Around Christmas time in 2006 I was thinking about buying a new acoustic guitar. I had visited a couple of guitar shops in London’s Tin Pan Alley and tired out some new Martin’s and similar instruments. A couple of things struck me about this experience. Firstly that the instruments that I liked cost a lot more money than I wanted to spend and secondly the staff in some of the guitar places could be really rude and I really resented the idea of giving so much money to someone who had just spent 10 minutes insulting me. I went home somewhat dejected and forgot about new guitars until I happened upon a web site detailing the building of a guitar from a kit. I have always really enjoyed making things with my hands but I had never really made anything out of wood before.
As I Immersed myself into various guitar making websites I began to spend longer and longer reading up on what was quickly becoming an obsession. After a month of reading about different approaches to guitar making, the merits of different types of glues and varnishes I was ready to take the plunge. I decided to order a kit from Stewart MacDonald who supply all the necessary bits and pieces to make a guitar. They are based in the USA which means that if you are a UK resident like I am you have to pay quite a lot of import tax – i didn’t realise this at the time so it’s something to watch out for.
That aside they delivered very quickly and before long I had a box full of wood sitting in my bedroom. I must mention at this point that most people have a workshop or at least a garage in which to make their instruments. At the time I lived in a shared house in East London and my room was tiny and crammed with my music studio, clothes, bed, books etc. I had cleared as much space as possible and set up a small table which would be my work-bench. It was very cramped but just about manageable (as you’ll see shortly)
Once the wood had arrived it had to sit in my room for two weeks to adjust to the local humidity. Wood changes shape constantly due to the amount of humidity in the air. With more water in the air (high humidity) wood expands and with dryer air (low humidity) wood contracts. I read that a guitar should be constructed at a relative humidity of 40-45% at 21 degrees Celsius this way the guitar can handle slight changes in humidity without cracking or in the worst case scenario completely imploding!
Of course you need more than wood to make a guitar, you need, clamps (lots of them), glue, chisels, a plane, a hydrometer (to measure humidity). So while the wood was acclimatizing I set about finding the cheapest places to get the tools I needed. Once all my boxes had arrived and my wood had setted in I was ready to begin…
>>Go to Preparing the Soundbox
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