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1Way

Les Paul And Weight Loss Project

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Everyone who knows about Les Pauls knows that they are about the heaviest guitar in the universe. I have back problems, and I am a diehard Les Paul person. So I "need" an enlightened LP. B)

General overview

I want to take a nice medium priced Epiphone Les Paul, like a classic plus or a standard plus, maybe a used elitist, and then cut out about 1 inch or so out of the middle of the guitar's thickness. Then if necessary, replace some of that thickness with some sort of balsa. Gibson uses something called chromite, which one internet source claimed it's some sort of Balsa wood. That way I can glue it back together and it will look pretty much like the original guitar, except for the sides. I'm not sure what to do about the sides yet.

Request

This is a somewhat radical project :D , helpful suggestions and tips would be much appreciated. I can't make the cuts till I know how deep the bridge and stop piece go. I would be thrilled to hear of about prior attempts.

The tool search

So far I've found the machine that should be able to do this wild modification. It's called a "band mill" (or "bandmill" ?). I talked to the owner of one and he said that you can cut something that is over 2 foot wide with it.

Specifics

So far I'm thinking of cutting off the entire back of the guitar, about 3/8" to 1/2" thick. That way the binding is left well alone, and you have a rather substantial back cap for both protection and sound transmission. It seems to me that many hollow bodies are about a 1/4" thick or so.

Then next would be the weight reduction portion. So far I have two main options.

  • Cut out about 5/8" to 7/8". The idea is to eliminate as much as possible while still leaving enough room to refit the hardware in the tighter space.
  • Cut out about 1" to 1 1/4", then replace some of that thickness with some balsa wood so as to allow sufficient room for the electronics and hardware.


    Some details
    Prior to doing this massive cut job, I would double score the guitar from the finish to the wood with about a 5/16" gap which would be centered on the saw blade path. That way when the paint job chips when sawing, it will stop cleanly at the two score lines on either side of the saw blade. I have a simple and reliable way to jig up a scribe that will run evenly across the entire guitar, so that should be no problem as long as I can find the right scribing tools and technique so as to not mess up the finish that will remain on the guitar.

    Before cutting out the back sections, I would carefully sandwich the guitar between two pieces of wood, including finish sensitive rubber, like that gluey stuff that they use to fasten CD's to magazines, but it comes off with a little effort. Also some padding is required for the curved top. That way the guitar could be held secure and would be protected as it passes through the saw.

    Of course I would take out all electronics and hardware before cutting into the body.

    Questions

  1. How deep does the bridge and stop piece go?
  2. What scoring/scribing tools and technique would you suggest?
  3. Does anyone know the distance between the back of the guitar and the closest portion of the neck (the neck area just prior to the body)?

Precautions

I don't want to overly weaken the neck body joint, so that is another issue I need to work out. :D

Thanks,

1Way

PS Neat forum, this is my first post. :D

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well if you haven't bought the guitar I think you should check out the chambered les pauls since they are alot lighter then the originals. Also Warmoth custom makes bodies to the options you need meaning you can have the hollow out the inards of the guitar to lighten it up. Just my suggestion.

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The biggest problem I see is that if you take a slice out of the middle you will definitely be into the neck joint. The other problem with this idea is that balsa wood is not structural at all, at least not for guitars. But if you really need to chop up a guitar try something other than balsa for the core. You will also have the best results if you remove the neck, cut and replace the core material, then re-route the neck pocket and reset the neck. You don't want to cut into the neck tenon at all. You will just weaken it and waste the guitar.

The best advice I can give is to just make a new guitar. Considering what you will need in terms of skill and machinery to do what you want to do you could easily build a decent electric. Get some decent light weight woods and do it right. How about a spruce body, maple top, mahogany neck? Or even a Spanish cedar neck? Even heavily chambered mahogany. You may also try Black Limba. I use it all the time and a few of my chambered limba guitars are very light. One thing to note is that if you do this the guitar will not be a Les Paul anymore, at least not tonally.

I really feel that you would just be wasting a decent guitar. Would you seriously buy a botched up Les Paul? Build from scratch and get exactly what you want.

my $0.02.

