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Nic's Tele-ish Build


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Hey everyone. I've been lurking for a couple of months, so thought it was time to introduce myself. I'm Nic, from Western Australia. I did an electric guitar building course back in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with the process and promised myself I would make another one. 

 

I've had a couple of false starts since then; one later in 2015 where I bought some Australian timbers online but wasn't particularly enamoured with them when they showed up in person (qld maple neck which was nice, some random, brownish aussie fret board which never really tickled me, and a camphor laurel body blank that wasn't terribly flat and I didn't know how to flatten). So that parked up for a while. 

 

In late 2017 I got all keen again, I purchased some really nice tasmanian blackwood body and neck blanks and a nice Indian rosewood fretboard to make a bass guitar. I got going well on that one but made a mistake in gluing down the fret board and it moved, I tried to get it off but cupped it reasonably badly. I was very disappointed and parked it up again. 

 

Anyway, fast forward to earlier this year and I decided that I really needed to have another crack at it; it had been bugging me that I had never finished one. 

 

Im only getting a couple of hours a weekend to work on it, and I've started with the neck (get the hardest bit done firs,  I suppose) and I'm really stoked with how it's all going. 

 

So, to the specs, I'm doing a tele inspired, but probably closer to les paul in execution, guitar. Neck is the qld maple blank, fret board is the random brownish wood, body is the tassie blackwood, body cap will be some tassie oak I had. Pickups are two P90 style ones; I've not used them before, so keen to hear them in action. Bridge is a wrap around, tuneomatic style. 

 

I'll post a few pics to get up to the current stage of the build

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First step was cutting the fret slots. I wasn't sure how to do that and figured if I couldn't work it out there wasn't much point continuing. Ha ha. 

 

I tried a few methods to cut them by hand but my accuracy was at best so so. In the end, I made up a little mitre box jig and cut it with my small laser cutter. 

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Next step was starting on the neck blank, I got the truss rod routed in, then cut the angle for the top of the head stock. I don't have the right tools for that job, so ended up cutting it with a cheapo hand saw, then just cleaning up with the hand plane, very happy with how it came out

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From there I glued the fret board to the neck, trimmed the edges of the neck blank and head stock, then moved onto the inlay work on the fret board.

 

I was originally planning on just doing timber dot inlays, but they just looked kind of boring. I went hunting on Google images for some inspiration and found something very similar to what I settled on. The blue inlay is a reconstituted stone. The light timber inlay is an off cut from the neck blank. Then I used side dots in the front to finish it off. 

 

I made a few mistakes when I radiused the fret board and ended up sanding through one of my blue inlays, in the end I dremeled both sides of it back out and had another go. Then took more care in radiusing. Ha ha. 

 

Funnily enough, when I got to this point and threw a bit of turps on the fret board, I realised I actually quite like it, I'm happy with the colours now. So after parking it all those years ago because I didn't like the appearance, it turns out all it needed was a bit of love! Ha ha 

 

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4 hours ago, Nicco said:

Hey everyone. I've been lurking for a couple of months, so thought it was time to introduce myself. I'm Nic, from Western Australia. I did an electric guitar building course back in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with the process and promised myself I would make another one. 

 

I've had a couple of false starts since then; one later in 2015 where I bought some Australian timbers online but wasn't particularly enamoured with them when they showed up in person (qld maple neck which was nice, some random, brownish aussie fret board which never really tickled me, and a camphor laurel body blank that wasn't terribly flat and I didn't know how to flatten). So that parked up for a while. 

 

In late 2017 I got all keen again, I purchased some really nice tasmanian blackwood body and neck blanks and a nice Indian rosewood fretboard to make a bass guitar. I got going well on that one but made a mistake in gluing down the fret board and it moved, I tried to get it off but cupped it reasonably badly. I was very disappointed and parked it up again. 

 

Anyway, fast forward to earlier this year and I decided that I really needed to have another crack at it; it had been bugging me that I had never finished one. 

 

Im only getting a couple of hours a weekend to work on it, and I've started with the neck (get the hardest bit done firs,  I suppose) and I'm really stoked with how it's all going. 

 

So, to the specs, I'm doing a tele inspired, but probably closer to les paul in execution, guitar. Neck is the qld maple blank, fret board is the random brownish wood, body is the tassie blackwood, body cap will be some tassie oak I had. Pickups are two P90 style ones; I've not used them before, so keen to hear them in action. Bridge is a wrap around, tuneomatic style. 

 

I'll post a few pics to get up to the current stage of the build

hello and welcome! 

sounds like you are persistent - rock on.  Every problem has a solution, right?! 

what  coincidence - I just did a tele paul.  P90s should be cool. 

cool jig and the neck is looking great!  Looking fwd to seeing your progress. 

cheers

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4 hours ago, Nicco said:

when I got to this point and threw a bit of turps on the fret board, I realised I actually quite like it, I'm happy with the colours now.

