Friday, January 9, 2015

'Gabriella' is better than I expected.

I've repaired a bunch of acoustic guitars, but I've only built a couple from the ground up.  Along the way, I've learned a thing or three, not the least of which is that every creation is considerably different no matter how much the overall design remains constant.

The full size dreadnought shape is my go-to choice, because I like the clean lines of it, and because the body mold and rib bender in my shop fit that style.

There is a significant amount of effort and a boatload of patience that goes into building any guitar. First of course is the design choice.  Then comes the selection of wood for the project, which requires involved thought . . . type of wood for the back, sides and top; thickness sanding necessary to achieve the proper tone, and every type of wood has characteristics which effect how the guitar will play and sound; binding; rosette pattern and material; scale length; type of wood for the neck, fingerboard, bridge, and headstock overlay; machine head type and style; and the list goes on.

Once all the choices are boiled down to what will be final, the fun begins.  The top, back and side ribs must be profiled (cut to shape).  Bracing design and material is chosen for the top and back, and hand shaped and glued in position  Ribs are bent to conform to the desired shape (this in itself is not a monumental task, but if it's screwed up along the way, there's no fixing it, just start over). The ribs are placed in a body mold of the desired shape and lining is glued to the inside of the ribs on which the top and back are then glued, creating the body. The neck is shaped to fit the body, which if not done precisely the guitar will not play properly, and it's best use will be as a fly swatter. The fingerboard is slotted and frets pressed into precise (again an absolute necessity) positions, and then it is glued to the neck. A headstock overlay isn't a necessity, but it adds a nice touch to the overall design and appearance of the guitar.  The bridge is the next piece (that, if not properly installed, can make the guitar useless), designed and shaped to desired proportion and glued in position on the top. Now, we're on the home stretch, parts are assembled and the raw guitar is ready for sanding and finish, which in itself is another matter of choices . . . lacquer, poly, oil, paint, varnish, and a few more.  There's a lot left to do, but I think you get the idea, building a guitar is a little more than assembling pieces.

Meet 'Gabriella'.

She is a full-body dreadnought guitar with Sitka spruce top with rosette inlay around the sound hole, Ovangkol sides and back, hand-formed spruce bracing on the inside of the body, Mahogany one-piece neck with medium gauge frets, Rosewood fingerboard with pearl inlay position markers, Rosewood headstock overlay, Rosewood bridge, Corian hand-shaped nut and saddle, Grover closed gear machine head tuners, and 16 hand applied coats of TruOil for the finish.

'Gabby' sounds a lot brighter than she looks, but she does look and feel real good, too.

As I mentioned, every guitar has a unique sound due to the shape and type of wood used in the creation.

I thought the Ovangkol wood on the sides and back might have a warm sound, because of the density, but as it turned out, it is quite bright and resonates very well.

Sustain is good, which is an indicator that the neck/body joint was done properly (whew!).

I chose not to add a scratch guard to the face of the top, because the spruce grain is so clear and I think it looks good 'clean'.

I love the wood grain of the bookmatched Ovangkol back. There is nothing like the grain in exotic wood, and every piece seems to have its own look and feel.

The sides are Ovangkol, but from a different cut.  I had a back that matched the sides, but I chose to use the highly figured back instead, for a unique contrast.

The heel cap is a combination of a piece of spruce left over from profiling the top, and a piece of scrap Ziricote left over from another build.

If you look closely, you will see that the binding on the edges is Walnut, which I cut and shaped in the side bender. I like the suttle effect.

How it started . . . bent sides.    The body before finish is applied.

The back, before the TruOil was applied. It is so cool, how the finish pulls the grain out and darkens the appearance.

A close look discloses that the headstock, fingerboard tail, and the bridge all are consistently shaped to compliment the overall design.  I like the look a lot better than a squared off design.

Well, that's it for the introduction to 'Gabriella', I hope you like her.

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