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Kieran 10-23-2017 07:12 PM

Small body first build
Hi folks,
First post and first build. Great information here in the archives that has enabled me to get busy reading and start construction, thanks.

I have decided to build myself a really small bodied steel string guitar because I live on a small sail boat with my girlfriend and newborn son and the cheap full size classical guitar that I have been learning to play takes up a lot of space.
Initially I was going to make a all plywood guitar to keep at my parents house to practice on with no expectations of it sounding any good. As I started reading about techniques and materials I quickly got absolutely obsessed and changed to my current plan.
The back is a laminate of birch and chestnut, high quality birch ply sides with a red cedar top. The neck is from my initial plan and made from a branch of cherry that I cut myself only a year ago, I've no idea if it will be stable enough? Probably not, but it is a simple butted bolt on arrangement, so if I can make a good body I can always remake the neck if necessary.
The neck heel is mahogany (I think)and white oak and the bridge is also white oak. The guitar will be subject to fairly large changes in temperature on the boat and the relative humidity is very high here in Sicily therefore I think the laminated back and sides are a good idea.
The body measures 32cm (13" ish) by about 28 cm (11") at the lower bout, scale length of 23" or 23 1/2" with neck joining body around the 16th fret.
The top thickness is 2mm with 25' arch and the back (15' radius) and sides 1.5mm, I'm trying to keep the build as light as possible especially because of the small size. However, I'm really struggling to not worry about the whole thing caving in. As you can see from the pictures I have decided to lap join the soundhole braces to the UTB and pocket them into the x and the heel block. I intend to heavily scallop these along with the upper x brace legs and taper the bottom legs of the x. The bridge plate is of unknown mahogany like hardwood with a 0.6 mm brass plate. I still need to thin the bridge plate down as it is still 3mm thick in the centre. I am tempted to not add any more braces on the sound board especially with the small distances to the linings. What do people think? Any suggestions welcome.
This is going to be a slow build mainly because I now have a 3 day old son but also because I am building this in the cockpit of the boat with basic tools and a frustrating lack of work surfaces and a good vice.
Feel free to tell me I am mad but I would prefer some constructive advice and encouragement.



Truckjohn 10-23-2017 07:22 PM

Welcome to the fun.

Life is stressful enough with a 3 day old baby in a boat with you.. Focus on your family for right now.... Focus on you and your spouse getting sleep... Just the break to take quick naps takes the edge off the crazy and helps you get through. Focus on not allowing stress and frustration to get the better of you.

My advice is to shelve the guitar build for a while. I ended up taking the better part of 5 years off when my twins were born...

It will be there waiting for you when you come back up for air in 2 or 3 years...

Kieran 10-23-2017 08:09 PM

I appreciate what you are saying john, but I would still appreciate some feedback on the design and progress so far.

CabinetMan 10-23-2017 08:38 PM

Congratulations on your son. Enjoy every moment you can with him and your new family.
Seems like my son was born only a few months ago and he is now 14 and wanting all kinds of guitars and cars. LOL TIME FLIES!!!!!!!!!

Can't see your pics. I'm probably not the best to give advice on a guitar build right now as I'm still on my first one and asking for advice all the time. There are some great builders on here that are more than willing to give some AWESOME advice so I will leave that to them. Will enjoy following along with you build.

Kieran 10-23-2017 09:13 PM

Thanks cabinetman, we made a few life choices a few years ago and now we have no money but all the time in the world. I'm pretty sure I can be a good dad and have the odd hobby.

I will find another method for posting pics.


Truckjohn 10-24-2017 10:50 AM

Try Postimage.

I will paint with a broad brush give some general guidance...

Here is a useful way to think about the structure: Everything from the neck to the bridge is structural. Everything below is tone. Do not scallop anything above the bridge - you need the structural integrity of the straight braces.

Top wise - 2mm is thin. 2.5mm is more along the lines of where you need to be. You can thin it out more below the bridge - but you need some wood above the bridge.

Neck wise - 1 year is usually not enough from a tree. The general rule is 1 year per 25mm thickness to dry it. This does not count seasoning.