Welcome to the addiction! Turps or even water really can reveal the real potential of the wood. The extent of that is throwing bucketloads of water over freshly sawn timber from very large diameter logs! Planing and applying turps requires less drying afterwards so that'd be more recommendable in guitar building...

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Thanks for the welcome guys. Yep, really hoping to get to turn this into a finished guitar soon. Realistically with time constraints it'll be a while off still, but slow and steady I should get there eventually. 

 

Ha ha, yes, the turps on the wood is very addictive. I've used quite a bit already! Ha ha.

 

This will be my last couple of photos for now, this brings me up to date. Over the weekend just gone I finished rough shaping the neck. I tried using a spoke shave but didn't get much joy, so resorted to using a rasp. Definitely a butcher's tool, but it got me to shape pretty quickly. The head stock side of the volute is a bit chunky for my liking, so I'll have to neaten that up a bit more. Then I'll move onto sanding it the neck and bringing it into final shape and size, then I'll get started on the body. 

 

I've also spent a bit of time playing around with body styles. I ended up laying out a bunch of different guitars on the computer and picked the bits I liked then tweaked them to fit, I reckon it's tele-ish. I've then laser cut the template and used that to make a proper routing template. 

 

I did the same with the head stock as well,  this step is obviously not chronological as I've cut it out to this shape in the earlier pictures. 

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At this point a too chunky volute isn't an issue. It's easier to take material off than add it.

And the accuracy of laser cut templates! That's something you should start another thread about on the Tools forum... And speaking of laser cutting there was a guy on the late Crimson forum who cut the fret slots and inlay cavities and pieces with a laser cutter. The inlays weren't too standard: They were planes he had flown and not only the shape, they had windows as well!

1 hour ago, Nicco said:

I'm planning on doing a carve top... i think trying to go hollow body and carve top is a bridge too far for me at the moment

For me carving the top in the LP manner has proved the most challenging. The arch was pretty straightforward but the rim turning up again was something I doomed as unergonomic during the process... My first one was a Tele Slimline type, flat top with a single F-hole. That was an easy one, just cut the hole and route the body hollow underneath it. A carved top semi hollow isn't much more difficult as there's a ridge in the middle on both the top and bottom. The cavity under the F-hole only needs to be large enough to give the impression of hollow. An inch wider than the hole is sufficient as the effect to the electric sound is nominal and comparable to the control cavity. For the same reason the underside of the top doesn't need to be carved in the manner of an arch top hollowbody. Simply slant the edge around the F-hole so that it looks like the top were only a few mm thick.

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Thanks guys for the kind words again, especially coming from guys who make such amazing long instruments. I'm definitely enjoying working through this and try to push myself a bit on the design. 

As for the carve top, Bizman, it's the order of operations that's got me a bit flummoxed. I want to do binding on the front which I was planning on using a router and template bit for, so I need to cut the channels before I do the carve but after the top is glued to the back of the body.

 

The only two ways I can think of to get the exposed edge of the top thinned out like you've said are to either do it after I've done the carve from the outside with needle files, or to do it before I glue the top on and do the carve later.

 

First option is fiddly but would probably work okay, especially as the f hole is reasonably open in my design. 

 

The second option would work as well... but there's a real commitment to the depth of the carve and making sure I can execute it properly. That's a big call. Ha ha. 

 

I spose I've just answered my own question, I'd probably go with the first option. 

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1 hour ago, Nicco said:

the order of operations that's got me a bit flummoxed. I want to do binding on the front which I was planning on using a router and template bit for, so I need to cut the channels before I do the carve but after the top is glued to the back of the body.

So you want a binding surrounding a carved top, and an F-hole. There's a third way and it's pretty simple:

Attach the full thickness top temporarily to the bottom and route the channel using a template bit. If you want to you can even go a mm or two to the bottom side depending on the width of your binding. Then carve the top at least on the side of the F-hole side so you have a reference for carving the inside. Then simply glue the top and bottom  together, taking care of wiping any excess glue off for a smooth base for binding.

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Taking that idea a bit further, attach the top to the body with a couple of screws located to where the neck join (or neck bolts), pickups or bridge posts are going to be. They'll serve as locating pins during the final gluing and the screw holes will be carved away.

In case the body pieces still are rectangular, you can use bolts or screws to attach the top and bottom together from the corners outside the body shape and carve a groove to where the binding is going to be. However, with that method the top may start moving towards the end of the process and you'll lose the alignment aids when you shape the body so the first way seems to be more recommendable.

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Yeah, that sounds like a good way to tackle it. I was also thinking about using a couple of dowels as well. Potentially could even leave them permanently between the top and bottom pieces so long as they don't poke through the surface.

