After building the form, the first thing I did was glue in the tail block and the neck block. I fashioned both the neck block and tail block from solid mahogany. After cutting out the rough shapes I did the rest of the carving with chisels. Sharp chisels.
The neck block is a cross between several designs that I studied. I’m doing a bolted tenon neck joint (sorry purists, the next one will be a dovetail) and so I worked very carefully to get everything to fit well, and then marked, drilled and shaped the recess for the bolt. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but I believe it to be more than mechanically sufficient to do what it needs to do.
And that’s where I stopped. For a long time. I glued those blocks in and months went by before I got back to this thing. When I did finally come back to study my work I was pleased at what I saw and ready to continue with gluing in the kerfing.
Honestly, that was probably a blessing for my first project because it gave me the opportunity to work slowly and to carefully study my work as I went along.
I glued the strips in one section at a time, making sure to get back in there and clean out the glue with a chisel. This is a skill I’ve been working on perfecting for the past year, and although I’m not altogether great at it yet, it sure beats slopping a wet cloth around to clean up glue excess.
The final product of all this work is definitely satisfactory to me. It’s a clean job and I think it will suit the build well. I took my time here because it’s really the pivotal glue joint that holds the sound box together under tension so I wanted to make sure I was done well.
For experienced luthiers, I’m sure this seems routine and mundane, but for me this was a point of momentum; a place where I could finally see things coming together and it encouraged me to get on with this project. It also helped me identify one of my hang-ups: the fact that building a guitar is a lot more like sculpture than the simple casework that I normally do. Sculpture, in my experience, requires you to see in four dimensions. Beyond just understanding the height, width and depth of your work, you also need to see how things will come together over multiple complex processes. It would be fair to say that building furniture requires this skill as well to some extent, but I had never thought about it in this way. With this build I have found myself holding off until I can visualize the way that several discrete pieces will come together as a whole.
But sculpture requires courage. Courage to know that the final piece is already there and the process is just the work of uncovering it. I’ve been staring at these parts for an inordinate amount of time already. Getting this far has reminded me that I’m not inventing the wheel here. This has all been done before and it will all be done again. I just need to dig in and do what I know how to do, figure out how to do what I don’t, and revel in the discoveries along the way.
There’s a lot more coming in the next post. Brace yourself.