First Two Guitar Builds, 5 Years Later

fatdaddypreacher

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simply terrific great colors, wood choice, design and execution. please tell me there more.
 

Rando375

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Since @fatdaddypreacher asked for it, I'll show some more furniture stuff, before I get back to guitars. It follows chronologically anyway.

After doing a lot of work on my shop I started on a China cabinet for my wife. This took me 8 or 9 months of weekend work during 2016, but I work slow and had a few interruptions (I had a 5 and 2 year old at that time).

Lacking a local source for Ambrosia Maple, I actually got almost all of that from ebay, two pieces at a time and shipping was brutal.

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The walnut parts of this cabinet came from my grandfather's walnut tree. The tree fell down around 2010 and laid on the ground for about five years. My uncle rented a bandsaw mill, and over the course of a few long weekends I helped him slab it out and sticker stack the entire tree. After air drying for a few years, I got a small load of boards to use as accent pieces on this cabinet. This walnut tree was very special to my family as my mother and her siblings grew up climbing and swinging from that tree, and my grandfather passed away shortly after that tree fell down. Here is the walnut, stacked on my dining room table, trying to reach equilibrium. Air dried wood moves to much for my taste.

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Cabinet carcass construction.
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I re-sawed my own veneers for the inside back panel and did a combination of book and slip matching to create a desirable pattern.

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Cornice detail.
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Doors glued up.
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Final assembly.
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Finishing took forever. The walnut pieces got a few coats of shellac to make the color pop. I then applied a couple seal coats of some Minwax water based poly to all the maple and filled the ambrosia beetle holes with Ebony Timbermate. I had to seal everything first or the Timbermate would stain the surrounding maple. Brad nail holes in all the trim were filled with walnut and maple colored Timbermate as well. Then I sanded the fill flush and most of the seal coats off before coating the entire thing with 3 coats of General Finishes satin water based poly. I have found that my wife has some allergic reactions to most oil based finishes (learned the hard way when I built our bed 11 years ago), and unless I want to quarantine a project for months while it fully off-gasses, water based works out better for something that lives in the house. Plus, for this wood, I wanted a finish that would remain as clear as possible.
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The back panel didn't fit as well as I would have liked so I hid the gaps with some walnut quarter round superglued right on top of the finished piece.
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That board I used on the cornice is amazing. I still have a few pieces of it left for a future project.
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Book matched inset panels for the lower doors.
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Today this cabinet is filled with our hand made pottery (my wife is a high school art teacher), some knick-knack junk, a bronze sculpture I made years ago and a couple bottles of bourbon for lack of a better hiding place.
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I guess this "guitar building" thread is digressing into "my life's body of work" but hopefully somebody enjoys this. This would probably be more at home on sawmillcreek.org
Beautiful work.
 

DaveR

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simply terrific great colors, wood choice, design and execution. please tell me there more.
Thanks a lot! I have a couple more Greene & Greene style pieces that I plan to cover in this thread.

The ambrosia cabinet is totally a New Yankee Workshop project. Very little originality in that one unfortunately, aside from wood choices, but it was a large, complex piece and I wanted to build up my skills. I designed and built my own bed a long time ago and while it's beautiful and functional, it lacks traditional jointery and is SUPER heavy because I over did it with the structure. The next big project was this Ambrosia cabinet about 8 years later and I was scared to try my own design.
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With each new project I'm starting to try something I've never done before to challenge myself. My next guitar will probably be something totally different than my first two for this very reason. I'm trying hard to design my own pieces now. Still taking influence from classic sources, but an overall original design is my goal.

I've actually spent most of this weekend designing a floor standing jewelry chest for my wife.
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howlermonkey

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Totally awesome!!!

I just got a hotone heart attack nano amp and had no cabinet.

I contemplated building a cab but I know how doing so with nothing but a skillsaw and a jigsaw turns out.

I literally stubbed my toe on an end table and decided that it would become my guitar cab and replaced the thin and paperlike back with thick plywood loaded with 2x10 in X configuration because of size restrictions. It's recessed and angled up about 10 degrees.

It is a simple table with an opening and a single shelf and I was able to retain most of the functionality and looks. You have to get down on hands and knees to see the speakers when it's not in use.

It's on wheels and doesn't rattle.
 

