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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:19 pm 
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Walnut
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Hey there,

Are there any good resources for designing a guitar for a good sound? Questions I'm hoping to answer are what building materials are no brainers (e.g. rosewood, bone, glue types) and whether or not there are there any mathematical / scientific concepts behind the different dimensions -- e.g. how thin I should make support ribs, what size I should make the body, etc -- or whether or not this is all trial and error.

I'm preparing to build my first guitar and it's a bit non-standard so I was looking for advice. Hoping to come up with something similar to Graf Martinez's Silent Guitar, but ideally I'd like to make it a bit louder if that is even possible. If not, no big deal ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I've been entertaining building a guitar for years. While I'd start with something less ambitious to learn the ropes, I've noticed two personal problems. My favorite acoustic was damaged flying a couple years back, and now I have to fly a lot for work. I've also picked up some pretty ambitious backpacking trips, except all the backpacking guitars are heavy and don't sound very great (this Martin Backpacker review is pretty funny, albeit vulgar, if you're into such things...)

Thanks!!

Steve


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:02 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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You could start with this whole site...

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These users thanked the author Haans for the post: beanyo (Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:10 pm)
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:12 pm 
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Walnut
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I'm glad to have found it ! :-) I'm drinking from the firehose a bit. Wondering if there were underlying fundamentals people follow but don't explicitly talk about a lot. Kinda like they don't teach algebra in advanced physics classes :)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:35 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Everything you didn't even know you needed to know.

http://www.goreguitars.com.au/main/page ... _book.html



These users thanked the author meddlingfool for the post: beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:46 am)
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:53 pm 
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Hey Steve! Doubt that there's a magic bullet answer to your questions. I'm pretty sure there are many plans available for travel guitars, so build from a set of plans, and expect to make several more to try and dial in what your looking for, sound wise. Maybe a kit would be a good start. Have some fun!

Alex

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:26 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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"My favorite acoustic was damaged flying a couple years back, and now I have to fly a lot for work."

Someone just asked me for pointers on building a travel guitar. If you want one that sounds like a real guitar you could do something like this:


You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.



These users thanked the author Clay S. for the post: beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:46 am)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:58 am 
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My advice is to learn the basics about how to build a normal guitar first, then get fancier later. Pick a book or DVD series that is a guide to building a guitar, and use that resource (not mixing and matching from other resources) to completely finish that guitar. Feel free to read other things and soak it all in along the way, but for actual building, stick with the one resource. After that one guitar, it gets easier to mix and match different approaches into your personal (and constantly developing) approach.

Don't try to make your dream guitar on your first build. That probably will not pan out well. First guitars are about learning from mistakes, yet still producing a playable instrument.

Don't try to fully master the process of controlling how the guitar sounds. That has to come later. Nobody gets there on guitar #1. Well, Chuck Norris would. But you're not Chuck Norris.

Good luck. It is a great hobby.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post: beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:46 am)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:40 am 
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The most important and difficult to communicate thing is stiffness. Most plans tell you how thick to make the soundboard and how tall to make the braces, but due to the variation between different pieces of wood, the resulting stiffness is different every time. One of the luthier's tasks is to figure out a method to correct for it. Some prefer a more mathematical/measurement based approach, some focus mainly on sound/tap tones, some focus on manual flexing/feeling the stiffness.

There's also the matter of what stiffness distribution gives the sound you're looking for.

One important rule to keep in mind is that the stiffness of a brace is proportional to the height cubed, so if you double the height you get 8x the stiffness. Same goes for soundboard thickness.

The traditional designs are well worked out, and over time you'll learn a lot just by looking at and thinking about them. Design factors include ease of construction (i.e. low cost), durability, repairability, comfort, appearance, and of course sound.

As Don says, don't get too hung up on making the perfect first guitar. The more you read and plan, the less frustrating mistakes you'll have to suffer through. But at some point you've just gotta go for it and start accumulating experience. It's just about bracing season (cold outside, low humidity inside), so if you don't have climate control, it's a good time to get busy. Try to at least get the soundboard and back braces glued within the next 4 months or so.



