Building the Soundboard

Although Cumpiano's book begins with the neck rough out, I chose to begin by building the body, and then construct the neck. The first part of the body process involves jointing the edges of the two spruce soundboard halves in preparation for gluing. The book describes how to make a "shooting board" for the jointing process--I made mine large enough to double as a workboard for gluing the two halves later. (That's the dining room table I'm working on)

As I began to plane the spruce halves, I quickly learned some important lessons. The first goes back to what I mentioned earlier about inferior tools--my cheap plane was poorly crafted with out-of-square soles and a cheap blade

LESSON LEARNED: I bought a #4 Plane based on the book's recommendation, but eventually realized that I needed a longer one--at least a #5 or #6--to accurately plane the soundboard edge. I had to borrow someones to finish the job. So far I have had no use for the #4 Plane I bought, so I'd recommend getting a longer one).

The second thing I learned was that planing takes patience and time to learn. It's REALLY easy to accidently plane a gentle curve into the straight edge of your top near the ends if you're not paying close attention to your planing pressure. I eventually got it with a little flat sanding board touch-up.

Once the halves are jointed and pass the light-test (see book), they are joined. I had the two plates machine sanded to .130" thickness before they were shipped, so I wouldn't have to plane them to thickness (like in the book). However, this didn't really leave me with much thickness for sanding later (I was aiming for a final thickness of about .125") so in the future I think I'll ask for them to come at around .140". It's also worth noting that careful attention should be paid while joining the two halves so that one doesn't ride up higher than the other at the seam (mine did a little), especially if you don't have much thickness for sanding out mistakes. In the end it turned out fine.

I used a coping saw and a fine blade to cut out the top, roughly 0.5" outside of the traced template line, but a fine band saw would have been faster (pay attention to the soft spruce grain to avoid a chip out). Also, spruce is SOFT and dents easily, so from here on out treat it like a baby (but not the uncontrollable-screaming-its-head-off-in-- crowded-restaurant kind).
Once I had my soundboard cut out, I clamped it to the plywood workboard (see book) and evened out the surface a little with the scraper--leaving the final scraping and leveling for right before the lacquer finish is applied.