Laying out the braces for the spruce top.
A sharp pencil is a precise tool, while a dull writing utensil can make for an unfit guitar. There is no room for error when building a fine instrument – 1/100 of an inch here and there times 100 measurements adds up to a whole inch! Yikes that can mean your neck is crooked, so sharpen those pencils before making any marks on your wood.
The white sheet is a template for a dreadnought acoustic Martin style guitar. I transfer the line from template to spruce and then use a ruler to connect the dots. This is the blueprint for the top’s braces.
Once the spruce top is marked, I need to build the x-brace itself. A file is used to notch the x-brace precisely for a tight fit. The x-brace consists of two long pieces notched to fit inside one another. This is the main brace for the top of the guitar.
Filing notch in the x-brace for top of guitar bracing.
Go bars are used again to apply downward pressure on the glued surface.
X brace glued and positioned with go bars.
Back braces glued, then secured in place with go bars.
After routing the braces, I glued the supports and set them in place using go bars. Go bars are flexible metal rods that apply downward pressure to materials being glued. A real danger when using go bars is their quirky tendency to ‘pop’ off and go though your tone wood or window, eyeball, whatever – these things pack a serious punch and can fly clear across the room! Like every other tool in the shop, respect the go bars.
Routing braces for guitar back
After gluing the back together I began routing the braces that make up the skeleton of the guitar. Braces were routed for the back and top respectfully.
This is my first experience using a routing table. Randy insists upon a safe work environment and carefully walked me though the process. I love learning new things and how to use new tools. This experience is invaluable and I simply could not find a better teacher – thank you Randy! I now have the knowledge to operate and adjust a professional routing table.
Spruce top to my mahogany dreadnought acoustic guitar
The top of my custom dreadnought is spruce and a rather spectacular example of spruce I might add! Randy has an eye for quality and he is constantly buying materials for his own builds. When I needed a top, Randy reached for the nicest chunk of spruce I have ever seen. The grain lines are tight, well defined and posses a three dimensional quality.
Mahogany back, bloodwood and curly maple stripes for custom acoustic guitar back.
Spencer Acoustics is located in Garland, Texas – a calm suburb just north east of Dallas near Lake Ray Hubbard. Upon arrival, I was warmly met by Randy and his black lab Buddy. The two led me into the guitar workshop and we started right away.
Table sanded back with Naphtha to show finish.
Randy encourages students to bring their own materials; although, he does have beautiful woods available for purchase. Since I really had no idea what I was getting into, I didn’t bring my own mahogany and needed materials.
First Randy set me up with a beautiful piece of mahogany for the back of my guitar. Mahogany is a common tone wood used in guitar building, so that would make up the bulk of my back and then I added a bloodwood and two curly maple stripes for detail and strength.
Once the mahogany, bloodwood and maple pieces were cut to size, they were glued and placed in a form that would be tied down with rope and left overnight to set.
Next day the form was untied and the back was sanded smooth using a drum sander to make the guitar back appear as one piece. After sanding, Randy put Naphtha, a petroleum solvent similar to mineral spirits, on the wood to showcase the mahogany’s natural beauty. ‘Wow!’ I am really liking the way the bloodwood warms into the mahogany and I intend to triple bind the body of the guitar and intend to accent the neck with curly maple and bloodwood, too.
Gluing the five piece together.