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ETB Xtrec Build (my take on the explorer shape)


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So I've been a long time on/off lurker here, and I decided to sign up and document my current build, I just build as a hobby (although I'd love to make it a business, although I've read its not easy). Any ways, I've started this build at the beginning of September and I've finally dedicated the time to put together some photos of my progress thus far, and I'll likely update as I get work done on it.

So as an overview, this is my take on the gibson explorer shape. My first guitar was a jay turser explorer clone, and I've dug the shape of explorers and similarly shaped guitars since I started playing (and to this day). After buying my first guitar, I jumped into building guitars. My 2nd and 3rd builds were another of my own design but greatly inspired by a Jackson kelly and warrior morphed together, I call it the Infinity and you can find it in my pictures of my gear in my profile and there's a thread somewhere. Now I'm on my 5th build and the design started out as a smoother redesign of the infinity shape I made, until it eventually became more of a modernized take on the explorer shape.Here's the low down of the specs;

25" scale Ziricote fretboard
Birdseye Maple/Zebrawood laminated neck
Black Limba body with Quilted Maple top
Schaller Hannes bridge, Gotoh Locking Tuners, Tusq XL nut, Reilander RH2 reverend humbuckers, freeway 6 way switch for hum/both/hum/coil/both/coil, 1 concentric pot for neck and bridge volume, 2 concentric pot for treble/bass cut 1 for neck, 1 for bridge.

And now, progress.

The plan
Black Limba body blank (normally I would build my own blank but I ordered one on the account of lack of access to a planer)

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Scalloped headstock! because I love em, I need em, can't get enough of em.

Gluing the ziricote fretboard to the neck

Spoke nut truss rod, I personally like the look, and they are easy to adjust

Shaped the taper of the neck, also notice the binding channel on the one side! something exciting coming!


Edited by Prostheta
fixed a broken image link
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First time using alternating wood (actually got the idea browsing builds on here) instead of inlays, and I think I'm gonna do it this way from now on.

Trimmed up, dayum I like that!

Top view, look at the grain on the ziricote, so purdy.

This is what I started on today! compound radius 12 to 16 sanded to 1200 grit and polished with a cotton t-shirt.

Gluing some frets in, I hammer them in, always have, and probably always will, too cheap to buy a press lol.

Currently waiting for the glue to dry, then I will trim the frets and start on the body, either later today or tomorrow.

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Welcome to the forum, glad you signed up and started to share! The build is looking good! I would be a bit afraid of using such a wild grain on a neck stringer as it will almost always look a bit "off", regardless of how well aligned the neck scarf actually is. I think i t can be seen in one of the pictures, first impression is that the joint is off center, but when looking a second time it is actually the grain pattern that folks the eye. A thin veneer or contrasting piece of wood in between the neck and head would have solved that . Apart from that small detail (and really, not meant as criticism); both thumbs up!

Edited by SwedishLuthier
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Oh wow, that does like quite svelte! The only thing I see missing from your plan is a bridge grounding channel. Will that go through the pickup routs from the neck pocket with a long drill or straight to the cavity? Either way, that Hannes will look great with its own svelteness.

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@SwedishLuthier Yeah, the Zebrawood will always appear off, it was actually added to the build on a whim, it was just gonna be a maple neck with no laminate, then I saw some scrap zebrawood that I've had for ages lying around and decided I was going to add it. Had I a piece with straighter grain I would of used it. Another other option would have been to forego the scarf and cut out laminates with the angled headstock, but I didn't quite have the width of wood to do so. Thanks though!

@Prostheta I'm not sure yet, likely I'm just going to drill an angled hole from the base plate to the cavity. Cavity position is not 100% quite yet, I'm probably going to fiddle with a few knob placement ideas first (nothing drastic) before its finalized. Thanks!

Edited by EthanB08
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You've got some very nice timbers here. That ziricote in particular is a special piece. I love the stuff, but you have to keep an eye on it. Evil spirits seem to choose it for possession over all others species. Beautiful work so far. You are probably saying the same thing but the only place to ground a Hannes is from the string keeper block. That is the only piece of metal strings come into contact with on that thing.

I'm looking forward to the progress on this.


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This is actually the third ziricote fretboard I've used on a build lol, I got a nice piece and I was able to resaw 3 fretboards with the same grain pattern. When I bought the piece it had one check through the whole piece but it was close enough to the edge that I could work around it. So I resawed it and very lightly/slowly machine planed it and cut the slots with a table saw jig back when I worked in a cabinet shop.


The blanks sat in my dry basement (stacked for air clearance of course) for about a year and didn't get any checks or move/warp at all. So for me, it pretty much was a straight line journey :P. I've been fairly lucky with my choice in exotic woods (thus far anyways, probably jinxed the whole build now lol *knock on wood*)

But yes by drilling/grounding to the baseplate I mean the string plate on the back.

