Oh Learned Luthiers:

I now have my wood and I'm ready to start my first guitar, but already I'm wondering if I bit off more than I can chew. I have Engelman Spruce for the top, and Indian Rosewood for the back and sides, but I'm a little surprised at how thick they are in their rough form. The sides and back are about 1/4" thick. I understand the sides need to get down to about .100" !

I don't have a planner or a thickness sander. Are there a tricks to accomplish this, or do I need to seek the services of a woodworking shop?

Or should I have just bought them pre-sanded from Stew-Mac for twice the price?


Doug Collins

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Hi Doug.
There are guitar builders everywhere!
Someone can help you get your wood down.
Where are you located?
Hi David,

I'm in Surrey, BC (Vancouver, Canada area). I do know one other builder in town, but I don't know if he's got a thickness sander. I will contact the wood supplier and see if he can direct me to someone.

I wonder if you can rent a thickness sander? It is a sander I want, isn't it? - not a planner.


Doug Collins
Hi Doug,
If you know someone with a portable planer, they may be able to help you. Most portable planers have a small diameter planer head that allows thinner stuff to be planed safely. The other option is lightly glue the wood to a flat piece of material (mcp , plywood, mdf) and run it through the planer.
With good technique you can also thickness your wood with a beltsander, but that is a bit more tricky.
Many cabinet shops have thickness sanders and could do the job for you. They are also a good source for scraps for making jigs, and "shorts" - short pieces of hardwoods that might be big enough for a guitar neck, but are too short for the lumber rack and wind up in the dumpster. Try to talk to the kid that sweeps the floor rather than bother the guy who owns the shop.
That's good advice, Clay. I haven't bought material for the neck yet, so I'll keep my eyes open.


Doug Collins
Hey doug-- If you are any good at hand tools then you can do the same thing that I did when I sized the first top that I made for a flat top..
I got a piece of plywood larger than the top and put a piece of 1/4 inch plywood along one edge of it.. then used a rather large jack plane that I have and plained it diagionally across the grain until I got the thickness that I wanted -- then sanded it to the proper thickness....
I need to tell you right off tho top though-- it aint no walk in the park and if you arnt careful then you will take too much material off before you know it ...
hope this is clearer than mudd and it will help you out-- I know that guitar making can be verry rewarding if you take your time and do a good job...
Good luck with your project :)
P.S. if you go to you can buy the material that you need already sized.....
Hi Donald,

I'm not quite following. What does the 1/4" piece of plywood do? Do it just hold the wood in place, or does it somehow guide the thickness process?

And yes, I was going to buy the pre-fab wood from Stew-Mac, but felt that would take the sport out of it.

Thanks for your help,

Doug Collins
Hey Doug-- your a man after me own heart-- love your attatude--
The piece of 1/4 inch plywood is fastened to the other piece of plywood (3/4 inch thick maby?) to keep it from getting away from you :(
you should also put the 2 halves of the top or back together before you start the process of getting the thickness that youy want--- by the way-- the top and back should be about 3 mm
or 110 thousands thick to finish-- the sides should be about 100 thousands-- ok???

Sorry, like my wood, I'm a little thick. I'm not quite getting it. The 1/4" plywood is a stop for your work piece - keeps it in place as you plan against it, right? But doesn't your plane bump into the 1/4" plywood as you get the wood down to thickness?


Doug Collins
Hey Doug--If you take a piece of 3/4 inch plywood, say 20 inch by 24 inch and attach a piece of 1/4 inch plywood, bout 3/4 inch wide by 24 inch long to the piece of 3/4 inch plywood, the top that you are sizing wont push away from you. You will need to turn the top 180 degrees every once in a while to keep it uniform.. OK?
wish I had a pic of what Im talking about because a pic is worth a thousand words.. Sorry :(

I think you're only at about 500 words so far, but I think I finally get the picture. Too bad I don't have a jack plane!

I'm going to check into finding access to a thickness planner somewhere. I like Jim's idea to look for a woodworker's co-op. If I can't find one, maybe I'll start one up. Either that or I'll shave it down to size with a 3/4" chisel and wooden mallot - which ever is more challenging.

Thanks for taking the time to respond - If I get my hands on jack plane I'll give it a try.


Doug Collins
Hi Doug-- Maby an earler sugestion of finding a cabinet shop to do what you need to do is the best thing for now--given that you dont have the resorces at hand-- :(
Best to you on your project and by all means keep us posted as to your outcome -- OK??
I'd be a bit hesitant to use a power planer because of the potential for chip-out. Most cabinet shops have drum sanders that you can rent time on or have them do the thicknessing for you. There is also the option of seeing if a local community college might have a wood shop program or if there is a woodworker's co-op in your area. The co-ops are pretty cool allowing the joint use of tools that are difficult for a lot of hobbiest's to financially justify.


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