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beltjones

First Build, so many lessons learned

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Hey everyone. 

I've been lurking here and going to school on all of your builds, and I figured I'd actually post what I'm doing so someone else can learn from my mistakes, and maybe y'all can help me out before I make too many more. :)

I've done some Warmoth builds with great results, but I always thought the woodworking part of the builds was beyond me; that is, until I saw some youtube videos that made me think I could handle it. 

I started with a blank piece of paper on my dining room table and some pencils and measuring devices. 

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A few hours later I had some lines drawn and I was eager to get cutting. This picture was taken after one of my many many body redesigns, where I just erased everything and started over.

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It turns out that I'm lucky enough to live about a 10 minute's drive from two awesome hard wood lumber yards, and I found some great looking black limba, wenge, padauk, bubinga, and other woods. In fact, I kind of sort of accidentally bought enough for two builds. Oops.

Here's the black limba before I started planing it down.

wquU7gO.jpg

This will be a neck-through with a 5 piece laminated neck with padauk, maple, and wenge.

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Right before I cut the body wings out of the limba I did something really dumb. The 8/4 limba has a really dark side, and the other side is lighter with a lot of swirls. I wanted the black on one side of the guitar and the light side on the other, but right before I went to the saw I decided I could be more economical with the wood if I oriented the pattern a different way, not realizing that it would mean I was screwing up my plan. As you can see, the bottom wing is dark and the top wing is light. (the purpleheart fretboard was an early attempt that now lives somewhere in the garbage)

IxY94Rc.jpg

One thing I hadn't expected was how much work is done that looks like zero progress from a third party perspective. Flattening, thicknessing, planing, squaring, sharpening, repeat. It puts the "work" in wood working. 

Well today I worked up the courage to make some cuts that I can't take back, and this thing is starting to look more like a guitar. 

51iY93R.jpg

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Below all of the rulers there is a piece of wood I'm going to try to turn into a fretboard. If anyone can guess the species I'll be impressed. Below my little note paper is the fretboard-to-be for this guitar. 

One thing I didn't understand well enough is how different woods laminated together would react to planing and sanding. My plane will dig into the padauk and just glide along the top of the wenge, creating a crest on the top of the neck blank. It takes a ton of work to get it to level out and square with the side. I'm obsessed with the grain pattern of the wenge, but man it's hard to get it to behave. 

Anyway, I'll update as much as possible. Thanks for checking out my first build!

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very inspiring when I see some of these threads.  I admire your hand drawn layout.  You got nuts the size of cantelope to take on that as your first project!  that said you have a planer which means this is obviously not your first rodeo.  Good on ya.  Looks really great.  

I've got a lot of experience using a router in my younger days and have routed pickups and such... seeing 'first time' builds like this is encouraging.  I think I am going to do one... but a lot more conservative - just a body(thank you for your part in the inspiration).  

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I don't have a planer - just a #5 hand plane and I built a simple router sled because I'm not that great with the plane yet. 

I cut out the sides of the neck on the band saw today. For really no reason at all I tried to smooth out the sides of the neck. Earlier I made an MDF template that I can use to route the sides of the neck and the fretboard to the correct, straight dimensions, so like I said, there was no reason to try to remove the band saw marks, other than it's starting to look like a guitar and it was fun to do.

Well, I wasn't paying attention to the orientation of the grain of the Padauk, and instead of taking a small shaving, my chisel opened up a big old tear into the wood, across my pencil line. I opened it up a little further and dripped super glue into the crack. Hopefully that was the right thing to do. 

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Super glue has been used to repair countless cracks like that. the little bit of fretboard wood peeking out looks like bubinga to me.

SR

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58 minutes ago, ScottR said:

Super glue has been used to repair countless cracks like that. the little bit of fretboard wood peeking out looks like bubinga to me.

SR

Good to know that I didn't screw anything up with the super glue. I should have taken a picture and then posted it here to get advice, but I was so mad at myself that I wanted the fastest fix possible so I could pretend like I hadn't done anything so stupid.

The wood is actually curupay, which I found out later was used by Gibson in their smartwood exotics series circa 2005. I picked it up out of the shorts section at Houston Hardwoods, which is where I get pretty much everything except for a piece or two that I bought at Clark's Hardwoods in The Heights. 

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We must be neighbors. I get most everything....except for highly figured tops, at those same two fine establishments. I usually go to Clark's first though, because of their much larger selection.

