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Lacote Back and Side Laminations

I recently started work on two Lacote style guitars: Blanca and Negra.

Blanca is constructed of Curly Maple, Negra of Black Walnut. The domestic hardwoods for both instruments are laminated on Sitka Spruce.

My decision to laminate both backs and sides is predicated on the whole notion of building a light weight, responsive instrument. Many early romantic period guitars are quite small and are by nature already light. Traditionally, the backs were laminated. I decided to shave even more weight off them dispensing with the solid sides. Hence, I have a guitar body that essentially constructed of spruce with a thin layer hardwood as an outer skin. A secondary advantage to utilizing laminations is that it opens up all kinds of possibilities in terms of woods species I use for the bodies of these instruments without limiting overall their tonality as the spruce is doing the heavy lifting when is comes to responsively. While from an aesthetic point of view I personally like lot of what I see being built these days with wildly figured woods, I’m not inclined to take the the long term risks associated withusing them. Let’s face it, It’s hard enough to predict how a nice straight-grained piece of wood will behave over time let alone some of this wildly figures stuff. The lamination approach gives me the best  of both worlds: the relative stability of straight-grained wood and the beauty of highly figured veneers. I’m certain some will turn their noses up at this approach. Nonetheless, I’m going to follow through on this and build a dozen or so instruments and see where it takes me.

Side Laminations

The process laminating the sides is fairly straight-forward as illustrated in the short slideshow below. All side leaves were pre-bent prior to laminating them.

 

Back Laminations

As with the sides, I’m using a solid spruce core with a hardwood veneer laminated to it. Unfortunately,  I did not document the lamination process for either Negra or Blanca so I’m sharing photos of another instrument (Cosmo) with you. You’ll have to indulge me as I couldn’t resist naming these guitars, if for no other reason than it being just plain fun!

Cosmo has an nicely figured Indian Rosewood skin with a just enough sapwood to play off a wide range of rusts, purples, and black.  The sides came  off the same bookmatched set of veneers so I have  a very nice match. I believe I would have had to search hi and lo for solid pieces of this quality,  and paid dearly for it. But, I probably wouldn’t have used it for no other reason than it would have been flat-sawn. The veneers will give me the latitude to build with some wild stuff that under normal circumstances I couldn’t risk using.

CosmoBackLaminated

I own a Luthiertool vacuum frame which makes this lamination process very simple. The HDPE inserts are radiused  to enable me to laminate the wood to the appropriate curvature although you would never think this to be so when you pull the back out of the frame. More often than not, the back is deformed (at least this has been my experience). After a few days, the wood and glues settle-in and back will start to take on the radius of the form. I ‘ll try to remember to take a photo of one of these backs in a transitory state. One of the challenges I face is trying to decide whether I’m the documenter or the luthier which can be distracting.

BackLamination

I use Titebond for the lay-up. No need to use Titebond II here as there is no heat or water used in any of the post-lamination processes.

Back lamination 3

I’ll lay in the the veneer with the veneer tape side down…

Back lamination 4

And then lay in the the spruce glue side down. At his point I’m lining everything up pencil marks on both the HDPE insert and the rosewood and spruce pieces. In the future, I’ll most likely rely on registration holes as both the spruce and rosewood will get precision cut on my CNC machine.

Back lamination 5

Using a vacuum frame for clamping leaves me confident I’m going to get a good lamination. I have tried to pull up a piece held down on the table and I cannot get it to budge. I know when I lower the frame down over the lay-ups I’m going to get constant even pressure over the entire surface area of the laminations. I leave the lay-ups in the frame under pressure for 30 minutes. I could probably get away with 20, but I’m in no hurry so I leave it in for a little extra time and go work on something else.

Back lamination 6

You can follow the construction progress for these guitars by visiting Lacote Guitars. I’m constantly adding photos as I work towards completion of  these instruments.  I’ll continue to update this section, so please do visit again.

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2 comments

  1. Pierre330

    I see what you meant about maintaining integrity of the instrument and still having the look of the figured wood by using this method.

    It did bring to mind a couple of questions though.

    Firstly, as I’m sure you already know, for many people laminated back and sides are normally associated with low cost instruments. Many folks for this reason forgo guitars with lamination in favor of one with solid back and sides. It seems, from what I’ve read here and on other sites, this might not necessarily be the case?

    Secondly, and related to the above. Does laminated back and sides in lieu of solid have any effect on the sound of the instruments? And if so, for better or worse?

    Pierre

  2. Chuck

    The stigma surrounding laminated sides and back is real for sure but one has to take into account that many of the instruments in question are really plywood. While I do recognize that plywood is nothing more than a series of laminations, one has to also consider the wood as well. Plywood construction is usually something like a birch plywood with an exotic wood skin on both side. I use solid, high quality Sitka spruce of the quality that one would use for top material and then laminate either an exotic or domestic hardwood skin (denoting very thin veneer) or a thicker piece of the same exotic or domestic wood (denoting a much thicker piece) to create both my backs and sides. In either case there is no plywood used. It’s really a matter of educating people on the merits of solid wood lamination. Old biases die hard!

    In answer to you second question, a laminated back or side has the potential to produce a great sounding guitar and a s much more stable instrument as well as it is not as susceptible to changes in the environment which means the instrument will travel well; a consideration many professional guitarists have. I’m anxious to finish up these five Lacote style guitars and compare them to see if I get a consistently good sound from all of them.

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