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Flamesong

Second guitar on my journey

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I already posted about my second guitar in a thread I started about using oak for a body after I found a piece which could be big enough for three bodies on eBay.

Anyway, two months after finding the piece of oak and eventually taking the leap and buying it, I have finished my first oak bodied guitar - though I concede that owing to limitations of space and gear, I was cornered into using a pre-made neck - but I intend to do some tests with scrap wood to see if it might be possible to make a neck using a router table rather than a bench saw.

I had made some sketches of a body shape I could make which would use a standard Stratocaster scratch plate (I'm taking an incremental approach to my ultimate goal) and implemented a solution to one of my biggest guitar annoyances; guitars falling over when there is no stand available and came up with the fin shape. This both created the problem of where to put the input jack and provided an answer - in fact, I think the answer might have been conceived before the problem was realised.

However, having the input jack where it is did pose another issue - the internal plumbing under the bridge - so the angle of the fin would have to be right to avoide undermining the bridge and remain aesthetically pleasing and this took a lot of work in illustrator as the shallower the angle of the recess the less attractive it looked - not only that but every time I changed the recess angle, the angles all the way across the top of the body had to be changed to compensate otherwise it looked lumpy.

Eventually, I thought I had cracked it and the anchor screws from the bridge would miss the jack access hole by about 0.25 inch. Unfortunately, not ever having owned a guitar with a hardtail bridge, I naively assumed that the strings just fed through the bridge from the side opposite the saddles - I hadn't realised that the strings went through the body and that I would need to add ferrules or a ferrule plate. So, at the last minute, I decided to use a ferrule plate as individual ferrules might not line up neatly on the back given the imprecise tools that I have. When all the string holes were drilled and the ferrule plate was in position, I felt quite chuffed but a bitter blow came when I drilled the holes to secure the ferrule plate as one went through the jack socket access hole. It was disappointing but easily fixed, I simply cut the end of the screw off - I figured that if the end of the screw was exposed in the hole, the exposed threads weren't actually doing anything and the strings would actually be acting in the same direction anyway - it's not as if the screws were acting in opposition to any forces.

When I finally strung it and started to set it up, I found that the bridge could have been located slightly better - giving a little more adjustment leeway for intonation. Talking of which, I had quite a lot of trouble adjusting the intonation and thought I have created a pig and got pretty annoyed with myself. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was just impatient, maybe I was forgetful but after a good sleep, it dawned on me that in all the activity involved in putting it together, I had forgotten something which I had learned when I first tried to play a guitar, 40 years ago and which is part of every guitar player's fundamental knowledge; new strings stretch!

I had a little trouble with the neck pocket. It was seemingly perfect - it was so tight that the weight of the body could be supported when holding the neck at all angles. Again, I felt quite chuffed at that - I had created my own neck template which was almost identical to one which was later shared to me on here from a guitar making magazine. But when it came to preliminary assembly, the neck pocket was too shallow and because I had, by this time, cut out the body shape and sanded it down etc, there was hardly any body for the router to rest on. When I originally routed the neck pocket, I used the offcuts from the body to hold it in my Workmate and rested on them but I had since cut about 1mm with sanding and so there was a ridge between the body and the off cuts. Consequently, the neck pocket lost all its tightness and even sufficient straightness to require me to then re-rout the pickup cavities which had a knock on effect to the scratch plate position.

I have resolved that in future, although I might outline the body on the wood for guidance, I will rout the neck pocket before cutting the body shape (making sure it is the right depth) and then position everything from that point. Apart from the practical advantage, it would also mean that if it gets messed up, worst case scenario, I have wasted a bit of wood - not hours of work. Maybe this is standard procedure but it wasn't the way it was done in the various YouTube videos I watched beforehand.

So, I made plenty of mistakes (many - some I haven't mentioned) but I have learned a lot from them and enjoyed the challenges they presented. But I also got to implement the lessons I learned from the first guitar which was a kit from which I discarded all but the neck and body and one or two bits of hardware.

I have already started thinking about my next project but I have some ideas which may not have been tried before - at least a Google search has not gleaned any evidence - maybe they have been tried but the results were so disastrous that they have been kept secret.

flamesong-fce002-01a.jpg

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Very good idea to route the neck pocket in the blank first, as you say it gives the router lots of support, also you can reposition the body outline slightly if needed when you put the neck in place and recalculate the centre line. Good luck with your second build:) 

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I'm not the best at documenting my progress but having started another guitar I put my 'neck pocket first idea' into practice.

