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  #31  
Old 11-06-2018, 10:03 AM
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Default Bracing

We typically hear the top is where most of the sound comes from and is the largest influencer in the sound from any given guitar. Next in line is the back and sides which sometimes are said to be the seasoning for the sound.

Here is another way to look at this: Yes, I agree the soundboard is the strongest influencer but the second is the top bracing, not the back and sides. Now, I realize the top in the first statement is usually thought of as both the soundboard and the bracing but, I'm saying that even if you were to consider the bracing separately it would have more influence on the sound than the back and sides.

So braces are important. I shake my head when I hear a builder say, "Braces are an unfortunate necessity to keep the guitar top from caving in". Braces are very much more than that. They are one of the chief ways that a builder can manipulate the sound characteristics and response of a guitar and hopefully optimize the materials and goals of an instrument.

The first guitar I made, like many builders, was right out of the Cumpiano and Natelson book; Guitarmaking Tradition and Technology. Chapter 7 called "Soundboard Bracing" had a section called "Procedure: Preparing The Brace Blanks". I read it and it made sense to me and I followed along ever since. I just thought that was how it was done and incorporated that into how I always did it. I was disappointed to find my assumption of this being common practice was wrong.

So what is this procedure? It's really all about riven wood or splitting out your blanks so the braces are perfectly quartered in one plain and have absolutely no run out in the other. A perfectly straight grained brace is easier to carve, is more homogenous in it's stiffness along it's length, it's less likely to crack, and most importantly, it is up to 30% stiffer than a poorly prepared brace from the same board. So that means, you can make that brace a lot lighter to do the same job, which means what little resource of power you have from the strings isn't wasted on throwing around weight you don't need. This makes for a more responsive guitar in both response quickness and volume.

It's not too hard to split out the wood but. you do have to have good straight grained wood to start with. That's not too much to ask considering how much money and time we spend trying to pick out the less important back and side wood set. I use a bamboo splitting froe which is typically used for hand made bamboo fly rods (another application that obviously needs to be strong).







Lets' take a historical view of this. Here is a picture of the most famous piece of riven wood in the world. It is on display in the Smithsonian Museum:



Seems appropriate to show this because today is an election day and this was a campaign prop from the 1800's. Abraham Lincoln's campaign manager went back to Illinois to get a piece of one of the split fence rails that Abraham rived to use in his campaign. You see saw mills were spreading across the country and like any new technology there were pluses and minuses. The easiest way to make a board used to be to split it out of a log. Now saw mills could cut them much faster. The split boards were of much better quality, they stayed straight, were stronger, and lasted longer, but, were more work. These were the exact qualities Abraham Lincoln wanted to emulate in his campaign. It's still valued today, as celebrated on the back of a 2009 penny:





Sawmills, table saws, and bandsaws were a great advancement in technology and manufacture and saws are often used to make brace blanks. When asked why something as important as braces are being sawn instead of split the answer usually is "Saws are faster and there is a lot less waste."


You have to ask yourself, do you want your braces made out of waste wood?


I started bracing the top today with riven wood:






Thanks for following along!
Mark
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Last edited by Mark Hatcher; 11-06-2018 at 07:16 PM.
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  #32  
Old 11-06-2018, 10:32 AM
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Guitars44me Guitars44me is offline
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Smile Very Interesting Mark!!!

Cool and useful info about super straight and hand split braces!

Most interesting indeed!

Always something to learn in the Custom Shop!!!

Thanks Mark

Paul
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  #33  
Old 11-06-2018, 10:51 AM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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Great post Mark. Your braces are brilliant in design and execution, and I love the use of the mini-froe.
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  #34  
Old 11-06-2018, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitars44me View Post
Cool and useful info about super straight and hand split braces!

Most interesting indeed!

Always something to learn in the Custom Shop!!!

Thanks Mark

Paul
Thanks Paul, I'm glad you have found value in this.

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Originally Posted by ukejon View Post
Great post Mark. Your braces are brilliant in design and execution, and I love the use of the mini-froe.
Thanks ukejon, That was a tough post to put together.
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  #35  
Old 11-06-2018, 04:26 PM
printer2 printer2 is offline
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I did a 'tutorial' on how to make a guitar out of a fence board and a 2"x4" to poo poo the idea that a person needed $500 in wood to build a guitar. I split the wood trying to get pieces long enough to use and with minimal runout for braces. It was educational as the board has some areas where the grain looked sort of straight. Needless to say there was a lot of waste wood generated in the project. Good wood defiantly makes building easier and tends to make a better sounding guitar.
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  #36  
Old 11-06-2018, 06:50 PM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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Neat stuff about the braces - and Abe. I love that kind of thing.
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  #37  
Old 11-06-2018, 07:01 PM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
I did a 'tutorial' on how to make a guitar out of a fence board and a 2"x4" to poo poo the idea that a person needed $500 in wood to build a guitar. I split the wood trying to get pieces long enough to use and with minimal runout for braces. It was educational as the board has some areas where the grain looked sort of straight. Needless to say there was a lot of waste wood generated in the project. Good wood defiantly makes building easier and tends to make a better sounding guitar.
I've built guitars with under $50 in money spent, and used WRC, Sitka, Sapele, Bubinga, Padauk... all perfectly quartered - but you have to be able to buy them (which you mentioned you couldn't in your area), know what you're buying, and you have to be able to resaw them (which you can do.) Building a guitar to sound like a guitar is easy, building a guitar to sound exceptional regardless of wood, is not. Though Mark does make it look easy! Unfortunately my play time with Mark's guitars was limited to tire-kicking, but a few strums were all I needed!

