My first build(s)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SlingBlader, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Hi everyone. I've been lurking here for years... literally. I started woodworking around 7 or 8 years ago and began kicking around the idea of guitar building soon after. I've been a bass player for nearly 40 years, so I have some decent basses, but only one marginal electric guitar. Frankly, I'm a horrible guitar player, but I love noodling around.

    I've always had a love of Les Pauls, but I didn't think that it would be a feasible guitar build... until I started poking around on MLP Luthier's Corner. I simply could not believe all of the incredible information that was available here. So, over the last few years I've been gathering notes, subscribing to threads, buying parts, wood, plans, luthier tools and so on.

    Now, I'm a tool and wood fanatic anyway, but holy crap... I think I've got a fully formed problem now. I've already acquired a respectable stash of wood that I'm saving for later builds. (that's assuming that I can make a functional instrument.) :fingersx:

    So, long story short: I began my building journey this past summer. Things have been progressing slowly and I think that I'm at a point where things should not go completely sideways... Hope I didn't just jinx myself.

    This is a long intro post, so I'll post the specs and goals tomorrow and start putting up some detailed posts to catch up to real time after that.

    Thanks!
    Gary
     
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  2. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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    Good to see your thread here Gary. Most people way over think guitar building. It's not as hard as it looks. To get something absolutely perfect the first, second, third... is not going to happen but to make a playable cool looking instrument should not be a problem. Coming here helps a lot, as most will attest. Most started exactly where you are. Just jump in and post lots of pics and ask lots of questions. There are a great bunch of guys here from Amateur hobbyists, like myself, to pros that have been building works of art for the biggest names in the business for years.

    I'm looking forward to your thread. I'm already subscribed. :applause: Now lets make some dust!

    Cheers Peter.
     
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  3. emoney

    emoney Senior Member

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    There's an old saying around these parts; if Emoney can do it, anyone can. Kudos for you
    and look forward to watching your progress.
     
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  4. Bgetraer

    Bgetraer Senior Member

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    Welcome! Looking forward!
     
  5. Skyjerk

    Skyjerk Meatbomb

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    Its something like that, anyway :lol:

    I thought it was "Its so easy, even Emoney can do it!"
     
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  6. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks, guys. I appreciate the support and encouragement!
     
  7. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    First of all, I would like to start this out with a huge "thank you" to all contributors here in Luthier's Corner. The information that I've been able to gather here has been invaluable. I’d also like to point out that I probably wouldn’t have even started this project without seeing the encouragement, inspiration and advice that so many of you have offered to others. Many of you have already assisted me with this project and you didn’t even know it.

    Having said that, the flip-side of the coin is that I’ve been hesitant to post “yet another build thread”. The bar has been set pretty high around here and I hope that my project turns out half as well as most that I’ve seen at MLP. At the same time, I do feel like I’ve taken so much from this community, that I need to at least try to give something back. So, I will attempt to put extra effort into certain post topics where things were either not clear to me, or where I had difficulty finding key information.

    As I mentioned in the first post, this project is already well underway, but it is slowing down due to the weather and my schedule. (I wasn’t exactly blazing my way through this at any rate) So, this is a good time to show my progress thus far, ask pending questions and hopefully wrap this up when the weather warms up a bit.

    I live in Northern Indiana and do my woodworking in a two car attached garage. During the summer, my wife and I both park in the drive. In the winter, I have to make enough room for my wife’s vehicle. (hey, she tolerates me, it’s the least I can do) I still have a decent amount of room to work, but the real issue is the cold. I remodeled my garage last year, but didn’t have enough in the budget for a proper heater. If the outside temperature is in the 20’s or higher, it’s no problem with just a small space heater. But after this most recent cold spell, I’ve take a little break from building.

    OK, enough of my yackin’, here’s what I’m doing. First of all, I’m building two guitars. I figured that I would use less expensive wood on one guitar and use it as the “test subject” for each new step, jig, procedure, etc.

