Category: Custom Guitars

Building an Archtop Guitar

So, you Want to Build your own Archtop?

www.besthandmadeguitars.comBuilding an archtop guitar is a challenging but rewarding project that requires a combination of woodworking skills, craftsmanship, and a good understanding of guitar construction.

An archtop guitar is a type of acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar that features an arched top, which is carved or pressed into an arched shape. This design distinguishes archtop guitars from flat-top guitars. Archtops are known for their distinctive appearance, with a curved or “arched” top and back.

Key features of an archtop guitar include:


Arch-shaped Top

The top (or soundboard) of an archtop guitar is carved or pressed into an arched shape. This arch contributes to the guitar’s resonance, tone, and projection. Archtop guitars typically have F-shaped sound holes (similar to those found on violins) on the top. These F-holes not only contribute to the guitar’s aesthetics but also play a role in shaping the instrument’s sound.

Curved Back

The back of the archtop guitar is also curved, complementing the arched top. This design adds to the guitar’s resonance and contributes to the distinctive tonal qualities associated with archtops. Archtops can be fully hollow or semi-hollow. Fully hollow archtops have no solid block of wood running through the body, while semi-hollow archtops have a block running through the center of the body to reduce feedback at higher volumes. Archtops often feature a tailpiece and bridge design. The tailpiece anchors the strings, and the bridge is usually floating or attached to the top, allowing for adjustments to the action. Archtop guitars are commonly associated with jazz music. Their warm, resonant tones and excellent projection make them suitable for jazz guitarists, though they are versatile enough for other genres as well.

High-Quality Materials

Archtop guitars are often crafted using high-quality tonewoods such as spruce for the top and maple for the back and sides. The use of these tonewoods, along with the arched design, contributes to the instrument’s unique sound. Renowned guitar manufacturers like Gibson and Epiphone have produced iconic archtop models, including the Gibson L-5 and ES-175. Players such as Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass are famous for their use of archtop guitars in jazz music. The craftsmanship required to build an archtop guitar and its distinctive features contribute to its reputation as a high-end and specialized instrument.

If you want to build your own archtop, here is the process

1. Design

Choose a design for your archtop guitar. Consider factors such as body shape, scale length, and the type of wood you want to use. Acquire or create detailed plans for your chosen design.

2. Gather Materials

Select high-quality tonewoods for the top, back, sides, and neck. Common choices include spruce or cedar for the top and maple for the back and sides.
Choose an appropriate fingerboard material (e.g., ebony or rosewood) and select hardware such as tuners, bridge, and tailpiece.

3. Tools and Equipment

Acquire the necessary tools for guitar building, including chisels, planes, saws, rasps, and clamps. You may need specialized tools for carving the arch, like a bending iron for shaping the sides.

4. Building Process

Start by rough-cutting the body and neck blanks from your chosen tonewoods. Use the plans to shape the top and back with the desired arch. This can involve carving, graduating, and refining the thickness of the wood. Bend the sides to the desired shape using a bending iron. Glue the top and back onto the sides, then shape and carve the braces inside the guitar to enhance its structural integrity and tonal characteristics. Attach the neck to the body and carve the neck profile. Install the fingerboard, frets, and headstock. Apply a finish to protect and enhance the wood. Remember to protect your airway from the spray.

5. Assembly

Assemble all the components, including attaching the bridge, tailpiece, and tuners. Install the nut and set up the guitar for proper playability by adjusting the action and intonation.

6. Finishing Touches

Sand the entire instrument to achieve a smooth finish. Apply a suitable finish (e.g., lacquer, varnish, or oil) to protect the wood and enhance its appearance.

7. Setup

Adjust the truss rod, bridge height, and nut slots to achieve the desired playability. Install strings and perform final adjustments to ensure proper intonation and playability.

8. Testing and Adjusting

Play the guitar and make any necessary adjustments to the setup for optimal playability and tone. Fine-tune the nut and saddle for proper string action.

Building an archtop guitar requires a combination of precision, patience, and skill. It’s recommended to gather as much information as possible, possibly by consulting experienced luthiers or joining online forums and communities dedicated to guitar building. Additionally, workshops or courses on guitar building can provide hands-on guidance and support throughout the process.

Get an Archtop Made for You

That’s a lot of work and a great deal of skill is needed. If you want a custom made archtop guitar, check this out.

Guitar Neck Relief

Guitar neck relief refers to the slight curvature or bow in the neck of a guitar, and it plays a crucial role in the playability and setup of the instrument. Proper neck relief is essential for achieving optimal playability and preventing issues like fret buzz. Different types of guitars may have slightly different neck relief requirements. For example, acoustic guitars typically have slightly more neck relief than electric guitars. Classical guitars might have different specifications as well. The gauge (thickness) of the strings you use can affect neck relief. Heavier gauge strings exert more tension on the neck and may require a slightly different neck relief setup compared to lighter gauge strings. Adjustments may be needed when switching between string gauges. Regular maintenance of your guitar, including keeping it clean and properly humidified (especially for acoustic guitars), can help prevent neck issues from arising in the first place. Here are some key points to understand about guitar neck relief.

