Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

By Mr. Joe Sustaire of Talihina, OK
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Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Thu Sep 11, 2008 3:34 pm

Well I started another one. Something kind of addictive to this, you know?

This will be a 12 fret, slot-head, what else would I build? This is my Stella inspired version of the 1930s blues guitar. I've used this mold to build a 12 string, ladder-braced, 26 1/2" long scale guitar, and last time I built a cedar topped x-brace with it. So, this time it's going to a genuine 6 string, ladder-braced blues guitar.

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As you can see I've got my sides bent. I used my propane fired pipe bender. These are ribbon sapelli, same as the little parlor x-brace. These are ebay specials, cheap because the sides were warped, but they bent fine.

And the top is a lutz special, quite a bit of color, with a little bearclaw.

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Joined and sanded.

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Maybe you can see the bearclaw?

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Rosette installed and sanded.

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And a close-up. This was a $3 special on ebay, I got 3, thought they looked pretty nice. As I was trying to get it to fit though, I found that it wasn't the same width all the way around. So that's why it was so cheap, no doubt, rejects. I added some b/w plastic perfling inside and out, and with a lot of tedious sweating and cussing, got it to work. And it turned out much better than I expected.

Much relieved,
Thanks for watching,
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Eben » Thu Sep 11, 2008 3:49 pm

Hey, lookin' good, and a guy could have worse addictions!

:D

Nice vice! That don't look cheap!

And, even more important, live plants in your work space - Now there's something I need!

You need to do up a little thread in the show us your shop thread, Joe!

E
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Fri Sep 12, 2008 4:48 pm

Thanks Eben,

The vise is from the stew-mac catalog, works nice. Made in China copy of the old USA made pattern makers vice, so it's a lot cheaper. My guitar building has taken over my old artist's studio, so there's a huge skylight overhead, great for work and plants, does make a nice environment. Most of the plants are avocado trees Patty grew from avocado pits. Good mexican food, great greenery, can't beat it. :D

I'll try to take some photos of my studio and workshop and do a thread.

Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Garry Hallam » Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:03 pm

Oh man, Joe

How do you work so fast. You blow me away with your building.

Now that rosette is truly a great piece of artwork.

wow!

Garry
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Perfect is a fault, and fault lines change - Michael Stipe

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:09 am

Yeah Garry, I'm sure speedy, finally I'm getting back on this. :D :lol:
Time does get away!

Here's a photo of the new bracing scheme.

Image

A variation on the ladder bracing that I just did on the Ditson.
You may recall I had some top dipping in front of the bridge on that one, but the sound is incredible so I decided to just watch it closely and see how it develops. Todd Cambrio of Fraulini guitars advised me that my top was too thin for that simple bracing, it was 0.10" at the thickest, live and learn.

Now this top was already thicknessed down to around 0.11" so here we go again! :D
Now seeking advice from Nehemiah Covey on the Ditson, he said that he runs two small braces from the neck block to the end block about 1/4" wide x 1/4 to 5/16" tall, on each side of the soundhole with the transverse bracing notched to fit over them. This stiffens the top lengthwise. He also brought up another thing he does, which is to use seam reinforcement on his tops instead of the back, which of course is where most of the stress is. I had wondered about that before, why the back seam needs reinforcement but the top doesn't, but had just followed tradition. I suspect it has more to do with seeing the back through the soundhole. Nick says he will sometimes use some cross-grain buttons on the back, as is sometimes used on the top.

So this is what I've tried to do. Two small lengthwise braces on each side of the sound-hole with the traditional ladder bracing notched over them. A maple bridge plate, center seam cross-grain reinforcement, and a short popsicle type brace under the neck overhang. The bracing in the upper bout will notch into the kerfing, while all the bracing in the lower bout will die into the top before the kerfing. I also plan for the end-block to sit under the kerfing, so it won't touch the top. The wider cross-grain patch at the end-block is because I started a little crack there while testing the rigidity of my bracing. :oops:

Image

So this is what I've got and we'll see how it works.
Feel free to critique,
Thanks for looking,
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by whitespruce » Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:02 am

Joe, I can't critique cuz I ain't heared it yet :D

But it looks like a worthwhile experiment.