~David

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Hi,

I've seen this discussed somewhere before, and the easiest way to do what you're talking about seemed to be: drill large holes to lighten the body from the rear with a forstner bit. Stay away from "structural" areas like where the bridge mounts and the neck joint. Cap the back with a approx. 1/4" piece of wood of your choice. I suppose you could plane 1/4" off the back and use 1/4" mahogany and make it work out well enough to stain it, but wherever I read this before, the consensus was to bind your new back, Les Paul Custom style. Certainly sounds easier to go with the binding and paint the back. I also agree with the other posts that buying a body that is already hollowed would be much easier (or for more $, those Cloud 9 Les Pauls that are already "swiss cheesed" inside)

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I don't have the money to buy a chambered LP, not even a used one. So that eliminates that option.

As to making my own, that would be great "if" I had access to a wood shop and tools, but I don't, so that rules that out.

Or I could pay to have someone build my own guitar (think custom shopwork expenses), which sounds expensive from the get go. I checked out Warmouth and their guitars have bolt on necks, I want a through neck.

I can get into a really good quality (but heavy) Les Paul through Epiphone for reasonable money.

I talked to a guitar type person today and he said that the stop piece has sleeves that fit down into the guitar roughly 1 3/4" or so (I need to verify this), but I believe that would start from nearly the top of the LP on top of the raised maple top which should add another 1/4" or so to the thickness of the guitar from the extremities. So if the guitar is 2.25 thick at the extremities, plus another 1/4" taller where the stop post sleeves are located, that's 2.5 minus 1.75 which equals 3/4". I wonder if it would be best to leave some wood under those posts, I'm not sure I'd need to.

1

Like I said, I found a band mill! It's a saw that can slice off the entire back of the guitar in one single straight cut. First I would score the finish down to the wood on both sides of the saw blade path so that the chipping of the finish and paint would be controlled.

2

Then I would take off the back 1/4" or so and save it to be glued back on after I'm done narrowing and chambering.

3

After taking off the back panel, then I would remove about another 1/4" to 3/8" and throw that away.

4

Then I would chamber the body like perhellion suggested.

5

Then just glue the back panel back on. The main problem I see is how to repair the finish and paint job that would be chipped away from sawing process.

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To do what you are describing to an existing guitar will require just as much workshop time and tools as building from scratch, with significantly less chance of success. You will need to setup a jig to hold the guitar whilst you cut it, you will need to run the back and the body through a thicknesser or over a jointer to flatten them after sawing. You will need a flush cut router to trim the lightweight core clush with the top and back, and to re route the pickup and control cavities in your balsa wood. You will need a dedicated spray setup to refinish the guitar, and finally, a nice big trash can to toss it into.

If you insist on following the path of modification you can use a router table to remove 1/4" from the back of the guitar, then route chambers out leaving meat around the centre area for the pickups and bridge. you can then glue a 1/4" mahogany back onto the guitar, and bind or finsih with an opaque colour to hide the joint. This will still require significant refinishing, but gives you a much better chance of success.

Forget the idea of sawing the back off, it's definately not a winner.

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Really its not that hard. I didn't have a proper shop setup and other then a few small details my body is pretty much cimplete. I used a plunge router with 1/4 inch bit, a 1/4 trim bit, dremel tool for heavy sanding in tight spaces and light routing, and a bandsaw. The only other thing you will need is a crap load of sand paper and probably some chisels if you really want a carved top (or access to a dual action sander like I used). Really you can make a guitar with a jigsaw or hand saw if you please (cut won't be as straight with either so I would leave some sanding room to true up the edges).

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I agree with the guys before me. Buying Epiphone or other cheap LP copy and butchering it ip.....will be as much work as building your own. :D

The idea of replacing middle part with Balsa is such a bad idea. Do you realize what this will do to the tone of the guitar???

Here example of cheese holes in regular LP. Gibson calls them weigth relief holes. But I guess this doesn't do the trick for you.....

264_p26415.jpg

Other option would be buying LP Supreme. It has the ultimate weight relief holes.

supremelespaul.jpg

But hearing your financial constraints......this is no option too.

My best advice to you is to contact US Custom Guitars or the guys at Warmoth and let them have you make a LP body with large tone chambers....Something like this.

25_chambersfinsihed.jpg

Buy one of their bold on necks and you're in business.

