Walnut Strat: First Scratch Build

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
I am going to start of by saying that I blame you all for this... I am starting to see the finish line on my first kit build PGK Kit Build, and I want to build another... from scratch this time. So since you all put me up to this and convinced me that I wouldn't be satisfied till I built my own from scratch, you are going to get to be my advisors along the way and tell me when I have a dumb idea ( like when I didn't use wood conditioner before staining my maple top).

So that said, here is my plan. I went by my local hardwood dealer that specializes in walnut. They mostly do giant pieces, but have a bunch of cut off pieces that they sell by the pound. Found a really nice piece of curly walnut for the body and one for the neck, and got them both for $40. As you can see, the piece for the body is huge (2in thick and plenty big).

EEC55BD0-23B2-41F8-886B-D2CEACB0C590.jpeg

I want to build a strat like once piece body with a bolt on neck. Planning on basing the shape around my Music Man Cutlass. Love the neck and body. That said, I don't want to have a pickgaurd, and I want to put dual P90s in it. Planning on a hardtail that looks something like this, with all black hardware.

CF86349D-EE00-4409-9376-BB327215436A.jpeg

My plan is to draw out some templates based on my guitar and cut those out on MDF. For the body, I figure that I can have one opening on the back for the pots. but otherwise just route out the spots for pickups. I am flying by the seat of my pants a bit, so going to get everything aligned how I think it should be and route it all out. Once the neck is set, I can figure out the exact bridge placement and such.

Since the body is way too thick, I am either going to try and find someone with a planer that wide, or do it the old fashioned way and hand saw it down in thickness. There is one spot where it might be a touch small, but I think that as long as I line it up well and am willing to be flexible with design, it should work great.

For the fretboard, I am thinking about getting one from custom inlays so that I can get some nice inlay in it, and just work on making sure the frets are all right. Is there anyone else who sells well inlayed fretboards of high quality?

So, any advice? Should I plan anything out differently? I don't have a great woodshop, but I am planning on picking up a router, a nice spiral flush trim bit, a roundover bit, and a couple of small plunge template bits. I have used a router in the past, but am no expert, so planning on doing a bunch of testing before I actually try and use it on the walnut.
 

fatdaddypreacher

V.I.P. Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2011
Messages
7,382
Reaction score
5,610
couple of things come to mind....nice score on the timber. stuff will be gorgeous when finished, but do consider the weight factor. walnut is fairly heavy wood, and the dense figured pieces tend to be even heavier. Also be mindful that figured wood is a bit more difficult to work with than straight grain, as the figure is twisting and curling of wood fibers and is more brittle and prone to tear out, as the grain direction is changing directions. slow steady passes without moving a bunch of material is helpful, and 'backing' router bits into grain is helpful, but takes extra care in not letting router pull away and start eating your flesh. and don't blame us....its in your dna...we just helped you uncover it.:)
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
Yea, good call on the weight issue. I was wondering about that. Figure it won’t be as bad as a walnut LP, but still think it will be heavy. Might try and hollow out a little extra wood when I route things out.

going slow is going to be key for me. Honestly I might just do a lot of things by hand, but we will see how the router does
 

CB91710

Not Michael Sankar
Double Platinum Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2019
Messages
13,269
Reaction score
34,379
I can't imagine the body would be any heavier than some of the late 70s production models.
But I would seriously consider resawing that neck blank and making it a 7-layer laminate with Maple.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
16,928
Reaction score
14,829
Ha ha, yes the bug bites again!!

You can always buy a semi finished fretboard that has the radius and fret slots done - that way the most critical precision parts are done, but you still have to press the frets and do inlay and stuff like that.
The tools for making fretboards is where it becomes luthier specific.....so it gets expensive to buy.
 
Last edited:

cmjohnson

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2012
Messages
3,154
Reaction score
2,822
I buy all my fingerboards, pre-radiused, slotted, and inlaid, from custominlay.com. They're easy to deal with and their work is guaranteed. This way you don't have to eat your own mistakes. I recommend them if you want a really good board NOW and aren't willing to spend the effort and money it takes to make your own board to the same standard. (Like me. I hate inlay work and am not good at it, and don't intend to be.)

Before using that piee of walnut, check it for tap tone. Some walnut is fairly resonant, some walnut is just DEAD, with all the resonance of a slab of lead. I would not waste my time to build a guitar body or neck out of wood that isn't resonant. The resulting guitar would not have much of a tone and even less abilty to sustain a note. So check it. Hopefully your slab has a nice clear tap tone that lasts a little bit.
 

dcomiskey

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2016
Messages
692
Reaction score
622
I'm with CM about tap tone. Not sure I'd go with the walnut neck, tbh.
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
I'm with CM about tap tone. Not sure I'd go with the walnut neck, tbh.
Thanks! I tried to tap test on the body, and it sounded pretty good to me. Don’t have the best trained ear for that, but I have heard dead wood and this is not that.

tell me more about the neck. I am not tied to walnut, but why would it be a poor choice? Could go with a standard maple neck, but though the matching neck and body would look cool. It is my first neck ever though, so I have no idea what I am doing really…
 