Natural Curvature

Most guitar necks have a slight natural curvature. This curvature can be seen when you look down the length of the neck from the headstock to the body. It typically forms a gentle arc. It is essential for achieving comfortable action and intonation on the guitar. Without the right amount of relief, you may experience problems like fret buzz or high action (strings too far from the fretboard). Neck relief is somewhat subjective and can be adjusted to suit a player’s preference. Some players may prefer a flatter neck with minimal relief for low action and fast playing, while others may prefer a bit more relief for a smoother feel and better sustain. Changes in temperature and humidity can affect neck relief. Changes in seasons and humidity levels can affect the neck’s curvature. It’s a good idea to check and potentially adjust the neck relief periodically, especially during significant weather changes, to maintain optimal playability. It’s important to keep your guitar in a stable environment to minimize these fluctuations, as extreme conditions can lead to neck warping or other issues.

Measuring Neck Relief

Guitar neck relief can be adjusted through the truss rod, a metal rod that runs inside the neck. The truss rod can be tightened or loosened to change the amount of curvature in the neck. You can measure neck relief by fretting a string at the first fret and another at the highest fret (usually around the 12th). Then, you should check the gap between the string and the frets at the midpoint (around the 7th fret). A small gap (usually around 0.010 to 0.015 inches) is ideal for most guitars, but the exact amount can vary depending on the player’s preference and the guitar’s design.


If you need to adjust neck relief, it’s important to be cautious. You can usually access the truss rod adjustment nut through an opening in the headstock or by removing the guitar’s truss rod cover. To increase relief, you’d loosen the truss rod (turn counterclockwise), and to decrease relief, you’d tighten it (turn clockwise). Make very small adjustments and let the neck settle before checking the results, as over-adjustment can damage the neck. When adjusting neck relief, make sure to recheck the action and intonation of your guitar after allowing it some time to settle. Sometimes, adjusting the neck relief can have a minor impact on these factors, and you may need to fine-tune your setup accordingly. Many guitar manufacturers provide guidelines for the recommended neck relief settings for their specific guitar models. These recommendations can serve as a good starting point for achieving optimal playability. If you’re not comfortable adjusting the neck relief yourself, or if you’re unsure about the proper setup for your specific guitar, it’s best to take your instrument to a professional guitar technician or luthier. They can assess your guitar’s needs and make the necessary adjustments.

In summary, proper guitar neck relief is vital for achieving good playability and tone. Understanding how to measure and adjust it, as well as when to seek professional help, can contribute to a more enjoyable playing experience and prolong the life of your instrument. Remember that achieving the ideal neck relief is a balance between playability and avoiding problems like fret buzz. It may take some experimentation to find the right setup that suits your playing style and preferences, but with care and attention, you can maintain a healthy neck curvature for your guitar.


Hand Made Custom Guitars custom acoustic guitars are instruments that are meticulously crafted by skilled luthiers (guitar makers) to meet the specific requirements and preferences of individual players. These guitars are typically crafted with high-quality materials and built using traditional woodworking techniques, resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind instruments.

Key Aspects of Handmade Guitars:

  • Customization: Handmade custom guitars offer a high level of customization. Customers can work closely with the luthier to select the wood types, body shape, neck profile, fingerboard material, frets, and other features based on their playing style and tonal preferences.
  • Superior craftsmanship: Handmade guitars are built with meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship. Skilled luthiers dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to ensure the highest quality of construction and finishing.
  • Premium materials: Custom guitars often feature premium tonewoods for the top, back, and sides, such as spruce, cedar, mahogany, rosewood, or maple. The choice of tonewoods significantly affects the instrument’s sound and resonance.
  • Sound quality: Handmade custom acoustic guitars are renowned for their exceptional sound quality. Luthiers carefully shape and brace the guitar’s top and back to optimize its tonal characteristics, resulting in a unique and balanced sound.
  • Playability: Custom guitars can be tailored to fit the player’s specific needs in terms of neck shape, fret size, string spacing, and action (string height). This customization ensures comfortable playability and enhances the player’s overall experience.
  • Unique design and aesthetics: Custom guitars often showcase exquisite design elements and aesthetics. Luthiers can incorporate intricate inlays, bindings, rosettes, and other decorative features to create visually stunning instruments.
  • Limited production: Handmade custom guitars are typically produced in limited quantities due to the time and craftsmanship involved. This rarity adds to their value and desirability among musicians and collectors.

It’s worth noting that handmade custom acoustic guitars are often more expensive compared to mass-produced instruments. The price reflects the time, skill, and attention to detail that goes into crafting each instrument.

If you are interested in acquiring a handmade custom acoustic guitar, contact Balazs Prohaszka. He will guide you through the process of creating a guitar that matches your preferences and provide you with a unique instrument tailored to your needs.