These users thanked the author DennisK for the post: beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:46 am)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:45 am 
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Thanks for the feedback, I've taken it to heart.

My friend is traveling to Australia in a couple of months. I'll see how this design goes and see about him picking those books up for me.

I'm a bit spoiled right now, I have a copy of SolidWorks. So, if I can gain enough confidence that it won't fall apart I'll try my own design just because I can. I'll probably laser cut this one, which is not my dream... It's just much cheaper to rent a laser cutter for a couple of days than a shop for 12-months here. Which is sorta sad. I have a Vanagon (my last project) I can leave glued parts in.

Those flex neck guitars are neat. I was skeptical with how the tolerances would work out until I saw [urlhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sn0H2tN6N8]this video[/url]. They seem to stay in tune really well (which is a good sign). The guy in the video sort of uses it as a whammy bar :)

Cool seeing your locations... I grew up between Albany NY and the Adirondacks, would regularly flee to WV when I lived in Northern VA, and am currently just south of Vancouver (Seattle, WA, but I go up there all the time bc I like it better). You're my people :D. Just haven't been to Kansas City yet, but hear it's been growing really quickly the past couple of years.

Next steps for me; draw up my ideas, attach some dimensions, then look for a good resource to test my design against.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:59 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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It's all been said already but I will add that, I'm working on my 60th guitar and still trying to figure this stuff out ;)

I just ordered Trevor's book and I just got in Hann's book yesterday. Only skimming through so far they are like apples and oranges, of course they are both fruit. Point being I'm trying to embrace all aspects of building guitars even now after doing it for 25 years. IMHO there really is no solid approach. I think if you take the PHD approach then you will build a fine guitar, if you take the old world Guild traditional approach, you will be a fine guitar.

But if you know how both to build and to fly an airplane you will be a better pilot.

You have a long journey ahead.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:47 am 
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beanyo wrote:
Cool seeing your locations... I grew up between Albany NY and the Adirondacks, would regularly flee to WV when I lived in Northern VA, and am currently just south of Vancouver (Seattle, WA, but I go up there all the time bc I like it better). You're my people :D. Just haven't been to Kansas City yet, but hear it's been growing really quickly the past couple of years.

Small world, I lived in Kirkland for 5 years :)

Nevermind the weather considerations then. There is no dry season up there. But the typical indoor humidity might not be too high either... you'll have to get a hygrometer and check it.

And if you come up with any potential designs, you can always post them here for advice.

P.S. My shop would fit in a van.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:54 am 
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Here we go again. Another newbie that wants to design and build the world's greatest and most innovative guitar without having learned to build first. Good luck with that.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:12 am 
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Get the Gore Gilet books.

They may initially seem expensive but I feel they are actually a bargain considering how much information they contain.

When I ordered my set I got them in about 3 days too.

Kevin Looker

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These users thanked the author klooker for the post: beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:30 pm)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:35 pm 
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Koa
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Steve, go back and read each of the above responses very carefully - these folks have been through it and their advice is golden. I'll make a coupe of observations.

First, a "good sounding" (whatever that means) guitar needs some basic characteristics - a top that will vibrate freely yet not implode under the stresses imposed on it, a sufficiently large air volume to resonate at a "good" frequency, enough ergonomics that you can actually hold and play it. There are very good reasons that the modern guitar design has evolved into what it is today. First piece of advice, don't mess with it too much/.

Second, actually putting together an acceptable instrument is a whole lot harder than just coming up with a design in SolidWorks and shooting it to a laser cutter. I was a design engineer in a manufacturing plant with lots of cnc toys - I used them to make jigs and fixtures for the actual wood working that I do by hand.

Next, before you start emulating a Martin backpacker or any other instrument try playing one. A backpacker does not fit my definition of a "good sounding" guitar, it is tiny and weak, with no bass. It is an awkward thing to hold and play. It basically fails all the tests.

