Five string fretless build starting

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jisch, Nov 2, 2016.

  1. Is it bad that I only watched the final episode? that's some incredible stuff - the operation of the clock looks very similar to the way my dad's work.
  2. I cut the fret markers - this will have fret markers on the underside of the fingerboard, so you can see them as you play, but the front will be unobstructed. I bought a scale ruler from Stewart Mac in preparation for this build, but then I forgot that it's meant to measure down the center of the fret. I kind of blew that away by cutting the sides of the fingerboard, oops. I just took a piece of paper and marked the frets on my Kiesel and transferred them over. I'm thinking black walnut for more subdued lines. I have some black laminate, but that's just a bit too intense (but see my comment on the side dots further down).

    And I did side dots, as per the above I don't like how intense the black side dots are so I got a 1/8" black walnut dowel stuck it in the drill press and sanded it down closer to 1/16". The sizing looks right, but the contrast is pretty sublime. Ugh. I might end up coloring these somehow.

    I worked on putting dowels in so I could trim up the back to match the front, the lower wing went perfecltly, I tried two different times on the upper wing it was misaligned both times - lets just call that extra chambering. :-D as I was contemplating what to do I realized that I wasn't really gaining anything by not just attaching the wings, so I glued up the upper wing, I'll glue the lower one tomorrow morning. There is a slight variation in thickness between the neck blank and the wings, with the neck blank being slightly thicker, so I justified the wing to the front. Assuming everything goes as planned it should make gluing the top on relatively easy.

    So by the end of the weekend I should be doing some shaping, then things will slow down considerably - back to work and the house stuff is really starting to pick up. Framing starts on Thursday so that means a lot of decisions need to be made!
    lbridenstine likes this.
  3. I watched the 12 minute summary video as well and am amazed. That was beautiful! What an amazing thing to build.
  4. I glued up the other side this morning. I've got a small gap at the bottom end that will need to be rectified, it looks like the planer probably took a bit extra off the end due to the weight of the neck blank as I was running it through - something to remember for next time.
  5. I got a few minutes in the shop today.

    I routed the wire channel a bit deeper, I'm still a bit concerned that they will fill up with glue. I put tape over them when spreading glue, then pulled it off, so theoretically it should be ok. I also routed a channel for bridge ground.

    Then it's time to glue up. I put a couple screws into the pickup holes and clamped it with some sheet rock screws and a piece of maple, and hundreds of clamps :)

    I'm not sure what I'm doing for a headstock laminate, but this is looking pretty good, I need to lay out the pegs and see how they sit:
    mapleglo, Gilmourisgod and Fat Freddy like this.
  6. I pulled the clamps off, it looks good, I don't see any gaps, but it's hard to say until I trim the sides back.

    I might get some time later this afternoon to trim it, but likely not until tomorrow.
    Fat Freddy and Will_White like this.
  7. I snuck an hour in and got the sides flush. There's going to be some interesting colors going back and forth on this body - the sap wood on the black walnut is very close in color to the maple.



    I see some minor gaps, but I think they will go away with the round over.
    BritFunk, Will_White and Fat Freddy like this.
  8. I forgot to upload a picture of the back - looks great.
  9. I haven't planned out my neck yet, so I couldn't do that tonight (and the fretboard isn't attached yet) so I did the body round over. Still lots of sanding and forming to do, but man I love doing a round over - the body shape really comes through and it starts to look like an instrument and not a hunk of wood.
    A little bit of burning on the maple:

    less burning on the walnut or even on the wenge:

    Sanded off the burns:

    and started working on the heel (I did find my shinto which tore the crap out of my hand, I gotta make some kind of guard for the top or use gloves).
    BritFunk, SLivinghouse and Fat Freddy like this.
  10. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yep, now it's looking more refined!

