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My Inaugural Guitar Construction.

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Started carving the neck tonight.


I started out using an old draw knife usually use to strip bark off logs.


I rigged a stool and a plastic container for a little more support while hacking into my neck.





and a little draw knife action



Then some spoke shave action.


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Then I broke out my gouges. I was going to put a neck volute but decided its maple and I didnt need it. So off it went.




Then some pencil marks and some sanding with a flat 6" sanding block in a half corkscrew type action so I know its even and smooth.





And I'm done for the night. From start to finish the carve took me about 3-4 hours, 5 scotches and one beer and a quesadilla. . I'm really happy with the shape but tomorrow I'll be taking it down about another 5 mm by the heel of the neck and contouring a little off the bottom part to make it a little more comfortable. (if your right handed) Its just a tad chunky at the moment. But its late and I'm covered in wood chips and dust.

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Looking good! I was always kind of spooked about making a neck from scratch but your pics and results have convinced me to make my next build 100% from scratch instead of buying a neck. The fretwork looks great. I like the documentation of making the neck template and routing it out from the body blank. That's the step I'm at right now and am anxious to get to business.

I appreciate the picture showing how you tilted your neck template to get the proper neck angle. I've been pulling my hair out figuring out how to rout a slight angle into the pocket and this simple solution slaps me in the face. Very exciting because I now can go with the original string-thru design I had conceived instead of a plain-jane hardtail Strat bridge.

The neck inserts are also a good tip; I disassembled my cheapy Epiphone strat clone to discover that the neck is held on with just wood screws without inserts. I was going to do the same until I saw the inserts in your build. Keep up the work, it's pretty inspiring so far.

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Very exciting because I now can go with the original string-thru design I had conceived instead of a plain-jane hardtail Strat bridge.

Another alternative would be to rout a recess into the top for a TOM and keep the string-thru design without angling the neck pocket. I angled my neck pocket the same way as sdshirtman though, and it was relatively simple and easy (so long as the router bearing stays intact :D )

The neck inserts are also a good tip; I disassembled my cheapy Epiphone strat clone to discover that the neck is held on with just wood screws without inserts. I was going to do the same until I saw the inserts in your build. Keep up the work, it's pretty inspiring so far.

I think youll find that most comercial bolt on guitar necks, even the not-so -cheap USA made Fender strats are actually screwed on the same way.

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Ok a quick update.

After staring at how high my fretboard was going to sit on the body I decided to deepen the pocket and rerouted it. Recalculating the neck angle was the hardest part. I didnt take any pictures though. The thing I was most worrying about was leaving enough meat on the back of the pocket. There's about 11/16ths left and I hope thats enough. I figure with the shorter scale and the lighter string tension it will be OK.

Looks thin and it is. But it feels strong. You can see a thin crack here but its just a thin piece I didnt knock off and sand right after I re-routed.


Shaped the neck/body transition a little bit. Feels great with nice upper fret access.


I started carving out the contour on the body using a 25mm #3 gouge to remove the heavy stuff.





You can see here where the fretboard is sitting on the body. I like it a lot better.





Edited by sdshirtman
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Very nice work, especially the fretjob. I'm not going to brag on your neck carving though. Anyone that can carve a tiki like the one in your workshop should be able to do a guitar neck with a blindfold on :D .

You noticed that huh? You a tiki fan? Its an admittedly weird hobby but its fun.

I set my furules in the other night. Didnt come out bad considering I did it at 3 AM after a marathon acoustic guitar jam and a belly full of red wine.


I used a 15mm forstner bit.


I decided to veneer the headstock to match the body. I found a veneer distributor out of Detroit who sends out small samples of what ever flavor of wood you want for 3 bucks.


Cut out and ready to glue. I scuffed the back and used regular wood glue. Not normally used but just fine from what I've read. I did a test strip to make sure it would work.


A thin coating and I let it sit for a few min until it was tacky. I taped off the truss access just in case. Probably unnecessary though.


Then set into my vacuum table for an hour or so.


While that drys check out the sanding block I got from great planes hobby. Its 11" long and guaranteed flat to .008" for only 5 bucks. Someone here recommended it in another thread here and I bookmarked the link about a month ago. So who ever you were thanks for the tip. I'll be using this during my set up to level my frets.


When it was dry I trimmed off the excess using an exacto and sanded smooth.



I have a fret crowning file on the way and I ordered my hardware & electronics today. I was seriously thinking of going all black but ended up going chrome at the last min. everything should arrive in a few days. I still have to route the electronics cavity and pickup routes. I'm waiting to mount the bridge before I route for the pickups. I'm going to pick up some of the sanding sealer that drys clear for the body tomorrow. I think it'll be easier then tinting the sealer.

