Building a semi-hollow body
1. Dave makes up the body blank from laminated recycled timber. “I find rimu is safe from a tone and weight point of view. I also use matai and mahogany, and other thin strips for colour,” he says. The thickness of the back ranges from 32mm to 40mm. 2. Next Dave prepares the top. Usually two pieces of book-matched 19x150mm, sometimes with a centre strip for looks. “Maple is the traditional choice for a semi-hollow guitar but you can use whatever looks and sounds good,” he explains. “I have used rimu, mahogany, elm, walnut, and totara so far.” 3. He places one on the other, draws the outline, and identifies the neck pocket and pickup holes. He then screws the two pieces together through the planned pickup holes. 4. Dave cuts out the shape with a bandsaw and sands the edges (both top and bottom at the same time). 5. The binding channel is cut using a router with a guide wheel.
6. Next he draws the shape of the carve he wants and uses the router to cut the shelf at the bottom of the carve.
7. The top is then sanded/cut down to a three to four per cent angle. The neck pocket is routed out and the carving begins. Dave starts with chisels and planes, finishing with a scraper and sandpaper.
8. At this point he unscrews the top and, if building a semi-hollow, will carve the underside. A Customwood template is used to trace the f-hole shape which is cut out using a scroll saw.
9. The top side of the bottom now needs channels cut for the wiring as well as a cavity for the wiring and volume knobs. For a semi-hollow, there will also be a sizeable cavity under the f-hole.
10. The top can now be glued on using clamps and the same pickup-hole screws for placing and clamping. Dave uses Titebond wood glue.
11. The pickup holes are cut using a jig.
12. The binding is glued around the body, trimmed, and scraped. While decorative, it also hides the end-grain on top.
13. The neck is attached allowing the bridge to be fitted correctly. Dave builds the necks for some and buys others. The Korean-made neck comes as a paddle, which he cuts into his signature shape.
14. The final scraping, sanding, and staining take place.
15. Sometimes a pick guard is fitted. Made from three-ply styrene or a pearloid material, Dave cuts them out with a scroll saw. He sometimes inlays paua, cats-eye, and mother-of-pearl.
The finished product, a Solace Marlbarian semi-hollow guitar