In a world dominated by mass-produced goods, handcrafted items have received a very high level of appreciation. Knowing that something owned is the product of actual work from another human being gives items a greater sense of value to many people. When it comes to musical instruments and especially guitars a larger proportion of them are handmade. This means that even affordable acoustic guitars are built by hand, your old and weathered piece of kit may, in fact, be a hand-built item. If you’re wondering how that guitar was made, then keep on reading this article.
The wood that the guitar is made from is very important. Different woods and even cuts of wood impart different tones to a guitars sound profile. Different woods are selected for different parts of the guitar. More affordable guitars use simple plywood for the bodies while more expensive acoustic guitars may use mahogany or maple.
The pieces of wood are trimmed and sanded into their proper shapes and will be bonded together later using glue.
Molding and bending.
The wood on the hourglass sides of the guitar must then be bent into shape. The wood is steamed to soften it and increase flexibility. The steamed wood is pressed into a mold that mimics the shape the sides will follow.
As the wood re-hardens, it takes the shape of the guitar sides. The top and bottom of the guitar are then placed in the mold as well. They are then glued together to form the shape of the guitar.
Once the wood and glue have fully hardened the guitar is removed from the mold and holes are drilled in so that the rest of the components can be added.
The neck, head and truss rod.
The neck (which is the long part of the guitar where the scales are and whereby notes are selected during play) is then cut, sanded and added onto the guitar. Some guitars use screws to attach the neck while others attach it seamlessly or even create from the same piece of wood as the sides; however, this is very challenging and expensive for a handmade acoustic guitar.
The truss rod is a long steel rod situated in the neck of the guitar that allows the guitar to adjust the tension in the strings.
The neck has a hole drilled into it through which the truss rod is finely and carefully threaded. Once threaded a nut is left extended so that the head of the guitar may be attached.
The Head is then attached to the neck. The head is where the tuners are attached to the guitar. The tuners are attached to and control the fine-tuning of the guitar strings. The tuners are threaded into drilled holes in the neck of the guitar.
Once the neck is done the fretboard is attached. The fretboard is where the musician selects the notes they will be playing. The board is glued in the perfect position. It is very important that the fretboard is placed in the right location as incorrect placement means that the musician will be unable to select the right note.
The bridge, soundhole and finishing touches.
The sound hole is the hole in the center of the guitar body. Once the neck is fully attached the soundhole is cut. Its location is important as it needs to be central enough to create the proper acoustic resonances in the guitar.
The bridge is attached after the soundhole is cut on the opposite side from the neck. The bridge is where the strings will connect on the guitar body, going over the soundhole.
The strings are then attached to the tuners and the bridge. The truss rod is tuned to ensure that they are the proper distance from the fretboard the guitar is now complete.
The craftsman will now clean up the design and embellish the guitar with the aesthetic touches he feels appropriate, creating a beautiful and well-made instrument.