Still debating what to use to clear coat the body. Poly or nitro. I even considered using the tru-oil. I'm leaning towards the poly for lower cure times before I can wetsand an polish.

The other thing I've been thinking about is if I can pull off a mild burst using tints. Ive done a lot of research on it and would really like to try it. Just something subtle around the sides and fading on the front.

Any advice?

Edited by sdshirtman
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Thanks for the overwhelming responses on the finishing question. :D

I've been doing a little experimenting on a chunk of leftover mahogany from the body.

I was apprehensive about how this would turn out on mahogany but I'm Really liking the results so far.


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Yesterday was a pretty slow traffic day on the forum....you may still get some suggestions. I think you've got it right anyway, your test piece looks great as does the whole build. I like the way you "carve" your carves. Man after my own heart. My work gets "fueled" in a similar manner as well.

This is good stuff- keep em' coming.


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Thanks for the overwhelming responses on the finishing question. :D

I've been using water based lacquer from Target Coatings. It's very easy to work with, washes up with warm water, no VOCs and fully cures in 4 days. Sands and buffs to a beautiful deep shine. It's more durable than nitro, too.

For a sunburst, after sealing and applying the lightest color, I spray TransTint dyes in DNA. It's very easy to control, can be sprayed fairly wet without sags or runs and builds color slowly so you have alot of control.

My most recent using this process...





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Finished my fret markers. The whole process was smooth.


What are those for? :D Why would you dot up a perfectly good fretboard? :D

I did a lot or reading before I attempted my first fret job and I think it went well for my first time. I pretty much just tapped in the fret a little and then I laid the tool with the fret insert over the fret and gently pounded it in. My only problem here was thinking I didnt have the frets properly seated all the way into the board.

The wire you have has a rounded edge (like most) so it looks like it is not seated properly (annoying)... looking at your photos the fret job looks good.

So a tip here... since the bottom of the fret has a little nib were the tang meets the top I use a triangle file and kiss the top of the slots one time before install.

Ans it took about up to this:

Before I installed them heated them up a bit and dipped em in wax. If you get em hot first the wax flows over the entire insert evenly.

before you started to teach us "more experienced guys" a trick or two. Heat it up first to get the wax evenly spred! Duh, why didn't I think of that. Thanks mate. And let me give you a tip in return regarding getting the threaded inserts in straight: Use the pillar drill insted of a hand held drill/driver. Clamp the neck to the drill table, lower the chuck and turn it by hand (don't run the drill motor!!!). That way you get a 100% straight installment of the inserts.

Now I do the same when I wax the trussrods... but I never thought to use a drill press to install inserts. If I ever start using them (fat chance... but I do have a few telecasters to finish) I have to remember that. Thanks Peter.

Nice build and good documentation. Thanks for taking the time to post all the pictures.

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The wire you have has a rounded edge (like most) so it looks like it is not seated properly (annoying)... looking at your photos the fret job looks good.

So a tip here... since the bottom of the fret has a little nib were the tang meets the top I use a triangle file and kiss the top of the slots one time before install.

This is the best way to do it. it prevents chipping if you ever do a refret.

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Thanks for the info. After some research I think I'm going to use Nitro. I picked up some Deft SS and clear lacquer . I've read conflicting opinions on the Deft brand but thats what is cheap and readily available. I'm in the middle of trying some test finishes right now.


I know I know. I thought of leaving it clean w just a 12th fret marker. But this is my first and I wanted to get my feet wet with the markers. Nect build I'm going to take on some simple inlay work. Oh and thanks for the tip. I can use all the mentoring I can find. I had to go look at some wire and your right. I can see where a slight "kissing" would help the fret seat.

killemall8: Is 4 hours fast or a long time? I've never done this before so I really dont know how long it takes others. I was trying to take my time and get it as perfect as I was capable of.

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I havent posted in a while. heres an update.

I got my parts together.


Seeing how well the knobs match. Although I think I'm just using two.


It dawned on the the other day that the carvin factory is a mile and a half away from my house and they sell parts.

So I picked up a cavity plate. Check out the cool miniature brass inserts they come with. Pretty cool I think.


I spent some time making my pickup and control cavity templates the other night. Heres what I use to separate the pieces after I'm done. A cake knife helps seperate the double sided tape.


Started on the cavity taking excess material out with a forstner. I didnt go down to the depth of the final route to avoid those dots left from the bit.


First route.


Second route


Edited by sdshirtman
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Installed the little brass inserts.


Cleaned up a bit.



Next I routed the pickup cavities. I see a lot of templates with the pickup routs built into the body template. I didnt on this because its my first build and I wanted to ensure I could reposition them if needed.



First one done.


