Howdy Folks, I know its been a long time since I’ve posted a build. Sorry bout that. We’ve been real busy lately.
I have some projects that I started before I closed the old workshop.
I did these in more of a batch process, which is great, but comes with it’s own set of issues. This wood is Zircote. Really pretty hard wood that is alot like Ebony.
Here is the batch of blanks after they were cut out on the band saw and thickness planed. I used my template to sand and route them to final shape, and drilled the tuner holes. Unfortunately they don’t all make it our alive.
So I set up my truss rod machine and get to work. It was tough to design and build the jig, but just as difficult to figure out how to work it properly.
Here is a look at the cutter in the truss rod jig. Uh-oh, I spot a mini disaster.
Hulk Smash! It kills me to lose such a nice piece of wood. Always remember to run scrap wood through the jigs first.
Now back on track and installing truss rods in all the necks. I decided to do these necks different from the traditional vintage style, because I want them to be adjustable at the headstock. That way you can leave the neck on when you make adjustments. I’m not a huge fan of the spoke wheel style in the heel either.
Hazards of the job. Good thing I have calluses built up.
I had an interesting glue up with these since I did them all in one stack. I had to work really quickly.
Back to work. I started working on the batch of bodies. Here I am cutting blanks out of a giant hunk of thermo-ash that was dried in a vacuum kiln.
I used the robosander and template as usual to prepare the body’s edges for routing.
Here is the back template for the spring cavity.
A few bodies are hanging out. I was trying to move them through steps like an assembly line.
Dang it again!
Uh Oh… I took a good size chip out with the hand router. I was able to use some leftover binding to glue it back into place. I’ll clean it up with a chisel and sandpaper.
I don’t let little stuff like this get me down. Some companies would throw the body out. I’m not going to waste a great piece of wood for a minor blemish.
This body is Korina. It is almost like a white mahogany. The grain is very similar.
I did the first router pass on the top. Unfortunately I keep getting tear outs in the narrow sections. I need to switch over to an overarm router in the next shop so I can take shallower passes.
They are coming together
I love test fitting the necks. Especially when the fit is perfect.
Here is the whole gang stacked up.
I went ahead and installed the neck plate and screws. This could be done later but I like having less steps during final assembly.
Here are some headstocks getting transition sanded. In my next shop I have to find a better way to do this. The easiest would be to CNC the necks. I could also build a machine to do the task more precisely. These headstocks are too thin to use my preferred tuners, so I’ll use the Gotoh vintage style lockers.
I radius sanded the fretboards on my big grizzly sander (which is now taken apart and in storage). Then I cut the fret slots and mark the locations of the fret dots.
Here I drilled the holes for the fret dots. I use a little depth stop on the bit, which just barely scuffs the fretboard. It sands out after the dots are installed.
Here are the dots snugly glued in with superglue.
Then the neck goes back on the swing arm sander. I do a final radius check to make sure its correct. If you apply pressure in the wrong place while using the belt sander you can end up with the radius being slightly off. I clean the dust out of the frets with an x-acto knife and compressed air.
Here is a close up after the frets are cleaned. I use a caliper to make sure that the dot and the drill bit are exactly the right size. You also want to test it on scrap because any tiny wobble in the bit can bore the hole out larger than intended.
Here is the neck attached the swing arm. I cant wait to try out the bullet style truss rod. It will be nice to make adjustments without taking off the neck.
My shelves were not looking great so I have to periodically organize them. I know where everything is within the mess, so reorganizing them means I can’t find anything.
Time for side dots. I use a fence on the drill press to keep them straight. If you look very close you can still tell they are done by hand because of small variations in spacing. I put some lemon oil on the fretboard to keep it from drying out.
The gang is hanging out waiting for frets to be installed.
Installing frets is one of those things that takes practice and experimentation to get right. The improvement on these necks compared to earlier builds is night and day. You make little mistakes over time, but they help you get better.
All 5 necks are fretted and ready for shaping. I normally level the frets while the back of the neck is still a flat surface. But I think i’m going to complete the guitars and look for a plek machine. It levels frets and cuts nut slots with a level of precision that I can’t match by hand.
This might be the last batch of necks that I run through this shaper jig. If you are thinking of building one just save yourself the headache and shape them by hand, unless you are doing 20+ necks. Even though I did a bunch of them on this machine I still probably spent more time tinkering with it, than it would have taken me to hand shape them.
Here they are after the machine does it’s thing. I learned to run the machine so that the necks stay super fat, and I slim them down by hand. There is no room for error and its easy to set the machine too low.
Then I grab the rasp and dig into the corners. It’s quick and not that hard to do. But it did get tiring doing 5 necks at once.
Then I bust out the orbital sander and get them closer to final shape. This is one of the best parts of building a guitar because you really start to feel how the instrument will play after its done.
All five are done and they are starting to show the figure in the wood. I love that birdseye neck. Wow.
Here is a closeup of one of the flame maple necks. That figure will really pop with some oil coats built up. I needed to get some sealer coats on the batch before moving.
At this point I was packing up a lot of the shop. I sold a few of the tools that I did not want to store, or would be upgraded in the next shop, and some wood.
Time to Move
Then after 2 years it was time to move on. I packed up everything and got moved out. Next time I set up a shop I want to make sure I never have to move it. Good grief that equipment is heavy.
Thanks for reading!
Edit (4-10-19)- It’s neat to see people are still enjoying the blog. I think it has gotten more traffic as a resource to guitar builders than when it was a shop. Please enjoy and feel free to reach out. Thanks