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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by alk-3, Apr 29, 2013.
Sweet looking tone boxes. I'd feel unworthy to even touch one.
Fantastic shop..and beautiful guitars...
I'm sure they play like they look..incredible..
This is great!
That looks like a great piece of work. I would love to put my hands on one.
One small question though... why wouldnt you be doing a Les Paul on here?
That guitar in sunburst is amazing!
Okay, on with the build!
So the first thing i always do is decide on the tonal range i want the guitar to land in. i decide if i want it to be bright, or thick, or a mix with a mid punch.. The best way i know how to determine the outcome is selecting lumber that plays well together. If I'm going for a mid range boost, I will select lumber that does not have a fast decay when tapped hard with another board, or even with my knuckles. I want it to ring out, and have a good punchy resonance.
I start with the body wood, and select the best piece from my collection for the job, then I move on to select the rest of the pieces that will complement it.
Today I will deal with the fingerboard.
I start by sawing up the piece of lumber into rough fretboard sized pieces.
I have a selection of Cocobolo, and Brazilian rosewood. For this guitar I have decided to go with the cocobolo for a variety of reasons, but alongside this build, I will be completing a les Paul, and that will get Brazilian Rosewood.
The tone of this piece is really exactly what I like to find. A good solid even tap tone up and down the whole board. I want the board to be suitably dried out, which means old growth lumber is a must here. It needs to be stable, and have the pitch and resins hardened in a way that only time can accomplish.
You can see how vibrant the freshly sawn and dressed boards are. This red will fade very quickly, and become the characteristic rosewood brown, even before the guitar is finished.
Now I lay a metal template over the board, to be sure I have a piece that will have no defects, or inclusions that would cause any issues down the line. These boards are all well over sized, and very clean, so no issues here.
Now I crosscut to length. This is still of course quite over sized.
I do the same with the Brazilian rosewood. This stuff is pretty amazing.
I get a lot of questions about this stuff, and how to tell if its real. The only way to actually tell is to smell it. There are so many rosewoods that can look identical to this stuff, but none of it smells anything even remotely like Brazilian. The best way I can describe the smell is to say it smells like root beer. If you cut a piece of this, the entire shop will almost instantly smell very strongly. There is no mistaking it.
Here is the piece directly after re-sawing into blanks:
And here is the end grain. You can see the distinct difference between the white sapwood and the dark heartwood. The darker part of the wood is actually dead, and it turns dark as it stands as a tree. The whiter surrounding wood carries the nutrients to the leaves, and as such, is called sapwood. This is true of all lumber. There is always a sapwood outer layer. With rosewood, and with most woods, this inner heartwood is what is used as lumber, with the outer sapwood being discarded.
This is opposite with maple however. Maple heartwood is brown, and undesirable, which leaves the outer layer as the sapwood.
Now before I get too ahead of myself here, I need to make up a few test boards. This will allow me to setup the machinery along the way with a board that will never be used.. If anything goes wrong, I do not lose a valuable fretboard.
I use maple for this, because it is a hardwood, and I have plenty of it around.
The next step is to construct a set of fixtures that will help me to rough out the radius on the fretboard. I start by making a plywood guide system, and I will show you how it works.
Here is picture of my surface planer. Its 13" across, and does a good job if flattening boards that have been jointed. This one, however, does a second function as well, which I will be utilizing now.. It takes a bit of work to set it up properly.
I remove the top of the machine to expose the inner workings.
I loosen all the Allen fittings to release the long planer blade. They just slide out, one at a time. There are three of them.
In the centre there is a small block, with two small spacers that lock the centre of the blade in place. I need to remove these.
And then the larger spacer
I also remove the two large spacers on either side, and those get stored away. They are only needed when the planer is set up for thickness planing.
I ordered some custom cut knives for this machine from a local place that cuts these for custom molding applications.
Here is one side
And the other side
And all three together
I set them into the machine loosely, and measure to be sure they are exactly in the centre, and all of them are exactly lined up.
I lightly tighten the screws to hold them in place.
Once I'm satisfied they are all lined up, a really crank them down tight. We don’t want this thing flying out at high speed!
Now I can adjust the dust guard down right up against the blade. We want maximum dust removal for this step. Any loose shaving left unnoticed can seriously damage the fretboard by changing the clearance between the board and the cutters.
Now we can finally make the first cut.
Here is the result on one of those scrap pieces of maple. Not bad!
Now I mount the real board onto the guide.
I like to apply a light coating of fretboard oil to soften the brittle fibers, and reduce potential tearout.
And here is the Brazilian board for the Les Paul. This is un-oiled, because Brazilian does not tend to tear out the same way the Cocobolo does.
And away we go!
I love build threads!
Thank you guys!
I will be doing touching on a Les Paul build alongside this one, but the raffle guitar is a Retrospec.
liking this thread, thanks
This thread is sweet.
Aw yea, pictures!
This is awesome.
Sweet. Great shop pics. Thanks for posting them.
Looks awesome thanks for sharing!
Love the shop pics and the step by step. Bravo, sir. Very cool!
I want in.
Oooh, wow! Excited already!
It's great for you to do this for the forum.