Chapter Five – Alive!

You guys, I’m on a huge roll with these puns. Five Alive? I mean, the drink, the Halloweeniness(?) of the season, and the fact that I need to reaffirm that I am, indeed, alive and well…it’s just gold. That leads me to my next point – sorry! I’ve been in the shop less and less these days due to a few events, both scheduled and unforeseen. That all means that I’ve had less time to write and less to write about. But fret not! (I’m not as proud of that pun as the others). I’m back with lots to talk about. Let’s dive in!

With the mold for my guitar’s sides created, and my top and back in good shape, it was time to get bending. Bending the sides is a simple enough procedure, it just involves a bit of delicacy in the amount of force you put behind it. Since my guitar is designed custom, there’s no side bending jig that I can use that would just sort of fold the sides to shape. That means I did it the old-fashioned way…


This is the old-fashioned way, in case you were wondering.

So, that’s the bending iron, along with my sides, and a spray bottle of water. It’s exactly what you think – drench the wood and, by hand, bend it around the bending iron so that it will sit happily and comfortably in the curves of my mold. Well, maybe you weren’t thinking exactly that. But you had the general idea, I’m sure. The steam is what allows the wood to bend and retain its shape afterward. This stage took a bit of getting used to, with respect to how much pressure I could apply. It’s not a terribly thick piece of wood, so I was nervous at first to press too hard. With time (and instruction), I learned that I was applying nowhere near enough downward force, and adjusted easily enough – bending the second side took much less time than the first. Very luckily, I did not learn the hard way what too much pressure would do. Let’s hope I keep that lucky streak up.

Spraying the wood with water also gives an approximate preview of how the wood will look when it’s finished, and you can really see the curls in the walnut – super excited to have that come to life!

Give'im the clamps!

Give’im the clamps!

Here’s one side, bent and clamped. It ended up staying in this position for a long time (due to me being out of the shop for so long), but the guitar will stay in this shape for the rest of its/my life and maybe longer, so I guess that’s not a bad thing.

With the bending out of the way, it was time to glue in those neck and end blocks that I spent so much time crafting last week. These blocks (especially the end block) are pretty much the sole determinants of the centre line of my guitar. This is the basis for most of the measurements from here on out, so to say gluing it in straight is important is like saying molten lava is warm. Gluing the pieces up was very satisfying, though, because this was the first real glimpse of the profile of my guitar!


Just ignore the clamps and it looks pretty.

Thar she blows! It really is a massive body I’ve designed. This thing will be loud. All kinds of loud. I’m happy with that though, since I tend to play softly more often than not, so it should all work out well. I also wanted a big body to make sure I’ve got enough air inside the body for that low B string to really punch.

While I was waiting for that to dry, I had some time to consider some aesthetic elements. Where the strap button at the butt end of the guitar will live, there’s room for a piece of decorative wood. I don’t actually remember what this area is called. It’s kind of weird. Anyway, this is what I’m talking about, and here’s what I decided to do with mine:

Blackfrican wood?

African Blackwood again!

I decided to revisit that piece of blackwood from the rosette for this one because -…well, because. Look at how cool it is! You can’t say no to that. In reality, the light part of the wood is a little more yellow, and of course, when finished, it will pop even more. I won’t yet fit that in the guitar though, this was something else to work on while waiting.

That’s another important thing to note – there’s never any real “waiting” time. You might be waiting for something, but there’s definitely something else you could be working on while glue is drying, finish is curing, epoxy is setting, etc.

The next phase of construction was still work on the sides of my guitar. I would create lateral braces, and cut the kerfed lining to size. The braces are for structural integrity, in the (terrifying and hopefully never real) event that the guitar should split up the sides, it would be stopped between the braces. The kerfing is basically a gluing surface for the back and the top, but I would bet that it functions as a kind of mini bass trap for the corners of the guitar, like you would have in a recording studio.

Here are a couple progress pictures:


One side glued, the other side gluing

Still kerfing

Both glued


Spooky guitar ghost!

Perfect for the Halloween season – sanding the kerfing to get my guitar into shape left this really cool outline on the workbench – so spectral!

In case you didn’t know, I’m definitely human. Something went wrong with my guitar, and even though it wasn’t my fault (nor anybody’s), it’s good to know how to deal with this kind of thing when it happens. As it dried out some more, the back of my guitar developed a crack. It was a bit terrifying at first, I thought I was screwed, but it was really not a big deal, and I patched it up quickly.


Here it is, glued up.

So, it doesn’t look too pretty right now, but once it’s sanded and all, I doubt anybody would be able to find it.

That’s this week, all wrapped up! Stay tuned, I’ll be back soon to close up the body and turn this thing into a guitar-shaped thing!


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