Front of a heritage cherry red mahogany tele style electric guitar

Heritage Cherry Mahogany “Model-T”

Rich Mahogany

I knew I wanted to build a few t-style guitars and I have a bunch of mahogany and sapele sitting around the shop. We don’t use much of either of these woods, but the price per board foot was pretty good so I had to pick some up. I always loved the heritage cherry color on the Gibson SG, and I wanted to build something unique. After looking for pictures of a heritage cherry telecaster I didn’t have many good examples to look at, so I just had to build it. I knew I also wanted to go with chrome hardware, and a black 3-ply guard because they work so well on the SG.

So to kick off the build you need some good templates. I cut the MDF on a scroll saw. I printed the blueprints out on my large format printer. It can print 13 inch wide. You can get it done at staples for a few bucks a page. I check the hardware before hand to make sure its aligned properly.

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Rough Cuts

I grabbed a big ol heavy chunk of mahogany and cut it off the slab with the circular saw. Then rough it to shape on the band saw.

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Then I attach the template to the body with some small screws and sand it flush to the template using the robo sander. On the right you can see the big spiral downcut bit used to leave a smooth edge around the body. The sander is pretty aggressive and it leaves lines in the sides.

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The grain of the mahogany was perfectly wrapped around the horn, and was pretty figured. I knew this guitar would be heavy, so I weighed it with just the hardware on the body. It was way too heavy for my liking so I get out the belt sander to give it some contours

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Mocking it up

I had an allparts neck laying around so I decided to use it to get it out of the shop. I’d rather build my necks. On the right you can see the front and back relief sanded out and a chamber drilled with a big forstner bit to reduce the weight.

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The weight saving chambers made the body routes look like a face. The neck fit is tested. I had to glue up a very thin piece of mahogany into the left side of the neck pocket because the neck heel was slightly thinner. I flush it to the top with a sharp chisel.

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Here is a shot after the second coat of sanding sealer. I blow off the dust with compressed air and wipe it down with fast drying naptha.

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Heritage Cherry

My heritage cherry first coat is applied. I wanted to go a little darker than this. The color I bought is “Bordeaux” transtint dye.

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The second coat is applied and gives it the color I was going for.

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After applying a few clear coats I ran into some problems that required me to wet sand the body almost back to the color coats, Then I reapplied color and clear.

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Oops…

I had the body sitting on a peice of alder for some reason, and the finish kind of melted into the alder. This was a bummer because then I had to wet sand the back and give it another clear coat. It didn’t set me back too far which was lucky. After letting the body cure for a few weeks I got ready to use my new buffer on it. The buffs send cotton everywhere when you first use it. So wait to use it if you have any lacquer you need to spray. I was able to build it for a reasonable amount of money (about $200) since I am powering it with my belt sander.

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On maple necks you shoot the lacquer right over the frets and then clean them off. A curved fret file works well for this. The string ferrules on this one did not work out well since I chipped some of the finish around them. I had a clean countersink for the body ferrules (3/8″) but did not think about the countersink to get them to sit flush to the body. Having the ferrules stand off the body just didn’t look right and wouldn’t feel right either.

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Wiring and Assembly

The buffer certainly does a better job than the car buffer I was using before. It buffed down pretty darn flat. I used the Menzerna compounds. Then I wired up the guitar and and wound a set of pickups. I used alnico 5 and wound them both to 7600 winds.

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Somewhere during sanding a small gap on the bottom of the neck pocket developed. I think overall the contact between neck and body is pretty solid. These little things just bug me. I ran out to get a thread tapping dye for the pickup base plate since it was not threaded. I put the tap in the drill press and turn it by hand to keep it perfectly straight.

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I mounted the bridge pickup with surgical tubing as a standoff. If you solder a ground under the place make sure it fits in the cavity. The bridge also got really hot while soldering the ground so make sure its not touching the lacquer anywhere.

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All Wrapped Up

Its tough to see the detail of the grain, but it looks great. Mahogany and red stain is a winning combo. It is tough to get a good photo showing it though.

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After tweaking it a little and playing it I really liked the sound. The mahogany seems to tame the twang a little bit. The weight is very reasonable, and the arm and back reliefs made the body very comfortable. It is going to hang out on the wall for a week or so and then I’ll revisit it for final set up.  Thanks for checking it out!

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