G
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Dennis Leahy » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:09 am

Hi Joe,

I am of the school that says there is no "best" or "perfect" guitar; they all have moods and personalities and voices, that's all. Are you inviting critique only from those who know what the hell they're talking about, or can any ol' Monday morning quarterback make a dumb comment? If so, read on. If not, skip this conjecture. She looks very heavily braced, which I would expect would give her a treble-y voice and quick note decay (short sustain), especially in bass. Again, pure off-the-wall conjecture on my inexperienced part, and even if I'm right it is still going to be a guitar with her own mood and personality and voice, and she may indeed be *perfect* for what you're looking for this time. She might be the belle of the ball for blues slide work.

I definitely want to hear her when she's done!

Dennis
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by DaveWhite » Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:57 am

Hi Joe,

This is going to be a fun and interesting instrument. I loved the 12 string ladder braced guitar you made. I've become fascinated with ladder bracing since John How made a replica of an Oscar Schmidt guitar he had. Ladder bracing seems to get a bum rap but I think it has a lot of possibilities using modern methods and I've been experimenting with it on harp guitars and Weissenborns.

For the size of guitar I agree with Dennis that the bracing looks a little heavy but there's only one way to find out. I've made a couple of Concert sized (about 13" lower bout) ladder braced guitars based around an early 1900's all mahogany American guitar I have. I adapted the bracing from that along similarish lines to yours. I put some A frame braces around the soundhole with a cross grain soundhole re-enforcement plate. The A frame ends lock into the neck-block. I also used carbon fibre flying buttress braces that take the neck string load into the rimset and off the top/soundhole area. The bridge plate is spruce with a rosewood inlay where the bridge-pins go. The ladder bracing was thin - about 5mm wide - and tall and the A frame braces about 5mm square:

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The guitar is nearly 18 months old now and the front of bridge/soundhole area is rock solid. I don't mean to hi-jack but thought this may be of interest. I'm looking forward to seeing your guitar progress to completion.
Dave White
De Faoite Stringed Instruments

". . . the one thing a machine just can't do is give you character and personalities and sometimes that comes with flaws, but it always comes with humanity" Monty Don talking about hand weaving, "Mastercrafts", Weaving, BBC March 2010

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:55 pm

Thanks for taking the time to review and critique guys, I do appreciate it.

Having just had an under-bracing experience I probably am veering now toward over-bracing. Time will tell, at least this way I can always go in thru the sound-hole and shave it down later. Easier than adding bracing thru the sound-hole. Experience is all mine to gain! :lol:

Dave I appreciate you taking the time to add some pics of your ladder bracing, there is something of a dearth of info around on these, so I value your input.

And Dennis, no I don't necessarily just want the opinions of those that "know", I was mainly interested in the opinions of those that agree with me and would tell me how "wonderful" I am! :lol: :D

Thanks again guys,
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Dennis Leahy » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:48 pm

sustaireblues wrote:...And Dennis, no I don't necessarily just want the opinions of those that "know", I was mainly interested in the opinions of those that agree with me and would tell me how "wonderful" I am! :lol: :D

Joe
Well, then for what it's worth, I think you're pretty damn wonderful! :D

Dennis
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:44 am

Why thank you Dennis!!! I needed that.

I must say, I can tell by your last post, you're a highly intelligent human being, and a sterling judge of character!!!

:D :lol:
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:35 am

Hey guys, I want to thank everyone for their review of my bracing. The general consensus is that I overbraced. Besides the ones that posted, I also had a pm review by Nehemiah Covey, and he agreed, and offered some suggestions also. So, looking and tapping and flexing, I feel you're right. :D

I also read a very helpful post by Dave White in another thread, where he stated-

"As for soundboards distorting, all great sounding guitars have this feature imho. The balance or knife edge you sit on is between sound and playability/stability. If it is deformed and stable and the playability is good then what's the problem?"

This was very helpful to me. As I mentioned before, I just finished a ladder braced Ditson, thin top, minimal bracing and their is some potato chip deformation in the top, but the sound and playability is fantastic, best I've built yet. But because of the deformation, I thought I had screwed up. So far it appears to be stable, is holding in tune, and the deformation is minimal, so hurrah, I have left it alone and am just playing it and watching it closely. But because of this I believe I did overbrace this top.

So now I have been carving and sanding away.

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Here is where the top was, with the ladders a smidge over 3/4" tall.

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And here is where it is now, with the ladders about 1/2" tall and the linear bracing carved as best I could.

So I think it looks much more in line with what I want, and more importantly it is much more vibrant and alive when tapped, gives a nice shimmering vibrational tone. Me happy!

