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New semi-hollow electric project.

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I finally started on a semi-hollowbody electric guitar. I decided to post the progress as I go for anyone interested in the process. This is a project for myself so I am not completely finished yet with the design. So far I have a nice piece of resonant lacewood for the body and some quartersawn Sitka Spruce for the top. It will be a carved top with bracing. It will also have at least one humbucker and a piezo setup in the bridge.

Here is the body wood:


And the top:


Here is the top cut to shape but not carved yet:


The way I did the body carving was a little wierd. I wish I had an overhead router but I had to use a router table with a bearing bit. The trouble was that I had to go by feel the whole way since the routing was happening on the bottom of the piece of wood. Here is a pic:


The template also served to route the outside profile:


I was thinking about an ebony fingerboard with an ebony tailpiece. There will be a tune-o-matic adjustable bridge. Classic jazzer.

The neck is up in the air. The body is very light so far and I don't want the guitar to be neck heavy. I have a nice piece of honduran mahogany but I also have some lightweight Spanish cedar (cedro).

That's it for now. I'll post more as I make progress.

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More progress last night. I went ahead and did the carving. I don't have pictures of the first step on this one but I rough carved the top with a pantograph router. Here is a pic of another guitar so you can get the idea:


I then finish carve it by hand. The spruce goes pretty quickly. This one will have a tall arch of about 3/4" (total thickness of top: 1"). Once I have the shape pretty close I sand it smooth with an orbital. Here are the results:


To rough carve out the inside I used a forstner bit set to stop at 1/2" thickness. I have a block under the wood that supports the piece I am drilling in a small area to accommodate the arch. Be sure to set the depth so it cannot drill through. The 1/2" will give me some extra material for doing the final carving and tuning of the plate.

Here is the setup:


The next step is to do the inside shaping with carving planes to get the correct shape. If all goes as planned I will have some more time today to work on this. Enjoy~

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OK, I made progress today carving the top. After the wood was removed with the forstner bit I proceeded to carve the rest out by hand. I use archtop guitar planes available from LMI (D'Angelico Planes). They are spendy but you only need to buy them once. They will last your carrer, easily. I have also had success with making wooden round bottom planes. The bronze ones have weight to them and that makes a huge difference. Anyway, after carving the interior of the top plate it was sanded using an orbital sander and 80 grit paper. Spruce sands fast so I set the speed to the slowest setting.

Here are is a pic:


Final shaping and finessing will be done to the inside tomorrow. I still have to decide on what shape to make the f-holes.

Just to let people know what I am using in terms of tools. For power tools I have a bansaw, drum sander, a bench top drill press, a 10" benchtop bandsaw for small work, an orbital sander, a drill, router, and a dremel. I also have the requisite assortment of chisels, handplanes, scrapers, and measuring devices (used mostly for straightedges). The pantagraph router I use is homemade from old parts found on eBay. The majority of the work for electrics is done with the router table and templates. My shop is pretty low tech. You can do a lot with a little.

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Are you going to go with a classic set neck?

Yes, definitely a set neck. I have made a pretty good jig for this. I will post pics of the whole process when I get there. The large neck block area will also hold the neck pickup.

Myka, what is your rough finish date for that?

I plan to get this done by the end of May if all goes well. I do tend to go through electrics quickly. After a few years of making jigs it goes pretty fast. I also have a guitar show to go to June 2nd so there is the pressure of a deadline driving me. :D

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Guest Litchfield Custom Gutars

Looks amazing. Keep going.

I'm pretty low tech too.

I have 2 palm sanders, a jigsaw, drill press, plunge and standard routers, jigs, and my orbirtal sander.

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Looks great-where's the show?

The show is in Baltimore, MD: First World Guitar Congress.

I see that the chamber is totally open do you not need supports within the chamber around the bridge area ?

I am going to use parallel braces under the top. For stablility I will make a sandwich of carbon fiber and spruce for these braces. The top will be made much like an archtop guitar with the recurve and all that. It will be thicker though so it won't be so responsive that all I get is feedback at high gain levels.

I have decided to go with Bartolini pickups. Specifically the ZBS pickups. Take a look at the ZBS-75 and ZBS-70. The 75 will go in the neck.

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Yeah, it's another deconstruction project. :D

The spalted maple guitar is coming along slowly. I am building it with a friend so he can learn how to build guitars. We are making two side by side so I only work on it when he is there. It will be a longer project. You will have to post some pics when yours is ready to play. I would love to see it.

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Cool Scott. I look forward to having you play it!

No more news on this guitar yet. I have been pretty busy working on a commissioned piece that takes precedence.

Have a look: Koa Acoustic #012

I may get some work done tonight on the hollow body. I am still working on some of the details. I think I am going with a dragonfly inlay scheme. Nothing over the top. It will be inlayed on the tailpiece and some of the fret markers (5th and 12th and ??). I found a nice piece of lighter weight mahogany in my stash for the neck. It will balance well with it.

Do any of you have any advice for piezos for a guitar like this? I was thinking RMC or LR Baggs.


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I made a little progress today with the top. I carved and glued in the two parallel braces. This is a pretty critical step that can really increase or decrease the quality of the instrument's tone if not done carefully. Each brace has to make contact with the wood without any gaps. This is the best for maximum energy transfer. The braces will serve to counteract the string tension as well as to distribute the vibrational evergy around the soundboard.

The braces are fitted with hand planes, scrapers, sandpaper, and files. Mostly files. I file a little and fit the brace occasionally making marks along the edge by dragging a pencil across the joint. Then I slowly file the brace until it fits. Here are the braces ready to be glued:


Here is a brace being glued. Note the even squeeze out of glue. This will be cleaned after the glue dries.


The soundboard completely braced:


The tap tone of the soundboard at this point is nice and tight with some good bass response. It is still around 5/16" thick. Final thicknessing will be done after the top is glued onto the body and the neck is glued in.

I used a prepared neck I had lying around so I don't have any process pics of this step excpet for a picture of another neck that was constructed the same way. Note the 3 channels; one for the truss and two for graphite tubes for added stiffness. You can see the tubes installed and held into place with wood filler strips. These strips are routed with a cove that fits over the top of the round tube so it is completely surrounded by wood.



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