A Minty Sonic Blue Swamp Ash “Leo” Build
We had a few new woods around the shop and the wall was light on “Leos” so I decided to do a more unique s-type. I picked a nice peice of 13″ wide swamp ash from carlton’s so I can have a one peice body. The day was spent redrawing my blueprints in sketchup so I can more easily edit the dimensions for different Pre-CBS years. I made new templates out of plywood instead of MDF.
I cut the body out and attached the router template. Then I route the back cavity first, then do the front a neck pocket. I’ve had good results with my recent neck pockets by having a sturdy template for the router base to ride on, and carefully feeding the router. I also got a new 1/2 whiteside solid carbide bit, with a deeper cutting depth than my other 1/2″ bit.
Here is a video showing the trem block cavity being routed.
I tried out a cordless angle grinder, which had to go back to home despot. The battery just didn’t have the staying power to get the job done. It’s hard to film and run the grinder.
I thought my swamp ash would be a little lighter. We’ll just have to see how much it weighs in the end. Then I checked the neck pocket fit, making sure it can stay put without screws.
I picked a nice peice of birdseye maple for the neck. Then I cut it out on the bandsaw and route around the template on the router table. Next I picked a peice of curly koa for the fretboard. Koa is softer than normal fretboard material, luckily this peice was still pretty darn hard. The truss rod and anchor are installed, followed next by the skunk stripe installation.
Then I test fit some of the hardware and drill the holes for the trem and pickguard. Next I wound a set of pickups that were slightly overwound for a hotter output, which was a good contrast to the dark sound of the instrument.
Here is a quick video of installing the trem and drilling the holes
Then I test fit the hardware and drill the pickguard holes, which ensures everything is lined up right. I cut the neck profile on the shaper jig, taking care to set up the jig properly and making sure the neck is centered. This was a test of my new “Clapton V” neck jig shapers.
Here is a shot of the curly koa grain. I tried something kind of weird with this neck. The koa was sealed with CA glue in the hopes of giving it a hard exterior coat. I cut the fret slots and installed white dots.
After fretting the guitar I put it together and played it with no finish applied. Then I like to make sure it sounds good without the finish first. It also makes final assembly and buff out easier. Here is a shot of the neck with some lacquer coats built up.
I wanted a sonic blue strat but I wanted to see the swamp ash grain through it, so I sprayed a very light thinned out coat of blue. This is also good because it helps keep the finish thin, while allowing for transparency.
Here is a quick video of spraying the lacquer, which is fun but stressful. Any little bits of dust will drive you nuts.
Then I sprayed the body with UV tinted lacquer. The guitar looks more like sonic green now, but i think it should look cool when the blue peeks out where the lacquer wears naturally.
Here is the back of the neck with amber coats built up. I love the birdseye maple. The neck shape is nice and chunky, while the V shape is pretty hard. The pickguard also got an aged coat. I’ll come back and update this when it is ready to be buffed out.
I forgot to add some pictures of the completed guitar. It buffed out nicely. I went with a clean white pickguard instead of the creme color, because it looks crisper.
You can see the Sonic Blue poking out around the edges, of course, this is where the buffer removed the UV aged lacquer.
I didn’t bother with a back plate, but I can certainly add one.
Thats all folks, all things considered I couldn’t be happier with how this one turned out. Feel free to check out our other posts, in the meantime we will be working on new ones soon. Thanks!