Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
What are the important tools needed to build a guitar?
Well, some are basic. A saw. A file. A scraper. A plane.
Yet another tool is just as critical but less obvious. It is tape.
This past weekend, I made major progress on fabricating a finger rest for an archtop guitar I am building. I could not have done anything without copious amounts of tape.
The finger rest is a seven-inch long teardrop- shaped Gaboon ebony piece that is nine-sixty fourths (.140 inches) thick. It gets attached to the side of the guitar neck with some Allen wrench screws run through a homemade ebony bracket. Guitar volume and tone controls are glued underneath the finger rest.
To build this thing, I used not just one, but two kinds of tape.
I cut out the finger rest from a piece of ebony, sliced it in half with a large band saw and then took the wood pieces down to nine-sixty fourths on a thickness drum sander.
To achieve the final profile, I decided to use a router with a pattern bit. What I did then was double-stick tape the ebony piece to a plywood pattern and then double-stick tape the pattern to a bigger piece of plywood.
I was then able to clean up the finger rest profile by running the router around the plywood pattern.
I did so carefully, not wanting to chip out a chunk of the chocolate colored African wood. I was successful. The ebony melted away with the router bit. I was left with a relatively smooth finish.
With this step complete, I next need to bind the finger rest. This means gluing on strips of acetate plastic around the curvy edge of the finger rest. To get the acetate to wrap around the sharp corners of the piece, I used a heat gun for a little persuasion. The acetate heated briefly, got wiggly, and with a copper sleeve, I pressed the hot acetate around the corners until it cooled in place.
To prepare the binding strips for gluing with Duco cement, I wrapped the strips to the finger rest edge with strapping tape beefed up with fiberglass fibers. The technique is to yank the binding right up against the edge. No gap should show.
The tape worked wonders. I cranked the tape with all of my might to snugly wrap two strands of binding (one thin, the other thick) up against the finger rest edge. The result looked pretty sharp. I predict a flawless glue-up job.
This is just the start of a guitar-maker’s use of tape. I use semi-sticky blue tape on nearly everything. I use it to lay out a straight edge on a piece of wood, to bulk up a pattern bit bearing and to protect guitar parts from chisels, sandpaper and other weapons of mass destruction.
In time, I will spray finish the guitar with nitrocellulose lacquer. This means taping over the fretboard and other parts with automotive tape. I will use skinny tape to cover up the curvaceous binding on the peghead.
So, as a luthier, I love my chisels, finger planes and dragon-tail files. They are great to work with.
But, to get the job done, there is one musthave tool I must have. A roll of tape.