New member 1st build research

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Martin
Gidgee
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:06 am

New member 1st build research

Post by Martin » Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:40 pm

Hi,
New member Martin from Wellington NZ.

Wanting to build OM style guitar.
I have a Seagull S6 which suits the fact I have short stubby fingers, middle finger particularly munted from an operation when I was a teenager.

I have access to autocad, joinery workshop and a cnc machine. Not much in the way of personal woodworking skills but plenty of time and patience. ... plus some talented joiner workmates.
I'm an administrator / designer / cad guy.
Currently researching as I have no experience building guitars.
I'm aiming for the following.
Walnut back and sides. Cedar top. OM size. Joined at 12th fret. 25 or 24 inch scale. 1.8inch at the nut.
Reasons.
I'm 54 with short inflexible stubby fingers. Hence nut width and short scale.
I am learning but slowly but generally only finger picking. Hence walnut and cedar as it's mellow. I will only be playing to an audience of 1. 2 if my wife can bear the pain.
OM because I have an old Matrix which apart from the awful bowl back feels the right size. .. apart from the longer neck and narrow nut.

I have drawn up the body shape. .. a Lowden F style with a slightly deeper lower bout.
Length of body. 500mm
Upper bout 300mm
Lower bout 424mm
Waist 255mm

Can I please get some advice on whether this is a good option for a first time build and any suggestions for the configuration.

Thanks in anticipation.

Martin

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Mark McLean
Blackwood
Posts: 655
Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:03 pm
Location: Sydney

Re: New member 1st build research

Post by Mark McLean » Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:00 am

Hi Martin. Welcome to the wacky world of DIY luthery. One of the great things about building your own instrument is being able to choose all of the elements for yourself - as you are doing. Your specs list sounds good to me. One issue to consider as a first time builder is whether you are going to follow a plan, or one of the walk-you-through-it books or videos designed for beginners. It is not essential, but it is very helpful as a novice to have a step by step guide. Popular ones include the books by Cumpiano and Natelson (classic, but a bit dated) or Kinkead (my preference), or the videos by Robbie O'Brien ( a great teacher). These will usually walk you through making a classic design, like a OM. There is no reason why you couldn't vary the dimensions a bit to make the Lowden-like shape that you want. You can also wing it a bit with individual features like headstock shape. But if you are trying to make something original without a plan to refer to, and without an instruction guide or an experienced teacher at your side, you might experience some grief. Think twice about attempting a cutaway for your first build. You didnt mention if that was in the wish list?

Are you tooled up to do side bending and some of the other specific tasks of guitar building which are different from regular joinery? Some beginners opt for buying kits that have the sides already bent, and the neck shape roughed out. Not a bad idea for the first time around the block, and not a wimpy option by any means as there is still a whole lot of building to do to put one of those things together. It would limit you to one of the "usual" shapes like a drednaught or 000. However, I am not trying to talk you out of doing it from scratch - just outlining your options.

It is also worth thinking about the neck join (bolt-on, or dovetail)? You will find a lot of people vote for bolt on around here. Just ask us why. And if you like Lowden style are you going to opt for the pinless bridge?

Hopefully, you will love it and become addicted to this hobby. You don't need to make a perfect instrument for your first (and you probably won't) - because you will end up making another, and then another!

blackalex1952
Blackwood
Posts: 540
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:36 pm
Location: North East Victoria

Re: New member 1st build research

Post by blackalex1952 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:41 pm

Here is a good run thru from a professional builder...some interesting methodology here:https://youtu.be/gS78naDiB4k
For example I have never seen the back braces routed to cover the marriage strip rather than the strip being cut to but up to the braces. -Ross
"Everything I say on the topic is based solely upon inexperience and assumption!"

blackalex1952
Blackwood
Posts: 540
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:36 pm
Location: North East Victoria

Re: New member 1st build research

Post by blackalex1952 » Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:33 pm

