Build Thread - Travel Guitar

DaveR

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I didn't get as much done on this project as I would have liked today. Summer is here and so is the heat. Also had a number of family members over today to see my kids for their birthdays. But since we're still pretty much on lockdown, those people were all spread out in the yard and we entertained at a distance.

Epoxied the carbon fiber rods this morning. That went well aside from putting too much goop under the first rod, and having to pull it back out and wipe some off to get it to seat properly. A little messy but no big deal.
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My dot inlays turned out to be a nightmare. The dots I bought measured out to about .252" in diameter. My brand point drill bit measures about .249". But bits tend to scoot around and cut a slightly bigger hole. I was able to make a dot fit in a test piece of ebony although it was very tight and had to be tapped in with a hammer. I figured I could just drill the holes, tap in the shell pieces and wick in CA glue - DONE. Nope.

After drilling all the holes in the fretboard, I tried one more test fit in my scrap piece and managed to SPLIT it in half by tapping with the hammer. Okay, back to the drawing board. Went with one size up brad point bit, which I should have done from the beginning. Unfortunately slightly enlarging with a brad point bit in ebony is easier said than done, and the holes wound up a little ragged and I had some chunks break out around the 23rd fret. So I wound up bedding all the dots in epoxy mixed with sawdust and some black dye for good measure. I'll file all this down tomorrow if it's sufficiently hardened. This whole process took HOURS longer than I expected it to.
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Setup my luthier vice in my drill press to drill out the ram on my new arbor press. This worked out great and went very smoothly. I needed a win after all the inlay headache.
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Cross drilled and tapped a hole for an 8-32 screw to keep the caul attached to the ram. Hopefully this thing works out well when I get around to fretting.
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Still haven't figured out what's next. Might take a break and sharpen every hand tool I own. I've been putting that off for a long time, and could really use some sharp scrapers, chisels and planes on the rest of this project. I got a new set of bench and mortising chisels at Xmas and still haven't done the initial sharpening on them so that's likely a whole day project in itself.
 

DaveR

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Not much to report today. Started out this morning by filing down the epoxy that was mounded up over the inlays. Still needs a good sanding with a radius block, but I'll get that done after gluing the board to the neck. It will fit my jig better if it's on the neck already. These dots looked fine on my computer mockup, but look a little large in reality. I'll live with it.
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I set about to sharpen almost every edged tool that I own. I treated myself to a Veritas Mk II honing jig at Christmas, but hadn't used it until today. It's too bad I can't contract somebody who seems to enjoy this stuff (like Barnaby) to do it for me, because I really dislike sharpening. I have a feeling it would be extremely cost prohibitive to ship him all my tools even if he wanted to take on the work, lol. Someday my children will be old enough and I'll make them do it....that's the ticket.
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9 of the chisels in this pile are brand new and have never been lapped. Worse yet, all my old equipment had been sharpened on a junk honing jig, that left me with "mystery angles", so I'm spending the time to bed in proper primary bevels even though it's taking forever to remove a lot of material. I spent 5 hours sharpening today, and I'm probably a little over half way through that pile. My hands are SHREDDED. I managed to sand off the heel of both hands real slow like. I didn't even know it was happening until I saw blood on the sandpaper.

The Mk II works great on plane irons and wider bench chisels, but I'm really struggling with the narrow chisel head. My mortising chisels tend to pinch in one spot and then rock forward or backward in the jig, throwing off the angle, unless I rely on finger power to pinch it steady in the jig. To be honest, that's worse than my old junk jig. Plus that half inch mortising chisel won't even fit in the jig, which is surprising. I'm thinking about emailing Lee Valley to see if they have any pointers or if maybe I got a bad one.

@Barnaby, I know you've said you like the Mk II. Do you have that narrow head and have you had any trouble with it? I've thought about roughing up the powder coat on the gripping edges of the jig, or maybe putting sticky back sandpaper on there, so it can really grab the chisels...
 

