Attempt An Archtop?

Discussion in 'Guitar Building' started by DianneB, May 12, 2019.

  1. DianneB

    DianneB New Member

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    I am almost 70 and my hands aren't as steady as they once were. Over the last 3 decades I have built a few 5-string banjos (from scratch), a couple of Tele style electric guitars, and repaired various instruments from accordions to antique guitars (and other non-musical things).

    Recently I have been thinking of attempting an archtop guitar but I find the carving process intimidating - never attempted anything like this before. Being on a pension I also have to consider the cost of tools, jigs, forms, etc.

    I see there is at least one company who will route tops and bottoms (CNC) for a fee. There are also Oriental-made 'kits' that sell for a very reasonable price but I expect that materials are in keeping with the cost. The "kits" also have most of the work completed and only finishing remaining - I'd like to do more than just finishing.

    I'd like to do an archtop but don't want to "get in over my head" and I want to do a GOOD job. Am I too old or lacking the experience to tackles something like this?
     
  2. mistermikev

    mistermikev Member

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    I always thought that as you get older you just take more time and do it better...
    never built an archtop, I've never carved a guitar. It is next on my list... but a carved archtop seems like something that would require some building up to... that said I see folks doing stuff 'first time' and nailing it all over the place. Seems to me that if you have the will to do what it takes to make it happen, there is nothing that can stop you. I vote: do it.
     
  3. DianneB

    DianneB New Member

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    Learning, studying, researching ..... I think I will give it a go. Worst that can happen is that I end up with expensive firewood LOL!
     
  4. Richard

    Richard New Member

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    My first instrument build was an archtop F5 mandolin. It came out great. I used a drillpress with a sanding disk to shape the top and back. I drilled a bunch of holes and removed a lot of wood that way before going to the sander. My second one I used a Lancelot on a HF angle grinder. I did it outside because chip go flying everywhere. It was scary but it made short work of it.
     
  5. DRF

    DRF Member

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    You mean an archtop/carve top like a Les Paul or a traditional archtop with bent sides and kerfing cause the later is much more work imo.

    You don't need all the fancy tools and finger planes. Many people can do it with a drill, sanding disc of varying grits and little this 'n that's.

    I used to do them on a duplicarver and for original designs I'd make a master carve template out of drywall compound on a sturdy backing board. If you continually moisten the dried compound it's hard but you can scrape with a razor blade. I know it sounds weird but I learned a ton about carving a top without carving wood, neck angles, what looks right etc. If I screwed up or didn't like it I could add compound.
     
  6. DianneB

    DianneB New Member

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    Oh yea, a full hollow body like an acoustic with the complication of curved front and back.
     
  7. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine New Member

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    I'd encourage tackling this project. I will admit that fully hand carving a maple back is not on my list of "most enjoyable aspects of guitar building, but it can be done a little at a time while other components are built.

    I've built 6 archtop guitars and they are certainly my favourite type of guitar to build.

    If you go ahead with the build and are looking for a one-stop shop reference book, then I'd recommend Bob Benedetto's book. It really is a step-by-step guide. I used it on my first couple of builds and still find myself referencing things from it each time I build one, even though my design has evolved away from how Mr. Benedetto builds his guitars.
     
  8. Gary

    Gary New Member

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    I'm in the same boat. I'm on my second Les Paul archtop guitar build. There are a lot of excellent video's on You tube. I would recommend you look at "Making a Les Paul Guitar" it is a 12 part video series. I probably looked at 20 different videos on making a Les Paul to get a good idea on different techniques to making the guitar, neck and fret board. This guy lives in Canada but goes through step by step on his guitar build. It is an excellent reference guide. I would also recommend purchasing his plans. They are the most complete and comprehensive I have seen and give you all the measurements you will need. I also purchased a template kit for the Les Paul from another supplier. One word of caution. Do not drill out the bridge template holes until you have first dry fit your fret board to the guitar/neck and measure out the proper scale, Les Paule 24.75" . If the template is off you won't get the proper scale and you will never be able to tune your guitar/ intonation properly. I purchased two other sets of plans from different sellers and they left out a lot of measurements that left me guessing. You can do this! Good luck.
     

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