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Build #2: The Instrument That Didn’t Want To Be.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rwkeating, Nov 13, 2016.


  1. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Introduction
    My first build went very well especially since I had no prior woodworking experience. I still play that instrument every day. My second build has been extremely trying.

    The idea was to build an instrument like my 1st build (8 string tapper inspired by the NS/Stick,) but with enough differences from the 1st build to make it worthwhile. I decided to go with a headstock (scarf joint) and to use a 30” scale length with more frets (30.) I also decided to use a different finish for the body (water based stain and polyurethane.)

    I didn’t take as many pictures this time, but I will have pictures (and more of the story) in upcoming posts.

    Let’s just get this next section out of the way ...

    All The Stuff That Went Wrong
    1. Friend gave me some wood (cherry.) Was going to use it for the neck. It chipped out so much that eventually the piece got too small to use.
    2. Tried to use some maple for the neck from the board that I used in my first build. This piece of wood was like a spring. The more it was planned the more it curved. Bought some new maple and everything went perfectly.
    3. Drilled out holes for machine heads. Although I used the correct size bits, four of the holes ended up a little too large. May have been caused by the run out of my cheap drill press. I could still work with the holes but I wanted a more precise fit.
    4. After finishing the neck, I decided to check it against the fret board template. Some frets were slightly off. Was I being too picky? This question would haunt me until finally assembly.
    5. Leveling the fret board took off way more fret material than I wanted. This made crowning harder. Later I would find out that I didn’t do a good crowning job and would have to re-crown. The 2nd re-crown went very well however :)
    6. The body is 2 pieces. The neck pocket ended up not being exactly centered with the seam. All other measurements had to be done from a new center line. Things just look a bit off when held up and sighted. Did I take some measurements from the old center line? I don’t know, but nothing is off functionally.
    7. First time stringing up the instrument with used 34” scale length string caused the lowest pitched string to unraveled. I never even thought about having to use a different length string! Fortunately Kaliumstrings.com was able to meet my 30” scale needs.
    8. Applying the finish to the body was a complete disaster.
    9. Setting the intonation meant putting the lower string saddles back further than I anticipated. This puts the lowest string on a large angle from the mounting point to the bridge saddle. I will have to make sure this doesn’t cause any problems
    10. The entire time I was worried about the headstock and neck dive (since my 1st build is headless and balances wonderfully.) Not really an error, just something else to worry about (because I needed more worries.)
    I’ll have pictures in upcoming posts … promise.
     
  2. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Scarf joint
    I knew the scarf joint would be difficult as it was the first time I was doing it. The hardest part was making the cut by hand with the Japanese saw. I practiced a bunch and in the end it went okay especially since I left enough wood to work with to make things right or even re-cut..

    Picture 1, trying to keep the saw lined up. Pic #2 not a bad cut. Pic 3 trying to smooth things out. The wood on the bottom is scrap used to raise what I was working on enough so the plane could make a full pass. #4 gluing the headstock (I didn’t get a good full picture of this.)

    full?lightbox=1&update=1479075902.

    Headstock
    I used Google SketchUp to do a fair amount of planning and I printed some things out as templates. I know I didn’t use SketchUp to its fullest, but it helped compared to drawing things out by hand. Although in the end the headstock was reshaped to the way it looked best in person, the template was key in getting the machine heads in the correct location.

    Pic1, the headstock ears are way too big. That meant more wood to remove. Pic2, I used the correct size forstner bits for the tuners, but (pic3) the holes didn’t turn out well. I chalk this up to the amount of run out on my cheap drill press.

    full?lightbox=1&last_edit_date=1479075902.

    full?lightbox=1&update=1479075902.

    As I looked at the headstock I just didn’t like good even though I followed my original design template. The first looked fat and bloated (if one can say that about a headstock.) The second was too harsh (angular) for me and just like in the story of The Three Bears, the 3rd one was just right.

    full?lightbox=1&last_edit_date=1479075902.
     
  3. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Neck

    Pic1, I left the end of the headstock uncut so I would have a square part to push up against my workbench as I routed out the truss rod channel. Pic 2, it is important not to “trap” the truss rod in place by covering it completely at the end. I used only a small plug and some people don’t even do that. Side note: I made this mistake in my first build but it was easily correct (almost a year after the fact) without detuning any strings :)

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    Metal

    Just some pictures of making the bridge parts. Once again, the run out of my drill press meant that even with clamping the work into place, things still didn’t come out the same.

    In the last picture I am gluing fret wire on top of the bridge pieces. After the epoxy dried I cut/sanded off the extra wire sticking over the edges.

    full?lightbox=1&update=1479130338.
     
    franksidebottom and Freekmagnet like this.
  4. BritFunk

    BritFunk Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2009
    Subbed. Have to see how this turns out. :)
     
    rwkeating likes this.
  5. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Body
    Pic 1, more hand work carving out the neck cavity. Pic 2 a Sketchup made body template cut out with a razor blade and laid in place. Then the outline was traced onto the wood

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    How the bridge comes together.

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    Electronics Cavities
    Pic 1, not knowing where to put the PU, I strung up the instrument, placed the PU over the strings, moved it around untill I found the best sounding spot and marked it.

    I routed out all the control cavities (PU, controls, battery) before cutting out the body. This way I had wood for the router plane to ride on. Last time I didn’t do it that way and it made things very difficult as the router plane was often only supported on one side.

    full?lightbox=1&update=1479161598.
     
    T_Bone_TL and reverendrally like this.
  6. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    A Noob at Knobs

    Thanks to you guys that have made knobs (I hope you read that with a bit of irony), I gave it a try. This was a real hack job, so you might not want to look. I think of these as my Flintstones knobs as they aren’t exactly round or centered but when the wheel was first invented … oh well.

