First Two Guitar Builds, 5 Years Later

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DaveR, Dec 27, 2018.

  1. dickjonesify

    dickjonesify Senior Member

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    No, that’s it he said you were like me :doh:

    I’ve made all the same mistakes. Glad you’re getting back at it!
     
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  2. fatdaddypreacher

    fatdaddypreacher V.I.P. Member

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    well, yes, frankly, that's exactly how it is sometimes. i have a thru i'm building and i hand a single action truss rod in it and i had problems getting the neck flat, so i pulled the fretboard, shimmed and rerouted, putting in a dual action, after flattening the neck, then didn't like a couple of spots in the binding, so pulled it off and refitting it....with much trevail. sound like we're cut from the same cloth. :)
     
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  3. fatdaddypreacher

    fatdaddypreacher V.I.P. Member

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    i think the things you picked up from me was the screw ups.
     
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  4. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Haha. Don’t worry, I’ve been screwing things up long before I started hanging out here! Just ask my wife!
     
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  5. Rando375

    Rando375 Silver Supporter Premium Member

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    Impressive work, thanks for sharing.
     
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  6. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Here are a few home made tools I cooked up for this hobby. I've had to buy a few things specifically for guitar building (radiused fret pressing caul, nut files, fret crowning file, fret slotting saw) but otherwise I've tried to home brew as much as I can. I'm a tightwad, but it's also part of the challenge in my mind. There's nothing super original here, almost all of these ideas came from this forum.

    Made a jig to make my own radius sanding blocks. Worked out well, but I should have just paid for them. I still have this router pendulum jig, but it only does 12" and it's mostly crap. Tossed it in the attic and it'll probably stay up there forever.
    IMG_0679.JPG

    Used a pre-radiused board that I had bought from LMII covered in sandpaper to smooth out the radius block. The jig it sits in became the basis for my fretboard radius sanding jig, but I rebuilt it to accommodate a complete neck.
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    My own dremel router base. Cost was almost nothing cause this was junk I had laying around. Fine depth adjustment takes a little trial and error because of the coarse thread bolts, but it works just fine once I get it set to the right depth.
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    Previously mentioned fret slotting miter box with an embedded razor blade for indexing a fretboard. I'd love to have the stewmac rig, but this gets the job done at no cost.
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    Fret pressing rig. I bought a 12" radius brass fret caul from Stewmac, but didn't want to pay for the rest of the setup, so I made this out of some maple and a junky old spade bit. It works okay.
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    I chucked it up in my mortising machine, which I figured was a better choice than my drill press for exerting a lot of downward pressure. I had a really hard time pressing in these frets though. I had to press so hard that my mortiser was actually bending and it's not a complete piece of crap. I'm starting to think that my fret slots were too narrow or too shallow. I'm thinking of alternatives for next time. Either an arbor press from Harbor Freight, or build my own Jaws clamp like Stewmac sells, but that might be too slow to use.
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    Fret wire bending jig. Cost less than $4 for the wheels. It's not super accurate, but does it really need to be? Seemed to work okay, but I could imagine it would struggle with SS fretwire.
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    Floating router binding jig. It's a little big, but I sized it to work with some drawer slides I had laying around. The donut is made from a 3" PVC cap. This jig worked out okay, but it's definitely requires two people to operate smoothly. It would be better with a trim router, but I have 3 full size routers and no trim router. I make it work with what I have. I may soon be down to 2 full size routers because this Porter Cable 690 got super hot while running in this jig. Hot enough that you didn't want to hold the metal parts. I'm assuming that isn't normal. Haven't used it since and it's still mounted in this jig. I'll throw it out when it starts smoking.
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    I made my own rocking neck rest out of some pine, some contact cement and some cork. This tool has already seen a ton of use and I wish I had made one sooner.
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  7. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Time for headstocks and neck tenons.