What sort of wood was this? Was it a branch or was it from the main trunk of the tree? Branch wood is generally not a good choice - it tends to twist around a lot....

Bridge material. I would not use oak here. It shifts a lot with humidity changes. Dense mahogany would be a better choice.

redir 10-24-2017 11:13 AM

Looks like the Photobucket curse, can't see the images. Like TruckJohn said and I would also add don't use a brass plate for the bridge patch, get a good piece of hardwood like rosewood or maple. Even mahogany would be better there.

Ever since I was a lifeguard in college and used to sit and read Sailing Magazine I've wanted to live on a boat. If only it wasn't for the addiction of building guitars, the two cats, and wife who isn't so keen on it... yet, I think that's what I's be doing :D

For now I enjoy sailing my pocket 14ft cabin cruiser and taking the Laser out for thrills once in a while.

Sam VanLaningham 10-24-2017 01:17 PM


Originally Posted by Kieran (Post 5514854)
I appreciate what you are saying john, but I would still appreciate some feedback on the design and progress so far.

What!?!? You didn't get on the acoustic guitar forum to get unsolicited life advice from a guy you've never met :) ? You are mad:)

I've heard it explained here that branches are a NO GO for structural building in guitars because there is significant difference in growth ring density/structure in the upper side vs lower side of branch (think compression wood from supporting weight of tree or branch), and this makes for wood that reacts strongly to humidity changes, among other reasons I've forgotten = very unstable.

Truckjohn 10-24-2017 02:12 PM


Originally Posted by Sam VanLaningham (Post 5515487)
What!?!? You didn't get on the acoustic guitar forum to get unsolicited life advice from a guy you've never met :) ? You are mad:)

What's this whole acoustic guitar thing you are going on about? ;) ;)

I tried posting some guitar build content here a week or 2 ago and it basically got ignored....

printer2 10-24-2017 07:44 PM


Originally Posted by Truckjohn (Post 5515539)
What's this whole acoustic guitar thing you are going on about? ;) ;)

I tried posting some guitar build content here a week or 2 ago and it basically got ignored....

Maybe it is just you. :D

BlmJn 10-24-2017 10:23 PM

Mahogany is not a good choice for a bridge as it is not a dense wood. I would strongly encourage all to become acquainted with the WOOD DATA BASE before making any grand pronunciations about the characteristics of any wood. Oaks in general are a bit harder than Mahogany and a bit softer than Maple. Bridges are generally made of Rosewood or Ebony or something similar. There are many good woods for making bridges. Good bridge wood may be obtained from many sources, LMI, Stewart McDonald, Gilmer Wood etc.

Kieran 10-25-2017 07:38 AM

image test. Can people see this?

rodmbds 10-25-2017 07:58 AM

Nope. At least I can't.

Tell you, reading this thread I could really empathize with the whole small guitar thing. We got twins coming, two girls. I don't live on a boat but space is really a matter now.

I also love the feel of a small bodied guitar. I don't play professionally nor anything, and if I want SOUND I still got my reliable steel string.

I just started posting, I got this guitar on the cheap and I'm trying to repair it. I thought it was just dents but now I figured it's got two loose braces :(

Also, small bodied will be great for kids to get started. Or ukes.

Sorry I can't help you, I'm on the same boat as you (pun), looking for advice from the experts. I just felt like sharing, though.

Truckjohn 10-25-2017 08:59 AM

It works as a link but not as an image.

The Photobucket deal works as a link but not as a direct image.

Looks like you are off to a good start. You are making good progress. I think you should just go with what you have and see how it comes out. Even your neck looks really good.

What book or other reference material are you using?

How are you planning to slot the fretboard to ensure your instrument will play in tune?

Truckjohn 10-25-2017 09:11 AM


Originally Posted by printer2 (Post 5515847)
Maybe it is just you. :D

I am crushed that you would insinuate that the common thread tying all of my failures together is myself... Thats preposterous!

It has to be something else.

Gibson! That is who is behind this whole mess... I can smell it!

Its a conspiracy!!
;) ;)

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