Three years ago I
went camping with a buddy of mine. We both love
history and like to play music from the 19th
He had bought an early minstrel
style banjo along, and I fell in love with it. So being the
woodworker that I am, I decided to build my own banjo. Well
many, many hours, and five stitches later (chisels and
fingers don’t mix), I had a completed minstrel banjo of my
If you’d like to hear this unique instrument, play video
I have always been a better
guitar player though, and it is my favorite instrument to
play, so with the banjo under my belt I decided to go for a
19th century parlor guitar.
The guitar is far more complex
than the early banjo, but I was determined to give it a try.
This instrument is being based on a Martin 1-18 guitar plan,
and is very small compared to a modern guitar.
I scrounged as much material as I could to cut down on
costs. The sides, back, and neck are cherry, the top is
spruce, the binding is spalted maple, and there are walnut
accent parts. I had all of this wood with the exception of
the spruce, which I deemed necessary for good tone.
Part I: The Neck
The first part I made was the
neck. I actually started with some mystery wood from
Honduras, but the first neck I made did not turn out. I got
the tuning machines out of alignment, so this would have
been a major visual annoyance.
The neck is started from 4/4
stock, and will be glued up for the headstock and the heel.
First the headstock is cut off at 15 degrees, flipped over,
and smoothed with a plane.
Next the pieces will be glued
back up resulting in the desired 15 degree back angle of the
headstock. Because of the angled cut I used a wooden hand
screw at each end of the blank to keep it from sliding out
of alignment while pressure was applied to the joint.