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First time building and working on guitars......


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So Hi, I am new to the forum and I was directed here from PRS forums.

I am currently 15 years old and I have fallen in love with luthiery and have wanted to do luthiery for a long time now. I learn all I know from Stew Mac and Dan Erlewine. I am able visualize things on the guitar that I am working on and understand how that works. I am learning sanding techniques, measurements, trade secrets and much more on my own. I really enjoy luthiery because it's such a hands on thing, and I am able to understand what is happening. This is my current setup at the moment: https://imgur.com/gallery/kzs8NJZ I have all that I need, pliers, hammers, screwdrivers, N95 masks for obvious protection, titebond and razors and a lot more.

So currently I am working on two guitars, a kit from the fretwire and I am taking apart my squire strat. Today I got the rest of the frets out and I am going to re radius the board to a flatter radius, maybe 14-17 inches. I currently need to get radius blocks and frets from stewmac because I need to get a better radius. I may consider switching the current pickups and electronics to CTS pots and switches and jacks and texas special pickups from Fender.

However, I am getting an itch to actually build a guitar from the ground up. A local exotic wood dealer has white limba neck blanks for 6.99 a board and Honduran rosewood boards for the fingerboard for 15 dollars! I currently need a spoke shave and a japanese saw blade or a file to shape the neck and a truss rod and other things.

Would this be good to do for my first project? My dad has more experience with carpentry and stuff like that and rebuilt our whole deck by himself. However I am fairly well versed on what you need to do to shape a neck and can follow youtube videos for it. Advice?

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The price of wood sure doesn't ruin your finance even if you fail in your first build! Go for it!

Although StewMac is very good, I suggest you to widen your vision by viewing some other builders as well. Crimson Guitars have quite a lot of tutorial videos and viewing them from different dates can show some changes in the methods used. Rosa String Works is more about fixing than building but it's interesting to see the difference in the tool set. And speaking about the necessary tools, the Malawi refugee camp luthier shows an example that you really don't need all the fancy tools!

As for shaping a neck, the Master of our class quickly carves a basic shape groove at both ends of the neck after which the students then simply connect the bottoms of the grooves. Yesterday I saw one first timer using an inexpensive 6" rasp plane which made the job very easy. A spokeshave can easily take too much from the middle whereas the flat rasp plane kept the neck straight all the time. It only took a couple of hours from square to round.

kuva.png.d6da2bfb987a9e583aa2240639ed6718.png

 

 

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5 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

The price of wood sure doesn't ruin your finance even if you fail in your first build! Go for it!

Although StewMac is very good, I suggest you to widen your vision by viewing some other builders as well. Crimson Guitars have quite a lot of tutorial videos and viewing them from different dates can show some changes in the methods used. Rosa String Works is more about fixing than building but it's interesting to see the difference in the tool set. And speaking about the necessary tools, the Malawi refugee camp luthier shows an example that you really don't need all the fancy tools!

As for shaping a neck, the Master of our class quickly carves a basic shape groove at both ends of the neck after which the students then simply connect the bottoms of the grooves. Yesterday I saw one first timer using an inexpensive 6" rasp plane which made the job very easy. A spokeshave can easily take too much from the middle whereas the flat rasp plane kept the neck straight all the time. It only took a couple of hours from square to round.

kuva.png.d6da2bfb987a9e583aa2240639ed6718.png

 

 

What would be like the essentials to building a neck? I can recover from my losses fairly easily, due to white limba being practically pennies compared to higher grade woods such as mahogany or maple. I am just so lucky that this local wood dealer, especially exotic had these great woods for such a cheap price. I know I need saw rasp and a spoke shave but what else is necessary to shape a neck?

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8 minutes ago, Invader Zim said:

cutting belt sander belts at the splice and cutting various width strips for use ala shoe shine style is quite handy. 

As you may have noticed such a belt will easily roll length vise. To prevent that I made a pair of handles, illustration below:

kuva.png.34a63ef29debf20cf974cdbee4947f0a.png

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50 minutes ago, PRSpoggers said:

What would be like the essentials to building a neck?

That's a BIG question! For carving a neck think about what has to be done and what tools you already have or can easily get.

  • You need a tool to make the blank flat. A (hand) plane is the obvious one but you can also level boards with a router and a couple of rails. Or even by attaching sandpaper on a flat surface.
  • You need a tool to make the truss rod cavity. A router is nice but you can do it with a chisel as well.
  • You need a tool to cut the basic shape. Some do it with a copy router with the bearing against a template. Drawing and sawing along the line is the method we've mostly used. You can do it with a hand saw, a scroll saw or a band saw.
  • You need a tool to shape the neck round. A saw rasp is nice, a rasp plane is good as well. You can even carve a neck with a knife. Or a spokeshave. Some get an expensive router bit.
  • You also need some sort of a drill to drill the tuner holes. Handheld or a pillar drill or even a brace.
  • Making the fretboard requires a suitable saw, an exact ruler and something to create the radius with. You can radius the fretboard with a hand plane but for a beginner a radiused sanding block is most likely easier.
  • Plus tools for fretting like a hammer, a fret rocker, files, cutters...
  • Plus files, scrapers, sandpaper, sanding blocks and beams (which you can make yourself) etc.