Second one


Note here that the adhesive always seems to take a little bit of wood with it. The key here is you want the wood it takes to be from the MDF and not the body. The tape thats left wont take big fibers of wood with it when you slowly peel while stretching gently. IMG_8310.jpg

Routing is done finally.


Next I drilled some holes for the pickup wires.

For this I had a better angle going through the neck pocket.


Edited by sdshirtman
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Saturday I started applying a little bit of grain filler to the headstock in preparation of drilling tuner holes. I'm using crystalac. It dries clear and you don't have to mix in any dyes to match your wood color. I like that after you sand it ( thoroughly) you can use water based dyes on the wood over it. I tried it and it works well. It will take 2-3 coats though which I don't really like but oh well. Penance for achieving a decent finish.


I did some calculating and measuring for my stop piece studs and drilled em out. 22mm deep.



I drilled my tuner holes (not shown)

And made the crudest temporary nut.


So I could find out where my bridge needed to be drilled. If anyone knows a better way to do this I'm all ears.


Ok now here is maybe my first major screw up out of lots of minor ones. I drew all my plans up from scratch. So while planning this out I figured I'd be doing a lot of sanding to the neck and it would reduce all my final measurements like the width at the nut and at the 22nd fret. Keeping this in mind I added something like 2mm to each side of the neck when I was cutting everything out and making my neck templates to compensate for this. Well first off I was surprised at how incredibly accurate a router will follow your template. It left like exactly 2mm or so on the sides where I wanted it.

Long story shortened I never took enough material off the base of the neck closer to the 22nd fret. Its 58 mm wide instead of the 56mm I wanted. I noticed this screw up after I finished dressing my frets a week or so ago and by then it was too late. I was waiting until this step to see how much of a factor it would be. If this pic had audio your hear me spewing a bunch or expletives.



I can correct it. But it means I cant use this roller bridge. Stew mac sells a roller bridge with an adjustable width but unfortunately its a 14" radius and not the 12" I'm using. I'll have to get a tune o matic that hasnt been notched for the strings yet and adjust that way. Another lesson learned. This mistake will be avoided in the future.

So I moved on and centered the bridge. I can swap out bridges later. Next I measured out, measured again and then double checked once more before I drilled the bridge stud holes. I popped the studs in and went about restringing this to check the final alinement. Well guess what? They were off by about 3 mm. I dont know if my drill bit walked off center or if I just measured wrong or what but it sucked. I couldnt get the bridge to line up with the studs. Expletives, a beer and a break so I could calm down.

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So I drank a beer and smoked a cigarette and started getting ready to plug and re drill the holes I just put into my pristine piece of mahogany.


Hopefully it wont be noticed too badly after the guitar is finished.

Next I drilled out for the output jack. I didn't have the correct size forstner bit so it was off to home depot. Instead of spending $13 on one good bit I skimped and bought the set of 10 from ryobi for $19 bucks. I placed the jack plate over the only minor tear out I had on the body.


I know better then to skimp on tools. The ryobi bits were pure junk. It took way too long time to bore through 3/4" of wood. They're going back tomorrow. I guess I got a free hole out of em. After that was done I drilled a hole to the stoptail stud hole for my ground.


I picked up a pre cut graphite nut because I didn't want to spend the evening learning how to shape a nut from scratch. Three bucks and hours saved. Now I can start assembling this to see how it looks and get a quick preview of how it might play.




Everything is aligned now.



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This nut from Carvin fit avery nice right out of the bag. It will get dialed in after I finish the guitar and level the frets.


I'm using some used tuners off of an old guitar I have. I dont know if they will be permanent so I haven't drilled the screw holes yet. Theres another mess up here. I didnt plan for the little screw tabs on the tuners to hit each other. Its slight and I can probably fix it with a few strokes of a metal file but why permanently mar em up and screw holes into your headstock for something that doesnt fit correctly? I'm thinking about using some Schaller m-6 mini tuners. I REALLY wish I could get the chrome with ebony knobs on em. http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tuners/Guitar,...r_Machines.html

or Gotoh Midsize 510 tuners



I'm using grover/schaller strap lock buttons.


And a full sized pic. I just wanted to see how some pickups looked in this. They're old pups off my Ibanez 520.



I've also been toying with the other side of my mahogany scrap for my finish.

The dye job is over the crystalac grain filler. I dyed it with black and sanded all the way back to the grain. Kind of useless for mahogany. I just wanted to see how it would look. Then I did the dye burst. Then I did about 2-3 coats of deft sanding sealer. Sanded flat with 220 grit and did a few more coats and sanded that flat with 400 grit.

When I sand flat I dont use a rubber block. I use a flat sanding block on all flat surfaces. In the end using a flat block like this over a rubber block that conforms to the minor imperfections is better IMHO. Its the difference between a mirror flat surface and a slightly wavy one. When I sand flat with finer grits I use a circular motion.

