Before you look at my Classical guitar construction I will share a little story with you.
About 7 years ago I was very busy building guitars and took way too many repairs, more than I could handle. My wife came to my workshop and reminded me that we will have visitors coming soon and we have to paint our living room before they come. She is a great supporter to my career so I said no problem.
I called professional painter to do this job, so I could go on building and repairing for my customers. The painter came to my house and started doing his job while I was doing mine. In one hour my wife calls me check out the color of the paint. The color did not matter to me as much as the skill of the painter. He worked with amazing speed and efficiency. I watched his technique and asked him few questions regarding his skills. He shared with me a few tricks and my next painting adventure was very easy for me.
The job was neat, no mess and just like a pro.
Guitar building is more challenging and I always enjoyed challenges in my life so don’t call me to paint your house please.
I build my first Classical guitar about 29 years ago when I was 17 years old.
I build over 140 musical instruments and I consider myself self-taught luthier who learned from observing, researching and taking good advices from the luthiers.
The very first Classical guitar had incredible projection and I was very proud of myself. Someone played it and asked me if I can make him one also. That was my first custom order and I was actually getting paid for what I enjoy to do.
The second Guitar was nothing but disaster. Very low volume no projection and it almost sounded like there were pillows stuffed inside the box. The instrument was also very heavy. My friend who is experienced Guitar Builder evaluated this construction of my second guitar and pointed out all the mistakes I made. Soundboard was too thick, the back bracing was too fat, and the neck felt like a baseball bat. The first Classical Guitar sounded great, because with out knowledge about guitar construction I was very close to the right thickness for that particular soundboard and back board. It’s that simple.
To the present time I’ve build guitars from different variety of woods. Whether it’s Mahogany for the backs, Ebony, Maple or Rosewood each set is graduated to the thickness for maximum resonation. Same principles will apply for the Spruce or Cedar Tops.
Let me demonstrate this custom order that has unusual neck dimensions
The neck is 60mm at nut and string spacing at bridge is 65mm.
Back and Sides: Aged Cocobolo Rosewood
Top: Master Grade Western Red Cedar
Binding: Blood Wood, 7 ply. Bounded heel
Neck: Spanish Cedar ( V-joint neck)
Fingerboard: West African Ebony
Bridge: 12 hole Brazilian Rosewood with Mother of Pearl
Gold ” Evo” fret wire
60mm nut width tapered to 70 mm at 12th fret
50mm string spacing at 1st fret – 65mm string spacing at saddle
650mm scale length
Alessi Ivory Tuners with Kidney Buttons
Side dots at 5th and 7th fret ( MOP 1.5 mm)
Finish: French Polish
The choice of wood for this guitar is Cocobolo Rosewood. Note the dark grain streaks of the book matched half’s. This is a sign of an aged Cocobolo Rosewood.
First, I plain the back, than I used the scraper to make it perfectly flat. I don’t use any thickness sanders, or any other heavy duty power tools to build my guitars. The only power tools I’m using is band saw, drill press and router to rout binding channels.
The back is glued.
The back thickness for this particular set is 2.1mm at the center and 1.8mm on the sides. Braces are glued in my 20’ radius concave dish, using Go bar clamping method. Customer ordered bright and responsive guitar with good amount of volume and sustaine. If the customer wanted guitar with dark and deep sound, overwhelming volume, the thickness will be slightly different.
The top is Western Red Cedar with radial bracing and open harmonic bar. The thickness of the soundboard is 1.7mm and 1.8mm. Selected perfectly quartet Spruce is used for my soundboards. Now I am half way to have the customers’ desired projection of this Classical Concert Guitar.
V-jointed Headstock is a tedious and time consuming work. I will make four neck this time and it will take me the whole day of work. The first neck is usually 3 hours of labor to achieve perfect joint. Once I get the rhythm going, the third and fourth necks are done in about one and half hours of labor. My preferred wood for necks is Cedar.
This is my simple way of gluing V-jointed headstock. The headstock is just about in the right thickness so I can see if I really have nice and tight V on the wood. The neck is slowly tighten with my clamp and the same time propped up with the scrap wood to keep my headstock from opening it up. Maybe there is a better way to do this, but this works for me.
In three hours I will remove the clamp to allow the leftover of the glue moister cure. Whatever I glue on a guitar never stays clamped over night. The longest clamping time is gluing the bridge which is twelve hours.
Major parts of this guitar are ready for assembly including the neck which has also Spanish heal block glued on, the Cocobolo head plate is finished and the neck is reinforced with 3mm graphite.
Solid Cedar lining will be used to support the back and the sides of the guitar.
Here is a Traditional Spanish heel and a side of the guitar inserted for dry fit. Note; the wedge sticking out and the extra groove is to hold the sides securely in place while the wedge is carefully tapped in for tide glue joint.
Here I am gluing the neck to the braced soundboard. The ebony is in perfect taper and it’s just a caul to glue the top.
Another view of this important step is shoving the Spanish heel of the neck and soundboard.
Now I am gluing the sides on my solera and the tenteleones to support the soundboard.
Solid lining is glued to support the back of the instrument.
This Classical Concert Guitar will have bounded heel. To do this elaborate feature with multiple binding is starts right here before I glue the back to the rims.
Top and back is glued.
The Guitar is ready for binding.
Binding channel has been cleaned and checked several times.
The top of the guitar was sealed with couple of coats of shellac for protecting the soundboard before I routed the binding channel. This step will safe me a lot of trouble cleaning the glue after binding installation.
Leveling fingerboard before I do the fret job.
The guitar has now multiple binding installed, fingerboard glued, it’s time for fret job. For this guitar I used Gold Evo wire.
Smoothing the fret ends and filling the gaps with black super glue.