First Two Guitar Builds, 5 Years Later

DaveR

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Hi, everybody! I started a build thread for my first two guitar builds about FIVE years ago, and wound up shelving the project indefinitely because of the birth of my second daughter. I had absolutely no idea how the difficulty of child rearing goes up exponentially with each added child.

I am glad that I put the guitars on hold, because in the interim I made several awesome pieces of furniture, acquired a bunch of new tools, and honed my woodworking skills.

Breakfront cabinet - ambrosia maple and walnut
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Wardrobe/Game Cabinet - mostly oak.
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I was going to just pick up in my old build thread, but after reading back through, it’s pretty embarrassing. I made a lot of rookie mistakes, many of which should have caused me to scrap the first pieces of wood and start over, but I powered through and made a guitar out of them anyway. Here’s a link if you want to see my screwups and freakouts, but I’ll gloss over those and just hit the highlights this time around.

http://www.mylespaul.com/threads/first-build-turned-into-two.296227/

I'll cover some of the fixes for prior mistakes, but will try not to get way into the weeds on basic woodworking goofs. Some of the solutions I came up with would never have occurred to me five years ago without the furniture experience I gained in between.
 

DaveR

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I procured some African mahogany, a curly maple billet, and a single piece of ambrosia maple on ebay at least 5 years ago.

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I started working with the African mahogany but wound up purchasing a nice genuine mahogany 1 piece body blank and 3 piece neck blank from another MLP member, which is what led me to tackling 2 guitars at once.

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The good mahogany and curly maple were set aside for my LP build and the junkier African mahogany wound up paired with my ambrosia maple as a “test bed” of sorts. While I didn’t want to screw this one up, since the wood wasn’t as nice, I tried to do everything on the test bed first.

My Les Paul is based on the Bartlett plans, but has morphed into my own vision. It’s mostly a ‘59 in dimensions, but I added a 3 piece neck, headstock binding, block inlays and a barrel style ¼” jack.

The other guitar, a double cut, is based on one of my USA Hamers.

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It’s the best playing guitar I’ve ever owned, so I stripped it down and carefully measured everything to clone it. I imagine that future builds will be somewhat original creations, but as a beginner, I really needed a good reference point.


I’ll repeat this part from my previous thread in case it helps somebody who wants to make a 3 piece neck.

I wanted to use 3 piece necks, because that’s how Hamer used to do it and the necks on my two USA Hamers have always been rock solid. The only Les Paul I ever owned had a very temperamental one-piece neck. It required frequent truss rod adjustment with temp and humidity changes.

I ripped a single flat-sawn board into 3 pieces. In this photo, I’ve labeled each piece as they came out of the original board – Left, Middle, Right.

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Then I flipped L&R in a way to keep as much straight grain as possible, while leaving the curvy parts of the grain in the corners to be carved away when shaping the neck. The middle section had fairly flat growth rings and I just flipped it end over end.

IMG_0619 3 Piece Neck 2.jpg


After jointing and planing these 3 sections square, I glued them up into a neck blank.
 
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DaveR

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I resawed the curly maple billet with my table saw and a sawzall.

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I have since purchased a 20" bandsaw for all resawing, but I made it work with what I had at the time.

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I played around with pics of the ambrosia maple board on a computer until I found a slip match arrangement I liked.

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Made a boatload of templates on 3/4" MDF.

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I also bought some Macassar Ebony fretboards from LMI and a piece of Bolivian Rosewood on ebay that I resawed into two fretboards.

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Cut out the rough body shapes and bandsawed each neck blank for a total of four necks.

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DaveR

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I hogged out the cavities with forstner bits before routing to final size with templates. I also used the forstner bits to weight relieve the African mahogany body because it was a seriously dense piece of wood.

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I glued both tops to the bodies.

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The flamed maple piece had some serious cupping issues (covered in my other build thread) but I was able to overcome the cupping with water and a heat gun. Once I got it glued down flat, I quickly did rough step carving with additional templates and my router. This seemed to take the tension out of the maple and everything has stayed nice and flat since.

