Day 12: Joining the sides of the guitar together

Sides, bent into shape

DAY 12 – 8/2/2012


I am SO stoked! The two side pieces are now bent into the shape of my guitar. I left them clamped into frames over two days, and released them from the frames today. VOILÁ! The sides held their newly bent shape. They look amazing.

The sharp bend of a cutaway

There’s a beautiful pattern made in the sassafras, and there’s not a fracture or a split in the sides. They took their bent shape so well. The cutaway was one of the hardest parts of creating a guitar so far, and I am SO happy with how that particular bend has turned out. RELIEF! SUCCESS!

Joining the sides of the guitar:

Today was spent joining the sides of the guitar together.

There is excess length in the sides, and to get the right length you whack the sides into the small-acoustic-body-shaped template. I only cut the tail ends off the two side pieces first; the ends that join near the neck are more complicated for a cutaway-style body shape.

Gluing the sides to the tail block

I clamped the sides back into the template again, so I could get an accurate position of the sides, and a point to rule the line to cut off the excess pieces. I squared off the ends, cut about an inch off the tail end of the side pieces, then glued them to the tail block. It’s important to make sure you have matched the join in the centre of the tail block as you glue it, and that your guitar sides are even, and create a flat edge all the way around for the soundboard to be positioned onto later.

Creating the binding:

While waiting for the glue to dry, I began to create the binding, which go around all the edges of the body on the outside of the guitar. I went through a few different options of wood. Firstly, I’m going to need to select a timber that is malleable. I will need to bend the binding to match the shape of the sides of the guitar, including the cutaway section. The good thing is, the bindings will be a little thinner (<2mm) and will only be 10mm wide. Cooba is easy to bend and generally easy to work with. But I wasn’t happy with the colour/texture. It just seemed to be too much with my sassafras sides. Jarrah was another alternative. I thought maybe the gorgeous deep pinky red colour may look great on the guitar, and bending Jarrah is supposedly doable. But visually, the colours did not compliment the sasafrass sides, in all their greens, pinks, greys, and blacks.

Strips of binding made from Gidgee

Chris was up for a challenge (the question is, AM I??) and suggested I used gidgee. I thought this wouldn’t be possible, as I am aware that it’s one of THE hardest woods around, and gosh it was a challenge to sand the fretboard. I thought it would make it impossible to bend. Plus it’s incredibly dense and heavy, so I wondered if it would add weight to the guitar. But apparently it won’t add that much weight, as the bindings are only thing. And it’s doable, bending gidgee. I was in love with its chocolate brown colour and believe it will look wicked on my guitar, especially in comparison to the gorgeous light-coloured bunya pine used for the soundboard.

I cut four 1 metre-long strips of binding, and sanded them to 10mmx2mm.

I will use these later.

Continuing to join the sides of the guitar:

The hardest part of joining the sides of the guitar together, was joining them at the heel block (this is the block of wood inside the guitar up near the neck end of the body). I had to go back several times to clamp, unclamp, reposition, align, reclamp in the frame, repeat, etc to make sure their alignment was precise. A guitar without the cutaway would just join the sides at the centre of the heel block and you’d be done. But the structure is different with a cutaway. The side with the cutaway stops shorter, and the other side continues longer across the entire heel block. The position of the heel block is crucial. The heel block firstly needed to be sanded, to create a slight angle on the side, so the cutaway won’t be SQUARE to the body, it will have a slight angle that will correspond to the neck. I needed to position the heel block so the end of the cutaway comes exactly 27.5mm (half of the neck width at that point) from the centre of the heel block, and is supposed to line up with the neck/fretboard when it is attached. But this was slightly complicated, and took a few goes of aligning, cutting and sanding, as the 27mm needs to factor in the width of the joining piece of cutaway. Finally I could glue it on.

Everything has to be precise. We’re getting there! It’s starting to look like a guitar… in peices….

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