...after nine or so years doing repairs, I'm finally going to build a steel string.  I bought Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology and it's a great reference.  I'm going to try to do the whole guitar without power tools, including the rosette and binding.

But already I've hit a snag.  The neck joint described in the book is a pinned mortise and tenon, which I have no interest in doing.  I'd like to carve a traditional dovetail by hand.  Also, the book eschews forms for the sides, which I'm worried about because it seems like everybody uses them, and I'd like to have the option of building more than one guitar with the same sides.

My questions are, is there a good reference that shows how to hand-carve a dovetail?  Again, I don't want to use the router jig thingy.

Is there a good guitarmaking book that uses side-molds?  Should I even bother with them?

I'm really excited about this!  Wish me luck!

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I studied with William Cumpiano and his partner Harry Becker in Mass. and I can tell you that even he doesn't use the pinned M/T joint anymore, nor does he use a dovetail. This link: explains his process. It's a bolt-on neck that is much easier to achieve than a dovetail without any loss of strength. I would highly recommend that. I've built a few guitars (I mostly repair and restore) and have always used the "free-assembly" method Cumpiano uses (no molds). You have the option of building as many guitars as you like with the same size, or's free assembly. It does take a little extra to learn to "rope" the guitar during final assembly, but if you're interested in hand-tools and traditional "old world" methods, roping is as old world as it gets.
Thank you so much for the link! I've been considering doing a Collings-style joint, like this:

They look pretty similar.
Patrick James Eggle uses this on his 'Faith' brand guitars, he sent me the picture when I asked about his neck joint, might be an option for you
Jonathan Kinkead, has a build your own acoustic guitar,with a full size plans
Hand carving a dovetail is a really hard to master technique. You should consider another option if you're not trained to it.
Free hand cutting a dovetail joint isn't that hard if you take your time.All it requires is a quality back cutting/dovetail saw. If you lay everything out from your center line and cut to the edge of your lines, leaving just the line itself to be trimmed with a sharp chisel, it will go well. You can cut the dovetail pocket in the head block all the way through the block, trim off the bottom portion that will be below the dovetail tenon and glue a solid piece back in its place. The only thing is if you cut the pocket this way,( before gluing the block in place) you must be sure to glue the block to your sides exactly 90 degrees to the top. I've only done this once, but I had a joint tight enough that I strung up the archtop guitar and let the to be owner play it 3 hours before I ever glued the neck in place. I use a router after body assembly because its easier and quicker for me now. But it was a very satisfying feeling doing it without power tools. If I had the extra time, I would not use power tools. I do like side forms. This keeps my sides in shape if I get side tracked for a while with other projects.
Here is the guitar I was referring to.

It doesn't do it justuce. I actually has a very deep recurve this angle doesn't show.
As usually, a nice looking guitar, David.

Personally, I would rather cut a tenon than a dove tail. I think it easier to do and gives a stronger heel for a bolt on neck. A dove tail is a very strong joint but it's also pretty easy to hose it up and it's a lot harder to correct a bad fit in a dove tail than it is in a tenon.

That said, an archtop practically requires a dove tail since bolting on the neck requires even more complexity. In essence, I think there is a place for both.



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