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  • how do you bend wood for a guitar

    I really want to make my own acoustic guitar. I'm not expecting it to soun d or look great i just think it would be awesome to build a guitar myself and then play it. I have two main questions. How do i bend the wood for the sides; also how do I get the slight bulge in the back and top and the wood. Any other input would also be appreciated. Thanks
    Guitars:
    Partscaster--Warmoth neck, Van Zandt neck and middle and Lollar bridge, KNE body
    Epiphone Les Paul--BG green Lizards
    Simon Patrick Showcase Mahogany

    Amps:
    Crate Palomino V32 with WGS ET65

    Effects:
    Keeley Fuzz face
    Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde
    Danelectro EQ
    Digitech Hardwire Delay
    Digitech Hardwire Polyphonic Tuner
    Mr. Black Supermoon Reverb

  • #2
    Everyone does it different.

    I use a form, generally pressboard about 5 inches wide. This form will be sanded about 1/8" down from the final profile to account for the width of the bend equipment. I use two of the NASA blankets with very thin steel slats and I sandwich the wood between these. Depending on the wood, I wrap damp paper towels around or spritz them with water. Certian woods need less water and I never soak the wood like some do. I heat up the blanckets and wait till steam starts to appear. I'll wait a minute and then start bending. This is more of an art than a science and you just go by feel. It usually takes me about 10-15 minutes for a side and then I let it sit for most of the day.

    Others will do it different with there forms and blankets. Some like the hot pipe. I absolutely fear the hot pipe. I don't know why. I just do. Many swear by it - the history is there and it will save you 300 bucks and alot of time avoiding the forms and clamps. But, I can sit and drink beer and relax when bending and not worry about cracking any wood. I figure so much can and has gone wrong in my building that the form system is worth the expense in labor and money.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Stoneball and welcome to the highly addictive hobby of guitar building.
      I think you'll be surprised how good your own solid wood guitar will sound and play if you don't rush it!

      Sides are bent in one of a two ways....using a side bending machine or a hot pipe to bend the side by hand. The machine uses a mold of one side of your guitar and a heat source (light bulbs or silicon heationg blanket) to heat the wood and clamps will bend it to the desired shape to match the mold. A hot pipe is similar, a heat source is used but the side is bent by hand and compared to a mold or guitar tracing to get to the final shape. The wood is genrally misted with water to let steam soften the wood as well during bending.

      The dome on the top and back are made by curving one side of the braces. The pressure from gluing them and the flexibility of the top or back results in them taking on the dome shape of the brace. You can buy dishes that are pre-shaped to the desired curvature to help glue braces or use sandpaper on them to sand the curves as well.

      This will make more sense if you check the thread I posted back in early Feb called "Acoustic Build part 1" or something close to that title. Just do an advanced search for my username and you should find it. Sorry, I don't know how to post the shortcut for you. The thread shows the steps of building my first acoustic last year and should answer some questions.

      For resources, I recommend the "guitar making bible" which is Guitarmaking Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano and Natelson and is well worth the $30to explain how to build a guitar from scratch. You can also check out the detailed explanation of building a guitar from a kit on the LMI website www.lmii.com

      There are a few builders around this forum, so I'm sure one of them will provide a better explanation of these for you ...keep us posted....
      Hers:
      Washburn D42S
      Norman B20 Folk
      Simon and Patrick SP-6
      Takamine EG-334BC
      Art and Lutherie - Wild Cherry - SOLD!
      Yamaha AEX-502

      Mine (also hers):
      Guild F4CE-NT
      Takamine SW-341SC
      Takamine FP-400SC
      Fender GA-43SCE
      Yamaha DW-8 12
      Simon and Patrick Rosewood Pro
      LW-001 (I made it myself)

