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freekhenk

Fanned Frets Archtop

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Hey guys,

As many before me, I’ve taken my time lurking in the shadows before having collected enough guts to go about and post something. I am very thankful for the existence of this community as I have learnt heaps by looking at other people’s builds. Lately I’ve seen a bunch of archtops being built and now that mine is nearly done, it feels like the right time to post. Let me know what you think!

The gitir is my third build. I really enjoy building things in general but the awesome thing about guitars is that once the project is completed, I get to play it! I don’t want to build guitars just for the sake of owning more guitars and so to me, a new project needs to have added value in terms of the manufacturing process and as a (playable) guitar. Since I had never built an acoustic guitar before and do not own an archtop or multiscale, I reckon this point is dealt with. In the relative context a statement like this can be made, I drew the design myself. That is to say, I took elements off of other guitars that I liked and blended them in to create a beast to my liking. The specs are as follows:

WOODS

  • Neck: Laminate of maple and walnut
  • Fretboard: Ebony (scale length is 24.75” to 26.5”, 23 frets because of a huge “Doh!”-moment)
  • Headplate front: “Art deco” maple and ebony
  • Headplate rear: dyed veneer (since the ebony cracked at the volute)
  • Top: Spruce
  • Sides / back: Maple

    HARDWARE

    • Tuners: Schaller
    • Bride: Saddles and posts from Wilkinson roller TOM bridge, remainder was fabricated by me
    • Tailpiece: Ebony with a steel hinge.
    • Pickup: In the making

    I’ve got a lot of pictures and will not be posting them all but if anyone has a specific question I will try to answer as clearly as possible. Oh and most of them have been taken with my crappy phone camera.

    The design:

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    The materials:

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    Gluing up the neck, top and back:

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It took me a while to figure out how to cut the headstock angle on a multiscale.

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Hehe, some good ol’ planing the carve into the top. It’s been previously routed to the template and I’ve used one of those quarter-circle bits to show me how much of the wood to remove.

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The maple back felt like granite after working with the spruce so after a while I just roughed it out with an angle grinder with a sanding disk. This left a pretty rough surface so it required a lot of cleaning up.

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This is one of those brilliant things I’ve learnt through watching pictures here on the forum. Once the outside of a top or back has been shaped, use a drill press with a depth stop to drill holes leaving an equal amount of material between the inside and outside.

Beware though, I used a metal depth stop and after the initial fear of drilling straight through the top even though I checked the depth several times, I used considerably more violence while drilling. This resulted in the outside of the top and back looking slightly like the surface of a golfball. Good thing I love to sand.

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Ah right, the fretboard’s already been cut. Didn’t take pictures of that and I actually had to redo it because the first board was useless after an attempt of reducing the thickness in an improvised way. I have found a neat way of doing this that I wish to share with you guys that does not require power tools or a jig.

  1. Use fretfind to get a printout (make sure all of the scaling is correctly set up in your printer! Check after a print has been made!!)
  2. Make sure your fretboard blank is flat and true (only the side that is going to be glued to the neck and the side you are going to fret).
  3. Simply glue the paper printout to the board (When done with care, this omits the need to draw and measure each individual fret line with a limited accuracy)
  4. I then used a thick piece of aluminium angle as a saw guide and made sure to clamp it against a fret line on the fretboard. Important note is to consistently put the guide on one of the sides of the printed fretline (with finite line thickness) as you work your way across the board.
  5. I took the blade out of my Japanese saw (some improvement can be made with regard to saw blade handling ;)), used one hand to firmly press the blade to the guide and the other hand to make the sawing motion.

I am aware that several jigs can be made to do a faster job, but they usually can’t accommodate multiscale fretboards. Fretboard has been glued to the neck and rough shaping has been done:

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Here, the centre (maple) part of the “art deco”-style headstock is being glued.

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Ok, so professional luthiers best look the other way. I bent the sides in a kind of ghetto manner.

Hot water:

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Bending “iron”

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Hmm I know what you guys think but it came out alright ;)!

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This is not part of the effort of “making everything myself”, I simply found these things too expensive to buy, and with the correct approach, it does not take too long to make some yourself.

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This part was kind of wicked. I was following a course on milling and turning and asked if I could work on a little side project.

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I decided to insert a wedge to hide the glue gap where the two side butts meet. Then I thought it kind of matched the headplate if it would not be flush with the sides.

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Gluing a veneer to the back of the headstock

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In gluing up the back to the sides, I used a bunch of dowels in the tail- and neckblock to align it.

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Binding in the f-holes. The holes have been cut out using a coping saw.

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X-bracing glued in and ready for shaping.

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Closing a lid on this baby

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Drilling tuner holes, I had to stop because this half-way-through-hole looked awesome

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A very tense moment preceded this picture. Cutting binding ledges on the closed box has given me a bunch of sleepless nights. And then salvation came in the form of a youtube video posted by Blackdog showing how they do it in the Gibson factory. A table router with a tapered ring of the same height as the carve depth. Once everything was set up, I had the whole box routed in 10 minutes.

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Routing the neck pocket. I figured since the “f” holes can hardly be recognized as such, this guitar probably also wouldn’t need a classical dovetail joint.

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Gluing binding to the body.

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THE way to clean glue joints (and less sanding afterwards) is masking the area’s glue isn’t supposed to reach appropriately beforehand. I learnt this from RAD’s incredible building blogs, thanks!

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We all make mistakes. Mine was that the idea that this guitar needed to be blue.

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That’s better.

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Unfortunately in some places, the blue was highly resilient against sanding. Especially end grains were nasty.

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A friend of mine clear coated the guitar for me, and this is the result so far. It still lacks a pickup (in the making, I was rather surprised by the sound but it still needs an ebony cover and probably an ebony pickguard) and a trussrod cover. The guitar sounds alright acoustically although it is not as loud as I would like. I have learnt to appreciate the craftsmanship of professional luthiers all the more through this.

Thanks for reading!

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Another archtop! Looks great!

Lack of volume could be due to a bunch of factors:

Top thickness

Top stiffness

Side depth

Body surface area (usually this would have most to do with your lower bout width)

String break angle across the bridge (in other words, how much pressure is being placed upon the bridge)

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Thanks guys! Geoff, I probably left the top and bracing too thick as main "issue" for the lack of volume. It will probably take a whole lot of guitars to get a feel for how thin one can go without having the box implode as soon as the strings are tightened. Hehe on to the next one!

Cheers

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Thanks Our souls! It was kind of a challenge to have the headstock blend in with the fanned end of the fretboard at the nut and at the same time have a kind of classical archtop look. What I find a nice way to lay out the design (might have read that somewhere on the forum as well) is to just draw a 1:1 plan, stick it to the wall at a place I pass frequently and if no design aspect bugs me after 2-3 weeks, it gets the green light.

Juntunen, I can't remember exactly but I believe I set the depth stop at 6 mm. Final sanding (including taking out the "golfball" dents) might have taken an additional 0.5 mm off so I reckon around 5 - 5.5 mm. I did tap the top occasionally to see if the eigenfrequency was dropping but didn't really have any comparison.

Cheers!

Edited by freekhenk

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