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I deal mostly in solids but I've been toying with an archtop concept. What if , instead of bending the sides the traditional way I laminated the sides from veneer, gluing several layers together in a form to make super strong sides. I'd like some input from those of you who hane built hollow bodies before. Thanks guys. :D

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I've thought of that before too, but I don't think it would work for these reasons:

Laminating veneer is a massive pain in the ass, and still not very strong in the end

Even if you did laminate enough together, it still wouldn't have enough inherant strength to hold the top and bottom on properly, I think it would fall apart.

Since it wouldn't be very strong, it would suck the resonance, tone, and response out of the top. The dynamics would be all screwed up.

It would actually be easier for you to just learn how to bend wood on a wood bender and do it the correct way than to try and glue a bunch of veneer strips.

And I think it would actually be fun to learn, as opposed to trying to glue a bunch of veneer together. Yecch! :D

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Drak, I have to disagree with you on this one. There are many fine builders out there (Fleishman, Klein, etc) that have used the technique of laminated sides for flat top acousic guitars. When I took an acoustic guitar building class a couple years ago I was able to inspect a guitar body made this way. It was very strong and would hardly flex when you tried to bend it.

Laminating veneer for sides would effectively give you plywood which, considering the multiple fibers directions, is very much stronger than solid wood. It is also stiffer and more dimensionally stable. Usually plywood is made of perpendicular grain direction each ply but same direction plies would still be strong. It is the same idea as when you laminate a neck together. It becomes more stable and strong.

The lamiated sides that I have seen are usually 2 ply. This makes the wood very easy to bend and you still get the benefits of the plywood effect. When used for acoustic guitars it is usually an attempt to make the sides stiffer, stronger, and thus more tonally transparent (higher velocity of sound through the material), letting the top do the work of tone shaping. It is one theory on how to build acoustic guitars. Whether it works or not the sides are most defintely stronger and stiffer than solid wood sides.

If you can go with a vacuum bag system, don't use too much glue and you should have excellent results. Also be sure to laminate enough material to give you approximately the same thickness as the solid wood sides. If you do this you will have 5-7 plies. That would not fall apart under the strian of the strings.

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The average guy here has built maybe a few solids and generally speaking has little experience with veneer, much less being 'really' good at it, doing it repeatedly and experiencing all the wonderful side-effects of dealing with veneers as a rule. Veneer is a very different world with it's own rules, causes, and effects.

Much less owning and operating a vacuum press machine.

To the average guy here, I think asking them to try to laminate a bunch of veneer together in a vacuum-press seems to go far past the 'meat and potatoes' answers I try to give people, something they can go out and do in a relatively short order.

I still think laminating veneer strips together is kind of ridiculous myself.

Maybe on an esoteric level your point is correct, and for builders who have been at it for 20 years and better, who make their living at this, gluing veneer strips together is an option, although I don't really think so.

Maybe laminate strips yes, but veneer is different (thinner) than even the average laminate strips.

Veneer, although very cool stuff (I like it) is a pain in the ass. Period.

Now Myka, for a guy just starting to tread into the world of archtop construction, would you seriously tell him that gluing veneer strips together is a feasably good way to get started, or would you rather have him start by learning to bend sides?

Bending sides is an inevitable function of archtop construction, so why take someone down the strange sideroad of gluing veneer strips together right off the bat instead of encouraging them to go ahead and buy or make a bender and get started down the right path?

I think your reply was aimed more at an interesting esoteric point of discussion, which it is, and I wouldn't mind discussing it with you, but I don't think it is very solid advice to give someone just poking into the world of archtop construction for the first time.

Again, you could be 100% correct in your assertion of laminate side construction, but consider the experience level of who asked the question and why they asked it, to give them a green light to gluing veneer strips together would seem to me to be a slight injustice and not very solid advice.

Maybe to builders who have been building for many years and are looking to experiment on their already-solid foundation of building knowledge, gluing veneer strips together would be, ehhh, ...interesting. :D

Your pros who do this, what is the average thickness of their laminate strips?

Is it 1/42" like most veneers? ...I kind of doubt it. B)

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I was simply answering the question as it was stated. The questions starts out with "What if..." and asks for some experienced advice. I gave my thoughts based on my actual experience. Laminating sides may seem ridiculous but people are doing it and with great sucess. Whether or not it is an option for stringkilla is a decision they will have to make.

Had the question been asked I would totally agree that the easiest way to make bent sides is by bending solid wood. He wasn't asking if I thought lamiated sides was a good idea he was asking if it would work. I will never hesitate to discuss all options available with a first time builder regardless of my preferences. This is why they are here asking for experience. I have no problem with differing opinions. In fact that is the best part about this forum. You can get a lot of exposure to new ideas that are all over the board. I do have a problem with misinformation. Veneer sides will not fall apart if done well and the effect is merely tone altering. Tone is subjective.

Whatever the skill level of the builder if they want to learn how to build archtops then they have to jump in. A solid body guitar and an archtop guitar are such totally different instruments. Building solidbodies cannot answer most questions about archtops. I would never discourage anyone from building an archtop guitar in whatever way they are comfortable with. You can't gain experience except by experimenting.

Take a look at Fred Carlson's work (Beyond The Trees) and see what happens when tradition is tossed out the window. He actually laminates his braces (for strength and ridgidity).