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks...It sounds like something i would be able to do. BTW do you know how to do use the hot pipe. If that way is cheaper i would like to try that way since i'm not sure it something i will want to do a lot. After building one i guess i will know if i want to spend the money to do it the best way possible.
        Guitars:
        Partscaster--Warmoth neck, Van Zandt neck and middle and Lollar bridge, KNE body
        Epiphone Les Paul--BG green Lizards
        Simon Patrick Showcase Mahogany

        Amps:
        Crate Palomino V32 with WGS ET65

        Effects:
        Keeley Fuzz face
        Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde
        Danelectro EQ
        Digitech Hardwire Delay
        Digitech Hardwire Polyphonic Tuner
        Mr. Black Supermoon Reverb

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks a lot playah. I think i will most likely try the hot pipe way first since it is cheaper. I will definitely check out your other thread.

          BTW. That S&P pro rosewood is a nice guitar ; ). I almost bought one but i got the pro mahogany instead.
          Guitars:
          Partscaster--Warmoth neck, Van Zandt neck and middle and Lollar bridge, KNE body
          Epiphone Les Paul--BG green Lizards
          Simon Patrick Showcase Mahogany

          Amps:
          Crate Palomino V32 with WGS ET65

          Effects:
          Keeley Fuzz face
          Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde
          Danelectro EQ
          Digitech Hardwire Delay
          Digitech Hardwire Polyphonic Tuner
          Mr. Black Supermoon Reverb

          Comment


          • #6
            Yeah you can build your own hot pipe from a propane torch and a piece of pipe. I paid $135 for an electric one with an aluminum "pipe" for a bending surface, but I plan to build quite a few.

            I guess it will depend on what you are looking to do on your first one. You can buy a kit which has some of the parts pre-sanded, tops or back plates are pre-joined, some even have the sides bent for you. Less tools required for kits and not quite as much work.

            I think once you get into it, you'll be hooked.

            To be honest, I don't look in music stores anymore at new guitars. Even the solid wood guitars you see have a maybe $400 worth of wood in them.

            Happy Building!
            Hers:
            Washburn D42S
            Norman B20 Folk
            Simon and Patrick SP-6
            Takamine EG-334BC
            Art and Lutherie - Wild Cherry - SOLD!
            Yamaha AEX-502

            Mine (also hers):
            Guild F4CE-NT
            Takamine SW-341SC
            Takamine FP-400SC
            Fender GA-43SCE
            Yamaha DW-8 12
            Simon and Patrick Rosewood Pro
            LW-001 (I made it myself)

            Comment


            • #7
              I've never been able to do it well without a Fox bender:

              "I don't want to be immortalized through my work. I want to be immortalized by not dying." Woody Allen

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks guys. I think i will try to buy the wood separate and bend it myself. I was looking at that fox bender and i was wondering if they would be real hard to make myself?

                I probably will end up getting hooked but for now i think i should wait and see before i throw any real money into it.
                Guitars:
                Partscaster--Warmoth neck, Van Zandt neck and middle and Lollar bridge, KNE body
                Epiphone Les Paul--BG green Lizards
                Simon Patrick Showcase Mahogany

                Amps:
                Crate Palomino V32 with WGS ET65

                Effects:
                Keeley Fuzz face
                Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde
                Danelectro EQ
                Digitech Hardwire Delay
                Digitech Hardwire Polyphonic Tuner
                Mr. Black Supermoon Reverb

                Comment


                • #9
                  It's not hard to make the bender. My system is easier to build up, obviously, but the blankets represent the cost. In terms of the Fox style bender, I think there are plans over at MIMF. Also, I think that there are plans in either the Williams or Kinkead book.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's not hard to make the bender. My system is easier to build up, obviously, but the blankets represent the cost. In terms of the Fox style bender, I think there are plans over at MIMF. Also, I think that there are plans in either the Williams or Kinkead book.


