Les Paul Style Build
Howdy Folks! It’s been a little while since my last post, but I really wanted to do a Les Paul style build. The planning and research took forever for this project. It has been many months in the making. It took me a while just to get the parts together. Let’s get started with making templates. Here is the main body outline template on the bandsaw. I am really taking it slow on this build because I have a bunch of other builds in process, and they turn out much better when you work on them when them when inspired.
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I got a laser cut template set which I decided to keep as a master set. The template shown is for the switch and control cavities.
Here I am using some MDF as a straight edge to route the wire channel template.
Here it is completed.
Starting the Body
Here I have the body blank cut out, planed down to thickness, and flush routed around the edges. I use a caliper to make sure the thickness is good.
I am checking the jointed edge of my flame maple before resawing it on the bandsaw.
Here is the flame maple top after resawing, jointing, and planing. I found a really nice piece of 2″ thick flame maple that I was able to get 4 or 5 tops out of. It has to be that thick because it will be carved down for the top contour.
New Drill and Clamps!
It was time for a new drill because the clutch went out on the old one. Had to grab some nice Bessey clamps too. I need to buy more (they are so good).
Here I check that the joint between the two sides will fit nice and tight. I draw the body onto the top making sure the centerline matches the template.
Here I am preparing for glue-up. You want to make sure all your clamps are ready to go so you can move quickly. Titebond has a longer open time than hide glue, but I still like to get it clamped up quick. I have been using Titebond II more than hide glue lately because it works so well, and doesn’t have horse parts in it. I do plan on getting a glue pot so I can use hide glue crystals when absolutely necessary.
Here it is with all the clamps. I love the quality of the Bessey clamps, and i’m going to buy more of them. They cost a little more, but you can really feel the quality.
Routing the wiring channel
Here I am getting ready to route the wire channel. This allows the wires for the pickups to reach the knobs and the switch.
I needed a shorter 1/2″ diameter straight cut router bit because the other ones I have were too long to cut a short channel. I like having lots of different cutting lengths in 1/2″ diameter router bits because they are so versatile.
Channel route is done!
I routed the switch cavity. You can see how the wire channel connects to it from the top. On a side note, gersh darn thats good looking mahogany.
Same deal with the control cavity. Traditionally the bottom of this would be routed at an angle after the top is glued on, but I decided to make the pots flush on the top by flattening the area where the knob sits kind of like a PRS.
Cutting the Top
Here is the top after being clamped over night. I cut around the outline on the bandsaw. I’ll sand the top and back with 120 grit for good glue adhesion.
On the back I route a countersink for the plastic cover plates to recessed into the body so they sit flush
While doing this I attach the templates with clamps instead of screws because I don’t want to have a hole to fill in the back.
How Heavy Will it Be?
The answer is real heavy. The mahogany alone was over 5 lbs by itself. I think the guitar will end up around 10 lbs because I am not going to weight relieve it.
Gluing on the top. You want to give it a ton of pressure so there is no gap between the body and top. You want vibrations to travel through the glue joint freely.
Here it is completed. I went around the edges with the robo-sander to make the top flush with the body.
I bend the binding around the body and hold it with strapping tape. This lets the plastic get used to its new shape before being glued.
Next up was making templates for the carve top. There are many ways to get the classic top contour. The reason I made these templates is because they don’t take up a ton of space like a duplicarver would. I could also do it with gouges and violin planes, completely by hand, but I like that these can give me consistency in the shape.
Starting from the bottom. I had a few little tear out problems. Not surprising for a prototype. One piece that tore out was problematic, but I was able to find the chunk of wood in the shop vac and glue it back in place. The other issues will sand out fine.
Here it is getting closer. Now I can start shaping it with scrapers, and sanding.
I got a nice scraper set for christmas. After burnishing them I get to work.
Here it is after some sanding. I dig it in around the edges to get the “recurve” where the edges dip below the binding a little bit.
Good Looking Flames
Pretty much complete, with some Naptha wiped on to see the flames.
Here is the side view of the carve. I still have a little way to go. I will end up finishing the top when I prepare to glue in the neck and route the pickup cavities.
Later I went to make some jigs for the neck. The neck is clamped in the jig and the robosander bushing rides on it like a template.
Here is the neck loaded into the jig. I build another jig that is the same, except it is for the other side of the neck.
Neck Angle Jig
This is a jig I built to cut the neck break angle. LPs have had different neck angles over the years. This one will be a 4.4 degree angle. I borrowed a digital angle finder to build it. A router sled will ride on the rails.
Here is the plunge router on the sled. Can you spot where the stupid mistake is going to come from? For some reason I couldn’t get the metal rails to sit on the jig. I think a screw was in the way.
The sled slipped down and plunked the router bit through the top. Oops. I considered maple top off and starting over, but I think it would be pointless to waste a nice peice of flamed maple for an aesthetic problem. Luckily the guitar is a prototype and not for a customer, otherwise I would have to start the top over.
