Renkenstein's LP Build Thread

Renkenstein

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Prologue:

Good day, MLP patrons! I'm pleased to announce that I'm starting my first build thread.

After 6 months of lurking, drooling, and reading everything you guys have offered up on the forum, I finally feel comfortable enough to start my own build thread.

I hope I'm not cursing myself. I got a LOT of traction this weekend, and I thought I'd get started on the thread. There isn't a whole lot going on that's interesting per-se, but I thought I could gather info, ask opinions, and get some direction earlier in the game instead of waiting for it later.

My success in the shop has been limited due to rookie mistakes. I've started 2 necks and botched them both, but one is fixable, and the other can become a cigar box guitar or something. I did have a moment of success this summer when I built a nice cigar box guitar that was a gift for a friend on Father's Day. Due to these mistakes, I've decided to change gears and actually work off a known good set of plans instead of spinning my wheels trying to get my original designs to manifest themselves. Once I have success with this LP, then I will turn my attention to original builds.

Without further ado, HERE WE GO!!!
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The LP I'm building is going to be based off the Tom Bartlett plans, but I have no interest in it being vintage accurate. All that nonsense with the angle of the control cavity and all that....going right out the window. Don't need it.

I'll be using a 5 piece mahogany body(I can only assume it's the African variety) because that's what I had on hand. I'll be using a maple top with subtle curl, so it's closer to a plain top than anything else. I'm planning on making a 3 piece laminated neck that will be quartersawn mahogany/maple/mahogany, and I want to use a curly maple fretboard. I've always thought LPs look BOSS with a maple fretboard, and I've always wanted one.

For pickups, I'll either be enlisting a friend of mine who builds Scarlett Amps, or I will be using my tried and true Duncan JB/Jazz combo. I'm leaning towards the Scarlett ones though because Paul(Scarlett Amps...check em out!) is insisting that I use his pickups for a build. Not gonna argue...the guy is an electronics and tone mastermind.

Bartlett Plans:
This is what I'm basing my first LP build on...the Tom Bartlett '59 plans. Close to 6' wide. Crazy. Order 2 from Tom. Copies at Kinko's cost almost as much as the plans themselves, and they have to use a roller scan on images that large, which can translate into distortion over the length of the plan. Give Tom your money, not Kinko's.

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Made a template for a template for other templates:
First template of 1/4" hardboard. I glue-sticked a copy of the Bartlett plan to make a quick template to transfer to MDF.

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Master Template:
After transferring from the first template to the MDF, I sanded to the outer edge of the pencil line with a disk sander for the outer curves and used rasps on the inner curves like the cutaway and her waist. I then took the template down to the inner part of the original pencil line with a card scraper. I slowly sneaked up on the inside of the line, making sure to maintain a perfectly perpendicular edge, and fluid curves throughout every transition. This will be my master template for all flush-trim routing.

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Hunk o' Maple!
This was an off-cut of curly maple I got a decent deal on. Perfect thickness for bookmatching. A little plain, and light on the figure, but I think it'll be pretty enough. I can get 2 tops out of this piece.

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X-Cut
I like using hand saws whenever possible. I especially like cross cutting with a handsaw because my table saw is sketchy at the best of times. I also have challenged myself to cut perfectly by hand like the good old boys. I'm still working on it, but getting better every time.

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Top #1
This is the piece I'll be using for my first LP top, but first it has to be bookmatched. It's a 7" tall cut and my bandsaw only cuts 6" high. What to do?!? I guess I'll have to use that sketchy table saw....

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Sketchy Table Saw
So here's the target of my ire. This table saw has given me nothing but problems. I found out there's over 1mm of deflection from the front and back of the fence towards the middle, and I can never get a cut that's a perfect 90 degrees to the table top. This won't do.

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Wood fence?
That's right. Screw that chintzy metal fence...we're gonna fix it with a good old piece of maple. I planed it perfectly flat and made sure I had a perpendicular edge. I used my Stanley #5 for this job.

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Bolt holes
I used the existing holes in the fence and marked the spacing off on the maple. I drilled the holes and countersunk them with a spade bit to fit these bolts I took off a bed frame long ago.

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Bolting on the maple fence
I bolted on the maple using lock-nuts, making sure to leave it just barely snug in the middle to secure, but not flex it up against the fence.

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Checking for 90 degrees
Once bolted on, I checked for 90 degrees, and I think I nailed it.

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Renkenstein

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Bookmatching the top
With the fence fixed, I did a practice cut on a construction grade pine 2x6, and felt confident I worked out the table saw's kinks. Here I go ahead and do the cut in the maple. I think I used 4 passes per side.

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Almost there...
A 10" table saw only has a 3" cut height, so that left me with an inch to deal with. You can see here that I finally got 90 degrees on the table saw. The 2 cuts lined up perfectly.

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More elbow grease
I got out the hand saw to finish off the bookmatch cut.

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...more elbow grease
Still cutting...this job is TOUGH. I was sweating like a dancing mule at this point.

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Paydirt
Here's the bookmatched top.

