Building two acoustic guitars based on a classic Martin Dreadnought

Started off gluing together some necks. Decided to go with laminate construction for the necks figuring that I could control wood movement better by orienting the grain to balance movement tendency. We used various combinations of maple and mahogany. We made about six necks so we have plenty laying around for future projects.

Gluing together necks for Martin style acoustic and archtops.

I used a very well written book to help with the Martin project. The book is by Jonathan Kinkead and is called "Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar." The book is straight forward and systematic for anyone with woodworking/luthier experience, plus he writes notes of encouragement after several of the operations to help keep your spirits up. Thank you, Mr. Kinkead for a very well-done book!

 Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar; Paperback;$14.98Barnes & Noble

I also used "Guitar Making Tradition and Technology" by William Cumpiano. Very comprehensive and detailed. I also referred to Bob Benedetto's archtop book for a few comparisons to the archtop guitar construction methods I was familiar with.

For the first time, I used a blue print in building these. I could have used the plan in Mr. Kinkead's book but I ended up buying the blue print before buying the book...

The blueprint I used was from Stewmac and was for a Martin Herringbone Dreadnought. It is a very useful drawing and I'm glad I had it to refer to for measurements and profiles.

Mold Construction

The photo above is a picture of the mold under construction. The mold is based on Mr. Kinkead's mold and worked very well throughout the whole process. The two halves of the mold are clamped together to hold the entire body as it is built.


Obviously I skipped a few steps here in the documenting process. This is how I attached the tailblock and neck block inside the mold. The rosewood sides were bent by hand on a bending iron. I was surprised how easily the rosewood bent, especially compared to the figured maple I have used for my previous guitars. I planed and scraped the sides down to about 2mm before I bent them. I find that it helps to plane them a little thinner in areas where tight bending is going to occur like on a Venetian cut-away. The dreadnought shape was far less stressful to me and the wood so I was able to keep the sides on the thicker side. As you can see in the photo, I used shims to add pressure to areas where there were gaps between sides and the blocks. I probably needed to refine the mold or the blocks a bit more. Oh well, maybe next time.


Gluing in the linings. I liked Mr. Kinkead's expanders for the waist. You may notice in this picture that the body is shallower than the mold. The quilted maple sides I had available were not as deep as a standard dreadnought so this guitar ended up being about 3/4 inch shallower than a full dreadnought. 


Clearly this is not the rosewood seen in the previous photo. I made two guitars using the same mold, the first guitar is the maple one. I used this as a sort of prototype to test out methods before applying them to the rosewood. This picture shows the linings and the installation of the side braces. I chose to use wood side braces vs cloth reinforcement apparently used on some Martin guitars. By the way, on both these guitars I used Titebond for some applications and hide glue for others. Since rosewood is apparently less friendly to titebond, I used hide glue for most joints where rosewood was involved. I couldn't tell you if there was a difference in glue integrity, but the fast tack of hide glue was a plus, especially in applying bindings later on.


This is a poor/lazy man's go bar deck. I cut the sound hole using Stewmac's attachment for the dremel. The go bar deck  is an old kitchen cart from ikea. I used an armory of different sized sticks to apply pressure between the the top of the deck and the soundboard gluing surface. An annoying process because the flexibility range of the sticks is preamble narrower than the fiberglass variety so when one stick exerted pressure it often caused another neighboring one to loosen up and fall down. This was also aggravated by Ikea's complete failure to take this function into account when it was engineering the "Scmürfnog" kitchen cart back in the 1990s.