Back to the neck. I mark the top using the template and cut down the line.
I forgot to take a picture of routing the truss rod channel. When I built my truss rod routing jig I designed it so that it could do a flat truss rod channel as well as curved. I drilled out for the anchor and cleaned it up with a chisel.
I measured the rod (should have done this before routing the channel). The rod was smaller than 3/16″ which baffled me. I realized its designed to have a sleeve around it to keep glue from binding the rod. I use some shrink tube to bring it up to the right diameter.
Here is the anchor up close. I’ll fill in around it for a tight fit.
The Fret Board
Here I am checking the mother of pearl inlays against the template to make sure they are the right size. Its a near perfect match!
Now it’s time to start the fretboard. I flatten the back of the rosewood on the belt sander like a jointer. Then I attach the board to the swing arm sanding jig. While sanding the fretboard radius into the board, I make sure to adjust the heights so that the neck binding stays the same height along the neck.
I check the fretboard radius with a radius gauge. It is pretty easy to have flat spots on the board that are hard to see without the gauge.
Using double sided tape, I attached the board to the fret slotting jig. I cut the fret slots using a depth stop. Precision is key here, because you want the fret tang to have no void under it.
Next is the inlay routing. It’s one of those precision tasks that is kind of relaxing. It lets your mind go into a flow state because you have to concentrate. I bought the cheap plastic Dremel plunge base on amazon. I may get the nice stew mac one someday (it was on backorder), but it costs a whole lot more than the plastic version. The Dremel base did a fine job, no need to upgrade for quite some time.
Dremel routing is complete. Time to clean the routes up with a shape chisel.
The inlays fit well. Naturally there are some gaps around them. I glue them in with CA glue, and fill the gaps with a mix of glue and rosewood dust.
Here is a closeup after sanding. The neck is attached to swing arm jig and changed the belt to a higher grit. I check the radius again to make sure it didn’t change at all, and hit it with lemon oil.
I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Then I checked the fret slots again to make sure the final sanding didn’t change the slot depth at all.
Skunk Stripe Thickness
Back to the neck, I use my drill press as a thickness sander. I am making a skunk stripe for the truss rod out of quarter sawn maple. It’s kind of tricky to get the thickness perfect because these drums aren’t perfect.
After making sure the stripe dry fits perfectly I do the counterbore for the truss rod washer and nut. I use a 3/16″ aluminum rod to guide the couterbore. You gotta run the drill fast and make sure you go to the right depth.
After double check the fit of the rod without glue, I am ready to glue the skunk stripe into place with plenty of clamps.
Then I glued the ears onto the headstock. The grain orientation is different than the headstock which actually adds a little strength because its long grain. You can see a little tear out near the anchor. A little filler will fix it.
I trim the skunk stripe flat using my little Kobalt plane. When you get them set up and sharpened right, you can’t beat them for the money.
I glue the binding onto the neck. I’ve tried out different glues for this, and i’ve decided to use Duco with some other stuff mixed in. Duco on its own does’t seem to bond all that well with oily woods.
Tape removed and looking great. Ready to get the frets pressed in there.
Those shiny new jumbo frets really set it off. It is tricky to press frets in with the binding on there. You have to cut the fret tang off where the fret will overhang the binding. I have a nifty little tool for tang nipping that I got on ebay for $50 less than the Stewmac and Allparts tool. Eventually I will make my own overbuilt tool that is easier on the hands when I need to do lots of them.
Back to the Neck
Here is the headstock after sanding the ears flush.
I make some of the first cuts for the tenon on the bandsaw. The tenon has to fit perfectly.
Here I am squaring up the corners with a sharp chisel.
My jig for the neck break angle is also used for the neck mortise. I attach a template and route the neck pocket with a long router bit. The angle matches the 4.4 degree sides of the neck.
And the pocket is ready for the neck. It takes two passes with a 1″ cutting length bit, followed by the really long bit.
Fitting the Neck
I did a little video of the first time I fit the neck into the body. It’s a satisfying moment. The fit has to be fine tuned around the edges and on the bottom of the mortise.
Here it is after carefully adjusting the fit with sandpaper and a sharp chisel. The neck and body need to fit together perfectly, but not too tight. The glue needs somewhere to go so the sides of the tenon are beveled.
Fixing the Ears
When shaping the headstock with the template not being attached flush to the face of the headstock. That’s all for the first update as I’ve been working on other new models. When I pick this project back up I will cut the headstock ears and veneer off the headstock, and install new ones so I get it right. Not a big setback. I’ll be wiring a bunch of Humbuckers for this guitar and 3 others that I am working on.
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for part 2. To receive an update when we complete the post sign up for our mailchimp newsletter at the bottom of the page or follow @weybach_guitars on instagram or facebook.
