To Bevel, or not to Bevel? / by Tom Sands

I wanted to post something about bevels because I have just completed two guitars that feature them, and these two guitars exhibit just how different each bevel can be. There is no one size fits all bevel, as the needs of the player must be taken into account.

IMG_3284.jpg
Everything with an acoustic guitar is a fine balance of variables,  there are always trade-offs

I make three guitar Models: the S, or Small, the M, Medium, and the Large, L. A client commissioned a Baritone Model L, and in this form the scale length is extended to 28.25”; making for quite the handful. The soon to be owner of this beast of a guitar also has quite a unique playing position, often resting his chin on the upper bout and really hugging the guitar. The addition of an arm bevel (inspired by Master Luthier, William ‘Grit’ Laskin) and a ‘rib’ comfort bevel on the back of the instrument (inspired by yet another Master, the great Michael Greenfield) helps to make this guitar feel more manageable, especially when playing for long periods such as in concert as this instrument will be (more to follow on the considerations required for this later!)

There are a couple of things to mention about bevels if you’re considering one for your future guitar. Everything with an acoustic guitar is a fine balance of variables,  there are always trade-offs. A larger, dreadnought style guitar, gives you a big, bold, bass focused tone with plenty of power as a function of the increased size of the soundboard and the large air mass inside the soundbox. As I have already mentioned, a larger instrument can be uncomfortable after long periods and so often the addition of a bevel (or two) is required to soften the edges of the lower bout to help with the dreaded, ‘dreadnought shoulder’. Here’s where the trade-off comes in; adding a bevel starts to encroach on the active area of the soundboard, effectively reducing it in size, less size, less power etc (at least in theory). For this reason I offer a range of bevel options, from my personal ‘micro bevel’ which is essentially just an exaggerated soften of the binding, to a much larger, sweeping arm bevel for oodles of comfort. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, my job as a luthier is to help you choose what’s right for you and the sound you’re looking for (hearing for…?)

TS

IMG_3260 2.jpg
IMG_3245.jpg
Micro bevel on a Redwood / Spalted Maple Model M.

Micro bevel on a Redwood / Spalted Maple Model M.