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JayT

I have little to no idea of what I'm doing...

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...and I don't have most of the proper tools (yet). Oh, also the "exotic wood" lumber place I buy materials from is so confusing I'm not sure what I even bought. At least I know what a board-foot is now...more or less.

But I'm determined to make a guitar still, here's where I am so far. Well, I figured I make 2 first guitars at the same time...my logic being I'd be able to immediately apply lessons learned from inevitable mistakes.

I settled on this design, figured I'd keep it simple as possible...close to Tele specs & construction. first mockups

scale rendering

A little odd looking but I like it...and I finally had move off the drawing board after a month of "tweaking" -- Haven't really settled on the switch & knob placements but will work that out once I can lay he parts out on an actual body. For these first attempts I'm pretty much got the cheapest tuners, bridges, and pickups that Amazon offers (as long as they had decent reviews). My focus at this point is learning basics of building, learning the tools and making something somewhat playable.

 

 

Here are the body & neck templates. First I made some out of 1/8 inch pressed board then flush cut 3/4 inch mdf versions... templates.thumb.JPG.7252ae3bc1447e867e686e9797ef7489.JPG

fails.thumb.JPG.aa7dc0d5601726414f27be2d864dfb64.JPG...this took a while...here are my false starts, screw ups and reject neck templates >>

Why is it so difficult to sand a perfectly straight edge? I figured it out eventually. And got to know some new tools & techniques pretty well. Time well spent, and spent again.

So, I finally bought some wood. For necks...African Limba? Some other kinds, who knows...the place was overwhelming and I had no idea what I was looking at. But I made it home with materials that the lumber guy assured me would be "just what I need"

 

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Thanks to this site, YouTube, and many other resources I began making the jigs to be able to make fret boards and necks. Yeah I'm still working on these...but making progress. They're starting to look like something. 

This is an expensive hobby BTW. I'm buying tools as I go so not too bad all at once...that is if I can't figure out some cockamamy way to use the wrong tool. There was no way around needing a thickness planer, that was the most expensive purchase so far. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Just started carving/shaping the neck tonight...I'll update when I have something to show. I know I'm the definition of a rookie at amateur hour, but gotta start somewhere!

 

 

Edited by JayT
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Looks good, definitely doing the right think buying as you go.

you don’t need as many tools as you might think, especially when watching YouTube videos etc.  Most of the guys on there have thickness planers, jointers, large belt sanders, router tables, circular saws etc. All expensive kit but you don’t need any of it.  It just takes a hell of a lot longer without.

with the right preparation you can get away with a jig saw (or ideally a small cheap bandsaw) a hand plane, hand saw, router with a selection of bits, drill and bits, and some fretting tools like a fret levelling file, fret slotting saw etc.  Nut slotting filed unless you get a Floyd locking nut.

look for second hand power tools, I got myself a 8” band saw for £60 and haven’t had the need to upgrade. 

my router is a Bosch router that I picked up on eBay.

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Looks like you've done your homework before attempting to build.

Re woods, as long as they're hardwood most anything will work. Truth to be said, even softwoods make perfectly good guitars, it's more about the properties of the piece used than the species.

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First of all welcome! :)

An impressive start on many fronts.  And yes, you can get away with a very modest array of tools. 

I love the concept of starting two at the same time so you can learn by your mistakes 'on the fly' :)

This is a great forum for getting decent advice with none of the flaming that blights many internet forums.  And we've all made the mistakes you are sensibly trying to avoid :D

 

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Hellova good start to a first (pair) of builds. It looks like you've done your homework,,,,,and paid attention to what you learned. It also looks like you've made some nice timber choices. That cathedral grained wenge is making an awesome looking fretboard.

SR

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7 hours ago, willliam_q said:

Looks good, definitely doing the right think buying as you go.

you don’t need as many tools as you might think, especially when watching YouTube videos etc.  Most of the guys on there have thickness planers, jointers, large belt sanders, router tables, circular saws etc. All expensive kit but you don’t need any of it.  It just takes a hell of a lot longer without.

with the right preparation you can get away with a jig saw (or ideally a small cheap bandsaw) a hand plane, hand saw, router with a selection of bits, drill and bits, and some fretting tools like a fret levelling file, fret slotting saw etc.  Nut slotting filed unless you get a Floyd locking nut.

look for second hand power tools, I got myself a 8” band saw for £60 and haven’t had the need to upgrade. 

my router is a Bosch router that I picked up on eBay.