But I was spoiled. I had a lumberyard locally that didn't use the Internet, and didn't even take credit cards! I could go through racks for hours and pick winners. And the prices were right, as the wood was unsorted. And I lugged them around like old luggage for YEARS, because I know they'd be guitars one day! You wouldn't believe what I bought for ridiculously cheap prices then, that are astronomical today. If I ever get through the entire stash it'd be a miracle - and I have NOWHERE near the wood these guys have!

Such is the sickness of a wood nut.
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  #38  
Old 11-06-2018, 08:39 PM
printer2 printer2 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LouieAtienza View Post
I've built guitars with under $50 in money spent, and used WRC, Sitka, Sapele, Bubinga, Padauk... all perfectly quartered - but you have to be able to buy them (which you mentioned you couldn't in your area), know what you're buying, and you have to be able to resaw them (which you can do.) Building a guitar to sound like a guitar is easy, building a guitar to sound exceptional regardless of wood, is not. Though Mark does make it look easy! Unfortunately my play time with Mark's guitars was limited to tire-kicking, but a few strums were all I needed!

But I was spoiled. I had a lumberyard locally that didn't use the Internet, and didn't even take credit cards! I could go through racks for hours and pick winners. And the prices were right, as the wood was unsorted. And I lugged them around like old luggage for YEARS, because I know they'd be guitars one day! You wouldn't believe what I bought for ridiculously cheap prices then, that are astronomical today. If I ever get through the entire stash it'd be a miracle - and I have NOWHERE near the wood these guys have!

Such is the sickness of a wood nut.
I have some Sapele, Bubinga, Padauk that will be resawn some day. We used to have a real wood supplier many years ago but they disappeared. Wish I knew people could make guitars back then. One day I might build a guitar with Mark's sensibilities, love the cross section of those braces. Maybe one day I will get to hear one of his guitars.
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  #39  
Old 11-06-2018, 08:44 PM
LouieAtienza LouieAtienza is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
I have some Sapele, Bubinga, Padauk that will be resawn some day. We used to have a real wood supplier many years ago but they disappeared. Wish I knew people could make guitars back then. One day I might build a guitar with Mark's sensibilities, love the cross section of those braces. Maybe one day I will get to hear one of his guitars.
They are special to see, hold, and hear! Lots of entertaining chat at the Hatcher table! It was such a pleasure to finally meet, after admiring build after build from afar, with the olive wood and soundhole-through-the-neck-block guitar as two of my favorite recent builds of his.
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  #40  
Old 11-06-2018, 10:36 PM
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Thanks, Mark. Fascinating stuff! The learning never stops here in the Custom shop. I had never even heard of the word 'riven' before. This 00 build you have going is special.
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  #41  
Old 11-07-2018, 04:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
I did a 'tutorial' on how to make a guitar out of a fence board and a 2"x4" to poo poo the idea that a person needed $500 in wood to build a guitar. I split the wood trying to get pieces long enough to use and with minimal runout for braces. It was educational as the board has some areas where the grain looked sort of straight. Needless to say there was a lot of waste wood generated in the project. Good wood defiantly makes building easier and tends to make a better sounding guitar.
Thanks for commenting printer2, Yeah, it’s not to hard to see the grain lines for that quartering split but, the runout split can be a real surprise!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LouieAtienza View Post
I've built guitars with under $50 in money spent, and used WRC, Sitka, Sapele, Bubinga, Padauk... all perfectly quartered - but you have to be able to buy them (which you mentioned you couldn't in your area), know what you're buying, and you have to be able to resaw them (which you can do.) Building a guitar to sound like a guitar is easy, building a guitar to sound exceptional regardless of wood, is not. Though Mark does make it look easy! Unfortunately my play time with Mark's guitars was limited to tire-kicking, but a few strums were all I needed!
We enjoyed meeting you too LouieAtienza! Thanks for the kind word.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Bard Rocks View Post
Neat stuff about the braces - and Abe. I love that kind of thing.
Thanks for commenting. Much of the art of making guitars is gleaned from the best aspects of changing technologies over the span of time. I like the stories too that add perspective and depth to the traditions of guitar making.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chasapple View Post
Thanks, Mark. Fascinating stuff! The learning never stops here in the Custom shop. I had never even heard of the word 'riven' before. This 00 build you have going is special.
You’re welcome chasapple, the steel string guitar is certainly a child of fascinating and changing times!
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  #42  
Old 11-08-2018, 03:32 PM
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Default Onto the Back

Dipping into my oldest woods I have selected a set of Eastern Black Walnut that was still in an old sawmill that closed in 1850. A 168yr old set to go with the 173yr old Redwood top!

Here I am joining the back:





On goes the back center graft:



I believe these two are a perfect pairing:



They will be trimmed with Black Ebony. The old kind that doesn't need dye to be black:



Thanks for viewing!
Mark
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  #43  
Old 11-08-2018, 04:08 PM
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Yikes! That is such a sublimely beautiful combination of ancient woods. So **** tempting!
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1973 Sigma GCR7 (OM model) rosewood and spruce
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  #44  
Old 11-08-2018, 04:37 PM
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I would have to agree as to those being the perfect pairing, my word are they pretty!
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  #45  
Old 11-09-2018, 09:06 AM
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Yikes! That is such a sublimely beautiful combination of ancient woods. So **** tempting!
Thanks ukejon, The colors are very good together and more importantly they are an excellent combination for tone and responsiveness; quick and rich.

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Originally Posted by TomB'sox View Post
I would have to agree as to those being the perfect pairing, my word are they pretty!
Thanks Tom! Good colors and an old look. As I said before, if anything about this guitar looks old I want that to be because it is old!

Thanks for commenting!

Mark
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