    I glued on peghead veneers made from leftovers that matched the tops. After the glue dried, I drilled a couple holes through the veneer in the truss rod access area, and cleared it all out with some chisels and gouges.
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    I used the "masking tape super glue method" to fasten the necks to this little box (it's a homemade re-saw fence extension for my big bandsaw). This enabled me to hold the neck square to my oscillating belt sander and bring it down close to the right thickness. It didn't need it to be perfect, just close. I know a lot of guys route this step, but I wasn't comfortable with that.
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    I managed to bang this peghead on the corner of my cast iron bandsaw table and left a huge dent.
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    A wet paper towel and my clothes iron popped that dent right out. After a touch of sanding it totally disappeared.
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    Using the same re-saw fence clamped to the sander this time as a guide for thicknessing the pegheads.
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    I used a template and my router table to cut the headstocks to shape. Had a touch of tear out on one, and the other still shows some bandsaw marks where I got a little close to the line. Nothing a little spindle sanding couldn't fix, just had to take a little bit off of both sides to maintain symmetry.
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    Am I allowed to show an open book? Is it only taboo if it has the G logo?
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    If I'm breaking the rules, somebody let me know and I'll edit the rest of the pics right away. The double cut ambrosia guitar has a modified version that I cooked up, but I'm sure I've seen it around here before, I highly doubt it's original.
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    Trimmed off the ends of the tenons where the meet the neck pickup cavities. I did this part with a japanese handsaw and then cleaned up with a chisel.
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    I learned later that the short tenon on my Hamer is actually subtle dovetail. Mine is just a rectangle with rounded corners. I was worried about it being strong and having enough glue surface, but it seemed to work out okay. I also learned the hard way, to either fit the tenon before routing for binding or after installing binding, not mid process. Another one of those "order of operations" lessons.
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    I routed both headstocks for binding.
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    Did the roundover on the back of the LP.
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    I had decided to use a barrel jack on this LP and realized the cavity was too far away from the edge of the guitar and lacked a flat spot for the nut to sit. I clamped a straight edge and stop block to the guitar and routed off a little bit.
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  8. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Looks great. May I ask you why you went with a one-way truss rod? Are you going to build some forward bow into the neck? Thanks.

    Cheers Peter.
     
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  9. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    I convinced myself that was the right way to go. In hindsight I should have stuck with two way rods and will most likely do that on my next build. I attempted to build forward bow into the necks, which I’ll cover soon.

    I wound up starting a thread several months ago asking for advice on fixing a neck that refused to come into relief. I think you suggested a two way rod would have been better on a non-vintage accurate build! It’s still good advice. Ultimately these necks settled in well with time and both guitars play great, but two way rods would have been easier to deal with.
     
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  10. dickjonesify

    dickjonesify Senior Member

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    Nice work, DaveR. I also am not comfortable with routing the back side profile of the neck. Belt or spindle sander makes quick work of it.
     
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  11. jkes01

    jkes01 Senior Member

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    This thread is chock full o cool stuff. I personally would love to see more of your furniture. Beautiful work.
     
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  12. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Thanks! That’s about all I have that is impressive. I made a boring coffee table a long time ago and a few small boxes and things, but the cool stuff is shown here. I’m designing a couple of really challenging furniture pieces right now. I’m not very prolific at anything creative because I spend too much time thinking and getting hung up on details. Plus I’m raising two kids and work too much at the day job. I wish I could spend all day in my shop instead of real work.
     
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  13. jkes01

    jkes01 Senior Member

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    Yeah, same here. I wish I could spend all day in your shop too. :cool:





    .
     
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  14. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Time for some binding!

    I used my floating router jig to route the channel on the LP. I had one little mistake. My dad helped me out by raising and lowering the jig while I fed the guitar body through it. He went up and down when I shouted "UP" or "DOWN". We were on the last little bit and my mouth said "UP" but my hands kept pushing against the bearing for about a half second too long. He raised it like I said and I felt the bearing slip into the channel we had just cut. I puzzled over possible fixes for a few minutes and decided the best was to spindle sand her a little bit skinny in the waist. Then we cut the binding channel again and no one is the wiser. I honestly forgot all about until I was going back through photos for this thread.

