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Can I Steam A Curved Body Back To Flat ?


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Hi ! I'm new here, my name is Vincent, 35, living in France.

I'm in the process of building a semi hollow electric, designed with a scaled down 335 shape. The body is a hollowed out 2 piece limba plank, the top and back are pressed laminated maple.

After 2 months not working on the guitar, I took it today and noticed the limba has a serious curve now. Needless to say it was perfectly flat before. Obviously it wasn't as dry as the seller told me.

Can I steam it back to shape ? How di I apply the steam ? How long do I need to keep it under clamps ?

Any advise would be greatly appreciated !

Thanks for reading.img0142m.jpgimg0144ez.jpgimg0143u.jpg

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You can steam it and clamp it back flat, but unless you can keep it clamped or glued to stronger pieces of wood it will bow again when it dries out. I doubt your thin top and bottom are enough to stop it. Your only option to get it flat and have it stay flat is to let it completely dry and finish moving and then machine it flat. That will unfortunately leave you with a thinner body.

SR

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ok if i understand your worried about there being a thicker piece of wood on the back than the front.

just find a way to hide it.

1 use binding then black out the sides of the guitar to hide any glue joints.

2. burst with black edge with sides

3. extra thick binding.

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Short of taking the top off to fix it, there's not much you can do for that. Your pics make it look like the top is not in contact with the center block. Is that intentional? If not, you need to take the top off and fix it anyway.

If everything else about this guitar is okay, I'd be tempted to go ahead and put the back on and claim the curvature is contouring for comfort. :)

SR

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I hate to say this. But looking at the grain on the end of your body, it is going to warp no matter what you do here. I think the issue is that you have chambered out large sections of the body, & by doing so you have released a lot of tension in the wood. I personaly would not have made those chambers so open, I would have broken each one into 3 sections with heavy spars between them to lessen the potential for warpage. But I fear that this has not stopped moving just yet & you may have more warpage to come.

If I were to try fix it, I would remove the top. Make an autoclave / steam oven large enough to take the body. Steam the entire body block for at least 6 hours. then clamp it to a level work top, bench or machine table with a load of steel angle or 2 inch steel box section on top & a good number of clamps.

Leave it for about a week. take it out of the clamps & store it for at least 8 weeks in a dry room, away from any windows, radiators, air con units (inside a wardrobe is good). Then test it to see if it has warped again.

If it stays level for 12-16 weeks then re-start your build with your maple top. but use a 12mm thick hard / northern ash back with the grain set to oppose the limba's grain pattern.

But if after 16 weeks it has moved again then I would scrap the sides & use the centre for a multi lam body.

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I hate to say this. But looking at the grain on the end of your body, it is going to warp no matter what you do here. I think the issue is that you have chambered out large sections of the body, & by doing so you have released a lot of tension in the wood. I personaly would not have made those chambers so open, I would have broken each one into 3 sections with heavy spars between them to lessen the potential for warpage. But I fear that this has not stopped moving just yet & you may have more warpage to come.

If I were to try fix it, I would remove the top. Make an autoclave / steam oven large enough to take the body. Steam the entire body block for at least 6 hours. then clamp it to a level work top, bench or machine table with a load of steel angle or 2 inch steel box section on top & a good number of clamps.

Leave it for about a week. take it out of the clamps & store it for at least 8 weeks in a dry room, away from any windows, radiators, air con units (inside a wardrobe is good). Then test it to see if it has warped again.

If it stays level for 12-16 weeks then re-start your build with your maple top. but use a 12mm thick hard / northern ash back with the grain set to oppose the limba's grain pattern.

But if after 16 weeks it has moved again then I would scrap the sides & use the centre for a multi lam body.

so er. . . .start over?

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OK, well... I'm gonna spare myself the effort and keep going on. The fact is I have easy access to epoxy glue and the top is epoxied to the core. If I steam the whole stuf, the top will probably delaminate. It is really hard to think of all the time still to be spent on a guitar that will end deformed. Well at least I have learnt a few things (like I can get good council anytime over here, thanks !)

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I hate to say this. But looking at the grain on the end of your body, it is going to warp no matter what you do here. I think the issue is that you have chambered out large sections of the body, & by doing so you have released a lot of tension in the wood. I personaly would not have made those chambers so open, I would have broken each one into 3 sections with heavy spars between them to lessen the potential for warpage. But I fear that this has not stopped moving just yet & you may have more warpage to come.

If I were to try fix it, I would remove the top. Make an autoclave / steam oven large enough to take the body. Steam the entire body block for at least 6 hours. then clamp it to a level work top, bench or machine table with a load of steel angle or 2 inch steel box section on top & a good number of clamps.

Leave it for about a week. take it out of the clamps & store it for at least 8 weeks in a dry room, away from any windows, radiators, air con units (inside a wardrobe is good). Then test it to see if it has warped again.

If it stays level for 12-16 weeks then re-start your build with your maple top. but use a 12mm thick hard / northern ash back with the grain set to oppose the limba's grain pattern.

But if after 16 weeks it has moved again then I would scrap the sides & use the centre for a multi lam body.

so er. . . .start over?

Nope. I still say salvage it if he can. it will be a realy good learning experiance.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi !

Just wanted to share with you all how things were going with the curved guitar. Since the back ain't flat, there is no way to tell it is curved. So I moved forward and here it is today.

As you can see, the template slid while routing the bridge pickup route, thus depriving me of a trans finish (the patch extends outside the pickup ring)

I'll try to post updates whenever something cool happen with this build.

Bye !

007mxm.jpg

008oee.jpg

010xi.JPG

011eiu.jpg

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Oh wow. Hi Vincent! Looking forward to seeing this one some more. Although far too late to the party, I would have added that steaming will cause the glue joint to fail well before the wood could ever be straightened. Not sure if this has already been said because I am thread-skimming again. :-)

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Hi Prostheta ! Good point about the glue joint !

You know, I was afraid of not liking it because I knew it was bent even though it would be quite impossible to notice. But in the end, I like it very much. It is flat in my head =P

I have a question about something else : I want to use a trapeze tailpiece and I am worried about the fact that the part that is screwed to the side may apply a great amount of pressure on the nitro finish and crack it. Am I right to be afraid ? Is there anything I can do to prevent it ?

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Yes, there is plenty you can do. Mark the screwhole location with a pin or whatever. Then use a drill bit equal to the size of the screw including the thread. Slowly run the drill in reverse and scrape a hole through the finish. Running it in reverse prevents the bit from "digging" which could chip and flake a finish. After clearing the finish around the hole, use a second bit normally that is roughly equal or slightly smaller than the shaft of the screw.

Generally you should be fine however this covers any potential mishaps. Applying good forward pressure when seating a screw is essential otherwise it will act like a drill bit and try to dig up the finish and fibres immediately around the hole instead of establishing a thread. Pre-drilling helps to both centre the screw and allow the thread to find bite quicker.

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