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Finally Started My First Build...


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Got a little work done this evening. planed the face of the headstock, and rough cut a few laminate pieces as well as my headstock template. Here you get an idea of what the headstock is going to look like, as well as the pattern of the maple and walnut in the laminate for it. Next step is to get a safe-t-planer and finish the back of the headstock, thickness sand the laminate, glue that up and then cut the headstock. I've also got the control cavity template and routing I can be working on until I get the safe-t-planer.

headstocklaminateandtemplate.jpg

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Made a huge order from Stew Mac and another from Guitar Fetish today to buy all the hardware. I should have everything accounted for but the clearcoat, fretting hammer (or press and cauls, haven't decided yet) and perhaps a few other small odds and ends. Here's the specs on the hardware. Being a first guitar I couldn't necessarily justify spending a ton of cash to get the best of everything, but I didn't skimp too much:

Pickup: GFS P90, bridge

Tuners: Wilkinson e-z Lock

Bridge: Hipshot Hardtail (I really would have loved the baby grand, so this was the compromise)

All the hardware is black as well, including the graph tech nut. I can't wait to get this project done, but then again, a major portion of the fun in this hobby is the process itself. I keep telling myself that so that I don't rush things and sacrifice quality. :D

Right now i'm also planning to do a pickup cover for the P90 out of some of the leftover laminate from the neck. So the pickup will be a maple and walnut laminate, with a strip of the walnut running down the pickup lengthwise. All of the wood parts besides the body itself will be tru-oiled to have a little contrast visually and texturally. And as far as the pickup cover goes i'm toying with the idea of using some black stain on it and then sanding it back slightly before oiling...Luckily i've got plenty of scrap to mess with to see how this will look before I commit to it.

Edited by mattharris75
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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, i've been on vacation and haven't had much time to work on the guitar, not to mention spring practice has started for football (I coach high school ball), so i've been busy. Tonight I finally had a chance to make a little progress. I used my wagner safe-t-planer for the first time. Worked reasonably well, only a slight learning curve. I imagine I could set up the drill press a bit better next time to make things go more smoothly. So I got the back of the headstock planed to .5" and planed down the headstock laminate to .125". They are currently glued up and sitting in the garage curing. I used the old 'drill a couple holes and stick toothpicks in them' trick to make sure I could easily get the lam aligned once the glue went on and everything got slippery. Worked like a charm. Next step, cut out the headstock shape I suppose. :D

headstocklaminateglued1.jpg

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Well crap...I checked this morning and apparently the laminate warped a bit and one edge is raised up slightly. The clamp in that area was moved in maybe 1/4" from the edge and that's where it raised. With thicker woods the clamping would have been fine. I guess I learned a lesson about gluing thin woods. :D

I'm not sure why it warped, I planed and saned both sides fairly equally. But it did...So the question now is, do I fill this small void with sawdust and glue (It will be quite a small area I believe once the headstock is cut out) or do I try binding the headstock? Which direction would you guys go? I'm not sure the binding will go that well with the style of this guitar...

Ahh well, this first project is a great learning experience. But i'm still convinced i'm going to have a lovely and playable guitar when i'm done. :D

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With thicker woods the clamping would have been fine. . .

. . . or a bigger caul would have seen you right.

If the headstock isnt cut to shape yet there is a good chance it wont be anywhere near so bad when it is.

Hopefully its down to the size where glue and wood will sort it, then i would robably bind it - but i wouldnt leave the gap there and bind to hide it

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Yeah, the headstock isn't cut yet. I will hopefully have an opportunity to do that in the next day or two. I don't expect the gap to be large, but it will be there, and that's irritating. I will try filling it first and see how it looks. If it's a small enough space then maybe it won't be neccessary to bind it. I hadn't even considered doing any binding on this guitar, and that brings up a whole new topic for me to research if it becomes neccessary. I really think I would prefer not to do it on this guitar if at all possible. Given the style of the body I don't think it would compliment it that well.

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I hadn't even considered doing any binding on this guitar, and that brings up a whole new topic for me to research if it becomes neccessary. . .

Thats the best way to learn something new - because you did something wrong that needs fixing - lots of people learn inlay that way

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Well, i'd certainly like to learn inlay. But i'd prefer it to be on a guitar that I think is more suited to the style of it. I'll probably do a thinline style guitar in the future, and that would be the perfect candidate for inlay.

However, I rough cut (very rough, I hate the combination of maple and a coping saw) the headstock last night and it looks like i'll be alright. I am removing the material that warped, so I should be good to go.

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Pretty sure you'll be fine unless it warped around the nut area. You've got a fair amount to take off - these areas are covered well with the clamps. Next time use a piece of wood or MDF the size of the headstock to help clamp down the area, this will greatly help pressure distribution. Use a piece of waxpaper inbetween the wood or MDF so it doesn't accidently glue to the headstock as well.

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No, the nut area is fine...I'd used clamping cauls on some of the other glue joints, but this one was so small I thought the number of clamps I had on it would take care of it... Looks like I learned my lesson! :D But yeah, now that the headstock is rough cut I will be fine, the warped area will be cut away.

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OK, had a little time to work on the guitar tonight. Got the headstock basically cut out and sanded pretty close with the robosander. I have some clean up to do around the neck attachment end to smooth it out right to the thickness of the neck.

You can see on there the laminate that I made and glued on. Everything turned out fine there, no gaps where it warped on the edge at all.

