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Inquisitive Newbie Wants To Know...


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Hey all. Quite recently (after having put together a disassembled guitar that was sent to me from overseas) I've decided to get into actually trying to build a guitar of my own. I've been making CAD models of guitar bodies for ages (I'm an architect by profession; so life past high school was all about disciplined and accurate CAD work!). I can afford to purchase exotic, figured wood; and I could probably also afford to get my CAD stuff CNC'd from it (although I don't know how to do the CAM work; but I'm hoping the CNC people could figure that out for me).

However, I have some questions about some of the (seemingly) fundamental stuff about guitar construction, the answers of which I couldn't find anywhere. Please excuse me if this stuff sounds overly silly. I understand that certain practices may have been adopted due to tonal advantages; however I'm trying to understand if there are any structural/physical issues involved here as well.

1) Why is it that a fingerboard is built out of a separate piece of wood, then glued onto the neck? Is it not possible to build the entire neck AND fingerboard out of a single piece? I found this BEAUTIFUL long piece of camphor, which is 26mm thick (i.e. a little over the combined thickness of the fingerboard and neck of one of my guitars) and I was thinking of building a neck out of it so the grain pattern is consistent all over the fingerboard and the back of the neck.

2) How do I figure out the shape and dimensions of the neck pocket (I'm talking about bolt-ons, obviously)? I understand that there isn't a constant value for the dimensions, and that it is dependent on the scale length; but what ratios do I need to use to figure it all out?

3) When building a carved top body using a CNC, is the general idea along the lines of having the top wood (assuming the top is a different piece of figured wood from the body, to get a different aesthetic) glued on to the body wood even before cutting out the base shape of the guitar body?

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the reason for the finger board is so you can get the truss rod in but you can do a skunk stripe down the back and put the trus rod in there.

you just make the neck match the body im really not sure what your asking.

there are people that glue the cap on first and people that carve then glue the cap on even though i haven't ever done a carve top body i wouldn't dream of carving first i know i would never get the cap lined up if i did that but its your call what ever you feel comfortable with.

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the reason for the finger board is so you can get the truss rod in but you can do a skunk stripe down the back and put the trus rod in there.

you just make the neck match the body im really not sure what your asking.

there are people that glue the cap on first and people that carve then glue the cap on even though i haven't ever done a carve top body i wouldn't dream of carving first i know i would never get the cap lined up if i did that but its your call what ever you feel comfortable with.

Cheers for the reply, man! :D

I guess I was overcomplicating the neck pocket thing in my head! :D Basically, I was meaning to ask that whether I should get the holes for the bolts/ferrules attaching the neck to the body drilled on to body first, or onto the neck. Because, for some odd reason, I was thinking that I get the body done first, then get a proper luthier to figure out and build the neck for me.

But upon further procrastination, I think it's logical to

1) get the neck built first

2) figure out the thickness and dimensions of the heel

3) insert them into the 3D model,

4) add in the holes for the bolts/ferrules based on the shape of the perimeter of the body in the model

5) get the body CNC'd

6) AND FINALLY align the neck into the body and drill the holes in the neck.

Am I right?

Another question: is string spacing dependent SOLELY on the type of bridge I'd be using?

Edited by TheW00tMan
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You sound like you could do to buy and read "Making Your Own Electric Guitar" By Melvyn Hiscock, It will answer the questions you have as well as ones you have not thought of.

I would also suggest staying away from some of the exotic woods on a first time build (note I am still in the early stages of my first build so if others disagree go with their thoughts over mine). The reason is not just economic but 1) The chances something will go wrong on a first build are high. Thus you could end up wasting some nice wood that could be used when your skill level is up to it. and 2) Woods like poplar and maple are more regular than many exotics and easier to work with.

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, I was thinking that I get the body done first, then get a proper luthier to figure out and build the neck for me.

you can pick up some nice necks from dealers like warmoth that would proablby be cheaper than a custom one off luither built neck. or find a neck on ebay frome what ever guitar you like.

looks like your on the right track but its really not that importatn as long as every thing lines up in the end.

Another question: is string spacing dependent SOLELY on the type of bridge I'd be using?

you also have nut width to worry about there are also things like the neck taper than you need to take in to consideration when you pick out a bridge. the best thing to do in the begining is to build a replica of a common guitar like a tele or strat you can still put your own twist in there but use the basic scale nut width bridge with and every thign to make it easier on you.

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>snip<

3) When building a carved top body using a CNC, is the general idea along the lines of having the top wood (assuming the top is a different piece of figured wood from the body, to get a different aesthetic) glued on to the body wood even before cutting out the base shape of the guitar body?

I normally will cnc the top and the bottom as separate pieces as I also chamber them with the cnc. Once joined I may final profile cut but it's just as easy to sand it. :D

Mike

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You sound like you could do to buy and read "Making Your Own Electric Guitar" By Melvyn Hiscock, It will answer the questions you have as well as ones you have not thought of.

I would also suggest staying away from some of the exotic woods on a first time build (note I am still in the early stages of my first build so if others disagree go with their thoughts over mine). The reason is not just economic but 1) The chances something will go wrong on a first build are high. Thus you could end up wasting some nice wood that could be used when your skill level is up to it. and 2) Woods like poplar and maple are more regular than many exotics and easier to work with.

