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Removing back from a classical, nylon string guitar.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Today I had to do something that never occurred to me I’d have to (but I’m sure there’ll be more instances in the future). I removed the back from my current build, 004. There was a problem with the neck angle (current theory, but could be something else once I get under the hood) and I also left off two braces from the soundboard (which might possibly be the entire problem). The process was fairly easy. This was for a glue joint that was done with Titebond, so I cannot say this is ok with other types of glue as I have no other experience besides with this type. Use an ordinary iron on its lowest setting and heat up the areas where the pieces meet. In this case it was the flat surface of the back glued to the kerfing that lines the sides of the instrument. The iron sits on a damp rag while a blade is used to score along the seam of the glue join. Around a minute or so is when I began seeing the first bits of separation. Go slowly and breathe and know everything is ok. I used toothpicks to prop open the back as I went along. In 20 minutes, I had the back off.

For this guitar, I decided to try a complicated (re: intriguing) bracing pattern (see pic) invented by a 1960’s physical chemist named Michael Kasha who bought a classical guitar for his son, but became convinced that the traditional bracing pattern just did not bring the sound up to its full potential. This decision added two weeks to the process because there is a challenging learning curve to this method of soundboard bracing. Not many luthiers do this type of bracing making it a rare and more costly type of hand-crafted guitar. I thoroughly have enjoyed the challenge and the process of shaping the asymmetrical, tapered, arched braces. At times I felt like I was laying out structure plans of a modernist city, like Brasilia. So… this to say that I have some serious time and heart put into this guitar. When I figured out that I had to correct the neck angle and add the missing braces, there was no other option than to take the back off. Huge growth experiences are the ones we remember and teach us the most. I’ll have the back “back” on tomorrow and it’ll be just like it never happened. A famous luthier said that he never became a better guitar builder, but became more adept at hiding his mistakes. (In the pic below, I’m using a putty knife to separate the back from the sides. I do this after I’ve already done a smaller, more precise cut with a small blade and I see separation beginning.)