Building a dreadnaught guitar

DownUpDave

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I am building a dreadnaught guitar with Luis of LFDM in his shop. We talked about this a few years ago and he said it would entail 160- 200 hours. So we waited until I retired, which I did last year. We started mid February, I live 15 minutes away so I am there everyday from 9-5.

First order of business was to choose the wood, I know I wanted spruce and rosewood. Luis has a great stash of spruce, there were 8 sets of bearclaw, 8-10 sets of Carpathian that he really liked and some sets of Sitka. As I was looking through a bunch of them he came out with this set of Sitka that had "master grade" written on it and the name Sergio DeJonge. Luis said he'd got it from Sergio about 20 years ago, I was intrigued. It came down to this set and one Carpathian, I let Luis tap tone and inspect everything, it was gonna be all about the sound. It was a tie between the two sets and I went with the master grade Sitka.

The rosewood back and sides I ordered on line from a supplier, a bit a a crap shoot. But this set was excellent and the more we worked with it the more Luis was impressed with it.

The neck was going to be mahogany and for binding with went with leopard wood, it's the color of koa with striking grain pattern.

I will make this a series of posts with pictures and explanations. Feel free to ask questions if you like. I will answer one I have been asked, why not build a ukulele. I own 3 LfdMs and other excellent customs which would be hard to compete with. I have been playing way more guitar since the pandemic shut down our uke jam, I don't own a dreadnaught so I am building one.

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The book matched spruce and rosewood back are processed the same way. Pick the top side, put it through the thickness sander to clean up that side. Then we true up the edges to be glued together. Put it top side down in the assembly frame, jam it together with wedges on one side, go bars on top to hold the join tight then apply CA, which is crazy glue. Over the decades of building Luis uses CA in certain areas and white glue in others. Here we have routed out a channel and installed the decorative back strip.

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The book matched spruce and rosewood back are processed the same way. Pick the top side, put it through the thickness sander to clean up that side. Then we true up the edges to be glued together. Put it top side down in the assembly frame, jam it together with wedges on one side, go bars on top to hold the join tight then apply CA, which is crazy glue. Over the decades of building Luis uses CA in certain areas and white glue in others. Here we have routed out a channel and installed the decorative back strip.

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Thank you so much for sharing Dave. I am looking forward to and will truly enjoy watching the build progression.
 
What a great experience to be able to work with a master on your first build, thanks for sharing with us!
 
I will make this a series of posts with pictures and explanations. Feel free to ask questions if you like. I will answer one I have been asked, why not build a ukulele. I own 3 LfdMs and other excellent customs which would be hard to compete with. I have been playing way more guitar since the pandemic shut down our uke jam, I don't own a dreadnaught so I am building one.

Hi Dave,

I think that's really cool to build your own guitar!

Using the Star Wars universe Jedi training as a reference, then you've reached a new level (I think even in our real world, the experience of building your own instrument can give you insights into playing that's more than just the satisfaction of playing on any excellent guitar). I love how your back strip is symmetrically ended; it shows good attention to details.

Oh, no dreadnoughts yet? Oh boy, you're going to be soooo pleasantly surprised with it!

Good luck with your build!!!
I'm looking forward to reading your progress.
 
Once the spruce top was joined we put it through the thickness sander to 2.5mm in preparation for the rosette. We chose leopard wood which is what we are using for the binding for the rest of the guitar. I chose a design based on looking at a LOT of rosettes then coming up with something of my own.
Sorry the pics aren't in order but we cut a ring out of leopard wood, routed a channel in the spruce top then glued it in with CA. Then routed another channel in the ring and added the abalone.

Full disclosure.......not everything goes perfectly. See the picture of the rosette having the channel cut into it to accept the abalone. Notice pieces missing and someone putting it back together with tweezers. I made it explode, lol. Luis is great, when this happened he said that wood has a very fractured structure, that's easy to do and there is no problem that can't be solved.