I drew a rough outline of the body shape so that I got the pocket roughly in the right place and once I routed it, I bolted the neck in place. From there on, positioning the bridge was much simpler; no need to find a centre line to work from, per se, just place a long rule against the length of the neck and extend the line on both sides and bisecting the distance between them and then measuring the correct position for the bridge for the scale length. To me, this seems to make much more sense than cutting the body and then having the awkward job of trying to line up the neck with all the variable that involves. Once the neck was bolted on, I replaced the rough body outline with a true one. I positioned the scratch plate in line with the neck and projected neck lines where the bridge was attached and drew around it along with the pickup holes etc. I then removed the neck and bridge, attached the cavity template to accommodate the pickup positions etc. and I routed the body cavity - again, a job made simpler by having more flat material to rest the router on. Once the cavity was routed, I finally cut the body (not pictured). Previously, this process had taken me several days (due to having to stop, think about the next move and then preparing) and I completed this in about two hours including the edge routing and sanding into shape - to the point that I am now unexpectedly redundant until some parts arrive.

I'm sure that I will find some disadvantage to this approach at some point but so far, so good. The only slight issue I had was that the tolerance between the shape I wanted to use and lump of wood I was using was about 5mm (I had initially designed the body to the limitations of the wood) so I had to slightly adjust the body shape but using a bigger piece of wood, that would not be an issue.

Anyway, after this one, I intent to take a hiatus until I move in a couple of years as my working conditions are driving me insane. Half my workspace is in a small shed which does not have enough space to operate any power tools and the other half is my kitchen. I have to work outside when it is dry enough (I had a good day to cut the entire body of the current one) and the constant traipsing back and forth from the shed to my kitchen for tools through the mud can get frustrating and miserable; not conducive to creativity. For the time being, at least, when I have finished the two guitars I am working on, I am going to renovate/customise a couple of guitars which look a little sad amongst my others.

On 1/20/2018 at 11:25 PM, Muzz said:

Very good idea to route the neck pocket in the blank first, as you say it gives the router lots of support, also you can reposition the body outline slightly if needed when you put the neck in place and recalculate the centre line. Good luck with your second build:) 

 

fce-body-01.jpg

fce-body-02.jpg

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On 1/20/2018 at 7:16 PM, Flamesong said:

I already posted about my second guitar in a thread I started about using oak for a body after I found a piece which could be big enough for three bodies on eBay.

Anyway, two months after finding the piece of oak and eventually taking the leap and buying it, I have finished my first oak bodied guitar - though I concede that owing to limitations of space and gear, I was cornered into using a pre-made neck - but I intend to do some tests with scrap wood to see if it might be possible to make a neck using a router table rather than a bench saw.

I had made some sketches of a body shape I could make which would use a standard Stratocaster scratch plate (I'm taking an incremental approach to my ultimate goal) and implemented a solution to one of my biggest guitar annoyances; guitars falling over when there is no stand available and came up with the fin shape. This both created the problem of where to put the input jack and provided an answer - in fact, I think the answer might have been conceived before the problem was realised.

However, having the input jack where it is did pose another issue - the internal plumbing under the bridge - so the angle of the fin would have to be right to avoide undermining the bridge and remain aesthetically pleasing and this took a lot of work in illustrator as the shallower the angle of the recess the less attractive it looked - not only that but every time I changed the recess angle, the angles all the way across the top of the body had to be changed to compensate otherwise it looked lumpy.

Eventually, I thought I had cracked it and the anchor screws from the bridge would miss the jack access hole by about 0.25 inch. Unfortunately, not ever having owned a guitar with a hardtail bridge, I naively assumed that the strings just fed through the bridge from the side opposite the saddles - I hadn't realised that the strings went through the body and that I would need to add ferrules or a ferrule plate. So, at the last minute, I decided to use a ferrule plate as individual ferrules might not line up neatly on the back given the imprecise tools that I have. When all the string holes were drilled and the ferrule plate was in position, I felt quite chuffed but a bitter blow came when I drilled the holes to secure the ferrule plate as one went through the jack socket access hole. It was disappointing but easily fixed, I simply cut the end of the screw off - I figured that if the end of the screw was exposed in the hole, the exposed threads weren't actually doing anything and the strings would actually be acting in the same direction anyway - it's not as if the screws were acting in opposition to any forces.