I have spent 50 years backpacking and climbing, mostly in the Cascades (I live in Wenatchee) but also the Sierra, Wyoming, BC and I have carried a musical instrument on a lot of trips. I've tried harmonicas, recorders, ukuleles, and my fav, a mandolin. I've taken a guitar on a lot of trips where weight and bulk wasn't an issue (hut ski trips, car camping). My criteria for a backpacking instrument is that it be very light weight, very small, indistructable and fun to play. It has to have low enough value that if I fell on it or got stuck out in a week of rain and was destroyed the trip could go on. I have some great memories of music on back packing trips - the sound of a recorder on the slopes of Glacier Peak, a thru hiker on the PCT playing his uke.

Lastly, if you are in the Seattle area there is a vibrant luthier community (as well as hiking and climbing) in your area. Try to hook up with some of these folks, sit at their feet and learn from them. If you ever come to the dry side please shoot me a message - my experience is limited but I'd love to share it.



These users thanked the author Freeman for the post (total 2): pat macaluso (Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:05 pm) • beanyo (Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:31 pm)
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 2:51 pm 
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Steve (the OP)--

I'll add a bit more, because I think there are important undercurrents to many of the comments you are receiving (including my earlier post).

First, if you just want a good travel guitar, then buy a good travel guitar, rather than design one and build it. I need cars to get where I want to go, but that doesn't mean I am going to design and build a car for myself. The same goes for just about everything in my house. There are some things I can just tinker with and come up with a decent version of my first time out (like Shaker style bathroom vanities), but for most stuff, I am not going to be very good at designing it and building it my first time out. If I just need one or two, I am better off buying than building, for the most part. Musical instruments are DEFINITELY in that category. I have to make a lot of them to get good at it. That's just the way it is.

Second, understand that a travel guitar has design considerations that take the traditional design considerations of an acoustic guitar, then tinkers with them to meet a different set of goals than the goals that exist for a traditional acoustic guitar. If you don't know and understand the basic design considerations of an acoustic guitar, then you won't know, understand, and appreciate the differences that exist in a good travel guitar. Starting out with a travel guitar for your first guitar is like deciding to enter the Iron Man Triathalon before you have ever run, biked, or swam in a single race before. Trying to jump straight to the advanced course before learning the basics is usually an efficient path to frustration and disappointment.

Third, CAD software and laser cutters are just about the last things a new builder needs to be using. Those are tools for those folks who already know how to build a guitar with hand and power tools, but want to increase production. If you try to use such tools to just build a single instrument, I again predict a lot of frustration.

Fourth, I don't want to be the curmudgeon that preaches tradition and humility and patience and hard work and training and sacrifice and delayed gratification and overcoming adversity and prevailing anyway, but gosh darn it, those things are all at play when we are talking about instrument making. If those things don't sound like a good time, then don't try to build an instrument. You will be better off just buying what you want. But if all of what I am saying resonates with you, and you want to seriously take up this hobby, I can say that it is amazingly rewarding. Not financially, of course. Nope, nothing like that. Just spiritually and intellectually rewarding.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:00 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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There is something incongruous about backpack guitars and tone...

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:31 pm 
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One reason the travel guitars I build are full size instruments with full length scales is I did not want to compromise on the sound of the guitar. Storing the neck inside the body shortened the instrument enough to make it air transportable as "carry on luggage" where the passenger would have better control over it. There are additional design features to the guitars but none of them adversely affect the functioning of the guitar. When not being transported the guitar remains assembled and plays as a regular guitar.
Graf Martinez silent guitar was an interesting design exercise but kind of sucked as a guitar. So do Martin backpackers.
If you want to build a travel guitar my suggestion would be to get a plan for a parlor guitar or even a double O and make a few modifications similar to what I have done to make it more transportable. If it somewhat experimental you could use cheaper materials - Formica for back and sides, and lumberyard western red cedar for the top and still make a decent sounding instrument. You can buy ready made bridges and preslotted fingerboards from Stewart MacDonald. It need not cost an arm and a leg (considering the shape of a guitar - maybe just a rib :lol: ).