DaveR

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I literally stubbed my toe on an end table and decided that it would become my guitar cab and replaced the thin and paperlike back with thick plywood loaded with 2x10 in X configuration because of size restrictions. It's recessed and angled up about 10 degrees.

It is a simple table with an opening and a single shelf and I was able to retain most of the functionality and looks. You have to get down on hands and knees to see the speakers when it's not in use.
Sounds cool. I'd like an amp hidden away in a piece of living room furniture so I could just plug in, flip a switch and jam from the couch when I feel froggy. My wife probably wouldn't enjoy it much though... I don't get much playing time anymore unless I want to wear headphones and it's just not as much fun that way. On rare occasions I can get away with rattling the windows with a tube amp when my better half is in a good mood.
 

howlermonkey

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I have nicer end tables that are legit furniture with a drawer and the plan may be to do the same to one of them and just pull out the drawer when playing it which "ports" the cabinet.

Gonna try them with celestion Ten-30s.
 

DaveR

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Early in 2017 while I was getting close to finishing the china cabinet, my mom commented that she would like to have something made from the walnut from her Dad's tree. I was still at least a month away from being done with the big cabinet, when life interrupted me with a need for some surgery. In the 2 weeks leading up to it, I needed something small to occupy my hands and mind, so I put together this little box with some leftover pieces of the family walnut tree. My wife humored me and let me spend every night after work in the garage tinkering on this project.

The pile of walnut that I didn't use on the cabinet and a couple pieces of zebrawood I had sitting around that I decided to use for accents.
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I re-sawed this piece of crotch grain to use as a focal point on the piece.
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Green & Greene style proud finger joints.
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Greene & Greene style square plugs.
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Zebrawood splines for the faux breadboard end on the lid. I really like all the details of Greene & Greene. Everything is rounded or pillowed and there are so many different planes involved. No two surfaces align with each other.
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My very first attempt to inlay anything. This wound up being great practice for future fretboard work.
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I grain filled with walnut Timbermate and then hand rubbed 5 or 6 coats of antique oil followed by some paste wax. Took some photos in the early morning sun that really pop.
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I gave this box to my mother on her birthday a few months later.
 

DaveR

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Okay, last one, I promise. Then we'll get back on track with guitar stuff.

Later in 2017 I took a week's vacation from work and started a wood project, which is something I've done for the past 3 or 4 years (this year I made 2 guitar necks).

I'd been studying a lot of Greene & Greene and had recently built the box above, so I tried to incorporate that style into a much larger piece. My kids have entirely too many games and puzzles that were all over the house, so I made this large, wardrobe style cabinet for them to keep all that stuff in. The rule is, if a new game/puzzle doesn't fit in the cabinet, we get rid of an old one. So far they're doing pretty good with it, although my little one has already added some nice dents. I made most of it out of free wood that I was given. It's mostly red oak, but all the rails and stiles are some kind of cypress or pine. If it's pine it's nicer than any I've ever seen before, but it was really too soft for this project. The only wood I purchased was some oak plywood for shelves and panels, and the brightly colored veneers.

Door frames with "cloud lift" design elements.
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I bought some fancy hinges that open to around 170 degrees. I assumed my four year old would snap the doors right off if they only opened to 100 like typical kitchen cabinet hinges.
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Sides fully assembled. I should have dyed the inset panels first. Things have moved a bit over time, and there are some tiny gaps in the finish depending on the season.
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The sides had to be extra thick in the front to give the hinges somewhere sturdy to mount.
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Shelves are all integral to the structure of the cabinet. They can't be adjusted, but add a lot of stiffness to a fairly thin cabinet.
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I taught myself how to work with true veneers on this project. Any veneering I'd ever done in the past involved thick cut home made veneers, glued with Titebond. These bright colored exotics were super thin and required cold press glue and a homemade veneer press.
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Door assembly. The strips along the bottom panel really make this design amazing, but if I had it to do over, I would have skipped that part. It probably took more time to do those than the rest of it all put together. They're just 1/8" strips of oak glued down to a piece of oak plywood. They were cut to fit and glued on after the doors were fully assembled.
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Experimenting with different dyes. I used a combination of orange and brown dyes and top coated the whole thing in two coats of waterbased satin poly, same as the other cabinet. It lifted the orange dye a lot, probably because my dye was waterbased as well. It turned out okay, but i had to be really careful applying the clear coat.
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Hammering in square plugs with pillowed tops. Ebony is too expensive, so I made these from walnut, and dyed them black before installation. I made nearly 100 plugs. They're all decorative, they offer nothing structural. A dado shim and a soft mallet kept me from hammering the plugs in too deep.
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The muntins on the "windows" were superglued on top of the veneers after the whole project was complete.
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"Ebony" splines on a breadboard end.
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Some of the oak pieces really have nice quartersawn figuring.
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I don't like the pillar in the center, but it gives the doors something to stop against, and supports the shelves. I added it late in the design, because I assumed (rightfully so) that my four year old would wind up climbing the shelves like a ladder.
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Overall, I'm really pleased with how this one turned out and it set me on the path back to my guitars in a way. The complexity really upped my woodworking skills and confidence. I'm also getting faster. This project only took 3 months of nights & weekends. I still could never make money at this because I'm too slow, but that's not the point. I finished it exactly one year ago. Brought it in the house on New Year's Day 2018 if I remember correctly.
 
