By Jean-Pierre Laplante
Photo illustrated step-by-step instructions for building a fine laminated archtop guitar.
The laminated archtop guitar is a great-sounding instrument for lots of playing styles—look no further than Gibson for proof. Using pre-arched and pre-bent laminates from the suppliers listed in this book gives the first-time archtop builder a big head start. Luthier J.P. Laplante's new step-by-step book is a straightforward guide to all the other construction details. From sketching a plan to stringing up the finished guitar, the entire process is meticulously photographed with many modern work-saving tools shown in use. You'll even learn a few custom touches like how to make a wooden tailpiece, a fingerrest, and pickup mounting rings. 183 pages, softcover.
Over 300 color photos capture the details of building three similar archtop guitars. Preview the book and watch the guitars being played in this video from J.P. Laplante.
From author J.P. Laplante:
"Building and archtop guitar can be a pretty intimidating project, but it becomes much less so if you have access to some kind of step-by-step, hands-on approach and this is what this book is all about—guiding you one step at a time throughout the process—from the very early planning stage to the very final setup.
"Using pressed laminate plates will save you a lot of time, and contrary to what some people would believe, they do not yield in anyway to inferior instruments. Most archtop players prefer to use laminated instruments for stage work as they're much more stable to seasonal changes and much less sensitive to feedback than carved instruments."
Contents in brief:
Chapter 1: The body mold • Using pre-arched laminates
Chapter 2: Using pre-bent sides • Constructing the rim
Chapter 3: Gluing the back to the sides
Chapter 4: Routing soundholes and pickup cavities
Chapter 5: Bracing the top
Chapter 6: Gluing the top to the sides
Chapter 7: Cutting the body mortise
Chapter 8: Adding pickup cutout "wings" and control holes
Chapter 9: Routing and installing body bindings
Chapter 10: Laminating a neck • Installing a truss rod • Cutting the tenon • Shaping and veneering the headstock • Drilling tuner holes • Making and fitting a fingerboard extension • Gluing a pre-slotted fingerboard • Binding the neck • Installing inlays • Installing frets • Shaping the back of the neck • Gluing the neck to the body
Chapter 11: Making a wooden tailpiece, pickup mounting rings and fingerrest
Chapter 12: Preparation for finishing • Fitting the bridge base
Chapter 13: Spray equipment • Spraying, sanding, coloring and buffing the finish • Dressing the frets
Chapter 14: Installing the pickups, controls and wiring
Chapter 15: Stringing and final setup
Photo Gallery of Laplante archtop guitars
Sources of supplies
183 pages, softcover, with over 300 color photographs
Frequently Asked Questions:
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Frequently Asked Questions
What tuners will fit my guitar?
This can be difficult to answer without inspecting the instrument. Many manufacturers use a variety of different tuners on their guitars, sometimes within the same model run. The technical specifications of the tuners we stock can be found online and in our catalog. We suggest comparing your existing machines and peghole dimensions to our listed specs to help determine the best replacement.
What specific motor do we recommend for the Buffing Arbor?
To power our Buffing Arbor we recommend a 1/3 to 1/2-horsepower motor with a 2" pulley that runs at 1725 rpm. Dayton Motors model 3K772 is a common motor that is available from a number of suppliers.
Can I build a left-handed instrument from your guitar kits?
Though our guitar kits are intended for right-handed players, the soundboard bracing patterns can be reversed to build a left-handed instrument. You can make a left-handed bridge from scratch using one of our bridge blanks.
What nut files do you recommend for my guitar?
Choose nut slotting files that are the same size or no more that a few thousands larger than your individual string gauges.
A smaller file can also be rocked side-to-side to widen a slot to the desired size. For example, you can cut a .036" slot with a .035" file by moving it around a bit.
What should I use to slot my Tune-o-matic saddles?
Nut slotting files work great for saddles. Simply use the same techniques you'd use for nut slotting. After filing to the desired depth, we suggest polishing the slot with Mitchell's Abrasive Cord to remove file marks and burrs.
Will your attachments for Dremel fit my generic brand or other moto-type tool?
If your tool has a removable nosepiece with a 3/4-12 thread, it should work with our attachments.
Which size truss rod wrench do I need?