As I started compiling the list I thought it'd be only a few items but it's easy to add a couple more to make things easier. At that point remembering the Malawi refugee camp builder and his tool set makes one think twice.

 

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13 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

That's a BIG question! For carving a neck think about what has to be done and what tools you already have or can easily get.

  • You need a tool to make the blank flat. A (hand) plane is the obvious one but you can also level boards with a router and a couple of rails. Or even by attaching sandpaper on a flat surface.
  • You need a tool to make the truss rod cavity. A router is nice but you can do it with a chisel as well.
  • You need a tool to cut the basic shape. Some do it with a copy router with the bearing against a template. Drawing and sawing along the line is the method we've mostly used. You can do it with a hand saw, a scroll saw or a band saw.
  • You need a tool to shape the neck round. A saw rasp is nice, a rasp plane is good as well. You can even carve a neck with a knife. Or a spokeshave. Some get an expensive router bit.
  • You also need some sort of a drill to drill the tuner holes. Handheld or a pillar drill or even a brace.
  • Making the fretboard requires a suitable saw, an exact ruler and something to create the radius with. You can radius the fretboard with a hand plane but for a beginner a radiused sanding block is most likely easier.
  • Plus tools for fretting like a hammer, a fret rocker, files, cutters...

My dad has drills and stuff but not a router saw, he has a table saw but it's one of the saws that are one swift cut basically. But I was already going to get a spoke shave and a saw rasp. I need to get myself some radius blocks from stew mac as well (are there any other places that offer radius blocks for cheaper but not low quality?) for my squire project because I was going to make that radius to a really flat 17 or 20 inch radius. Then I was going to put higher quality fret wire in. I think this will be a fun project because the woods I found are very easy to recover from financially, with the white limba neck blanks being 7 dollars USD and the Honduran Rosewood fingerboard blanks being 16 dollars USD, it's very easy to recover from them. 

I am learning as I am going which I find is the best way to learn for me. See I am a very kinesthetic learner, which means when I work on school work or when I am in school, I need to visualize what I am working with and understand what goes into it. I am taking Euclidian geometry which is a very hard branch of geometry, and being only in 10th grade, it's a challenge. With being kinesthetic and having ADHD, I need to visualize how things work. With something like Euclidian geometry, it's a process of steps on how you figure out the proposition, and what is equal to what and it all has to do with shapes. It's a hard class and I was lucky to just pass this quarter but I did it! 

Now I can apply my kinesthetic learning to guitar which I find to be such a great thing. I can visually work on a guitar or a neck and understand how a neck is carved or how a fingerboard is radiused or how a body is carved and how comfort carves are carved. Everything these days when it comes to guitar manufacturing is done via CNC machine, which is financially much better and much more exact than say a human doing the work, which also takes away the sense of personality the guitar has.

But that's why I love PRS, I live about 45 minutes from the PRS factory in Maryland and have gotten to go on a factory tour and I was amazed on how they do everything. They do rough cuts only on CNC and everything else they do by hand. It takes them a whole month to finish a neck, and most of it is drying the wood.

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I don't know other American guitar building tool vendors than StewMac. There must be others but as a European the mailing costs are stellar. I've ordered tools and other stuff from Crimson Guitars (GB), Madinter and Maderas Barber (Spain). They sell worldwide but the high mailing costs may be an issue that direction as well. A quick Googling didn't show any but I found out that Maryland is the Land of Luthiery so you may find a radiused sanding block in your local music store.

18 minutes ago, PRSpoggers said:

They do rough cuts only on CNC and everything else they do by hand. It takes them a whole month to finish a neck,

Bear that in mind! Even those of us without ADHD tend to haste when the blanks start to look like a guitar. Prepare yourself to the idea that your built-from-scratch guitar may take a year to build. I can build during wintertime only at the communal workshop, from 9 to 2 every Saturday excluding some holidays. Every time a couple of hours is spent just chatting and getting into the mood of performing the next tasks. Even if you don't plan on doing guitar shaped pieces of art like @ScottR does, getting the shapes and fittings right is closely related to sculpting. When carving a neck your hands will get numb and you may think it's smooth and perfect - only to find out the next day that there's humps and lumps everywhere!

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12 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

I don't know other American guitar building tool vendors than StewMac. There must be others but as a European the mailing costs are stellar. I've ordered tools and other stuff from Crimson Guitars (GB), Madinter and Maderas Barber (Spain). They sell worldwide but the high mailing costs may be an issue that direction as well. A quick Googling didn't show any but I found out that Maryland is the Land of Luthiery so you may find a radiused sanding block in your local music store.