When I finally strung it and started to set it up, I found that the bridge could have been located slightly better - giving a little more adjustment leeway for intonation. Talking of which, I had quite a lot of trouble adjusting the intonation and thought I have created a pig and got pretty annoyed with myself. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was just impatient, maybe I was forgetful but after a good sleep, it dawned on me that in all the activity involved in putting it together, I had forgotten something which I had learned when I first tried to play a guitar, 40 years ago and which is part of every guitar player's fundamental knowledge; new strings stretch!

I had a little trouble with the neck pocket. It was seemingly perfect - it was so tight that the weight of the body could be supported when holding the neck at all angles. Again, I felt quite chuffed at that - I had created my own neck template which was almost identical to one which was later shared to me on here from a guitar making magazine. But when it came to preliminary assembly, the neck pocket was too shallow and because I had, by this time, cut out the body shape and sanded it down etc, there was hardly any body for the router to rest on. When I originally routed the neck pocket, I used the offcuts from the body to hold it in my Workmate and rested on them but I had since cut about 1mm with sanding and so there was a ridge between the body and the off cuts. Consequently, the neck pocket lost all its tightness and even sufficient straightness to require me to then re-rout the pickup cavities which had a knock on effect to the scratch plate position.

I have resolved that in future, although I might outline the body on the wood for guidance, I will rout the neck pocket before cutting the body shape (making sure it is the right depth) and then position everything from that point. Apart from the practical advantage, it would also mean that if it gets messed up, worst case scenario, I have wasted a bit of wood - not hours of work. Maybe this is standard procedure but it wasn't the way it was done in the various YouTube videos I watched beforehand.

So, I made plenty of mistakes (many - some I haven't mentioned) but I have learned a lot from them and enjoyed the challenges they presented. But I also got to implement the lessons I learned from the first guitar which was a kit from which I discarded all but the neck and body and one or two bits of hardware.

I have already started thinking about my next project but I have some ideas which may not have been tried before - at least a Google search has not gleaned any evidence - maybe they have been tried but the results were so disastrous that they have been kept secret.

flamesong-fce002-01a.jpg

There are some interesting design features built into this.  How does it play?

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22 hours ago, Flamesong said:

I'm not the best at documenting my progress but having started another guitar I put my 'neck pocket first idea' into practice.

I drew a rough outline of the body shape so that I got the pocket roughly in the right place and once I routed it, I bolted the neck in place. From there on, positioning the bridge was much simpler; no need to find a centre line to work from, per se, just place a long rule against the length of the neck and extend the line on both sides and bisecting the distance between them and then measuring the correct position for the bridge for the scale length. To me, this seems to make much more sense than cutting the body and then having the awkward job of trying to line up the neck with all the variable that involves. Once the neck was bolted on, I replaced the rough body outline with a true one. I positioned the scratch plate in line with the neck and projected neck lines where the bridge was attached and drew around it along with the pickup holes etc. I then removed the neck and bridge, attached the cavity template to accommodate the pickup positions etc. and I routed the body cavity - again, a job made simpler by having more flat material to rest the router on. Once the cavity was routed, I finally cut the body (not pictured). Previously, this process had taken me several days (due to having to stop, think about the next move and then preparing) and I completed this in about two hours including the edge routing and sanding into shape - to the point that I am now unexpectedly redundant until some parts arrive.

I'm sure that I will find some disadvantage to this approach at some point but so far, so good. The only slight issue I had was that the tolerance between the shape I wanted to use and lump of wood I was using was about 5mm (I had initially designed the body to the limitations of the wood) so I had to slightly adjust the body shape but using a bigger piece of wood, that would not be an issue.

Anyway, after this one, I intent to take a hiatus until I move in a couple of years as my working conditions are driving me insane. Half my workspace is in a small shed which does not have enough space to operate any power tools and the other half is my kitchen. I have to work outside when it is dry enough (I had a good day to cut the entire body of the current one) and the constant traipsing back and forth from the shed to my kitchen for tools through the mud can get frustrating and miserable; not conducive to creativity. For the time being, at least, when I have finished the two guitars I am working on, I am going to renovate/customise a couple of guitars which look a little sad amongst my others.

 

fce-body-01.jpg

fce-body-02.jpg

Sounds like a good sequence of steps for your build.

I know what you mean about workspace - until last year mine was a workmate on the back patio.  And, as you well know, the UK weather is hardly helpful in that respect!

