Materials for Guitar Building
For guitar building you will not only need wood for the guitar, but you will also need wood to make fixtures, jigs and any number of things that will come in handy during the process. Here is a brief guide to what you will need.
Rough Cut Wood for the Guitar
Most yards will just have bundles of rough cut planks that they are bought from a broker. The planks are kept bundled or piled according to species. They are random cuts of wood, possibly each from a different tree that grew in a different locations. The minerals in the soil where a tree grows has a tremendous effect on the color and streaks in a piece of wood. To get an exact match it is necessary to get all the wood from the same tree, if not it will be hard to find two pieces that match. In this case you will being doing good if you can get close.
Some yards – and I love these – will have domestic hardwood flitch cut logs. This is where they cut up the tree into planks from top to bottom and stack them as they came off the tree. And if you are lucky they cut them in thicknesses no less than two inches (more on this further in a later article). If you buy wood like this you can get an exact color match and have continuity throughout your project. This is ideal for not only guitar building but for any woodworking project. See photo of a sloppily stacked flitch cut tree in my garage on right. If you are building furniture this is heaven.
Types of Grain and Classification of Cuts
A plank of wood has three faces:
Top or face grain – typically associated with the width and is usually the widest face
Side grain the face – runs parallel with the length of the plank typically associated with the thickness
End grain – end of the plank which bordered by both width and thickness. This is the face will tell you what type of cut you are looking at(pictured on left).
Materials for Guitar Building Jigs and Fixtures
If you are making a guitar, you will need some jigs and fixtures. We’re talking about things like plywood, MDF and some domestic hardwoods such as poplar or maple. The accuracy and quality of this material has a big impact on your guitar or project. You may be able to find these at a lumber yard that has quality building materials. Some advice when buying these:
Plywood – Baltic plywood is preferred because it will be flat. This plywood is typically 9 layers and dead flat. Cabinet grade birch ply is good but seldom flat these days, and you want flat for your fixtures. (pictured on left)
MDF – The stuff they sell at Lowes or Home Depot is not very good, it’s too dense and should be your last option. You may be able to get some from your local cabinet shop. They may add a sheet or two to one of their orders for you. You will get much better quality MDF this way. MDF comes in a few densities. Avoid the lower density stuff if you use vacuum clamping in any form.
Acrylic – I use clear acrylic for all my templates. The main reason is I can see through it. This is extremely helpful when laying out wood for grain effects. It is also great for centering if the template has a center line scribed in it. I like being able to see everything when I am working. The clear acrylic helps me to do that.
Metal – for some shop fixture and jigs its best to use metal parts. There are many applications where using metal parts is far superior to using wood or some other material. Some of the applications are bending machines, registration pins, binding cutter machines, router attachments and so on. Making the entire gadget from metal is largely unnecessary. Just use it on the critical parts
Hardwood – Poplar or maple work well for jigs and fixtures because they are stable, comparatively inexpensive, and very durable. These woods also have tiny pores which enables you to get a sharp unblemished edge which you may need. Woods like oak with large pores, not so much.