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A guitar question

Hello,
My name is Ryan and I want to build a guitar. I have some questions about the design of an acoustic. Is it possible to make the body of an acoustic by taking a solid block of wood, cutting it into an acoustic shape and hollowing out the inside? Aside from the impractical nature of the process, would it create a structurally stable, decent sounding guitar body?
Thank you,
Ryan
   
Ryan,
There are many reasons that what you propose is not the best way to make a guitar.

            1) Wood is the strongest for its weight if it is quarter sawn. Looking at the end of a log, the annual rings make concentric circles. If you cut out a pie wedge of the log you have a board with pieces of annual ring standing vertically across the end of the board. You can plane that board very thin and bend it into guitar parts. Carving the whole guitar out of one block of wood would mean that most of the surfaces would not be quarter sawn.

            2) It would take a huge block of wood to make a dreadnaught, most of which would be wasted.

            3) Various spruces make the best guitar tops, but they make lousy backs and sides. Various hardwoods make the best backs and sides, but they make lousy tops. To fit your premise, you would have to choose a huge block of wood, which would, by definition be the wrong block for one of the needed functions.

            4) It would take some very high tech tools and jigging, and a lot of power, to cut the inside of the block to simulate the smooth surfaces of the inside of a guitar. A guitar side is less than 1/8 of an inch thick. A tool that could work through the sound hole to precision cut the inside of a guitar, and suck out the chips so it could keep working, would cost way more than a side bender. 

            Rigel makes mandolins with a solid carved back and sides and a traditional spruce top. They sound fine. So, your idea is not unprecedented. It has a flat back and 1/2" thick sides. The modern acoustic guitar is the culmination of centuries of experimentation. Wood bending is one of many guitar making skills that can worry a novice luthier, and inspire a search for an alternate path. Just get a bending iron and start practicing on scraps. My advice, for your first few instruments, is to copy a great guitar. Don't question the traditional techniques until you thoroughly understand them. Then, question them long and hard. Try starting with a kit. There are many good kits on the market. The kit makers have done most of the work that can derail a young luthier, fret slotting, side bending, etc.
 
Steve Mason




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