Some things take a long time. Some things take longer than they should.
Last November, just before leaving town to visit family for Thanksgiving, I put the final coats of nitrocellulose lacquer on the body and neck of the acoustic guitar I’ve been building. My intention was to let it sit for a month and then buff it out in December so that I would be in a position to finish it around the beginning of the year.
That was nine months ago, and I just finally finished wet-sanding and buffing this week.
I want to say that I’ve been preoccupied. That’s true, but it’s not an excuse. The real delay has, I think, been my own hesitance to tackle what I consider the two biggest operations in building an acoustic guitar: setting the neck and locating the bridge.
One nice thing about the neck is that it’s a bolt on design. There is a dovetailed tenon / mortise, but the heavy lifting is done by a single brass bolt that threads into an insert in the tenon. I spent some time refining the shoulders of the neck, but once everything was tweaked and ready, it was simply a matter of scraping the finish out from under the fretboard extension and putting it all together. With equal parts white glue and hope, I clamped the heck out of it with a custom caul made to fit inside the sound hole.
The bridge is sort of a one shot deal. You either nail it or you don’t and after all of the work that I’ve put into this thing you can see how this would instill a procrastination-inducing anxiety in a person. In reality, it just requires a process and patience. The process is basically this:
- line up the middle of the bridge with the middle of the fretboard
- measure from the nut to an imaginary spot half-way across the saddle slot on the bridge. (Martin full scale length is 25.4″ here)
- measure from the 14th fret to each front bridge corner and make sure those are equal.
Oh, and if you’re off anywhere along the line, return to step one and start again. That’s where the patience comes in.
Honestly, it only took me a few attempts to feel confident that the bridge was in the right place, at which point I surrounded it in several layers of masking tape, scraped away the finish and prepared the bridge for glue.
Like gluing the neck, this operation requires a special caul that fits inside the guitar body and over the braces. It also requires a caul to fit over the bridge so that the clamps can distribute pressure evenly.