Building an Acoustic Guitar                                                                            

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Drawings, Calculations, etc.

Other than building and purchasing tools that will be useful for building any kind of guitar, I've got to decide what kind of guitar I want to build. First off, I know I want to build a steel string acoustic guitar. Now, what kind of steel string acoustic guitar. Here are my choices for guitar size, taken from Wikipedia:  

  • A "00", "Double-Oh" or "Grand Concert" body style is the major body style most directly derived from the classical guitar. It has the thinnest soundbox and the smallest overall size of the major styles, making it very comfortable to play but also one of the quietest. Its smaller size makes it suitable for younger or smaller-framed players. These guitars are commonly called "parlor steels" as they are well-suited to smaller rooms. Martin's 00-xxx series and Taylor's GC series are common examples.
  • A "Grand Auditorium" (GA) guitar, sometimes called a "000" or "Triple-Oh", is very similar in design to the Grand Concert, but slightly wider and deeper. Many GA-style guitars also have a convex back panel to increase the volume of space in the soundbox without making the soundbox deeper at the edges, which would affect comfort and playability. The result is a very balanced tone, comparable to the 00 but with greater volume and dynamic range and slightly more low-end response, without sacrificing the ergonomics of the classical style, making these body styles very popular. Eric Clapton's signature Martin guitar, for example, is of this style. Taylor's GA and x14 series and Martin's 000-xxx series are well-known examples of the Grand Auditorium style.
  • A "Dreadnought", arguably the most common body style, incorporates a deeper soundbox, but a smaller and less-pronounced upper bout (the area of the soundbox between the waist and neck) than most styles, giving a somewhat wedge-shaped appearance – hence its name, relating to a class of warship. The dreadnought style was designed by Martin Guitars[1] to produce a deeper sound than "classic"-style guitars, with very present bass fundamentals. This body style's combination of a small profile with a deep sound has made it immensely popular, and it has since been copied by virtually every major steel-string luthier. Martin's "D" series such as the D-28 are classic examples of the dreadnought.
  • A "Jumbo" body style is bigger again than a Grand Auditorium but similarly proportioned, and is generally designed to provide a deeper tone, similar to a dreadnought (the body style was designed by Gibson to compete with the dreadnought[1]) but with maximum resonant space for greater volume and sustain. This comes at the expense of being oversized, with a very deep sounding box, and thus somewhat more difficult to play. The foremost example of this style is the Gibson J-200, but like the dreadnought, most guitar manufacturers have at least one jumbo model.
This is a thickness sander I built for reducing the sides, back and top of the guitar. On this site, I show you how I build things like this and why.

The guitar I play the most is my 2004 Limited Edition Takamine steel string acoustic guitar. It is a dreadnaught sized guitar. (Click Here to see specifications). I bought this guitar at a pawn shop sometime back around 2005 or 2006 for $700. The owner of the pawn shop told me his friend had bought it and had never played it. It had all the receipts from when it was purchased and there was absolutely no wear on the guitar. I really like the neck size of the guitar and want the guitar I build to be the same. I also like the sound of the guitar. It seems that just in the last month or two (October 2011) the guitar has really opened up and really started to sound even better than it ever has.

Jim Olson makes some of the most beautiful guitars available but unfortunately he doesn't make a lof of guitars anymore and they are expensive. I want to incorporate a five piece neck like above and I really like the hand carved heel.

I love the deeper bass response of a dreadnaught guitar and would probably build a dreadnaught guitar if I would have not bought my jumbo sized guitar. My jumbo is a Rozawood RJ-77 guitar. When I first saw photographs of this guitar, I fell in love with it. It has the sexiest lines of any guitar I have ever seen. Aren't guitars supposed to look like a woman? Just look at their shape and you'll see what I'm talking about. At 8,000 Euros, the guitar was out of my price range. It is a "custom shop" guitar, meaning it is hand built and set up. I kept my eye on this beauty for a couple of years and then finally decided to "invest" in a nice guitar. I tried to decide between a Martin D-45, one of their top of the line guitars or the Rozawood. After corresponding with Rozawood, the price finally came down enough that I made the leap and wired the money to the Czech Republic. In about one month, I had my guitar!

Not only did this guitar look as good as it did in the photographs but it sounded better than any guitar I have ever heard. With jacaranda back and sides and a master grade Alpine spruce top, you just can't imagine the voice of this beautiful work of art!

I am going to use Jonathan Kinkead's book, "Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar" as the guide for my guitar. It would be much simpler to build the concert sized guitar that is drawn in Kinkead's plans. But I feel like I can build my own design, if I determine to take my time and learn as I go along.

 

McPherson guitars have some very unique features which make them incredible guitars.
Kinkead recommends cutting a full size template of your own guitar design from cardboard and then hanging it on the wall. After looking at it for a couple of weeks, if you still feel like you like the design then you should go ahead with it. I love the shape of the Rozawood RJ-77 and I love the cutout body style on my Takamine so I would like to combine these features. McPherson makes guitars that sound excellent and they have several unusual design features. Instead of a round sound hole in the normal location for a guitar, they have a "half moon" shape opening above where the sound hole would be. There guitar necks do not have an adjustable truss rod. Instead, they have carbon fiber braces in the neck. McPherson and Taylor guitars both use bolt on necks. I think this is a much easier and better way to design the neck on my guitar. McPerson's guitar necks are "self adjusting" by using belleville washers along with the carbon fiber. Another feature on McPherson guitars is that their fingerboard is not glued to the guitar top. They feel like doing so stops the top from vibrating as well as it should. I tend to
The headstock on an Olson guitar.
believe that McPherson is correct. I may pursue that feature on my guitar. I am not sure how much trouble it will be and I need to look more closely at a McPherson guitar and take some photos to make up my mind. No doubt about it McPherson guitars are beautiful and great sounding, almost as beautiful as my Rozawood guitar!

The headstock on Martin guitars is a very simple, plain design but is one of their trademarks. Olson guitars have a much more beautiful headstock shape that I would like to incorporate into my guitar. Also, Jim Olson makes his guitar necks from five pieces of wood. This gives a stronger neck that, to me, is visually stunning. Unfortunately, Jim Olson doesn't make many guitars anymore. When he does they are expensive but they are works of art. Olson offers many features to personalize a guitar.

I used a CAD (computer aided drafting) program to draw the computer shape I would like to build.

For my ultimate guitar, I want to make it a jumbo sized guitar with curves like my Rozawood RJ-77. I also want it to have a cutaway shape. I want to use a nice wood with beautiful grain for the back and sides of the guitar and for the top I want to use at least AAA grade, if not Master Grade Sitka Spruce. For the back and sides, I am really thinking about using mesquite wood that comes from Texas. The grain on Mesquite wood can be absolutely stunning. I don't know of anyone using Mesquite but it won't hurt to give it a try. I am concerned about how well it will bend since I want to use a cutaway design on my guitar. To add the the "Texas" flare of the guitar, if I can find red and blue mother of pearl, along with white, I want to inlay a Texas flag on the lower bout of the face of the guitar. On the headstock, I want to inlay "MC" and a lone star for Texas, "The Lonestar State".