My guitars are made using a variety of traditional and modern methods. Yes, I use hand planes, scrapers, and chisels, but I also use bandsaws, thickness sanders, routers, and soon a CNC machine. I don't mass produce, rather, I generally build two guitars at a time, allowing me to focus maximum attention to detail.

 

Below are a few comments and photos on my construction process:

 

Once the woods and overall design have been chosen, I begin by bending the sides and binding in my Fox style bender. Each side is bent separately: Fox Side Binder

The sides are then placed in the mold and the neck block, tail block, and kerfing are glued in: Kerfed Linings At this point, I typically join the top panels, rough thickness, inlay a rosette, then voice to final thickness: Inlaying Rosette With the rosette is in, I can get to work on bracing the top. Braces are glued in using HHG on my Go Bar deck: Go Bar Deck Top Bracing

Once the braces are on, the top is voiced by carving the braces at various key locations:Guitar X Bracing The back panels are then joined, thicknessed, and braced: Guitar Back Bracing With both the soundboard and back now braced, they can be glued to the rims:

Using a laminate trimmer, I trim the sides flush, and then with a sanding block and scraper, I level the sides so I can cut a good, consistent channel around the perimeter: Routing Binding Channel Routing End Graft With the channels all routed and cleaned up, the purflings and bindings can be glued in: Installing Guitar Bindings

The bindings and purflings are then leveled, final sanded and shaped:

Rounding Over Guitar Bindings Guitar End Grafts

The body of the guitar is now pretty much done so attention is directed to the neck. I often use laminated necks as I find they are generally more stable than a one piece neck. Most necks are made from Honduran mahogany but I have used African mahogany, cherry, and walnut. When making a laminated neck, the center laminate is typically of the same wood used elsewhere on the guitar. Once the necks blanks are glued up, the are milled on my CNC machine. The first step is to mill the back of the headstock, so the back laminate can be glued on.

The neck is then milled:

Milling Guitar Neck with CNC

And finally the milled neck:

CNC Guitar Neck

I will either bind the headstock or glue a thin maple veneer between the headstock and the headstock laminate. The headstock is then routed using my template, and tuning machine holes are drilled:

Madagascar RW Headstock Laminate

I currently slot my fingerboards on a tablesaw and radius them using a jig through my thickness sander. If the fingerboard is to be bound, I often bind it before I do any inlays. Fingerboard inlays are as simple as shell dots, or I have done one off custom inlays like those on the Flyfishing Guitar, which were all designed, handcut, and routed by me:

Trout Inlay

Prior to gluing the fingerboard onto the neck, I install the side position markers then lastly confirm the neck fit and angle to the bridge:

Fingerboard Side Position Markers

With the fingerboard on the neck, the heel can be cut to size and the end graft installed. When I do purflings on the heelgraft, the care required goes up significantly:

NGuitar Neck Heel Graft

I don't glue the fingerboard extensions to the top of the guitar, rather I bolt the extension down, so I have a fairly simple process to set that up. Once done, the neck can be removed and installed in a matter of minutes with no heat or mess:

Bolt down fingerboard extension

The neck below is profiled, sanded, and ready for porefilling and finish:

Casper Guitar NeckAll that is left is making a bridge, which is also milled on the CNC router:

Acoustic Bridge Blank

After slotting for the saddle and drilling the bridge pin holes, the bridge is shaped and polished:

Casper acoustic guitar bridge

The guitar is now ready for pore filling and finishing:

I use several pore fillers depending on what effect I am after. At times, I spray a base coat of shellac and other times not, again depending on what I want out of the wood. I always topcoat with Target Coatings EM6000 water-based lacquer. This a very good lacquer that buffs out to a terrific shine and is repairable. It also feels very similar to nitro. Coats are kept on the thin side to provide a basic level of protection to the wood while minimizing the impact to the sound. So there you have it. The construction of a Casper guitar!

My guitars typically do not have a single item that sticks out and screams, "Look at me!" Rather my guitars are more subtle. I want someone to look at a Casper guitar and think, "Yeah, that's nice", but upon a closer inspection, notice all the attention to detail: the perfectly executed miters, the straight, tight fitting purfling lines, the seamless joints, the way the bindings round over, the tight fit of the inlays, the gloss in the finish, and the way the woods on the guitar all seem to complement one another. All these seemingly small items add up to a major "Wow!" when the guitar is closely inspected.

 

The sound of my guitars is consistently good with a very balanced tone. I build with sound and tone in mind, tuning the top and bracing during construction. My guitars are lighter than the typical factory made guitar and tend to balance a tad towards the neck. Though not as indestructable as a factory guitar, a Casper guitar is much more musical. Good balance, sustain, and volume are all important and found in abundance in each of my guitars.

