Surprisingly, David Lee of Lee Acoustics has only been building acoustic guitars for about a year and a half, yet his workmanship resembles that of a master luthier. All of his guitars are dreadnought style with beautiful wood finishes that tempt me to display them as art pieces almost as much as I’m tempted to play them.
His first task in building a guitar is to create the top of the body by joining wooden pieces together. He sands these down and adds an inlay. Next, Lee joins the backs together before cutting and sanding the sides.
I found the most interesting step of the process to be the actual bending of straight wooden boards into the characteristic dreadnought shape. In order to bend the wood Lee uses a side bender machine, which — unsurprisingly, considering the name — is a clamping machine used specifically for this purpose. He wraps the wood in aluminum foil, spritzes it with water, and covers it entirely with a heating blanket. This provides the wood with greater malleability so that it can then be bent into the desired shape. He uses this same process for the binding pieces as well.
Lee points to his repository of wooden boards — most of which is salvaged — that are waiting to be transformed into instruments, noting that he has never used the same type of wood for both the back and the sides, which means that every guitar is completely unique and thus has its own characteristic tone.
Once the individual pieces have been shaped, and the top, back, and sides have come together to make the body, Lee finishes his guitars with a mixture of urethane and tung oil. The bodies are then hung by the furnace where it’s nice and toasty. Once the neck is attached and the strings are tuned, it’s ready to rock! Check out the video below to see the whole process.