Spacewise, I'm still very limited - just enough room for a workbench against the cellar wall and for a small table to keep the power tools on.  I still have to move the tools onto the workbench each time I use them (and some of them are HEAVY) but it's still so much more productive than before.  I understand your frustration...

 

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It's actually my favourite guitar of the ten I have which includes a Fender Stratocaster. It has been modified slightly since the photo was taken. What was the kill switch is now a 'bridge on' switch and the kill switch is now below the neck pickup which is more easily accessible. The tone pull-on switch is now a blower.

The only drawbacks it has are that the bridge is slightly wrongly positioned - slightly too far from the neck and the intonation is totally maxed out but it is correctly adjusted. Secondly, the neck is pre-made and looked attractive but not until I started playing it did I realise that the inlays are practically invisible without my glasses. I'm tempted to stain the fingerboard to hopefully bring out the inlay a bit more.

The wiring inside is a horror show, though. Just as I finished it as in the photo, an old acquaintance died - somebody famous enough to have an obituary in The Guardian and a mention on Radio 4's Last Word. I decided to write a dedication to him under the scratch plate (I like Easter Eggs!). However, when I decided to swap things around, I couldn't rout the bit I had written on and the only way to get the kill switch where I wanted it was to drill a hole from the pickup cavity to the place where I wanted the switch which meant that the scratch plate could not be lifted off without disconnecting the kill switch and the amount of wire made it almost impossible to get the scratch plate into position. I was too eager to get it back into playing condition so once I wriggled it in by fluke, I didn't want to lift it off again.

Perhaps I should add that rather than soldering the earth and the jack connections, they are connected by a small chocolate block which was supposed to make the process of disassembly simpler. Next time I have it apart, I'll reinvestigate and see if I can't route the wiring a bit better.

Apropos of nothing, there were no bits in the post today so I am still redundant as far as the latest one goes. I'm particularly waiting for some fountain pen ink to stain the wood and a cheap but possibly very complimentary scratch plate. Everything else will be as the completed one above apart from the bridge pickup being a full humbucker rather than a dual blade and the hardware will pretty much all be chrome.

 

1 hour ago, Andyjr1515 said:

There are some interesting design features built into this.  How does it play?

 

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7 minutes ago, Flamesong said:

 Secondly, the neck is pre-made and looked attractive but not until I started playing it did I realise that the inlays are practically invisible without my glasses. I'm tempted to stain the fingerboard to hopefully bring out the inlay a bit more.

 

You could always install some luminescent side dots like Luminlay (there's also stuff on the forum how to make your own)

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Having just reread my OP, I should point out that the guitar I am working on now is not the one I mentioned at the end. That one went a bit awry when the router bit worked loose whilst cutting the body cavity and I ended up with a hole right through the body. I managed to patch it up quite well but decided to put the big experiment on hold. There were some other problems which together made me decide that it would end up being a bit of a chimera and to accept it if not in some way, celebrate it - especially as I was always prepared that the experimental features might be a disaster.

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4 minutes ago, Andyjr1515 said:

You could always install some luminescent side dots like Luminlay (there's also stuff on the forum how to make your own)

I thought about replacing them but the neck is otherwise pretty well made and with my inexperience, I run the risk of messing it up. As I mentioned somewhere, I'm taking incremental steps. Hopefully, if I move in a couple of years, I'll get to make a neck and make mistakes along the way which might not be so disastrous.

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danger will robinson... I had a 1"x2" router bit come loose in a big porter cable router once... in my top 1 of scariest things ever list.  whole router started vibrating violently.  Likely my error but I'm not really sure if it just came loose... either way I tighten the piss out of my collett every time now.  Something I'll never forget. 

interesting and ergonomic looking guitar.  right on.

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Thanks for the encouraging words.

Actually, I think I am slightly justified in blaming the router design - though it's the only router I have ever used (I have two the same) so it might be a universal feature. There is a spring located behind/under the collett which seems to push the bit out. It happened when I was working with the other router which is mounted on a table and it seemed to defy gravity and common sense until I discovered the spring. Now, I just let the bit rest at its own height (I sometimes use bearings as spacers) and not push it in.

7 hours ago, mistermikev said:

danger will robinson... I had a 1"x2" router bit come loose in a big porter cable router once... in my top 1 of scariest things ever list.  whole router started vibrating violently.  Likely my error but I'm not really sure if it just came loose... either way I tighten the piss out of my collett every time now.  Something I'll never forget. 

interesting and ergonomic looking guitar.  right on.

 

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