A banner day in guitar building land! I got the sides bent, and although it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, in the end it did work out. This was big for me, I’ve been wondering about how this would work out for quite a while. In fact, I did quite a lot of planning over several months, originally I was going to build a side bender which used silicone heating blankets, a temperature controler, and custom forms. I can’t even count how many times I almost ordered the parts, and it’s still likely I’ll get around to completing the thought one of these days. But what I did instead was buy a heating iron and bend the sides freehand. The main advantage in doing it this way is that I can bend any shape without making a special bending form each time. The down side is that quite a bit of practice is needed to master the technique. In this case it’s trial by fire since rosewood is not cheap, and I’ve only got one set of sides. This way of bending is the old school approach and many many guitar sides have been bent using a hot pipe heated with fire or propane. There are commercially available electric bending irons available, but I was put off because most of them have cheap construction and are known to burn out easily. And they aren’t cheap. I ultimately wound up getting a custom iron made by Caramillo in the UK. The guy who made it teaches at the Newark School of Violin Making at Lincoln College and was a fun guy to deal with. The iron is made from solid milled aluminum and has two heating elements and a thermostat.
But of course, before I get on with the bending, there’s always one last thing to do. I first needed to finish the mold, adding a bottom hinge, a latch, and 4 spreaders. That all was pretty easy, and I finished all that in no time. Here it is, finally ready for action:
Now on the bending. It took a while for the iron to heat up to close to 400 degrees, and as I never did this before it took me a good long time to get even the slightest bend. For a while I didn’t even think this was going to work out. But eventually, I got the idea, and managed to bend one side and then the other. It’s not perfect, but considering how many times I’ve done this, it actually came out pretty well.
And voila, the sides are bent and chilling out in the mold! Next stop, making the rim. Since this is a rare weekend where I really have no other obligations, I might actually get that done!