BYO - My First GJ Guitars

whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model

Hey fellow GJ'ers!

I thought I'd post an update of my first two GJ guitars based on the #807 plans from François Charle. Both feature a 14-fret connection and incorporate a 3-ply veneer for the back and sides (mahogany, poplar and pau ferro). I took artistic license with the D-hole model but have stayed fairly true-to-form by following traditional build techniques offered by Jean Barault in his 4-book series with the exception of the headstock; I've built a 3-piece neck versus the traditional 'tongue'.

Additionally, I have to tip my hat to Mr. Charle himself as well as Craig Bumgarner for taking the time to chat with a new luthier and for sharing their knowledge and skill (read as 'tons of back-and-forth via email and messenger). If either of you are reading this, I sincerely thank you again for your patience.

Thanks go out out to **** as well over at **** for offering his setup workshop at DjangoFest NW on Whidbey Island this past September and for further chatting with me despite how busy that event was! I humbly thank you.

These will be the first of many GJ and archtop guitars I'll be creating. I learned a ton and look forward to further honing my skills and creating more models / variations.

Thanks for looking!

Michael Whitney

Bucovanmalmsteenrudolfo.christhumphrymusicmac63000Wim GlennBill Da Costa Williams


  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 186

    Wow! Beautiful work

  • whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model
    Posts: 14
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,927

    Pretty work! Did you bend the pliage over a hot pipe?

  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    edited December 2019 Posts: 1,131

    The photos are impressive. I know very little about guitar making, but it looks like some expert craftsmanship already. Did you have some experience in other guitars or other instrument making previously?

    How do they play? Will be interested to hear the result. ?️

  • whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model
    Posts: 14

    Thank you @Bones ! I read up on a few ways to do this and ultimately followed the process outlined by Jean Barrault. I made a wooden form with a 7-degree angle to form the pliage and essentially heat pressed it with clamps and a notched 2x4. When I removed the clamps, there was essentially no spring-back, whatsoever. In other words, it remained completely 'formed' in the mold.

    After speaking with François Charle, I used his method to help set the bend by gently scoring the pliage line on the inside of the soundboard with the back of a butter-knife -- essentially like scoring a piece of cardboard if one wanted to make a crease. I wasn't keen on the hot pipe method and potential scorching the wood - just a personal preference.

    In short, I'm quite pleased with how the fold turned out as it caused me a bit of stress going in, yet seemed like a 'rite of passage' for the iconic 'fold' for these guitars. I wanted to say fairly true-to-form w/ traditional build methods.

  • whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model
    edited December 2019 Posts: 14

    Thanks @Wim Glenn - I really appreciate the kind words. These two guitars were build numbers 4 and 5. Preceding these, I built a 3/4-sized steel-stringed acoustic, a telecaster, and a jumbo cutaway acoustic. My passion has been to build gypsy guitars but the two fellows I apprenticed with encouraged me to start with something more 'traditional'. I really had to navigate most of the build process on my own. While these are guitars at the end of the day, I wouldn't say that all of the build process was conventional. It was also suggested that I simply radius the back and top with a 15 and 30 degree dish to make building 'simpler' while maintaining the Selmer aesthetic, but again, I really want to build true-to-form.

    Currently, I'm in the spray-booth with a 17" carved arch-top which has been an exciting project. My goals as a builder are to specialize in Gypsy Jazz and archtop guitars.

    As for the sound, my playing lies in the shadows of my building, sadly and I'd consider myself more of a 'noodler' but will endeavour to get a recording up at some point. I was playing it in the shop and a buddy thought I was plugged in / asked me what pickup I was using. To my ear they produce great volume and are punchy with quick attack.


    rudolfo.christBucoBill Da Costa Williams
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,927

    How did you heat the top to bend the pliage if you didn't use a hot pipe? Electric heater pad?

  • whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model
    edited December 2019 Posts: 14

    Hi Bones -

    A heating blanket would definitely work. As an aside, when bending acoustic sides (non-veneered), I usually let the blanket heat up to 300 degrees and then turn it off, letting the wood cool in the form. I don't think I'd run it that hot on a spruce / cedar top.

    To answer your question, I added boiling water to the scored line by way of a syringe on the inside of the soundboard once I had it pressed into my fixture. I repeated this process every few hours or when it was again dry. It's not as quick as a heat blanket, but I wasn't in a rush and just let it sit for a few days. This produced a great result, free of scorch marks and echoed the techniques offered in Barault's books and conversations I had with F. Charle.

    To secure the soundboard in the form, I just ran a 2x4 through the jointer to square up all faces (cut to about 20" long to extend beyond the lower bout and then used C-clamps on each end to tighten it down along the pliage.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,927

    Ok so you cold bent it into the form and clamped it there? Interesting. Any pictures you can post?

  • whitneyguitarswhitneyguitars New Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel Model
    edited December 2019 Posts: 14

    I thought I had some as I documented nearly every part of the build but can't find them. I'll snap some and share them here when I do my next set of tops.

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