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When is a Les Paul not a Les Paul…. A build thread.


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A few more pics from the archive. 

First route for the back control cavities. The initial wood removal I do with forstners, then the usual template for the rest. Never mind the forstner marks at the bottom of the cavity, this is still not to the final depth. The final depth will be adjusted based on the top carve and the existence (or not) of dishing on the top.

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Same thing for the Hollowbody, here the cavity opens to the chamber.

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I considered several options for the back of the hollow body. I was tempted with carving the back with a shallower version of the top carve, but this opened several issues for the execution of the cavity covers (would need to follow the carve), or a much more complex approach of designing a way for installing the electronics from the pickup cavities....

In the end I opted for the simple approach of a basic flat back with normal covers. There will be time for a more adventurous model...

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Next was my usual process of the topographic templates for the top carve.

The 9 templates were derived from the ones I developed before for the double cut design, and corrected for the new single cut body shape.

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All three done.

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How are your topographics derived? I've been playing around with the idea of modelling a carved top in Rhino until I'm happy with the result, then Split intersecting a series of planes to output as a template set. In fact, I might just do this as a proof of concept when I get around to making a carved top instrument....

I've always liked how the wiring channel from the switch intersects the pickup cavities to the electronics cavity perfectly for purpose. That to me is deeply satisfying.

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On 6/24/2020 at 5:29 PM, Prostheta said:

How are your topographics derived? I've been playing around with the idea of modelling a carved top in Rhino until I'm happy with the result, then Split intersecting a series of planes to output as a template set. In fact, I might just do this as a proof of concept when I get around to making a carved top instrument....

Sorry for the delay in responding.

I do not work on any 3D software. I'm a bit of a cave-man in that respect. I still work on 2D, basically on CorelDraw, that is a bit of a middle ground between a CAD and an Illustrator.

How I derived the templates it's a bit hard to put in words... I decided how I wanted the carve to flow across the two major sections defined by the offset shape (the lower bout at its widest and the waist at the narrowest points), and the centre-line. Then allocated the total thickness of the top to a number of equally incremental steps, and transported the intersections to the outline drawing. Finally I just joined the dots with curves that made proper sense. And that was it really.

 

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A bit of neck action.

Neck and fretboard blanks. All three necks are laminated. Since the grain was more at 45* than quartered, I decided to laminate the necks in two halves, with one half flipped. Once laminated the neck blanks were planed and squared to the standard dimensions I need to use my existing jigs (basically 60mm wide). In a couple of instances, the neck blanks were not deep enough for the headstock length at 17* tilt, so these were extended using a piece from the same blank.

Fretboards are also planed and thicknessed to 60mm and 5.5mm. You can see here the different woods: Honduras Mahogany/B-Rosewood for the hollowbody, Khaya mahogany/Cocobolo for the Fiftynine and Spanish Cedar/Cocobolo for the Fiftyseven.

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Neck blanks profiled. The headstock face is done first, at 17* tilt. Then the jig shown is used to shape the back of the necks with the flush-trim robosander after the rough cut. This ensures a consistent front-to-back profile.

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The headstock tilted at 17* is a known weak point in this design: lots of short grain in the transition from neck to headstock. I am not using a volute as reinforcement, and I do not like the look of scarved necks. So I have for a while adopted a spline reinforcing approach. In this case I used rosewood splines, with straight grain following the headstock plane. These will end up invisible, covered by the fretboard and the headstock face plate (and of course the will not show at the back of the neck).

At the time I was thinking of using a two-way rod for the Hollowbody, but I endeed up using a traditional compression rod for all there.

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I've been modelling mine using Rhino by swept contour curves, then intersecting the final surface with a stacked set of planes. This example is 30 (31?) layers at 0,38mm each. More than is practical for routing templates, but it does help illustrate problem areas (kink behind the bridge). This is the sort of milling detail one might take to CNC, whereas maybe 10 is better for manual routing.

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For the most part it's just knowing the places to define cross sections and how they flow into each other.