Mookakian

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
6,475
Reaction score
2,732
Id almost be tempted to throw a rosewood neck On it if you can find one, it would be a very warm guitar but i find its best to work with the natural frequencies Of the body, and maple may add a little too much top end on that guy... u less you wanted warmth and top end, in which case maple could be great, perhaps just a rosewood board
 

moreles

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2011
Messages
5,264
Reaction score
4,032
As others note, weight and stability are matters of real consequence. That's beautiful wood, but I would be surprised if you can come up with single slab body of standard dimensions that also yields appealing weight when you consider all the hardware, neck, fretboard and other add ons. You may want to consider a thick walnut cap on a lighter body. Personally, I do not like the thin guitars (like Firebirds) I've owned, so thgere's a limit to how much I would go for a thinner body, but if you feel differently, that's easy. I like smallish bodies instruments, so could easily see a Strat-type with modest reduction of outline all the way around (if needed) and maybe deeper carving in the back. Second conern is stability. Figured hardwood is not dimensionally stable, which is why old Martins do not flaunt the crazy-figured Brazilian that was available back in the day -- backs and sides and fretboards are straight-grained for good reason. Some suppliers today may be able to process wood som thart even their wild stuff is going to remain true. Maybe. Congratulations on your project and good luck with it!
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
Interesting takes on the neck. I have heard that the stability of curly wood can be an issue. I would certainly do a rosewood fretboard, but don’t know about the neck. I like the idea of making the guitar with all local woods. The same place that I got the walnut has maple, so maybe I give that a try instead. Just think that the walnut would look really fantastic, but not willing to sacrifice quality for looks.
 

cmjohnson

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2012
Messages
3,154
Reaction score
2,822
Walnut is not a good wood for fingerboards. It's too soft. Stick with a rosewood.
 

Tweaker

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
2,869
Reaction score
1,988
Gibson built an acoustic with all North American woods, maybe you’d get some ideas from it?


Looks like they used a walnut fretboard…no idea what the masses thought about the guitar though!
 

dcomiskey

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2016
Messages
692
Reaction score
622
I think Birdseye maple goes PERFECTLY with walnut. You asked earlier, but I wasn't around. I think I just have more of an issue if you use that figured piece by itself. I've had a few of those (but shorter) and they cupped on me after sitting for a while. I bought a cheap flamed walnut board from Woodcraft to use as a neck. FF to a couple of months later, that thing developed a gnarly bow and there's no way I can use it as a neck now (I'll find another good use for it, though).

I think if you still wanted to use it, laminate it with some form of maple (BE, or flamed) and it should be fine. Also, I LOVE BE fingerboards with walnut bodies (especially the browner shades). Plus, BE is native to the US. (Assuming that's where you are.)

IMG_2152.JPG
IMG_2153.JPG
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
I think Birdseye maple goes PERFECTLY with walnut. You asked earlier, but I wasn't around. I think I just have more of an issue if you use that figured piece by itself. I've had a few of those (but shorter) and they cupped on me after sitting for a while. I bought a cheap flamed walnut board from Woodcraft to use as a neck. FF to a couple of months later, that thing developed a gnarly bow and there's no way I can use it as a neck now (I'll find another good use for it, though).

I think if you still wanted to use it, laminate it with some form of maple (BE, or flamed) and it should be fine. Also, I LOVE BE fingerboards with walnut bodies (especially the browner shades). Plus, BE is native to the US. (Assuming that's where you are.)

View attachment 582072 View attachment 582073
That helps a lot. Glad that I asked before I did something dumb. Going to find some maple at my local place (Portland OR) and see what I can do with that. Is quarter sawn important, or will a straight grain full thickness board do the trick? I had been thinking about ordering a rosewood fret board with inlays, but might look pretty cool to just do a full maple neck with a walnut skunk stripe down the back. I suppose that assumes that I could figure out how to cut my own fret slots.
 

ARandall

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
16,928
Reaction score
14,829
Cutting fret slots is the least of your issues with a full 1 piece maple neck. Its is about 10 times more tricky to do the curved TR slot cutting plus slanted access holes in a 1 piece than merely doing a perpendicular cut on an exterior surface.
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
Cutting fret slots is the least of your issues with a full 1 piece maple neck. Its is about 10 times more tricky to do the curved TR slot cutting plus slanted access holes in a 1 piece than merely doing a perpendicular cut on an exterior surface.
Haha. Good to know. Sounds like a pre-slotted fretboard and a two piece neck is in my future :rofl:
 

Aaronoutside

Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2021
Messages
47
Reaction score
60
Found a local place with birdseye maple and going to give that a shot. I also found this incredibly beautiful guitar that I am going to try and copy. Woods and switches will be my own, but damn the neck joint is sexy!
B1E4CEB5-96C1-4F20-A129-2A35DF8D93B7.jpeg

A8750BD7-43EE-4641-8C3A-C32ECED74135.jpeg


 

Latest Threads



Top