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Mickenbacker II - The "Gretschenbacker"


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I built my first guitar a few years back, a hollow-bodied bass inspired by the discontinued Rickenbacker 4005, and have been itching to build a 6-string ever since. I recently took a fancy to the Gretsch 5622 but figured I'd have a go at building one, with a few twists, again inspired by my love of Rics. Hence, the concept for the Gretschenbacker came about. Essentially, the tail is to be profiled in a Ric 330/360/4005 style with a chromed tailpiece. The sound holes are to be more in keeping with the Ric cat's eye shape instead of the Gretsch flavor of the 5622. Probably the final Ric influence will be twin low profile truss rods. The rest of the guitar including body silhouette, neck and headstock shall be more reminiscent of the Gretsch. The electronics, including the pickups, shall also be genuine Gretcsh

Instead of a traditional arch-top build, I decided to route out the hollow body from a solid chunk of maple... or rather 2 chunks of maple to achieve the 17" wide body. I also had the thought of increasing the depth of the body to approx. 3" without really considering if I could lay my hands on a router bit that would plunge to that depth. Luckily, I found one and it's on its way as I type. In the meantime, I've planed and glued the body halves and cut the rough profile. I've also spent some considerable time recreating the "Mickenbacker" tailpiece from my first build. This time, I'm using brass instead of steel to make life a little easier.

Progress so far is documented in the photos below...

 

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Bridge...? That's a spares bridge for the Rics. I have a Tune-o-matic bridge on its way.

Yep, that's a mini forge for meting soda cans. I really built it as a science experiment with y 10 year-old daughter. I did consider using it to help cast an aluminium tail-piece but I'm not convinced it's a good material for such function.

I was hoping to post some photos of the brass tailpiece but it seems I have exhausted my image storage space and may have to host elsewhere...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Spent more time on the tailpiece... polishing, chroming and working on the backside; not as pretty as the front but certainly more functional.

I started the routing with my trusty 8mm shank bit but had to switch to the new 2-1/2" deep cut bit after around 1-1/2" into the neck pocket route. Unfortunatley, the deep cut didn't seem to cut as easily or as cleanly as the shorter bit so I made my incremental passes around 50% shallower as I was afraid of breaking the skinny 1/4" shank. To no avail, and before I reached full depth the shank gave way!

I was unable to find a 8mm shanked deep cut bit so I'm upgrading my router to one with a 1/2" collet and will be getting a better quality deep cut bit to match. Fingers crossed I get a cleaner more effective cut.

chromedtail01.jpg

chromedtail02.jpg

backroute01.jpg

backroute02.jpg

backroute03.jpg

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You know what it's like... the wife was bugging me to watch a TV show with her. "I'll just be a minute sweetheart". 20 minutes later I'm still trying to get the pictures to show up and getting some serious frowny face.

I've been inspired by the CNC threads and would like to look into machining these tail-pieces for my future works. Not sure how the Shapeoko or Carve-X will cope with 1/4" brass plate, even if it's just roughing out the basic profile. I like that each one is different when done by hand but it takes some serious time and elbow grease to produce, time that might be better spent on the meat of the guitar instead. I'm also considering a new design that isn't so Rickenbackeresque but haven't managed to design anything that matches up aesthetically.

Picking up the new router in the morning so I should be able to get on with that neck pocket.

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Still using "old faithful" for the shallow routing. She's an old 240V plunge router from when I was still living in the UK. I found the same one here, discontinued for $65...Quality...!!!

I finished the neck pocket off today before planning the layout and necessary cuts for the pups. I had to re-profile the neck end of the body as I had made it way too long. The 19th through 22nd frets would have been beached on the body. I managed to pull that back around 1-1/2 frets with the modification.

pocketroute.jpg 

gbacker01.jpg

gbacker02.jpg

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12 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Frankly, I'm blown away by your chops on the tailpiece, I really am. Your dollar store reading glasses look just like my "daily drivers" for when I'm doing work where they might be in the line of fire.

Nice of you to say. In some ways, working metal is easier than wood and as as it's slower it's harder to make a mistake. My impatience often gets the better of me when working with wood. A friend just donated a belt/disc sander combo to the cause and I've been using it to clean up the sides which were extremely rough from the band-saw. Blink for a second and your lovely radius is now looking like a polygon...!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Managed to find a few hours over the weekend to progress a little. I cleaned up the body profile on the belt and spindle sanders and continued with the long laborious job of routing towards a target depth of over 2-1/2" into maple. I mean, whose bright idea was that...!!? Last week I broke out the AutoCAD to plan for the neck and string geometry instead of scribbling numbers on the back of an envelope. I tried using A9CAD (as my version of AutoCAD doesn't work on anything Win8 onwards) but the software is useless and can't locate its arse from its elbow. Eventually, I had to resurrect my Win7 laptop just for AutoCAD.

 

backroute04.jpg

backroute05.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

Been off the project for a while but having a few days off I decided to get on with excavating the hollow. Unfortunately, I came across a hidden defect in the wood, which turns out to be a pretty bad crack. If you look on earlier photos you can see it in the end grain but I thought it was just an artifact from the bandsawing and would need to be sanded out or filled. In digging down into it, not only did I expose the crack but also weakened the integrity of the remaining structure, allowing the crack to work through to the top side of the body. I've glued the crack as it is but my plan is now to laminate another piece with perpendicular grain on the back side and route around it. Not ideal but I've put too many hours in to start over on the body. I was hoping to start on the neck before heading back to work next week.

crack01.jpg

 

crack02.jpg

 

crack03.jpg

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That's a drying fault. Either the board wasn't sealed at the ends well, or was cut to size before it was properly dry. The main crack is the obvious sign, however the faint white radial cracks nearby are the telling ones. I'm sure that the wood has done what it wants to do in terms of movement however I can say for definite that this cannot simply be glued and clamped shut. The wood is far stronger than that, and will force the crack back open.

I've spent the week selecting and cutting down Birch boards for live edge dining tables, so I'm just about sick of seeing cracks and defects all the way in the end grain. Sucks that it happened man!

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