Thanks! I lucked out mostly on the tools, I already had the basics (jigsaw, tablesaw, mitersaw, drill, most handtools) and I picked up a decent (yet older) router and basic router table (with 4 bits) for $40 off CraigsList. A guy a work gave me a 9" Bandsaw more or less, I have to give it back if he ever needs it but he hasn't used it in 10 years and has no plans to. It needed a new blade and a tune-up...that was 2 nights of frustration but it helped a lot. All of the various "guitar tools" needed aren't very expensive...I'm getting by with less expensive off-brands mostly. $15 here, $20 there. Also SEARS is closing down here and all tools are all on clearance, good deals for clamps and such.

The thickness planer was essential for me, hand planning just isn't something I took to. After messing up 2 blanks I borrowed an electric hand planer with even worse results. I broke down a bought a new Wen 12.5" planer for $299 after 3 failed attempts at acquiring a used one. They are in demand around here I guess, like gone in minutes of being advertised...hobbyist level ones anyway.  But that night I played poker with work buddies and won $200 so that helped :)

The last "big" tool I'd like to get is a drill press, a bench-top. I'm waiting for sales after the holidays, figure I can get something for around $100 or less.

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I was as frustrated with hand planes as well until I looked up a load of YouTube videos to learn how to tune them.  Mines only cost me £20 but I have it very well set up that I don’t need a thicknesser or jointer.  
 

Having said that my local Screwfix has a Titan jointer/thicknesser for £160 that has got great reviews.  If I find I’m building enough guitars I’ll buy it.  One of the reviews is from a fellow guitar builder.

my biggest luxury was probably my floor standing drill press that I bought about 13 years ago, it was new @ £150.  

my latest luxury was the Titan bobbin sander which I love, makes finish sanding a guitar body so much more pleasurable.

Congrats on the poker ♠️ win.  It’s been a few years since I played.  We used to put £5 in the pot each and make the game last all night.  I’d usually get frustrated at the slow pace of play and go all in on a weak hand so never got my money back 😀.  Never played for big enough money to win a couple of hundred though...I might have been more focused if it was!

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Ah poker, a long time girlfriend of mine from way back. We spent A LOT of time together, I still use skills from that today in the business world. No kidding.

Welcome! You said the magic words, "I'm determined to make a guitar."
African White Limba (or Korina as it's sometimes called as a misnomer, that was actually a finish by Gibson), is a most excellent wood. It's similar to mahogany with nice tight interlocked grain. It has an odd, slightly waxy feel to it when you work it, and it's wonderfully resonant. 

Looks like you designed in a hanging loop to your headstock.

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2 hours ago, komodo said:

Looks like you designed in a hanging loop to your headstock.

That is what I'm hoping it won't be used as...if so it'll eventually break I'm sure.

The headstock shape has been the most commented on to whoever see the design. My friend says "it looks like something designed for Prince" my daughter wants me to make different colored resin "crystals" that wedge in there...that won't be happening :)

What it's supposed to be is a tear drop, but I guess it's upside down.

I finished the initial neck carves. The limba is sort of waxy smooth, the mahogany one seemed easier to work and it went much faster. But it was the second one so I guess learning curve there.

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 Too many pictures?...yes, too many. But I'm really proud of these. Maybe because I thought this would be the hardest step and was really worried that I'd ruin both. But I just zoned out, or zoned in and it was really satisfying.

Now I can be anxious about fretting!

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Edited by JayT
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13 hours ago, JayT said:

Too many pictures?..

Naw.

Looks like you also learned one of the unexpected facts of guitar building. Necks are fun!

SR

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3 hours ago, Andyjr1515 said:

Like you can never have too many guitars, you can never have too many pictures :)

Ok then, a wipe down with a tack cloth cleaned them up nice.

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Neck carving is easily my favorite part. It's SO satisfying.

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Hey aren’t I smart? I couldn’t get the fretwire seated flush no matter how hard I hammered....so I figured I’d press it in with a clamp,

Of course the clamp slipped off the rounded fret wire and dented  the finger board. I quit that method and ordered a press but is this fixable? Or should I leave as is? 

