The heart of the Nautilus design is the way the laminated sides relate to the top, back, and blocks.
(Whoa! Did I say “laminated”? Believe it or not, laminations are actually superior to steam-bent sides in terms of both strength-to-weight ratio and long-term stability! This is one of the reasons why $120,000 concert grand pianos have laminated sides).
No kerfing is used — the top and back plate have integral gluing surfaces. Also, as the sides wrap around the top and back plates, there is no need for binding.
To achieve an attractive contrast, multiple layers of contrasting woods may be layered, resulting in a binding-like appearance that is both unique and functional. It also saves at least a dozen hours of work per instrument.
First, the top and back are joined to the plates to form a sandwich. I can check the neck geometry before I commit to the final box. Then the assembled plates are placed in a fixture, indexed by the dovetail, and set aside.
Next, laminae are made by carefully resawing with a Wood Slicer blade on the bandsaw and lots of thickness sanding. It makes a huge mess.
Once thicknessed, sides are laid up in the side-bending fixture, using urea-formaldehyde or Old Brown urea-modified hide glue.
Once the sides are pulled out of the form, they are more or less in their final shape.
Here’s a video of the side lamination process.
Next, the assembled plates are put in the clamping fixture and the sides are applied.
Clamps with precisely shaped cauls are gradually tightened, working my way around the instrument from tail to neck.
Hide glue is used, so if any areas don’t fit properly, they can be tightened up later. But I really want it to work properly on the first shot.
Once all cured, the box is incredibly strong. I use a block plane to trim the sides almost flush. I love this part of the process! After weeks of boring CNC machining, I get to see the instrument take shape!