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I used a crosscut sled with some blocks attached to it to help align the neck blank for the headstock angle cut on my table saw.

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I also used the table saw to cut a truss rod slot, but wound up changing my plans later.

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I made some shims of the correct angle to help attach my templates for routing the pickup cavities.

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I drilled some access holes for wiring in the doublecut. The Les Paul had the traditional diagonal channel routed before gluing on the top.

IMG_0858 Wire Channel.JPG
 

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BPW666

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Very nice work.Probably really digging the double cut, i may have to make something like that in the future.
 

DaveR

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Very nice work.Probably really digging the double cut, i may have to make something like that in the future.
Since I made the plans and top contours for that one based on my own measurements, I’d be happy to share if you want them. The guitar is done other than clear coat, and it plays and feels awesome.
 

DaveR

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Thanks, FDP! I can accommodate that request when I have some more time to gather up some pics.
 

DaveR

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Cut the front and back binding channels on the double cut with the router table, since this one doesn't need a floating binding jig.

IMG_0847 Inlay Routing.JPG


I made a hinged router planing jig, that has come in handy for all kinds of jobs. Among other things, I used it to establish the neck angle and pickup planes on these two guitars.

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At some point i jumped the gun and glued ears on one of the necks because it was a bit narrow. This wound up being a mistake because it made life a little harder. Order of operations is so critical in guitar building and I've learned a lot for next time.

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Made a miter box for my fret cutting saw. Saw the idea here years ago. I taped a preslotted board to the back of a new piece of wood and index it on a razor blade embedded in the jig.

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Used the same crosscutting sled and some toggle clamps to taper the fretboards.

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Cutting the tenon on the LP neck. Next time I'll probably use Freddy's "box" method on the router table, because this wasn't as clean as I would have liked. Although now I own a true tenoning jig, so it might be useful for this type of operation...

IMG_0883 Tenon Cutting.JPG


Used this terribly crappy bevel gauge to transfer the cheek angle to the neck and cut with my crosscut sled. I still need to buy a better bevel gauge, because this one is going in the trash. It is super hard to tighten and if you so much as breath on it, the angle moves. It's mostly worthless, but I'm sure a better brand would be fine.

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This process worked out okay, but took forever to setup for the cuts. Like I said, next time, I'll do this differently.

IMG_0888 Cheek Angle.JPG


Test fit of the tenon. It's a bit tight here, but I made it little looser when it came time for gluing.

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Inspecting the alignment of my center lines. Not necessary, but fun and I have a laser, so why not?

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DaveR

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Up to this point, I've just been rehashing tasks I accomplished five years ago and already covered in my other build thread. This is where I stopped.

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Both bodies were roughed in, and had all routes cut. Necks were rectangular blanks with fitted tenons and were slotted for truss rods. I just started marking out for inlays when my daughter was born. I mostly gave up on the project and shoved them onto a high shelf to revisit in the future.

Chronologically from this point forward, I'll go into more detail and include fixes for new and old mistakes.
 

DaveR

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I'm gonna derail from building for a minute to explain the chronology of what I've been up to for years and why it was ultimately helpful when I returned to guitars.

In the time between giving up and starting again (May '14 - July '18) I did accomplish quite a few things. I took the rest of 2014 off from any type of creative endeavor other than rearing a child.

Then I started working on my shop (or as my wife calls it "a garage for PARKING CARS, DAVE!!!" This means that all of my tools have to be mobile and tuck away into the corners so that we can just barely squeeze two midesize SUV's inside when the weather is nasty.
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I rebuilt my old craftsman table saw to raise the height, incorporate a router table, and add dust collection capabilities. It's not perfect, but I've made the best silk purse I could out of this sow's ear. If I had it to do over, I would have just ponied up the cash for a cabinet saw, but this serves my needs.

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DaveR

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Sorry if I'm getting too far off topic here. I figure some guys will nerd out with me over the woodworking tools.