So thanks again for the reviews. And this is something I am learning from Ed Powells threads, when you're unsure, ask for help. This is a great forum and some great help is available!

Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Nehemiah C » Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:18 am

Hey Joe:

That is looking really nice, amazing what a little shaving will do isn't it?

You know when I first read this post, I felt honored that you would mention my bracing style and not just that, but incorporate it too.

I have a little one (the one I sent pics of) that will be ready for posting it's build soon, and it is coming along pretty nicely, but I have to say the cleanliness of your work and detail is superb. I sure hope you get the sound out of her that you want. I see that you reduced the popsicle brace and fluted for the truss rod, it really looks like a different top altogether. Nice work. I would say we should be done about the same time, but by the looks of it you'll be playing while I'm fretting. :roll:
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Eben » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:57 pm

Again, one of my favorite quotes by a fantastic builder:

"All the great guitars are on the verge of imploding"
John Greven.
Talent hits a target that no one else can hit,
genius hits a target no one else can see.

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Hesh » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:23 pm

Hey Joe (BTW Hey Joe is on my all time favorite 5 songs list...) your geetar is looking great!

I too find the difference after shaving those braces looking much better. Be sure to write something profound on the inside of the top prior to attaching to the rim.

Nice work!
Hesh

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:36 pm

Thanks for the comments guys! And thank you Hesh for reminding me to sign the top. Those small details are easy to forget. And Nick, you see I've already spent a lot of time "fretting" this one and haven't even closed the box or started the neck! :lol:

So, I believe I've done about all I can do on loosening up the top and we'll just have to wait and see how she sounds.
I want to show my low tech way of prepping the braces for gluing. Not as fine as JJs router table and pattern system, but it works pretty good.

Image
I've got a pattern stick that has my top and back radius profiles on it, 25' and 15'. So I center them on my brace and marked the profile. Since I just joined the back plates my #7 plane and shooting board are still set up on the bench.
Now rather than tediously sand the radius into the braces on my dish, I can easily get them close using a notched push stick to keep my fingers safe.

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And very quickly they are close to profile.

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Then just a few strokes on the dish and they are ready to go.

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All glued up.

Now I tried something a little different this time. I glued down the back braces before gluing down the seam reinforcement. It sure made shaping the braces with the small plane easier, not having the seam reinforcement in the way.

Now big question, brought to my attention by Nehemiah. Why do we have continuous seam reinforcement on the back and yet don't feel it's necessary on the top? There's much more stress on the top yet we don't reinforce it near as much.


After shaping the braces I went ahead and put in the continuous reinforcement for the traditional look. And note the parabolic shaped back braces like all the finest builders use! :D :o :lol: :lol:
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And I got my neck block and end blocks made and glued to the sides.
Image

Thanks for tuning in, and I'll be watching! :D :D
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by JJ Donohue » Sun Nov 16, 2008 4:52 pm

Joe...Your documentation of this build is great and I'm really enjoying watching the progress.

A ladder-braced guitar is on my "to do" list. As Dave White mentioned elsewhere, "Johnny Cool" AKA John How from Cool, CA has dedicated the past few years to this style and is a good resource if you're interested in searching some OLF archives.

On your conjecture regarding a seam strip for the top... I would maintain that a significant portion of that seam is already reinforced by bracing, bridge plate and blocks. Some folks install cross-grained diamonds in areas to add more protection as well. Since most of the sound comes from the top, it's just another compromise that puts it closer to the fine tone/implosion line that we all seek.
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:28 pm

Thanks for your comments JJ, I do appreciate your feedback.

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I think a shapely guitar rim is truly a beautiful sculptural shape!

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Now I meant to drop the end block below the kerfing, to free up the soundboard like Hugh has been doing, but I forgot when I was joining my sides. So I cut a bevel later with the jigsaw so the end block is only as wide as the kerfing where it glues to the top, so hopefully this will accomplish the same thing.

I sanded the top and back radius into the sides and kerfing and now I'm ready to attach the top. Seems like I do this differently everytime, trying different methods, but this time it seemed to make sense to me that if we are using a radius dish to arch our plates and shape the sides to fit, that it only makes sense to use the radius dish for clamping up to preserve the arch. So I first did a dry run on the go-bar deck, but wasn't pleased. I believe I've seen it done that way, but for me it felt like I couldn't get the pressure right and was afraid of dinging the kerfing on the back.

So this is what I came up with.

