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Slide Notes

My interest in woodworking started at an early age at school when I made a shoe cleaning box for my parents some sixty years ago which I have now inherited. Amongst other things, at the age of fourteen I made a kayak canoe, a model hovercraft and a guitar from plywood which wasn’t particularly easy to play. Although I never took up woodworking as a career it has always been part of my DNA.
Since those distant early days I have alway followed woodworking as a hobby and over the years I have made furniture, picture frames, doors, windows, stairs, gates, decking, a summerhouse and many things I have forgotten about.
I have played an acoustic guitar for many years and it has always been my dream to make an Archtop guitar and this is where I am today, in my workshop.

I Had a Dream

Published on Mar 14, 2021

Meet Rob Hill, a Self Actualizing High Green who latched onto a dream that was so big he couldn't let go. Here he will show the steps that he took to make his dream of making a guitar for his personal use and what happened as a result.

PRESENTATION OUTLINE

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My interest in woodworking started at an early age at school when I made a shoe cleaning box for my parents some sixty years ago which I have now inherited. Amongst other things, at the age of fourteen I made a kayak canoe, a model hovercraft and a guitar from plywood which wasn’t particularly easy to play. Although I never took up woodworking as a career it has always been part of my DNA.
Since those distant early days I have alway followed woodworking as a hobby and over the years I have made furniture, picture frames, doors, windows, stairs, gates, decking, a summerhouse and many things I have forgotten about.
I have played an acoustic guitar for many years and it has always been my dream to make an Archtop guitar and this is where I am today, in my workshop.

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The prototype.
This is the first guitar I call the prototype, I spent about £40 on mahogany to make it, the guitar is every inch hand made apart from the metal parts. I followed instructions from an Archtop guitar manual written by an American luthier called Bob Benedetto.
The project was more or less unknown territory for me and if I made a bad job then the cost would be minimal. However it transpired to be a success and I felt confident to carry on making more guitars using expensive “tone wood” that I have been purchasing over many years.

As you can see the Archtop guitar is made completely of mahogany, the chrome tail piece, tuners, fret wire, strings and other incidental materials were purchased via the internet. The top and back of the guitar body is carved from 1” (25mm) thick mahogany to a thickness of 3/16th of an inch (5mm) following much the same process as carving a violin or cello.

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The Twin guitars.
These two archtop guitars were made at the same time, the guitar tops (also known as a sound board)are made of Canadian Sitka spruce and the back and sides are american quilted maple. The fretboard and tail piece that holds the strings in place are made from African ebony. The tone woods used in the construction are high end quality and not found in mass produced guitars but more usually in specialist luthier workshops using the same techniques for the creation of violins and cellos.

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The same two Archtop guitars but viewed from the back to show the quilted pattern of this rare wood. The quilt pattern in the grain is formed by a deformation of the tree growth over many years.

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Electric acoustic guitar.
After making the two high end guitars using quality tone wood I decided to make another mahogany guitar which is closely identical to the first prototype guitar. However the difference here is this is an electric acoustic Archtop guitar. I fitted a standard humbucker pickup and hid the control circuit under the purpose made pick guard. I can plug the guitar to an amplifier or use it unplugged.

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A hybrid guitar with a Venetian cutaway.
I call this a hybrid guitar because it is a mix of processes between an Archtop and an acoustic guitar. This has the “cutaway” to allow the player to access the higher notes.
Over the years I have collected other materials for making acoustic guitars, a similar shape to a Spanish guitar with a flat top and a flat back but using steel strings which is now more commonly used in folk and popular music. Note the round sound hole instead of the Archtop “f” shape holes. The manufacturing process is less involved than carving the top and back but using thin cuts of tone wood supported on strips of wood called bracing.
The material on this guitar is a cedar top with rosewood back and sides, the neck construction is maple with a rosewood fretboard. (Finger board)

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This is the same hybrid guitar from the previous slide but the end on view to highlight the curve in the top and back.
I call this a hybrid guitar because I have bent the top and back over curved bracing to form a distinctive arched effect. The pressure of the strings on the bridge is downward against the arch braced top (the same with the Archtop but without the complexity of carving). The arch resists the pressure of the strings, pre-loading the top to transmit the vibration from the strings to the top sound board.

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Hybrid guitar number 2 with a “Florentine” cutaway.
This guitar follows the same manufacturing process as the previous guitar. The materials used are Sitka spruce top, Birdseye maple back and sides with maple neck and a rosewood fretboard.

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The is the back view of the hybrid Florentine guitar in the previous slide.
There are different grain patterns of tone woods which many luthiers prefer to use. Maple is no exception and there is the quilted effect which I used in the two Archtop guitars and this one which is called Birdseye maple because of its pattern, some of the tiny knots resemble a birds eye.

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My guitars from left to right:
The prototype, one of the twin guitars, the Venetian Guitar, the electric acoustic, and the Florentine guitar.