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Bent side ES style

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The weather was gorgeous yesterday, so I decided to get to work on the extensive prep work on the bent side Gibson ES-like guitar. I'll be needing to make both the bending mold and the construction form from scratch. I decided to use 1/2" MDF, since the forms I have from LMII are all MDF. It'll have to be made with several layers all glued up.


I'm starting off with a LP template and going from there. I'm wanting the body to be about 1" bigger on all sides, and have a Florentine cutaway. Tracing the template gives me the base to work from.


Then we see one of my high-tech jigs: block of wood (cherry) with a depth line marked on it. 


Then we mark out the extra width and connect the dots.



I got a bit carried away drawing it our and sketched it out completely without taking any pics. 

I'm looking at a Fender scale 25.5". 5 minutes of research tells me that a LP meets the neck at the 16th fret, and most other archtops meet at the 14th. With the "in-between" size of this one, I'll be using the 15th,

Note that the hardware used is only a placeholder.



I have plenty of options for pickups without buying any. The two I'm leaning towards are either an original Gibson Marauder set or a Peavey Super Ferite 3-single set.  I have a DiMarzio HH set too, but I'm thinking they'll have the wrong vibe.  Part of be also wants to go on eBay for some vintage gold foil surface mounts.


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1 hour ago, avengers63 said:

Then we see one of my high-tech jigs: block of wood (cherry) with a depth line marked on it. 

I've got one of those! Only mine is bubinga. That's a very useful jig.

Bending sides intimidates me. I'll be watching this with interest.


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Making necks intimidated the shit out of me. 

I have the bending machine from LMII. It's super easy to use. I fubar-ed a lot of test pieces before I learned how damn thin the wood has to be. At 1/8", it was all cracking apart. Pissed me off so bad. 3/32 seems to work OK.

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58 minutes ago, MiKro said:

Wow John, is that a small craftsman saw for doing fret slots I see on the floor? Been a long time since I used that. I hope it is still giving you good service? Looking good Old Man.  :)


I love what people notice in the background. 😂 Yes, it's the very same saw. The setup and jig work perfectly. It's a 1-trick pony, nut what a trick! You have no idea how grateful I still am for that gift. 

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The weather isn't beautiful this morning, but it doesn't suck either, so I better get SOMETHING done. My workspace isn't air conditioned anymore, so an hour or two in the morning is about the best I can manage.

These are the bending molds & firms I need to model mine after.



There is a good size difference from the mold to the form, maybe 1/8"-3/16". There is also a 2" overhang from the center line so the mold can sit on the stand and the form can hinge together. Taking this into account, as well as the width of the form, I cut the MDF blanks to 12"x24"


Find the center, mark the 2" overhang, repeat the drawing process.



It's basically impossible to perfectly cut a long, sweeping curve on a scrollsaw. The inside piece shaped up nicely with the belt sander and some 60 grit. It's amazing that the best tools you have to tell if the curves are right are your eyes & fingers. You can just feel when it's right or not.

I'll fiddle with the inside mold more later. I wanna come back to it and feel it with "fresh fingers". This will be the routing template for the rest of the bending mold, so I need to spend some extra time on it. When it's finessed into shape, I'll try and route both the form and mold pieces at the same time with a small straight bit. If it works, it'll save a lot of work making the pieces for the form.

And I still don't know what woods I'll be using yet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

we finally have a sub-90 degree morning, so off to the garage for me. I only had an hour or so before I wimp out at 90, so I tried to make it count.

The intention here was to screw the 1st piece to another, then use a 1/8" straight bit and cut both the bending frame and the mold in one fell swoop. I also compared the mold I have for the depth of the groove that needs to be cut. I figured to put the screw holes along the track so there aren't random screw holes in the molds.


So off to the router table and........


......as usual, things don't go as planned. The bit, pattern piece, and MDF just didn't wanna play well together.

Plan B is doing it the ysyal way: mark the line, cut it out on the bandsaw, and route it to the template. I was hoping to save some steps and materials, but it's what it is.


