A Tour of the Gibson Acoustic Shop in Bozeman, Montana: Part 3

And now we’re back with the rest of the tour of the wood shop floor. At this point, the basic guitar body has been assembled – the tops and backs are joined and strutted, the sides are bent and glued up with the neck and tail blocks, and these parts have been put together. As well, the neck has been carved and inlaid, and the fingerboard – bound as appropriate – has been fretted and glued to the neck blank.

Next, binding is added to the body. Unfortunately I couldn’t get in front of the person who was paying close attention to putting the binding on, so there’s an image of him at the bench, and some of the materials. You can’t see it, but glue is applied and the binding is taped on:

After being bound, the body is routed for a compound dovetail joint, getting it ready to meet up with its neck, which is waiting across the aisle.

(A compound dovetail has two V-shapes: one for the dovetail itself going into the block, and the other along its length. If you look at the body from either the block end or the top, you’ll see a V-cut. This means that the joint tightens as the parts come together, or rapidly loosens if you have to take it apart, a very good thing! Dovetailed furniture, by contrast, usually has a simple or straight dovetail).

Here, the body is mounted block down on a jig that moves it on a router table. Then, the neck dovetail is fitted very carefully to the body joint, and any adjustments required are made to the body. Once the fitters and joiners are satisfied that the joint fits and that the neck points directly down the center of the guitar body and tips back at the correct angle – three degrees – the neck is glued in using hide glue.

Hide glue is used here because unlike many other types of glue, it completely hardens, allowing unimpeded energy transmission between the body and neck.

Once the glue joint is cured, the body and neck are sanded in preparation for finishing. This is a critical step – the better the sanding, the better the finish. Then, on mahogany and other open-grain instruments, filler is applied to the neck, back and sides, and when that’s dry, it’s also sanded level. Tightly grained woods like maple don’t require filling.
Finally, the pickguard is made. And if you’ve got a Gibson Montana acoustic, chances are the pickguard was made in this little room by the person in the photo.

The next step is across the hall to the finishing rooms!

Join us in Part 4 of The Gibson Acoustic Shop Tour!

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