After a long break from working on this project, I had to get back into it. The first thing I did was cut off the headstock ears, and glue on some new ones. I also had to sand off the first headstock veneer which was done quickly on the belt sander (almost too quickly). In the photo you can see the clamps putting tons of pressure on the veneer. There is a piece of MDF on the front to make the clamping force even.
Here is the headstock after getting the Holly veneer glued on. I Also drilled the tuner holes through the veneer. I use a backer on the drill press to make sure I don’t have bad exit wounds or tear out.
Here is a look at routing out the pickup cavities with the plunge router. It is tricky clamping the template to the carved top.
Here is a closeup. During final sanding i’ll try to tame those tooling marks with 120 grit sand paper.
Here is what the neck tenon looks like after the pickup cavity is routed.
Don’t forget the side dots! I set up a fence on the drill press and glue in the dots with CA glue.
Here I am testing the fit of the pickup rings. I kept working on sanding the top to match the curve on the bottom of the rings.
The binding install went pretty well. My process was a little strange, but I like how it turned out. I wanted the binding to be full height in the cutaway, which meant I had to get a really tall binding strip and cut it short everywhere except the cutaway. My mallet is acting like a clamping caul. I’ll have to make a new caul that fits the cutaway.
Fixing the Binding
Here is a look at the cutaway where the binding didn’t pull tight. I use some acetone and a knife to get excess glue out, before re-gluing it.
Near the neck pocket also needed a little attention. This was easy to fix with some acetone and a clamp.
My clamping caul and some spacers do the trick to pull the binding in tight. Its pretty ugly looking. Don’t worry, it looks nice after scraping and sanding.
I did a final neck fitting. The neck and the top have to be exactly flush. So I used chisels and sandpaper to make tiny adjustments. The fretboard has to seamlessly sit on the maple top, so the neck tenon can’t be higher than the maple.
I made the choice on this guitar to make the pots and switch sit flat on the top. They are normally angled with the top. I needed to drill out from the control cavity, to make the top thin enough to accept the push/push pots.
Gluing the Fretboard
My radius bar makes for a good clamping caul while attaching the fretboard. There is literally tons of force making sure the glue joint is tight.
Here is a look at the headstock with the tuners installed. I had to cut the veneer out of the truss rod access area. I used a knife and the Dremel to cut it to the right size. My little Dremel grinding wheel gouged the Mahogany a little bit, so i’ll need to sand it out.
The headstock back is looking good. The screws for the tuners are installed.
Getting Things Lined Up
Before gluing in the neck I want to make sure I have all the holes drilled into the body. I spent a lot of time making sure things align properly. The location of the bridge and tailpiece have to be perfect, so that the strings have the right gap between the sides of the fretboard.
I shaped this neck by hand because I didn’t want to modify my neck shaper jig. It goes pretty quick with a rasp, scrapers, and my orbital sander. I decided to go with a really fat neck. I want this guitar to have a really big tone with the solid un-chambered body.
The round over is cut with a 3/16th inch bit on the router table. No problems here.
The neck is finally glued in. The fit is nice and tight. There is a really tiny gap that will disappear during the filler stage. When I retool the process I will be able to get a zero gap here.
Got a little cut on my finger while cleaning dust out of the shop. Signing the LP with blood was the only logical thing to do.
I got the guitar stringed up to test out the action, and make some tweaks before electronics are dropped in. Thats all for this update. The final update will cover finishing, and getting the tone circuit put together. Thanks for reading.
Final Update 8-2-17
So I finally got around to finishing the guitar and updating the post. I sprayed it with a few coats of sealer. I ended up going with a Tru-Oil finish because the fumes aren’t bad.
Here is the back of the headstock. I left the grain unfilled. This is without the oil finish.
To make my life easier I masked the electronics, and pickups and kept them installed in the guitar.
Here is the front after the sanding sealer.
I masked the headstock to paint the veneer black. Always get the good masking tape!
Not the Right Color
The first color I tried was a no go. I sanded the red off back to bare wood. It was helpful for sanding because the red shows you if you missed a spot.
I like this color much better. It is a wipe on burst which was pretty tricky. It looks more hand made than my sprayed on bursts.
Here it is with some clear coats.
The finish is smoother after some wet sanding and buffing.
One of the final steps was making the plasitc covers for the switch and control cavities.
I went over to the War Horse coffee shop here at the goat farm to take a few pictures.
I’m really happy with how it turned out. After giving it a fret level and setup, I played it in the shop for a few hours. I need to make a few little improvements when I start building more of them. For the next build, I need to design a mother of pearl logo for the headstock and figure out how to cut it. I need to make some changes to the binding process, and the top carve. The neck is really fat, which I like but is not for everyone. It’s also as heavy as they come, which was intentional.
Give me a call or a text if you want one of the next LP builds. I need to take it around town to let some people try it out before I offer them for sale. But if you want to get on it early we can work something out. I’ve got some ideas with other woods I want to try out, so stay tuned. Thanks!
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