 

You can read elsewhere on my site more about the tonewoods I build with. Backs are always bookmatched and may be quarter or flatsawn. Quartersawn is often more stable, but with most woods, the best figure is obtained by flatsawing. I can join backs with or without a center back strip, depending on what the customer wants.

 

Below are pictures that highlight various features of my guitars. You can scroll down to see my treatment for backs, purflings, bindings, end grafts, rosettes, fingerboards, necks, and headstocks. The pictures are from a broad sampling of guitars and should give you a good overall feel to my style and execution.

 

Below is an Indonesian Rosewood Huron with Cocobolo bindings:

Indonesian Back

 

Here is a Persian Walnut back with an abbreviated shell backstrip and custom bloodwood purflings:

Persian Walnut Back

 

Below is a figured sapele back on a Michigan cutaway with curly maple bindings:

Ziricote Guitar Back

 

Below is a bookmatched ziricote back with no back strip:

Ziricote Guitar Back

 

Below is one of the prettiest rosewoods, Madagascar Rosewood. This back was joined with a tulipwood center strip:

Madagascar RW Guitar Back

 

The claro walnut back below has a paua abalone back strip with mitered osage orange purflings:

Claro walnut w/Paua Abalone

 

Many choices are available for bindings and purflings. I make my own bindings and can also make purflings. Very fine black/white/black purflings are classy, but a variety of combinations are available. Below are a few photos showing details of the bindings and purflings.

 

Curly Koa bindings, very fine black/white/black purflings, and herringbone are used on the following figured bubinga Superior:

Figured Bubinga

 

Quartersawn bocote bindings and custom bloodwood purflings were used on this Michigan guitar:

Bocote Bindings

 

Curly Koa bindings and very fine black/white/black purflings are used on the following ziricote guitar:

Zircote Guitar Side

 

The spalted mango Superior below has canarywood bindings and black/bloodwood/black purflings:

Spalted Mango Guitar Side

 

Below is claro walnut guitar with black/osage orange/black purflings and curly koa bindings.:

Claro Walnut w/Osage Orange purflings

 

Single pins can also be used as seen on this large leaf maple guitar with curly eucalyptus bindings and a single pin of brazilian rosewood for purflings:

Curly Eucalyptus Guitar Binding

 

Below is a Madagascar Michigan with koa bindings and single pin of boxwood purfling:

 

I round over bindings more than most luthiers as I don't like sharp edges. A look down the cocobolo bindings on this curly mango guitar provides a sense as to how the bindings are hand shaped:

Curly Mango Guitar Side

 

Same guitar, but now moving to the detail in the end graft. All the joints are tight with straight purflings:

Cocobolo Binding

 

Endgraft with Curly Koa and fine black/white/black purflings. Top purfling of fine herringbone:

Curly Koa Guitar Tail Graft

 

The tail of this Michigan is quartersawn bocote with custom bloodwood purflings:

Bocote Tail Graft

 

Another endgraft with nice tight miters. This one on an curly koa bound EIR Michigan:

Curly Koa Guitar Tail Graft

 

The EIR on this Michigan was fairly plain looking, so I dressed it up with some lacewood bindings:

Lacewood Guitar Tail Graft

 

Last end graft is from a koa St. Clair. Bindings are curly maple with osage orange purflings. Joints in maple can be tough to hide, but these seams are nearly invisible:

Guitar End Graft Miter

 

For top purflings, I like them a bit wider than body purflings and have used a variety of purflings from shell to burl to herringbone.

 

I often use a wider band of the wood used on the sides for the purfling around the top. This Superior uses walnut banded by fine black/white/black purflings:

Walnut Top Purflings

 

This sapele Michigan cutaway uses a wide band of figured sapele for the top purfling:

Butternut Soundboard

 

Simple wide black/white/black/white purflings were used on this butternut topped Michigan:

Butternut Soundboard

 

Below is a simple top purfling of a wider band of osage orange banded by black pins:

Osage orange purfling

 

A wide band of cocobolo banded by fine bwb is used on this englemann top:

Cocobolo purfling

 

Herringbone is used on the bear claw sitka topped Superior below:

Herringbone purfling

 

Simple rope style purfling is used on the bursted Michigan below:

Rope purfling

 

Below is a bursted top with amboyna burl purflings. This is a lot more work, but adds a very unique look:

Amboyna Burl Purfling

 

The Italian spruce top below is lit up with paua abalone and osage orange purflings:

Paua Abalone Purfling

 

My typical rosette is of wood with a single ring of shell. However at times I will do more than one ring of shell or use no shell, depending on what my customer wants. Whenever possible, I try to make my rosette rings from the same wood I use on the binding.

