How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Series – Part Eleven – Installing Kerfing

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This is how to make an Acoustic Guitar part Eleven, Kerfing. In this post I’ll show you a couple of different methods for obtaining Kerfing strips, as well as how to put them in, and a few tips and tricks along the way. Enjoy.

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Why Use Kerfing Strips

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Eleven-Installing-KerfingBefore we get in the kerfing strips, it’s a good idea to cover why you even need to use kerfing strips at all. In fact, you don’t actually have to use them, and there are other options, however the kerfing strip is the most common for acoustic guitars.

The joint between the sides and the plates is a simple 90 degree butt joint. It’s also a very skinny butt joint.

The gluing surface between the two pieces of wood is very small, and over time this can cause problems with the pieces coming apart.

Kerfing strips solve this problem by increasing the gluing space significantly, as well as adding a little bit of extra wood for strength.

It’s a fairly simple solution to the problem, and it makes your guitar a lot stronger. They are also super easy to install, and you will really enjoy this easy part of the guitar making process.

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If you Missed Last Week, Check out How to Make an Acoustic Guitar – Part Ten

Buy Them to Save Time

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Eleven-Installing-Kerfing-homemade-stripsThe easiest way to get a hold of kerfing strips is just to buy them. When you buy something pre-made, you save the time that it would take to make it. Making kerfing strips is not that difficult, but it does take some time.

When you buy your kerfing strips, most of the time they are going to be sold in a length that will do 1/2 of one side, meaning you need four strips at least to do an entire guitar. I recommend getting at least five, that way you have a little extra just in case.

In situations where the strips are shorter, simply look at the length of material that you needed to make the sides, and order enough to do four times that length at least. Again, it’s better to have a little bit more than come up short.

See Also: 10 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making an Acoustic Guitar

Make Your Own to Save Money

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Eleven-Installing-Kerfing-using-a-jigIf you are long on time but short on cash, making kerfing strips yourself is actually a fairly straightforward and easy process. Make yourself a jig that will work on the bandsaw or the table saw, and you can make your own kerfing strips.

The process of making kerfing strips is not in itself very difficult. It’s the fact that you need to make a careful cut every quarter-inch and repeat that process over about 150 inches of material.

That’s what makes the process time consuming.

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One of the benefits of making your own kerfing strips is that it saves you money. You can literally rip strips from the end of a board and send them through your jig and create kerfed strips very easily.

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Eleven-Installing-Kerfing-strips-on-the-jigYou also have the benefit of being able to use any shape that you want. Kerfing comes in a number of different shapes that you will notice if you take a look online to order some strips rather than make them.

Making the strips at home means you can decide what you want to make, and even change the design a little bit if you would like to have it larger or smaller.

The choice is 100% yours, because you’re making it yourself.

See Also: 25 Simple Ways to Customize Your Guitar Without Changing the Tone

Installing Kerfing

Installing Kerfing is actually pretty easy, and the only part that you really have to deal with and address is the glue drying before you get a chance to clamp down the entire strip. However, if you work quickly you can overcome this fairly easily.

The Book Store is Now Open!   Happy Building!

I’m one of those rebellious guitar makers that glues down an entire strip at once. You can absolutely do this once you have your process down, and as long as you’re comfortable working quickly.

Essentially all you need to do is smear some glue along the part of the strip that will be against the sides, and then use a bunch of small spring clamps to hold the strip in place while the glue dries. It sounds quicker than it actually is, so practice first.

See Also: My Best Guitar Making Posts…so far

Kerfing Tips and Tricks

  • Put enough glue on the back of the strip to do the job, but not so much that it causes runs.
  • Have all of your clamps ready to go, and have more of them than you think you need.
  • Do a dry run without glue first to see just how many clamps he will need to hold the strip flush.
  • If you have to break the strip in the sections to go through a curve or work with a smaller piece, that’s OK nobody will ever notice.
  • Glue the strips on so that way the bottom portion that will touch the plates is as flush as possible to the sides. When in doubt, leave it a little tall.
  • After the glue dries, you can always come back and flush the kerfing strips to the sides.
  • Glue the strips in 1/2 of the guitar at a time.

You Never Have Enough Clamps

How-to-Make-an-Acoustic-Guitar-Series-Part-Eleven-Installing-Kerfing-clamping-kerfing-stripsOne of the best tips that I can give you is understanding that you will probably not have enough clamps in the beginning to glue your kerfing in place.

It literally takes a small clamp about every inch or 3/4 of an inch to make this work.

The problem is with the strip itself. The strip is curved that it bends and droops under it’s own weight. This means it will not hold against the side of the guitar by itself, instead it will try to lift away from the side in random places.

You need to put down a clamp basically right next to the last clamp in order to keep the strip from moving around and coming away from the wood. That’s the last thing you want to happen to, because it will mean a weak joint.

See Also: 10 Helpful Tips for Using a Guitar Side Bending Iron

Make Rubber Band Clamps

Something that’s a huge help especially if you don’t have many clamps in your shop is to just make them yourself out of clothes pins and rubber bands. Clothespins are the perfect size, but they just don’t quite have the strength to hold the kerfing in place.

However, if you add a small rubber band around the front of the jaws, that will add some strength, and work perfectly. On top of that, a box of clothes pins can be had for about a dollar, and a box of rubber bands for probably about the same.

That means for the price of a couple of bucks, you might be able to make 50 of these little clothespin rubber band clamps. It will save you a lot of money, especially over the price of even a small spring clamps from the home-improvement store.

See Also: Clothespin Clamps

Coming Up Next Week

Now that the kerfing is in place, next week we will turn our attention to preparing and attaching the back plate to the sides. This is the fun part of the process, because it starts the process of closing the guitar body.

Once you have a complete guitar body in your hands, especially if this is your first instrument, the process becomes very real. You now have a legitimate guitar part in your hands, and it actually looks and feels like a guitar too.

Attaching the back plate is a fairly straightforward process, and I will cover it in full detail in the next post. If you have any questions on how to make an acoustic guitar, please leave a comment and I’ll be glad to answer them.

If you have any questions, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

Next Post: How to Make an Acoustic Guitar Part Twelve

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

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