The Ham Jones
This build started after a conversation with the infamous string plucker, Neal Crowley of Asheville, NC. Neal was playing one of my HJ Jr. guitars, discussing it’s attributes when he stated that he sometimes wanted more neck. The result is a guitar with a slightly expanded Terz body, a 24.9 inch scale length with the neck to body at the 15th, fret. Similar to a Martin 0 Concert model.
The woods I used are figured Sapele for the back and sides, Sitka Spruce for the top and a quartersawn Sapele neck. For the binding and other trim I chose Rosewood and Maple. The Rosette is purchased from Duke Luthier, http://www.dukeluthier.com/. They offer beautiful rosettes, MOP, and other inlay products.
I began by making the back and side pieces. I re-saw each side and back piece from their respective blanks, the back pieces go to the jointer and get glued with the back center strip in place. then thickness sanded to .140” which leaves room for finish sanding to .125” +0/- .015”. The sides can be closer to .100” for easier bending. The tops I order come as two pieces which go to the jointer, get glued together and thickness sanded. I can’t specify top thickness, although I do measure during the process, feel is the determining factor and each top will yield a different measurement. With the top as one piece and thicknessed it’s time to inlay the rosette and next rout the aperture.
Top bracing is done after the rosette is installed and the aperture cut. I make my own braces which I glue in as a rectangle shape and then I carve them once they are glued in place. Same with the back braces. Side braces are generally a strip of wood made from the cut ends of the side and glued vertically between the kerfing above and below the waist . All of my side braces are cowboy boot shaped. When all braces are in and carved it’s time to make the box.
I now have top, back and bent sides ready for assembly. The sides go into the body mold so I can cut the ends to fit tightly end to end with no overlap.
The next step is gluing the heel and tail blocks to the sides while in the mold. While these items are drying I make kerfed lining for gluing the top and back. The kerfing glues in the sides top and back just a little proud of the side which aides in sanding the rim in later steps. Wooden clothes pins are used to hold the kerfing in place.
Sanding the rim (sides with heel and tail blocks, side braces and kerfed lining) is done by sanding the top on a flat surface square to the side at the heel and tail, then the back of the rim is sanded in a dish to match the curve desired on the back of the body while in the mold at all times. I use a 24ft. Radius dish. The sanding is done when the surface is being sanding at every point on the circumference. Use caution not to sand the top in the dish or the back on the flat surface. You will not be happy.
It’s time to assemble the top and back to the rim. I do the top first because I like to see it inside one last time. I don’t think it really matters. When the top and back are glued to the rim the box can finally come out of the mold. After trimming the excess on top and back I route binding channels, install the end graft then binding. Now, when the binding glue is dry, the real fun of scraping and sanding begins. Scrape/ Sand, REPEAT.
The neck, this is the part that started it all and more of it. I had fun trying calculate and decide how I was going to make this long neck fit this small body while maintaining some critical measurements. Two things to note: this 24.9 scale is a half inch shorter than the dreadnoughts I build, and I was able to use the same truss rod which didn’t require a special order item. I build a stacked heel neck with a scarf joint which in my opinion is the only way to do it. The process re-enforces the wood and one piece neck can break and deform much easier.
I make the dovetail joint using LMI template and home made jig. It works like a dream, especially the more I use it. Final fitting is always done by hand and has become pretty easy for me by now. When I am sure it’s like want it and know that it will glue in correctly I can locate and drill for tuners, route for and install truss rod, locate the front of the nut and locate the 15th fret and add 5/8” , cut the neck shaft/ heel at this mark then cut the dovetail in the body, then the neck, leaving the neck a little proud (1/16) max for final fitting.
Next step is fretboard, frets, carving the neck and assembling the two. After slotting the fretboard I mark a center line then mark and saw the taper on a bandsaw, true it up on the planer, layout and install pearl dots, and sand the desired radius along the length of the board. Finally I install side dots on the board. Frets go in next and then final fitting of the neck before I glue the fretboard to the neck shaft. This is done by aligning the desired fret at the end of the shaft where it contacts the body.
With neck fitted and the fretboard glued on it’s neck carving time. I’ve learned not to rush this step and to be sure the neck is carved to satisfaction and sanded before assembly.
When the glue is dry there is endless sanding and prepping for lacquer and then more endless sanding. Finally buffing and the reward.