All 3 pieces for the bending frame done. Next time I can lay out and cut the groove for them to sit on the other piece of the frame, and assemble them with spacers.

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Its interesting, one of my recent projects is a Les Paul shape plus 1/2 an inch round the outside. I also have plans to do an ES, but not bent sides, that is way beyond my scope of abilities! It looks like a great project you've got there, hope it goes well!

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Temp dove into the mid 70's today. Time to go to my happy place.

Next on the list is making the pieces for the body form and interior clamps. Taking a look at the mold from LMII I'm basing the construction on....


.....the interior clamp is 5.5" at the widest. I figure since mine is quite a bit more narrow than a dreadnaught, 5" will be fine. We'll just have to see how it ends up in the long run.

My first attempt at making a piece of the form involved a cutoff from the bending mold and a drim sander attachment on the drill press. Let's just say it didn't exactly go as planned and leave it at that.

I used the bending mold at a starting point for the next attempt. After tracing the shape, I added about 1/8" and drew the line I'd be shooting for. The plan was to cut it on the bandsaw and go back to the drum sander. It wasn't REALLY doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I had a LINE this time. 


AND HOLY SHIT! It worked EXACTLY like I was hoping for! Just a minute of smoothing with 60 grit and it was about as perfect as I could reasonably expect.  HOODY HOO!!!!!!!  Time to make enough for the forms and route them all to the template.


And that's when I realized I had just jumped ahead of myself. Now I have to glue them together, all perfectly aligned on the routed inside edges. Clearly, I SHOULD have just made 2 - one for each half - and glued the un-routed pieces to it.

[sarcasm] So remember kids - ALWAYS get ahead of yourself. Because doing something you've never done and have no instructions to follow isn't hard enough on it's own. You should ALWAYS make it harder for yourself than necessary. [\sarcasm]

With that lesson learned, I glued & screwed the inside clamp pieces before routing them.


I'm thinking that's about enough for today. I still have to work tonight, so I don't wanna cut the time too close.

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Either you are trying out every method you can come up with to do something new that you've never done before--and then choosing which way you like the best....or....you are trying the method you thought made the most sense, and came up with ways to improve the process before you even finished.

That's not getting ahead of yourself, that's research and development.:D


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Thanks, pal.  👍

After thinking about it for a bit, all I need to do is glue up the form pieces a little offset from the one I want to be the template. Then I can even them all up again on the router table.

I have way too much experience figuring out how to fix the issues I created. 🙄

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I needed to make the pieces of each side of the form first. Then I can glue the rest together offset. Here's what I'm trying to mimic. The sides are held together with a piece of PVC tubing.


It took me waaaaaaay too long to think my way through the process. I'm smarter than this!



The shadow is obscuring what I was wanting to show you.The bottom of the mold isn't rounded the way I want it. The transition is too sharp for my liking. I'll have to work it with some sandpaper later.

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  • 1 month later...

Here we have the bending mold from LMII and the pieces I cut out.



I made the lines about where the holes need to be, then attacked it with a router, basically freehand. 



It could have turned out a LOT worse. Use the 1st one as a template... lather/rinse/repeat... now we have 4 molds that need to be assembled into one unit.

Waste not, want not, right? I'll use the cutoffs from the notches I made to serve as spacers in between the mold pieces.


The OCD in me says I need to make a 1" line from the bottom as a guide and line up the center line.


Just a line of glue and some trigger clamps set it all in place. Tomorrow, I'll be able to glue the pieces into a mold.



Now over to the bending form!!!!

The LMII form is a pretty simple system. It shouldn't be too hard to mimic. 



First, I lined them all up and made the holes for the piece of 3/4" PVC pipe.  Because I know me, I labeled them all left or right.



After cutting the appropriate notches, we test fit the whole thing before it's glued up. I ended up having to cut up some of the "top" of the mold at the hinge so it opens/closes freely. That's why we test fit.



It took me forever to line up the left half to get it into the clamps. It would NOT stop sliding around. I really should have seen that one coming. For the other side, I drilled out some holes and pegged them with a 1/2" dowel rod for alignment.