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:39 pm 
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Haans wrote:
There is something incongruous about backpack guitars and tone...


... as is the customer who wants good and cheap in the same package.

Alex

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:57 pm 
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I’m new too:) welcome to the club. I️ will say that Unless you just have incredible god bestowed talent you’re going to have to make more than one instrument before you have one you’re remotely happy with. I’ll also say that, at least for me, it is cheaper to buy a really good mid priced guitar than it is to build one after all is said and done.
Now, if you want the experience of building .... which is an amazing experience imo.... I️ would suggest building from a predetermined plan and honing your skills as you go. I’m on my 4th guitar, and 3 have been the SAME body style because I️ just haven’t “gotten it “ yet.
3 things I️ remember a well established Luthier told me before I got started was...
1- it’s expensive to make guitars
2- start with cheap wood
3- there are a multiplicity if things to get exactly right in order to make the whole thing work as it should

Now to your original question about materials, yes there are some time tested standards out there that exist for a reason. Tha being said: just start with Sitka spruce and mahogany. Cheap, and can make a superb instrument (provided all the tiny details go right along the way).

Now, for the encouraging part. For the hobby builder this can be a very rewarding experience. There is something very zen-like about taking raw materials and slowly convincing them all to work together and believe they are an instrument. As weird as it sounds I️ really enjoy sitting down to figure out the next step and making slow, deliberate, super fine adjustments so that something fits “perfectly”.
For me I’ve found my “shop” to be a place that is quiet where my mind can untorque and race all at the same time.

Now for the pro builder I️ imagine it may be a completely different experience all together... but for us... it’s not work:) (and yes I’m sure there are pros here who completely live what they do every day).

So, go get some wood. Make a bunch of mistakes, ruin a few plates of spruce, let your brain go numb because something “just doesn’t work”, find some good tools, make some saw dust and enjoy the process. It’s incredibly rewarding and if you stick with it you’ll eventually be able to do something a VERY small fraction of humans can do.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:57 pm 
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I say if you want to make a travel guitar do a tenor sized ukulele and put a six string neck on it. It will sound better than the backpacker and that German fella's guitar. And because it is your first instrument and it will be far from perfect you won't mind taking it anywhere. In terms of how good one could sound (not his first rodeo mind you).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGRnv5UBqxQ



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:19 am 
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Thanks for all the feedback; really everything has been fantastic.

I am picking up on a lot of the undercurrents. Just wanted to say that I'm not coming in completely cold. I am a professional design engineer (very burnt out at it) and started my building-things career putting together cabins in the Adirondacks with a few contractors. Designed, built, and machined a race car with 5 other kids team in school, too (formula sae). There's a huge difference between what I know and fine craftsmanship, but I'm aware of some of the pitfalls. Also read through a book on building an electric guitar a couple years ago, but didn't have the time to start that project up.

My biggest problem with projects is just finishing them. In this case, I want to watch out for obvious pitfalls and learn the hard way on other details.

I've added all the recommended books to my list. I have a couple big purchases I have to plan for. I still think I can pick them up in the next two weeks. Thank you for the recommendations.

Mentioning stiffness was a nice refinement in my thought process. I had only been thinking in terms of density. Every bit of wood will have slightly different properties - a problem in structural engineering (why engineered wood is a thing) - nonetheless likely even harder in this world with all the joints, glues, etc.

I really appreciate seeing the preslotted neck source, as this was a huge area I was hoping to cheat on :-). It is interesting - traveling a guitar by airplane is a volume problem. Hiking with a guitar is largely a weight problem. I couldn't find one less than 4.25 lbs, then you need to make some heavy cordura fabric case if you're worried about the rain...