    Guitar #1 (’59 inspired)
    - Honduras Mahogany body and neck
    - Figured maple top
    - Brazilian Rosewood fretboard
    - Cellulose nitrate trap inlays
    - Bound body and fretboard
    - Kluson hardware
    - SD Seth Lover PAFs
    - Some variant of a burst finish in nitro

    Guitar #2 (Cheaper build, test subject, cannon fodder, sacrificial lamb…)
    - Poplar body
    - Poplar or maple neck
    - Figured maple top (eh, I had plenty, so why not?)
    - Matching headstock veneer
    - Fretboard TBD
    - Inlays TBD
    - Bound body and fretboard
    - Gotoh hardware... maybe
    - SD JB and Jazz set
    - Color TBD, but poplar parts will either get solid or very dark trans color

    Now, keep in mind that these are the specs that I set out for myself at the onset of the build. Things DID change somewhat, especially on #2. I should mention that while #1 is '59 inspired, I have no desire to make a "replica". My intent here is to capture the overall look along with many of the construction details just for giggles.

    More to come soon; hopefully some actual content, right?

    Thanks,
    Gary
     
  8. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Like many others here, I started things out by ordering the Bartlett plans and template set. These plans are really well done and contain an amazing amount of information.

    I made copies of the Bartlett templates on ½” MDF using a variety of pattern bits in my router table. I hardened all of the bearing edges of the templates using thin CA. I lightly sanded the edges of the templates smooth and put the originals away.

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    I really wish that Tom offered neck and fretboard templates, I would have bought them in a heartbeat. I made extra copies of my plans at a print shop, cut them up and made my own using some tempered hardboard. I left most of these a little bit oversized on purpose so that I could bring the parts down to final size as things came together. You can see here that I used sandpaper attached to the top of my workbench as well as a piece of square stock to true up some of the edges of the neck templates.

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    Once I had these templates made, I figured I should just go ahead and make a neck shaping jig. I used my neck side-profile template to do this. It’s a two sided jig that many others have made before me. This is just my take on it. The “fence” on the back side of the neck is adjustable, (during the fretboard face rout) so that there is room allowed for an overly thick rough cut neck blank. The clamps can pivot to either side of the jig.

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    I also made the customary stack of carve templates thanks to the efforts of ExNihilo. Thanks, Scott! :wave:

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    More to come, stay tuned.

    Thanks,
    Gary
     
  9. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    I too thought I needed a neck template first off.

    Then I realised that as long as you can cut a nice perpendicular 17deg angle for the headstock (from a nice jointed blank), then the rest of the shaping is simply bandsawing slightly over dimension and sanding to final shape (especially the neck profile which is highly individual).

    The key is making sure the base at the heel/mortice is absolutely flat. The router will not do this well enough - even a 1/2" shaft will start to flex as it cuts thicker.

    The one key element are the two fretboard templates....the one without binding for the wood part and then the neck width one for the neck blank and the fretboard with the binding on.
     
  10. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Yeah, I pretty much agree with your view on this, but I loved the idea of this fixture and I just could not resist building it. :)

    I will say that I did anticipate many of these issues ahead of time. The jig is sized so that the neck does not come out at final size, but just slightly larger to allow for final shaping and sanding.

    More on this in a later post! :naughty:
     
  11. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    With most of the jigs and templates out of the way, it was time to do some actual work. I wanted to get the neck blanks roughed out so they had plenty of time to sit. If they went all wonky, I would have plenty of time to make replacements.

    Originally, I had planned to use either poplar or maple for the neck and body of Guitar #2. Using cheaper wood on that guitar was sort of the cornerstone of building two guitars, after all. But, after digging through all of my wood, I could not find any material that really suited me. I had plenty of poplar, but due to material size and grain orientation, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    I had bought a couple of 3x3x72 pieces of mahogany a few years back and even though my inner cheapskate was screaming at me, I decided to use mahogany on both necks. So, there is the first deviation from the original plan in case you’re keeping score.