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w666

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Can you reveal what stain/finish combination you used? The oak looks rich, as if properly "fumed".
 

DaveR

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Can you reveal what stain/finish combination you used? The oak looks rich, as if properly "fumed".
I used general finishes water based dye stains. 2 parts orange to 1 part med brown. That recipe is intended to be used on Mahogany to achieve the classic Greene & Greene color without the nasty toxic junk they used 100 years ago. It worked out well on the oak too.

The clear coat was 2-3 coats of General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat. It's a lot pricier than Minwax waterbased poly, but performs much better. Dries super fast though. Just brush it on and leave it alone. Brush strokes level out really well. Supposedly it's also easy to spray, but I've never done it.
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fatdaddypreacher

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very very nice. as far as these non guitar pics go, let the masses suffer a while, as you indulge this old man. who do they think they are anyway. absolutely terrific work. my response to those who asked me why i thought i could build a guitar was....hey, it's just a piece of furniture with strings on it, ain't it? just tell the others you haven't put strings on your projects yet.

again...i must say....extraordinarily fine work.
 

Alexb1090

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I know nothing about woodwork but I’ve just sat reading this for the last 20 minutes so I wouldn’t worry
 

DaveR

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very very nice. as far as these non guitar pics go, let the masses suffer a while, as you indulge this old man. who do they think they are anyway. absolutely terrific work. my response to those who asked me why i thought i could build a guitar was....hey, it's just a piece of furniture with strings on it, ain't it? just tell the others you haven't put strings on your projects yet.

again...i must say....extraordinarily fine work.
Thanks for the kind words. It means a lot.
 

DaveR

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Now I'm finally going to get back to writing about the guitars. After taking a 4 year hiatus from guitars, I finally got back to them this past summer. I had just finished remodeling my wife's bathroom and wound up busting a rib. I'm the kind of guy who always needs a project to work on and finds it very hard to just "take it easy". I kept thinking, what kind of project can I do with a busted rib that won't be back breaking labor? Then I remembered my guitars, which had a lot of the work already done, so I dove back into them (not realizing how bad it would hurt my ribs to carve a top or sand a radius into a fretboard, but I digress...)

As I got back into the project, I faced a big problem that presented itself when I cut the bodies out 4 years prior and didn't know how to fix at the time.