Unfortunately, not all instrument makers provide this information, and it's not uncommon for companies to switch rods between production runs or models. There are a few standard rod sizes, however:
Gibson guitars, mandolins and banjos (American made) have a 5/16" adjustment nut. Use a 5/16" hex wrench. This measurement also comes in a pocket-size wrench.
Fender guitars and basses (American made) commonly have a 1/8" Allen nut. This includes the bullet adjustment nut, the American Standards, and most models made in the USA with a peghead-adjustable truss rod. Use a 1/8" Allen wrench.
For Fender vintage-style heel-adjustable "X" nut, use a flat blade wrench that is a specially made Truss Rod Wrench for Fender.
Martin guitars (American made) have a 5mm Allen nut and would use an angled wrench to reach the neck heel through the soundhole. Use our Soundhole Truss Rod Wrench.
Taylor guitars have a 1/4" hex nut. Use a 1/4" hex wrench. This measurement also comes in a pocket-size wrench.
Necks through StewMac have a 4mm Allen nut. Use a 4mm Allen wrench for these necks:
Through-body Guitar Neck
22-Fret Blank-peghead Guitar Necks
Replacement Neck for Strat
Replacement Neck for Tele
Replacement Neck for Fender Bass
Can I make my own custom-scale fretboards?
You can make your own fretboard using our miter box and saw, and a blank fretboard.
Do you stock gold powder for Goldtop guitar finishes?
No. It's manufactured by the Crescent Bronze Powder Company in Chicago, IL. Their product number is 256, although Dan Erlewine sometimes uses 255 depending on the instrument.
Can you ship nitrocellulose lacquer outside the USA or recommend a source?
We cannot ship nitrocellulose lacquer outside of the USA, and we don't have an overseas source to recommend to you. An internet search should help you find a supplier in your area.
However, we'd like to recommend our Target Waterbase Spraying Lacquer, which we can ship internationally. It is non-flammable, and is available as a Brushing Varnish. It is formulated to work with ColorTone pigments and liquid stains.
I just finished a bolt-on neck with a maple fretboard. I read online that I should spray the lacquer directly on the frets, so that's what I did. How do I remove the lacquer from the frets?
Don't use any kind of solvent to remove lacquer overspray from frets, or you'll damage the fretboard finish. Instead, the finish can be carefully scraped off. Using a nut slotting file of the appropriate gauge, you can make a custom scraper using a nail, X-acto blade, or something similar.
Dan Erlewine uses a 16-penny nail. He simply files a notch in the nailhead, just deep and wide enough to fit over the fret without touching the fretboard. Using an X-acto knife, he carefully scores the lacquer on both sides of the fret to prevent unwanted finish chipping. He then slowly scrapes the lacquer off of the fret with the slotted nailhead.
Can I replace a modern Fender American Standard Tele bridge with a vintage style 3-saddle bridge without modifications?
Installation of a Traditional Bridge for Tele on an American Standard model requires additional drilling. The mounting screws on the vintage models are in a different location. The string mounting holes match, however.
How do I tell the difference between the gauges on my Double-edge Nut File, they're not marked.
We recommend that you make a cut on a scrap piece of bone or wood with both sides of the Double-edge Nut File, then measure the width of each cut with feeler gauges to determine which side is which. Guitar strings of known gauges will also work as measuring tools in a pinch.
Once you have determined the proper edge, mark the file accordingly with a permanent marker.
I'm interested in getting into guitar building and repair. Do you recommend any specific books or DVDs?
We offer a wide variety of books and DVDs that cover repair and building procedures, from beginning to advanced, as well as specific areas such as fretting and finishing. Outstanding resources for general information include the Guitar Player Repair Guide and Dan Erlewine's Maintenance & Setup DVDs. A variety of excellent books are also available for building a complete guitar.
I don't have any experience with this type of work, do you think I could fix my...?
Take your instrument to a reputable local repair shop for an evaluation. That way, you can determine if you're comfortable doing the repair yourself, or letting a professional do it.
Is a product safe if it carries a Proposition 65 warning?
The fact that a product bears a Proposition 65 warning does not mean by itself that the product is unsafe.
You could think of Proposition 65 more as a "right to know" law than a pure product safety law. Voters who approved Proposition 65 in 1986 intended that Californians should have a right to know when they may be exposed to chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm. That way, consumers and their families can decide on their own if they want to purchase and/or use the product.
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