Building my first guitars in my own shop.

My first guitar, built at the American School of Lutherie, was completed in two weeks.  When I came home and tried to repeat the process in my own shop it took one year!

In class, Charles would hand us a jig and say “Do this…” and we would do it.  At home, before I could do anything, I had to make a jig.  I had taken some good notes and photos in Charles’ class, but many of the jigs and fixtures had to be re-designed and constructed to suit my own environment.  I enjoy that part of the process but it is time consuming.

My first build was to be for my daughter.  Not wanting to start with anything too simple or ordinary, we chose Douglas Fir from Oregon Wild Wood for the back and sides.  I had never heard of a guitar make of Doug Fir but she was hooked on the idea of it being Oregon’s “state tree” so it was settled.

Since this was such a new adventure, I decided to build another guitar simultaneously using less expensive materials.  That way, I could at least test every step of the process on the cheap stuff before endangering the good stuff.  (Spoiler Alert! I ended up with two nice guitars).

I did a few things differently, of course.

A typical Fox Bender uses a dedicated framework with its own press screw and occupies a large chunk of counter space.  It occurred to me that I could accomplish the same thing using my Shopsmith in drill press mode.  I made a mold and clamped it to the table.  A waist caul is mounted on the spindle where the drill chuck would normally go.  The heating blanket and metal slats are the same as a Fox Bender.  The major advantage is that I do not have another large contraption to store when not in use.




And it worked quite nicely!  Here are the Douglas Firs fresh out of my Fox/Shopsmith guitar side bender.



Another thing that I fashioned differently was the rosette.

We once had an old apple tree in our yard.  When I cut it down, my daughter, who was 10 at the time, said I should save some of its wood. So, being a dutiful father,  I took a slice from the trunk, wrapped it in newspaper, and put it on a shelf in the garage where it remained for 25 years.   While watching videos about how to make rosettes from wood I remembered the apple wood in the garage and knew where it had to go.

Of course, I had to figure out a procedure and make a couple of jigs, perhaps I will describe that in another post, but for now let’s just say that I had enough Apple wood to for rosettes in four guitars.

So, one year later, here are the first two guitars constructed at home in my own shop.




Guitar # 1
Back and Sides – Rosewood
Soundboard – Douglas Fir
Neck – Mahagony
Fingerboard – Ebony
Rosette – Apple





Guitar # 2
Back and sides – Douglas Fir
Soundboard – Sitka Spruce
Neck – Douglas Fir
Fingerboard – Ebony
Rosette – Apple



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