Greek Bouzouki Construction Blog
This is my Greek Bouzouki Construction Blog. I will be posting pictures and an explanation of how I design and make my instruments. I will also be covering other Greek bouzouki topics related to purchase, proper set up, and playing accessories. Please stop by often, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Making the Bridge

August 20th, 2008
Fittle the bridge blank to the soundboard curvature

Fitting the bridge blank to the soundboard curvature

The bridge must be fitted to the curvature of the soundboard.  Place a strip of adhesive backed sandpaper on the soundboard at the position of the bridge.  Rub the bridge blank back and forth on the sandpaper until the bottom of the blank matches the curvature of the soundboard.

Checking saddle height

Checking saddle height

After fitting the blank to the soundboard, the blank can then be shaped and decorated to your prefered shape and level of decoration.  The string height is checked and the saddle is sanded to the correct height and then the saddle is notched to accept the strings.

Applying the Finish

August 19th, 2008
Sanding the instrument in preparation for applying the finish

Sanding the instrument in preparation for applying the finish

Once the fret work is complete, the bouzouki can be finished.  The quality of the finish achieved will only be as good as the quality of the preparation work.  The entire instrument (minus the fretboard and frets) must first be sanded.  Start with 100 grit paper, and work up to 400 grit paper.  Then the pores of the wood must be filled.  Many luthiers leave out this important step, and the finish on their instruments shows it.  After filling, the instrument is lightly sanded again, and then it is ready for the finish to be applied.

HVLP sprayer and finish

HVLP sprayer and finish

There are a variety of finishes on the market, and each has their pros and cons.  I use KTM-9 waterborne finish, because it is easy to apply and environmentally friendly.  It can be sprayed with a regular compressor or an HVLP sprayer or it can be brushed on.  Clean up is with soap and water.  After the finish is applied, the finish must cure.  Hang the instrument in a warm room with good air circulation, and allow the finish to cure for two weeks.  After curing, the finish is leveled with sandpaper starting at 400 grit and working up to 1500 grit.  It is then buffed with three different grades of buffing compound on three separate cloth buffs on a buffing machine.

Installing the Frets

August 5th, 2008
Level the fretboard

Level the fretboard

First, make sure the fretboard is flat after installation.  Fretwire is then cut to length for each individual fret.

Pressing the frets

Pressing the frets

The frets are then pressed into the slots.

Trimming the fret ends

Then the frets are trimmed flush with the end of the fretboard and filed smooth.  The frets are leveled.
Shaping the frets

Shaping the frets

Finally, the frets are shaped and smoothed, and the fretwork is done.

Shaping the neck

August 3rd, 2008

Trimming neck

The neck is shaped to the players preferred shape.  There are different widths of necks, as well as thicknesses and shapes.  Some players prefer a very thick, beefy neck, while others prefer a very light, slim neck.  First, the neck is trimmed flush with the fretboard with a router and flush cutting bit.

Shaping the neck

The neck is preliminarily shaped with a quarter round shaping bit on the router table.  Then, the bouzouki is placed on the neck shaping jig, and the final shaping is done with rasps and spokeshaves, aided by a neck template.

Sanding the neck

Final shaping of the neck is done with a sanding block rolled over the neck from side to side to eliminate any high spots and smooth out the contours.  

Sanding the neck

Final sanding is done with sandpaper strips.

Neck cap

Finally, the neck cap is added to the body at the neck joint.

Glueing the fretboard to the neck

August 2nd, 2008

Glueing the fretboard

The fretboard is glued to the neck with instrument maker’s glue, after the neck has been cut down so that it is slightly oversize.

Clamping the fretboard

A board is placed over the fingerboard to spread the pressure from the clamps and to protect the wood from being marred by the clamp heads.

Making the fretboard

July 31st, 2008

Glueing side fret markers

The fretboard is made of ebony.  It is cut to length, but not tapered.  The fret slots are cut into the fretboard first, and then the fretboard is tapered, and bound with binding to match the body.  Then small dots are inlaid in the binding to mark the fret positions.  They are glued in with cyanoacrilate glue.

Tracing the fret markers onto the fretboard

The front fret markers are then inlaid, just like all the other inlays.  First the inlays are cut out, and traced onto the fretboard.

Routing cavities for fret markers

Then the cavities are routed with a flexible shaft router in a base.

Glueing the fret markers

Finally, the inlays are glued into the fretboard with black cyanoacrilate glue.  When the glue dries, the inlays are sanded flush with the fretboard.  The fretboard is now ready to glue onto the neck.

Installing the soundboard purfling and binding

July 30th, 2008

Rabbet routed in soundboard

The soundboard is surrounded with purfling and binding.  On higher end bouzoukis, the purfling usually consists of multi-line black and white purfling surrounding abalone strips.  The binding is then installed outside of that.  Unlike guitars, which have the binding installed with the narrow edge up, the bouzouki’s binding is installed with the wide side up.  First, a shallow rabbet is routed into the edge of the soundboard.  A slightly deeper rabbet is then cut into the first to accomodate the thickness of the binding.

Glueing the purflings

The inner most purlfing is then glued to the soundboard using cyanoacrilate glue and held in place with push pins.  Then the abalone and outer purfling is glued in after that.

Glueing binding

The binding is then bent and glued onto the edge of the soundboard and held in place with filament tape.  Once the glue dries, the binding is trimmed with a router and a flush cut trimming bit, and sanded level with the top with a random orbit sander.  The top is now complete.

The finished top

The finished top. 


Attaching the soundboard to the body

July 29th, 2008

Glueing the top

The soundboard is glued to the body with instrument maker’s glue.  The body is placed in a special fixture, which holds the body and instrument making clamps.  Glue is applied to the kerfed lining and the top is held in place with the clamps and filament tape.

Flush trimming the top

After the glue dries, the excess soundboard wood is removed with a router and a flush cutting bit.

Top attached

The instrument with neck and top attached.


Inlaying the body

July 27th, 2008

Routing the body inlay cavity

The back and sides of the body can be inlaid with various designs.  The inlays are usually placed on the wide capping strip, or on the side pieces, just above the capping strip.  This process is the same as inlaying the soundboard.  The inlays are cut from shell with a fine jeweler’s saw, and then are placed on the body in their exact location.  Trace around the inlays, and then with a flexible shaft router and a fine bit, route out the cavity to receive the inlay.  The cavity should be just a tiny bit shallower than the depth of the inlay.

Sanding inlay flush

Glue the inlays into their cavities with epoxy or super glue.  Sand the inlay flush with the body using a sanding block.  If you do not use a sanding block, the softer wood around the inlay will sand quicker than the hard shell, and the surface will not be flat.

Body inlays

The finished body inlays.

Lining the bowl

July 26th, 2008

Glueing in paper lining

After the neck has been glued to the body, the body is lined with paper.  The paper acts as reinforcement to the seems of the staves.  Five pieces of paper are cut out and line the body, and then two more are cut out to line the tail block and head block.  They are glued to the body with hide glue, instrument makers glue, or Titebond.  Most luthiers in Greece use an embossed foil paper of various colors.  I use hand made, acid free, embossed paper.

Lined bowl

The bowl completely lined.


Once the glue has dried, attach your label to the inside of the bowl.  Position it so it will be viewable through the sound hole.

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