Another option would be buying a "used" LP (body) of the net. Cut the top off, route weight relieve holes in there and glue new top on. This will involve some work, but not the major cutting you're proposing.....

Balsa wood.............it;s not a model airplane, dude!!!

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Balsa wood/Chromite, filler/no filler

An internet source I read somewhere said it's what Gibson did, only the specific term was Chromite if I remember correctly. And then the guy said that it's just a different kind or a different name for balsa wood. Maybe he was joking, I thought he was being serious. If another wood or filler, is better, then great.

Balsa filler, not so much

In my last description, I did "not" mention filling in with any lighter wood, I left that idea out as I suggested removing way less wood. In fact, if the thickness of the guitar needs to remain about the same, I might be totally happy simply removing weight by drilling/routing out chambers, what ever works is what I am after, but thinner is good.

RGGR, thanks for the pics, much appreciated. That largely confirms what I want to do. I've seen the middle graphic somewhere before. Do you have website references?

I (honestly) prefer a through neck, not a bolt on neck. I'm not sure there is a lot of difference, but the general consensus seems to be that the bolt on neck is an inferior attachment meathod.

I understand about the problem that the neck joint may contribute, I was the first to mention it, but thanks for all the reminders about that. I still think that

  • jig making and using,
  • scoring,
  • sawing,
  • drilling/routing,
  • sanding,
  • gluing,
  • evacuating the rest of the finish to the score
  • then finishing the gap

is relatively easy to accomplish, I have all the tools necessary or available, and for the most part, I can explain how to accomplish each step although some contingency and improvements may apply. And each step all by itself is not that difficult to do, granted you are careful and plan well.

What parts seems like it's too hard to do and why? I'm here to learn and grow, I've been wrong once or twice in my life. Thanks everyone for caring enough to try to help, much appreciated.

Building a practice guitar

I just met with an interesting person who has customized several guitars in somewhat extreme ways, in some ways similar to what I want to do. And he told me about a Carvin neck, which has really got my attention. They have a neck that extends all the way to the bottom of the guitar! I think that would make a great neck for building a practice guitar. I was recently looking into buying a Hohner copy of a Steinberger guitar (the squared off boat paddle looking guitar) because it's headless, light weight, yet full size in scale. I think that neck would make a great basis for creating a travel guitar. Here's a link.

http://www.carvin.com/products/part.php?ItemNumber=NT6

Then click on the headstock for more.

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actually I believe most of the gibsons use a tenon joint rather then bolt on or neck thru. The tenon is much better then the bolt on but still allows you to replace the neck easier then a *edit* tenon joint. The neck thru is the best you will get for tone, the tenon is mid, and then the bolt on(tone wise). Ease of use would go bolt on, tenon(less glue area to remove), and neck thru being the hardest to replace if it can be done at all without completely dismantling the guitar. Basically there are trade offs. Personally the bolt on is probably the best way to go if you want the ease of being able to buy a neck and slap it back together if anything happens to it.

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actually I believe most of the gibsons use a tenon joint rather then bolt on or neck thru. The tenon is much better then the bolt on but still allows you to replace the neck easier then a bolt on.

Excuse me? Easier to remove than bolt on? Someone's never tried taking a set neck off. All you have to do to remove a bolt on is unscrew 4 (sometimes 3) screws. In my opinion a well made bolt on is just as good as any other neck joint type. The downside is the need for a bulky heel for support. The carvin link you posted is a neck through. It sounds like you have set neck (glued in), and neck through confused. It's called neck through because the neck goes all the way through the body. No offense intented, but if you don't even know what kind of neck joint a guitar has, or what the differences between them are, then by no means should you be thinking about the sort of "modification" you've planned. I would seriously consider building your own.

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jig making and using,

scoring,

sawing,

drilling/routing,

sanding,

gluing,

evacuating the rest of the finish to the score

then finishing the gap

is relatively easy to accomplish, I have all the tools necessary or available, and for the most part, I can explain how to accomplish each step although some contingency and improvements may apply. And each step all by itself is not that difficult to do, granted you are careful and plan well.

Congratulations, you've just described most (if not all) of the processes involved in building a guitar. If you're prepared to do these things, BUILD THE DAMN THING FROM SCRATCH! It's like you said - A bunch of relatively simple procedures which tied together produce a fairly complex object. If you're really prepared to be careful and plan you're half a dozen steps ahead of the game....