I built a homemade dust extraction system. I was motivated to build it after covering everything in my garage with mahogany dust when I started work on the two guitar bodies. This endeavor took the better part of 2015 and involved wiring in a new 240v circuit and cutting a hole in the outside brick wall of my house. It's not pretty but it works really well. Everything pipes through 6" sewer and drain pvc and feeds through a cyclonic separator into a transparent trash can before venting the microscopic fines to the outside. It doesn't get all the dust from every tool, but I can capture at least 90% of it, and nearly all dust from the biggest mess makers (planer, jointer, drum sander).

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Homemade blast gates and drops for both sides of the shop. I also built a wireless remote system for this. Inside the gray box on the wall is a 240v relay, triggered by an inexpensive 120v wireless system that I think is intended for outdoor lighting. It's under $20 on amazon if it ever breaks or I lose the remote control.
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Overhead piping to the far side of the garage.
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Permanent miter station with a dust collecting hood and quick connect for an additional flex drop.
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I built my own quick connect system for attaching flex hoses that works extremely well.
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Over engineered the connection for my little lunchbox planer.
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I made hookups for all my big tools. Little tools get hooked up to the shop vac. Hand routing just makes an enormous mess no matter what I do, and unfortunately guitar building involves a lot of that. I know they make vacuum hookups for hand routers, but I think it would be too cumbersome and downright dangerous to attempt to use those.
 

DaveR

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I built a little flip cart for my oscillating spindle sander. This tool has seen a lot of use on the guitar stuff and it's one of the few NEW tools I've ever bought.
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I acquired the previously mentioned 20" bandsaw (all 500lbs of it that barely squeezes in my shop) and set it up with this huge re-saw blade. I haven't used this bandsaw much on guitar stuff yet (aside from a little bit of neck profiling), but I have used it for re-sawing and veneer making on some furniture tasks. I also have a junky 12" bandsaw for general curve cutting tasks, but it was seriously taxed cutting out the guitar bodies 5 years ago. I now have some smaller blades for the big boy that should make short work out of a mahogany slab in the future.
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I had never really used hand tools before, but I acquired 5 or 6 older hand planes and some decent chisels. Taught myself how to sharpen and use them properly. I'm not all that great with a big hand plane, but I did use them on the guitar necks a little bit and I've been practicing. Chisels and block planes get used a ton on furniture work now that I know what I'm doing. My wife bought me some good quality Ryoba and Dozuki saws last Christmas and I now use them quite a bit as well.
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Lastly, I picked up a Stewmac vice when they were on sale earlier this summer (and a week later the green woodcraft patternmaker vice went on sale for around $100..buy that one if it's ever that cheap again.) Price point aside, this is one of the absolute best tool investments I've ever made, I just wish I had a little more room in my shop because it's mounted too close to my toolbox. I've used it nearly every day since I bought it and regret not buying one years ago.
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SlingBlader

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I built a little flip cart for my oscillating spindle sander. This tool has seen a lot of use on the guitar stuff and it's one of the few NEW tools I've ever bought.
View attachment 349754
View attachment 349755

I acquired the previously mentioned 20" bandsaw (all 500lbs of it that barely squeezes in my shop) and set it up with this huge re-saw blade. I haven't used this bandsaw much on guitar stuff yet (aside from a little bit of neck profiling), but I have used it for re-sawing and veneer making on some furniture tasks. I also have a junky 12" bandsaw for general curve cutting tasks, but it was seriously taxed cutting out the guitar bodies 5 years ago. I now have some smaller blades for the big boy that should make short work out of a mahogany slab in the future.
View attachment 349757
View attachment 349756

I had never really used hand tools before, but I acquired 5 or 6 older hand planes and some decent chisels. Taught myself how to sharpen and use them properly. I'm not all that great with a big hand plane, but I did use them on the guitar necks a little bit and I've been practicing. Chisels and block planes get used a ton on furniture work now that I know what I'm doing. My wife bought me some good quality Ryoba and Dozuki saws last Christmas and I now use them quite a bit as well.
View attachment 349759

Lastly, I picked up a Stewmac vice when they were on sale earlier this summer (and a week later the green woodcraft patternmaker vice went on sale for around $100..buy that one if it's ever that cheap again.) Price point aside, this is one of the absolute best tool investments I've ever made, I just wish I had a little more room in my shop because it's mounted too close to my toolbox. I've used it nearly every day since I bought it and regret not buying one years ago.
View attachment 349758
Nice! I love the flip cart. I have been considering doing a similar arrangement with my spindle sander and lunchbox planer... but may be more trouble than it's worth. Like you, I'm always trying to think of ways to economize space.
 