I was writing about my theory on the next best way to scratch this itch, saw a good deal on ebay, and picked it up. I'm still skeptical of the Traveler Light guitars, but they're the lightest option at 3 lbs. I can resell it for more than what I paid, so, I think I'll play that a bit and find what I don't like about it. I actually do like the Vox headphone amps which I'll pair for hiking.

I've gotten at least a couple Ukulele comments :-) . That's actually really popular in the hiker world too. The video printer shared is fantastic. I hadn't actually listened to one.

I still like the idea of detachable wings, but I also figure that's probably a lost cause.

I am also innately curious about other materials, too. Wonder what I can do to get something lightweight. Aluminum frame maybe? Yuck, those usually sound bad.

Does anyone have a good resource for plans? I've seen a few online, but not sure what is reputable. I also have the means to copy my guitars I believe.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:16 am 
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A baritone uke sized instrument is getting into the guitar like sound and yet is a travel friendly size.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdT6C4sn9pI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ILwtYUq0k

Mainly tenor sized six strings guitarlele. Smaller footprint, still sounds better than a backpacker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGR-J-Se7I8


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:37 am 
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SnowManSnow wrote:
I’m new too:) welcome to the club. I️ will say that Unless you just have incredible god bestowed talent you’re going to have to make more than one instrument before you have one you’re remotely happy with.


That isn't totally true. I built my first guitar in 2006 from kit. I was careful, made a bunch of mistakes but none of them were fatal. I was fortunate to get good materials and good advice. Even tho I have several nice commercially built guitars and I have built a bunch of other ones, that guitar remains my go-to, my every day player. I was restringing it yesterday and noticed pretty bad fret wear. That tells me I've been happy enough with it to wear out the frets and I'm looking forward to replacing them.

On the other hand, even tho I have built a total of 22 guitars to date I still don't call myself a "luthier" - I have too much respect for the people who I think have earned that title. Getting closer, but still a long ways away....


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:44 am 
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To add to that, I still have the very first acoustic guitar I ever built in 1992. It looks like hell but honestly it sounds great. I had to reset the neck on it too but now the action is spot on. It was built right out of Sloan's book with locally sourced materials except the top which I got from a local repair guy at the time.

Anyway you can do it, and most likely if you stick to a plan you will end up with a descent guitar regardless of what it looks like. What takes a lot of time though is learning how to control the many many variables in the equation to produce a sound you want.

You said you were an engineer, I'll keep the engineer jokes to myself :D But seriously, a friend of mine who was an aerospace engineer wanted to build a guitar too and I helped him to some extent. Every single freakin' thing on that instrument had to be meticulously calculated to the Nth degree.... whats the optimum spacing between saw cuts in a kerfed lining? That kind of thing. It took him over 2 years to build the darn thing. In the mean time he could have built ten guitars and learned so so much more doing it.

So don't be that guy :) Just built it, finish it, and play it.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:55 am 
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beanyo wrote:
Thanks for all the feedback; really everything has been fantastic.



Steve, since you are interesting in this from the engineering side here are some suggestions.

Most of us start with Cumpiano and Natelson's Guitarmaking

Add the Gore/Gilet books http://www.giletguitars.com.au/book.shtml

Join the GAL (the headquarters is in Tacoma). The big red books have ton of information about every aspect of lutherie, the quarterly magazines will keep you up to date. The GAL plans are some of the best http://www.luth.org/

You can read the Savart Journal on line - full of esoteric stuff http://www.luth.org/about_us/savart_journal.html

Keep hanging here and at the other lutherie forum http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/

There are several guitar festivals in the PNW including the GAL convention which you just missed, Reed College in Portland, and one at La Conner next spring.

I'm going to come back once again to your travel/backpacking guitar. I think those are different instruments - my criteria for a travel guitar is that it fit in an airline bin, be moderately light and strong (but its still going to be in a good quality hard case) and sound decent so I will want to play it. For a backpacking instrument I want it cheap, light, tough. It doesn't have to have concert hall sound


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