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    Pre-bending around the horn area with my Harbor Freight heat gun.
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    Since I needed extra tall binding in the cutaways on the double cut, I used some really tall stuff on the top side. Not wanting to scrape off more than necessary, I dry fit the binding in the channel and traced a pencil line along the top of the body to show where I could thin it down. Fret cutters worked great for removing the excess. Much better than my bandsaw did. Don't even try it, bad idea.
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    I applied the back side binding with duco and help from my dad to get the tape on as quickly as possible.
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    The next day I did the front binding on both guitars. I somehow managed to talk my wife into helping with those because my Dad was busy and I wanted to get them done. Against my advice she insisted on wearing gloves so as not to get Duco on her skin. After about 18 seconds of sticking to everything she ripped them off and said "EFFF THESE GLOVES!!!" but thankfully continued to help until the job was done.
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    Pre-bent headstock binding.
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    That thin tape from Stew-mac is great. A little expensive, but it beats trimming regular tape with scissors.
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    Glue all over the place. After much scraping it turned out pretty decent.
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    More scraping. I think the black looks killer on this guitar.
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    Mixing up some goop for spot repairs. I didn't use goop for attaching the binding but it helped a lot where I had a few tiny gaps. I never really know how much acetone to add and I find it best to mix it up and wait a couple of days for it to get really soft. If I try to rush it, the goop winds up too stringy.
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    I tried to do a scarf joint to help hide the seam of the back binding. That didn't go so well, and I guess it shrank a bit or something because I wound up with a pretty big gap. After it was all dry, I opened it up a bit more with a chisel and spliced in a tiny parallelogram to fill the gap. I've had several applications of "goop" followed by sanding since this pic, but it's still visible. At least I put it the joint right under the heel, in a location that is unlikely to be seen.
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    LP binding. I had originally bought some of the very pink looking Stew-mac binding, but didn't like the color. I also got some really gross yellow stuff from somewhere and didn't like that either. I lucked into a big bunch of this stuff from somewhere Chinese seller on ebay. I love the color, and it works just as good as any other binding, but I had a somewhat hard time finding pickup rings to match. I eventually found some that are pretty close from Phildelphia Luthier Tools.
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    Glue EVERYWHERE. Next time I really need to mask off the side of the body. Cleaning this up was a huge pain.
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    Much scraping was performed. This vice worked wonderfully for this, but after one bump on the bottom of the vice, I started keeping an old t-shirt in there for padding. I also keep big rubber bands around the vice now so I don't drop a neck through to the bottom, but for a body like this, I need a bit more vertical clearance.
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    Getting there...
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    The black really shows sanding scratches. I wound up sanding to around 800 or 1000 grit on the sides of the body to try to eliminate the scratches. The ivory binding looked fine after 320, but I probably went to 400 or 600.
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  15. bcguitars74

    bcguitars74 Senior Member

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    That black binding is looking the business!!! I'm definitely doing that the next time :thumb:

    Feeling your pain about the glue spill from the binding, I forgot to mask this off last time too ..

    Loving the thread, keep those photos coming :rock:
     
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  16. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    I spent some time trying to get the heel and shoulders to fit just right on the LP. Got it close, but did some more work on it after fully shaping the heel later.
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    I neglected to take any pictures of the next process, but I agonized over the floor of the control cavity on the LP for a long time. I've seen so many build threads about making vintage accurate marks and getting the angles just right for the pots to sit perfectly. I even built a jig to route the floor with, then realized that even my longest router bit was going to come up short unless I chucked it dangerously far out in the collett.

    Finally, I decided to use a forstner bit to counter bore for the pots. I even have a radial drill pres, but couldn't figure out how to set the angles right. I found a description of how to do it on a normal drill press on this forum. First I put a piece of plywood covered in a towel on my drill press table to protect the guitar top, then put the guitar face down on the towel. I found a tangent along the rim, at a point perpendicular to the pot I was drilling. Pressing on that single spot with my hand, I rocked the guitar down until it the curvy top was resting between that one spot and the highest part of the belly. If that makes any sense. Basically it was super easy to then drill a counter bore that is perpendicular to the top.

    Since I don't care much about vintage accuracy, I highly recommend this method. It sounds more complicated than it is. Just go for it, it only took a few seconds. I had a tiny through hole to mark the centers and used the depth rod on my calipers to check top thickness. I tried to keep the top consistent at all pot holes by varying the depth of each counter bore. You can just make out one of the counter bores in the photo below.

