Hi all,
I am pretty much a newbie wanna be luthier getting into the game a bit late in life at 53 years of age but getting in finally regardless. Been playing guitar all my life and still perform professionally and now have a fully functional woodworking shop. I have built a few telecaster style electrics thus far but my primary interest is to build steel string acoustics, classical and hand carved arch tops but I am still getting my feet wet.

I have been asked by a friend to build him a square neck resonator and I wanted to go the distance with this as opposed to purchasing a kit as it seems like a good intro to acoustic guitar building albeit a bit less complicated. I purchased the Beard square neck plan and intend to use baltic birch laminate however the Beard plan calls for thickness' of 4.8mm for the top and back and 2.8mm for the sides. I don't know where to get that thickness baltic birch and it seems one would not want to thickness sand a laminate. Would a 1/4" top and back and 1/8" sides suffice? Additionally, I am assuming since I will be using a laminate that a (1) piece top and back are in order.

I had tried to revive an old thread here regarding this matter and was advised by a couple nice folks here to start a new thread. I didn't want to appear as if I hadn't searched the forum and tried to find the answers prior to posting as I do all I can to resolve matters on my own if they've been covered in the past. I belong to another forum where a lot of newbies ask questions that have been answered numerous times and its as if they don't know how to use a search engine or just to lazy to and it tends to irritate some of the old timers. I can understand why too!

I have wanted to get into guitar building for many years and what has always held me back is the lack of funds to startup. I finally bit the bullet and purchased the tools I need. Although I have a nice Dewalt Planer and am getting a new 14" Grizzly 30th anniversary bandsaw for Christmas my major investment has been in quality hand tools. I have the power tools mostly for milling my own rough sawn cause I am too cheap to pay top dollar for dimensioned S4S lumber. I have a longing to build guitars old school and I really like the quiet and working with my hands and hand planes, chisels and the like. Nothing wrong with CNC machines etc but I have no desire to own one or use one

Thanks for any advise and I am looking forward to learning from who ever is willing to assist as I love to learn. My life is one huge learning experience and I never tire of learning although it seems when I master something I bore of it and find something new to learn.

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Sounds like you are well on your way. 

 If this was my first build, I certainly WOULD be putting together a kit though.

By bypassing this beginner's step, you are going to not be seeing  a bunch of stuff that would make the next 'real' build better. You have sure chosen the hard road here.

Have you already totally made up your mind?


Hi Kerry,
Yes, I have made up my mind to go it the hard way just as I have everything else in life. Fortunately, another friend got hold of me an pointed me to a place I could get these dimensions of Finnish birch laminate. Apparently these dimensions are quite common to aircraft and marine laminates. The other thing I forgot to mention regarding this is that the laminates used in the kit are 10 and 5 ply respectfully and this is exactly what the aircraft grade Finnish birch is so I did find a supplier.

Building a resonator isn't really the same as building a classical from Cumpiano's book (which I have read front to back at least 20 times) and I have chosen to do it this way primarily because I want to learn to bend my own sides etc. I will practice on scrap of course but I can think of no better way to learn to build a guitar other than to build one. I am certain there are valid arguments from both sides of the fence on this but I am going to build this thing from the ground up and will post pics on my progress if anyone is interested.

We will all be interested here Don. I look forward to all the pics!

Hi again Kerry,
I have to do a show this evening in northern Michigan which in turn will take me right by a Woodcraft store so what I have essentially decided to do is stop by the store and pickup some 1/4" and 1/8" domestic baltic birch on my travel to do a mock up of the body and sides. I also have a good lot of rough sawn maple here I purchased in spring of 2013 from a local mill so I will also do a mock up neck.

The domestic baltic birch laminate is fairly inexpensive as opposed to the aircraft grade so if I fudge the initial mockup it will be no great loss financially. I have done quite a lot of research on this topic and the consensus is that means how the resonator guitar doesn't actually utilize the top/back etc in a traditional soundboard sense that the actual thickness isn't really crucial. Who knows, I may end up with a decent instrument from the domestic laminate but the multi-ply in the aircraft/marine grade seems it would be stronger.

Incidentally, I am primarily a jazz guitarist and prefer to perform on nylon string due to the fact that the instrument just feels and sounds natural to me. I have fought from day (1) to achieve what I would consider the ultimate electric guitar tone/feel etc. and have concluded that I was destined to be a nylon string guitarist as when I pick up a nylon string everything I need is right there. I have an arsenal of electric guitars and amplifiers and have NEVER been 100% satisfied with any of them.

Weight may be an issue with the lower cost plywood. It's certainly something to keep in mind in any guitar. 

Just for my 2 cents; I don't think I agree with you assessment that building a resonator is "less complicated" than building a standard acoustic.  It IS different but they have technical requirements that all their own.  I agreed with Kerry that a kit might kick you off better than you realize. There is already a LOT of work involved in getting a kit built and set up correctly to begin with and it will get a lot of the learning curve in those details under you belt before you embark on a scratch build. 