SR

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We all make mistakes, and fixing them is part of the game. I'm down with that illness going around at the moment and made some real clangers at work today. I do know how to make them go away though, but my resolution involves fire. Not the best of options for most!

Designing on paper is great. Very hands-on and 1:1 scale. I don't think it's for anybody though, but if you can leverage the best work out of it, it's very tactile.

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Ok, now what I'm struggling with is the neck break angle / cutaway from the neck-through for the top.

The bridge I'm using is a Gotoh hardtail bridge, which gives me a string height of .402". My fretboard / frets / action calculation comes out to .285 for the fretboard, .05 for frets, and an action of about .125 at the 24th fret. for a total of .460". 

So i need to add a top. I have some 3/4" wenge I can use, so if i cut .7" away from the neck blank and add a .750" top (which I will carve) that should work, right?

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I'm not aiming to provide answers, just grist for the mill and I am more than convinced you will solve this with the right ideas.

The way I work out the neck angle is to calculate it as a triangle stacked on a rectangle. The rectangle width/height is the distance from the end of the board (the point where you're measuring the "neck-board-fret-string action" height) to the saddle witness line. The height is that "neck-board-fret-string action" value. Personally, I don't factor in action to that calculation since a little bit of necessary neck relief from up-bow alters the string path enough to provide it.

Next, compare that to the minimum and maximum saddle height of your chosen bridge off the body plane. If you've got balls of steel, stick nearer the minimum height. A good rule of thumb for me is that the saddles can alter the string height at the last frets by around 3/4 of their adjustment range. If you've got 1/8" saddle adjustment, you can expect about 3/32" of adjustment at 24th (which is 3/4 of the fretboard length). If you can trade out some of this range in order to not leave the saddles at the lower end of their adjustment, that's fine.

I can't find the Gotoh adjustment range, however I guess it's a standard Strat-style unit. The Hipshot version has a saddle adjustment range of 0,25" to 0,46" which makes me think that the Gotoh unit's saddles are adjusted close to the top of their ranges?

So, take your chosen minimum value and make that the opposite in a triangle, with the adjacent being the distance from that fingerboard height value to the saddle witness point. A bit of trigonometry and you're golden.

How's this?

IMG_9270.JPG

I use this when I haven't got anything to write it all out on:

http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/scol/calrtri.htm

So, say your fingerboard end is 6,3" from the saddle witness point and the measured neck/board/fret height is 0,4". With that minimum of 0,25" and maximum of 0,46 then a "standard Fender" neck would leave the strings within the range with no angle necessary. In my opinion, a little high in the range but hey.

Now, there's a complication....

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I guess that the carve will make the build be loosely like a neck-through Les Paul, and are you laminating just the wings or the entire body over the top of the wings and neck? This is how I planned a Les Paul:

Untitled.jpg

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The neck usually sits on a separate plane, which is what you need this neck angle for. If the bridge is going to sit on top of the body's top wood then the previous example doesn't seem to be useful, however it still is.

I think that the short answer is "yes", however I hope that this long-winded ramble gives you a few more checks and measures so that you're 100%. :lol:

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Using the idea presented, if that neck-fingerboard-fret height ended up being 0,125" above the plane of the uncarved top, the distance from that point to the saddle witness point was 6", and you wanted the strings to hit a theoretical saddle adjustment height of 0,3"....

Subtract the neck-fingerboard-fret height from the theoretical saddle adjustment height:

0,3" - 0,125" = 0,175"

Drop that into a triangle solver as the opposite and the distance as the adjacent or do some trig:

tan(θ) = opposite/adjacent

tan(θ) = 0,175/6 = 1,67°

......

 

Drop your own numbers in, check it out in a physical drawing and you're golden. I would take a second look at those saddle heights though. They seem a bit high out of the gate and it might not leave you much to play with.

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Thanks for the awesome and informative responses! Much appreciated.

I have drawn it out and done the math a few times, and the simplest solution seemed to be a Fenderish neck angle of zero, which gave me the numbers I used above. However, you gave me a lot to think about, specifically, do I want to build in something more in the range of 3 degrees?

I'll measure the adjustment range of the gotoh.

I'm also probably going to abandon imperial standards of measure. So annoying. 

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So the Gotoh has an adjustment range of .3" to .5". 

I still haven't decided on whether to build an angle into the neck / body. I don't think it's necessary for this bridge and this build, but if I were using a different bridge it certainly would be. 