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Of course if you can't bring it off the desktop and into the wood, it's all just pretty pictures and theory! Your contouring methods seem right on the ball anyway where it counts, and most of the work is in the refinement than being off the machine.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Time to continue with this story.

Now it was truss rod installation time. I opted for a vintage style, straight/tilted channels with a maple fill strip for the three guitars.

I have been using this simple TRs with good success. This is the TR style used in classic Gibsons up to the early 60s. This is a straight rod in a slighly oblique channel that is 1/8" shallower at the headstock. It needs to run fairly close to the back of the neck to be effective, and this is why Gibson changed to the curved ones when they went for thinner necks in the 60s.

Frankly, if I were to make any changes I might go for the curved ones, but it is unlikely I will use the two way TRs for the foreseeable future. I like the idea of less steel and more wood on the neck, and in my experience, with careful neck construction and stable wood there’s no real need for a two way TR.

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On 6/30/2020 at 5:46 PM, Prostheta said:

For the most part it's just knowing the places to define cross sections and how they flow into each other.

Exactly this ! This was the idea behind the template design.

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Now about the "ears" for the headstock...

The ears usually added to the sides of the headstock have the double purpose of making up width for the headstock shape (so you don't have to use a very wide neck blank), and to add reinforcement to the headstock, which is all short grain due to the tilt back. The somewhat snake-head shaped headstock of this design calls for oblique ears to properly fulfil the second objective. This is actually in-between the classic Gibson shaped headstock and the vintage Flying Vee headstock ears.

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It's a crazy amount of material removed by the spot facer. I'm of the opinion that the traditional brass hex nut being reduced to a threaded Allen bullet is a viable option for reducing the amount needing to be removed. A large headstock angle allows for long Allen wrench access, hence less need for a wide cavity for a wrench that fits over a nut. There's only so much distance under that rod access cover though! Obviously your mitigation by splining the headstock within the short grain helps a lot. How confident do you feel about going this close to the Gibson approach? I decapped a Thunderbird once. Once. It drove me insane.

I totally agree about the truss rod. Compression rods are part of the neck whereas two-way rods simply site within it. They are rather sensitive to changes in moisture since the neck works as a balanced system. Two-way rods are mostly immune to that unless anchored in place.

I prefer a light curve within the slot in case there isn't enough up-bow from string tension to induce curve within the neck and the rod. Generally I think either method works and has its attractive points. From what I recall, Carl Thompson uses straight channels close to the back of the neck profile. I suppose that unless one has a specific reason for one or the other method, it probably comes down to which approach is best suited to one's tooling.

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2 hours ago, Prostheta said:

It's a crazy amount of material removed by the spot facer. I'm of the opinion that the traditional brass hex nut being reduced to a threaded Allen bullet is a viable option for reducing the amount needing to be removed. A large headstock angle allows for long Allen wrench access, hence less need for a wide cavity for a wrench that fits over a nut. There's only so much distance under that rod access cover though! Obviously your mitigation by splining the headstock within the short grain helps a lot. How confident do you feel about going this close to the Gibson approach? I decapped a Thunderbird once. Once. It drove me insane.

Very valid point. And actually simpler to execute. Actually, a bullet nut like the 70s Fenders could do the trick nicely.

The centerline of the spotfacer is 1/8" above the TR center just to reduce the weakening of the headstock a bit. I will consider your point for the future, this is one of those things you do automatically after building a few Gibsony tributes... 

I never broke a headstock, but saw a few. I believe the splines should take care of most of the risk. 

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It's often difficult to improve upon things, especially when you apply yourself and soon see the same problems people have been banging their heads against the wall to overcome since the year dot. A longer hex adjuster pokes out of the cavity, much like those Fender bullets. I wonder if it's possible - or has even been done - to move the adjuster to the heel end? That's an idea that really grates against the weight of tradition for compression rods. Plenty of acoustics run things this way, it's just how to access that adjuster.

I agree about the splines. They add in a surprising amount of strength once the short grain is shored up.

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