He said a master is someone who can avoid most problems because he has made them all in the past and figured out how to solve them. He then said he is not a master because he has not made all the mistakes possible yet and is still fixing up stuff

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Here is the top with the sound hole cut out. The design of the guitar is a Martin D-28 which Luis has full scale drawing for. But we made some changes. First off it has forward shifted and scalloped bracing, like the HD-28 or Authentic. Next we went with the large sound hole aka, Clarence White/Tony Rice model. Luis has built this configuration before and liked it. I will admit I was really undecided about the large sound hole. All my investigations said it added clarity, treble, volume and decreased the bass. Not things I was looking to necessarily achieve, but I also heard it increased mid range and I was interested in that. Bottom line is you make your choices, take you chances and see what happens.
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Can't wait to hear a sound sample from your finished guitar!! Please keep this thread going.
 
This is awesome! Glad you made good use of the opportunity you had by living so close. If I read that right this using Martin style
Bracing shape with a few tweaks. Luis had posted pics of Falcate bracing, was wondering if you’ll discussed the bracing or just went with what is traditional dreadnaut.
Buying tonewoods online is a just a mixed bag of experience… glad you found a set that you’ll liked.
I don’t see Luis post much about steel string guitars. Would love to read the process and your thoughts at the end.
 
This is awesome! Glad you made good use of the opportunity you had by living so close. If I read that right this using Martin style
Bracing shape with a few tweaks. Luis had posted pics of Falcate bracing, was wondering if you’ll discussed the bracing or just went with what is traditional dreadnaut.
Buying tonewoods online is a just a mixed bag of experience… glad you found a set that you’ll liked.
I don’t see Luis post much about steel string guitars. Would love to read the process and your thoughts at the end.

Thanks for following along. We used traditional spruce bracing, scalloped and forward shifted. Luis doesn't build many steel guitars mostly nylon string and ukuleles. He has made this exact same type before, he has a full scale drawing which is very nice to work from.

I've been away on a cycling trip for the last four days. I'll update this thread with more pictures
 
Can't wait to hear a sound sample from your finished guitar!! Please keep this thread going.

Thanks for your nice comments and yes my first dreadnought and it should be really big and bold, lol. Not sure about a sound sample, I've only got a phone for recording which really doesn't do justice to a good instrument. Neither does my playing
 
The back was thickness sander down to 2.4 mm in preparation for the bracing. After the initial sanding of the face side all sanding is down on the other side, the inside face. The reason for this is to preserve the book match alignment. Too much off that side can effect the appearance.

The back bracings are made from mahogany instead of spruce. Luis believes they are stiffer and more stable, plus they look cool against the rosewood and smell great. The back has a 15' radius, this is achieved by cutting the curve on the back of the brace. Along with gluing them down with go bars on a 15' radius dish platform.

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The top bracing is done in 5 seperate stages. This allows room to chisel out, scallop and shape them without hitting adjacent braces. Notice the picture with just the top transverse brace, you can see I have drawn and labeled where all the specific braces go.

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The top bracing is done in 5 seperate stages. This allows room to chisel out, scallop and shape them without hitting adjacent braces.

Hi Dave,

A question: I'm wondering, would it be easier to carve/route the braces off the guitar and then glue them on? Seem this way, if something bad happens, onecan just carve out another brace. Sorry if I'm missing something obvious; but I've always wondered.

Thanks.
 
Hi Dave,

A question: I'm wondering, would it be easier to carve/route the braces off the guitar and then glue them on? Seem this way, if something bad happens, onecan just carve out another brace. Sorry if I'm missing something obvious; but I've always wondered.

Thanks.

It would seem logical and to do it that way to be able to make a new one if it gets screwed up. This method, after glued in place, seems to be the traditional way of doing it. I have seen video of large name brand builders doing it this way too. Just don't make a mistake and all is good 😊
 
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