Lacote Guitars

Rib Construction

I currently have two Lacote style guitars under construction with a completion date targeted for sometime in February if all goes well. Follow along as I work on these instruments via this page. I opted for not only a laminated back, but sides as well on these instruments. I plan to continue with this approach as it provides for a lot more choices in woods as I can select from a ton of great veneers from Sauers and rely on the spruce linings for a majority of the mass in these instruments.
Lacote rib construction

Soundboards

Rosettes have been installed on both soundboards and the sound holes have been cut. The soundboards were joined several months ago and have been sitting around in a dry workshop environment since then. The backs were laminated and braced in November. I have been able to maintain between 42 and 45 percent relative humidity in the shop, but the last few days have been miserable here in NC. Lots of rain and generally damp air. I went out and purchased a new dehumidifier as my old one was ready to fall apart. Even the new unit is working hard to keep things dry. The best it has been able to maintain is 51 percent so I’m holding off on bracing the the tops until I can get the relative humidity down and the tops can stabilize. I’ll start working on the necks in the interim.
Lacote soundboards stacked

Fitting Backs

Fitting the back to the ribs is a bit tricky in that one needs to notch out the linings to accept the four transverse bars glued to the back.  How well one executes this can make or break the overall look of the interior of the sound box. I have to admit I’ve seen some pretty sorry looking workmanship on a number of really fine sounding instruments. Nonetheless, I  don’t think I could let one of my instruments out the door if it didn’t pass muster.  I chose to line both the back and ribs with Sitka spruce. The linings into which I let in the ends of the transverse bars are also made of spruce which presented a bit of a challenge. Spruce, which is the probably the hardest of the conifers is still a fairly soft wood. As such, it does not lend itself to cross-grain cuts even with a sharp chisel. One has to work carefully to create a clean and square notch.
Fitting Lacote backs

Bridge Fabrication

A couple of weeks ago I modeled a Lacote style bridge in Rhino 4.0 CAD software to enable me to machine them on my CNC machine. I probably spent more time sorting out the vacuum fixture than I did working on the piece. In any event, it was a lot of fun: I got so tied up in the project that I stayed up all night to finish it. While I could take this a step further and totally profile the bridge to completion, I will finish them off by hand.
Making a Lacote bridge using CNC machine

Neck V-Joint

I started working on necks for  5 Lacotes. I found a nice board of Curly Maple while I was up north and it has been sitting around since Christmas was just waiting to be sawn, bookmatched, and glued up into neck blanks. The V tenons have been cut and now comes the fun of fitting the headstock and neck blanks together. I”ll post under my “Construction” section outlining how I’m making these joints.
Lacote neck V-joint

Tops

Tops for both Negra and Blanca are braced and ready to glued to the ribs. I’m just waiting to stabilize the relative humidity in my shop. I discovered last week that my hydrometer is not accurate. I’ve been under the assumption that I was working at 42-44 percent RH when in fact it was much dryer, hovering at about 30 percent. I’m installing a humidifier to get me into the 42-44 percent range again and I’ll start gluing again.
Lacote braced tops

Three New Lacotes Started

I’ve laminated up three more sets of ribs and started doing some prep work to get three more Lacotes underway, hence the five necks that I’ve started. I’m going to stick with both laminated sides and backs using a Spruce core covered with some really nice figured Indian Rosewood, Austraila Curly Walnut, and Curly Maple. Naming these guitars is fun; kind of gives them a personality. The Rosewood will be for Cosmo, Curly Walnut for Damien, and the Maple for Antoine.
Lacote guitar bodies

Blanca Nearing Completion

I Strung up the first of my Lacote guitars (Blanca) last night and I’m in love with this instrument. After installing the low E string I wasn’t too impressed with what I heard and I wasn’t hoping for much out of this guitar. Five strings later she still sounded pretty ordinary. But as the evening wore on and I kept playing it, the instrument opened up and started to develop some character. I spent some time playing her the following morning  and she really started sounding pretty good. I’m going to be taking the strings off to start French polishing her as soon as a potential customer has a chance to hear her. This is my personal instrument so it’s not for sale, but there are four others under construction that are.

This Lacote is what we call “in the white”. There is no finish on it. I don’t want to keep it in this state for very long as maple tends to get dirty very fast and I don’t want to have to sand and scrape this instrument again.

Lacote front

Lacote back

I’m very pleased with all of the ebony bindings and bridge and maple purflings. I thought that it might be too much black and give the instrument a heavy look, but it really did work out well in my opinion.

Lacote body close-up

The moustache bridge really makes this guitar. They are lot of work to make even though I cut out the blanks on my CNC machine. It still takes me about 4 hours to profile the bridge to its final shape.

I’m using La Bella ERG-1 Nylon Romantic Guitar Strings on this instrument as opposed to gut strings which would have been the type of string used on this type of guitar in the 19th century.

Lacote moustache bridge

The wedge shaped ebony butt inlay converging with the ebony bindings really frame in the double bookmatched curly maple sides. The double purflings running through the middle of the sides were cut-in by hand.

Lacote butt strip

The the five piece back and the two piece sides were made up out of necessity; at the time I didn’t have any pieces of maple big enough to make a two piece back and single piece sides. It was a lot of extra work but well worth it.

Lacote side

The neck shaft is book-matched curly maple. I really like the curl! It was a pain to carve.

Lacote neck

The headstock is curly maple sandwiched between an ebony face and backplate. The V joint was hand cut. The planetary pegs are Pegheads. They look like ordinary wooden pegs you would find on a violin, but they are really geared tuning machines which allow for precise tuning. You can’t get this kind of precision in a traditional friction peg.

Lacote V-joint detail

 Australian Curly Walnut Lacote

This Lacote was commissioned just as I was starting to run my first necks on my CNC machine. It also was the first to incorporate a removable  bolt-on neck. Ladder braced guitars are prone to collapsing over time. While the chances of this happening in mine or the owner’s lifetime are slim, it’s comforting to know that pulling the neck off for a reset is only a matter of loosening two set-screws. There is no glue holding the neck of this guitar on.

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As are all of my Romantic guitars, both the back and sides are constructed of spruce with a hardwood veneer skin. In this case, Australian curly walnut.

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