You're ready to build a guitar, the only person who needs convincing is *you*.

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Lol sorry I didn't mean easier then a bolt on I was going to say neck thru. I edited that post. Also I agree. Just about every thing you said you have or will have to do is involved in making your own guitar. Also if money is a concern for you making a guitar would save you some money if you can get the lumber reasonable. Also the main reason to do a custom build is you can go crazy with the design and customize in features to your hearts content (being somewhat reasonable so as not to screw up the tonal qualities).

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Devon Headen, I'm not sure about a few things. Cloud was trying to help, sometimes people make mistakes, I appreciate his impute and respectful attitude, it's clear he's trying to help. As for myself, I never attempted to distinguish neck attachment types, I just wanted to make it clear that I don't like or prefer bolt on necks, ,,, because people have repeatedly recommended bolt on necks instead of what I am seeking.

So your vote is that I'm not ready to modify a guitar, but I'm ready to build one... (why am I not convinced) :D

People, I have listed the steps I suggest for making this mod. If you see a real problem with any of them, I sincerely would like to know about it. I could care less if you have an ill opinion of the general idea, I have a very positive opinion about it, so I guess we're even.

Secondly, if making my own guitar is not much or any harder than this mod I'm suggesting, then that is a real eye opener for myself and I would like to understand how that could be so, please explain why building an entire guitar is to be preferred.

To my understanding, warmoth only has bolt on necks for the LP style guitar. I would consider a bolt on neck, it's just that most of my favorite Gibson guitars, especially the nicer ones, never boast a bolt on neck as though that's a good selling point. The opposite seems more true, that a set neck is supposed to be better. I did see a Carvin guitar that looks just like a Les Paul, but that was on their forum, I did not see any such guitar on their products website.

Setch, you "might" be right, I may need to build this guitar, but I have reasonable doubts. I need help understanding that process better.

For those who understand guitar building and what I am basically after, please explain because so far, I see building an entire guitar as being 10 times harder than what envision with this mod. The largest area of doubt for me would be in the neck, fingerboard, and frets area, including the neck body joining. If I was to build the entire thing, it would help (my confidence) greatly if it was a thorough kit.

Cutting out some wood seems alot less demanding than building an entire guitar.

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Since you wondered specifically what in your plans seemed really hard to do, the use of the "band mill" type of saw (I assume this is like a band saw) to slice off the entire back of the guitar. Feeding a Les Paul through a band saw to take of a slice would be really hard to do a) neatly and B) safely. I can see removing some of the back with a router or maybe a planer to drill (or route cavities) holes from the back or (harder) removing and then regluing the maple cap, drilling holes from the front.

PS: The Carvins that look like Les Pauls are probably thirty years old and are set neck, as opposed to newer models which are neck through but not LP shaped.

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What's going to be hard?

-Cutting the back off. The blade will wonder, the guitar will rock, the cut will *not* be straight.

-Truing up the back after the cut. The front of the guitar is curved and the neck is attached, how will you support it whilst levelling the back?

-Chambering the back. See the last one...

-Attaching the back. Good luck not marking the top and sides whilst clamping, good luck getting everything to line up.

-Disappearing the joint. Finish repairs are tough. *Really* (really!) tough to do well. Ditto binding, you need to scrape it, which will mark the finish... which will require more touchup.

All these things are difficult to do. Really. Much harder than building a neck, shaping a neck and fretting a neck. The reason you see the mod as easier than building is becasue you've not done either, so you have no basis for comparison. The mod will be harder, and if you post this question anywhere where poeple who have *actually built guitars* will see it, you'll get the same responce.

People who've never built guitars think it's terribly difficult, so they'll come up with the most insanely convoluted ways to get around actually building from scratch. It isn't difficult. What you're describing is. How about you look through my thread and tell me which step looks intimidating to you to you. Then I'll bully you some more until you're convinced... :D

Building a Les Paul...

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I've played guitars that have had very light weight bodies (chambered ash and alder) while the necks had an average weight for maple/maple & maple/rosewood necks.

I found that after playing them, my fretting hand spent as much time supporting the weight of the neck as fretting the strings.

