Friday, April 6, 2012

Archtop Guitar Build - Millwork, Jigs and Tools

The wood for the archtop arrived from Bow River Woods in British Columbia.  This is their 1A quality wood set and the top is quartersawn, book matched, Sitka Spruce with an average of 17 lines/inch over the entire 9 3/4 inch width.  The back, sides, neck are maple with a small amount of fiddle-back to it.  The fingerboard and bridge are ebony and have good uniform color to them.  Overall I am pleased with the quality of this beginner grade wood set and the price was the best I had found.  The package weighed over 30 pounds so the shipping was slightly over $50.  The wood was left for a week to acclimate to the temperature and humidity of the shop.  The one piece neck is the huge quartersawn board on the left in this photo.

This is the used Wagner Safe-T planer that I bought from e-bay.  I had to clean up some surface oxidation but the cutters are sharp and cut true.  This will come in handy later on when it is time to carve the top and back.
The top and back were trued up, thickness planed and joined with hide glue.  Particular attention was paid to the butt joints so that the joint showed no gap on back lighting when the pieces were stacked on edge with no weight applied to close the joint.  Benedetto says this is important to prevent seperation later in the life of the guitar.
 A body mold was made from plywood.
Based upon a design by Bob Gaffney, small hand plane from Home Depot had an auxillary base of ebony epoxied to it and had gentle curves cut into it in both the transverse and longitudinal axis.  These curves are tighter than the inside profile of the top and back.  The blade was ground to match the transverse curve and honed to a fine edge.  This will be used to carve the insides of the top and back.
 This is the fingerboard after truing one surface on the jointer planer and then thickness sanding the other using an auxillary fence on my spindle sander.  I've used this set up for years and it does a really great job.  When I hit 1/4 inch I stopped and if you look closely you can see rough saw marks that remain on the left side of the board.  Since there will be a 12" radius to be cut into this surface and the board is a little long and wide of final shape, I will leave this and deal with it later rather than compromise the overall thickness of the fingerboard


  1. Looks great! Here's a mild caution about the Safe-T-Planer: drill presses are not made for side stresses on the quill and bearings, so when you're done using it, don't be surprised to see some wobble at the end of your drill bits. This can come back to haunt you when you drill tuner holes in the headstock, etc. I figured out how to tighten up the bearing holder and quill sleeve on my press, you may need to as well. That double-convex plane looks remarkably like mine! Nice thickness sanding setup.

  2. Thanks Bob, I did give you credit in the text. I have most of the terraces cut in te maple back. The Safe-T planer works like a charm, too bad there isn't a way to use the smooth outer profile of the cutter to run against a template to automate the cuts.

  3. Hello can you please tell me wath is the machine you got down the fingerboard? I want to have a simple way to get the tickness of the guitar sides. Thanks!

    1. The machine is a spindle sander, it rotates a drum and the drum also moves up and down. This helps eliminate sanding marks but the grit is fairly coarse so you need to finish sand.

  4. I wonder if this turbo plane would take the place of the Safe-T-Planer?

  5. Here's a video using the turbo plane. It also follows a template! FF to the 3:45 mark to get to the demo. Not sure it can mount to a router?

  6. I'm not sure if you could mount it into anything but the disk grinder that is shown in the video. What it looks like it would be great for is smoothing process that takes place as you carve out the top and back plates once the contour steps have been cut in by the Safe-T-Planer...