Barnaby

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@Barnaby, I know you've said you like the Mk II. Do you have that narrow head and have you had any trouble with it? I've thought about roughing up the powder coat on the gripping edges of the jig, or maybe putting sticky back sandpaper on there, so it can really grab the chisels...
Hey there! Yep, I feel your pain. Sharpening can be meditative if you do it for, say, ten minutes on tools that have all their bevels correct. When you do it for several hours in a row, establishing primary bevels and working out things like edge nicks, it's awful. My hands look like I've spent the last twenty years in a coalmine once I'm done with a session like that.

For thinner chisels, I simply made myself a small whatsit out of maple. It's simply two angled pieces that fit either side of my 3mm chisel to hold it in place.

The rest seem to fit in there okay.

Now, because of this post, some wiseass is probably going to have a signature that reads "I made myself a small whatsit out of maple--Barnaby", dangnabit!
 

DaveR

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I’m hoping my hands are up for finishing the task tomorrow, but I’m pretty wrecked right now.

For thinner chisels, I simply made myself a small whatsit out of maple. It's simply two angled pieces that fit either side of my 3mm chisel to hold it in place.
Are you using the maple whatsit with the standard head or the narrow head? Trying to picture it...
 

DaveR

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Another day without much to report. Finished my sharpening and my hands are destroyed. Everything is wicked sharp and I have the bald patches on my forearm to prove it. Except for my mortising chisels which I never could figure out in the Veritas Mk ii. I'm going to email Lee Valley this week and see if I have a defective one or something.

I did fine tune that new edge trimming plane. The blade was sharp when I opened and used it the other day, but it didn't have a micro bevel and now it is REALLY sharp. It took some amazing curls off this block of maple. This should come in handy the next time I need a really tight butt joint, which is why I bought it.
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The only guitar work I accomplished today was to bring the top down flush with the neck because the tenon sat just below the surface of the maple top. The freshly sharpened #4 took the thinnest of shavings off the flame maple without tearing out or catching, once I got it dialed in right. I also used some freshly tuned scrapers to fine tune some smaller bits and confirmed the whole thing is still about as straight as I can hope for up from the flat of the neck to the neck plane of the body.
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Tomorrow I want to double check that action height one more time, then glue on the fretboard and start the rest of the neck work. I'm going to hold off any more body carving until the neck is profiled and then I can sand those neck to horn transitions in together. Once I get that established, I can drill for the neck pins, I think. I'm hoping to get all that done this coming week and maybe start fretting next weekend, but that might be overly ambitious. It's hot and I'm not necessarily in a hurry.
 
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DaveR

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I was making great progress tonight. Double checked the action, I think we're definitely in business. The 1.5° neck angle should fall squarely within the adjustment range of the bridge.

I glued the fretboard to the neck.
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Sanded my inlays flush and went up to 320 grit. I'll take it north of 2000 later. This is before sanding, just mounted in a quick jig to keep the radius block square.
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After sanding, and bending the binding to the curved end of the board with a heat gun.
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And then I had a CA glue problem trying to attach the binding. Managed to fill up most of my fret slots with glue. I started a new thread about it, to hopefully get some more eyes on my cry for help.


Depending on the answers, I'm going to plow ahead tomorrow with some type of effort to clean the glue up. Don't have much to lose at this point. Worst that can happen is I bugger up the fret slots and they won't hold frets. If that happens, I can always pull the board and start over.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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kudos for you publishing your not so spectacular moments. we all have them, but sometimes we get a little modest....ahem...and don't always come clean with them. this is precisely how you get experience. your recovery is great. you will end up very happy with your build.
most of what i build has nibs, so, i use ca. what few times i did the fretover binding, i used acetone and binding scraps and made goop. it didn't run as much and was much easier to control.
get a dentist pic and file/dress the end to fit your fret slots and see if that works.
 

DaveR

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kudos for you publishing your not so spectacular moments. we all have them, but sometimes we get a little modest....ahem...and don't always come clean with them.
This place is a lifesaver when you run into a snag. I'm definitely not too proud to admit when I screwed up, (which is probably more often than I get things right).

