Building a Chambered Body

Recently, rather than building this guitar as a solid body (which was the original idea for it), I decided to have a go and creating a proper chambered body, after watching a series of videos showing people putting tops on their guitars.

I had the great opportunity of pulling apart a rimu door, and a lot of that was a rimu ply veneer. I had promptly cut these into a series of tops which I plan to use over the next few years.

Remembering this, I decided to take the kauri body and carve out some chambers before gluing on the rimu top.

Below is how I went about creating the chambers. This is more of a reference point for the future, rather than a How To.

Drill

The first step after outlining the chambered shapes is to drill to depth (or just short of depth) in a tight honeycomb pattern. While a drill press would be ideal, generally the reach isn’t quite big enough for some places.

Gouge

Using a chisel and beginning from the middle rows of drill holes, cut away at the inside of these chambers. Edges can be cut away, but don’t need to be too finished at this stage.

Route

Using a router, clean up around the edges, as well as cutting the cavities down to final depth.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, because lets face it, it’s getting covered up with a top. But some people might like to have it nicer inside than others…

Glue

Line up the centre marks of the body with the centre marks of the top. Double check the fit at all points around the top. The top should be (ideally) larger than the body, as it is much easier to cut the top to fit than cutting the body.

Spread glue on the body, and then place the top on the top. Line up the centre marks and clamp at the bottom. Check the alignment at the neck and clamp. To help spread the pressure evenly across the top, and also to protect the wood without having to caul every clamp, I used the templates I’ve made for this body shape on top and bottom.¬†Then it’s pretty much making a clamp city by evenly and equally (mirroring*) around the body to create an even spread of pressure around the body. The more clamps you have the better.

If you have a couple of longer clamps, don’t forget to clamp down the middle if possible. I was fortunate to pick up an old clamp in a 2nd hand shop, but it is solid as a brick and has a very long reach, which made it perfect for this job.

* By mirroring, I mean if you place a clamp on the bottom right (see nearest red G clamp in photo) of the body, then your next placed clamp should be opposite to this (see red G clamp placed in the belly cut away on the left of the body). This should help keep the top with even pressure, and hopefully stop it from sliding around too much.