    Speaking of which...that photo is when I tried to drill a perfect hole to seat my tele style jack plate on the double cut. For the long through hole on the LP, I just did it with a hand drill, but this one had to land perfectly between the binding and be perfectly perpendicular to the body, while stopping at the perfect depth. I attached my luthier vice to my drill press table to accomplish this task. It took forever to align in all directions, but it worked very well.
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    For the through holes of the pots, I just eyeballed it with a hand drill. Again, I considered the radial drill press but realized I was overthinking it. A hand drill and some patience worked just fine.
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  17. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    After an anxious wait, my inlays arrived from DePaulle inlay. I was thrilled with the quality of their work. Having previously attempted to cut out these same inlays by hand several years ago with disappointing results, outsourcing these was worth every penny to me.
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    I masked off the board and spent forever centering each inlay. I also masked off the back of each piece of shell, and then glued them down to the masked board with a dot of medium super glue. After that, I scribed each inlay into the board with a scalpel.
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    I tested out inlaying my name on some scrap maple before getting anywhere near the headstocks. Since I wanted a black cavity around this inlay, I taped down a print out of the inlay and a border, then carefully cut around it with a scalpel.
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    I spent a quiet evening burning match sticks to make my own black pigment for the headstock inlay. Kinda silly, but I had fun.
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    I made a little jig to hold the fretboard still and give me a flat place for my router to ride on. I hogged out the bulk of the inlay cavities with one of my big routers and a 1/4" straight bit. This is another task where a trim router would be better. Gonna have to get one of those. Then I went back and cut the rest with my dremel and a 3/32 bit, followed by a chisel to clean up the corners.
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    A little trick with tape that I picked up from @Skyjerk. Works amazingly well to blow away the dust while working. On my Morado fretboard I had to make the pockets extra tight along the sapwood side because I knew I'd have a hard time color matching the epoxy there.
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    Routed out a cavity for my name inlay. It turned out pretty decent. I cleaned up a bit more after this with an 1/8" chisel, a scalpel and some dental picks.
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    The dremel got away from me just a bit on the fifth fret. That was on the far side where I couldn't see well. Lesson learned, only route the side closest to me, then flip the jig around for the other side.
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    Using a chisel, I squared up the now oversized pocket, then cut a couple of patches to fit.
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    I glued the patches in using the dry fit inlay to help hold them in place. Unfortunately this meant the inlay was now stuck. I wound up drilling a tiny hole through the back of the board and popping the inlay out with a finishing nail. I was afraid these patches would look crappy, but it honestly disappeared. I couldn't remember what fret had the problem and have been unable to find it when pointing out all the mistakes to my friends. Now that I've reviewed the pics, I'm sure I could locate it, but it's a non issue. I've seen production guitars with way sloppier inlay work than my finished product.
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    Dry fit all inlays, waiting for epoxy.
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    Couldn't resist taking an idiot selfie with all the inlay PPE in place. Safety glasses, ear muffs, dust mask, and lighted visor with 2X zoom lens.
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  18. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    Now that the pockets are cut, it's time to glue on some fretboards. I aligned my fretboard properly on the oversized neck blank and glued on some guide blocks to help with quick alignment for the actual glue up. I was supposed to use medium superglue and accelerator to glue on these little guide blocks. I've used this technique a few times around the shop and it works quite well. In a moment of distraction, I grabbed the water thin superglue instead (same brand different color bottle). Nearly had a disaster when I realized the fretboard was firmly stuck in a few spots. I popped the guide blocks back off with a chisel and with some gentle prying was able to remove the fretboard. I heard some cracking when I pulled it off and thought it was ruined, but it still had the same tap tone as before, so I think the cracking sound was the super glue giving way.
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    It took just a little bit of gentle sanding on the back of the fretboard and a little bit of planing on the neck blank to clean it all up and try again. Same technique, thicker glue for the guide blocks this time. The inlays are just sitting in the pockets in this photo.
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    Fretboard glue up. I used Titebond 1 for this and the neck to body joint, and Titebond 2 for most of the other gluing tasks. The thought being if I ever had to take the fretboard or neck apart, I MIGHT be able to get it off without making the laminated neck fall apart. I was too scared to try hide glue the first time out, and I'm really glad I didn't, I know I would have botched it. Maybe next time.
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    I know there are a lot of different ways to profile the sides of the neck. The method I was following involves temporarily attaching a template or straight edge to route the neck taper and then using a rabbeting bit to narrow the fretboard for binding. Since I had already tapered my boards a long time ago, I had to get creative. The first step was to bandsaw the neck close to the pencil line of the final taper that I had drawn on.

    In the below photo, you can see some binding scraps stuck to the edge of the fretboard with double sided tape. The oak strip above the neck has a thick 18" ruler taped to it. I used this steel ruler against the binding edge as a guide to position this freshly jointed oak strip when gluing to the fretboard.
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    I peeled the little binding scraps and ruler off and had a nice edge to follow with a pattern bit.
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    Here you can see the offset of the fretboard and the oak template, and the resulting cut of the neck wood. Should be just right for a binding channel.
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    Changed bits and flipped the whole mess over to finish up that last little bit on the heel.
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    Obligatory mockup shots. We call this neck profile "medium squarish".
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    And the ever popular fret board radius of "dead flat".
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    At this stage I rough carved the necks, just to get them in the ball park of the final dimensions and take some of the stiffness out of the wood so I could engage the truss rod.
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    I had recently bought these "cheese grater" rasps from a retiring wood worker on Craigslist. I was there to buy a tenoning jig and a mortiser, but he had some odds and ends laying around and I think I gave him $15 for 4 of these rasps or micro planes, whatever you call them. The rounded one worked like a dream for carving a neck.
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    This was another step I was super intimidated by, and it wound up being the most fun part of the build hands down. It was over too soon.
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    I think I really want to do some large wood sculpting on my next furniture piece. Probably something with hand carved cabriole legs. Speaking of which, yet another picture with my stupid foot in it.
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    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  19. fatdaddypreacher