                    I'll go take a look at those. Would it be possible to take a pic of your form and post it. From my limited knowledge it sounds like yours is a 5" stack of plywood cut in the shape of one side of the guitar(like the fox). Is that right?
                    Guitars:
                    Partscaster--Warmoth neck, Van Zandt neck and middle and Lollar bridge, KNE body
                    Epiphone Les Paul--BG green Lizards
                    Simon Patrick Showcase Mahogany

                    Amps:
                    Crate Palomino V32 with WGS ET65

                    Effects:
                    Keeley Fuzz face
                    Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde
                    Danelectro EQ
                    Digitech Hardwire Delay
                    Digitech Hardwire Polyphonic Tuner
                    Mr. Black Supermoon Reverb

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'll go take a look at those. Would it be possible to take a pic of your form and post it. From my limited knowledge it sounds like yours is a 5" stack of plywood cut in the shape of one side of the guitar(like the fox). Is that right?


                      I can't take pics because I have no camera, but, you are absolutely right. It is 5 sheets of plywood or pressboard with spacers between. The mold is shaped like the body of the instrument but about an 1/8th less to account for the blankets and wood. The ouside of the mold becomes the form that holds the instrument while I get the sides, back and top together.

                      There are a series of holes drilled through the sides of the mold so I can place my "clamps" through. These "clamps" are basically dowels with very long screws and wing nuts. I also use a plywood cutout the shape of the waist as I learned (the hard way) that a dowel at the waist will not force the wood to properly conform to the desired shape. Thankfully, this stuff can be heated again and done properly.

                      I hope that helped you get a picture in your mind. Mine is probably the easiest to get together. But, that doesn't mean it's the best. Fox benders are used by some important people. Moreover, lots of great luthiers use the pipe and I definitely respect that.

                      Whatever you think is best is the way to go.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        using a hot pipe takes more skill, but you have more control over it if you can master it. using one of those fancy machines will get good results, but ultimately if something goes wrong unexpectedly theres a higher chance of the wood being damaged since you're not in control as much.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          using one of those fancy machines will get good results, but ultimately if something goes wrong unexpectedly theres a higher chance of the wood being damaged since you're not in control as much.


                          Not true at all. I've found my bender to be extremely safe and reliable, even on 1/8" thick bindings. For some guitars, I still use the hot pipe. For example, the current project I'm working on was just simpler to use the hot pipe mainly because it's a wierd design and I'm building it using lamination forms. I'd have to build a whole new bender to do it, not just new bending forms.
                          HCGB #128

                          Click here for my projects page.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Stoneball, I haven't read each of these posts in detail, but I want to add another thought. I have built 3 guitars and one mandolin, and there are several operations that I really don't want to do at home - either they require tools that I don't want to buy or they are easy to screw up and can ruin your project. This includes bending the sides, mitering the fretboard and rough shaping the neck. Fly cutting the rosette channels is something else that I haven't done yet (altho I do have the tools).

                            My solution has been to buy "serviced" kits - LMI, Steve Kovacik, John Hall, StewMac, Martin and others offer kits with these operations already done. I would suggest considering one of these for your first or second, then moving one to do it your self. Btw - LMI will bend any of the sides (and wood binding if you want to do that) to almost any shape for a very reasonable fee - I'm considering building a parlor next and will certainly have them do this. Here are a couple of threads about my home built kits - if you want further information, please ask. (Oh, start reading everything you can too before you start - I can give some suggestions here too)

                            000-28FK build
                            http://www.kitguitarsforum.com/forum/threads.php?id=125_0_6_120_C

                            Classical build
                            http://www.kitguitarsforum.com/forum/threads.php?id=186_0_6_120_C

                            OM12-41FK build
                            http://www.kitguitarsforum.com/forum/threads.php?id=961_0_6_0_C

                            OH, you dome the back and top by the way you shape the braces. Many builders clamp in what is known as a "go-bar" deck, but I have built a bunch of shaped cauls which has worked fine. More reading.....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I tried hand bending once. Never again for me.
                              "I don't want to be immortalized through my work. I want to be immortalized by not dying." Woody Allen

                              Comment



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