The Weissenborn Guitar Build – Part Four – The Plans

Before I had even begun to build my first Weissenborn guitar I was assailed by many doubts such as” Am I going to screw this up?” or suppose I get this wrong? and similar kinds of horrible thoughts! I would actually lie awake at nights thinking about it, half scared, half excited, about doing this for the first time.

However, I came to the conclusion rapidly that it was only wood, only cost money and if I did screw up, well, I could always buy some more and start again! I realised that I had to curb my impatience and start to be a little more thorough in my approach to this project.

I had scoured the net looking for all kinds of information regarding the building of a Weissenborn and realised that there was very little to find. There were no books on how to do it, and I could only find one set of plans available from a company in America. It seemed to me that it must be the best kept secret on the Planet.

There were a few hardy individuals that had bitten the bullet and had built a Weissenborn but it seemed that mostly it was the secretive domain of Luthiers, the gods of all gods! All of this intrigued me more and more and gradually I built up an arsenal of facts and fiction about the construction of these here Weissenborn guitars They were definitely popular and there was no doubts about that. The likes of Ben Harper, Jeff Lang and Johnny Depp had seen to that, for certain. When I finally came across a plan of a Weissenborn I was amazed at what little detail that there actually was on the plan itself! I had expected there to be all kinds of tips and hints and secret little tricks the help the unwary innocent ( me) to find his way through the maze.

It seemed to me that the thing to do was to buy a conventional guitar building book and take some ( if not most!) of the techniques and use them to build my guitar. In fact, that is really what I did in the end, more or less. As I gathered together more info and ordered the timber from my pal Kim Hancock, a luthier of note from Tamborine Mountain in Queensland, I made a definite promise to myself that I would, if this project was successful I would not only write a book about the building of a Weissenborn but would also draw a plan for my very own guitar before I started!

This is also exactly what I did. I had seen Jeff Lang’s beautiful Weissenborn style guitar made for him by South Australian luthier, David Churchill and had seen how deep the body and neck were. I wanted one something like that! I realised the beautiful ringing overtones and sweet sounds came from a combination of the workmanship, the timber and certainly the depth of this great slide guitar

I went off to the local print and copy shop and bought about two metres of virginal white paper, the sort of stuff architects draw houses on. I burned midnight oil drawing, re-drawing, cursing, muttering and checking dimensions from books, drawings and photos. I’d had the good fortune to get an old plan of a Weissenborn style one from a friend and checked it out against the dimensions of my own. So far, so good!

Soon the day came around. The plans was born. I was really glad that the Weissenborn style was the one I had chosen for my first build and I was secretly pleased that I had no tricky truss rods to deal with and the great fact I had realised about halfway through the design was that because the strings are never pressed down onto the frets it wouldn’t matter if they were slightly inaccurate. A conventional guitar would be ruined if you got that wrong!

I was really pleased with the plan as I studied it. There was heaps of information on there, I’d seen to that. Type of wood, exact thickness in millimetres and inches, no horrible decimals of inches, what are they? Yuk! Little warning notes about things that had nearly caught me with my trousers down. What kind of glue to use and loads of stuff like that. It was looking good. I also decided that I would get it turned into PDF files and TIFF files eventually for putting onto CD-Rom when the time came to put them up on my site. Now all I had to do was build my guitar!

I actually live on a forty foot yacht so the challenge of building this guitar was more than a little interesting, to say the least. It required careful planning and a little forethought. I had thought the whole project through and because I didn’t have a workshop as such I would improvise a little. The engine block housing would be my workplace, four feet by two foot six inches, plenty! I had a piece of solid three quarter inch piece of MDF board to work on and I had decided to use the ‘mould ‘method of building the guitar.

The deck outside would be used for sawing, cutting and all the messy stuff and I had an ample sheet of ply to protect that. With a little trepidation I began. I soon realised things were going well and really got into the swing of things. Well, folks, the rest is history! I actually made me a Mississipi Delta mud slidin’whiny,shiny weissinbyorn folks and it sure do sound purty! Even I ah do say so myself!

It has turned out better than I could have ever dreamed and I play it every damn day! The good thing is too that it’s getting sweeter as time goes by and I don’t even play it the wrong way up no more! I sit it on my lap now! I did write a book about the build and if you like you can visit my site that I built in honour of these wonderful instruments and you can see the results of my efforts and even hear a soundclip of the guitar itself if you are so inclined!