My first build(s)

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

  1. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    Looking great.

    Your first builds are certainly assisted by some of the great tools you have at your disposal. I would love to have some workshop quality tools myself.....but cheap DIY stuff is all I can afford.
     
  2. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks!

    Thanks. I've been into woodworking since 2010 or so and I've acquired a few decent tools, but most of my stuff is not great at all. I use a cheapo Craftsman router with a defective plunge lock, a horrifically bad mid 70's Craftsman job site table saw, (the table is so warped that I have to readjust the blade to 90 degrees depending on which side of the blade I'm cutting on... :shock:) and a pretty marginal Delta benchtop thickness planer. I finally saved up enough to buy my first band saw last year.

    I don't own a jointer. I don't own a drum sander. I learned how to make a rough-sawn board perfectly 4 square using nothing but hand tools. I learned to cut joinery with hand tools... in other words, I've worked hard to learn and hone woodworking skills using very basic tools. :)

    The most important tool that I own is my work bench, which I built myself over the summer of 2013. It weighs a ton, holds just about anything in any orientation and has a top that is damn near reference-level flat. (flattened with hand planes, by the way) I think that the most important thing is to learn to properly use the tools that you own.

    I spent around three or four years on MLP gathering information. I saw what tools and techniques worked and what did not. I saw which tools ultimately were used the most and became standards for certain jobs... I knew where my skill level was as a woodworker and took that in to consideration. With all of that in mind over the last few years I purchased what I considered to be the essential tools for building a Les Paul prior to even starting the build.

    But I do want to stress that for me, the most important thing has been reading, reading, reading, reading, reading. The information that I've gathered on MLP has been fantastic. I have tons of notes, I've made PDFs of certain build threads and have them indexed. It's bordering on a sickness. :D
     
  3. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Control cavities

    Next up was getting the control cavities routed. I decided to go ahead and drill the jack hole before routing the main control cavity to avoid blow-out. I made sure to double-check that routing the binding channel later on would not fall into the jack hole... jackhole. haha. :naughty:

    By the way, sorry about the "Glamour Shots" filter on some of these pictures. I have no idea what I did with the camera...

    I laid out the proper angle for the hole, clamped the bodies in the vise and drilled with a forstner bit.

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    Next, I used a forstner bit to hog out most of the waste from the control and switch cavities. I had covered the back of the bodies with painters tape since I had been dinging the crap out of them.

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    Next I clamped the cavity rout template to the body and bench and went to town. I routed these in a few steps.

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    These came out pretty well, but I left a little too much body material in the main control cavity. No big deal. :thumb:

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    After that, I followed it up with the control plate template.

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    All done.

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    Thanks,
    Gary
     
  4. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Flushing the top and the carve routing

    The next step was to get the tops flush with the body edges. I removed the excess overhanging maple with the band saw and sander.

    I set up the router table with the Big Daddy pattern bit...

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    Before with #2

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    And after with #1

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    Next, I needed to rout the carve elevation steps into the tops. I set up the router using spacer blocks, but this time used the plate from my router table to gain some extra travel for the router bit that I was using.

    Again... I really should have made the box jig per @pshupe and used that for this step. (his version of the box jig with the cleat for holding templates) The way that I went about it is not a great way to do this operation, and I had to take very shallow passes due to the inherent flex with this setup.

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    Making sure total depth is correct and the bearing lands in the correct spot.

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    And here is step 1 routed. I routed this in many small passes

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    In between each step, I raised the router bit by approximately 1/16" of an inch. I used feeler gauges as a spacer to make this adjustment.

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    Here are both bodies completed.

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    Thank you @ExNihilo for the elevation templates!

    Gary
     
  5. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Routing the neck and pickup planes

    Well, I finally got around to building the box jig in preparation for routing the neck and pickup planes. I installed a few strategically placed stops to hold the body in place. The key stops being at the cutaway corner of the neck to keep it indexed with the center line.

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    I installed T-nuts on the underside of the frame near the rear to accept bolts which allows for a positive angle adjustment. Yes, those are toilet bolts. :D Hey, ya gotta use what you have on hand, and for some reason I had those.

