Thursday, September 23, 2004


Guitarmaking class with Harry Fleishman, Days 1 and 2

So in January of this year ('04), I had the good fortune to be able to take an acoustic guitar building class along with seven other fine folks in Harry Fleishman's shop in Sebastopol, CA, which is about an hour north of San Francisco, out in the middle of wine country.

The class was two weeks long, 12 days of class time. The goal of the class is to build an acoustic guitar from scratch. The first dozen or so blog entries will be about the class, and then I'll continue on with what I've done since the class ended... which isn't much so far, and mostly consists of me trying to get an upstairs bedroom converted into a shop.

This will be fairly detailed, but I'm trying not to make it overly detailed... It'll probably be really dry for those that aren't into guitars and instrument making, and too vague for those that are.

So the first day, I started with my East Indian Rosewood sides. I figured out the bookmatch ( do a search if you don't know what that is) and used a white pencil to lay out which end I wanted by the neck, and which I wanted at the tailblock. It's also helpful to note which side will be the top.

The next step was to square up the sides so they had a consistent width and were straight on the edge. I held the two side pieces stacked together in bookmatch arrangement and lined up the endgrain so it matched. The reason is that you want each side to be symmetrical so it looks nice at the tail block where they meet. I used Stewmac's brown masking tape at the ends to keep everything in position. I straightened one side on a jointer. Then I marked a line 4" from that edge so we could use this tablesaw jig to cut that side.

Harry taught us to use a Fox side bender. There's lots of info about these already, so I won't go into it. The short story is that you use lightbulbs for heat and then you bend the sides over a form.

Here's a bent side and the form that I'll use for assembly. This type of form is very easy and cheap to build, and can be re-used for other shapes.

Here's the rosewood back pieces being joined. These are two book matched pieces. The joining edge was initially straightened on the jointer, then finished off on a known flat sanding block with 80 grit on one side and 180 grit on the other. Then we used Stewmac's brown masking tape (which is useful for all kinds of stuff as you will find out, I ordered a case when I got home) to work as a clamp to pull the back pieces together. The glue is original Titebond. You can see I wrote "5pm" in white pencil on the back piece, this is so I know when the glue has had enough time to dry... You might be surprised at how quickly you forget when you did what, so it's good to keep little notes as you go.

The top pieces of sitka spruce were joined in the same way. Here is the top shown with the ouline of the body shape cut out of posterboard, and with the pre-made rosette which will be inlaid into the top around the soundhole.

So that's it for the first and second day of class. Interesting thing I learned while posting this: The word "blog" is not in the spellcheck's dictionary on

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