It has been quite a while since my first guitar was completed, but here is my 2nd build. I call this one “Number Two”. I know that this not a very creative sounding name, but it fits. After all, there’s really nothing creative about copying an existing design which this certainly is. I liked the retro looks of the F*nder T*ronado, so I used it as my model.
Photo of model
Having spared no expense on my first build, I decided to “go cheap” on Number Two. This decision meant that I had to wait until I found all the parts (at the right price) before I could start and would also add time to complete the build process. My first parts find was a new 21 fret T*le style neck found on eBay.
Neck “before” photo
The neck had an “S101” logo on the headstock and the clear satin finished maple didn’t appeal to me. So I began by removing the finish and logo by sanding them out. The wood grain in the headstock wasn’t very attractive, so I opted to paint the headstock black and inlay my name there with MOP.
I allowed my daughter to choose the color she liked for the guitar finish by visiting the local Guitar Center. She chose trans red as used on the shiny Gibson SG’s. So, I thought a vintage kind of amber finish on the neck would complement the red and the black.
Amber on neck
My next find were some mahogany turning squares in the “bargain bin” of a local wood store. This meant that the body would have to consist of 5 pieces glued together, but for $5, I didn’t really care about that.
Body blank in the clamps
After glue-up, planning and initial sanding, I fixed a pattern onto the blank with some spray adhesive and cut the body shape “close to the line” on the band saw. Saw marks and final shape were dressed on the oscillating spindle sander.
Pattern applied to blank
Holes were drilled for the controls and cavities were then routed on the back for the pots and a 3-way switch using homemade templates and a bearing guided bit in a plunge router.
After insuring the centerline placement was correct, the neck pocket and pickup cavities were routed. Holes were bored for the neck plate, TOM bridge and tailpiece. I then attached the neck and strung it up for a test fit.
I did not want to deal with a neck angle on this guitar, so I decided to recess the mounting posts into the body for the T.O.M. style bridge. I like to give credit where credit is due, so thanks again to doerringer for sharing his tips on how he recesses his bridges by first determining correct bridge placement and by drilling the larger diameter recess hole first and then the smaller diameter post holes.
Recesses for bridge posts
The wiring channels between the pickups and control cavity were carefully bored with a long shank ¼” drill bit. A hole was also required for the ground wire from the control cavity into the lower tailpiece mounting post hole. Drilling these holes with a hand drill requires careful and sure placement of the bit before you start to insure the bit will exit at the correct spot. A 7/8” forstener bit was used to mount the Electrosocket jack plate.
Next came the sanding process. The body was sanded thoroughly with 100 through 220 grit sandpaper. This is probably the least fun of the build process for me, but it is one of the most important steps in the finishing process. A poor job of sanding will definitely show itself in the finish, especially transparent finishes.
After sanding, grainfiller was applied, sanded back, re-applied and sanded back again. Once the grainfiller had properly dried, sealer coats and a thin coat of lacquer were sprayed on.
Grain-filled, sealed and initial clear coats
Once again, I want to give credit where credit is due, so I thank forum members johnsilver and punrockerluke for their input on how to achieve the Gibson SG (Heritage) red color that I was striving to get on this build. The information they provided was awesome and greatly appreciated!
Red dye applied
The red dye I used was very transparent, so many coats were applied. Once the color began to look as “deep” as I thought it should, I started the clear coat process which took several more days to complete.
While waiting for the finish to cure, I built my 3rd “guitar” that was inspired by jehle and some others on the forum. It is a 3 string cigar box guitar fabricated with stuff I found laying around. It is kind of crude and primitive, but I think that is the point of a CBG. It did give me experience with neck building and it was fun to do.
Cigar box guitar (#3)
30 days later, the process of finish sand and buffing began. Once I was satisfied with that, everything was assembled, wired and strung up. I also made the pickguard by fabricating a template and routing the B/WB pickguard material to shape. Here are some shots of the finished project.
Close-up shot of finished front near bridge
A look at the back
From another angle
A look at the full front
Full front view
25 ½” scale
Overall width: 13 ½”
Overall length: 40 ½”
Weight; 9lbs., 12ozs.
21 fret, maple and rosewood el-cheapo ebay neck
Mahogany body. 1 3/4” thick
PAF style humbucker pickups from guitarfetish
TOM bridge & tailpiece, el-cheapo ebay stuff
LP/SG style wiring harness and pots, more el-cheapo ebay stuff
SG style 3-way switch from Stewart-Macdonald
Electrosocket aluminum jack plate from Stew-Mac
M.E.K. red dye, walnut grain filler and pickguard material from Luthiers Mercantile
Nitrocellulose lacquer and thinner from Sherwin-Williams (industrial supply)
This guitar set-up nicely with good action and intonation. It plays easily and has a sound of it’s own; kind of Fender-ish and kind of Gibson-ish.
The saddles in the cheapo bridge came pre-notched. I will swap those out someday as an improvement. The tuners will also need to be replaced ASAP. The lesson learned here is that you usually get what you pay for.
The guitar weighs in at just under 10 pounds. That could be a problem for some, but I’m a big boy and I think I can handle it. The weight could have been reduced by including a belly cut and a forearm rest, but I have not yet attempted those cuts and thought I should try that another time. The overall body shape and weight could have been reduced by removing ¼” or so from its perimeter.
Experience gained from this build includes: recessing a TOM bridge and tailpiece, fabricating a pickguard, cutting MOP and making an inlay, and using grain filler for the first time. It was a fun project and I accomplished what I set out to do. That was to continue learning and to end up with a half-way decent looking instrument that I built myself. I hope that others may learn something from this, as I have learned from the many others who post on this forum.