I picked this method up during the 4 years I used to do high end custom finishes on kitchen cabinet doors that would go into multi million dollar homes. I've Sprayed, wet sanded and buffed thousands of sq feet of finish when I was younger.

The blocks look like this and they are cheap.


Then I started spraying a few coats of clear lacquer. So far about 9-12 coats. I dont know for sure I kinda lost count. I'm letting this cure for a week and then I'm going to hit it with some 800 grit wetsand paper to take out some of the orange peel. Then I'll hit it with more coats. After that its going to sit to cure and shrink a bit. Then I'll do a test wetsand and buff to give me an accurate preview of how it acts and looks. If everything goes OK I'll proceed with the actual finish.

Heres progress so far.


Even with the grain filler, the multiple coats of sanding sealer and sanding it flat twice, you can see in the light the nitro is already shrinking into the wood here. I'm confident will in fact wet sand out flat in the end. I dont have a lot of experience with lacquer. We used to use 2 part paint from Dupont designed for aircraft finishes.


Anyways. I hope some of you are learning from my mistakes and can avoid them on your build. And for you experts, I hope your'e not laughing too hard. I'm still learning.

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Mistakes or not, great progress man! Really nice workmanship overall. My only gripe is about the "carve" inside the lower horn. It looks really soft and smooth, but the rest of the edges of the guitar are nice and crisp. Its a small thing, but theres a definite disconnect in the design there.


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O so heres where I'm at. I drilled out the holes for my pots and pup switch and the drill decided to catch and tear out a nice chunk of wood. I used a hand drill and not the drill press. I dont know why but I did and I paid for it. I took some super glue and fastened back what I could. In the end I would up with some filler that will show slightly and a misshaped hole. Another lesson learned.


I also disassembled the guitar and went about reshaping the neck taking about 2 mm off the thickness and taking about 3 mm off the sides making it more of a c shape. Essentially chewing my cabbage twice. I dont have pics.

After this was done and my electronic holes butchered, er I mean drilled it was time to sand and fill the grain because its time to start finishing this.

So my first task was to remove the bridge studs. This is common knowledge if you search the net but I'll show you anyways. Take a washer with a hole larger then your stud, and a washer that fits a 1.25" bolt that matches your stud threads (metric and available at home depot) . And sandwich it between a piece of pipe.



Thread your bold in and turn clockwise. Your stud comes out. Real simple. Stew mac sells one that does the same thing for 40 bucks or so. I spent 2 bucks.


The next thing I did was sand everything flat using the block I described earlier. I put pencil lines on the body so I could see what I didn't sand yet.



Next I started applying grain filler. The crystalac I'm using has the consistency of hand cleaner. From experimentation I've found it easier to apply it with a cake knife and then with my fingers, rubbing it into the wood in a circular motion.



Edited by sdshirtman
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This stuff is kind of nasty. If I was thinking straighter I would have used rubber gloves.


After I've covered one side and the edges I let it sit for about 2-3 min. Just enough to set into the grain. Then I scrape off the excess with a scraper. Or you could use a credit card. Use a diagonal motion.


Then I use an old rag to rub in the rest while also removing the excess.

This is what it looks like before rubbing.



Make sure you get ALL the excess because this **** dries pretty hard and it doesn't like sandpaper.


This is what it looks like after wiping with an old shirt.



After its dry I'll sand it down to the wood with 120 grit. I dont want I want to sand past where I just filled. But I want to go deep enough to where the wood will accept wood dye. I did this process twice to my sample piece. I'm doing it twice to my guitar. Unless think I need a third. I have to keep in mind my sanding sealer will take care of any small things I missed.

After the second treatment is dry I'll sand it down with 220 instead of 120 like I used on the first treatment. Then I'll hit with 320 then 400 and I'll start doing the dye job.

That should be the next update.

Edited by sdshirtman
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Did a little work this weekend. I sanded all the sealer off then did another cycle of grain filling.

For the final sanding I used 400.


After I sanded all the grain filler & scratches down I pre-raised the grain and sanded it back until smooth. I did this twice.

Then I cleaned it with some naptha.


Finished and ready for dying.


Then started staining using water dye working from amber to dark brown on the edges.

The most difficult part for me was holding on the guitar like a big Popsicle while I stained both sides simultaneously. It took me nearly 45 min to complete this. After a while it got a little heavy. I'm not sure what it takes other people but thats what it took me.



I'm pretty happy with the final color considering its just mahogany and this is my first time.




The sides came out nice and dark.


The broad swirls of grain kinda make this look a little off. It looks much better up close and in person.

And last I dyed the headstock.


I'm going to let this dry for at least 24 hours then start shooting the sanding sealer.

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