    Fear the Shinto. I put a small piece of painter's tape on mine where my finger likes to press down.
  11. The shinto is really good at exfoliating, although it does it in large chunks. It wouldn't be hard to make a guard to go over the "up" side. I can only assume that you're only supposed to hold the handle (which gives you zero leverage?).
  12. I continue to struggle with headstock shapes. Here's where I'm at right now, they are both kinda similar - any feedback welcomed and appreciated. There's not a lot of real estate lengthwise, but tons laterally.



    The laminate will be bookmatched maple (cut from body wood) with perhaps a stripe of wenge down the middle.
  13. I got things ready for final glue up. I cut the end of the fingerboard - I measured the angle of the stripes in the body and I copied that angle (my wife's idea). I hope it shows when I get it all done. I cut the piece of maple for the headstock, I cut it at an angle to maximize the figuring that will show once the tuners are installed. Getting the two sides cut straight so there was no air gap was driving me crazy. Finally I taped them together and used the table saw, it's perfect now. I was considering putting a thin stripe of wenge between the two, but I don't think I'm going to do this.


    I'll glue up the fretboard tonight and maybe the headstock tomorrow, we'll see, it was a pretty busy day, maybe I'll glue up tomorrow.
  14. Finger board glued up. I have a few issues, but looks pretty good.

    Next up, neck carving.
  15. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    That's an awesome fingerboard!
    SLivinghouse, Will_White and Jisch like this.
  16. I got the fingerboard radiused - it was as much of a pain as I thought it would be. I had to keep chipping the solidified sanding dust from the ziricote off the radius block. I guess it wasn't that bad (other than that dust whew). I didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but not sure you can see much anyway.

    I roughed in the neck profile, I've got a fair amount of work to do on this, but it looks pretty good.

    Then I glued up the laminate on the headstock. Things got weird. I spread glue on the headstock then on the laminate, I got the pieces situated on the headstock and as I was getting the clamps in place the laminate started warping as it absorbed glue. Things got nasty, but I think I got it clamped in place, worst case I'll have to plane it off, but I don't think I will have to - I surely will have a gap in the middle that I'll have to deal with somehow. I'll have to see how it looks tomorrow.

    I realized tonight that I don't have my scrapers, I think my dad has one, I'll have to see what kind of shape it's in.
    BritFunk likes this.
  17. It seems that I created my own problem last night. While I was trying to deal with the warping of the laminate, I ignored that the problem with the space between the laminate was actually caused by me putting a clamp lower down to push the two sides together. When I did that it levered the top of the laminate out. So right now I have a bit of a vee gap, with no gap at the truss rod and a small gap at the top. I will just create a consistent valley and fill it in with either black walnut or wenge. So it's not a mistake, it's a feature.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  18. Fat Freddy

    Fat Freddy Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    Albany NY
  19. They let us out a couple hours early today so I got a few hours in at the shop.

    Today was mostly neck day. I cleaned up the back contour and worked on the neck heel. More work to be done in both areas, but serious progress was made, and I just realized I didn't take any pictures of just the back of the neck, oh well. Here's the pics I did take:
    Neck heel from the side:

    Neck heel from the back, still a bit too much material in there, but getting close:

    That wenge stringer looks pretty nice - the scraper loves this wood. I also did the belly carve in the top wing (you can kind of see it here), I'll get more pics of that later, but it's carved out of just the right part of the wood - it looks like marble that's made out of walnut, it's right where the wood transitions from the sap wood to the core wood:

    I sanded down the front with a palm sander, I've stared at this wood for four months but totally forgot just how much figuring it has and how deep the figuring is, it's going to look amazing once the oil hits it. After sanding off the pencil marks, glue and shop grime you can see a lot more figuring:

    Next I'll do the headstock and volute, there's a bit of clean up on the neck right next to the headstock that will get done as I get the volute carved out. There is a LOT of sanding to be done, there are all kinds of sanding and other scratches in the body. I guess I've been transporting this one more than most I build and it shows. I started putting it in a case now when I drive it around, hopefully no new scratches from here on.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  20. Fat Freddy

    Fat Freddy Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    Albany NY
    Lovin' it :):thumbsup:
    Jisch likes this.
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