Before I can put the fretboard on I need to figure out the best way to sand down the end of the laminate flat with the top of the neck. In the linked image you can see where the edge of the laminate is proud of the neck face, which is right where the nut will end up. Obviously this will be a sanding operation of some type. Possibly the belt sander to get it close and then finish off by hand sanding. Anyone got any good suggestions there?

Laminate proud of neck face

headstockcut1.jpg

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Funny that you say that. I had narrowed it down to a Scott French SF3 and the AC Guitars Skelf as the two body styles I was thinking about patterning after for my first build. I ended up going with the Skelf, but to me both of those builders have a very similar vibe with those particular shapes. I think that's part of why I like them both so much.

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There are many ways to go about leveling that veneer down. I would personally use hand tools. Like a fine microplane to aggresively cut it down close to size, then a hard rubber sanding block to level it flat. I wouldn't trust myself with a power tool in this case (although I use a belt sander for many things). Why risk taking it down more quickly when you could easily damage the neck in a split second?

A chisel might hit the grain wrong and split. A course rasp would be too strong and may damage the headstock.

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On sanding the veneer down, I realized that I didn't actually need to plane it down flat with the neck surface, rather I needed to cut out a small section, so that the end of the veneer will still butt up against the fretboard. I scored the line in the veneer with an x-acto knife and used a coping saw to cut it. Looks like it should work fine.

I used my safe-t-planer to get the back of the neck planed down to 5/8" and smoothed the transition from the headstock to the back of the neck into this. Everything looks good.

The next challenge is getting the heel of the neck cut/sanded perfectly square. You can see in this image that I still have a small distance to go until I hit the line. Is there any sure fire or simple method to do this that I am not seeing right off the bat? I was thinking of using a belt sander. While this would give me a nice square line in at least 1 plane (assuming the belt angle is set up properly) I know it would likely not be the most controllable method. I've been trying a combination of hand sanding and the random orbital sander to get it close, but I can tell I won't be able to get it quite perfect this way. Anybody got any good tips on this? This seems to be one of those fundamental and simple parts of guitar building that nobody ever thinks to mention and for some reason I, in my inexperience, have once again caused myself to step back, scratch my head, and question my methods. :D

Thanks!

squaringtheheel.jpg

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Not sure about the belt sander method, it might work, but I know that mine has a tough time making a nice straight edge, it's old though and not that long. I bet I could get it to sand a straighter line better, but like you I am looking for a better method. About the Safe-t-planer, how is that working out for you? I am going to grab one soon for myself as they seem pretty handy. Hope it all works out for you, good luck and keep us posted.

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Miter saw with laser guide! You wont be able to get that nice and square with a belt sander, I've attempted it twice before.

Thank you. I know the belt never worked for me, but there are better sanders than mine, so I wasn't sure. Sometimes when I look too hard for an answer to what I need to do, the more obvious answers escape me and thats what you guys are for, lol. :D

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Thanks Jon...I'll give that a try. I tried that initially when I was cutting down the neck to approximate size, and possibly I didn't get the saw set up right, the cut had a very slight angle. This was on my father-in-laws saw, which has an aftermarket laser attachment which may not have helped. I may try it on my Dad's, he's got a really nice saw which should give me no problems.

JMRentis, as far as the safe-t-planer goes, it was a bit scary to use at first. Took a bit of practice. It actually helped me to use it on a less powerful drill press. Forced me to go slower. If you use it on a monster drill press it will cut through your workpiece like butter. It's a very handy tool, it helped solve a couple of problems for me, both the back of the neck and the thicknessing of the back of the headstock. I also used it to make the laminate for the headstock and it will come in handy when i'm ready to make the control cavity cover as well.

Well, next step is getting the fingerboard measured, cut, and glued!

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I'd be tempted to use something like a low angle block plane, but even with one of those as opposed to a bench plane there is still the risk of tearing at the end. There are ways to overcome that though.

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Got a lot of work done over the holiday weekend. Tidied up a bunch of little things on the neck and got the fretboard glued on. Also got the control cavity cut. No major difficulties with either process, but I certainly tucked away some pointers for the next time I do them. The second build is going to be so much easier! :D

Glued Fingerboard

Control Cavity

So the next step...Do I bind the fingerboard? And if so, what is the best jig/tool to use for the process? I've looked at both of Stew Mac's dremel router solutions. I'm not sure which would be best. I believe that with a pre-radius'ed fingerboard i'm going to have to make a jig to go under the dremel router base if I go that route. What does everyone else use for routing their binding channels?

Edited by mattharris75
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  • 2 weeks later...

OK, finally got a chance to take a few pictures of the work i've done.

Routed the fingerboard taper flush with the sides of the neck. Planed another laminate piece smooth and cut it out to create the control cavity cover, and got nearly finished with my pickup cover which is made out of a leftover piece of the neck laminate.

Also did some other small things, roughed out the neck pocket template, working on some practice finishing options, etc, etc.

I also added a little more contouring to the body using a rasp and surform. That was good practice for the impending shaping of the neck, and a whole lot of fun as well! The rasp is quite rewarding to work with.

Here's a mockup of where everything currently stands:

mockup2a.jpg

Here's a picture of the pickup cover. I still have to do the finish sanding and drill the holes for the pole pieces. This little sucker was a lot more time consuming than I thought it would be.

And finally, here's a pic of the cavity cover. I've still got some sanding to do around the edges, obviously, so that it will slide into the recess smoothly.

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