 

Below is a koa rosette with a single MOP ring and purflings of osage orange:

Curly Koa Rosette

 

The rosette below is cocobolo with pink abalone shell and fine black/white/black purflings:

Cocobolo Rosette

 

The curly koa rosette below has two fine paua abalone rings with only the finest line of black as outline:

Curly Koa Rosette - Narrow

 

Below is a wider Curly koa rosette banded by one ring of shell and osage orange:

Curly Koa Rosette - Wide

 

Below is a paua abalone shell rosette in an Englemann top:

Paua Abalone Shell

 

I recently built a sinker mahogany Michigan with a rosette bound with cocobolo inlaid in a red spruce top:

Cocobolo Bound Rosette

 

Not all rosettes use the same wood as the binding. If I introduce a new wood, it needs to be unique and fit the overall look. This rosette features two rings of Amboyna burl:

Amboyna Rosette

 

This rosette is of the same bocote used on the bindings. However, it is installed in a radial pattern. The purflings are custom bloodwood:

Radial Bocote Rosette

 

Another rosette where the wood was laid in radially. This features wenge on a butternut top:

Radial Wenge Rosette

 

I have also used cut rosettes from Petoskey Stone. The following rosette was cut as 8 segments from stone and assembled in the rosette: Petoskey Stone Rosette

 

I typically bind fingerboards with the same wood used on the body of the guitar. I can also cut fret slots so the end does not pass through the edge of the fingerboard, giving the fingerboard a faux bound look. I often terminate the fingerboard with a 20" radius rate at the edge of the sound hole. But as seen the image above, I have done no radius and terminated at the rosette, depending on what my customer wants.

 

The fingerboard below is ebony, bound with koa, and inlaid with custom mother of pearl trout inlays. These flyfishing themed inlays are original designs:

Casper Sunburst Guitar

 

The fingerboard below is ebony, bound with cocobolo, and inlaid with custom mother of pearl and cocobolo inlays. Again these are original designs. The larger inlay is based on a well cover my customer saw in Europe:

Casper Sunburst Guitar

 

The fingerboard below is ebony, bound with bocote, and inlaid with custom paua abalone and mother of pearl diamonds:

Casper Sunburst Guitar

 

The fingerboard below is ebony, bound with cocobolo, and inlaid with custom paua abalone ovals. The fingerboard ends right at the soundhole:

Casper Sunburst Guitar

 

For fingerboard inlays, I have done basic dots to more customized inlays. The following images provide a peek into some of the things I have done.

 

Fingerboard inlays can be the traditional dots, which I sometime do in two sizes:

Dot Fingerboard Inlays

 

Or small squares like those found on vintage Martin instruments:

Slotted Squares Fingerboard Inlays

 

Or diamonds in a couple of sizes:

Diamond Fingerboard Inlays

 

I have also inlaid more involved patterns, notice how tightly the paua abalone inlay fits into this Madagascar rosewood:

Madagascar Rosewood Fingerboard Inlay

 

This guitar was built for me as flyfishing is one of my intrests. The fingerboard was inlaid with MOP trout and trout flies, all designed and handcut by me:

Flyfishing Guitar Fingerboard Inlay

 

I can also use custom materials like the Petoskey Stone inlaid in the fumed black locust fingerboard below:

Petoskey Stone Oval Inlay in Black Locust Fingerboard

 

I have inlaid a customer's logo at the 12th fret:

Logo Fingerboard Inlay

 

I have also inlaid a customer's name:

Logo Fingerboard Inlay

 

And custom designed inlays for customers using their drawings or ideas:

Star of David Fingerboard Inlay

 

Below is an enneagram I designed and cut from MOP base on a picture my customer sent:

Enneagram Fingerboard Inlay

 

The MOP inlays below are done from a drawing my customer sent:

Infinity Fingerboard Inlay

 

I make my own necks and prefer a laminated design to add strength. I have done a simple pin down the spine as well as a pair of laminations spaced far enough apart to give a very cool effect over the neck heel.