Thanks! I'll try to get that book.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Question:

Does the placement of the bridge, as well as between the bridge pickup and the edge of the bridge, vary according to scale length? Or is it a fixed distance?

Yes and yes..... take some time and read up first.... building a guitar is a lot of fun, and a lot of learning.... sure they look simple, but dive in and it gets deep quick

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I would also suggest staying away from some of the exotic woods on a first time build (note I am still in the early stages of my first build so if others disagree go with their thoughts over mine). The reason is not just economic but 1) The chances something will go wrong on a first build are high. Thus you could end up wasting some nice wood that could be used when your skill level is up to it. and 2) Woods like poplar and maple are more regular than many exotics and easier to work with.

I wish someone would have told me this when I started doing this. At least I have a lot of interesting exotic scraps. And while this is not by any means universal, there seem to be a trend among new builders toward very exotic woods, whereas many experienced builders migrate toward more common, domestic, or even local wood.

I think I might just ask for a chainsaw for Christmas this year.

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I would also suggest staying away from some of the exotic woods on a first time build (note I am still in the early stages of my first build so if others disagree go with their thoughts over mine). The reason is not just economic but 1) The chances something will go wrong on a first build are high. Thus you could end up wasting some nice wood that could be used when your skill level is up to it. and 2) Woods like poplar and maple are more regular than many exotics and easier to work with.

I wish someone would have told me this when I started doing this. At least I have a lot of interesting exotic scraps. And while this is not by any means universal, there seem to be a trend among new builders toward very exotic woods, whereas many experienced builders migrate toward more common, domestic, or even local wood.

I think I might just ask for a chainsaw for Christmas this year.

With all due respect...what exactly could go wrong if the entire guitar is made of parts that have been CNC'd? I've disassembled all of my guitars to get an idea of the dimensions of every tiny detail, which I'm then putting into my CAD model. Heck, I even have the arm and back contours on my model (and I actually used to geometry to design them, as opposed to simply eye-balling the stuff)! Although I'm still struggling to figure out the design of the neck (especially in regards to it's eventual construction, as the concept of my guitar necessitates a strong structural system in the neck), I'm sure that, in the end, I'll win!

Honestly...the only reason I'm going down this route is because I know of no custom builders who can build the guitar for me for under $10k. Or atleast ones who rely heavily on CNCs. There might be ones who may be willing to hand-build my guitar; but I don't think I'd ever be satisfied knowing that my custom guitar is only 98% of what I envisioned it to be due to the fact that it was hand-built by a human, who's level of accuracy will ALWAYS be inferior to that of a computer-controlled machine. I want my guitar to be built EXACTLY the way I design it.

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OCD,much....hahaha. Guitars are some what Not a exact science.Wood is a living thing and is very complex.That is why top handmade guitars go for so much money.I venture to say ,no two guitars are alike.While cnc is very precise,wood has a life of it's own.Having said that ,as close as you can get comes to mind.I wish you the best of luck in your building ,I am sure you will learn a lot and have fun along the way.

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I would also suggest staying away from some of the exotic woods on a first time build (note I am still in the early stages of my first build so if others disagree go with their thoughts over mine). The reason is not just economic but 1) The chances something will go wrong on a first build are high. Thus you could end up wasting some nice wood that could be used when your skill level is up to it. and 2) Woods like poplar and maple are more regular than many exotics and easier to work with.

I wish someone would have told me this when I started doing this. At least I have a lot of interesting exotic scraps. And while this is not by any means universal, there seem to be a trend among new builders toward very exotic woods, whereas many experienced builders migrate toward more common, domestic, or even local wood.

I think I might just ask for a chainsaw for Christmas this year.

With all due respect...what exactly could go wrong if the entire guitar is made of parts that have been CNC'd? I've disassembled all of my guitars to get an idea of the dimensions of every tiny detail, which I'm then putting into my CAD model. Heck, I even have the arm and back contours on my model (and I actually used to geometry to design them, as opposed to simply eye-balling the stuff)! Although I'm still struggling to figure out the design of the neck (especially in regards to it's eventual construction, as the concept of my guitar necessitates a strong structural system in the neck), I'm sure that, in the end, I'll win!

Honestly...the only reason I'm going down this route is because I know of no custom builders who can build the guitar for me for under $10k. Or atleast ones who rely heavily on CNCs. There might be ones who may be willing to hand-build my guitar; but I don't think I'd ever be satisfied knowing that my custom guitar is only 98% of what I envisioned it to be due to the fact that it was hand-built by a human, who's level of accuracy will ALWAYS be inferior to that of a computer-controlled machine. I want my guitar to be built EXACTLY the way I design it.

It sounds like you have a very good chance of being successful. And when the Terminator Armageddon comes, please put in a good word for me. Likewise, if spokeshaves ever turn on mankind, I'll tell them you're alright.

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There's a million and one things that can go wrong a cnc is a tool no different than a planer router or drill press. At the end of the day its as good as its opérator. You could put the wrong bit in a 1/32" bit oversize would completely ruin the whole thing. Then you got the glueing up process that can be tricky and there's no machine for that. Then finishing where another million things can happen. And some times every thing goes right but the guitar still just isn't right.

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