    Pic 1, trying to cut as round as I could with straight lines. Pic 2, setting up an old crappy drill in a vice and some wood to lean against. Working with a chisel, rasps and sandpaper, this took so long and was so hard to do that I didn’t want to do it again. In pic 3 I’ve cut the wood into 2 hoping the pieces would be thick enough for 2 knobs … they weren’t. So in pic3 I am gluing more wood on them.

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    Pic 1 I am drilling a hole in the center to mount the knobs on the drill again and round them off. Pic 2 is gluing the tops on. Pic 3 is the end results. I made the slope for a tactile feel, and put the same dots I used on the neck for a visual reference and a design tie in. I like this knob design and hope to be able to do it better for future use.

    full?lightbox=1&update=1479218505.
     
    Will_White and BritFunk like this.
  7. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Applying the Finish, and re-applying and re...

    My goal was to have a pristine high gloss dark brown stained finish. That didn’t happen.

    Prior to doing any finishing work on the instrument I practiced on scraps of the same wood I was using for the body. From this I decided on the color I wanted and how to get to a high gloss finish. In retrospect I now realize that working on nice flat pieces of scrap wood does not help when the body you will be working on is curvy and has cavities cut into it. Oops.

    I used water based stain and polyurethane. I followed the instruction and had multiple thin coats of poly applied. The poly had brush marks and bubbles that needed to be sanded. I waited 10 days before sanding. Even by gently sanding with 600 grit paper I still sanded through the poly and in some place even down to the unstained wood! I decided to start over completely. That didn’t go as planned either.

    Pic 1 is after trying to sand off all the poly. and the stain from the 1st screw up. I guess the stain really penetrated as I felt like sanding even more would start messing with my body dimensions. I went through many stages of trying to recover.

    Things went so wrong I just stopped following all the rules/guidelines. At some point I was kind of digging an aged/used looking finish. I tried to cover the marks that looked like mistakes and highlight or add marks that looked like they would have occurred from aging. Pic 2 is after 2 coats of stain and sanding (you’re not supposed to do that) and then 3 coats of poly and using a polishing pad after only one day of dry time (you aren’t supposed to do that either.) I used the polishing pad (by hand) so soon because the poly was still soft enough to easily get out all the defects. After doing this I was left with a good looking flat finish (pic 2), but I wanted gloss. I waited a week for things to dry completely. In pic 3 you can see on the right side the gloss I got just from using Meguiar’s M80 car polish and a dual action polisher.

    full?lightbox=1&last_edit_date=1479248536.
     
    reverendrally and Will_White like this.
  8. younggun

    younggun

    Jul 19, 2008
    San Antonio
    Yep, wax and buffing can get you quite a bit of shine. If you do something like this in the future and want a nice high gloss finish done by hand I'd recommend oil based poly, thinned 50% with mineral spirits. You build up the layers slowly wiping it on by hand with a lint free rag, no brushing...sanding with 600 grit every few layers, and once you have 4 or 5 layers you can hit it with 1400 and 2000 grit. It dries fairly quickly so you can do a few layers per day. Any drip marks, imperfections, dust, etc that happen are easily sanded out as you go. I've done some furniture and musical instruments this way, ended up with 12 to 15 layers, and a beautiful shiny result. Wax and buff at the end will really make it glow too.
     
    reverendrally and rwkeating like this.
  9. Sharp5

    Sharp5

    Dec 6, 2014
    Eastern NC
    Great work with making your own bridge!
     
    rwkeating likes this.
  10. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Nearing the End

    Pic 1, controls installed. Pic 2, since the EMG pots use split shafts and my home made knobs use set screws, I had to put some wood in the split to stop it from collapsing. The usual advice is to line the set screw up with the split, but I wanted to position the knob the way I wanted to, not the way the shaft happen to be pointing.

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    Next up, the pictures of the completed instrument.
     
    BritFunk likes this.
  11. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    The Completed Instrument

    Here are pictures of the end product. The “aged” finish really stands out in the closeups. I like how it looks good from a distance and up close you can see the “character” (do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself? :)

    I think the instrument turned out fairly good considering all the issues that I confronted during the build. There are a few things I am going to keep my eye on so there may or may not be some changes made in the future.

    I plan on posting a demo video of the instrument within the next few weeks and when I do I’ll post that here.

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    A family snapshot of build #1 and #2.

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  12. In some ways I enjoy the builds that are less than perfect or where extraordinary measures were taken better than the perfect builds. nice job
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016
    rwkeating likes this.
  13. great work, thanks for sharing!
     
    rwkeating likes this.
  14. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    Bridge Followup

    The break angle of the strings over the bridge was greater than I anticipated. More troubling was the angle from where the string was mounted (at the ball end.) This angle increased when I set the intonation and had to move the bridge pieces closer to the end of the body than I had anticipated. To solve this, I made a new bridge plate with a higher anchor point for the strings. Much better!

    On the left is the original. In the middle picture shows the new plate and the old one. Far right is the new plate installed. The pictures make it look like the back “wall” is leaning, but it is 90 degrees to the body.

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  15. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    I can't lie to myself any longer. The errors in fret placement on my second build are bad enough that I will need to replace the fret board :( In retrospect I believe the errors occurred from sloppy marking of the fret locations and not the actual cutting. I went back and checked against the template and my first build fret layout is spot on :)

    Will have to order frets and fret markers to complete this repair. I've never done this before. So far so good (keeping fingers crossed.)

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    I-Am-The-Slime likes this.
  16. rwkeating

    rwkeating

    Oct 1, 2014
    Chicago
    none
    The fretboard replacement was a success and I am glad I did it. Here is a video demo of the instrument.

     
  17. Sounds great!
     

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