Installing the Sides

The first step to convincing someone that all these pieces may actually become a guitar is to glue kerfed lining to the soundboard edge of the sides (shown above). This notched mahogany lining curves easily around the bend of the side and is clamped / glued into place with a million little clamps. The kerfing actually provides the gluing surface between the sides and the top and back (side material itself is eventually routed away for binding, and thus makes for an impractical gluing surface).
Once the sides are kerfed, and the kerfing is leveled along the sanding board, the sides are trimmed at their ends and glued to the soundboard following the method described in the book. (Boards are placed along the top to prevent the clamps from crushing the sides, and the opposing side is set in p lace to level the boards).

And the rough final product (note: the sides are over sized and will be trimmed later; the same is true for the overhang of the soundboard).

Next I marked the final contour of the back and planed the sides down to their final height. The height at the headblock is approximately 1 inch lower than at the tailblock, so the back will have a longitudinal arch to it. Once planed, the mahogany kerfing that will join the back plate is glued in place (shown below).

Side Port!

So I stumbled upon Tim McKnight's website and discovered the quiet world of guitar side ports. What's a side port? Basically, it's a second hole in your guitar--usually in the upper bout side on the half facing the player--that allows the player to hear a better acoustic image of what someone sitting in front of the guitar may be hearing. Usually the tone is said to be fuller or bassier from the player's perspective with a sound port.

After some thought, I decided that I HAD to try one in this guitar, and settled on an oval shape as being the most likely form to turn out looking well-crafted. I was fortunate enough to get some advice form professional luthier Michael Bashking regarding how to construct the sound port.

I began by scoring the outline of the oval into the bent side using an oval template--this way I could then Dremel away the interior up to the scoreline, and then refine my oval with files and sandpaper (shown above).

On the inside, I was advised to glue in a cross-grain patch to strengthen the side and to prevent cracks along the oval. I chose to use rosewood side material for the patch so it would look the same as the sides, but I also sandwiched a maple veneer (shown above) into it to create a little maple line detail along the inside edge of the oval side port (I would love to have bound the oval in maple, but found the procedure too difficult and risky for my first guitar).

Here's a picture of the rough-cut oval after I Dremeled it:

I think in the next photos I had already cleaned up the oval a little--I'm saving the final sanding for the end:

Once again, here's a picture of both halves ready for attachment--notice the back kerfing has been notched to accommodate the back braces.

Attaching the Back

Here's part where you have to be sure you've done everything to the inside of the guitar that you wanted too: attaching the back. Before the back cna be attached however, a few preliminary steps have to be taken to ensure that it fits perfectly.

First, you have to plane away material and carefully shape the headblock to allow for the arch of the back. Without the right curvature planed into the headblock, an unsightly dimple will become visible when the back is glue down due to the headblock's current flatness.

Once the headblock (and tailblock) regions are adjusted for the arch of the backplate, the brace notch pockets must be adjusted so that the back sits flush to the sides, while the brace ends sit neatly in the pockets, maintaing positive contact with the kerfed lining.

Once everything is aligned and dry fitted properly, the back can be glued on. I chose to use the 'rubber strip' method--opting for it over constructing a few dozen spool clamps--by cutting up a blue rubber swimming pool hose I bought from Home Depot into strips and square-knotting them together--90 ft in total. I also used a few clamps in kep points for some added clamping power.

Holy Crap It Worked!

...and the unveiling--it worked! A little part of me actually can't believe it worked and that the back hasn't sprung off and flown through the wall into the neighbor's condo like a card throwing trick. Here's a couple pictures after the unveiling:

Though the soundhole looking at the back bracing:

Here are just some cool shots back into the enclosed sound box:

Installing the End Graft

Where the two sides meet at the tailblock, it's traditional to include an end graft (usually of a contrasting wood or the binding material) to give the end of the guitar a clean finished look. In order to chisel out the region and work on the guitar, it has to be clamped something like this:

I chose to use a figured maple to match my bindings. Many people recommend that you use a wedge shaped graft because you can easily adjust the taper and drive it in for a clean fit. I liked the contrast of the maple against the rosewood so much that I chose to make my wedge significantly wider than most, so as to have as mush figured maple as possible.
Here's the wedge shape being chiseled out of the side material at the tailblock:

I chose to pair the figured maple wedge with black/white/black purfling strips on the edges, which I will later miter and join to the binding. Here's the wedge being rough fitted in place:

Here's the final maple wedge trimmed flush:
Once the graft is in place, I finished scraping the sides smooth and level in preparation for routing the binding ledge (I didn't take many pictures in this stage, but the transformation from rough bent side wood to smooth glassy guitar side wood is unbelievable). In all honesty, the entire leveling and scraping process was fairly tedious and took hours. By the end however, I learned both how to properly sharpen a scraper and how essential it is that the scraper edge be sharp and well burnished. Here's my clamping arrangement for holding the body while scraping:

LESSON LEARNED: If you can't burnish a good hook on the edge of your scraper, don't even bother working on the sides of the guitar. You will get nowhere fast and likely become frustrated.

Installing the Maple Binding

Routing the stepped channels around the perimeter of the body originally seemed like a pretty intimidating task. Essentially, any slip of the router or major mistake here, and it would likely be fairly noticeable in the end. Using a Dremel and sharp rabbet bit, here's what the initial pass looked like up close:

The next photo shows the "stepped" ledge needed to receive both the outer maple binding, and the inner black/white/black purfling strip:

Because of a combination of the arched surface of the back, my less-than-amazing router base, and my equally less-than-amazing router skills, the depths of my cuts varied along the permiter of the guitar, and in some cases, the stepping effect disappeared completely. To remedy this situation, I ordered a hand held Purfling Cutter from StewMac. This tool is essentially a razer blade fixed in a handle with a side guide--but it has virtually zero surface area, unlike a router base, so when guided along the edge it makes a score line of perfect depth. I used this to clean up and widen my routed channels, and in the end, the routed ledges turned out nearly perfectly.

Below is a photo of the maple binding and the b/w/b/ purfling strips taped in place, prior to glueing.
Essentially, I fitted and trimmed them all, taped them tightly in place, and then went around a couple inches at a time and wicked CA superglue into the gaps, then pressed firmly for about 30 seconds. This method ensured a nearly gap-free installation, and was much less stressfull / hurried than trying to do it all in one pass with wood glue.

Below is a photo of the glue in place binding, before scraping flush to the guitar body.
Another up close shot of the oversized binding protruding above the body. I realized after scraping the binding flush that I had not routed by channels deep enough in both directions, an thus wound up removing much more binding material than I had wanted too from an asethtic perspective. It turned out fine, however.

I also wicked glue into the gaps along the sides:

Here's the glues and bound back, before scraping:

Scraping the Binding and Pore Filling

Once all of the binding had been installed, minor imperfections and gaps needed to be filled. I chose to pack the tiny gaps with rosewood saw dust made from scrap back material, and then allwo CA superglue to bond the saw dust in the gap. Here's a picture of my neat little saw dust pile:
Here's a good example of a tiny gap (the picture was taken very zoomed in, so it looks pretty bad but it's really not very noticeable)
Applying the saw dust:

Add a little glue and the perfect patch is formed--I think you'll agree, at this point I could almost get away without scraping or sanding, and probably nobdy would even notice...

After a few hours of careful scraping, leveling, and gentle sanding, here are some pictures of the body with flush bindings:

Sealing the Body / Applying Epoxy Coat

After making sure I had filled all of the incidental scratches and gaps, I power sanded the entire body with 220 grit, followed by 320 grit sandpaper to achieve a scratch-free, smooth surface before moving on to filling the rosewood pores and sealing the entire thing with a couple coats of epoxy.

Many people use many different products to pore fill and seal, but I wanted a clear filler that would not alter the natural color and beauty of the rosewood, so I chose to use clear 5-minute epoxy. Essentially, you just spread it as thinly as you can with a credit card, let cure, sand with 320, and repeat.

I usually broke the guitar into sections--back separate from the sides and top-- since my epoxy cured a little quicker than I could work. One time I completely blew the mixture ratio and my luxurious 5 minute epoxy became 30 second worries though, I just let it dry and sanded off the ridiculous looking job I had done and started over--it's fairly forgiving if you're patient.

Here are some photos of the sealed body with the crazy cool rosewood--this Amazon Rosewood actually has a lot of depth for a rosewood. I've left the final coat of epoxy rough and unsanded--it'll remain that way for a couple months while I build the neck and bridge, then I'll come back, sand it down, and begin applying a dozen coats of finish lacquer.