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Woodworking with Jason Stamper


Building a 19th Century Style Parlor Guitar

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Three years ago I went camping with a buddy of mine. We both love history and like to play music from the 19th century.


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 own.

If you’d like to hear this unique instrument, play video below.

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.

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L. & I. J. White

Winsted Tools

D. R. Barton


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