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Difficulty: Experienced

JEM-Style Monkey Grip Handle

One of the many unique identifying features of the Ibanez JEM was the contoured carrying handle in the top of the guitar's waist. Although the measurements stated in this article are to convert an RG body to resemble a JEM, it is not difficult to achieve this in any instrument you want....

You will need a few common tools to make this on your guitar. Other tools can achieve the same ends if needs be.

  • Accurate ruler
  • Awl/nail/centre punch
  • 3/4" (19mm) and 1" (25-26mm) Forstner bits
  • Jigsaw/scroll saw
  • Files/rasps/sandpaper
  • Router
  • Straight bottom cut router bit
  • 1/8" (3mm) roundover bit

First of all grab a square and measure from the very tip of the upper horn down 5-1/2" (140mm), parallel to the center of the body. Make a horizontal mark 5/8" (16mm) from your line of measurement in, towards the center of the body as shown. This method works for both AANJ and standard neck joint bodies.

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Mark a line parallel to the center of the body from the beginning of the point you just marked. Make a second line parallel to it 1/4" (6,4mm) in towards the center of the body and then a third line another 3/32" (2,4mm) in.

Make a line 90° from your first mark across the other two vertical lines. Using this as a starting point, draw a second horizontal line below it by 27/32" (21,4mm). Draw a third line 1" (25,4mm) below this second line, and follow up with a fourth line 13/16" (20,6mm) below this. You will end up with this marking layout:

handle2.thumb.JPG.8c8bdb49d6c2b439d1d1b4

 

The first points where you will be drilling through the body are located at the various intersections of these lines. The first hole is located at the first mark made (top left in the grid). The second center is located 1/4" in and down 27/32" (second down, second in). For the third center point you will have to drop down 1" and go in 3/32" (third down, third in), and finally the fourth hole's center is be located dropping down the final 13/16" but moving back to the 1/4" marked line (fourth down, second in).

Time to take out an awl, centre punch or a trusty nail to make starter marks at all four of these locations! You do not need to press hard or make deep indentations as these are meant only to prevent the drill bit wandering off centre in the following step.

handle3.thumb.JPG.3b45e8ffce34561489fd6c

 

Looking at the next photo you can see that I have drilled out pilot holes for the hole saw drill bits used. If you have the appropriate sized Forstner bits, you can skip pilot holes altogether.

You will need two sizes of drill bit - 3/4" (19mm) for the very last hole (located furthest away from the horn) and 1" (25mm) for the three points closest to the horn. Forstner bits are recommended for cleaner cuts.

When cutting, place the body on top of a clean flat piece of scrap wood or plywood so that when the drill bit exits the other side it cannot push wood out and splinter the other side.

If you're using a hole saw, start your drilling from the top, go about 3/4's of the way through the body, flip it over and continue your cuts through all of the holes from the reverse side. Your pilot holes will help the hole saw meet the first cut perfectly. With a Forstner bit, cut slowly by "pecking" a bit at a time to help remove chips in the cut. Do not apply excessive pressure when reaching the opposite side. Pressing too hard will cause wood to splinter out of the rear face!

handle5.thumb.JPG.4258453407d76dc13a028c

 

Now that all the holes are drilled out, we need to make a work support jig for the router and the jigsaw. I used some 2x4 and 1/4" scrap. Across the side of your 2x4, draw the outline of the edge of your guitar:

handle6.thumb.JPG.6fc6c1512ba87c9b616dab

 

...now cut out that piece of wood. This is a side support caul which butts up against the side of the body. The top face of this needs to be parallel to the flat face of the body. This extends that surface outwards so the jigsaw and router bases stay level when working inside where the tummy cut drops away. Ideally it needs to be the same thickness as the body otherwise you'll have to shim it up with scrap.

handle7.thumb.JPG.19961b5a6b1f08ea7db8cb

 

Using the jig you can properly support the base of a jigsaw to make the cut along the body at the base of the handle to remove the ridges of the original holes:

handle8.thumb.JPG.557ccb2d7ea1e5c3dc1a91

If you have a tabletop scroll saw, you could also place the blade inside the holes and make this same cut.

 

Now take out your router and a straight cutting bit and set the router's maximum depth of cut to 5/8" (15,9mm) using the depth stop:

handle9.thumb.JPG.f7e948a95d6c1651f0ec12

 

Using the jig you made as a support, cut a flat plane in several shallow passes from the outside rear of the body to just within the handle area. The final cut should be your 5/8":

handle10.thumb.JPG.bb5f71313473f5fc312ac

 

Now flip the body over and inspect your work so far, I left the jig in place so that you would get a better idea of what it looks like next to the body:

handle11.thumb.JPG.9aa8fcc2fcf570d72feaa

 

Using a flat bladed file or rasp, smooth and round out the inside of the grips on your handle:

handle12.thumb.JPG.d382277184f09f7550d7c

 

You are now ready to do the finishing work. Using an 1/8" (3mm) radius roundover router bit (I prefer Dremel tools for this) go ahead and smooth out around the front of the body inside the handle.

handle13.thumb.JPG.7293bc5fc7f6054e5a57f

 

Soon you won't think twice about doing this to all of your bodys - it really is not as difficult as you might think as long as you have the proper tools and understand each of the steps. Good luck!

handle14.thumb.JPG.bafbe565c55e36779d8a5

handle4.JPG


Creative Commons Licence

JEM-Style Monkey Grip Handle by Brian Calvert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

You are free to:

  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material

Under the following terms:

  • AttributionYou must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

  • NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

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