Hey folks! It’s been a little while since I put up a post. I have a few other projects in process but this one was a bit more interesting so I’ve decided to cover it. Its gonna be a Purple Model-T
Before starting the project I cut up and organized all my wood. Now I know exactly what I have on hand. The customer came by and we looked at some blanks. He wanted a Purple Model-T with a one peice swamp ash body and a maple neck
I need to work on that middle shelf. Its a train wreck.
Here are the blanks he picked. I trace the template shape onto them so I can cut them out on the band saw.
I put a smaller blade on the band saw to allow for tighter turns. The only downside is that the blade wants to walk when resawing. I need to get a big 1″ blade for resawing boards. I flattened this neck blank on one side with the big belt sander. Then with one side perfectly flat I run it through the thickness planer to bring it down to an inch.
The neck blank has a little bit of figure in it. A little naptha wiped on gives me a better look at the grain. This maple was from Peach State Lumber.
I attach the template. I made a new set because i’ve been liking the plywood better than MDF lately. I’ve been dreaming of getting a laser cutter so I can cut them out of plexiglass to ultra tight tolerances.
Here is a look at the rough cut body and neck. The jig in the back will get used later to drill through the heel and neck to the truss rod channel.
I picked up a handy countersink tool at Harbor Freight. It does a little better job than just using a phillips bit.
Here is the neck blank and template attached to each other. I cut flush to the template on the router table. The bed of my planer is leaving some scratches on the wood. I must need to sand and polish the bed.
Here is a close up of the tuner bushing holes. You can see how the lower hole is 1/4″ and the bushing hole is a larger 11/32″. Getting the bushing hole lined up is really important. I am thinking about getting a stepped bit for this.
Sweet New Jig
I built a new jig for routing my truss rod channels. I already have a minor rebuild of it that I am planning. The idea was to have very tight tolerances by restricting the router movement to 2 axis. There are screws on the bottom that ride on an arced template to dictate the channels curve. I really want a laser cutter so I can start cutting super accurate jig parts. That should be a ways off because there is so much research involved and they are expensive.
This jig is for drilling the holes through the heel to the truss rod channel. The idea is that the drill bit cant wander because its kept rigid inside the wooden block. I drafted the jig in sketchup and printed templates to make sure the hole lines up correctly.
Here is a closeup of the hole for the truss rod anchor and washer. You can see the light where the hole goes through to the rod channel.
Truss Rod Installtion
Here is the truss rod getting hammered into place. I picked up some walnut dowels for the plug. They fit to a tighter tolerance than the plugs I was cutting. I also ordered a 3/8 aluminum rod to help hammer the rod in without hitting the headstock with the hammer.
This is a jig I made to cut skunk stripe curves on the router table. I’m not sure if I will keep using it or not. I’d like to get a thickness sander so I can sand the rosewood down to 3/16″ and then put it in this jig. If I can find a round nose rabbeting bit I could have an arc’d bottom that nests over the rod instead of just having it flat.
Routing the Body
Here is the pickup cavity route. Nice and clean with only a little bit of tooling marks on the bottom
Here is the neck pocket after routing
The pickup pocket routed to a depth of .85″.
Fitting the Neck
The neck heel needed a little sanding to improve the fit. It came out nice and tight.
Here is a closeup of the back roundover. Its a 1/4″ router bit that cuts a rounded edge.
Binding the Body
Here is the binding channel after being done on the router table. It took me a little while to find the right bit and bearing combo to make that tight turn by the neck pocket. I want to pick up a rolling pin sander to get into the cutaways.
Here I have the binding taped into the channel without glue. I bend the binding with a heat gun and tape it in place. It can be hard to bend the binding without it breaking. This one stayed together perfectly. I leave it to sit overnight to help it retain its shape when I glue it.
Another look at the front with the binding bent and taped in.
Turning back to the neck, I put it on the swing arm jig and sand the fretboard radius to 7.25″ (vintage spec).
Then I cut the fret slots. I’ve had a few minor improvements here. I got the Stewmac depth stop for fret saws. This lets me keep the fret depth consistent. I wanted to go to a table saw power slotting system, but I did not want the slots to be cut straight across. With my fret saw and depth stop the slot depth follows the fretboard radius. Otherwise you would have voids under the frets in the middle of the neck. I also figured out a way to make the fret slotting miter box to work with a one peice neck. The miter box is too narrow for the headstock to fit inside it. So I had to remove one side of the box and clamp it at an angle so its out of the way.
Here is the binding glued and all taped up. One small improvement I made here is using a pipette instead of a brush for applying the acetone. The small tip fits in a very small gap and lets you squirt acetone right into the channel.
Here is the headstock after some sanding. I’m planning a jig to make this step quicker and easier. Should be interesting.
I had to throw in a picture of our hometown.