Did that go as planned? Of course not. One of them would NOT come out. So it's a part of the mold now. Oh well.



I have a 3-day stint off work, and the temperature is amazing, so there WILL be more updates over the next 2 days.


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I was at Hobby Lobby yesterday getting a frame when I saw this. I thought y'all might appreciate it.



In progress news.... The form turned out as well as I could have hoped for, considering I've never done this before.


And the bending mold is in the clamps, so it's essentially done.


Next is to make the "waist press" for the bending jig. This is the one from LMII...


Make one, finessing the curve into shape on the disk sander, then make the rest.


And now I need to eat. More to come later.

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Back to work.

All that's left to do before the actual fun stuff happens is the mold & form for the cutaway and the inside clamps.


I cut off a piece of MDF, and if there's enough length left, I'll make another 25" scale neck/fretboard template. The old one has seen better days...


So I got a piece all finessed into shape with a compass outline and the disk sander...


glued & screwed the other 2 pieces t it...


a quick cutout on the bandsaw, a zip through the router table, and we have the bending mold for  the cutaway.


I tried to shortcut the process for the piece that goes into the clamping form. The shortcut didn't work (shocker), so all I can show you is it in the clamps. At least the new 25" scale template turned out right!



The interior spread clamps from LMII...



What I started out with, and what I ended up with.


The spreaders are just threaded rod, wing nuts, and washers, all from Home Depot.

After seeing the final product, it occurs to me that I'll have to make another right side piece of the spreader clamps. There's no room for the cutaway form. There's a chance I COULD get away with just cutting the right half of this one in two, just North of the waist. I gotta do some research.

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For the box & bracing, I bought a 10" long, 6" wide piece of 7/8" douglas fir. Pine is inexpensive, and I already know it sounds great, so a $20 piece of lumber is definitely the right thing to use on a "learning curve" piece. I'm not worried one bit about the majority of the box construction. I'm a little iffy on doing the cutaway and PROPERLY attaching an electric-style neck onto an acoustic body. 

My local lumber yard is OK with me going through to find the piece of lumber I want, so I managed to find one that's nearly perfectly quartersawn. 

For the fretboasrd, I looked through my stack and found one I've been holding on to damn near since I started woodworking. I always intended to use it as a fretboard, but never did. I honestly don't know what species it is. It kinda looks like lightly flamed walnut, but the color is a little off. Anyway, I guess since I've held onto the thing for so long, this is as good a time as any to use it.


Time to get re-acquainted with the circular saw jig I made to assist in re-sawing wood for acoustics. Considering how little room there is for error in re-sawing that thin a piece, and how I'm REALLY not good at it, cutting a deep notch into both sides helps me out tremendously. Of course, I fucked up about 1/4 of the piece cuz I haven't done this in over 3 years, but that's why I bought such a big piece. 


So what was the yield from a 10' x 6" x 7/8" board?


A dinky little pile of thin wood and bracing. 

It's 2 pieces for the sides, 4 each for the front & back, the back bracing, front bracing, bridge block, and center block.

The top will NOT have your traditional acoustic bracing. There will be a 7/8" x 3" piece running straight through the middle to reduce vibration and limit feedback. As it will have a TOM/stop bar, the bridge block will likewise need to be substantial enough to hold it in place.

As for the kerfing...


...a leftover douglas fir 1x3 will do nicely.  I figure the end & neck blocks will also end up being doug fir. So much else is, there's no point in using a traditional tonewood at this stage. Besides, we all know I LOVE kicking luthier tradition and wood-voodoo square in the dick. :D

So there you go. 3 days off and a metric shit-ton of progress that sorely needed to be done. All the molds & forms are done, all the milling is done. When next we meet, I'll be doing the fun bits.

Peace, love, and humptiness. 😎

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Tradition and voodoo are rarely the same thing in my experience....tradition is often the product of development based on pressures, limitations and generations of experience, whereas voodoo is the shit you find advertised in the back of guitar mags or the wank that companies like Graph Tech lay thick in their writeups about "tone", "sustain" or "an extra two inches".

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