    fatdaddypreacher V.I.P. Member

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    looking gooder and gooder
     
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  20. DaveR

    DaveR Senior Member

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    After rough carving the necks, I tightened the truss rod until I had about .020" back bow and then leveled the board. I did this with a radius block and 60 grit sandpaper, saving as much of the ebony dust as I could while I went.
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    Freehanding the radius didn't work out so well. It was level enough, but I wound up over radiusing the last 4 or 5 frets right out at the edge of the fretboard.
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    Next I added the headstock inlays. I sealed the pockets and surrounding areas with shellac to try to prevent the black epoxy from dirtying up the pores in the maple. Then I centered the name in the pockets and glued it in with a few drops of water thin CA. On the LP, I used a little too much CA glue and this bit me in the rear later. I'll explain when I get there.
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    I mixed up some Z-poxy and stirred in my homemade burnt match stick black pigment, plus 5 or 6 drops of black leather dye for good measure. I used a tooth pick to make sure I got the epoxy down in all the crevices around the lettering and made sure to over fill a bit.
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    That epoxy must shrink back some when it dries because you can clearly see the inlay here. It was definitely a good move to overfill.
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    I masked off the headstock and used a double cut file to hog away the epoxy. Transitioned to a single cut file when I got closer, and when I started scraping up the masking tape with the file, I removed all the tape and switched to sand paper. Slowly sanded the whole headstock from 80-320 with my random orbit sander.

    The black looks really sharp after a little wipe with naptha.
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    I mixed more Z-poxy, with Ebony dust from radiusing the fretboard. Then I filled the pockets and squished the inlays in with my fingers. I worked all the edges with a toothpick and overfilled with a palette knife.
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    This time I made a jig to hold my radius sanding block parallel to the neck. Then neck is held in with the good old masking tape-super glue method. I removed the bulk of the epoxy with a long file until I got close to the wood. Then I sanded until my arms fell off, working up to 1000 grit on the radius block. I kept checking the radius as I went, and the previous over-radius at the heel end wound up disappearing as i removed a little more material.

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    After sanding, I polished with several grits of scotch brite pads, ending with the ultra fine white ones.
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    Daaaang that board looks good. Too bad I scratched it up a bit installing the binding...
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    I repeated the process with the other neck, but this one was trickier. The trap inlays are 3 separate pieces, so I used masking tape on the top sides to hold them tightly together until the epoxy set up and just over filled right over the tape. I never did go back and fill in between the pieces, but they fit together tightly and must have squeezed some up from the bottom, because I don't feel any seams.

    I also mixed two different colors of epoxy with dust from the heartwood side and dust from the lighter sapwood side. I carefully applied them to each side of the inlays along the sapwood line. The light parts wound up a bit too dark, but I expected that and the pockets fit fairly tight so it doesn't look bad.
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    Filing away the epoxy and tape.
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    I realized that the first fret inlay was about .003" BELOW the surface of the fretboard. I guess I got carried away with my chisel cleanup of the pocket and didn't realize the depth problem because of the tape on top of the inlay. Three thousandths doesn't sound like a lot, but I basically sanded that much off the entire board and all the inlays, so it took a while. Plus this stinkin' Morado really makes my skin itchy. I take a lot of precautions around it, but I had short sleeves on and was sweaty because it was late summer. Wherever that dust settled on me left an unpleasant feeling. Walnut does the same thing to me.

    At one point in the sanding process, an unsightly black circle on one of these abalone pieces was revealed just as I reached the final depth. Fearful of sanding through, I decided to live with it and not try to sand it out. I got lucky and it vanished as I worked through the grits, somewhere between 220 and 600. I guess it was a really thin discoloration in one of the layers of the shell.

    Almost there, just have to clean up the scratches.
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    All done. Nice and shiny.
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