bout is fairly standard. Roughly 15' radius for the entire back will work.

Set-up and finishing are worth practicing before you start. The more fret-mills, refrets, and refinishes you can do before you build, the happier you'll be with your first guitar.

Building a ukelele is a great way to warm up for a first build.

chinyc
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by chinyc » Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:58 am

I plan on starting my first build around Christmas. I bought the Cumpiano, Courtnall and sloane book used. I saved a lot of money. I just received the Bogdanovich book. It has the most photos and illustrstions. You can find it online for $15 brand new. Each book has a different perspective on building. There is also an online luthier forum, which is very informative. Searching through the older topics on Delcamp, I have found of wealth of information. I have been buying used tools on craiglist and e - b a y. When I actually start building, I will buy the O'Brien online series. I will be buying his unserviced kit, which come with a dvd.
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Steven D'Antonio
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Steven D'Antonio » Thu Oct 03, 2013 3:25 pm

Waddy Thomson wrote:Actually, a really good book, though way out of date method wise, is the Irving Sloane book.
I started whe the Sloane book was the only thing available and it worked for me. It is pretty sparsely written and makes you think about what you are doing. The person I apprenticed with described Sloane as "a great book if you have already built a guitar or 2", lucky for me I had him around to explain the parts Sloane leaves to the readres immagination.

Steven
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If you cut it to short you can always nail another piece on the end. But if you cut it to long; then what the heck are you going to do?

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Bill Davis
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Bill Davis » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:52 am

I am in the same boat except I have another condition I am worried how I will solve, humidity. I have completely read the John Bogdanovich book, which has excellent photos and is well explained for a particular build. I am just about done reading "Guitarmaking tradition and technology" by William Cumpiano and Johnathan Natelson. This book is an excellent supplement to John's book. It also includes a build for a steel string. Based on the comments I will order a used Sloane "Classical Guitar Construction" book to see what that offers to supplement my understanding. I am chomping at the bit to get started but my main dilemma as an amateur is my environment. I am in the dessert and the humid is way too low, like 5-10%. I can keep a small area of my house around 20-35% but it's not consistent. As soon as the windows are open for fresh air, it goes down to 5-10%. I saw O'Brien talk about creating a separate humidified storage room to store the guitar while it's being build and then he takes the guitar into his unconditioned workshop while he builds but puts it back while he is not working on it. Is it reasonable to think I can build guitars in a dessert environment? Thanks all!

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George Crocket
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by George Crocket » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:05 am

Hi mifune.

Welcome to the forum. While you wait for advice from other members, could you please introduce yourself here.
George
2010 Stephen Eden spruce/cocobolo classical guitar
2012 Stephen Eden cedar/IRW classical guitar

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Brian McCombs
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Brian McCombs » Mon Oct 07, 2013 1:12 pm

The desert is better than say Taiwan or Hong Kong or Baltimore. Going from dry to humid shouldn't cause as much heartburn as the opposite, as long as it isn't real extreme and real sudden.

Keeping an area, a room or even just a closet with a small humdifier is easier than drying a constantly humid environment. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Bill Davis
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Bill Davis » Tue Oct 08, 2013 6:30 am

I was hoping to hear what you said. I have been looking into it and what I have learned is that it is better to acclimate the guitar from a lower humidity environment to a higher humidity environment rather than the opposite. This has given me a greater hope to move forward with building classical guitars. Thanks! Bill

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Doug Ingram
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Doug Ingram » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:09 pm

Keep in mind that if your humidity is relatively constant through the year, and you are building for yourself, and the guitar will stay in this climate, then you can build in ambient humidity with a certain degree of surety-once your woods have acclimated.

The real issues that luthiers have to deal with and why they try to maintain the RH near the 50% range, is that the guitars will often travel to other climates. So, if you build in the mid zone then the instrument can deal equally with lower or higher RH levels. Also, it is important that all of the pieces are worked on and assembled at the same RH level to avoid distortions and internal stress.

What you should be striving for in your workroom is to maintain a stable RH environment that is the mean of your climate's RH levels.

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Bill Davis
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Re: Where to start guitar building?

Post by Bill Davis » Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:49 pm

Thank you for the good advise. I agree with the RH and as I begins to build for myself I know I will have a little more give on my RH. But as soon as I begin building for others I want to make sure I am ready to provide the best RH for transportation to other climates. Only after I have successfully build as an amateur will I consider building for others. It's all very much in the works right now as I am working to understand the profession. Thanks again! Bill

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