 

Below is a simple three piece lamination with a single dark pin:

Casper Acoustic Neck Heel

 

Below is a more complicated lamination of koa bound by black pins:

Casper Acoustic Laminated Neck Heel

 

Another neck with a center laminate banded by black pins. This neck uses maple for the center lam. Also featured is a bound heel cap:

Casper Acoustic Laminated Neck Heel

 

A similar neck but with a wider curly maple center lamination:

Casper Acoustic Laminated Neck Heel

 

Below is the effect with the pins are spaced to the outer part of the heel. This neck has rosewood laminations and, though not visible in this photo, a heelcap of curly koa bound with ebony to match the backstrap binding:

Casper Laminated Guitar Neck Heel

 

Another neck with cocobolo laminations fanning out over the heel:

Casper Laminated Guitar Neck Heel

 

Though I usually build necks from mahogany, I have also used both maple and walnut. The neck below is walnut with the wider pins and purflings on the heelcap that wrap around to the purflings on the body:

Casper Guitar Laminated Neck

 

Below is my basic headstock design. I often use wood from the back that I bookmatch for the face laminate. The headstock is laminated with indonesian rosewood:

Headstock Torch Inlay

 

Another headstock using bookmatched figured bubinga and sporting a custom mayfly inlay:

Headstock Torch Inlay

 

Below is my basic headstock design. This one with a black ebony headplate and paua abalone torch inlay:

Headstock Torch Inlay

 

If I don't bind the headstock, I'll use a contrasting veneer between the headplate and the headstock as seen on this headstock, which features a thin maple laminate glued between the cocobolo headplate veneer and mahogany neck:

Headstock Faceplate Laminate

 

Most often I bind the headstsock with the same binding material used elsewhere on the guitar:

Curly Koa Bound Headstock

 

I have also just begun laminating the back of the headstock as seen in the image below:

Headtstock Laminates

 

I can also bind the back laminate or backstrap as seen on this headstock:

Ebony bound backstrap

 

Another bound headstock. This one a curly koa laminate with curly maple bindings, again matching the bindings on the fingerboard and body:

Curly Maple Bound Headstock

 

I have also done a variety of inlays in headstocks. Most guitars usually have at least my logo, but the headstock below swapped out the logo for a rising trout and is from the flyfishing themed guitar:

Flyfishing Headstock Inlay

 

Below is a simple Fleur de Lys:

Headstock Fleur de Lys Inlay

 

A customer even wanted the state of Michigan inlaid using Petoskey stone:

Petoskey Stone State of Michigan Inlay

 

I have started inlaying in the back of the headstock the body of water after which the guitar is named. Here is the Superior:

Petoskey Stone State of Michigan Inlay

 

The Huron:

Petoskey Stone State of Michigan Inlay

 

The Michigan:

Petoskey Stone State of Michigan Inlay

 

Though not done frequently, I will occasionally do a neck with the truss rod access at the headstock rather than at the soundhole:

Headstock Truss Rod Adjustment

 

I have done a few electrics. When building these, I often do not use my headstock design. Below is the headstock of '72 Thinline Tele copy I made. The neck is birdseye maple:

Casper Telecaster

 

Below is the headstock from a '59 Les Paul I did. This one also with a thin laminate of maple sandwiched between the ebony and mahogany:

Casper Laminated Headstock

 

Bridges are of my own design and can be made of any suitable material; however, I do generally try to use the same material as used on the fingerboard. I use a 1/8" saddle:

Casper Acoustic Guitar Bridge

 

A Madagascar rosewood bridge is shown below on a lutz top:

Casper Madagascar RW Guitar Bridge

 

An ebony bridge featuring diamond inlays that match the fingerboard::

Casper Madagascar RW Guitar Bridge

 

Another ebony bridge with inlays that tie into the fingerboard:

Casper Madagascar RW Guitar Bridge

 

The finish I use is a clear water-based lacquer. I have been using this finish since 2008. It buffs to a very high gloss, is durable, repairable, and not sticky. For an environmentally friendly finish, it is very, very good:

Curly koa Bindings

 

I can also shoot bursts using the same lacquer (for more images of burst, look under the Guitars page):

Casper Sunburst Guitar

 

Though I primarily build acoustics, I have built a couple of electrics. Below are a few pictures of details on a '59 Les Paul and a '72 Thinline Tele. First up is the LP, which was actually built from a kit. I had always wanted one of these, but I didn't want to take the time to carve the top, so a kit got me through the process fairly quickly. The burst was hand rubbed then the dark almost black wine color was shot by gun:

Casper '59 Les Paul

Casper '59 Les Paul

Casper '59 Les Paul

 

Below is the '72 Thinline Tele. I had a guy route the shape and top body cavities to my specs, and I did the rest including the neck. The burst was done in the same fashion as the LP above:

Casper '72 Thinline Telecaster

Casper Thinline Telecaster