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Discussion Starter #1
I currently build solid-body electric guitars, but will be expanding to acoustics as well, and I'm short one tool.

On the solid bodies, to get a nice flat finish for glossy coats, especially if it's bookmatched halves, it's been no end of labor to get it flat so the joint and little dips don't show up in the gloss of the finish.

On the acoustics, I have a dual issue, in that the top and bottom will be not only bookmatched, but the top (soundboard) needs to be whittled down in thickness one or two thousandths at a time to get it to a 'musical' thickness.

I've seen videos of people doing this by hand, but that's more hobby. I've only got so much time in the day. I'm just about to spring for a 24" drum sander to speed up the process. Mind you, it's not to take the place of a planer. It would only be for little micro changes in thickness. I've done a lot of searching on this website, and there's lots of negatives about drum sanders in general. Wide-belts are just too expensive for me right now, so they're out of the question. Is this the right tool for the job? If I'm going in the wrong direction, please let me know.

Thanks in advance.
 

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A drum sander is a great tool for light cuts, but "one or two thousandths" may tax even them. Still, i think you may be able to do what you want with one....the obvious risk being if it doesn't work, that's a fairly substantial investment to just have sitting there.
 
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Thanks for the quick response. Agreed, I'd hate to buy one and find out it didn't work. The one I looked at was about $2,000 and that's going to be around my top end right now. Seems like I'm in kind of a dilemma. It would be nice to figure this one out because there's lots of nice acoustic guitars out there that cost less than what the labor alone would be for me to do a job like this by hand.

If I did go with one, I'm also wondering if it would be worth rigging up and air line to blow the dust off of the drums while it was running. Maybe that would help with the galling and heating issues these things seem to have?
 

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A piece of paper is roughly 4 thousandths....I feel confident you'll be fine using a drum sander for half that thickness.
 

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Had a good look at the Flatmaster on articles on the web (including an article you did Dave). Not sure I'm convinced on that one yet. Seems like it's economical, at least compared to the drum sander. Still researching. Thanks for the responses.
 

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If it were me I would use a stroke sander. It would give you a lot more control. On a drum sander if the wood hesitates a little passing through it, it will burn a groove in the wood quick.

I have one question. We has a guy not long ago that was refinishing an acoustical guitar and wondered what type of finish he should use on it. I felt like the finish would affect the sound and wouldn't advise him. Later he said he didn't care what the finish did to the sound so that was never resolved. Do you know what is the best finish to use on an acoustical guitar?

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Saw a video once about a luthier who built from scratch. Bought sections of Sitika Spruice logs and split them out, etc. He used shellac for a finish. The technique was to spray it on, I think he actually used an airbrush, if I remember correctly. Then he sanded. I specifically remember the narrator say that he sanded off about 90 percent of what he applied on each coat. I don't remember how many coats he applied. I do remember that when he judged it ready, he finished it off with French polish. I remember seeing the "ghosting" of the alcohol burning off as he did his figure 8.
 

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If I did go with one, I'm also wondering if it would be worth rigging up and air line to blow the dust off of the drums while it was running. Maybe that would help with the galling and heating issues these things seem to have?
My advice: don't try to run one without good DC! These things generate mountains of dust, really fine dust that you don't want to breathe. If you don't have a DC, i suggest you add that to the cost estimate.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
If it were me I would use a stroke sander. It would give you a lot more control. On a drum sander if the wood hesitates a little passing through it, it will burn a groove in the wood quick.

I have one question. We has a guy not long ago that was refinishing an acoustical guitar and wondered what type of finish he should use on it. I felt like the finish would affect the sound and wouldn't advise him. Later he said he didn't care what the finish did to the sound so that was never resolved. Do you know what is the best finish to use on an acoustical guitar?

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Steve,

I use nitrocellulose lacquer exclusively for a few reasons. As far as sound, between nitro, poly, shellac (French polish), I'm not convinced it really matters. I like nitro because each successive coat redisolves a portion of the previous one, and this makes complex paint jobs a lot easier. A good nitro instrument lacquer is also kind of flexy and won't crack with the stresses and bending and such that guitars get, at least until it's an antique and then a lot of people think it looks cool. The only downside is that it takes ages to off-gas and be ready for handling. Strangely enough, though, you can wet sand it for the next coat on the same day you spray it. Another downside is fumes. I use VOC cartridge respirator for all of my shoots.

I also like the feel of nitro, but that's just me.
 

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My advice: don't try to run one without good DC! These things generate mountains of dust, really fine dust that you don't want to breathe. If you don't have a DC, i suggest you add that to the cost estimate.
I've actually got a nice cyclone/filter 3HP collector and since it's only me in the shop, the tool I'm working with gets all of the suck (I shut the gates on unused machines).
 
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