Sunday, May 19, 2013

Flat Top Tele - 1983

Oh, if only my life was more like 1983
All these things would be more like
They were at the start of me
Had it made in 83.

It was in 1983 when I was putting the finishing touches on my first hand-built guitar, a copy of a Torres style classical.

This was an art independent study project I completed as a student in Binghamton.  After roughly 30 years, some repair projects, and a recent prototype solid body build, I decided to take the plunge and build another acoustic guitar.

Well, most of it.

It's a lot easier to buy things like this now than it was 30 years ago.  Instead of ordering blindly from a mail order catalog, it's also a lot more assuring to see pictures of the actual slabs of  wood you're paying for before committing.  A couple of weeks ago, the Honduran Mahogany rear/sides and Engelmann Spruce top I purchased online arrived at my dorrstep.

One thing I won't be building this time is a neck.  This project is to be a true flat-top acoustic-electric interpretation of a Telecaster.  So, I'm going with this used bolt-on Fender Strat-type model I found on eBay:

Over the past few years, I have amassed a collection of extra parts.  Some of these parts were intended for one project or another and ended up being replaced by others.  Some were purchases I made because I had found some deals that were just too good to pass up.  The rest are the usable parts I salvaged from project guitars and replaced with new parts.  Before bidding or buying anything else for the Flat Top Tele, I pulled from my parts boxes for the rest of the major components, including this preamp with a built-in tuner and 4-band equalizer, and a set of gold-plated 6-inline tuning heads.

I put some thought into how I could bend the sides for this guitar.  My first thought was to build some body-clamping forms from plywood or chip board, and to use my Wagner Steamer to power a steam box, like this one:

Thinking about the sharp radii at the cutaway and where the body meets the neck, I realized I'd have to come up with something else.

After  some research, I ended up with a more conventional luthier's tool, a bending iron.  When I built that Torres 30 years ago, I used a piece of 4-inch diameter steel pipe with an acetylene torch.  This time, thanks to some designs and demo videos shared by others on YouTube, I'll be using a commercial heat gun to warm up some 1-inch steel pipe.

For now, I'm focusing on some the design aspects of this project, and construction is on the back burner.  No rush, as I suspect it will be a year-long project at This Old Guitar.  As soon as I get to finishing off some smaller, lingering projects on the bench, I'll be back to this build and will post some progress pictures of my Flat Top Tele.

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