DaveR

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Nice! I love the flip cart. I have been considering doing a similar arrangement with my spindle sander and lunchbox planer... but may be more trouble than it's worth. Like you, I'm always trying to think of ways to economize space.
My flip cart was a good idea, but poorly executed. I can’t fold it up with a spindle in it cause it’s a 1/2” too short. The mechanism for holding it up while in use tends to vibrate loose while sanding. I’ve never had it collapse on me, but it could if I didn’t pay attention. I’ve been meaning to rebuild it for a while.

A 2-in-1 like you’re talking about could be cool, but if you’re setup for using one and need to use the other, it could prove inconvenient. I run into that when I’m back and forth between table saw and router table setups.

Not trying to talk you out of it or anything, just pointing out potential problems I’ve experienced.
 

DaveR

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Nice! I love the flip cart. I have been considering doing a similar arrangement with my spindle sander and lunchbox planer... but may be more trouble than it's worth. Like you, I'm always trying to think of ways to economize space.
Oh and just FYI, I used non swivel casters on the back and fixed legs on the front. Just tilt it to roll it around and then it stays where I put it when resting on the fixed legs.
 

DaveR

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Since @fatdaddypreacher asked for it, I'll show some more furniture stuff, before I get back to guitars. It follows chronologically anyway.

After doing a lot of work on my shop I started on a China cabinet for my wife. This took me 8 or 9 months of weekend work during 2016, but I work slow and had a few interruptions (I had a 5 and 2 year old at that time).

Lacking a local source for Ambrosia Maple, I actually got almost all of that from ebay, two pieces at a time and shipping was brutal.

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The walnut parts of this cabinet came from my grandfather's walnut tree. The tree fell down around 2010 and laid on the ground for about five years. My uncle rented a bandsaw mill, and over the course of a few long weekends I helped him slab it out and sticker stack the entire tree. After air drying for a few years, I got a small load of boards to use as accent pieces on this cabinet. This walnut tree was very special to my family as my mother and her siblings grew up climbing and swinging from that tree, and my grandfather passed away shortly after that tree fell down. Here is the walnut, stacked on my dining room table, trying to reach equilibrium. Air dried wood moves to much for my taste.

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Cabinet carcass construction.
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I re-sawed my own veneers for the inside back panel and did a combination of book and slip matching to create a desirable pattern.

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Cornice detail.
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Doors glued up.
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Final assembly.
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Finishing took forever. The walnut pieces got a few coats of shellac to make the color pop. I then applied a couple seal coats of some Minwax water based poly to all the maple and filled the ambrosia beetle holes with Ebony Timbermate. I had to seal everything first or the Timbermate would stain the surrounding maple. Brad nail holes in all the trim were filled with walnut and maple colored Timbermate as well. Then I sanded the fill flush and most of the seal coats off before coating the entire thing with 3 coats of General Finishes satin water based poly. I have found that my wife has some allergic reactions to most oil based finishes (learned the hard way when I built our bed 11 years ago), and unless I want to quarantine a project for months while it fully off-gasses, water based works out better for something that lives in the house. Plus, for this wood, I wanted a finish that would remain as clear as possible.
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The back panel didn't fit as well as I would have liked so I hid the gaps with some walnut quarter round superglued right on top of the finished piece.
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That board I used on the cornice is amazing. I still have a few pieces of it left for a future project.
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Book matched inset panels for the lower doors.
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Today this cabinet is filled with our hand made pottery (my wife is a high school art teacher), some knick-knack junk, a bronze sculpture I made years ago and a couple bottles of bourbon for lack of a better hiding place.
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I guess this "guitar building" thread is digressing into "my life's body of work" but hopefully somebody enjoys this. This would probably be more at home on sawmillcreek.org
 




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