I do a lot of training in my day job, and always share the personal goofs that I've made. Mistakes are the best teacher and if somebody else can AVOID my blunders because I fessed up to them, that's a win for everybody.

get a dentist pic and file/dress the end to fit your fret slots and see if that works.
I've got a whole slew of picks and pokers in my tool box. I'll see what I can come up with tomorrow when I'm fresh.
 

Ripthorn

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Looking good! I am almost done wiring up the onboard wiring on mine...
 

DaveR

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Well, that took long enough. On Wednesday (the day after my CA glue mistake), I started picking at the slots with tools, and tried to cut the tip of my thumb off with an exacto knife. That put a damper on the work for the rest of the evening.

I resumed picking for about 5 minutes on Thursday only for a freak storm to come through and knock a tree down across my dead end street. So I had to give up on the guitar for the day and go run a chainsaw.
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More chainsawing on Friday, but later in the evening I managed to get all the slots cleaned out.

Here are all the tools I used for this process. The orange handled picking tools are a $2 set from HF, that I ground the tips to suit this specific task. I broke them a couple times, but just kept grinding new tips. The little saw allowed for reversing the blade to cut on the push or pull, so I set it to cut on the push to get into the closed corner, and used the tip of my bigger saw on the pull stroke to clean out the bulk of the fret slots. In the very furthest part of the closed corner, I wicked in acetone with an exacto and picked at the glue until I cleared it all out. Checked for depth clearance in the corner with that little machinist rule, which also happens to be about .021" wide, so I would run it across each fret slot to check for tang clearance the full width of the board. That thing is so handy for guitar work that I think I'm going to buy a couple more. Also, I had struggled to find jars that were airtight enough to hold acetone for more than a couple days, and these little glass almond butter jars seem to be perfect for the job.
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Here's hoping I didn't bugger up any of the fret slots too badly to hold a fret. But I do plan on using CA glue when I press them in. I have a few big chips on some of the slots as well, not sure what to do about that. CA and dust maybe.

I glued on the rest of the binding with goop tonight, and then very carefully cleaned the goop from the slots with a dental pick. I'll leave it overnight and then scrape down the binding tomorrow afternoon and start sanding the board again. I scratched the crap out of it with all the picking, and need to radius sand it up through the grits again.
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I have just a little more chainsaw business to deal with in the morning and then I hope to get back on this build and make some big progress. This 3 day setback really got on my nerves because I had been making such good headway.
 

DaveR

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As usual, didn't make as much progress as I wanted, but still accomplished some things this weekend. Finished cleaning up that damned fallen tree, and did a lot more yard work around the house.

When I finally made it to my shop I trimmed down the binding, and radius sanded again. Started over at 120 and worked my way to 1200, followed by medium to extra fine scotch brite pads. Love the reflection I got in the board here.
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Today, I rough cut the neck profile. I should have done this part after fretting, but I just used the offcut to support the neck in the press.
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Roughed in the tapers on the side.
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Broke out my homemade radius jig that I hadn't used in at least two years. The handle wouldn't turn anymore, so I had to take it apart, open up some holes in the wood a little and add a few drops of oil. Good as new, or good as homemade junk anyway.
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Spent forever undercutting the tangs on 24 frets with a set of hand me down homemade tang nippers which leaves a little roughness behind. So, I made a little jig that I saw on one of Highline Guitars youtube videos, that made filing the undercut tangs really quick.
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All ready to start pressing and gluing in frets.
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The first fret that I placed, I filled the slot with water thin CA from a whip tip, and pressed in the fret. Squeezeout went everywhere. Then I realized I forgot to do any kind of waxing of the board to help with cleanup. So I stopped and applied Johnson's paste wax to everything. This didn't seem to help a lot. Did a few more frets this way, still making a mess. Took a break, came back and carefully scraped the glue off that had squeezed out and stuck to the board. Used q-tips dipped in acetone and a dental pick for most of the work.