I thought I would mention this since your reason for this mod is to make it easier on your back but I wonder, if the body and neck weights were too misproportioned, would this still cause back aches? Just somethin to keep in mind.

Also if money is a concern for you making a guitar would save you some money if you can get the lumber reasonable.

I learned quickly when planning my first build that by the time you add up all the tools, parts and supplies (and cost of shipping these materials) your not saving any money at all. Lotsa time invested as well. If you tried saving money in parts, lumber or finish by using something lower quality then you're still not gonna save any money since a completely assembled, lower quality, Korean-made guitar can be bought cheaper.

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Dude,

check out the link in Setchs last post. Its an awesome run through of how he built his LP. Very good stuff.

All I think these guys are trying to tell you is that the difficulty level of your suggested mod, and building from scratch are very similar. But building from scratch has a much less questionable outcome.

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perhellion and Setch and VanKirk and jer7440. Thanks much for your input. I'll start with perhellion, Thanks for the Carvin LP copy, way long ago, info. I'm a bit confused as to what you meant when you said

Feeding a Les Paul through a band saw to take of a slice would be really hard to do a.) neatly and b.) safely. I can see removing some of the back with a router or maybe a planer to drill (or route cavities) holes from the back or (harder) removing and then regluing the maple cap, drilling holes from the front.
I agree that trying to remove the front carved maple top might be harder to do, but I differ with cutting out the mahogany back. Frankly, I think that cutting of the back panel would be tricky, but not that difficult.

Here's my plan. You cut out a thick and flat 3/4" plywood that is at least as big as the guitar. Then you take either

  • A - that sticky stuff they use to attach a CD to magazines.
    or
    B - RV window caulking, they come in rolls and I have plenty to spare. It's like playdoe only a lot firmer.

And use that to temporarily adhere the guitar to that board, both protecting the guitar from vibration trauma and securing it from movement.

I would have already taken off all the guitar components, then you place another substantial board on top of the guitar, you put more of that rolled up RV window caulking stuff at outward locations on the guitar front so that you can then set the wood top on top of that. That way the guitar is solidly and protectively sandwiched in between two outer plywood pieces and you can use a pass through stick to apply moderate pressure onto this guitar sandwich that will spread the pressure to the entire outer form of the guitar to keep it still during the sawing process.

Then you simply pass the guitar through the mill, and when your done, you have a ~3/8" thick back panel nicely separated from the rest of the guitar and you start the gutting process with a gleam in your eyes. I know that none of you have done this, neither have I. But, so what? It would go somewhat slowly, you don't want to burn the wood and you don't want anything to jam up. But I am reasonably confident that it would work just fine as explained.

As to problems with truing up the back. The blade may move some, but it will do so equally to the top and bottom. All that needs be done after the cut to true them up for a regluing, is to sand them down to smooth. They'll fit back together as though they were cut apart by a single pass cut on a mill saw.

Disappearing the joint. I agree, that will be a problem. But, if I can get a lightwight Les Paul by this process that I should be able to complete in one single weekend, I would not care if the exposed joint would not be repaired! Ok, I would care a little, but it need not look like original by any stretch. The side of my guitar is not nearly as important as the top/face. Say, here's an idea. How about stripping the entire side of the guitar from it's finish and paint job, and then simply reapply paint and finish after the mod is complete. If it's not the exact same color, so what, the different angle and exposure to light would detract from it being very noticeable.

Setch, you claim that the mod will be harder than the entire build. I believe you may think that is right, but I have my doubts. So far Vankirk's intimation seems more realistic. If you care to elaborate your view further, I encourage you to do so. You can get a really decent quality Ephiphone LP copy for a great economy price. Maybe you would tell me about someone who has made a Les Paul style guitar in the quality range of an Epiphone classic plus, someone who never built a guitar before and who has (virtually) no tools and experience to do it, and then lets compare notes. I would liberally bet that moding the Epiphone would win hands down, in terms of time, money and quality expense. I'm a truck drive and don't have much spare time nor the space to learn guitar construction.

Now if you were talking a kit, then I would be more easily convinced.

