Tag Archives: guitar making

Back to Folk Singing

49 years ago I bought the guitar of my dreams, a brand new Martin D35. In those days I was in love with Gordon Lightfoot songs, the Beatles of course, and all that music that sounded great on a big flat top guitar.

My late friend Bob Wylie strumming my D35 c. 1977

But the years passed and so did my taste in music, so 24 years ago I sold the D35 and moved on to jazz. However, the circle of life comes around like the seasons and so I recently decided it was high time I had a big “folk” guitar again. The Martin dreadnought, or D type guitar is the most copied guitar in the world, because it is like a battle ship that fears no man or woman. But it is big, a bit too big for me now that my shoulder and arm can’t take long hours of being draped over a huge guitar. I checked around and found the next best thing – a Taylor Grand Auditorium. This guitar has a narrow waist that allows it to sit lower and thus is less painful on the strumming arm. It was designed to compete with the Dreadnoughts, and by and large it can, although it’s a little smaller. The D size guitars are very large and in the opinion of many guitarists the 000 Martin is the acme of flat tops. While I tend to agree, I had already built one of those many years ago, and I wanted something different. Hence the latest guitar – my version of a Taylor Grand Auditorium, complete with the “all new, improved V bracing”.

Here is my latest guitar, #37, successor to my long gone D35, which I expect is still out in the world being strummed somewhere.

The famous C chord, beloved of folkies everywhere!

Taylor is converting their guitars to this v shaped bracing system, away from traditional x braced tops. They claim to have invented it, but it’s been around a long time in one form or another. I just copied their design however, figuring they had already done all the testing for me. I played a few examples and while they were no better than some of their x braced guitars, it seemed like an adventure to try a new design. I already made several ukuleles with v braces and I knew they sounded really good, better than the fan braced ones I had made before.

The guitar sounds great for folk music, no good at all for jazz, which is how it should be. I already have a dozen jazz guitars!

V braced top, a la Taylor. They patented this. Didn’t stop me.

For the record: cypress top, cypress braces, African mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, ebony bridge. Tuners are Gotoh 510, 1:21, the smoothest damn tuners on earth and worth every cent of the hundred bucks they cost. Strings are D’Addario EJ15 phosphor bronze, extra light. Even with extra light strings this thing is loud. I might up the gauge when I change strings, but the trade off is more volume for more work, and I have lazy old fingers.

Body is 16″ x 20″ x 4 5/8″ deep, same as Martin D. The nut is 1 11/16″, exactly the same as my old D35, as is the bridge. Scale length 25.5″, just a tad longer than Martin’s 25.4″ scale, so it feels like a D35 in my hands. Now to go practice “Did She Mention My Name”. Today’s pop music is so banal and crappy it’s not worth listening to, so thank heavens we have Gordon Lightfoot, who is still alive! He should have got the Nobel Prize, not Bob Zimmerman… the worst performer I have ever seen. But BZ wrote some good songs. I may play one of those later.

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Guitar #29/2

Guitar mold - day 3

Guitar mold – day 3

The order for my wood is being processed. I buy the wood from a dealer here in BC, and they sand it to my specs. I used to have to sand it myself, which required having a wood shop do it, or a friend. Now I get it done for me, which saves a huge amount of time. They only charged me half an hour labour.
I spent a long time sawing the outer edges of the mold today. My tiny band saw is not made to cut through 3″ thick plywood. But it did, painfully slowly. I sanded it all up and put the halves together. They didn’t mate perfectly, of course, so I sanded the mating surfaces. Then they were a bit short so I added a thin piece of spruce to each end to make up the loss. They were still not mating perfectly, so this time I did what I should have done first – I got out the JB Weld.
I separated the halves with a little waxed paper, and applied a gob of epoxy to the mating surface ends of one half. Then I gently pushed them together, with the whole thing flat on a table. I bought draw catches to clamp the halves together and I will put dowels in to ensure they register properly. Document (35) (2)

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Guitar #29/1

Martin O15

I’m building a guitar for a friend. It will be based on a Martin O-15. It’s small, about the smallest full size guitar Martin ever made, but it has a great sound. The 15 series were all mahogany, and had minimal trim.
The one I’m going to build will be made of walnut, with a cedar top. It will not be a flat top, but will have an arch. This will require a tailpiece and a floating bridge. Martin made some like this around 1932, the R model, but they were short lived.
So far I’ve traced the body shape of an O-15 I borrowed, and made a paper half template. From that I traced a full size body outline on Bristol board. Next I drew in where my braces and the sound hole will go. Then I made a body mold from 8 pieces of 9x22x¾” plywood. This involves band saw cutting, drum sanding, and finally routing the seven rough sawn shapes using the master as a router template.

Body plan and half template of bristol board

Body plan and half template of bristol board

Body mold glue up

Body mold glue up

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