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Learn From My Mistakes


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Hey guys,

OK... So for the past 2-3 Months, I have been working on my first built-from-scratch guitar. It is a mahogany tele with a flamed maple top, two humbuckers and a maple neck with rosewood fretboard and an ebony skunk stripe.

It has been really really fun, but it is LOTS of HARD and sometimes FRUSTURATING work. So don't think that building a guitar is a breeze or anything. Fortunately, I am not really that concerned with rushing to get it done, and I keep telling myself that it is not going to be perfect... that way I don't get dissapointed when I hit road bumps. I just try to steer around them.

Here are a few of my mistakes thus far:

Firstly, when I was cutting out the maple top, I wanted to conserve wood, thinking I might use it up the road... good thought right? WRONG. I was so busy trying to save as much wood as possible around the edges that I totally forgot to make the bookmark gule join the center of the guitar. SO, MISTAKE NUMBER ONE is that now I can't use the glue join as the center line. And believe me... it is much much easier if you can!

Second mistake:

I had to scrap my first neck because after I had fitted the Fingerboard and truss rod and all, I realized that it wasn't perfectly straight. I proceeded to go at it vigorously with a large sanding block... rather than using it lengthwise, I used it Horizontally and totally ate through like 3/16ths of wood, thereby making the neck useless. No prob though.... I just smashed it and took out the $15 truss rod to use over. Too bad the fingerboard cost me $30... Lesson learned. Sand with Paitence and go in the right direction. Don't rush to get it all done in a flash.

Third mistake.

I made a new neck and it came out a lot better than the first. The only problem is that the "rush bug" got me again. I didn't feel like waiting a neck pocket tempelate to be delivered in the mail, so I just traced the dimensions onto the body and routed out one. BIG MISTAKE. I have no real way of knowing if the pocket is dead center... AND the sides are kind of uneven. LESSON: USE A FU*KIN TEMPLATE. OK OK. I will next time I promise. This is all a learning experience.

Now my problem is that I am having a hard time making sure that the neck is dead straight. I am still working on it, but any advice would be appreciated.

OK, one more... Since it is a tele neck, it has a tele headstock... Well, the neck blank was like

3/4" thick I think, and the headstock needed to be cut to 1/2 ". Well I looked on the site and saw that most people just bandsawed it down to thickness. I had a hell of A time with this. Firstly, I don't think my bandsaw is big enough or powerful enough, because the cut wouldn't go straight. It could also be because I have not set it up properly. At any rate, next time I think I am going to try and use a frame saw. They look like they could do the job and I could have a bit more controll.

Overall, this has been a wonderful learning experience. AND what's more, if it werent for this forum, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to start a "from Scratch" project. So, thank all of you for giving me that courage. I can't wait to start my next project. With these mistakes under my belt, I am sure that the more projects I work on, the better they will turn out.

TO sum it all up:


Thanks Guys!

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about the bandsaw problem..

soo... you took a completed neck, turned it at an angle and on its side with the headstock flat against the table and pushed it thru?

and you expected to get a straight cut. lol.

man, your asking for it with something like that. play around with making jigs and fixtures. will help out alot if you have to do something like that in a hurry!

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*Pat on the back* for posting your mistakes. It may help someone else in the future.

On my build I learned that when glueing a figured top onto a body, use screws or dowels in a place that will be routed out later (such as pickups or neck pocket) to hold the top to the body where you want it.

I didn't do that so as I was clamping the top was shifting and sliding all over the place with every clamp I tightened. It stressed me out and I got lucky that the top stayed where I wanted it in the end.

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Well, your next one should be much better. I think most people make significant mistakes early on so don't feel like you are the only one (I know I did).

For the headstock problem -

I have used a bandsaw to do this but recently, I've switched to using the Safe-T-Planer. If you don't know what it is, the Safe-T-Planer is a device that you put in a drill press and it planes wood to the thickness that you want. It doesn't leave the wood perfectly smooth though so there is some sanding needed. Always set your depth about 1/32 to 1/16 higher than the desired. Then you your sanding will get you to the proper depth. Doing it this way does help eliminate the problem that you ran into.

The bandsaw method can work also though. I just feel safer using the planer method. I know some people also use a router with a jig. I keep wanting to build a jig for this but never seem to have the time.

Keep building!

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You think those are bad mistakes, I made the mother of all bad mistakes. I'm making a copy of a Gibson Blueshawk (semi hollow guitar). I get the hollow parts all routed real nice (not too bad for doing it freehand), and glued the top on real well. The blank looked awesome! Next, I glued on my paper pattern. So far so good. Next I go to cut out the body with my jigsaw. So I'm sawing, and sawing, and it's real hard work (it's a 2" thick body mind you), and all of a sudden, the sawing gets real easy. I think, huh, I must of hit a soft spot. LOL So, I keep going around the edge of the guitar, and it stays real easy up until the last inch and gets hard again. No problem, right? Then when the big chuck of "scrap" falls off onto the ground, I see a nice glue line and the side of a hollow, routed, cavity. Did I mention I forgot to mark which end was which before I glued on my top and paper template?

Fortunately, I expected mistakes on my first and had another body blank and more maple. The second time around has gone much better. I'm about to start on the neck.

By the way, you can make your own templates out of mdf or plywood. It's not that hard.

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I've been doing trapezoid inlays on a fingerboard that I've thickness planed (very dangerously, using sanding drums, a pillar drill and some bits of wood clamped to the drill).

When you're doing these, don't cut the fret slots first as you will take big chunks of wood off between the inlay (hole) and the fret slot when you're chisiling the hole out :D (seems so obvious now)

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I didn't know they are selling them also. I bought mine from WoodCraft.

If you ever decide to try that method - make sure you have a nice long flat surface to rest the entire neck on as you slide it under the safetplaner. If you try to hold it yourself (on those small square tables that come with the drill press), you'll likely tip it and the planer will take a chunk out. I clamp a 3 foot piece of plywood onto the drill press table and it works fine. Just remember to keep that neck flat on that surface while running it under the planer device - any tipping will result in chunking.

Edited by daveq
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I have had my share of mistakes . One fingerboard slid when I glued it down , now I use pins to keep it in place , after I hand planed the fingerboard off and made a new one . Once routed a strat for a left hand trem and did tha back for a right hand . I almost shot myself , I could have sworn I checked it three times but it was one of those days . So I had to fit a hand shaped plug and reroute and give up on the sunburst finish and go with second choice , white strat .

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