Any ways, on to today. First I drilled out some bulk of wood from the control cavities and routed wire channels.


Then I used some templates I made yesterday to clean up the cavities, followed by shielding paint.



Some time tonight I'll probably move on to leveling the frets and crowning, We'll see how lazy I feel.

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Sure is, I bought a tin from stewmac's a while back for some other builds. Instructions say 3 coats 24 hours apart, so that's what I do and I find it works pretty well. I've done the copper tape route (and I still use copper on the control cavity plates) but I find the paint is cleaner looking and its much more convenient to "install" than tape is, plus with the amount required to do a guitar I imagine my tin will last for a lot of builds.

Any who, got to levelling and crowning tonight.

Frets are levelled, crowning/polishing is next.

This is a picture after using #180 and #400 fret erasers, still have to go up to #1000, but the frets are starting to look cleaner.

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Not normally, I do have a dremel though so one day in the future I might get one of those small buffing wheels and try that route. For the the fun of it though I did try some hand polishing with some compound, it looks alright. 
After going through up to #1000 fret eraser. The dots on the  tape are so I know which frets are done. The line was me experimenting with the compound.

It turned out alright, really digging the grain though in this pic.

Drilled the tuner holes.

Just another view.

Control cavity cover plate recesses routed and painted with conductive/sheilding paint.

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Ziricote fretboard is a stunner in this one.  From some angles it almost looks like the dark lines are fissures and splits all through.  Very eye-catching.



Careful with your wire channels.  Looks like the neck pickup wire channel is a right angle under the bridge pickup on its way to the control cavity.  Might be difficult to run the wire without it getting snagged on the corner.

Edited by curtisa
Typos and wording
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I saw that too, but the channels are cut so that the neck pickup will be thread through to the bridge pickup cavity and then use the same channel as the wire from the bridge pickup

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Yeah the pickup wires go from the neck to the bridge and then to the control cavity, I don't think it will be an issue with snagging. I'll have some room to play in the bridge pickup route.

anyways, a bit more progress coming along.
Gluing the top on, I typically do one side at a time, Mainly due to a lack of clamps, I have a 4 way equal pressure clamping thing somewhere that I'll maybe experiment with some day.

Neck routing jig... I should really clean my little shop/room

Neck joint looks alright, it's tight but not quite "lift it by the neck tight" I should have put some tap on the insides of the jig pieces so it was a little tighter... Live and learn I guess.

Full shot, bridge isn't mounted yet, just sitting on top.

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I glue the top as two separate pieces, I'll run a piece of masking tape along one side of the centre line, apply glue to the other side and glue one half of the bookmatch to that side making sure I'm lined up with the tape/centre line. Then I clamp it and let any excess glue squeeze out and remove the masking tape at the centre line. Then I simply wait till it dries and apply glue to the other side and add the other half of the bookmatch with the same process.

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Yeah it can definitely be a risk, I spent a lot of time making sure it would fit nicely. Clamping the tops flat and straightening their edges on a sanding/shooting jig, and some very fine scraping after the first top was glued. The main reason I did it this way was because these particular tops were 1/8" thick and they had warped (being a bookmatch they warped the same way which is opposite when flipped) so I didn't really have a feasible way to clamp/glue them together before hand, so I just did it as such and got decent results.

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Quick note on the tight neck pocket thing. This is something seen too much, and a badly propagated bit of bad practice. You've got it spot on;  finger tight is best. If it's so tight that you can lift the body, there is risk of glue starvation on the sidewalls of the joint plus seasonal movement differences between the neck (radial, tangential) can cause cracks. Super tight necks are bullshit, originated from luthier oneupmanship "my woodworking is better". It doesn't help that it has somehow become seen as best practice, because it's far from it. 

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Yeah I'm not personally worried about it, it's by no means a sloppy fit, I have had tighter fits, but I've definitely had looser fits on earlier builds :P. It's a bolt on so glue starvation shan't be an issue.  But it is reassuring to hear that uber tight is not necessarily best practice as I have often been lead to believe. 

Anyway my bench top drill press is to small to reach into the middle of the body to drill the holes for the hannes bridge, so I ended up making a small 3/4 jig on my drill press with all the hole placements and used it (clamped in place) along with a bubble level on the back of my hand drill to drill the holes. Turned out great, the hannes fits and all the holes line up through to the back. One of the string holes is about 1mm out of line but it will be hidden under the string plate. 


Also routed the pickup cavities and applied a layer of conductive paint. 


Tomorrow I will likely rough cut the shape out and trim with the template and my trusty M
ilwaukee 5616-20 (She's a real beast).

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