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After the top and back have been trimmed, I sand the sides on the belt sander.  The purpose is to even out any irregularities in the sides.  This may be either a slight irregularity in the profile or a bit of waviness in the side (i.e. from the top to the back, or across the width of the side)  This looks much more dangerous and frightening in the photo than it actually is.  I use a fairly fine grit belt (about 150 or 120 grit) and use a very light touch.  You will notice in this and the other photos that I always have two hands on the guitar, and that as much as possible have one hand on "top".  The other important element of the technique is that the body must always be moving, and should be moving when first contact with the belt is made   -- sort of like landing an airplane.

   Here I am just about to "land" the side on the end of the sander for sanding the curve in the waist of the guitar.  The waist is the hardest part of this technique.   Sanding the "outside curves" is actually very easy if you keep the body moving and use a light touch.  Recently I have been using my oscillating spindle sander for the waist area and it works very well.  


wpe6.jpg (7408 bytes)    More of the same.  While this step may seem dangerous (it is not), it is essential if the guitar is to look good.  If your surfaces are not smooth and flat (from side to side) the lacquer will reveal any imperfections in glaring detail, and will significantly impede your efforts to produce a marketable "professional" guitar.



 body-3-10.jpg (26817 bytes) More sanding

body-3-22.jpg (26908 bytes)  And again.

Here I am using the spindle sander to do the waist curve.  This tool is also very helpful for the cutaway.


wpe8.jpg (10396 bytes)   The next step will be to cut the binding ledges on top, back and sides.  These days the luthier supply houses (Stewart MacDonald  and LMI) sell router bits with bearings sized to cut some of the more common sizes.  When I started these were not available and I had a complete set made by a local machinist.  Since then I simply have them re-sharpened from time to time.  One difference between mine and the commercially available cutters is that they all use a small bearing  (with no sleeve attached) and the cutter itself is sized to produce the correct cut.  I feel that this makes for a slightly more stable tool that makes a more accurate and clean cut.  In addition, the smaller the diameter of the cutter, the more accurate the cut - especially on the back which is curved.   Recently I have found another source for making these bits.  Orbit Tools (www.orbittool.com) will make them from a rather simple drawing and their prices are reasonable (and the quality is very good.)     Another "trick" that I use is that my cutters are about .015 wider than the binding/purfling that I am using.  The benefit of this is that once the binding is scraped even with the sides and the sides are finish sanded, the top edge of the binding will still be full width.  To my eye it is very noticeable if binding varies in width around the top (or back) of the guitar and I try to avoid this. 

wpe9.jpg (15341 bytes)   This is my version of the binding jig sold by LMI (they also sell just the plans).  This tool is very helpful in holding the binding cutter perfectly perpendicular to the sides when cutting the binding grooves for the back.  More on this on the next page.






This website and all of its content, text and images are copyright 1997-2012  by Charles A. Hoffman.  All rights reserved. 

2219 East Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN. 55404

hoffmanguitars@qwestoffice.net  or choffman@hoffmanguitars.com

(612) 338-1079