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Semi Hollows


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Can anybody give me some tips on building a semi hollow? How thick should the top and back be? How thick and how wide the sides? How to bend the sides and which woods are the best for a semi hollow? Any other important things or suggestions?

I'll be grateful for any help...

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I would buy some books or videos, cuz it would take a few books to answer those questions you asked in any usable depth.

Try the Bob Benedetto book or video or both on building an archtop, it's all covered in there. Available from Stew-Mac. :D

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Try the Bob Benedetto book or video or both on building an archtop, it's all covered in there. Available from Stew-Mac.

I just ordered that book last week.. I have wicked plans... hehehehe

Anyway, order it from Amazon. Although I highly recommend Stew Mac, the very same book is only $27 at Amazon... $39 at Stew Mac.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Semi-hollows are a nice combo of hollow and solid body guitars. There's a lot of ways to build your semi-hollow. That's because there's several different kinds of semi-hollows, too.

Most semis have a solid maple center section with hollow wings. In Gibson's case, they use maple/poplar/maple plywood for the wings. Plywood is the easiest to shape because they can just heat it up and press it into shape for an arched top and back. Not something extremely easy to do in your home shop unless you're actually taking three pieces of wood and making the plywood sandwich yourself while the glue is still wet.

PRS uses solid wood and carves it into the arched shape. Very wasteful, but you hear the wood, not the glue between the plies. At least you WOULD if they didn't slather so much clear poly on the thing.

If this is your first semi, keep it simple. Carving/shaping a top is too difficult for your first build unless you have experience in the area. Build something along the lines of a thinline-style telecaster. Make your top, back, and sides out of 3/16 to 1/4 inch thick wood. The sides should be about 1-3/8 to 1-1/2 inch wide. Shaping the sides isn't too hard, just use a steamer for acoustic sides from the stew-mac catalog. Use a solid block of maple for the center block and neck joint.

Remember, you're also trying to take advantage of the subtle acoustic nuances of the design, so go light on the finish. Stain, couple light coats of laquer, and that's it! Don't suffocate the wood!

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I don't know if this has any relevance at all, but my plan is to build a chambered solidbody. Since a picture says a thousand words (taken from the Warmoth website) :

LPBox8.gif

So the whole bottom bit is routed out in the non-mission-critical areas, leaving enough wood for structural integrity. Then I imagine one would glue the top of choice over top of that. If not, I need to rethink my plans. :D

I'm not counting on it being particularly resonant, though-- it'll likely be a little bit moreso than a totally solid body; but I'm doing it mainly to shave off some weight.

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Guest Litchfield Custom Gutars

SHoulnt this be in the hollowbody section?

Sorry cant help you. I think in the appropriate section is the best place to get help.

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I would guess to keep their tops solid and level. Leaving gaping hollow areas with no contact would open them up to a lot of 'cupping' warrenty claims...not so good for the bottom line...

BTW, I tried doing it the Warmoth way once, what a lot of work! Never again. :D

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PRS uses solid wood and carves it into the arched shape. Very wasteful, but you hear the wood, not the glue between the plies. At least you WOULD if they didn't slather so much clear poly on the thing.

Remember, you're also trying to take advantage of the subtle acoustic nuances of the design, so go light on the finish. Stain, couple light coats of laquer, and that's it! Don't suffocate the wood!

Can you please point me towards scientific studies to backup your claims. Eg: effects of finishes on solid body or semi hollow guitars.

Can you also please recommend to us how many coats of poly, PRS should be applying to their guitars, considering 99% of clients require a glass like finish?

ALSO, please recommend a brand and type of finish, to allow the wood to breathe (refering to "suffocation"), whilst also protecting it from moisture (both humidy in the air and sweat).

While your typing, can you please give me your opinion on what poly sounds like. What does it add/subtract from the overall tone of a guitar.

