My Early Guitars
Alpha guitar was the first guitar - assembled from a Martin D-28 kit, guided by the classic reference Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson. This guitar was assembled during 1998-1999.
A kit is a great way to assemble a first guitar. Few fixtures are required so one can focus on basics such as clamping, gluing and finishing. Generally the components are slightly overbuilt but close enough to end up with a good sounding, good playing instrument.
After assembling the Alpha guitar, I decided to build a second guitar to present as a gift to my oldest daughter Tara in celebration of her graduation from Ball State University in 2001. I ordered a custom kit from the Martin Guitarmakers Connection based on the Martin 000-28 EC guitar. The sides were pre-formed, the neck, bridge and braces were pre-shaped, and the fingerboard was slotted.
My first finish on this guitar resulted in white specs in the pores so I sanded the entire body and refinished. In hindsight this probably improved the sound of the guitar. The lesson learned is that we can turn our mistakes into positives.
Rachel's guitar was presented as a gift in celebration of her graduation Cum Laude from Butler University in 2002. (Rachel went on to earn her Doctor of Medicine degree from Indiana University.)
For Rachel’s guitar I purchased unbent sides which required that I construct a side bending fixture based on the popular Fox bender. I also added an outside form to hold the side shape while the soundboard and back were glued to the sides.
Rachel found that the 1 13/16” fingerboard was too wide for her hand so I reshaped the neck to 1 ¾”. That’s when I observed that the profile and stiffness of the neck has an effect on sound and especially on sustain.
Beta guitar was an experimental model aimed at constructing a guitar that frets easily, and was constructed in 2003. A short 24.9 inch fingerboard scale coupled with extra light strings results in low string tension. A thin cedar soundboard compensates for the low string tension, and the 12 fret neck on the OM body locates the bridge in the center of the lower bout thus increasing volume. The result is a guitar that's easy to fret with a pleasant sound that is not as bright as some other guitars.
This guitar was built for my playing style. I tend to play guitar sporadically which is hard on fingertips. This guitar is fingertip friendly.