Bear that in mind! Even those of us without ADHD tend to haste when the blanks start to look like a guitar. Prepare yourself to the idea that your built-from-scratch guitar may take a year to build. I can build during wintertime only at the communal workshop, from 9 to 2 every Saturday excluding some holidays. Every time a couple of hours is spent just chatting and getting into the mood of performing the next tasks. Even if you don't plan on doing guitar shaped pieces of art like @ScottR does, getting the shapes and fittings right is closely related to sculpting. When carving a neck your hands will get numb and you may think it's smooth and perfect - only to find out the next day that there's humps and lumps everywhere!

It's a process of trial and error. I have found that out recently with my process of taking the frets out of my squire strat. I found that tapping them out with a hammer a small flat head screw driver will cause chipping, even with tape protecting the finger board. It's much easier with some heat applied to the frets and a fret puller. 

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3 minutes ago, PRSpoggers said:

I found that tapping them out with a hammer a small flat head screw driver will cause chipping,

Ouch! Not surprising, though... By the way, have you noticed that fret pullers are just regular pincers with the top bevel ground off? I bought a pair of nippers from the automotive shop for a fiver and after a few minutes by the grinder they became fret pullers!

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5 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

Ouch! Not surprising, though... By the way, have you noticed that fret pullers are just regular pincers with the top bevel ground off? I bought a pair of nippers from the automotive shop for a fiver and after a few minutes by the grinder they became fret pullers!

I mean mine aren't fret pullers, they are just regular pincers but they worked like a charm!

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For fret pulling, grind the top bevel off unless they already are perfectly flat with the jaws closed. There's those as well so you may have got a pair of those. The idea is to get right under the fret (or the top of a nail)

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20 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

For fret pulling, grind the top bevel off unless they already are perfectly flat with the jaws closed. There's those as well so you may have got a pair of those. The idea is to get right under the fret (or the top of a nail)

Yea probably need fret pullers meant for fret pulling

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really cool that yer a yungun and interested in building.  there might be hope for your generation after all (hehe).  wish I had tried a scratch build when I was your age... one of my lifes biggest regrets.  

I like that you are gung ho about building a neck (most folks are afraid of that), and I don't want to discourage you from that at all, but I also know it can be challenging and would hate to see your zest for building get dampened by a rough "first time".  With that in mind, I would humbly suggest that you start by building a body.  It's much easier... and if you get that right... then go on to build a neck.  I would think the experience of building a body would get you a lot of skills that would help you successfully build a neck.  

remember - you can spell success without SUCC hehe!

If you go fwd with the neck - great.  It might be a bit stressful but with help you should be able to come out ok.  

to build either a neck or a guitar... unless you plan to do it all with chisels (ouch!) you are going to need a router.  You could do almost every step of that with a router.  

the one thing I would say to look out for afa putting a new radius on an existing neck... going flatter you are going to take off a fair amount of wood.  generally the finished dimension on a neck is 1/4" thick at the center... and if you take say a 9" radius and drop it down to a 16" radius... you might remove enough wood that it compromises the stability of the neck, or makes the action impossible to get low enough.  things to think about anyway!

truly hope for the absolute best result for you and am happy to help all I can.  

cheers

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Your enthusiasm is infectious, you clearly have the mindset for this work. It’s slow and methodical, there are some accepted truths (or just really good ways to do something), but lot’s of room to do your own thing. I can comment more later, but I’d say:

-don’t get too hungup on having the right tool. There are lots of ways to get a job done.

-Go slow and with purpose. Its not a race, more like a puzzle.

-Don’t be afraid to put some nice wood into it. People can get apprehensive about nicer woods, but you’ll be happy when you’re done.

- Most tasks - when you think you’re done, keep going, you’re probably only 1/2 way done. (sanding, refining, measuring, polishing, etc)

-do not be afraid to show and share triumphs, mistakes, and failures with this group. It’s a wonderful community, and many people will have been where you are. It’s a great support system.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Great to see new blood! Especially since I've been sidelined from building (yet again) due to my back (lift with your legs, kids...you'll regret it later if you don't!) - I couldn't agree more with everything @komodo stated. If I was to pass on any one piece of advice I was given, it would be:

"The phrase 'good enough' shouldn't be in your vocabulary when building"

 

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On 11/9/2020 at 10:23 PM, komodo said:

Your enthusiasm is infectious, you clearly have the mindset for this work. It’s slow and methodical, there are some accepted truths (or just really good ways to do something), but lot’s of room to do your own thing. I can comment more later, but I’d say:

-don’t get too hungup on having the right tool. There are lots of ways to get a job done.

-Go slow and with purpose. Its not a race, more like a puzzle.

-Don’t be afraid to put some nice wood into it. People can get apprehensive about nicer woods, but you’ll be happy when you’re done.

- Most tasks - when you think you’re done, keep going, you’re probably only 1/2 way done. (sanding, refining, measuring, polishing, etc)

-do not be afraid to show and share triumphs, mistakes, and failures with this group. It’s a wonderful community, and many people will have been where you are. It’s a great support system.

Hi! Sorry for not responding to this! I got some wood! I got honduran rosewood for the fingerboard and white limba for the neck! I am going to get a router and a bandsaw hopefully this weekend!

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