Hard to see in this pic but there's a wormhole along the bottom edge.
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And an even worse wormhole along the top edge in the waist area. I've never seen anything like it. It's almost like it's a filled worm hole, but I bought this lumber in a rough cut state and didn't see any problems until I milled it and cut the body shape out.
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This was the first big hurdle I faced stepping back to the project. I had spent four years deciding that I could NOT live with it as is. Unlike the wormholes in the Ambrosia top, these are not attractive. I first tried spindle sanding past the blemish only to reveal even more of it. I quickly realized the guitar was going to get super skinny before I could sand it out. On the smaller blemish on the lower bout, I tried drilling a round hole and making a plug to fit. Lacking a great way to clamp the guitar in the drill press at the time, my forstner bit wandered around and the hole came out less than round. Definitely not good enough to make a tight fit with a plug.
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I wound up making a complex jig to hold my router level along the edge of the guitar body.
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This is the hole I routed along the bottom edge. I squared up the corners with a sharp chisel and hand cut a block with a decent grain match to fill the space. I even made a half circle plug to fill the little spot in the back binding channel from my ill fated forstner bit screw up.
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This was the only combination of router bits and bearings I had that would ride in the existing binding channel and flush trim along the body. It worked out fine on this patch, which I eventually covered with the output jack.
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Here is the edge of the upper bout after routing out the worm hole. You can see some of the chambering revealed here. I thought that a seam parallel with the neck and main body seam (it was a two piece body) would be less noticeable than a small patch right along the top edge.
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I was EXTREMELY lucky in finding a patch with matching grain lines from the few offcuts of this mahogany body blank that I still have sitting around. Sometimes it pays to keep every scrap of wood.
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I made a complicated jig to clamp and glue this block in place and didn't take any pics.
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Then I had another little mistake while trying to rout along the body. Not sure if it was the cheap router bit or just this piece of mahogany, but it got a little "explody" when I crossed the grain. If I remember right, I even tried shimming the bearing with tape, and climb cutting, but it didn't matter. I heard it happen. You know that awful tearout sound. Yuck.
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Fortunately it was less deep than it looked. Here it is halfway sanded out.
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And all the way sanded out. I sanded off the whole binding channel, but not much else. The guitar wound up about 1/16" skinnier on one side, but no harm no foul, nobody can tell.
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The color isn't as good a match as I would like, but the growth rings line up perfectly. The glue joint where it meets the top and back of the guitar isn't perfect, but that will be covered with binding.
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After sanding I used a rabbeting bit in the router table to cut the top and bottom binding channels again.
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This Jawhorse served as my luthier vise before I bought the Stewmac vice. I probably won't use it for guitar stuff any more, but it worked adequately at the time.
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After tackling this problem, the whole project started to come together and became easier.
 
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DaveR

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Still wrapping up mistakes from the past...

I mentioned previously that I cut the binding channel on the router table. The binding channel on the double cut doesn't follow the contours of the top. It stays parallel to the plane of the back of the guitar and has extra tall binding in the cutaways. It's a heck of a lot easier than the floating binding jig (which I used later on the LP) but one has to be totally done cutting the binding channel BEFORE carving the top, which probably isn't the best idea, because I had to be super careful carving along the edges.

Terrified of getting tearout on the maple top, I added several strips of masking tape to the bearing on the bit, to take a shallower bite. I removed one strip at a time and made several passes. Maybe not necessary, but the resulting cut was very clean because I was only barely grazing the wood with each pass.
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I had taped off the fret boards to lay out my inlays 4 years prior, and then set them on a high shelf in my garage. That yellow masking tape became one with the wood over time. It took a ton of scrubbing with acetone just to get them to a non-sticky state. Note to self: don't leave tape on ANYTHING for more than a few days.
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I had originally planned on using stew-mac hotrods on these necks, and that was what I had sized the truss rod routes and access cavities for. Over the four year gap, I got it in my head that I wanted to do one way truss rods instead, which would require filling and re-cutting the slots. The access cavities had been cut with a round nose bit and did not have a flat edge needed for a traditional washer. I squared up the edges with a chisel and plugged them with little blocks.
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On the 17 degree LP headstock I was able to cut a new access cavity with a forstner bit in my drill press.
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This worked out nicely.
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On the double cut with a shallower 12 degree headstock, the forstner bit wasn't long enough so I tried to use a long shank spade bit. This did not turn out well. The bit caught about half way down and jerked the neck out of my clamping rig.

I trimmed off the ragged excess with hand tools.
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I used a barrel shaped grinding burr in my die grinder to rough in the cavity and smoothed it out by hand with the smallest sanding drums from my spindle sander. Chisels took care of the rest. It's not perfect, but I can live with it. Next time I do something like this, I'll just pony up the cash for a spot facer I think.
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I then plugged the entire truss rod channel with thin strips of mahogany, planed them down flush, and cut the truss rod channels to the right size, angle and depth with my table saw. Didn't take any pics of that step. Since one of the necks had ears glued on already, I had to make a goofy sled to be able to run that neck along the table saw fence. Another lesson in "order of operations".