Please comment also on other brands of guitars, eg: Gibson, and their nitrocellulose finishes, Fender and their acrylic jobs, and how the tone of each finish type effects the overall tone. I am also curious on your opinion about number of coats versus finish thickness eg: nitrocellulose requires many many more coats than poly, for the same finish thickness.

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Perry,

If you're looking for scientific proof, good luck. This is more of a "in my experience" field. I've been in many conversations reguarding how different options effect the tone of a finished instrument. It's practically impossible to determine the differance between a Nitro finish and a poly finish w/o completly stripping the guitar, and refinishing it. Two guitars of the same make and model often sound differently due to the "undeterminable factors" such as wood density, grain patern, etc.

It is pretty much accepted in the luthier world that a thin finish will result in a better sounding instument than a thick finish. It's also been heavily debated on how hollowing out a electric guitar changes it's sound. I'm of the school that once a guitar is plugged in, it looses almost all of the "hollow tone" if it's been constructed in a Thinline fashion (routing out cavities). This is going to be mostly asthetic and practical since it reduces the weight of a guitar. If you're talking about a true Hollow body design (built with seperate bent sides and a thin back and soundboard) then that will have an effect on the sound due to the significantly increased vibration trasnfer through the body..

While finishes will alter the sound of a guitar (as they alter the vibrations of the wood) it's probably the smallest factor I can think of. The largest are obviously going to be pickup selection and placement, wiring, neck fit, and overall mass of the guitar. It's fun to try and experiment by comparing them, but there are no assurances in repeating that sound exactly.

Instead of trying to get overly technical in my construction/finishing schedule - I simply try to produce what has worked well for me in the past, and what I deem to be pleasing to the ear. For me that means working with old, dry mahogany, using a maple neck with a larger than normal headstock, PAF pickups, and a thin nitro finish. It's worked well for me in the past, and each new guitar I try to tweek in some new way...little improvements over time. Well, sorry for the essay, hope that helps...but the large majority of this is opinion....not science.

-Ben

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Gee, I didn't mean to piss anyone off by stating that I prefer thin finishes rather than multilayer solid finishes or coat after coat of clear poly on a PRS. I probably shouldn't have used the word "suffocate" either. What I meant was let the wood "resonate". My point was that with a hollow or semi-hollow instrument, you want the wood to resonate. If PRS slathers a thick "glass-like" finish on the instrument, you're going to lose resonance. If you don't believe me, pick up an old ES-175 with a thin finish and compare the sustain to a new hollow or semi PRS. I have, and it is my opinion that the thinner-finished guitar has better sustain and volume. It's nothing scientific, just my ear.

If you want a scientific study, sorry, don't have one. I'm guessing you probably knew that I wouldn't, but arguing in an internet forum about something as silly as guitar finishes is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded.

Here's what I know. Some of my favorite artists who recorded my favorite music used instruments with incredibly thin finishes. John Lennon, with his refinished Epi Casino, Stevie Ray Vaughan, with almost no finish, Bruce Springsteen, etc. The most highly revered violin in the world, the Stradivarius, has an incredibly thin finish and some of the most resonant wood ever put into an acoustic instrument. It's the combo of the wood and the finish that makes it all work.

Maybe a thin finish wouldn't make as big of a difference with a solid body. I don't know. All I was trying to do was help someone out and throw in my nickel's worth of free advice. If you don't agree, fine, but having you and your buddies put me down is just stupid and really immature. If you want to reply and "kick my ass", go ahead. If that's what it takes for you and your buddy to get off, go for it. Next time you have a question in the forum and I know the answer, I'll just go ahead and let you wait for someone else since my opinion doesn't count here.

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Just to jump in to middle of this fight, if you had two guitars that are exactly identical with excetion of the thinkness of the finish then in my rather humble opinion the sound would be changed as a solid coating surrounding the wood would act like a damper, dampening the resonance of the wood.

Again, just theory but I'm good at all things spring/mass/damper like (which nearly everything can be moddeled as) :D

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