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This seemed to work well and let me dial in the pressure as necessary.

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I got good glue squeeze-out, inside and out.

So, I was very pleased with the way this worked. Then I was reading thru Dave White's build, and I see he closes up his box by simply using binding tape. So there is no end to creative solutions, it's just finding the method that works for you in your particular situation.

Thanks for watching,
Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Garry Hallam » Wed Nov 19, 2008 7:08 am

Joe, great build you got going here. I see your using some good outside of the box idea's too. Like bevelling the tail block down to the kerfing line. Your documentation process is top notch.

Garry
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by D_H_G GUITARS » Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:43 pm

Joe, you clamp the same way I do, grab what is available to your arm reach...He...He!
Looking good, and I see the tailblock section looking good. Joe just a little trick if you clamp a 90 deg block to your work board then clamp the kneck to that you will keep the kneck totaly at right angle to the top's surface. This helps keep things square while drying.

Love your work and this is going to be a great guitar!

Thxs
Hugh

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:50 pm

Thanks for the comments Garry and Hugh!

Now Hugh, you're zeroing in on part of my confusion with the neck angle/body joint. I have seen people using the right angle block to keep the neck block square when building on a board, but if you have shaped you top and bracing on a radius dish you're top to neck block is not going to be 90 degrees right? Or am I missing something? I've also seen some mention trying to build the upper bout flat while having a radius in the lower bout. It all gets rather confusing, and I find myself struggling through. :D Although so far, keeping my fingers crossed, I come out the other side okay!

Joe
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by D_H_G GUITARS » Wed Nov 19, 2008 5:37 pm

Joe with true classical guitars, most people set the neck angle into the build while gluing!
This has been done by adding shims under the neck at the nut causing the neck to pitch back a tad while clamped to a work board, this helps the top to move upwards to make a nice join with the figerboard.
If you are going to attach the neck through way of dovetail/mortis join, then a square end block 90 degrees to top I would start with. You can add lift to the top where the neck's fingerboard will join the s/b top by setting the neck block angle into the build by pulling the neck block inwards while gluing the back on say 1 or a tad more degrees. This can be measured with a straight edge from bridge location to kneck block edge. Let's just say the angle is 2 degrees then you could build in 1 degree into the side block first while gluing, then the rest of the neck angle needed can be added to the neck making the fingerboard more flat to the top. This elimates most of the fingerboard hump seen on many builds. This will mean less sanding of top to match the fingerboard angle.

I hope this is of some help Joe.

Ask around about this some may have a better way of doing it.
Again just my opinion how I do things.

Thxs
Hugh

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Eben » Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:34 pm

Hey Joe!

Just caught your very cool low-tech brace radiusing method with the ole No. 7 -

MOST cool!!

Your bracing looks very nice all around, my friend!

E
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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Nehemiah C » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:52 pm

Lookin' great Joe!

Your bracing is so clean, sure you want to cover it up?
I should probably take the time to polish mine out like you do, get in a hurry I guess. :D

I can't wait to hear this one and read your thoughts on it's performance.
nehemiah covey

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Re: Ladder Braced Grand Concert, Build #7

Post by Joe Sustaire » Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:06 am

Thanks Nick, a big part of the pleasure for me, is the wonderful sculptural objects, guitars are in their various parts and insides, and wow, they make music too! Kinda fills the whole artistic package for me.

Given my recent experience with under-bracing a ladder brace guitar, I over-braced this one remember, and then thanks to good feedback all around I went back and carved some away, and this is where I stopped.

Image

Well now the under-braced Ditson is still holding together, and still sounding great, so before I close this one up I've gone and whittled on it a little more.

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And here is where it is now before I close it up. So I hope it isn't overbraced, because that just isn't any fun.

I also have went back and reshaped the back braces, hoping to lighten it and enable it to interact better with the top.

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Where it was at.

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And after reshaping.

I have been studying Hesh's bracing and Scott van Linges posting on "Sound is Round" and his experiences on feeling the vibrations on the soundboard, and so even though they are working with x bracing, it makes sense to me. and have decided I would rather be under-braced than over. So I'm just feeling my way here, and I'm sure to learn something at least.

So I've got the box closed up, still in clamps overnight.

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And it's funny, I was going to try Dave Whites method of closing with binding tape. I started with a clamp at the head block and one at the tail block, and before I knew what was happening, this happened! :lol: Hey, I still had two clamps I didn't use!

Till next time,
Joe
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