LaJara - Revisiting the Semi-Hollow Flying V Six-String Guitar

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Freekmagnet, Dec 8, 2020.

  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I decided that it's time to start a new build, and I've had this design floating around for a while. I actually built a plywood and Masonite V a few years back, and it turned out to be a really cool guitar. This one is going to be made of actual wood and will have one of my pickups installed in it.

    Here's the drawing:


    I'm still not sure of the headstock design - I may or may not change it. Part of me wants to do a 6x6 headstock. I'll prolly make it 25.5" scale and 1 11/16" nut width.

    Here's my wood shot:


    From L-R: A 5-piece blank I glued up from some leftover maple. Once I cut the neck shape, it will probably end up being closer to a 3-piece. A 5/4 piece of red alder left over from another build and a 2/4 piece of poplar for the top. I wanted another piece of red alder, but they didn't have a piece wide enough or long enough to cut 4' at Mayan Hardwoods. Poplar is OK with me, really.

    The tricky part will be the first glue-up of the body blank. For strength, I want the direction of the grain to follow the shape of the V. I have to cut the pieces at an angle and surface them for gluing at the same angle.

    I'm kind of considering this to be a "scrap" build, so I'll prolly just buy some inexpensive hardware from BezDez on EBay. They have some pretty decent Korean-made stuff at very reasonable prices.

    I have a sort-of P90 design with AlNiCo 5 magnets and a single blade pole. There's few things more rocking than a nice 1-pickup Rock & Roll machine a la the Les Paul Jr. I made this pickup for one of my basses, and it's a great sounding pickup. Nice, fat, full, punchy and bright. It'd probably be a great guitar pickup as well.

    I'm thinking about maybe adding a passive treble and bass control like the G&L guitars have. That would give a few more options. I also have some push-pull pots I'd like to get rid of. Maybe I can add a second tone cap as well.
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  2. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    While stylish and rocking, the Flying V shape presents some unique building challenges. The first puzzle is that simply squaring up two halves of a blank and gluing it up is probably not the best way to go about building body. If you do it that way, the shape runs across the grain and might not make the strongest body.


    So, what I did instead was cut the blanks at an angle so that the grain runs in the right direction. I didn't do it super-precisely - I just needed it to be in the ballpark. Hint: keep those cutoff pieces!

    BTW, the template above is not the template I will be using for this build; I decided to re-design the neck pocket area and give it a more sculpted heel.


    Once that was cut, I used my body-blank routing fixture to joint the gluing edges. After routing, I like to sand that edge with 120 using a leveling beam.


    So then, I'll have these two arrow-shaped blanks with the grain running with the shape of the V.


    The next trick is to glue it up. The angles are pretty extreme, so I couldn't just clamp the halves like I would normal blank. Remember those cutoff pieces? Well, they're going to come in handy here. I use them to create a parallel surface for the clamps.

    I use West Systems Epoxy for my glue-up. Once this blank cures, I'll do a similar procedure tomorrow with the poplar top.


    And that's it for today. I was going to go to Home Depot and buy some MDF to make some new templates, but I just got the "Stay at Home" order from the State on my phone. We're also having gusty winds of up to 80mph here in SoCal, so it's probably not the best day to be on the road. I'll poke around my work area this afternoon to see if I have enough MDF laying around to make a neck template.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2020
  3. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Another little detail I want to correct - on my previous V build, there is a little gap where the neck is joined to the body. The taper between the neck pocket and the cutaway was too narrow to be of any substance.


    It's on both sides of the guitar, and it's always bugged me. Attention to detail and all that. I'm hoping that by angling the cutaway in the opposite direction, the taper will be more substantial and thus eliminate that pesky gap.


    We'll see how that works.
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  4. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Love me some V!

    For a single-pickup instrument, you can dramatically improve upper-fret access by essentially doing away with the neck heel altogether. I built myself a single-pickup Tele guitar this summer, with a set-thru neck, and it’s easy going all the way up to the 24th fret. Are you planning on bolt-on or set-neck? It works either way.


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  5. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Its going to be a bolt-on.

    Good idea - thx!

    I was thinking about that, though - maybe I could add a couple more frets, thereby extending the neck further into the body. If you look at this template I have...

    img_0502-scaled-jpg.jpg can see that I added a bit on top to give me something to bolt the neck to. If the neck heel extends further into the body, maybe I can do away with that altogether.
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  6. 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. If you're willing to discard the "Fender compatible" aspect, then things can become much more ergonomic.
    TerribleTim68 and Freekmagnet like this.
  7. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Yeah, that was a really good suggestion. I'm working on changing the neck pocket to accommodate a 24-fret neck. I've almost eliminated that little "chimney" on top of the body template. A twenty-four fret neck is almost "shredder" territory, but I think it's OK. Maybe I'll learn to embrace it. I don't know if the last fret would be easily accessible - maybe I could make some more slight alterations.

