Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flat Top Tele - Springtime Blues

Now, baby but I'll see you
Baby, in the spring
Just after the bluebird begin to sing.

With winter and some recent mandolin repair projects finally behind me, I got back to thinking about this project.  As much as I'd like to make an acoustic guitar body in the shape of a Telecaster, the sharp curves at the cutaway and where the body meets the neck can not be made with my home-brewed steam chamber and bending iron.  Instead, I will use a large neck block method of construction that is common in f-style mandolins for this prototype.  As with the difference in sound envelopes between f- and a-style mandolins, I expect the large neck block will somewhat reduce the sustain while adding some attack, enhancing the projection of the instrument compared to one built with a bent wood acoustic sound chamber with a minimal neck block.

It's been said that the best sound comes from the instrument that’s on the verge of collapse.  To put it another way, the art of stringed instrument building is a balancing act between providing structural integrity and allowing the front and back panels to vibrate freely.  A small box is inherently stiffer than a larger box, so the bracing in this guitar will be intentionally minimal to get the most pleasing sound out of it.  The bracing pattern I chose is similar to a design by Ettienne LaPrevotte from a guitar he made in Paris, ca. 1835.  LaPrevotte participated in numerous international competitions to improve the sound of his guitars. Here is a picture during the build of a modern copy of a LaPrevotte by Ian Watchorn.

Tacoma was a modern-day company known for innovations, such as non-traditional sound hole locations and minimal bracing patterns.  The bracing in some Tacoma models resembles the design by LaPrevotte.  In the Tacoma bracing below, two relatively deep main structural members run in the long direction of the guitar with a transverse member notched into the main members.  A small bridge plate sits just in front of the bridge plate and between the two longitudinal members.

Borrowing elements from LaPrevotte and Tacoma, the Flat Top Tele will have an H-shaped bracing pattern and an oval-shaped sound hole.  Here are scaled drawings of the final bracing and top panel layouts.

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