Thicknessing figured maple tops

cain61

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I have one of those abominable units from Stew Mac.

Safe-T my Irish ass.

I used it twice . Then tossed it in one of my lower drawers. It's a chattery, scary mess of a tool and does practically nothing accurately. Different thicknesses and tear outs.

I would give it for free to any one of you, but you guys are my friends.
Point well taken.
 

cain61

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As far as figured maple tops and planers go, I frequently use my planer for thicknessing.

The trick is always small passes. No more than half a turn of the crank handle.

My 13 Rigid planer says "one turn equals 1/64 of an inch", but I have found that one turn equals more like 1/32.

Thin, shallow passes with the planer, then clean it up with block sanding.

-Also helps to do most of the planing on the bottom side of the work.
Great advice. Thanks, man.
 

Roxy13

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I did also mod a HF arbor press for pressing in frets. If you building new or refretting a bolt on neck, it works better than the drill press as there is no flex on a workbench with a very thick top. Most of the guitars I'm refretting though are set necks so I use the arbor press now for as long as I can (usually get to fret 12 or 13), but then I switch over to the drill press for the rest. I have done several by hammering them in and I must have the right touch for it or something because it's always worked well for me. But, with stainless steel frets I have never tried to hammer those in.
 

Roxy13

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I'd like to hear about that , Rox..
Just take out the steel bar with the teeth and drill a hole big enough for the caul's "stem" on the bottom. Then drill and tap a smaller hole on the front side near the bottom of the bar to put a screw into that will be able to hold the caul in. Then it's pretty much like the one SM sells.
 

LtDave32

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Where did you get your cauls, Rox?
 

failsafe306

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Just take out the steel bar with the teeth and drill a hole big enough for the caul's "stem" on the bottom. Then drill and tap a smaller hole on the front side near the bottom of the bar to put a screw into that will be able to hold the caul in. Then it's pretty much like the one SM sells.
+1. That’s what I use to fret with.
 

Roxy13

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Where did you get your cauls, Rox?
I actually bought them from a luthier in Greece on ebay because at the time the only place in the US that had them was SM, and they were charging too much IMO. But, Philly Luthier has them now and for quite a bit less than SM does.
 

Ripthorn

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I have a planer, saf-t planer, hand planes, and drum sander. I use each of them for different things. If using a planer on figured maple, running it at a slight angle to the blades is great, if you can do it. The shearing action helps reduce tear out, but still small bites. Hand planes are awesome and I use them all the time, though with my other tools, they are mostly used in a finishing capacity. The drum sander is awesome. With 80 grit paper, it could do a planer's job, though it will be slower, but no snipe. The saf-t planer gets used to thin down headstocks (roughing, of course) or thinning down neck shafts on set necks prior to shaping. It is only a roughing tool and only gets used where other tools won't really work well. I keep my hands well away from the spinning disc of death.
 

LtDave32

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I actually bought them from a luthier in Greece on ebay because at the time the only place in the US that had them was SM, and they were charging too much IMO. But, Philly Luthier has them now and for quite a bit less than SM does.
Philly Luthier. love it. Thanks!
 

cain61

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I don't have a planer or a thickness sander either. I do have a good drill press and used the SafeT planer a bunch. It's OK but definitely not a very refined instrument. I get an uneven surface and some burn marks even when I set up my drill press table perfectly square.
A router with a thicknessing/box jig works much better IMO (you need one anyhow for top carving and neck plane routing). I use it to get close to the final thickness, then finish with a hand plane to get a perfect flat surface.
I get where you're coming from, but I just ordered the DeWalt 735x.
 

DaveR

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I built the same thing as Roxy, with the Philly Luthier caul and an arbor press from Harbor Freight. Works great except for two caveats...

1. The caul is held together with a flimsy roll pin that collapsed and fell out after the first fret job. No big problem there, I just replaced it with a bolt.

2. The first time I pressed a fret with the arbor press, I didn’t have it bolted down. I was used to my mortiser which has a larger footprint and doesn’t tip at all. I cranked on the handle and damn near rolled the whole arbor contraption off the front of my workbench and onto my feet. That could have been a disaster and a trip to the ER. I caught it on the way over, and then changed my shorts. Kinda stupid move on my part, it’s basic physics, I was just excited to try it out. :rofl:
 

cmjohnson

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On those infrequent occasions where I need a top set surfaced for attachment to a body, I just hand it off to a friend who works at a cabinet shop that has quite a nice thickness sander. He's also made a few guitars so he knows what to do. I drop it off with him one day and pick it up a few days later and bring him a case of his beverage of choice as payment.

I actually had a 15" Grizzly planer with spiral cutter head for several years. Guess how much I used it? So little as to call it "tested, never actually used". I sold it for what it cost me and don't have to deal with it. For my needs clearly it was excessive.

Yes, I like having lots of tools. But they have to earn their keep by being used OCCASIONALLY.
 

LtDave32

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I have a planer, saf-t planer, hand planes, and drum sander. I use each of them for different things. If using a planer on figured maple, running it at a slight angle to the blades is great, if you can do it. The shearing action helps reduce tear out, but still small bites. Hand planes are awesome and I use them all the time, though with my other tools, they are mostly used in a finishing capacity. The drum sander is awesome. With 80 grit paper, it could do a planer's job, though it will be slower, but no snipe. The saf-t planer gets used to thin down headstocks (roughing, of course) or thinning down neck shafts on set necks prior to shaping. It is only a roughing tool and only gets used where other tools won't really work well. I keep my hands well away from the spinning disc of death.
Remember the Indiana Jones movie where he had to get access to where the Holy Grail was kept, and the two poor hapless fellas went before him and met their doom?


-they didn't know how to use the Safe-T-Planer..
 

VertigoCycles

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I've done it the hard way, with a jack plane set fine and an extremely sharp steel and the easier way...with a 3" diameter indexable surfacing mill in my milling machine. I turned all the inserts so they had fresh edges and it went rather nicely save for the fact that I don't care much for introducing wood dust to my machine tools. My shoulder was destroyed at the time and I couldn't have done it manually.
 

cain61

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I built the same thing as Roxy, with the Philly Luthier caul and an arbor press from Harbor Freight. Works great except for two caveats...

1. The caul is held together with a flimsy roll pin that collapsed and fell out after the first fret job. No big problem there, I just replaced it with a bolt.

2. The first time I pressed a fret with the arbor press, I didn’t have it bolted down. I was used to my mortiser which has a larger footprint and doesn’t tip at all. I cranked on the handle and damn near rolled the whole arbor contraption off the front of my workbench and onto my feet. That could have been a disaster and a trip to the ER. I caught it on the way over, and then changed my shorts. Kinda stupid move on my part, it’s basic physics, I was just excited to try it out. :rofl:
Glad you surived -- sorry the shorts didn't! lol
 

cain61

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I've done it the hard way, with a jack plane set fine and an extremely sharp steel and the easier way...with a 3" diameter indexable surfacing mill in my milling machine. I turned all the inserts so they had fresh edges and it went rather nicely save for the fact that I don't care much for introducing wood dust to my machine tools. My shoulder was destroyed at the time and I couldn't have done it manually.
Glad that worked out for you. You sound pretty resourceful.
 


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