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Acoustic Archtop First Guitar


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Hello All

I am about to start a course on my first guitar and want to make something different from the standard acoustic guitar. I was playing with the idea of an acoustic bass but on some web sites people said that an acoustic bass is not very powerfull unless yu are playing in your bedroom and my instructor thught that it may be too much of a challange for a first guitar.

So i have now set my mind on an acoustic archtop, is this a difficult first guitar or is it much the same as a regular acoustic.

What differences should i take into account when choosing wood and what are the main differences in the design.

I am in the UK, does anyone recommend a good supplier of wood in the UK.

Thanks

Garry

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Hello All

I am about to start a course on my first guitar and want to make something different from the standard acoustic guitar. I was playing with the idea of an acoustic bass but on some web sites people said that an acoustic bass is not very powerfull unless yu are playing in your bedroom and my instructor thught that it may be too much of a challange for a first guitar.

So i have now set my mind on an acoustic archtop, is this a difficult first guitar or is it much the same as a regular acoustic.

What differences should i take into account when choosing wood and what are the main differences in the design.

I am in the UK, does anyone recommend a good supplier of wood in the UK.

Thanks

Garry

Archtop will be a very challenging first build. You are going to need to get a good book on building archtops. Read it and get a solid understanding of the process, the book should also give you an idea as to what general properties the wood should have. You are really going to have to learn a lot of skills that will be new to you. Your success will depend on how much effort you put into understanding and care you take during the build. You will find a pinned topic with UK wood suppliers in the reference section.

P.S.

What differences should i take into account when choosing wood and what are the main differences in the design.
-These are not questions that can be answered in a message like this (books are written to cover this much info).

Peace,Rich

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An acoustic bass would actually be much easier than an archtop, I would think. An acoustic bass, is effectively, a larger bodied acoustic with thicker bracing. An archtop, otoh, is A LOT more work, cause you have to shape both the inside and the outside of the carve, which has to be tuned, the way the neck matches the curve of the top, setting the angle, so the strings have decent action. Theres a LOT to consider there. I'm personally playing with the idea of an acoustic bass for my first project, but they really do have to be amplified to be heard at a decent level compared to any other instruments. If you are just looking for something different, find a guitar that's close to what you want, and use a vector path drawing program (like Illustrator, but there are free ones, I think) to trace everything out. You can then tweak the paths to get exactly what you want. I've started drawing one up using Steve Vais acoustic (from Ibanez), cause it has a single cut away and 24 frets (pretty rare for an acoustic). Best of luck in what ever you choose to do though :D.

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What differences should i take into account when choosing wood and what are the main differences in the design.

Acoustic archtop guitars are constructed more like violins than flat-top acoustic guitars. They only have two tone-bars instead of the X-brace pattern on the top, and nothing on the back, except maybe cleats. The wood choices are more in line with that of a violin too, maple for the back, sides & neck, and a spruce top.

I think that's quite a challenge for a first instrument.

This thread should give you an idea:

http://projectguitar.ibforums.com/index.php?showtopic=16157

Edited by M_A_T_T
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Uh, respectfully disagree, Matt. X-bracing (although generally just the X, like this) seems to be the modern standard for archtop instruments. And while they are carved, and more similar to violin family instruments, they are quite different instruments.

Garry: get the Benedetto book now, and then decide. I've seen enough 'first instruments' that were archtops to believe it is possible (head to the MIMF.com forum, register, peruse the library). Also, you'll never, ever, *need* a CNC machine to build a great instrument, certainly not to make an archtop, acoustic, or elecetric guitar. That's running before you can even crawl. I feel CNC is appropriate for someone who understands how an instrument is built, how it works, and needs to go into production. That, or someone who is very comfortable with CNC to begin with; that's a skillset and huge investment in money and time in its own right. It's a complete myth to think that CNC will enable you to build if you can't do it on your own, without it.

Besides, carving tops can be fun (although I've only, to date, carved electric ones).