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Drum thickness sander
My pop and I built this over a weekend. I wanted something that I could run body blanks, tops, and neck stringers through to get a consistent thickness. The drum sander was the answer.

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Thicknessing the mahogany
Here's my 5 piece body blank. I had bought a bunch of 2.5-3" pieces of mahogany. Most were rift sawn, so I chopped them up and made a body blank. I jointed each piece with my #5 plane and glued 1 piece at a time to minimize any slipping or mistakes.

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Thicknessing the mahogany...cont
Here you can see the glue seams fade away. The #5 did a stellar job at getting clean glue joints. I took the thickness down to just a hair over 1.75".

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Cleaning up the maple
I took the top down to a 3/4" thickness. Using Bruce Bennett's wisdom, everything I removed from one side, I turned the piece over and duplicated on the other side. I worked this at about a 32nd of an inch at a time down to the 3/4" nominal thickness. The target will be a 5/8" top.

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Settle down, boys...
Here I've kinda sticker-stacked the top pieces. They're resting here to adjust from the thickness sanding. One piece developed a tiny bit of a cup, so I was careful to remove very little at a time on the drum sander. I didn't want the pressure of the sander deflecting the cupped maple and making matters worse. Over the course of the weekend, the cup corrected itself and I'll proceed with final thicknessing next weekend before moving on to join the top.

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Not yet...
Here I tried to prepare the join for the top, but the maple was still settling, and I opted to wait it out. I just wanted another hand plane shot in there, to be honest. You can also see the rough cut mahogany body there on the bench.

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...and that's it for now. Nothing too terribly exciting yet. After uploading all these pics and putting this together, I'm glad I opted to get started early on this thread. This is a LOT of work. Mad props to everyone who has contributed a build thread.

If you're also on LuthierTalk, you've probably already seen this. I copy/pasted over here too for those who don't frequent LT.
 

pshupe

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Looks great, man. Keep up the good work!

Cheers Peter.
 

Barnaby

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I agree - it looks great! Also, I love the hand plane shots. :thumb:

Yeah, build threads can take a lot of time, but they sure are rewarding to do. Every time I read one, I seem to discover a new technique or approach.
 

Renkenstein

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Thanks Peter!

Barnaby...I'd advise against learning from me! However, I've gotta admit the fact that you're following my build makes me warm and fuzzy inside. My shop is a hybrid of power and hand tools, and I go to the hand tools often, so I hope I make ya proud!
 

emoney

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Good for you, Renkie. Be careful though, this bug is highly contagious and I don't believe there's a cure.
 

KnightroExpress

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Agreed! I started with one, now I have four projects. I'll get 'em done one day....probably.
 

Renkenstein

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Preparing the Top Joint:
I took the top down to 3/4" thickness, and decided to prepare the joint. The #5 was cutting so well after a quick sharpening session on the diamond plates and a strop with the buffing wheel and jeweler's rouge, that preparing this join was effortless. I also waxed the sole of the plane with candle maker's wax(kinky!), so I had to hang on for dear life.

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Top Joint:
Looking at the joint from top-down, I can see the smallest of gaps, but absolutely nothing shows through it when held up to a light. I may take another pass, I may leave it as is. Thoughts?

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These are my phone's pics. I didn't have the lady's Canon in the shop.

So this I did really quick last night before the toddler went to bed. I honestly think I can do better on that joint, but if I'm being obsessive, feel free to let me know.

I want to mention that this drum sander design is fantastic. Both pieces of this top were ran through separately, and both are 3/4" within a tolerance of 0.005". I never thought it would be that accurate.

Another thing, I finally found a great sharpening method for planes and chisels that won't break the bank. I bought the diamond plates at Harbor Freight and the little buffing wheel that comes with jeweler's rouge. I'll step through the 3 grits of the diamond plates using a honing guide and mild soapy water for lubricant, then I'll polish that edge on the buffing wheel. All in all, it takes probably 15 minutes to get a razor's edge on the plane iron. If I have to cut a whole new bevel on the iron, it can obviously take a little longer. The diamond plates were $10, the buffing wheel $8, and the honing guide $15. Anyone looking to get away from the sandpaper method should give this option a shot, as it is much more sustainable.

I've read where LP tops have gone as thick as 3/4", and that's the current dimensions of this top right now. Should I go with a thicker cap and call the 3/4" good? Should I take it down another 1/8"?

What say you?
 

emoney

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Really depends on what type carve you're after. If you want a tall one, then by thicker.
The key is to make sure you keep that in mind for neck angle time.

As for the joint, hit it again. Even the tiniest gap shows up later.
 

Renkenstein

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It was hit again, and she's under clamps as we speak. I don't want to jinx it, but I think it was my finest hour.

Now that the top is 1 entity, I'm going to run it through the thickness sander again and see where it stands.
 

Renkenstein

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Top Joint version 2.0
I decided to take another pass at the top to try to close the miniscule gap, and I'm glad I did. I was going to wait and build a shooting board to make sure I had a perfect 90 degree, but I was able to get it with the #5 plane alone. I had recently sharpened, and I removed mere microns at a time. I was getting very fine shavings that were like spiderwebs, as I fine tuned the joint. I'd compare the join, flip the pieces over and check the underside of the join, and adjust accordingly.