I installed the fret dots on the side of the neck. I’ve been making a point to do a better job making sure the side dots are well aligned.
I made a small imrovement on the fret dots by getting some new brad point bits. The old bit I was using needed to be sharper because I was getting some tear out. The new bit did a great job.
Here is the skunk stripe on the back of the neck. Its a very nice fit. The jig I built for the channel has improved the fit. I also put a round nose bit in the channel routing jig so the channel perfectly fits the round rod.
Here is the binding after the tape is removed. It came out great. I sanded the sides to get the binding flush with the wood. There is also a tooling line where the flush trim router bit must have a tiny knick in the blade.
Lately i’ve changed my neck process a little bit. I install the frets before shaping the back of the neck. This way I have a nice solid base under the neck for when I press the frets in. I also started using fish glue to glue the frets in. It seems like the perfect solution because you can make sure the frets stay put, and the glue can be softened with water and heat for pulling frets.
Fret ends are ready to get filed at an angle. Then I ran the neck shaper. The shape came out slightly different than I thought it would. I need to check my calculations on the puck set I was using. Then I ended up doing a lot of hand shaping to get it feeling good. I had the customer play it so he could decide if he wanted a different shape, but he liked the way it felt so we went with it.
Here are the pickups getting potted in wax in an old rice cooker from goodwill. The soapbar is wound in reverse and the bar magnets are flipped to give it reverse polarity.
Here is the guitar assembled and ready for the customer to play around with.
Gotta check the pickguard fit too. I’ll have to make a creme pickguard to match the binding and pickup cover. A stock pickguard won’t work because the soapbar is a different size.
I’ve been spraying my sealer coats outside since they are mostly sanded off. I have a 20 gallon compressor on wheels so its pretty quick to take it out there.
Here is the body after 2 rounds of grain filler and sanding sealer. What a great piece of swamp ash.
The customer originally wanted to do a purple metallic finish, but when I showed him the wood grain and said we could show the grain through the purple he decided on this translucent purple. We could always sand and shoot metal flake if he didn’t like it.
I wet sand the first coat and sprayed a second coat. The humid Georgia climate caused a little bit of lacquer blushing. Not a big problem, just need to sand and re-coat.
After getting a good third color coat applied it’s time to scrape the color off the binding. I love this part (it’s very chill).
Here it is after getting the binding scraped.
And the backside.
Here it is after a clear coat. It’s sitting in a benchtop spray booth I put together.
Here is a closeup of the blush that was driving me crazy. Lacquer retarder solved the issue.
Another shot of it in the booth
Here it is after some wet sanding. I decided to go back to the nails in the front instead of attaching a paint stick.
Here is a look at the booth as it was getting constructed. I built it out of concrete board and built a prefilter box around the activated charcoal filter. Its basically a giant respirator that filters solvents out of the air.
Here it is with the plexiglass cover on. I will make a few little tweaks before the next spray job. I want to add 3 lights that are mounted outside the box on the top and sides. They will shine through plexi instead of sitting inside. I also want to add some filters for intake air, and weather strip the front door
I’ll come back and finish the post after the guitar cures, and I put it together. Thanks for checking it out!
After a nice long trip to Australia it was time to finish up. I upgraded my phone which has a sweet new camera. I started off with cleaning the lacquer off the frets. Then I did a level, crown, and polish on them so they play well.
Here is the wet sanding stage. I thought the pattern left by the orbital was kind of cool. In my next shop i’d like to switch over to the air powered wet sanders for auto body work. The finish had cured over 45 days so it sanded and buffed well.
After using the big buffer I finish with Maguire’s swirl remover and show car glaze (the silicone free stuff) on this foam pad in the drill. Then I use some 100% carnauba wax for the final hand polish.
Here I am pressing in the back ferrules using a little heat from the soldering iron to warm the ferrules, which in turn warms the lacquer. It helps prevent the finish from chipping when pressing them into the body.
Here are the frets after leveling, and sanding. They have a shiny chrome finish after being buffed and cleaned.
I applied a few coats of shielding paint in the body cavities. I’m pretty careful here since I don’t want to ruin the finish at the 1 yard line.
I use the 1/4″ drill bit with a regular screwdriver to clean any extra lacquer out of the tuner holes. They need to allow the axle to move freely.
I made this pickguard from a template that I have lying around. I had to make the pickguard because the soapbar pickup has a different hole. I’d love to start laser cutting them on site.
I attached the neck and dropped in the electronics, and hardware. It’s crazy how the same camera can make this guitar look black or bright purple. The swamp ash grain is so nice.
I took the guitar around the goat farm for a few photos.
Tweaking some things. I always play it for a while and tweak the setup.
There’s a cool old piano in the coffee shop
It’s off to it’s new home. Time to finish up a blonde that i’m working on and start a special new project.
Thanks for reading!