An acoustic guitar back strip inlay is more than just a decorative addition to the guitar. This strip helps in several areas.
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First, it adds strength to the center joint on the back plate by adding a layer of wood. Second, it adds beauty to the guitar. Finally, the back strip can help cover a book match that does not look great at the center line.
I typically use a back strip on my guitars, with one notable exception. If I have a piece of wood that looks gorgeous when book matched, then I will not use a strip. Sometimes, I run into a great looking piece that would look worse if I split up the book match with a back strip. In this case, an acoustic guitar back strip would not be the best choice. However, in cases where the strip adds to the look, I use one.
The back plate on an acoustic guitar is thin, and so is the gluing area. Using an acoustic guitar back strip inlay increases the gluing surface, and adds another piece of wood over the center joint. This extra wood and extra gluing area make the plates hold together better than without. While the center seam overlay inside the guitar will also have the same effect, having extra strength on both sides never hurts.
Center Strip Inlays are Focal Points
Another advantage of the center strip inlay is the beauty. A well crafted binding design with a center strip inlay to match looks beautiful. This attention to detail and design make the guitar more unique. Also, additions like binding, purfling, and other inlay types give the guitar more value.
I really like extending the purfling around the guitar as much as possible. I do the same purfling on the sides as on the plates. Bringing it through the design and into the back strip inlay is a classic and beautiful design. The pictures show two B/W/B 20/20/20 purfling strips on each side of the center strip. The strip is actually just a regular binding strip that matches all the others. However, when you add the simple touch of a couple purfling strips, it makes the look more interesting.
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An acoustic guitar back strip inlay is an easy addition to a guitar that helps in several areas. It adds strength, beauty, and helps make the book match look better.
Finally, an acoustic guitar back strip inlay can make a not so great looking center joint disappear. There are times when the book match is not perfect, or the pattern of the wood does not look great right at the joint. Using a center strip can eliminate that, because it covers up at least 1/4″ of the joint.
It should not be used to cover over an extremely poor center joint. If there are one or two very thin gaps, it’s fine. However, if the joint is not strong and was done poorly, saw it apart and try the glue up again. The plates are so thin that anything made poorly will most likely fall apart eventually. Covering over a tiny imperfection is ok, but anything more should be re-done. An acoustic guitar back strip inlay should never be used on a center joint that is very weak or falling apart. It will not have the strength it needs.
For more on acoustic guitar making, take a look at my other articles:
How to make an Acoustic Guitar Bridge, which shows the easiest step by step process.
Fretboard Duplicator Jig, which shows how to make a fretboard copying jig for free.
The Guitar Rosette, which explains why the rosette is important.
I cover this and many more guitar making topics in my book, Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs. With over 500 pages and over 1600 images, this book is packed full of information for the beginning acoustic guitar maker.
Honestly, anyone with a little patience and some woodworking experience can make an acoustic guitar. Pick up a few good books, make the tools and jigs you will need, then make a nice guitar. A great sounding instrument can be had even on the first try.
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