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 more complicated than any joint you will use in making a guitar.
A modern classical guitar is made up of butt joints, you know, joints that butt into each other. The most exotic joint in a classic guitar is the scarf joint at the neck/headstock union. Pretty basic.
Yes, you do some inlay with the rosette and rout out a few rabbets for the purfling and binding, but there are no complicated joints, unless you join the neck to the body with a sliding dovetail.
I think it is easier to build a guitar than to build a Federal highboy.
With that said and out of the way, once you have memorized every word in every book, then and only then should you start your journey.
First things first, BUILD YOURSELF A DECENT WORK BENCH!
There is a plethora of information on the Internet about how to build a work bench, it's a little mind boggling! It seems that many wood workers would rather make work benches than anything else.
I recommend making the work bench that you will find in Underhill's, The Woodwright's Apprentice. It is simple, goes together quickly and I have been using that same bench for the last twenty years! See the above photo. If you want to, build yourself a Roubo bench; or a Peter Nicholson English bench, which I think is the best bench ever designed; or make a Shaker style bench. Whatever bench you chose just make it!
Next thing is to start looking for some vintage tools at local tool swaps, flea markets and antique stores. There are several books available on how to restore and keen vintage tools, not to mention the articles available on the Internet. If you can afford to buy brand new Lie-Nielsen planes, saws and chisels than do it! I think it is more fun to search for and find some good, old tools.
This is a basic list of tools that I use to build a classic guitar. And this is not a definitive list, just a place to start.
No. 3 plane
No. 5 plane
No. 7 plane
Low Angle block plane
If you buy vintage planes, replace the original irons and chip breakers with the same from Hock Tools. Yes, that is an endorsement. Mr. Hock's blades are incredible and you don't have to file or otherwise touch your plane to make the irons fit.
Lee Valley Spokeshaves, flat and round
Wooden Spokeshave, made from the Lee Valley kit (this is my favorite shave)
6, 7 or 8 inch drawknife
1/8 inch chisel
1/4 inch chisel
1/2 inch chisel
3/4 inch chisel (the most used chisel in my shop)
Marking gauge (handmade)
Cutting gauge (handmade)
Sloyd knife, 2 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #120)
Sloyd knife, 3 1/4 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #106)
Card Scrapers (Bahco Brand)
Gramil, buy from Luthiers Mercantile Inc and get 2 of them
Classic tuner drill jig, with 13/32 inch drill. Get the one from Stew-Mac. It is pricey, but well worth the money!
Handmade Rosette and Sound hole cutter, or buy the one from LMI
Razor saws with hand turned handles (make your own handles on a lathe!)
Fine tooth crosscut dovetail saw
12-14 inch crosscut back saw
20 inch rip panel saw
20 inch crosscut panel saw If you have the money buy these from Lie-Nielsen! Click here to see these beauties!
Fret saw, get the Japanese style one from Stew-Mac
Bow, or Turning Saw, available from Tools For Working Wood.
Dial Caliper buy or make your own
Miller Falls #2 hand drill (or some other hand drill)
Fret Hammer, from Stew-Mac
Diamond fret crowning file, from Stew-Mac
Side cutters for cutting frets, from Stew-Mac or LMI
Nut slotting files
Bending iron, made from a piece of four inch copper pipe heated by a propane torch,
Or an electric iron and spot thermometer from Stew-Mac
A Shop Fox vise, available from Grizzly, Stew-Mac and Garret Wade
Clamps-cam clamps (which you can make yourself), bridge clamp, C-clamps, long reach C-clamps, spring clamps, clamps, clamps, clamps
A neat little brass glue pot and pot warmer from MusiCaravan. I love hide glue!
I know I have missed some tools, but what you need is to get the Cumpiano/Natelson book and Courtnall's book, they list every thing that you need. And then some.
Don't forget to join the Guild of American Luthiers. You can learn much from their publication, American Lutherie. You can learn so much from them that your head will swim and you will get confused!
Another option, and I think this is a good one, is to enroll in a guitar making program at a trade school or community college. Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado has a great guitar building program which has turned out some really good luthiers. I've thought about taking a class in French Polishing at Red Rocks, it is only an hour and fifteen minutes from my house.
Now do your research! Hit your local libraries and find all the books you can on guitars, guitar making and guitar history!
Research is a vital part of my guitar building, I want to know as much about making a Spanish guitar as I possibly can, and that means finding out how Santos Hernandez, Manuel Ramirez, Domingo Esteso, Hernandez y Aguado, Ignacio Fleta and other great masters made their guitars. At this point in my journey I am starting to read about acoustics, especially guitar acoustics, and what I have learned is helping me make better guitars!
Try not, do or do not. There is no try. Yoda
Thursday, December 12, 2013
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