 

I got a little more time in the shed today, even though next job on the list was sanding the neck I couldn't resist jumping forwards a little and rough cutting the body and cap. Then I couldn't resist putting some turps on the blackwood and doing a mockup with the bridge and pick ups. Ha ha. 

 

I did a very rough layout of where the carve would start from, I'm still not 100% sold on the f hole. I'll have to wait and see on that one. 

 

The body blank is 29mm thick, so a little smaller than I'd probably want it ideally, that's the main reason I'm going to go with a carve top... otherwise the cap would look odd being relatively quite thick, it gives me a chance to thin down the edges but keep the thickness in the middle. 

 

I've also bought myself some dyes to play with for the top when I get there. I'm not sure how good the tassie oak will look dyed, so if it's rubbish/ boring I'll go with plan b which is a solid colour on the face. 

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That F-hole design of yours sure looks sexy and might act as a counterweight to the knobs on the other cheek. Cheek? Hmm, if the narrow part is called a waist then the wide lower bout definitely has cheeks. Don't y'all agree?

Dowels are fine, especially if you have some dowel marker pins.

Isn't it frustrating to try to decide what to do with a cap that has no fancy figuration to be enhanced?! Plain wood can look as furniture, yet simple guitars like the SG can also look stunning. I guess I'll have to split my offcuts to get more pieces to try dyes on!

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to get a crack at the guitar again. Managed to sneak in an hour today, so got the tassie blackwood lower part of the body outside rout finished up. It came out mostly really well, very happy with the shape, but unfortunately got done pretty bad tear out at the top of the neck pocket. I've got more than enough meat in there to reshape it to suit, but still a pain. In the photos below, i left a bit of meat on it when I did the second pass, which is why there's a weird ledge there.

 

Does anyone have tips on how to avoid tear out in the first place? I've got a bit to fix on the headstock too, so I'm keen to stop making myself more patch up work! Ha ha. 

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8 hours ago, Nicco said:

Does anyone have tips on how to avoid tear out in the first place?

Take smaller bites by using less of the cutting flute length and taking more passes. Remove as much excess by other means (cut closer to the outline on the bandsaw, shave waste off using a rasp) before you tackle it with the router. For problem areas where the routing direction starts to work against the grain flip the body over and use a bit with the bearing on the top and rout 'downhill' instead.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey Curtis, 

Yeah, I'll have a play with some of those ideas, thanks. I think the flipping it over would be a good one around those trouble spots. 

I'd already tried to take off as much as I could, but I've only got a jigsaw, so there were a couple of close calls where the bottom of the blade got a little wayward. Ha ha. Rasping it down though is another good idea. I'll try that on the top. 

 

 

Thanks! 

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So I managed a little more time lately. A little bit if two steps forward and one step back though. Ha ha. 

So for the router tear out; that's now fixed. I've reshaped the end a little and actually reckon it fits the overall shape better now. Key is going to be not tearing out the top when I get to the same spot!

I also spent a bit of time marking out the positions of the control cavity, the pickup selector switch cavity and the channels to take the wiring. 

There was a bit of disappointment around the control cavity though. ☹ I ended up sketching it out in situ on the body, then traced it with tracing paper, scanned it, converted it to a drawing foot the laser cutter, and then cut it out to give me a proper routing template... I wanted a good result and nice smooth walls. 

All great in theory, but where I came unstuck was in using the piece straight off the laser cutter (very thin material) and not transferring it to something more solid. The upshot of that was the router bearing crushed up into the slightly soft MDF edge and gave me a wonky cut. 

To say I was pissed off would be an understatement! Ha ha. 

Anyway, the cut has extended about 3mm beyond where I wanted it, and I've got plenty of meat left to clean it up, so I'll make a new template, transfer it to a thicker, stronger medium next time, then try again. Shouldn't be too hard to fix. 

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Yeah, it's a great looking bridge, it's a Schaller Signum. Cost me more than I wanted to spend, but it just looked so good! Ha ha. I also figured that if I was going to the trouble of building the whole guitar, I might as well make it the best I could. 

The guitar I made back in 2015 had a Floyd Rose on it, but in reality I don't think I've ever actually used it in anger, so I wanted to try hard tail this time. 

 

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Thanks AD! And yep, I'm very happy with the bridge so far. 

I had the in laws visiting this weekend, so that was a good excuse to go and steal some shed time! 🤣🤣

Made some really good progress. I fixed up the control cavity (still made a little mistake, but much less bad than before and can cover it up with the cavity cover. Chalk that one up as a learning experience

I've also put the chamfer on the under side of the body, put in a flat on the inside of the control cavity that will be where the jack plug goes through to the outside. Then got started on the control cavity cover. 

Im going to be that guy and blow my own trumpet here (he he he), I ended up resawing a 5mm thick slice of the off cut blackwood to become the cavity cover with my shitty hand saw. Very chuffed with how that came out 🤣 Would have loved to have a band saw though. Ha ha

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