Newbie 1959 'Burst Build

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Hello,

My name is Norm and I know nothing about building guitars.

I'm not only new to building guitars, I've never even held one in my hands. That shouldn't stop me from building one though right? The short version of the story is that I wanted to learn woodworking with a project that was a challenge and had some utility/coolness factor and this seemed to fit the bill. I'm an mechanical engineer by trade and am handy with cars and the welder but when it comes to wood I am clueless.

This isn't intended to be a full build thread so there are going to be a lot of skipped steps. I just want to chronicle the milestones and be able to ask questions every now and then as I get stuck (I'm sure that will happen a lot)

After reading a lot, armed with Bartlett's plans and Preeb's build thread over at the Telecaster forums I dove right in...
 

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Inspired by Preeb, I'm going to attempt to make this guitar as historically correct as possible. There's no way I'm going to be able to measure an actual '59 LP so I'm going to have to trust the work others have done. I've started with the Bartlett plans but will do a true 24.75" scale based on the fret positions posted by Preeb and will aim for a lowish neck angle ~4.1 degrees.

I started by buying a practice fretboard of IRW. I figured if I was able to build a fretboard that I could tackle the rest of the guitar. It was a cheap way to find out anyway, at $20.

Here is the fretboard 1/2 way into the process:


I must admit I cheated a bit to get to this point. The fretboard blank was thicknessed in a CNC machine to flatten the board out and to give it a slight taper in thickness towards the nut. Then I used the CNC to cut 0.023" wide slots for the fret positions. My fret positions are dead nuts on to 24.75 scale, rule of 18. Next, I took the board out and gave it the 12" radius on the top surface using a radius block I got on eBay. Then the board was tapered using a belt sander so that it is the correct width at the nut and back end, based on Preeb's thread. This is the state that the picture shows.

As you can see, the slots for the frets went away towards the board edges due to the taper. (They were cut constant depth on the CNC) I then went back with a fret saw to finish off the slots and make them curved to match the fretboard. The CNC slots acted as guides for the manual fret saw...worked perfectly! I don't have a photo of the finished IRW fretboard with me right now but will post one later. Being able to build this part and hold tolerances on it gave me the confidence to order wood for the rest of the guitar!
 

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Here's a photo of the sweet BRW fretboard blank that arrived today. This is the one I will be using on the actual guitar.


I was surprised at how different it is from the IRW I got for the practice board. Its a lot denser, the light areas have more rich brown hue, and it rings quite a bit higher. The surface also feels harder than the IRW. I'm glad this piece will be going on the guitar as opposed to the IRW! Now to duplicate the hours of effort I put into the practice piece :rolleyes:

Also, I got the bookmatched maple top. I wanted a flamey top, but not too busy and I don't care for the tight tiger stripe look. I originally bought a big leaf (western) maple top from eBay and was going to use that, but after some conversations I was told that eastern hard maple is what is "correct". I was led to mapleleaf hardwoods and was blown away by their luthier selection. Luckily there was a bookmatched set that would work that was still available. One week later, this arrived :)


Like the difference in the IRW and BRW, there was quite a difference in the Big Leaf maple vs the Eastern Hard maple. The eastern stuff is harder and much tighter grained and was bright and reflective. The flame was also quite a bit more pronounced although I'm sure this is more down to the individual piece. Surprisingly, they didn't sound that much different from each other when I held them up and tapped on them.

I played around with both the bookmatched side and non-bookmatched side to decide how I wanted the guitar to be cut out of the piece and came up with the above. I know a lot of LP's weren't bookmatched, but I think the bookmatching looked the best for the piece that I had.

I tuned up the edges using a small hand plane and some light sanding. The plane wanted to bite into the wood quite a bit and I had to play with the depth adjustment and use a smaller plane so that it wouldn't grab so much but eventually I got the edges fairly straight.

I then had my first experience with hide glue...WOW this is different than the Home Depot Titebond I'm used to. After a couple of tries, and heating the wood in an oven to extend the open time, I ended up with this joint line:


It's definitely not perfect but I am happy with it for my first attempt. The majority of it is pretty tight but the line is definitely isn't invisible. Hopefully when it is carved the line will be less noticeable.
 

skynyrd67

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
1,051
Reaction score
306
Looking forward to your build, I am also doing a 59 build but I don`t have axcess to CNC machinery or large woodworking machinery so I am taking the easy way out with a kit,,lol. Best of luck and looking forward to your progress.:dude:
 

monsterwalley

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2009
Messages
2,421
Reaction score
1,327
Welcome Nocturnal!