    The first thing that I did was to joint and square up a blank on all four sides. I don’t own a jointer, so I do all of this work with hand planes, squares and a straight edge. This mahogany was sold to me as “Genuine Mahogany”, but it is really dark compared to other GM that I have or have seen. I know that mahogany can vary in color, but I’m wondering if it is Khaya? I’m pretty sure it’s not sapele as the grain is not interlocked. At any rate, this stuff is pretty lightweight and it works magnificently with hand tools.

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    I laid out a couple of “nested” blanks using my template. This may be hard to make out in the photos, but I use a silver welder’s pencil for marking dark woods. (This works great on walnut, btw) The fretboard faces were aligned to jointed faces to make things easier later on. I was able to match the sweep of the grain on the material to the angle of one of the headstocks, which was pretty cool. I’m hoping that the lack of runout may add a bit of natural strength to that area.

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    After that, it was off to the band saw. The blanks are very wide and have plenty of thickness for future adjustments if necessary.

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    These were put up on a shelf for a nice long rest. I did take them down occasionally to check for excessive movement.

    OK, that’s all I have time for tonight. I have a crazy schedule right now, so I don’t much time to compose posts. I’ll try to get more back-to-back progress posts up so that we can catch up to real time very soon.

    Thanks,
    Gary
     
  12. pshupe

    pshupe Senior Member

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  13. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks, Peter. Freddy is seriously my hero. Sometimes I just bring up his YouTube channel and hit the F5 key over and over and over just waiting for new content. :D
     
  14. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    The next step was to get moving on the bodies. I searched a couple of my local suppliers for mahogany that was wide enough for a one piece body. I wasn’t able to find anything in 8/4. I did find a bunch of wide 12/4, but the price of admission was just too high for me. In the end, I used some mahogany that I had laying around. Number 1 would have to be a two piece body, but that didn’t bother me too much. Number 2 was getting made with poplar as planned.

    I cut some pieces to rough length and trued them up; cut them in half and arranged them for a pleasing slip match. I jointed the mating edges and glued them up with hot hide glue.

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    After letting the blanks dry overnight, I cleaned up the glue joints with a scraper. I trued up the blanks again with planes and traced out the body shape, keeping the template center line on the glue joint. I cut the bodies out on the band saw, staying outside the line.

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    Nailed it! Yeah, the joinery is a little sloppy and the action is a bit high, but she’s a player. :naughty:

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    A bit more refinement coming shortly…
     
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  15. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    I sanded the body edges a little closer to the line on an oscillating sander, then I attached a body template. I carefully aligned the template to the center/glue line and attached the template with screws.

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    I did make counterbores to sink the screw heads below the surface of the templates since the template would be face-down on my router table.

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    Everything came out very cleanly.

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    Hey, it fits!

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    I didn’t have much material to remove at the router able, but there is absolutely no need to make dangerous climb cuts when using this bad boy. :shock:

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    More exciting routing action to come...

    Gary
     
  16. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Next up, I needed to rout the wiring channel. I clamped the body and template to my router table. I put a mark on the body edge for the channel depth. This makes it very easy to set the router depth. I cut the channel in several passes.

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    ½” for the template thickness plus ½” deep channel… close enough. :wave:

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    And finished.

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    OK, that's enough for tonight. Next up will be prepping the tops.

    Thanks for reading!
    Gary
     
  17. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    Looking good :thumb:!
     
  18. jkes01

    jkes01 Senior Member

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    Nice show Gary :)

    Man, that is one serious router bit you have there :wow:
     
  19. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks! I cannot tell you how many times I've referred to your thread. Truly great builds and source of information! :)

    Yeah, it's a monster and it does a great job. You definitely want to run that one as slow as possible due to the size and in a table mounted router only. I bought it from William Ng's website. He calls it the "Big Daddy" pattern bit.
     
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  20. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    I'm thrilled you found my thread useful! :D
     

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