Volume 33 - Access Panel

Written by Patrick Podpadec on . Posted in Northcoast Voice




                             Stay in Tune                                                        vol#33

                                                                           By Luthier Patrick Podpadec


The past few weeks I have been writing articles about resetting the necks on acoustic guitars with the traditional dovetail joint system. I would like to take a small break from that subject to share with you a new repair technique that I have recently come across myself while reading and studying some of my older issues of G.A.L. magazines (Guild of American Luthiers) not those other “gal” magazines. I came across an article that was written by a very talented luthier named Harry Fleishman. He is a contributing writer for the guild and has developed many interesting techniques and designs over his years of being a master luthier. This article was about how he goes about building a  access panel in the end of the lower bout of the guitar so that it gives him full access to working on the inside of the guitar. It allows him to shave braces for different tonal responses, fix or add anything like pickups and power supplies or just about anything that you need to do. Having an opening at the end of the guitar lets the luthier/repairmen do so many things. You have a much better view of the interior workings of the instrument and it also allows full access for placing clamps in areas that would otherwise be very difficult or even impossible to get a good glue job completed. 

access panel 1

At first I was a little skeptical on the process and was not really sure if I liked the idea, but there came a situation that I had a job to do on a guitar that I had built for Brian Henke. When I built the “Dreamcaster” for him I had never put in a pickup system in it. For the past 7 or 8 yrs the only time he was able to play it live was in a venue that had perfect stage sound and was equipped with a very expensive microphone or a sound system that could eliminate the natural overtones that the guitar would produce under amplification. For the last few years I have been thinking about how I would go about designing a pickup system that would work for an instrument like the dreamcaster. Because there is so much going on inside of one box, there is a six string guitar, a 7 string baritone or short scale bass and a 15 string treble harp.altoids preamp box - Copy

  I felt it was necessary to have three completely separated or individually preamped pickups inside so that you would be able to eliminate any unwanted overtones from one or more of each of the three instruments that are inside one box. This sounds a bit difficult, but with the help of a new and good friend named Chris Dehaas, we were able to conquer this task at hand. Chris is an incredibly talented musician that also happens to be an electronic wizard. He has designed other custom musical devices for a few different touring musicians over the years.  He makes and designs all sorts of cool effect boxes that are a bit more advanced than the type you may be able to get off the shelf. If you find yourself in the need or have an idea for something unique in the way of electronic effects, I would highly recommend that you give him a call .He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Chris was able to figure a cool way that we could mount the three preamps in the Dreamcaster and only have one cord coming out of it. We would still be able to have control over each separate pickup through a small mixing board so that we could dial in the sound we were looking for. It works great! This system now allows Brian to take his dreamcaster and play it at virtually any venue. More people will be able to hear it and see it and I’m sure that will inspire him to write more of the beautiful music that he does so well.

access panel


               closeup of inside panel

Getting back to the access panel, the pickup installation was the perfect opportunity for me to try out this new technique. After talking with Brian and telling him I wanted to put a new “hole” in the bottom of his guitar. He was alright with that. Brian is so cool about trying new things. I must explain that this “hole” is not left open. There is a panel that is removable and when it’s in place it looks and responds like it should be there. It does not weaken the structural integrity of the guitar and also has no noticeable effect on the tonal aspects either. After putting them into two instruments I feel I’m totally sold on the idea. It’s very possible with the permission and blessing of the originator, Harry Fleishman, that I may start incorporating this panel in my new line of guitars. To me it’s like the way that Taylor guitars introduced and “sold”  the bolt on neck to the guitar playing world by proving that there was no loss of tone and that neck sets and any other neck related repairs would be easier (there for less expensive) than the traditional dovetail joint. It may be time to prove that the access panel may be the answer to many of the repairman’s struggle for trying to reach his or her hands way up inside the guitar. Well until I will be able to do that I would like you all to “Stay in Tune” And of course if you have any questions please feel free to call!

                                                                                          Thanks Again!
                                                             Patrick from Wood-n-Strings