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Preparing for Glue Up
Since my workbench has an MDF top over 2x6's, it offers a very flat surface. I raised my plane-stop up on the end, put a flat piece of maple(leftover from the table saw fence), and that will be what I'll clamp to.

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Clamping!
I used Titebond, 3 F clamps, and a strip of artificial granite to get everything in place.

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Clamping version 2.0
I replaced the strip with the big slab of granite I use for leveling planes. It's the perfect size to slip between the F clamps and the maple top. Between the MDF on the bottom and the granite on top, I think I'll have a good join to go home to tonight.

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Headstock Template
Here you can see how I've been making my templates. I attach the paper copy to the MDF using adhesive spray, then hand cut around the outside of the line with a razor knife. Then off to the band saw. Cutting the paper template in this fashion minimizes the fuzzy edges you get when sanding to the lines. This template will get the same scraper treatment as the body template.

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scottop1972

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It was hit again, and she's under clamps as we speak. I don't want to jinx it, but I think it was my finest hour.

Now that the top is 1 entity, I'm going to run it through the thickness sander again and see where it stands.

Don't peak too early! you got a long way to go. Awesome you started a build thread!!!!!
 

Renkenstein

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Fat Girl
I've got both the top and body traced on the blanks and rough cut on the band saw.

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Fat Girl, Top
Rough cut is a little too rough. I like to cut within a mm of the line, but with this hard maple, I decided to play it safe. I'll just have to trim it up now.

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Router Table
I built this in a few hours, including 2 trips to the hardware store. Yeah, so I forgot a Bosch uses metric threads for the router base! I had bought the screws once already, but those are the fastest screws to get lost. Anyway...this was a quick and dirty router table that I made with MDF and a few 2x2's. I wanted something that could be set on its side and adjusted quickly, and would work right on my workbench. I secure it down with a couple clamps, and it's rock solid on the bench. I'm detecting a theme between the RT and the workbench.

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Flower carving...really?!?
No, I'm tapering the forstner'd 1" hole from the bottom of the table surface. Here I'm using what I can only assume is a fancy carving gouge. This will allow my collet to fit into the table a scosche, so the bit's bearing can clear the top without pulling any of the shaft out of the collet. I do not mess around with improperly seated router bits.

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1" Forstner bit + gouge = big-ass countersink. I've also marked the holes for the router base. Interesting story about this gouge. I got a set of these carving tools from my lady's late uncle Bob. He passed decades ago, and these beautiful carving tools have sat dormant since. When I got them they were blade-down in a coffee can! (Shudder) Well, I moved them into a more suitable home in my shop(in a plastic cup...so what...it's not the Ritz, but it's better than a metal coffee can!), and put one to use here...on MDF...yeah...Bob probably hates me. They'll see more appropriate use in the future, I promise! Despite being stored in a coffee can, the gouge had a RAZOR edge and made short work of this task.

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Test fit the router

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Bit detail.
Plenty of clearance for my flush trim bit, while it's properly seated in the collet.

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Flush Trim First Attempt.
I took it easy with the router, I went very slow, even with a pattern and a bearing bit. I could not afford any tear-out on this body. I've lost too many builds to stupid-simple mistakes that could have been avoided in the past. Here is the body and the MDF template after the first pass around. I only have a 1/2" x 1" pattern bit with a 1/4" shank, so I'm verrrry careful. This pic shows how really hard I made it on myself playing it safe on the band saw. I later took this down further on the band saw before proceeding. Too much excess outside of the line gives more for the router bit to grab, causing errors, tear-out, and potential for injury.

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DEM CURVES!!!
Here's the body pieces fresh out of flush trimming. Fkn gorgeous, if I may say so myself...and I do! =)

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Flush trim results
Another flush trim shot. You can see a remaining 1/2" ridge where my bit could not reach. I need a spiral flush trim bit, but that'll have to be some other time. Time for some hand tools!!!

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Shinto Dat Chit!
Here's the ridge I spoke of. A bit of elbow grease, a Shinto, and a four in hand file will make short work of it! Here you can also see some tear-out on the very top of the pic, or the lower bout of the guitar. That was the absolute worst of it. I'll take that any day. Sanding will get rid of it.

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Smoooth
I finished her up with the rasps and hit her with a scraper and an orbital sander to even everything out from the little bit of tear-out that I got from the flush trimming. I'm dying to get a Ridgid OSS to make this easier and keep everything at a perfect 90 degrees. Anyway...ready for some cavity routing!!!

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jbrybar

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Drum thickness sander
My pop and I built this over a weekend. I wanted something that I could run body blanks, tops, and neck stringers through to get a consistent thickness. The drum sander was the answer.

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.

Question, did you buy the sandpaper already in tube form or did you roll it out?

I have a pulley motor and I plan to make something similar to what you have here.. Thanks in advance..

Jason,
 

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