Guitar building tips

Build a "real" flat-top guitar

Many books show the building of steelstring guitars with domed tops but as I've discussed with William R. Cumpiano (Co-author of "Guitarmaking - Tradition and Technology") he also recommends building real flat tops (at least for beginners). He says that he has heard wonderful sounding guitars made with both techniques.

A guitar with a domed top will not be acoustically superior automatically. It will be stronger in the long run but if you are a beginner and if you do not shape the braces very precisely to the rather complicated dome of the top I'll bet that a well-made flat-top guitar will survive any sloppy-made domed-top guitar. Later on under the load of the strings a flat top will become convex anyway.

Anyhow, building a flat top will be a whole lot easier! Think of the shaping and gluing-on the braces and think how easy the making of the binding and purfling rabbets would be when side and top are perpenticular to each other.

Because a flat back looks "sunken in" it should be made domed.

I may have overstated my endorsement of completely flat tops. It is true that I said that you can make a splendid guitar with a flat top, and that a number of expert luthiers that I know follow that technique. Because of this, I even endorse their use during the short courses taught at our guitarmaking school.
I would like to note however, that to use completely flat or slightly domed soundboards is a matter of personal approach. I continue to use a 3/32" to 1/8" dome on my own soundboards because I believe that in the long run it results in a more stable top, i.e. one that is less liable to deform under tension over long spans of time.
William R. Cumpiano, co-author of the book Guitarmaking
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