Just build the damn thing

Another guitar building installment. I took some early vacation time today and went back to working on guitar #002. It’s time to start fitting the top and back plates to the sides, and that entails some fine adjustments with sandpaper and block plane to get the fit just right. The top and back are both slightly arched, so their intersections with the sides do not form simple planes.

Another design decision is whether to chisel out little notches in the lining to hold the ends of the transverse braces of the top. The top has a couple of main “bars” running underneath for structural strength. There is some debate about whether those bars should terminate by being glued directly into the side linings, or whether they should terminate just shy so that the top is held to the sides only by the top material all the way around. The debate has to do with acoustic theory – is it better to leave the top free to vibrate all around its perimeter (like a speaker cone mounted in a flexible rubber ring), or to anchor it in place by the transverse braces and transmit some of that vibration into the sides and back directly? Different builders take different approaches.

Well, I ended up munching a bit of the lining when I was attempting to cut out a pocket for the brace, and that got me thinking about whether I wanted to bother cutting these pockets or just leave the braces free. That led to feeling a bit overwhelmed at having to review the literature I could get my hands on regarding the acoustic advantages of either method, and…

Stop. Just stop.

Larry, just build the damn thing. It’s guitar #002 – you’re still figuring out where all the tricky spots are in this process. Yeah, you found one. Go the easy route for now (don’t integrate the braces with the sides) – it’ll probably sound fine. And if not, try anchoring the braces in build #003 or #004. You know there will be others.

I’ve mentioned in the past a retired hand surgeon advising me that building a guitar was like surgery – if you plan it out and execute each move carefully, it will probably come out okay. Well, surgeons don’t start in on live patients until they’ve had plenty of practice on, I suppose, other things (cadavers? animals?). I need to start treating #002 more as a learning experience and less as a masterpiece (which I already know in advance it won’t be, but I can’t let go of that striving for perfection in this case).

My partner was surprised when I told her about this – she doesn’t see this sense of perfectionism or “obsessiveness” (her word) in my other activities. I’m really trying to do this guitar differently than a lot of my other projects – but I may be taking it a bit too far. I’m losing the joy in the creative process by worrying over details that in the end are going to be swamped by other variables I can’t (yet) easily control for.

I’m glad to have a few days off to get my hands back in the game. I’ll fix the side lining and tomorrow will start trimming back the braces along the top and back.

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