 

Side question, was the slot too shallow? The depth tool has 2 Black lines and it went as deep as the 2nd line (but not so deep you couldn’t see the line) or are frets just that difficult to hammer in? I used a fret hammer, and when that wasn’t working a regular hammer with no luck. Maybe I was subconsciously not hammering hard enough??

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Edited by JayT

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1 hour ago, JayT said:

is this fixable?

Damp paper towel and a soldering iron should get that mostly out by applying heat + steam. You'll have to do a little bit of localised neatening-up of the area after the dent is steamed out, some careful sanding to restore the sheen of the fretboard to match the surrounds, but it should be fixable.

 

1 hour ago, JayT said:

Side question, was the slot too shallow?

Possibly. Have you tried inserting a bit of cardboard into the slot and tracing the edge of the fretboard with a pencil to see how deep the slot is? Could there be a bit of debris in the slots preventing the frets sitting completely flush?

The other thing to watch out for is that the underside of the fretwire where the tang meets the flat part of the wire is rarely a perfect 90 degree "T" profile. The tops of the fret slots may need a bit of a chamfer applied to each one with a triangle needle file to ease the shoulders, so that any "wedging" that may be going on when hammering in the fretwire is avoided.

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Looks bad but as @curtisa said, a wet towel and a soldering iron may do a lot. If you've unfamiliar with that method: Simply take a moist towel folded to a suitable thickness to let the steam through yet not drying immediately - four-ply for paper might do well. Put the towel on the bruise and heat it with the soldering iron. Immediately when the towel dries move a moist part under the tip as you don't want burn marks on the wood!

Another thing regarding fretting: A few strokes with a small triangular (key/needle) file along each slot will create a guiding slope for the tang to slip in more easily. Your slot edges look like you haven'd done that. Measuring the depth of and cleaning the slots is also essential but easy to forget.

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11 hours ago, curtisa said:

...the flat part of the wire is rarely a perfect 90 degree "T" profile. The tops of the fret slots may need a bit of a chamfer applied to each one with a triangle needle file to ease the shoulders..

 

5 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

A few strokes with a small triangular (key/needle) file along each slot will create a guiding slope for the tang to slip in more easily

Thanks fellas! I know crude, but  something like the 2nd drawing here? Trying to understand exactly what you guys are describing  think same thing. Please let me know if not.

 

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Edited by JayT

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Hmm, that looks like you've cut the neck showing the truss rod channel...

But yes, just a couple of strokes with a small file on every fret slot. That both helps to get the frets in and also helps to get them out without too much cracking when you need to replace the frets.

Edited by Bizman62
adding a missing s
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every time I see this thread title i think "you and me both sister".  Man, I really struggled with my first few fret jobs getting the frets to seat properly and the above advice (chamfer the slot) really helped (probably was curtisa who suggested it to me as well).  looks right to me assuming we are getting a side view looking down the fret slot. 

that said... getting the proper slot dimensions matched up with the proper fret tang was an equally helpful convergence. 

then from there... getting a proper fret caul, and mounting it on a vise grip... took me the rest of the way.  my last fret job arrived action on par with the best I've played - and req very little fret filing/crowning.

here's to it working out for you!

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Chances are the slot was too shallow in one spot, or there was some dust in there that compressed under the fret creating a shallow spot, the other thing that happens, if you don't get the edges of the fret seated prior to hammering the middle, the fret flattens out and its harder to the edges down, especially with stainless steel frets.

You could try the steam/soldering iron trick, but my experience with wenge is that it's very hard and quite brittle, so it will be less affective as it is with other woods.

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De-Christmas of house finally complete had a bit of time to work on necks...press came today too so with that and advice from this thread I made a little progress. 

 

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Went back to the wood place to get the body wood. I ended up getting poplar...thoughts? Maybe too soft and/or heavy? Seems pretty uncommon for guitars but it was right price (works out to $22 each body) and size. For my first builds I don't want to break the bank so poplar it is.

Got home, with help from my daughter (outside since weather here was beautiful), got it cut and thinned to 1.8 inches (down from just over 2 inches) ... 'Teles are 1.75 inches, is that right? The blank halves seem really thick in my hands, not sure how thin I'm going to end up going. Any suggestions?

Off topic- my back has been killing me since starting this little project! 

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Edited by JayT

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