I have been watching the Goodall Guitars vids since my last post. There are some great jigs and methods there. These guys reckon they churn out two guitars per week as a father and son team. The dad has been making since the 1970's . So I feel to make the points that there is more than one way to skin a cat in luthierie and that a lot of time can be wasted fixing up beginner mistakes and from using poor tools. Obviously some methods are much better than others for the following reasons- speed, accuracy and repeatability. The speed component has to include set up time for the job and minimal tool wear. I still make jigs as I am on a budget and do this as a hobby. Due to my age and health issues I don't see myself becoming a pro builder.
Now the Gore/ Gillet books are well worth the investment. I have a copy of the Cumpiano book for sale if you are interested-pm me.
I have learned lots from luthiers who I have befriended and also from this forum. Internet and you tube research is great too, but with the you tube vids, watch several on any subject and glean the best information, there are plenty of amateur luthiers on you tube who's methods are a little questionable.
Visual analyser is a good tool as recommended in the Gore/Gilet book. I have taken the attitude that as my time is limited, I don't want to wast time fighting with poor quality timbers and rotten tools. The timbers involved are becoming scarce. Also if I am going to sell the guitars I make in order to buy more good tonewood and improve my tooling I need to make something which sounds and plays as well as a very expensive factory guitar and am working towards that each build. I also want to make guitars which don't sound too much like clones of the major manufacturers signature tones-but it is well worth studying these guitars to see what affects what tonally. Be prepared for train wrecks too and don't be afraid to start again. Like any form of building the foundations of the build need to be accurate in order not to compound errors as the build progresses. This includes the molds and radius dishes.
You wrote:
[/I have drawn up the body shape. .. a Lowden F style with a slightly deeper lower bout.
Length of body. 500mm
Upper bout 300mm
Lower bout 424mm
Waist 255mmquote]
Lowdens have a particular sound...maybe an active back on the one in question as well as it is a fingerpicker(refer the Gore/Gilet book for info on active backs) The deeper body will give you a lower air resonance, an active back will further lower it and the large lower bout on the Lowden will also increase the bass. Lowden cedar guitars which I have seen have fairly soft tops as well. So the combination you are talking about needs to be understood. It needs to be a balanced sound from bass to treble.
The position of the bridge has a bit to do with the body shape and is determined on any particular body shape by the scale length and the neck join. This is also affected by the bracing and if an X braced guitar, the angle of the braces. One rule is that the ends of the bridge sit over the X braces so that the bridge vibration is transferred to them and the soundboard. (A Martin OM with a short scale length is actually a OO.) So forward shifted bracing, depending on body shape, coupled with a 14 fret neck can put the bridge too close to the soundhole. For a twelve fret body join and the need for a soft string feel, I would be also trying to optimise the bridge/ bracing combination. Just remember that the bridge is a brace, really.
The string tension is affected by the scale length. Short scales also have a different sound to long scale guitars. A soft soundboard vs a stiff soundboard to me causes only a small change in string feel under the fingers, it's not the only consideration. Another consideration is that when you amplify an acoustic guitar, the stiffness of the top has an effect on how soon the guitar will resonate and feed back.
I like the idea of a short scale for fingerpicking guitars. With the longer scales, more energy is available to the soundboard. The bridge rotation is important, that info is in the books as well. Necks flex to a certain degree depending on the woods and the truss rod and carbon fibre reinforcing. Using a truss rod and CF to stiffen the neck means that the neck profile can be thinner and more energy is available to drive the soundboard, and I notice an increase in sustain and evenness of the note in all positions on the neck. I am considering on my next build not having a truss rod and using CF rio only, as the weight of the truss rod and the tuners can put a guitar out of balance, ie neck heavy.
Lowden bracing is unique in some ways as well, I usually carry an inspection mirror so that I can have a quick look inside any unusual guitars I come across. Ahh! The mystery of bracing and soundboard tuning!
I have been building a Gibson Nick Lucas LOO style guitar. These have an interesting shape, the lower bout is wider than an OM and the upper is narrower. The neck joins at the 13th fret and is a short scale which puts the bridge in a perfect position for the body shape. The Nick Lucas LOO also has a deep body which, with that body shape, lowers the bass resonance and gives a very balanced sound. So my thinking for your build is that you might get away with the deeper body on the one hand, but combined with the large lower bout you are suggesting you may have more bass than you need and boomy. I would be going for a stiff soundboard, I haven't found a lot of incredibly good cedar relative to the spruces available, so if cedar choose a stiff piece if you get the choice. Italian alpine spruce might be a good choice. The wide lower bout will result in less stiffness for a given thickness of sounboard and consequently a lower resonance.
I tend to build OO's and similar X braced guitars for .011 guage strings rather than the usual .012 or .013 and lighten the braces up accordingly. But that is just me as my preference as a player is those weight strings. But I also play .011's on my strat and on my jazz archtops I use 11's, 12's and 13's depending on the scale length and the gig...if totally acoustic archtops need to be driven. I also play Gypsy Jazz Selmer Maccaferris which have a very long scale (670mm or more) and are designed for acoustic cutting power and volume.
Bear in mind that I am no authority on these matters...I learn, Mr Fawlty. Hopefully the more experienced builders here will chime in and correct me on anything I have said that is not quite accurate. Luthiers often talk about their current "thinking" as they progress to an understanding. Hope this gets you thinking about your build...cheers! Ross
"Everything I say on the topic is based solely upon inexperience and assumption!"

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