Then I tried the same technique but rubbed the slots with beeswax first. I keep a block of it in my shop for helping to drive screws in hardwood. Much better at keeping the CA glue from sticking, but I still wound up with squeeze out all over the frets and my caul, and just a general mess. After about 8 messy frets, I got a little smarter.

Beeswax, then pressed in the frets dry. Clamped the neck in my vice at a 45° angle. Using the whip tip, I laid a bead of CA along the edge of the fret. It didn't wick in real fast like, probably because of the wax and a good tight pressing, but some of it got in there. Wiped off the excess with acetone q-tips and it cleaned up pretty well. I'm happy with it. Still needs a little cleanup. The wax looks like it may have discolored the wood some and I have one chip repair to scrape down just behind the 10th fret. Going to try a vigorous scrubbing with some kind of solvent tomorrow to see if I can even out the color of the board again.
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Overall, this fret over binding was supposed to be EASIER than the traditional Gibson style with nibs. In my very limited experience that's not how it turned out for me. On a refret, sure, I'd do it like this. But on a scratch build? I'd rather make a neck with nibs any day. I think it's easier. Easier to get the glue under the frets. Easier to glue on the binding. Easier to clean up after it. Easier to bevel and round the fret ends, since they're just plastic. But hell, the next guitar I build may not even have a bound neck. I always want to do something different.
 

fatdaddypreacher

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i've done nibs, and fret overs, and quite frankly, don't see a big difference in the labor or either. nice looking fret board.
 

DaveR

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All set to start neck carving! This is the most fun part of a build for me, and unfortunately always goes super quickly.
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About 25 careful minutes to get to this point. Mostly roughed in.
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Fine tuning things with my super high tech cardboard cereal box jigs, copied from an old 90's Ibanez RG neck. This one is slightly thicker than the RG. Unfortunately it has to be to accommodate the 2 way truss rod. But it's pretty close tot he same profile.
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Hours of sanding and refining later. Used Freddy's method of a flat panel with roundover edges covered in cork as a sanding block. Works like a charm. One of the smaller drums from my spindle sander worked for refining the heel and volute area. The volute turned out just a bit smaller than intended, but it should help keep my hand from just sliding off the end. Calling this neck done, until it's time to fret level and dress everything.
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The scraps of maple I picked for this neck turned out to have some decent figure considering they came out of my junk pile.
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I have an unexpected day off tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get a lot of refining and carving done on the horns and neck pocket area of the body. Might even get motivated and drill for the neck retaining pins. That will likely be the scariest part of the whole build.
 

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Looking great! I she that drooling the neck pins is quite scary. Just take your time and do it carefully. Keep it up!
 

DaveR

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Kicked off the morning with carefully sanding in the transition from the insides of the horn to the neck heel. I botched this on my first LP build and wound up with slightly skinny binding in the horn area. Turned out great this time. Two layers of tape, sanded until I started scratching the tape, then finished up with a sanding block by hand.
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Lots of carving today. Files and rasps and microplanes and scrapers and gouges and hand blisters.
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Along the back of the heel and the horns, I realized I needed to lose a lot of material and didn't want to hand carve it all, so I broke out the router sled again and cranked it all the way up to 9 degrees which is insane.
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My skewed angle that I decided to remove material. It's skewed like this because of the inner chambering.
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Triple checked all the measurements and went for the cutting. Worked out pretty well.
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More carve refinement. For the PRS style horn cutaway, it turned out easiest to tilt the table on my spindle sander to 45 degrees and put the guitar face down on it. 10 minutes of careful sanding gave me a beautiful accurate cutaway, far better and faster than I could have done by hand.
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Did a 1/4" roundover on the back of the body.
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The last time I did this, I mounted my luthier vice in my drill press. We're free handing today.
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I did find some cracks in the end grain earlier today. I had ONE at the beginning of this build and filled it with CA glue. Now I have many. The weather has gotten a lot hotter and more humid recently, plus I've exposed the middle of this air dried board by cutting the body out. I filled them all with water thin CA, followed by medium CA. Here's hoping they don't get any worse. This guitar is now being stored in the house every night.
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Carving is mostly done. Needs a little more filing off of sharp edges around the horns, but almost all done. Next comes tons of sanding, because it's all still rough scratches and file marks at this point.
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Not the most graceful heel transition, but feels smooth in the hand, and gives me the necessary meat for the neck pins I'm planning to install.
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Drilled holes to connect the various cavities with wires. Haven't drilled for the bridge ground yet, because I'm not even sure how I'm going to do that part. I'll figure it out later.
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The next time I get some hours in the shop, I'm planning on installing the neck pins. If that goes well, then we're down to tedious detail stuff from there on.
 