    I'm wondering though - how long does a neck pocket have to be? Fender spec is 3". Would 2.5" be adequate?
  8. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    After some suggestions from @ctmullins, I spent the day tweaking the design a little bit. Here's the updated photo:


    I added a few more frets to the neck, bringing it up to 24. That way, the neck extends further into the body and I can omit the "chimney" on the top of the body where the neck mounted. It will make a nicer pocket/heel transition. The bass side is angled to give me a little more space for the mounting bolts. I'm not sure if the 24th fret is even accessible, so I may or may not omit it. The pickguard was reduced in size to make extra room for the neck.
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  9. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I own and have played 24 fret guitars that have the last couple of frets on the body and it's not the end of the world. You can still reach them, and I'd think on the V shape, it's even better. :thumbsup:
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  10. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Alright, getting my templates together...

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  11. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Today I started with milling the blanks flat. I used my little router sled.


    Next, I drilled my reference holes - this is a crucial step.


    Then, I hogged out the interior. I always hate doing this for some reason. It's not all that difficult - it's just pretty brainless and there's nothing to do but screw up.


    And lastly, I used a template and my router to route out the main cavity.


    Now, you may notice that there's no place for the bridge. That is intentional - I'm going to epoxy a block in there for the bridge and for the pickup. I'll run a piece of wood up the middle to the neck for some support. I did it this way because I wanted as much air as possible in there and I didn't want to have to make a 3rd routing temple. Part of it was laziness and part of it was that I didn't want to drive out to HD to buy more MDF. I have plenty of small pieces of wood laying around to build a support structure within the body of the guitar. It'll be something different.

    However, I realized after doing all this that if my top is going to be less that .375" thick, I'm going to have to make a 3rd template anyway. I have a little MDF left over, so I can make a template large enough to cover the area around the sound hole. That matters most to me anyway.

    Next, I'm going to spend some time build that structure inside the main body cavity.
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  12. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    OK, I need a few opinions again.

    I just glued this block into the body to give the bridge a platform in which to drive my screws.


    I was going to glue another block between the bridge block and the neck - presumably to give the body more stiffness and strength. But now that I’m looking at it, there’s only 3.25” from the end of the bridge block to the end of the body cavity. If I left that second block out, do you think the body would be adequately strong?

    The back is 3/8” thick and top will probably be 1/4” thick above that spot.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
  13. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Just FYI - Those of us using Dark Mode can’t read what you’ve written - looks like black on black. :(
  14. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Fixed it. Thx.
    ctmullins likes this.
  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
    I think you’re fine. I’ve done chambered bodies with bigger gaps than that, no problem.
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  16. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Oh, I'm sure it's strong enough structurally. It isn't going to implode and fold up on stage! This body will be somewhat softer than if it were solid wood, but not a whole lot. You've got a good overall thickness, and the top and back have plenty of thickness. Remember, the wood on the back surface of the body is taking about 80% of the structural load, in tension.
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  17. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I only have a couple of photos today, and while it may seem like I didn't get a lot of work done today, I actually feel like I got a pretty good amount of work done considering the amount of time I had. The li'l lady wanted us both to get tested for COVID and that ended up taking two hours instead of the 15 minutes she initially estimated.

    Anyway, here's my first photo - after complaining earlier on this thread about not wanting to make an extra template for the bridge area, I had a "duh!", template-making moment.


    It worked fine.

    Then, I carved out the sound hole...


    I just printed out a template and shaped it with some rasps and files. You can see some of the paper left over.

    The next thing I have to do is make the top thinner around the sound hole from the inside with my router. This will take some thinking only because it's going to be pretty close to both the inner wall of the guitar and the bridge block. I'll probably have to make a little template out of scrap - otherwise, I'd probably freehand it.
  18. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Thx, guys! Yeah, I'll just leave it and see what happens. I'm pretty sure it'll be fine.
    ctmullins likes this.
  19. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I only remember one time having an experimental bass body go into structural failure. It wasn't really very exciting. It didn't explode in flaming shrapnel, or anything like that. As I was cranking the strings up to tune for the first time, I noticed the strings weren't reaching the notes and kept slipping back. At first I thought the strings were slipping on the tuner posts. Then I noticed that the action was getting higher......and the body was developing a relief curve! And there were cracking sounds..... It all happened on the assembly bench in my shop, so there was no public embarrassment. Oops. An engineering failure to learn from.
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  20. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Yeah, I’m doing a few “experiments” with this project, but I think that the hollow part will be OK. Acoustic guitars hold together with much thinner pieces of wood. The back is 3/8” thick and the walls will be 1/2”. It’ll be fine.
    wraub and ctmullins like this.

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