Can't wait to follow your progress. I get the impression from what you
have posted so far that this will
be a sweet guitar :thumb::thumb:
 

bertzie

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2010
Messages
19,424
Reaction score
24,553
A vintage burst on your first build? That takes some serious balls. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this.
 

Barnaby

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2010
Messages
8,964
Reaction score
10,872
Balls of steel!

Never played one, never seen one and building a genuine vintage replica? My money is on you succeeding! :thumb:
 

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Thanks for the welcomes guys! Yea, more balls than brain I guess...the guy at the public access workshop said I was in over my head as well =P

Some more photos to catch up to where I'm at in the build:




Inlays are placed in the cavities but aren't glued in...this is the practice fretboard. Top inlay is from Retrospec, bottom is from Bartlett (aged) Inlay cavities to be 0.040" deep and curved to match the top radius. The board and inlays in person are quite a bit darker than shown here. The faded look is from the camera phone.






Still need to make a truss nut washer from steel


Which is the more typical of the two Bartlett head shapes? The shorter one looks more correct to me when compared to BOTB. I'll leave it as is for now since I don't have to decide until later.


Glued on ears (hide glue), started to do the neck transition


oversized (for now) tenon area. I also left a little extra on the heel to allow for matching to the body once I route the tenon cavity; 15.2 oz at this stage


fretboard laid on neck. I left extra on the sides of the neck to allow for shaping after I get the fretboard glued on


1 pc Honduran body, bottom 3/16" routed in and wire channel routed in; 4 lbs 15 oz at this stage...any guesses as to what kind of final weight I can expect?


Body end view which brings me to my first question I need answered:

The picture shows the grain oriented in a "U" shape. In most of the BOTB book and in all of Preeb's builds the grain is oriented in the other direction, like an "n" or arch. I think there are a few in the BOTB book that are oriented as I have it here, but I can't be sure because there is not enough detail in the pictures.

Is there a "correct" or preferred orientation for the grain or did 'bursts have the grain oriented both ways? If there IS a preferred orientation, why is it preferred?

I'm kicking myself a bit because when I planned the cutting all out I planned it to be oriented like this "n" but I was so excited to cut wood that I didn't pay attention to what side I attached the template to!

As I'm wanting this to be as correct as possible, I don't want to glue the maple top on until I'm sure I've got this right!

Anyway, this catches the thread up to my progress. I'm proceeding pretty slowly so I don't plan to have updates but every few days.
 

OldBenKenobi

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2010
Messages
8,263
Reaction score
10,807
Wow. Massive balls ITT. This is gonna be very cool to watch.
 

bertzie

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2010
Messages
19,424
Reaction score
24,553
You're already committed as to which way it'll go. No turning back now!
 

polifemo

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
426
Reaction score
93
I´ve been playing the guitar full time for over 30 years, and I´m being more and more drawn towards the idea of actually building a guitar.
Either a design of my own, or a Les Paul/Burst.

This is a really inspiring thread :thumb:

(Must admit though that you know much more about wood working!)
 

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Thanks again for the kind words.

As far as the orientation of the body grain, I'm not committed yet as I can always get another body blank...although I should BE COMMITTED for thinking that that is an option. Looking at Tom's current build, I see that the grain on his mahogany body matches the orientation of how mine is laid out, which makes me feel better.

I think I'm going to attempt to join the maple to the mahogany next. My choices in glue to choose from thus far are hide glue, UF, and PF.

I understand hide glue is supposed to be better for tone, but PF is the historically correct stuff. I'm worried I don't have the experience to pull off such a large hide glue joint and am leaning towards UF and PF, since they are supposed to be easier to use and historically correct. I can find UF in the form of Unibond 800 laminating adhesive, but no luck on PF. Can anyone tell me who makes a PF glue? No luck on Google thus far.
 

x_archangel_x

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2009
Messages
338
Reaction score
45
Thanks again for the kind words.

As far as the orientation of the body grain, I'm not committed yet as I can always get another body blank...although I should BE COMMITTED for thinking that that is an option. Looking at Tom's current build, I see that the grain on his mahogany body matches the orientation of how mine is laid out, which makes me feel better.

<snip>
I cannot, for the life of me, find the post, but I know for certain that I have seen this addressed before. I believe it was preeb (Gil Yaron) in his epic thread over at TPDRI, although I could be mistaken.

