A bit more than making a new bridge

This is my dad’s first and, if I’m not mistaken, only guitar.


Its a Harmony archtop, probably from the mid 50’s.  Dad just told me he got it in third grade.  This has been moved around a bunch.  I had it for a few years and most recently my sister had it.  I just got it back with the intention of making a new bridge for it and cleaning it up a bit.  Turns out that it needed much more.

The neck dovetail was pulling out, which cracked the side.  I later found out it cracked the neck block as well.


So I decided to see what I could do with it, both for experience, and so it was playable and not destined for the trash.  This was a first for me.  He’s what I did, in pictures:

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Well, that was exciting.  I used hot hide glue for all repairs.  I put the neck back on.  Nice and straight.

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Now on to making the new bridge, in pictures:

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The finish was pretty rough.  I could have spent a ton of time on it or even refinished it.  Not being a valuable instrument, I just did some minor touch ups.

It plays much better then it ever did.  The ridiculously high action that I always remembered is gone and it plays and sounds pretty well.

Glad I gave that a shot.

Hey, first steel string… mit neck!

I’ve been slowly shaping necks.  Got the first one to where I think its a good shape.  I have a hard time telling on neck shape as I’m not much of a guitar player… hell, I don’t even own a real steel string guitar.


Sanded both the body and the neck, crossed my fingers and glued it on.  Overall I’m fairly happy.


There are a few things I’d like to improve as I progress.  Of course, I noticed spots that needed more sanding as soon as I looked at it in a different light.




While the hot hide glue was heated up, I glued the fretboard on the third neck.  The second guitar is pretty close to being ready for assembly too.  Just a bit more sanding on both pieces.

I’m going to stain parts of both of the flamed maple guitars.  Hope to start that soon.  I have a few steps before I can seal with shellac.  Then the frets, then the finish.

I will do my best to stay away from any intended or unintended sir-mix-alot reference in this post. Wish me luck…

Lets just say that my first steel string has a rear exterior.  

Or as some more experienced than myself would say, “its a box”.

I spared you the pics of bracing the back.  Looks very similar to how the front is done, just less complicated.  The center strip goes on first, in this case redwood.  For strength, the grain in the center strip is perpendicular to the grain in the back, which would be impossible with a single piece.  So the center strip is made of multiple short pieces with the seams strategically placed where the back braces cross.  Seems logical to put them on after the braces, right?  Nope, If you want them perfectly straight, its easiest to put them on first, aligned with a straightedge, then notch and chisel out the sections where the braces cross.  Back braces are planed to a very slight arch and this time I glued them up with a stiff piece of foam as a backer so it would flex to the brace contour.

The rim is sanded flat on a big MDF board with sandpaper attached.  Front on these is flat, the back is at an angle, but still sanded flat.  Lots of guitars are sanded to a radius, typically 15’ on the back and 28’ on the front.  This Gibson style is a bit older school and there is minimal doming, which is made simply by the arching of the braces alone.   The rim (sides) are then notched to fit the bracing.  This is also done for the front prior to glue up.

Last glimpse inside the first Gibson OO.

Last glimpse inside the first Gibson OO.

Glued this up on a work board.  Didn’t have the balls to use hot hide glue. I think I need much more experience before I’d feel confident to do a large glue up like this with hot hide glue.  Titebond for the front and the back, I say!  Used clamps on the heel and tail block.  Roped the rest of it down.  I still think that roping is one of the best ways to get even pressure all the way around, and I get a kick out of doing it.

I did sign and date the inside under the soundboard, as this is the last time that’s possible.  No pic of that.  Nobody needs to see my chicken scratch.

All wrapped up like a xmas present.  I’ll open it tomorrow.  The others just need the back braces carved and the rim prepared and I can glue those up.

guitar in bondage



Sides are caught up to each other…

Second set for the GIbson OOs got its heel and tail blocks, kerfing on the front, a taper on the back, and kerfing on the back… just like the first one.  I kind of had to figure out how to do the taper.  I rough marked it based on depths on the plan, then rough cut, used a piece of MDF on top and tweaked with the plane until it sat flat.


On both, I planed the basswood and cedar even with the sides, making some interesting shavings in the process.

fun shavings

Tried to blend the cedar to match the profile of the basswood on the inside.  Just used a knife so far.  I can clean them up a bit with a scraper and sandpaper.


Still need to add side bracing, which I still need to make.  I’ll glue them next time I need to heat up the hide glue.

Gibson OO twin sides

Not sure what I want to start next.  Could start thicknessing the backs, work on the necks?  I have a set of cherry, plus enough other materials and I’m seriously considering making a third while I’m at it?

Kerfing- the verb

Did a bit more today.  Slept till 9:00 which is surprisingly late for me, but I’ve been sleeping poorly for the past few nights.  Early mornings are my most productive time, but I was still able to accomplish some things.  Helped that it was super hot out and I didn’t even want to walk outside.

Trimmed up both sided of the body.  Final shaped my heel and tail blocks. Then I glued them on.  I’m trying to use as much hot hide glue this time as I can.  I was a bit worried as I’ve never really used it before.  Seems to be OK despite my wavering attitude about it over the course of the day.

HIde glue initiation


Gibson OO sides

Planed down and notched my basswood kerfing strips.  I decided to add a thin reinforcement band on the inside.  This is fairly common now, but definitely a departure from the 1937 plan.  Found some cedar strips that were about the right height so I cut them to size.  Cedar was not my original plan, but it was there, and I think a bit of contrast from the all light wood interior will be nice. Plus it will make the guitar smell really good.

I almost talked myself out of hide glue for the kerfing, but decided to go for it.  Gluing is definitely a much different experience.  You have to be fast!  But you don’t need to wait long till it sets up.  Glued my kerfing strips on.  While they set up I prebent the cedar, which burns really quickly.  Had to scrape off a lot of burn marks.  Then I glued up the cedar strips.


Pulled off the high tech clamps and will let it sit overnight.  I need to clean up the top with a plane and I’ll probably profile the cedar to a slight taper.

Soundboard kerfing

Next I move the form to the other side, plane the slope on the back and do the same kerfing, etc… on the other side.