Carving maple top before gluing to body

andy007

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I’ve been planning on buying some low quality maple to practice carving a ’59 top before I do the real thing. I realize it doesn’t have to be maple but I thought the experience would be better if I used the same wood for practice. This weekend I was at the lumber store and found a 1” x 8” x 8’ hard maple board that was straight and mostly clear of grain defects. I can cut five full pieces out of this board. Paid less than $40. Four of the pieces would be great for a plain maple top. I hit the jackpot with this one.

My question involves carving one or two practice tops. I plan on using the router templates and then finish it off by hand as so many threads here have detailed. If I actually get a nice carve out of one of these practice tops, I’d like to use it on my final build. The problem is that I feel like I need to glue the top to some type of substrate to perform the work. If the top comes out great, it will be glued to mdf and will be a pain to get it off. I also thought about using double sided tape to hold it to some mdf. But I’m not sure if tape will hold well enough. I’m not even sure that carving a top before it’s glued to the final body blank is a good idea.

I know Tom Bartlett makes pre-carved maple tops and ships them world-wide so I figured I could hand carve one. Just not sure how to attach it to a substrate to perform the work. Any suggestions?

If my practice tops turn out poorly this won't be an issue! :)
 

lvrpool32

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I put down masking tape on both sides and then basically super glue the two pieces together. When your done just pull them apart. Will hold up to routing no problem.
 

Skyjerk

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The downside is that with a carved top its not as easy to get a really good joint gluing it to the body.

When gluing on an uncarved top you have a perfectly flat top which is very easy to clamp, use decent even pressure, and get a really good glue joint.

With a carved top its definitely doable, but will be harder to get a really nice joint, especially for a novice.

I would practice on your test tops as you already indicated, but for the real top I suggest you glue it on first and carve it afterwards.
 

andy007

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Good point Skyjerk. By the way, I'm doing what you did on your first build, a neck through LP. I have a couple of questions about your build but I'll ask them in the your thread later today.
 

Freddy G

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The downside is that with a carved top its not as easy to get a really good joint gluing it to the body.

When gluing on an uncarved top you have a perfectly flat top which is very easy to clamp, use decent even pressure, and get a really good glue joint.

With a carved top its definitely doable, but will be harder to get a really nice joint, especially for a novice.

I would practice on your test tops as you already indicated, but for the real top I suggest you glue it on first and carve it afterwards.


This times 1000.
 

geoffstgermaine

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The downside is that with a carved top its not as easy to get a really good joint gluing it to the body.

When gluing on an uncarved top you have a perfectly flat top which is very easy to clamp, use decent even pressure, and get a really good glue joint.

With a carved top its definitely doable, but will be harder to get a really nice joint, especially for a novice.

I would practice on your test tops as you already indicated, but for the real top I suggest you glue it on first and carve it afterwards.


Yeah, I'd only suggest attempting it if you're working with a vacuum bag/press.
 

Skyjerk

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Good point Skyjerk. By the way, I'm doing what you did on your first build, a neck through LP. I have a couple of questions about your build but I'll ask them in the your thread later today.

Feel free. I'm glad to help any way I can :)
 

ARandall

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Is there anything is particular that you are trying to familiarise yourself with???
I mean some tools can be very aggressive with wood removal for example and they do need some getting used to (I recently got one of those sandpaper flap type discs for a small anglegrinder. They take shaping a neck from about 30mins with an orbital sander to about 5mins they are so fast.

I would almost recommend using a softer wood like pine for practice. That way you learn to be more gentle in approach as it can be removed more quickly. Come to maple and you are already used to more fine control.

If you are using templates for routing steps as the initial method of wood removal this is where most of the accidents tend to occur IME. I've had a few 'crop circles' where the router has tilted or similar that I've had to create a different carve to remove. But in the end, it is your unique guitar and whatever carve you end up with it is never 'wrong'.
 

Ripthorn

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Before attempting my first real PRS-style build, I did a couple of practice tops with cheap wood. It's a great experience to learn how to approach it, how each area of the body needs to be executed etc. In my opinion, if you get a perfectly carved top, you finish it up and make it into the world's most awesome carved top clock. That's what I did with my two practice tops. Here's one of them, do you see the guitarists' inside joke?

DSCN0354_zps0arbdu5b.jpg
 

pshupe

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You can't go too wrong carving a top. I would spend the practice time on other aspects, actually. There are only a couple things to watch out for. One make sure you do not carve / sand the edge of the guitar. That has to be the consistent 3/16" from the body join all the way around, except in the cutaway. The other is not to carve / sand the pup plane area. This should be relatively flat and straight. That's pretty much it. Even the real vintage guitar carves were very different from each other. They were hand sanded with a big belt and paddle.

Cheers Peter.
 

andy007

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I'm overly cautious. At work I typically have to perform tasks that I've never done before. Many times those tasks could have severe consequences if not done properly. It can be very stressful. In order to reduce the chances of failure, I will run through the entire process several times in a lab environment. With this guitar build, I'm following the same protocol. I have to keep reminding myself that if I mess it up I'll be out a few dollars for the wood but at least I won't end up on the evening news.
 

emoney

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Here's what I would suggest; Hold off on practice work on that Maple you bought. Go back
to the lumber yard, pick up a piece of Poplar or even Cedar big enough for the body blank
and then Oak big enough for the top and then a piece long enough to make a neck from.
Then proceed to "practice build" that particular guitar, following the steps you've seen/learned
from here in the forum. That way, you're not wasting effort, or, potentially ruing quality materials
that I assure you, you'll wish you had back. Even in reading your first post, it seems like
this building bug might've actually already bitten you, and she's quite the blood-sucker in
that she rarely lets go. So, knowing that, it's perfectly normal to "practice" when you're
getting started, just don't "waste" in the process. End of the day, you might even wind up
with a very playable guitar, that just so happens to be made with a Poplar/Cedar body and
an Oak top. And as shown above, at the very least, you can have a nice clock.
 

andy007

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I think that's good advice. I'm going to run through the entire build using cheap wood.
 

jkes01

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Before attempting my first real PRS-style build, I did a couple of practice tops with cheap wood. It's a great experience to learn how to approach it, how each area of the body needs to be executed etc. In my opinion, if you get a perfectly carved top, you finish it up and make it into the world's most awesome carved top clock. That's what I did with my two practice tops. Here's one of them, do you see the guitarists' inside joke?

DSCN0354_zps0arbdu5b.jpg

I see what you did there, clever. :thumb:
 

Skyjerk

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do you see the guitarists' inside joke?

Is this "The Emperors new joke"?

I was hoping someone would give away the "inside joke" and I wouldnt have to look like the schmuck that doesnt get the joke, but apparently thats who I am :)
 

emoney

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Sigh.....there's 2 dots at "12", fret marker placements?
 

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