If memory serves me correctly, the thought was that the grain orientation of the body helped to shape the tone. If I can find the proper post, I will link to it here.


Looking good!
 

bertzie

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2010
Messages
19,424
Reaction score
24,553
I cannot, for the life of me, find the post, but I know for certain that I have seen this addressed before. I believe it was preeb (Gil Yaron) in his epic thread over at TPDRI, although I could be mistaken.

If memory serves me correctly, the thought was that the grain orientation of the body helped to shape the tone. If I can find the proper post, I will link to it here.


Looking good!
(The following is a quack theory).

Perhaps by having it U shaped, the vibrations are captured in the cup-shaped grain, and rebounded more concentrated towards the pickups, where as when it's n shaped, the vibrations bounce away from the pickups and are dissipated to give a softer tone.
 

alk-3

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2008
Messages
2,062
Reaction score
3,327
Thanks again for the kind words.

As far as the orientation of the body grain, I'm not committed yet as I can always get another body blank...although I should BE COMMITTED for thinking that that is an option. Looking at Tom's current build, I see that the grain on his mahogany body matches the orientation of how mine is laid out, which makes me feel better.

I think I'm going to attempt to join the maple to the mahogany next. My choices in glue to choose from thus far are hide glue, UF, and PF.

I understand hide glue is supposed to be better for tone, but PF is the historically correct stuff. I'm worried I don't have the experience to pull off such a large hide glue joint and am leaning towards UF and PF, since they are supposed to be easier to use and historically correct. I can find UF in the form of Unibond 800 laminating adhesive, but no luck on PF. Can anyone tell me who makes a PF glue? No luck on Google thus far.
Dont over think this, the boards were not selected by grain direction in the 50's so don't worry at all about that. if you're happy with the mahogany, go with it. far more important that grain direction, is the tone of the wood itself, tap it, along with others and seect the one you like best.
I'd guess based on your body blank weight that the finished guitar might come out at around 9lbs. anything could happen though ;)
also, if i were you i would NOT taper the fretboard. that is not the way they were done in the 50's the centre of the fretboard should be the same at both ends, and the binding edge should taper, not the other way around. I've measured so many 50's guitars, including 7 original bursts, and none of them were tapered the way you describe. that's not to say that one of them, somewhere along the line was tapered that way, but i'd have to see it with my own eyes to believe it, and see for myself that the fretboard wasn't sanded during a refret or otherwise modified.
this build is looking great so far. you're going to have a great guitar once you're done.:applause:
 

nocturnal005

Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
68
Reaction score
28
Thanks for the answers re. the body grain. I will go ahead and keep things the way they are since it is a nice blank. I want to pay attention to the details obviously but I'm not sure as to which ones are the important ones.

Tom, thanks for the reality check. I forget that these things were indeed mass produced and probably not much attention was paid to the small stuff. Can you tell where you get your PF glue from? I still haven't had any luck. I may use UF instead, which I can get locally in the form of DAP weldwood plastic resin glue:
http://www.dap.com/docs/tech/00030201.pdf

I guess I need to look at the fretboard taper thing more closely. What you are saying makes complete sense, and I saw the measurements from your build thread to back it up.
 

dickjonesify

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2010
Messages
4,850
Reaction score
4,845

Which is the more typical of the two Bartlett head shapes? The shorter one looks more correct to me when compared to BOTB. I'll leave it as is for now since I don't have to decide until later.
:applause::applause::applause:

Excellent job so far! That looks perfect, seriously. I feel ashamed of my builds.

As far as the "two" head shapes, I think (Tom can correct me) the longer one is the top side of the head and the shorter is the back side.
Since it's angled back about 17 degrees, it looks shorter from the top.

A second possibility, as I've seen on other plans, is that the longer one is the view of the headstock from straight on to make a template from,
and the shorter is how the front looks when it's angled back.



Maybe I'm wrong on both counts but that's how I've seen some plans done.
I would love to hear the answer myself.
 

emoney

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2010
Messages
7,272
Reaction score
3,500
This is going to be cool to watch through to the finish. I'm enthralled with the fact
that you've chosen to "dive right in", and tackle the big one. More importantly, let
me go ahead a claim "Right of First Refusal" for when you're done....you know, since
you don't play and all, and seeing as how I don't build, we should be a match made in
Heaven.....(price withstanding of course)!!
 


Latest Threads



Top