View Full Version : Softwood soundboards: potential for damage during construction

01-18-2017, 05:10 AM
Softwood tops are easily damaged. Is it simply a case of being extra careful when building with them or are there some tips to protect them?

My limited experience with them has been that I do more finishing sanding than I would like in order to remove the accumulation of minor damage that's occurred during construction.

In the past I've left the soundboard thicker than intended to allow for this extra sanding: is this what others do?

I'm trying to work with thinner soundboards so its become more of an issue for me.

01-18-2017, 08:47 AM
One thing that I do that really helps me is to keep my fingernails short. I've done more damage with my fingernails than anything else. Another is to keep the work bench really clean when I have to put the top face down on the bench

01-18-2017, 09:17 AM
I smother spruce or cedar tops with several coats of shellac once sanded to thickness, and before I do anything else to them. The shellac stays on until final sanding before I start the proper finishing process. As well as offering some protection against general scuffs, it guards against scarring from the router base when cutting binding channels and from pulling splinters with the binding tape. I also try and remember to cut my nails, take off my watch and wear nitrile gloves during final finishing!

01-18-2017, 02:46 PM
Softwoods easily damaged? Try balsa.


01-18-2017, 02:52 PM
All good suggestions. On top of those, I 'borrowed' some Corrugated Craft Paper
from my wife's craft cupboard. Its thinner than cardboard, but very durable.
It usually stays taped to the soundboard during construction


01-18-2017, 05:26 PM
Yes, damage to softwood tops can be a painful thing. I try to do all the tips pointed out above (mostly good bench hygiene as in clean, clean, clean) but dents do happen regardless. Yes, I leave some meat on the show side so I can cope with minor dents at final thicknessing and sand out. Sometimes though dents can go deep. Finger nails are the worst. Especially when putting binding tape on and you are stretchinnnnnnnngggggg tape and your thumb slips and a make a gouge across the top. Ouch! Not much you can do but disguise. It sucks. The absolute worst is bits of fret wire ends on the bench. Tiny bits of metal that will dig deep into your top. Awful terrible things.

Michael Smith
01-18-2017, 06:36 PM
I have a piede of leather the shape of the top I tape on at certain times, like sanding the back with a power sander and cutting the neck rebate etc. I also get a couple of coats of shellac on as soon as possible.

01-19-2017, 08:06 PM
I appreciate the advise given. I have tried attaching card and using a coat of shellac before routing. I'll start using shellac immediately after thicknessing and just try to be more careful. And as for balsa wood.......I spent many hours as a teenager building and repairing 36-42" tow-line gliders so I know that wood very well.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-20-2017, 12:11 PM
I tape a piece of cardboard to the face whenever i can