Edited by mattia
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Mattia

I like your attitude. I have told some friends that i am doing the course and they just say "Why make a guitar when you can buy one cheaper", life wouldn't be much fun if we just bought everything from multinational companies.

Unfortunatly i have just ordered wood for an acoustic but am still thinking of the archtop or a fretless bass, as you can tell i like to stray from the normal.

From your experience of guitars, is there a lot of waiting around for glue to set, finishes etc. I ask as maybe when i start the course i may start the archtop as a side project at home at christmas so that i can get help on the course with tools etc.

Or is 2 guitars running together too much to take on.

Garry

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There's some waiting, most of it during the finishing stage (that month waiting for the finish to cure before buffing is really, really annoying). The only 'risk' in making two isntruments side by side, at least two identical ones, is that you risk duplicating the 'mistakes' on both; you don't have the advantage of playing your first, figuring out what you like about it and what you want to change on the next one. If you build two different types of instruments side by side, sure, by all means, go ahead; just remember that each instrument will take as long as it takes. Don't rush, think things through, and do the best you can do on each one.

And then, on the next few, do better :-)

If you think that'll work for you, go for it, but remember that not everything will go your way, or quite how you expect it. Planning and careful preparation can remove a lot of room for error, though. I've got 8 (or so, I forget) electrics under my belt, and for the last few I've been building at least two electrics concurrently, at different stages (right now I've got a matched pair strat+tele 'on hold'), as well as at least one acoustic guitar (I'm finishing up my second, an acoustic baritone). The next 'run' will include a trio of different acoustic guitars (parlour, Grand Auditorium, Jumbo) plus at least one, maybe two electrics (an explorer, maybe a Les Paul-esque singlecut). I find some parts of construction are easier when you can just do them in batches (like, say, preparing neck blanks; scarf joint, truss rod, carbon fibre rods, one after the other. Ditto fingerboards), and it also means I can drag all the stuff I need thicknessed for the next few years down to the cabinet shop and run it through their thickness sander. Other parts require close attention to detail, each guitar being slightly different.

One last thing: get a notebook, separate it into sections (or one per instrument) and take notes! Measurements, impressions, maybe weight, anything that you notice while building. It's an invaluable tool to supplement your own memory. And take lots of photographs. I didn't document most of my previous builds all that extensively (in terms of measurements. Photos, yes. Lots of those), and I quite regularly kick myself about it.

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You can certainly do two at one time, but you may be better off to focus your efforts on a single project until you get the hang of the process. You will find some things are frustrating and instead of working through them you may be tempted to just shift over to your second project. Staying focused on resolving issues, and paying full attension to each task. Will probably produce better results. When you build an acoustic you build "parts" and then go into an assembly stage and then a finishing stage. When you are building "parts"(neck, soundboard & bracing, back & bracing, sides & bending you will find you can work on another "part" while you wait for glue to cure or what have you. During the assembly phase you should be constantly looking parts over focusing on fit, and rechecking mesurements. Its important to be thinking about how your next parts will be glued and will they fit just right (best not to be distracted by another project). During the finish prep you will be fully busy (especially re-checking all surfaces for perfect smooth fits). Lastly during finish, you will have some down time while finishes cure (this is a good time to find a distraction so that you won't rush the curing process and blow the finish). Just my take. I hope some of that makes sense.

Peace,Rich

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After building both archtops and flat tops I dont think archtops are that much more complicated. Carving the top maybe but there are several straightforward ways to get thru this process. Drill press, router, grinder attatchments, chisels and planes... The neck (fretboard) is not attatched to the soundboard, the bracing is much simpler, the bridge is adjustable for intonation not glued, and adjustable for neck set, string height and neck angle. All potential problem areas in a first build flat top. All guitar construction requires attention to detail, if you can do that and have patience for a carving project you could do an archtop for a first guitar, lots of people have... good luck, dkw

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