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    I marked a reference line at the neck end of the body that indicates where the neck plane begins.

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    I mounted the body into the jig using painter's tape/CA along with a couple of shims inserted at the tail end. This holds the body very firmly in place. I use an F clamp to hold the frame in place as well to hold the back side of the jig to my bench.

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    The front of the jig is held in place between bench dogs using the tail vise. I clamped dust collection in place and wrapped tape around the dust collection hose on the router to keep it from getting hung up.

    I set the neck angle using an electronic angle gauge and a long straight router bit to make the cuts.

    This was another one of those nerve-wracking times of the build for me. So again, a blood sacrifice was given, chants were made, and ceremonial dances performed. :run:

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    Aaannnnd, then I forgot to take pictures while cutting the neck plane. Oh well. This is after the neck plane had been cut. I marked a line where the fretboard should end and the pickup plane should begin as well as a line for the end of the pickup plane.

    The pickup plane is sort of a "connect the dots" affair to make it come out in the correct location. And if I have understood what everyone has written about it, the resultant angle just is what it is.

    I lowered the angle of the jig and I set the router bit to just start touching a little way south of the end of the neck plane. I scribbled across the start and stop lines of the pickup plane so that I could clearly see where I was cutting.

    Little by little, I made light passes and adjusted the angle of the jig so that I landed on the start and stop marks very accurately.

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    And here is an overexposed picture that is supposed to show both planes, but in the end fails at this task. :)

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    Thanks for looking.
    Gary
     
  6. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    Perfectly executed. It is a satisfying moment isn't it? And I know what you mean about being nerve racking...each successive step ratchets up the pressure because you know you've put in too much work to screw it up. I have a feeling that you've done all the homework necessary to avoid the pitfalls though. ;)
     
  7. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks, man. Yes, that's exactly it. I know that a misstep can botch the whole thing. (in my mind at least) But then I have to remind myself that this is just wood, and there is more wood to be had. This is a learning process, and it's not the end of the world if I have to start over. My problem is that it has taken me so long to get to this point because I only get an hour here and there to work on this project, and it has taken me forever. So I think my biggest fear is loss of time. lol
     
  8. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Carving the tops

    Well, I've been home sick the past couple of days, so I've been able to make a few more frequent posts. It won't be long until we're caught up to real time.

    After I routed the carve elevation steps I needed to get them smoothed out. I used a combination of a random orbit sander with 80 grit paper as well as card scrapers. I tried to avoid sanding beyond the deepest step to begin with, as I wanted to work on the recurve after the basic smoothing was completed.

    Just started on #2 in this shot. This shows the small inclusion that was revealed after routing the steps.

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    Slowly but surely...

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    Progress shot of #1

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    #1 again

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    Basic smoothing complete on #1. No recurve defined yet, pretty much flat out to the edge.

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    #1 with some denatured alcohol to show the figure a little more. There are a few pin knots in this top.

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    And here is #2. This top has some very striking quartersawn ray fleck going on. Pretty interesting look.

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    I began the smoothing process on #2 since it is my test subject, and think it took me around 1 1/2 or 2 hours to complete. After I had a feel for the process, #1 took me around 25 or 30 minutes. It was amazing how much faster it went the second time.

    These tops were only sanded to 120, but since refinement is needed there was no point in going further at the time. I need to work on blending into the pickup plane and recurve needs to be defined. I think it's a good start.

    Thanks for looking,
    Gary
     
  9. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Working on the recurve

    After finishing up the basic carve, I began to work on the recurve. I primarily used a gooseneck card scraper and sandpaper with a flexible rubber block to work on these areas.

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    I used the templates from the second page of ExNihilo's PDF set to check the profile at key spots on the body.

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    At this point it still needs a fair amount of work, but it's a start.

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  10. Satellitedog

    Satellitedog Senior Member

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    Organized and clean, enviable.
     