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On 08/02/2018 at 1:48 AM, beltjones said:

So the Gotoh has an adjustment range of .3" to .5". 

I still haven't decided on whether to build an angle into the neck / body. I don't think it's necessary for this bridge and this build, but if I were using a different bridge it certainly would be. 

Is that the Gotoh GTC102? I've used that bridge twice. I went with zero neck angle and had the fingerboard on a ~3mm shelf above the body top. I'm not sure if that information is helpful, but it's free :lol:

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3 minutes ago, Stu. said:

Is that the Gotoh GTC102? I've used that bridge twice. I went with zero neck angle and had the fingerboard on a ~3mm shelf above the body top. I'm not sure if that information is helpful, but it's free :lol:

That's the one. How thick was your fingerboard?

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I made some more cuts, and have been basically doing everything I can to avoid cutting the neck angle / relief for the top. That seems like another one of those "can't go back from here" moments, so instead of committing I'm doing things like making sure I have the right drill bit for my fretboard markers. 

UvDqhxe.jpg

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8 minutes ago, beltjones said:

I made some more cuts, and have been basically doing everything I can to avoid cutting the neck angle / relief for the top. That seems like another one of those "can't go back from here" moments, so instead of committing I'm doing things like making sure I have the right drill bit for my fretboard markers

Don't sweat it. There are always ways to "fix" mishaps. Just think of them of them as "evolution of the design".

SR

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Fighting through the fog of an enormous headache here (bleh) however this year's Guitar Of The Year winner made a neck-through Les Paul a while back which we discussed. Perhaps @Skyjerk can bring something illuminating to this prior to you making permanent cuts!

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FWIW, I work out the angle and all the numbers in the design phase before a single tree is harmed :-)

neck angle is pretty crucial in a carved top guitar. Wrong angle and the whole thing is firewood because obviously you can't change it once it's done. Not something where you want to just wing it, and then try and work around the issues it might create if it's not right.

a traditional Les Paul has a neck angle of roughly 4.3 degrees, but I never cared for that angle, or how high it puts the bridge and pickups. In my own I reduced that angle to 3.4 degrees and it brought bridge, strings, and pickups closer to the top which is more pleasing to my eye and my hands

all my subsequent designs were the same. Both of my GOTM winners, the 24 Magnum and the 22 Special, are neck-thru with carved maple tops. 

I use a free CAD program called emachineshop to design it all, and make sure the angles are going to work out right, then I make templates from the CAD files. Of course when you actually cut things nothing ever works out mathematically perfect, but it's very close and the variances are easily handled at that point.

my "process" is identical whether it's a Les Paul, or my own designs. If you're curious, my Phoenix build thread has a fair amount of detail on the build...

 

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I definitely didn't mean to imply that I was winging it. I spent about three days measuring and re-measuring and trying to be sure that I was correct with the amount of wood I'm taking off. I'm pretty comfortable that an angle of 0 will work with my chosen bridge. Of course, I've made mistakes before... I'll keep you guys updated, but in the mean time I had to order a new bandsaw blade because I think the one that came with my saw wasn't intended to saw through 3" thick exotic hardwoods over and over again.

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I think LPs vary, but that four and something degrees is pretty common. The way I see it in my head is worked backwards from the binding levels around the body and the top thickness. The neck plane stops at the end of the fingerboard, so that's a factor also. I think both you guys have the right approach. If it draws out on paper or plans properly in CAD, it's good. I go for CAD myself since I throw together instrument designs one after another and like to send my stuff out to be laser cut as templates.

If the neck angle stuffs up, it isn't always the end of the world. Once everything is established, check the saddle witness height with a straightedge down the neck and see where it ends up. Too tall? Get yourself a wraparound or TOM style bridge that offers the height.

Only this week I expanded the scope of one of builds I'm filming. Originally the design called for zero angle since it is using a Hipshot Ibby HM bridge. I wanted to go through the implications on neck angles when using something like a TOM bridge or wraparound, so the decision was made to make the body twice....one with a neck angle and one without. That way I can make a direct demo comparison between an identically-specified flat geometry guitar and one with a larger break angle. If only I could get @pan_kara to run me numbers on them both.....

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@Prostheta you want to check the influence of neck angle on tone? <_<

in any case once my analysis is off the ground I would actually like to start collecting sound samples from people, it's pretty simple to implement (I'm not relying on any fancy stuff, my code takes as an input a wav recording of a guitar string being plucked several times in sequence and works from there)

 

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