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How to Make a Guitar

By its very nature and design, a good, well-tuned, well-sharpened and well-maintained chain saw is a very precise tool that can be used by almost anyone to make almost anything.
Walter Hall, Barnacle Parp's Chain Saw Guide, 1977



Many apologies to everyone, it's hard to keep up with a blog when you have a full time job (I am gone from the house 12 hours a day!), plus I am enrolled in a historic preservation certificate program at Bucks County Community College in PA. Now that the historic planning and sustainability class is over and with two weeks off from work for Christmas, I thought that I would try and catch up with the blog.

The above photo the laurel/douglas fir guitar, based on a guitar by Rene Lacote, circa 1830, that I am working on. Last night I bent the maple binding and glued it on this morning, I will try to bend and install the other top binding today. The purfling is BBWBB, I thought that if I went with a BBWBBWBB like what is around the sound hole the guitar would become very busy visually.



Here's my version of Eugene Clark's purfling/veneer thicknesser (American Luthier #73, pg. 69), unlike Clark's original, I constructed mine entirely from Douglas fir and glued a piece of brass on the anvil opposite the plane blade. It works well, I wish I had made one earlier in the endeavor called 'lutherie'.




Here is a most wonderful tool-an electric bending iron purchased from Stew-Mac, and the binding bands from LMI. Again, something I wish I had done sooner, my first bending iron was a piece of 4 inch copper pipe that I flattened by dropping my Short Sugar shoeing anvil on repeatedly until I liked the shape, and was fired up by a propane torch a la Irving Sloane. A propane torch is terrible for that work, it can't keep a consistent heat! This new iron made bending the binding child's play! I can't think of how many pieces I broke on my old iron because of the size of the radii on either side and that I couldn't maintain a consistent heat!

Once the top bindings are done I will finish cleaning up the rabbets on the back and glue on those bindings. I look forward to making the fretboard and neck!

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How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

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Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
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I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

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A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!

Author Unknown


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Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979


So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice


Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…