DaveR

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Long work day today, but I set out to work on my neck pins tonight. Sanded down a piece of 1/4” brass rod at the drill press. Only needed to lose a tiny bit of material so I used 800 grit and worked my way up to micro-mesh, so as not to leave scratches. Drilled a hole in some scrap with my new super long 5/16” Fisch brad point bit. My 5/16” tubing is tight but fits.

Before I drill and insert this into the guitar I wanted to tap the end of the brass rod for a 6/32 machine screw that will be used to remove the pins from the guitar. Got out my dads old craftsman tap and die set. Which one is missing? The 6-32 tap that dad broke probably 35 years ago. So now I’m waiting on a replacement to come via Amazon. No pics, too tired and lazy.
 

Ripthorn

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I used 8-32, is a stronger and less livelihood of breaking a tap. 6-32 taps are notorious for breakage. Bonus: cabinet hardware is 8-32 so you can use a good looking knob that you don't have to make. At least, that's what I did.
 

DaveR

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I used 8-32, is a stronger and less livelihood of breaking a tap. 6-32 taps are notorious for breakage. Bonus: cabinet hardware is 8-32 so you can use a good looking knob that you don't have to make. At least, that's what I did.
Good suggestion on the knob. I was worried about an 8-32 hole not leaving enough material in the sidewalls of a 1/4” brass rod. Was that the size rod you used as well?
 
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DaveR

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Well, this week fell apart. Work was brutal, lots of pressure and long hours in the home office. The heat in the shop is awful now, and I haven't accomplished much.

After an 11 hour Saturday at work from my home office today, I mowed the grass in 95 degrees and then thought it would be a good idea to drill the neck pins, the single most risky part of this build that everything hinges on. I had measured and marked them out yesterday after a similar day at work followed by sweaty conditions in the shop.

First hole went great.
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Second hole, not so much. And this mistake was made yesterday, when I marked it. I just didn't catch it today either and went ahead and drilled. This just won't do.
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I had a 5/16 dowel that I chucked up in the drill press and thinned ever so slightly with sand paper. Fits great. Glued it in and will use my trim router and a pattern bit to remove it tomorrow.
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I have a real junky plug cutting kit and don't have a 5/16" size. But I used a 3/8" cutter to make a sorta grain matched piece of ash for a plug, chucked it in the drill press and turned it down to 5/16" with a file.
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Then I carefully setup my miter gauge at a slight angle so the blade would cut square across the back of the neck. Used a FTG ripping blade to make a dado along the last inch of the tenon. I NEVER could have pulled this off with my old contractor saw.
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Not too bad. Cleaned up the tiny ridges with a scraper.
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I had a small offcut from the nut end of the neck left that was big enough to fill this spot. Carefully cut it down close with the table saw and then a hand saw. It's a little proud all around. I'll flush it up with hand tools and a flush trim bit at the router table tomorrow.
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Overall, despite the setback, I'm pretty pleased with the repairs, and I know I can drill it correctly NEXT time. I'm sure it won't be completely invisible inside the horn area, but I think you'll have to look hard to find the plug. You never really stop making mistakes with woodworking, but you get better at fixing them, I suppose.
 
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