I can get into a "Les Paul classic plus" for less than 490 bucks w/out case. I'm talking a 60's style neck with rosewood fingerboard and a nice flametop with choice of a cherry burst or maybe wine red finish (plus others too). Here's a link to walk in the store pricing for this guitar for comparison.

http://www.wwbw.com/Solid-Body-Electric-Gu...6.music?o=brand

Simply point me the way to a guitar maker that can beat an Epiphone classic plus price and quality point, and I'll probably buy his guitar and mod that! (chuckles)

jer7440, Setch's last post does not have a link that I'm aware of. In fact, I don't see Setch posting any links (with the common underline demarcation) in this entire thread. But I would be interested in such info. Thanks.

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VanKirk, very good point about the issue a relatively heavy neck being off balance. I agree that is a serious problem.

How about connecting both the top and bottom strap connectors to the top one?

Alternatively, as long as the balancing point would be accessible somewhere on the guitar's upper half of the body, how about rigging up a locking strap system that would connect to that point. It might be more comfortable and would be even more out of the way than a standard strap setup.

B)

PS, I think some acustics connect the front strap to the headstock right behind the nut. I think that someone on the Beatles, and or early rock and roll bands, did that... :D

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Catch you guys later on tonight. I'm going to check out some guitars at the worlds largest music store in South Bend Indiana (Woodwind and Brasswind). They have two Epiphone guitars that I am checking out.

  • A cherry burst Les Paul classic plus
    and a 61 reissue SG cherry finish.

Very nice I'm sure, most likely plugging them into a reissue JCM800 half stack... Hey, it's a tough job, but someone has got to do it.

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Then you simply pass the guitar through the mill, and when your done, you have a ~3/8" thick back panel nicely separated from the rest of the guitar and you start the gutting process with a gleam in your eyes. I know that none of you have done this, neither have I. But, so what? It would go somewhat slowly, you don't want to burn the wood and you don't want anything to jam up. But I am reasonably confident that it would work just fine as explained.

As to problems with truing up the back. The blade may move some, but it will do so equally to the top and bottom. All that needs be done after the cut to true them up for a regluing, is to sand them down to smooth. They'll fit back together as though they were cut apart by a single pass cut on a mill saw.jer7440, Setch's last post does not have a link that I'm aware of. In fact, I don't see Setch posting any links (with the common underline demarcation) in this entire thread. But I would be interested in such info. Thanks.

The link is at the bottom of my last post. Look harder! :D

You have obviously *never* resawn with a bandsaw, or you wouldn't be so glib about the process. Cutting a neat 3/8" slice off a rectangular board takes a ton of practice, cutting it off an irregular object like a guitar, with a neck sticking out to get in the way, without chipping out at the edge, or running out and cutting a tapered slice or even emerging halfway though the back is practically impossible. Imagining that you can do it so neatly that you can simply sand the back and reglue it is plain dellusional. This isn't intended as an attack, it's simply a statement of fact from somebody who knows towards somebody who clearly doesn't! Building guitars is less complex than you think, bandsawing a slice of the back of a completed instrument is *much* more complicated than you think.

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Looks like you've chosen to buy a guitar then modify it by cutting the back off and chambering it. It's not a popular plan to mention to a buncha builders (obviously,hehe) but since this is what you have chosen here's some amateur's thoughts on your method...

*Like mentioned before, be careful how thick a slab you remove from the back so that you don't compromise the neck to body join.

*When you mention adding plywood to sandwich the body maybe it would make a more accurate cut by having the 2 plywood pieces slightly larger than the body (diameter) and completely squared up.

Then, as you're moving the sandwiched body through the saw you'll have a flat, square surface that might be less likely to tilt.

Also, make sure to use a fence so that the body doesn't shift side to side as you guide it through the blade.

*An obvious point but...be sure that while chambering the body from the back that you don't drill through the top (duh). A drill press or router set to the carefully measured depth is important and remember that the carve top will mean depth adjustments depending on where your chambering.

*I'd test the adhesive you use to attach the plywood to make sure it doesn't react with the finish or stick so well that the finish gets damaged when removing the plywood.

*There's a good chance that no matter how many precautions that you take, you may still get dents and dings in the body and finish.

*When you glue the new back on use lotsa clamps and cauls so you have a clean, tight join but again this is another chance that the clamps and cauls may damage the finish. Maybe cork sheets between the body and cauls may help to not damage the finish?

I'm a total amatuer so everything I've said may only sound good in words and not work at all.

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