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That's cool, I just like to debate stuff. :D:D

Interesting site BTW, thanks for the link.

Veneer sides will not fall apart if done well

I would absolutely agree with that, but the hinge words are 'if done well'.

To recommend trying that to someone who might not have ever worked with veneer before, ever worked with a vacuum press before, and is trying to build a first archtop of sorts, the 'entry price' to 'if done well' could be quite high indeed.

It could be $500.00 or better, and probably several months worth of hard effort before he/she gets to the point of 'if done well', when you can make your own bender for under $50.00 (I know there are ways to make your own vacuum press also, but not for $50.00 :D ) and get started bending in short order, and get acceptable results probably faster than gluing veneer strips together.

My assumption also is that guys will try to find ways to 'cheat', or 'cleverly sidestep' the accepted process a lot of times, (which is cool too if it works), like using food coloring dye instead of real accepted anilyne dyes to save money, like using a chisel to do the work of a router, like trying to use wipe-on products to achieve a look as good as a sprayed-on finish.

Sometimes these ways work fine, others are a bust.

So I was assuming that stringkilla may have been trying to find a way to usurp the traditional process of bending sides for several possible reasons.

One is I think that electric builders are sometimes intimidated by a bending iron, so they will try to find ways to avoid plowing ahead and just getting one and getting their feet wet with one. Hell, I've done it, by carving everything out a solid piece of wood until nothing is left but sidewalls and a centerstrip. That was my 'cheater' archtop design (and it worked, and it was pretty easy to do)

So, I felt that stringkilla would be better off in the end to not go down that avenue, knowing everything that that way entails, as opposed to buying a bending iron, casting the hesitations aside and just 'going for it', and I think he'd be happier in the end for doing it the way he probably would prefer to do it too and not try to 'sidestep' the bending iron for the thankless task of trying to glue veneer strips together.

But I could be wrong! B)

Here is my 'cheater archtop' way. This is a Tele, but I've done this to other more traditional archtop shapes, I just happened to have this pic uploaded into the free-site server ready to go, but anyone can see how this can be modified to suit any number of different archtop ideas.

Big-ass waste of a lot of nice wood this way tho...


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Instead of a new thread.

I was going to wrap the sides of a cherry tele with veneer?Is that possible?

If I did bend some other 1/16 wood for the sides would I use the guitar body as my mold or do I use something else?


Ya you can do that,remember Drak's Coco-Bolo custom.I think it was guitar of the month for March.

You could use the body as a mold,if you still have the offcut piece from the body you could use that like a caul to held the steamed wood against the body while the glue dries.But the glue will need a little extra time with the water from the steaming coming out of the wood.

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Cool, debates can be fun! :D

Yeah the price of admission for veneer is pretty steep if you do not have access to any of the machinery. Bending sides is a skill that you must learn for acoustic instruments at some point anyway. But if you went with 2 layers of wood for the sides they would be easier to bend and easier to laminate than very thin veneer. This is how the acoustic builders that I mentioned are doing it. I don't think any of them were using off the shelf veneer (1/42").

Isn't Fred Carlson pretty amazing?!? Make sure you look at the construction details of his Oracle harp guitar. He is a very unique builder.

I just started a semi-hollow electric very similar to the tele in construction. The only difference is that the top will be sitka spruce carved inside and out and the back has been retained. It will feature a tailpiece like an archtop. Here is a pic:


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currently the accepted method of bending sides is with a heated pipe or electricaly heated bending machines, right? I have a bug about useing a common technique that some furniture and cabinet makers have been successful at for years. That is to mold the bent in a positive and negative mold. A two sided mold compressed together by clamps, left to dry and then shaped. No vacumm bags, no hot pipes or electicity, just glue and some off the shelf veneers. I was interested in the tonality, or lack thereof. I guess by the responce it will work and increase the treble end of the voice. Thanks guys :D

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mold the bent in a positive and negative mold. A two sided mold compressed together by clamps, left to dry and then shaped.

I'd be careful of the waist bend with that. When people use bending machines they usually bend the waist on a pipe or iron, then place it on the mold with a clamp on the waist and ease the sides down with metal 'straps' as wide as the side and clamp it.

Bending sides is not very difficult. It helps to have a good mold to work off. Start off my marking the waist and bend that first, then get the upper and lower bout curves. Don't leave the piece in one spot on the iron, you'll get creases, rock it back and forth, and don't force it.

I haven't really finalized my technique with the water yet. Using a spray bottle to re-wet helps, I think letting the pieces sit in water for at least 15mins is good, they can distort if you leave 'em over night. I also don't know if the water needs to be hot at all, because as soon as you remove the piece from the container, the water looses it's heat real quick and is just cold. It's the steam created by the iron that bends the wood anyways.

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Love that guitar Myka, that will be a beauty.

I'm working on one similar to yours, only using Curly Redwood for the top and back, carved both sides, using the traditional Gibson ES 125 florentine single-cut design, which is probably my favorite guitar shape in all the guitar world, I've been waiting for years to finally get around to building one :D .

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It's actually the same Mahogony the Tele pic shows, I bought a 12' long x 16" x 1 3/4" board of it this spring. It's the same basic idea as the Tele pic but with much less centerwood and not glued onto the bottom, but suspended in the middle.

I guess it's kind of like the Carvin Holdsworth Fatboy thang?

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