Starting the Lake Placid Blue T-Style Build
Here we go again. I tried to remember to take lots of photos of this one. When I started I knew I wanted to do a Lake Placid Blue T-Style with top binding and a contour on the back for comfort. I had some P90 bobbins and covers so I decided it needs soapbars.
Then I grabbed an alder slab and cut off a chunk with the circular saw. I trace a line using my template and start roughing it out on the band saw.
A tip for the bandsaw. I have a blade on it that doesn’t make super tight turns so I make relief cuts first so that pieces fall away letting me realign the blade. Eventually I decided to do a rosewood fingerboard with a flamed maple back. I messed up one of the neck blanks by cutting on the wrong line. Hopefully I will find a use for it at some point.
After rough cutting the neck blank I run it through the planer. It comes out at 13/16″ thick. I had to take a shot of the headstock because I love the flame grain
I took a short vine type video of using the robo sander on the drill press. The bushing rides on the template. I want to sand very close to the template so the router table isnt cutting much off.
On the router table the spiral downcut pattern bit is used to cut very accurately to the template. You don’t want to try to route off very much material with it because it’s prone to kickback. I recommend having a healthy amount of respect and fear for the router table. On the drill press I drill the holes for the tuners. I like to test the fit after drilling each tuner hole to make sure the alignment is good. I always clamp down whatever I am drilling because a big enough bit will grab the wood and smack you or totally ream out the hole
Tuner Holes and Truss Rod
After making sure the tuners are all aligned properly I drill the tuner screw holes. I use a 5/64″ bit which is very important because if the screw hole is to tight the screws can break off in the hard maple. If that happens you either toss the neck or extract and plug the hole. I route the truss rod with a curved jig that keeps the router in a straight line. Getting the bit depth correct is important so you don’t sand through the back of the neck to the truss rod channel. Routing a straight centered line is also very important. I mark the centerline and check it by scoring the line with the bit.
The truss channel came out nice and clean. Then the body template is attached, sides robosanded, and on the router table to cut the sides flush with the template.
Then I make sure the body is level and flat. I use a little block to drill through the neck heel to the truss rod channel. For precision, I use a ruler to check the bottom of the channel depth, and mark it on the side of the neck. Then I check the angle of the bit using my marks on the side of the neck before drilling. You really need to be precise with the hole so take your time.
Bending the Rod
I bend the rod to match the curve. I wanted to make sure the hole for the truss rod nut was very precisely centered and at the correct angle. So I clamped it to the drill press and beveled the table a little bit.
I use a sharp chisel to cut the slot of the truss rod anchor. Then the skunk stripe is cut to the curve from the blueprint and thicknessed down to a hair over 3/16. It is glued in with hide glue and lots of clamps.
I needed an improved template for the body cavities. A tip for making templates- Use the drill press to drill all the spots where a radius is denoted. For example the bridge pickup had two holes drilled on both sides and the holes are connected by cutting on the scroll saw. I leave alot of MDF around the neck pocket so the router base can stay very stable.
I modified another template for P90s on a tele. The fit for the covers was pretty good. I may try to tighten up the fit by using some bondo on the template next time. The binding channel was routed with a rabbeting bit set. I have to use some tape to get the depth of the channel correct. I ended up needed to do a lot of manual work because the channel wasn’t perfect, it was too short and too deep. The rabbeting bit also can’t do the tight corner by the neck because the bit diameter is too large. On my next binding job I will probably find a different bit. The 1/4″ roundover is done and went very well.
I trim down the skunk stripe and sand the area to make the glue joint stronger. I use a clamp sandwich jig to apply a boat load of pressure to the glue joint. Hide glue has a short working time and I can tighten the jig quickly by attaching a socket wrench to my drill. I let the glue cure overnight.
Here you can see the tight corner where my binding channel bit wouldnt fit. I cut the headstock thickness to over 1/2″ on the band saw.
Next I rough cut a belly contour on the back with the band saw and smoothed it out with an orbital sander. I need to try the angle grinder method for this because I think it will work better. Then I attach the binding with some acetone mixed with bits of binding plastic. I use ribbed tape to hold it in place.
Then I put the neck in my shaping jig. I decided to make a puck for a fat soft v profile but it came out shaped very weird. Next time I need to draw it in the computer instead so it scales properly. I ended up shaping the neck by hand most of the way.
The binding was a little too tall for my channel so here I am scraping it down.
Here is the neck profile I ended up with. it feels great. I also sanded the 7.25 radius using the stew mac sanding beam.
I tested the neck fit and its nearly perfect. I always have a hard time getting the corners of the neck heel to fit right. So I put a 1/4″ roundover bit in the router table, and clamped the neck upright to a block of wood and feed it through. The idea is the neck pocket template was made by drilling the corners on the drill press for an accurate 1/4″ radius. Then cutting the neck heel corner with the same radius roundover bit creates a perfect fit. I cut the frets using the trusty fret slotting jig.