  11. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Wow, thanks! Now if I could get my wife to see it that way... :hmm:
     
  12. guitarjoem

    guitarjoem Senior Member

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    Such amazing work! Awesomeness abounds.
     
  13. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks, that's very nice of you. :)
     
  14. timgman

    timgman Senior Member

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    Awesome Work!
     
  15. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Binding routing jig

    The next task was to get the binding channel routed. I had planned all along to build my own floating router fixture to accomplish this. I wanted to use my existing trim router with an adjustable bearing guide and a 1/4" spiral bit. Here are the steps that I took.

    First, I wanted to make the little "donut" spacer that would ride on top of the body. I cut a plug with a hole saw then ran a bolt down the middle and tightened a nut.

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    I chucked that up in the drill press.

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    I shaped it in the drill press using various files and sandpaper.

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    I drilled some holes for mounting screws, then cut off the end of the rod at the appropriate thickness.

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    Next, I started to work on the base that would hold my cheap little trim router. (which I got at Menards, btw. :) ) It's pretty much identical to the one sold at Harbor Freight.

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    And here it is clamped in position.

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    I cut a hole in the base to allow the adjustable bearing guide project through the bottom.

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    I mounted the donut to the bottom of the platform

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    Finished assembling the sides of the platform, then mounted it in the tower portion of the fixture using 2 ball bearing drawer slides. The tower has an inset lip at the back that allows it to be clamped to the bench.

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    Here's a view from under the platform. After a bit of testing, it was clear that I cut my little donut too thin. The bottom of the platform with running into the top where the carve is steep.

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    So, I made a big donut.

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    And the mega donut gave me plenty of clearance. Just needs some sprinkles. Mmmmm, sprinkles... :drool:

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    Continued in next post...
     
  16. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Binding routing continued...

    So, after some testing, there were a few issues. The bearing guide was very low below the bottom of the fixture. I was thinking about making a cradle to hold the bodies, which would fix that problem. Additionally, it was apparent that the adjustable bearing guide did not like to stay in one place. Lastly, I was also fighting the height adjustment. I mean, c'mon, that high tech knurled plastic clamping adjustment thingy is awesome and all, but there's only so much that can be expected. I will say that the test cuts were very clean.

    I had been messing with this stupid thing for a week. Normally I don't mind fiddling with stuff like this, but at this point I was just fed up. So, I cut my losses and ordered the StewMac fixture and their router bit and bearing set. I also ordered a variable speed Colt router from Amazon. (Luckily for me, I had some gift cards from my birthday, so the outlay was not too bad)

    The fixture is simple and clean and there is no play in it. Adjustments are positive and hold their settings.

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    AND it came with cradle clamps, so I didn't have to make my own. I drilled some holes and mounted them to one of the body templates.

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    I did some additional sanding on the tops to be sure that I was done with any part of the carve that would affect the outer edge of the body. I mounted #2 and made height adjustments. I also made sure that the router bearing would not dive into the jack hole. Clearance was fine, so I was ready to go.

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    And 30 seconds later #2 was done.

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    A few more minutes and #1 was done.

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    I do think that making my own jig was a worthwhile exercise, but I wish that I had called it off earlier. I would have saved myself a lot of headache. Not sure how often I'll use the StewMac version, but now there will be no hesitation the next time I need to prep for binding.

    Thanks for looking. :)
    Gary
     
  17. SlingBlader

    SlingBlader Premium Member

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    Thanks!
     
  18. geoffstgermaine

    geoffstgermaine Senior Member

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    Gary, thanks for sharing this thread. The work looks great!

    ...and thanks for the info on this bit! I had some tearout the other day that had me looking at a shaper, but this bit might be a more cost effective solution.
     
  19. timgman

    timgman Senior Member

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    Dude that bit is serious!
    Maybe time I man-up lol!
     
  20. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    If you had just used the $tewMac bit and bearing set with your binding cutter design (and shaped the donut to accommodate it obviously) your set up would have worked fine. It was the depth guide that was the flaw. There's just no way to guarantee the kind of accuracy necessary with that thing...
     

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