Finally installed the truss rods. I used a few dabs of silicone just in case of rattles, but they fit pretty snugly so that was probably overkill. I think I cut the rods a little bit too long. I have a fair bit of threads showing past the acorn nut when tightened properly. It's not hurting anything, and I guess it's better to be too long than too short.
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Maple filler strips glued in.
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Planed down flush with a block plane. Lovely curls.
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After all this trouble to go back to one way truss rods, when I finally assembled the guitars I had some problems with the necks not having enough relief (which I'll cover later). Two-way rods would have come in really handy and several people suggested that it was silly to use a one way rod, since I'm not going for historical accuracy. I think they were right, and I doubt I'll use one way rods on future builds. I don't like how tall the hotrods are, however, so I'll probably try to source shallower two way rods.
 

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One more mistake from the past to clean up and then it's on to fresh building...

When I trimmed my Macassar Ebony board to length 4 years ago, I cut it on the table saw, instead of just using my fret slotting miter box. I'm not sure what I was thinking back then or what went wrong, but the cut was sloppy, crooked and slightly short. I didn't want to have any gap at the nut end so I set about "extending" the board. I have lots of other fret boards, but this board is exceptionally good looking and I hated to just throw it out.

I knocked together a little jig with some scraps of oak, and taped off the inside of the jig before inserting the fretboard. I mixed up some epoxy and sawdust and filled the gap.
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Fresh out of the jig. Forgot to tape off the sides.
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Sanded down flush. The jig added a lot more than I needed, so I could come back and trim to proper length.
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Trimmed to final length with my fret slotting miter box.
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I didn't add much, slightly over 1/32" on the bass side and maybe 1/64" at the treble side, but now the repair is pretty much invisible and there's no gap at the nut.
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DaveR

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Finally I'm done with damage control and on to some new work!

I used my angled router planing jig to cut in the pickup plane. The neck plane had been cut years prior. I don't remember the pickup plane angle, but I mostly followed the Bartlett plans and it all worked out. The other guitar (double cut) has no pickup plane, just a shallow neck plane (I think it was 3 degrees). This all came from measuring my Hamer.

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On to one of the most intimidating aspects of the build, carving the top. It actually wound up being really enjoyable. I've never really done much wood carving and I'm discovering how fun it can be. I'm trying to incorporate wood carving into my next furniture project to keep working on my skills.

I used the biggest gouge I own to knock off the corners of the steps that were left behind from cutting the topography lines with a router and templates. The gouge I have (brown handle in the photo) is NOT large enough for this and the palm of my pushing hand paid the price in blisters. The next time I carve a top, I'm going to buy a much bigger gouge and probably use a mallet.
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I started smoothing it out with a gooseneck scraper and a Stewmac ultimate scraper.
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After random orbit sanding with 60 grit.
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A quick wipe down with naptha revealed not only the lovely figure, but areas of the carve that still needed a lot of work.
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It's pretty close. Not bad considering this is my first attempt. I continued to scrape and refine this top for days after this, but visually it didn't change much. I added some more recurve, then wound up taking it back out. My final carve is much more pronounced than a modern LP, but the belly bulge and recurve is less distinct than some of the more extreme examples I've seen on this forum. I like the shape, and everybody who sees it can't seem to resist caressing the top like it's a woman's hip, so I must be doing something right.
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Repeated the process on the double cut (even though this one was supposed to be the sacrificial guinea pig.)
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Taking @Freddy G 's advice and using a single source of light to cast dramatic shadows and highlight areas of the carve that still need work. I had the garage door halfway up because it was awfully hot that day, but I refined them more in a dark room on a cooler day.
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I applied a coat or two of shellac as a sealer on the ambrosia top and headstock veneer.
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Filled the worm holes with ebony Timbermate. Then sanded and scraped it all flush. Shellac doesn't seem to sand well, so I mostly scraped it off with my gooseneck scraper and then sanded the whole top again to remove scraper marks.
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bcguitars74

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Loving that ambrosia top, I used that on my build as well! Beautiful.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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its remarkable of how similar our approach and style is. i too am loving that ambrosia. i have a little different top on one i hope to make progress on in the near future. myrtlewood. i like different every now and again. nice work.
 

DaveR

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its remarkable of how similar our approach and style is.
Does that mean you screw up all the time and think about throwing in the towel constantly? Haha just kidding.

I’ve admired your contributions to this forum for years and I learned everything about making guitars here, so I’m sure something you showed or said wound up being applied in my builds.
 




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