Unfortunately I made a boneheaded mistake and drilled a fret dot at the 11th fret. I was just going on down the line on the drill press and must have zoned out. The hole got plugged with rosewood. With lemon oil on the neck you don’t see it unless you really look. I’m tired of having little problems with fret dots so I am going to build a template for them so I quit screwing up. For the sides dots I improved the alignment by using a piece of MDF with a hole drilled at the right height as simple jig. Then I just go down the line drilling them.
Here is a closeup of that damn plug. Sometimes the frets want to turn sideways in the fret press. So I hammered them all in on side and press them the rest of the way. It was quicker this way too.
I needed to get a cleaner hole for the jack cup so I clamped the body to the drill press. I am sure to use a towel to avoid dinging the body.
I also countersunk the jack cup and drilled holes to screw it into the body. The retainer clips just don’t do a great job holding it in place. I clamped my straight edge to the bridge to cut it in half with the hacksaw. The cut was pretty nice. I deburr the edges with sandpaper.
I drilled the string holes for the 1st and 6th strings from the top of the body with the bridge attached. The other 4 holes are drilled halfway through the body. Then I flip it over and attach the bridge to the back using tape. The 1st and 6th string holes on the back allow me to align the bridge and use it as a template to drill the other 4. Then I drill 5/16 holes for the string ferrules. The lip of the ferrule is also countersunk to 5/8″ to make them flush with the body.
Fitting the Neck
I clamp the neck to the body and install the 1st and 6th strings. This way I make sure the neck is aligned properly before drilling the holes and screws. I decided to wind pickups and do the wiring before the finishing process. Here is a shot of a wound p90 coil. I had to add my own eyelets for the pickup wires because the bobbins didn’t have them for some reason. The bar magnets and ground plate install on the bottom. I reversed the wind and magnet polarity on the other pickup so they don’t hum.
Here is the wiring under the control plate. I used a .047uf tone cap.
I drilled a hole under the bridge and wormed through to the control cavity so I could solder a ground wire under the bridge. Then I connected the pickups and output jack so I could play the guitar. I did some rough action adjustment and weighed the guitar at 7lbs 4.8oz. Finish should add a few ounces. The sound was great, i’ll have to make a clip of it when it’s done. While the finish cures I will order a pickguard and the correct mounting screws for the P90s. I don’t know if I want a pickguard on it, but i’m going to cut one for the guitar and let whoever buys it decide.
Here is the neck and body after the first coat of sanding sealer. I sand it to 220 grit and repeat one more time.
As the lacquer builds up the flamed maple really starts to show. It’s hard to do it justice with photos.
It looks very milky after 22o grit sanding. Here is the body after 2 coats of a color that is close to lake placid blue metallic.
I scrape the color coats off the binding very meticulously. I decided to mask the sides this time to protect the finish if the razor slips. It was nerve racking removing the masking tape though, so next time I won’t mask it. Luckily it didn’t take off any finish.
Here is the body after a clear coat. I did a coat of sun tinted lacquer because it looked a little too new. The neck is done with 2 or 3 coats of sun tinted lacquer. It gives off a nice vintage color. After 3 more normal clear coats it goes up on the shelf to cure for 2 weeks before buffing and assembly. Since the wiring is already done and the guitar was fully assembled before finishing it should go together quickly.
Ready to Cure
I’ll update this in a few weeks when the guitar is put together. I was at least able to take some shots with most of the hardware in place so you can see what it will look like.
Update: After letting it cure for 2 weeks I went ahead and wet sanded, then buffed. I was getting alot of micro scratches in the finish so I put it together and let it hang out on the wall for a few more weeks before doing it again. During this time I tweaked it and worked on the frets and action.
Here are a few shots after I repeated the wet sand and buff at the 30 day cure mark. I’ve experimented with different cure times and I have settled on 30 days being optimal with the sherwood LOVOC lacquer.
Cutting a Pickguard
Since this guitar has soapbars I made my own pickguard. At some point I will make all my own pickguards. I just need to find a good local plastics supplier who carries this stuff. Currently the sheets I am buying cost as much as a finished guard.
I made a template by stacking 3 pickguards and screwing them to MDF and using a flush trim bit with the bearing riding on the pickguards like a template. Then I attached my creme pickguard to the tele template with the soapbar routes and cut the pickup hole on the router table. Then i just deburr the plastic with sandpaper
I fit the pickguard and had to sand a few little spots to get a snug fit. I did not screw it on yet so the eventual owner can decide if they want it on.
Buffing and Wrapping Up
Here are a few more shots of the finish. It really did a good job of flattening out. When I rebuffed I also shielded the pickup cavities. The middle position is hum cancelling but the other positions had a little noise. Now I need to get my act together and record some sound clips of it.
Thanks for reading!
I finally got around to doing a demo video. It took a while to get the technical details sorted out. I’m overall pretty happy with the audio quality. It’s good enough to give you a good sense of the tonal qualities of both guitars.