Friday, December 21, 2012

Arch Toppin'

  A little while ago a friend asked me if I had ever built an archtop.  I told him I had not, and he replied, "Do you wanna make one?"  So now I'm ankle deep in wood shavings, my hand has developed a nice callous, and my brain is filled with thoughts of carving, graduations, re-curve, and all that fun stuff that makes an arch top what it is. 

  I started with some nice aged maple and spruce, procured from Obie at Targo Woods in downtown Bellingham.  I love to visit their shop, and I knew they had a bunch of wood left over from a Seattle violin/cello/bass builder.  I got two wedges about 3 inches on the wide side tapering to half an inch on the skinny side.  About 10 inches wide, and 3 feet long.  I ran the large wedges of wood through my recently blocked up bandsaw, and got a nice book matched set of each, with plenty leftover for braces and fun projects.  Joining the plates proved much more difficult than with a flat-top, because I'm dealing with a much thicker slab.  I don't have a jointer in my shop, so I rely on an old school shooting board, and a large granite sanding table.  After some hours of wrestling my pieces, I happily had a top and back plate, sitka spruce and western maple respectively, joined and ready to carve!

  I bought Bob Benedetto's book on archtop guitar building to help me through the process.  He made this really cool adjustable cradle for holding a workpiece while carving.  I made my own with scrap lumber and some pipe from the ReStore (local non-profit building salvage).  It's a great working surface, and I imagine I'll be using it on most projects (flat and arch top) from now on.

       The top is the same profile of the guitar and has a lip so you can work on a piece with the arch side down.  I figure, I'll just attach a flat piece of plywood to the top to use it for other projects.

    Underneath is a bicycle quick release for quick adjustments.  It works great!

                                         The very beginnings of the shape.

                      The bent maple sides, and the fresh made body mold.

  I'd write more, but I gotta get back to carving and scraping!  More photos to come soon...

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