Hi Ned,
Thanks for the reply and to clarify I am not trying to make building a resonator sound like some sort of a cakewalk or to insinuate that it's a trivial project. From my understanding a resonator relies on the cone/bridge pair to produce sound as opposed to a soundboard therefore making thickness etc less critical in a resonator.

I have also built a few guitars and granted they were electric tele thinline style builds but chambered non the less and I have been doing tech work for many years. I appreciate what you all are suggesting in purchasing and assembling a kit however I don't feel this will teach me the skills I desire to learn. I also realize it takes a certain skill set to assemble a kit guitar properly and that there is much to be learned in the process but I am interested in bending my own sides old school with a good old fashioned bending iron and thickness planing my tops, backs and sides etc. and making a neck with a scarf joint and laminate heel and faceting, carving and shaping.

This is what I want to do and I know it won't be perfect on the first, second or third attempt but this is how I learn and people all learn differently. I tend to dive into the deep end and either sink or swim. I am not a gambling man per say but if I were I would bet I will be doing the backstroke before you know it.

Well Don you sound like my kind of man. Learn how to do it right from the start. As you move along and find any thing you are not to sure of just ask you have come to the right place.Someone will be glad to help you along.Bill............

Thanks Bill and you can bet your bottom dollar I will have my share of questions along the way. Hey, I don't have the luxury of attending a luthier school like some and I am thankful as ever for the books, DVD's and forums like this one that are available today as I know this type of knowledge base wasn't available to many of the seasoned builders and luthiers here when they got started. A perfect example of how technology can be a good thing too. I do however sometimes get the impression on various forums that some of the old timers and old school cats in some way resent the knowledge base that's freely available to an aspiring builder or luthier. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and it belongs solely to nobody and its meant to be shared. That's the way I feel about it anyway and as stated I am very grateful to have it at my disposal as its helping me to realize a life long dream!

I'm NOT a builder but I have a question regarding laminates/plywood.

Isn't QUALITY instrument 'plywood' constructed differently than utility plywood. I've been under the impression that instrument grade 'plywood' is laminated with all grain patterns running in the same direction. Utility plywood, on the other hand, is constructed using alternating grain patterns.

It would seem very difficult to bend the sides of alternating grain plywood. I ask only to save the OP time and material cost if my observation is correct. If it's not, I'll end up a bit more educated.

Thanks guys :) And Don: cool project. Best of luck :)

Hi Paul,
I do believe you are spot on with your assessment of plywood laminates here and I also believe that the marine/aircraft laminates are constructed as you suggested with the grain patterns running in the same direction. The number of plies in say a 1/4" sheet differs immensely as well with a 1/4" sheet of domestic utility baltic birch having roughly 5 plies and the Finnish aircraft/marine birch having from 10 to 12 plies in the same 1/4" sheet.

I stopped yesterday on my way to northern Michigan and picked up enough 1/4" baltic birch 5 ply for 2 tops and 2 backs and enough 1/8" for the sides which set me back approx $25.00. I intend to do a couple mock ups with this material to gain some experience and could very well experience the issues you mentioned with bending the sides we shall see. I don't anticipate a lot of issues with the top or back though and the reso plan I have calls for a flat top as well as a flat back with zero arch in either. If its a complete disaster well I am only out $25.00 as opposed to $75.00 or $80.00 for the good stuff which would only yield (1) instrument.

If all goes well I may end up with a playable instrument or (2) and the confidence to move forward with the higher quality laminate or even a solid wood. I will keep everyone posted as I progress on this little journey!

Paul and Don, the several wrecked laminate guitars I have seen, all have alternating woodgrain. I have no clue what you have seen that would be different.

 Don, my understanding of the differences between the aircraft and utility plywoods is that the aircraft stuff is put through a WAYYYY heavier pressing process, and that in it, there a 0% voids. 

 The utility will be way different than that, and likely contain lots of voids... 

 This is one of the main reasons that a lot of newbee builders  use premium wood for their first builds. If nothing else, they used the BEST wood. 

Thanks Kerry,
The baltic birch I purchased yesterday at Woodcraft appears to be essentially void free. My hometown here Flint Michigan (I know what you're thinking) has one lumber yard remaining as well and they carry some beautiful baltic birch however you can't purchase as small of sheets as I got from Woodcraft and the thinnest my local lumber yard has is 1/4".

I am certainly not trying to start any type of geared debate here and I have some very nice baltic birch to do these initial mock up resonators with and odds are it may surprise even the most skeptical here of what I am setting out to do.

The good think all ye of little faith in the newbie have going for you is if I blow it you'll be able to say "I told you so" however If I do, I will be out a bit of time and $25.00 which isn't a major concern for me.

Kerry, you didn't mention the difference in the number of plies between aircraft grade ply and standard utility grade. BTW, the baltic birch at the local big box stores is garbage and full of voids with the exception of Menards


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