Final Thoughts and How It Sounds

Some people have asked me to write about what I liked, didn't like, and what I would do differently.

First, how it sounds. I had been told that the way it sounds when first strung up is not how it will sound once it settles in. I had no idea how dramatic this statement would be. When I first strung it up, with action high and frets abuzzing, it sounded amazingly loud, deep and boomy. At first I was blown away by the fact that it made sound at all! Then I started listening and thought, "wow it's boomy, and a little muddy in the low register." Oh well, it was pretty sweet nonetheless.

Then the next day it started to become clearer.

Then I discovered that my saddle was messsssssssssssssed up, and made a new one, strung it up, played a little, and left it strung up for a few days untouched.

When I picked it back up to play about a week later I could not believe what I was hearing. The deep boom was gone, the tone was clear, and it was still insanely loud. It was like a different guitar--it sounds amazing (to me) now! It still has a very deep growl, but it's clean and clear.

Also, the side port was a great idea--add one to your guitar. It absolutely adds volume. Playing it covered and uncovered (as a listener out in front) it gets both louder and more 3D spatial with the sound port uncovered. I definitely rank the side port as a success. (Too big of one however would have been devastating--I guess I got lucky).

As I've mentioned previously, it needs to be played for a while before I do a final set up. But I suppose the point of my saying all this is to emphasize the point that you should not pass any acoustical judgement on your final instrument until at least a few weeks later, and it's likely to sound even better years later.

Here are some final pics--I'll get more comprehensive ones in the future:


All in all, I'm extremely pleased with how my first instrument turned out. However, that's not to say it hasn't also been an amazing learning experience and a test of skill and patience. There are definitely things I will do differently next time, though minor:

-I don't think I will ever use a mechanical pencil to push an inlay into place again...stupid stupid...

-I think I will make my next side port slightly smaller--no particular reason, just a hunch. I might also try a design rather than simply an oval. I'd love to bind it, but I still haven't figured out a surefire way of doing so...also, a friend thought it would have looked cool had I not rounded the side port edges so much and lacquered them, but instead made the edge cut more squarely and perhaps unlacquered--I really like this idea and will try it next time.

-I would not worry about having too much epoxy or lacquer--I went too thin with the epoxy and it subsequently showed through the finish on the top. I may be the only one who really notices, but then again, who did I build the instrument for after all???

-Lacquer sanding. I would spend waaay more time and attention to detail leveling the final coats of KTM lacquer. It looks fine, but I think I could have gotten a more evenly flat final coat with better sanding. I did not notice any of this until final polishing. Also, I felt that the epoxy coats brought more of the grain out than the KTM did--perhaps I'll sand in between KTM coats to a finer grit next time--same for between the epoxy and KTM coat.

-I installed my tuning machines upside down. Oh well, I always do at least 1 thing upside down...could have been worse.

-Next time I will not bind my fingerboard with a piece of wood quite so wide.

-I will also be sure to make my binding ledges deeper--I lost a lot of binding material in the scraping process. I would have also liked more purfling on the soundboard.

-Oh! Pay attention here! BEFORE you epoxy, make sure there is NO sawdust--especially soundboard dust--in the pores of your back and sides. Trust me...

I'm sure there are more. Not to detract from how immensely satisfied I am with my final product, but there are all things I experienced and had I read about them from someone else, I probably would have avoid 80% of them or so...