Building an acoustic steel-string

By John Sevi

The following illustrates the approach I use to build acoustic steel-string guitars. It’s intended to be a sort of pictorial journey through the construction of a guitar.

In general, I use the approach described by Irving Sloane in his wonderful book “Steel-String Guitar Construction” (E.P. Dutton and Co., NY, 1975). I’ve varied from his method in a number of areas (arched top, neck joint, truss rod, etc.), but I still use his wonderful rubber-band gluing jig for joining the top and back to the sides.

I’m currently in a “native American” phase, using native North American woods whenever possible, so many of the woods used in the photographs are non-traditional. For example, the backs and sides illustrated use mulberry and quartersawn red oak, the binding is curly maple, the back braces are walnut and soft maple, and dogwood is used for the bridge plates. The tops are Sitka and Engelmann spruce. The only parts I haven’t found good local substitutes for are the fingerboard and bridge, for which I still use East Indian rosewood. I’ve also been using rosette designs that are inspired by native American pottery and textiles.

The photographs show a number of tools and jigs used to build the guitars shown, but the same steps can be done with less elaborate equipment – using a hand-held jigsaw instead of a bandsaw, a handplane instead of a jointer and planer, etc.

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