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Laminated Body Build (similar to Ibanez Premium style)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Wafl, Apr 16, 2019.


  1. Wafl

    Wafl

    Sep 29, 2015
    I'm designing an uncomplicated three-layer bass body (including one or two layers of veneer accents). If you have ever done a laminate body or hippie sandwich, I'd be grateful for any tips/warnings you might have, glue choice, secret sauce, don't do this or that, etc.

    Any comments on wood selection would also be helpful. Tentatively I like:

    Top: 1/4" flat-sawn black walnut
    Accent stripes: 1/40" maple veneer, 1/40" rosewood veneer
    Core: 1" mahogany
    Accent: 1/40" rosewood veneer
    Back: 1/4" black walnut

    I've assembled many guitars, love Ibanez stuff, and already have a BTB Premium, but I just want to try my choice of setup and electronics. Thanks!
     
    Beej likes this.
  2. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I've done a few. I like using veneer accents.

    TCeOpvN.
    8U3TZEw.
    sOWfeFO.
    wD690SH.


    Here are some thoughts, given your specs.

    Rosewood is not a great veneer between walnut and mahogany. It will likely be almost invisible. Here's a mahogany veneer between maple and walnut:
    rOJt6T5.
    The mahogany is only visible from a few inches away. If that's what you're going for, rock it. If not, you may reconsider the rosewood veneer. For maximal dark contrast, consider a black dyed veneer sheet.

    Use long-cure epoxy. It is more expensive, but has a longer open time (remains liquid longer) so you can get everything together more easily. If it's too expensive, look for Titebond Extend...it has a longer open time than regular titebond.

    Get everything ready and in place before you start spreading glue.

    Use a glue roller (or an ink brayer).

    Don't try to do it all at once. Glue in phases...meaning:

    1. Glue your top veneer sandwich first
    2. Glue your top to the veneer
    3. Glue the top+veneers to the core
    4. Glue the back accent veneer to the back
    5. Glue the back+veneer to the core

    Plane everything to final thickness before you glue, but don't cut anything to shape. You will have slippage, and if you don't give yourself maximal wiggle room for the final cut, there is a better-than-even-chance you will regret it.
     
    L Anthony, BishopJP, Wafl and 6 others like this.
  3. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Sandwich construction is my main MO as well. Here's an example I pulled out the clamps this afternoon:
    Bookmatched walnut top and back, bigleaf maple core, birch/walnut accent veneers. I do this kind of thing in most of my builds, just for the fun of it. :D I've tried all kinds of glue, and everything works, but I completely agree with @HaMMerHeD that slow-set epoxy is the way to go.

    I have everything prepped before I start mixing - including wax paper on surfaces, mixing cups, stir stix, spreaders, lots of disposable gloves and all my clamps and cauls ready to go. Right now, I'm liking System Three's G2 epoxy glue for this kind of thing, but it does have a pronounced ambering effect. It sets in 90 mins, and cures in 24. I've worked pieces after as little as 12 hours (not that I recommend that). I use a plastic bondo spreader and do several surfaces at once (due to the open working time), and glue it up between big sheets of MDF so I can get even clamping pressure.

    In the guitar above, I glued up the top and back, and also the body core separately with quick set epoxy and planed them all flat on both sides. I use large 18"x96" rolls of veneer and cut them down as needed to the size of the planned-for blank. I did one side at a time - top, veneer sheets, and core in one go, followed by the back and it's veneers. It's actually not difficult line them up on centre and keep them that way in the glue jig. The epoxy has some viscosity to allow movement of the pieces when setting them, but is sticky enough to hold them when I'm tightening the clamps.

    Something to consider when you're planning - if you have too soft an angle going over the veneers, they will feather like the veneers under the neck joint in the photo below, and it can look like a bit of a blurry mess when finished... :D
     
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  4. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    Only three minor details I'd add to the great advice so far:

    1) I like to do a complete dry run, positioning everything on the workbench, mocking up the application of glue and the assembly of the sandwich, and clamping it. This tells me if I've got a good workflow and enough clamps. Which leads to,
    2) Goes without saying, but make sure you have enough clamps. You've got a lot of relatively thin pieces of wood there, you want to make sure it's evenly clamped across the entire surface, which is pretty large for a bass body. If you've got a vacuum bagging rig you can ignore this!
    3) If possible, I like to leave the topmost and backmost plates a little thicker than final spec. This gives you the wiggle room to plane everything once the glue is dry, which can help flatten things out if the blank decides it's going to warp a bit - which happens sometimes, even if you start with perfectly seasoned, flat and true boards.
     
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  5. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    What I mean by "Get everything ready and in place before you start spreading glue" is this:

    Here are all the materials for this neck:
    008_neck_construction_4.

    Here is everything staged and ready for glue:
    009_neck_construction_5.
    Note that the clamps are open and ready to hand, and the bits of wood are arranged how they're going to be.

    And clamped:
    010_neck_construction_6.

    It's a simple thing, and probably super obvious, but it's really easy to get caught up in the process and overlook steps like this.
     
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  6. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    Every time you post photos of that neck, a little part of my soul happily dies and goes to bass player heaven. It's just so beautiful... :drool::drool::drool:
     
  7. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    I'll echo what others have said: have everything in place and ready to go, do things in stages:
    Walnut on cherry:
    [​IMG]

    many steps later: Quilted maple top, laminated center strip that hides a screw-up: (screw-up due to not following my own advice about doing things in stages)
    [​IMG]

    On edge:
    [​IMG]

    I used ZPoxy 30 minute epoxy on this; works well, available in hobbyist quantities.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
    Wafl and Beej like this.
  8. Wafl

    Wafl

    Sep 29, 2015
    There's awesome craftsmanship and planning skills on display here. Thank you all for your time. Now I have a few other questions:

    Do you avoid any woods because of tear-out, splintering, compression or other fails?

    What's your touch on clamping? One doesn't want to indent but still close gaps. To clamp in the center of the slab, is a cross piece of 2x4 sufficient, or do you need a deep-throated clamp?

    Any favorite grain fillers or matte/flat finishes you have? I want a smooth, flat look/feel. My little contribution: AquaCoat Clear Gel water based grain filler.

    Thanks again!
     
    Beej likes this.
  9. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Tear-out: I managed to avoid any bad tear-out incidents on my 3 build-off bodies this year by taking a very conservative approach to trimming: first I trimmed the blank to around 1/16" of the template, then I used a set of top-bearing bits and only took a maximum depth of about 1/8" per pass. I used this approach on the maple/walnut/cherry sandwich as well as the solid poplar bodies I built.

    Clamps: I used a set of 3 clamps made from poplar 2x2's and carriage bolts; each clamp is a pair of the 2x2's 24" long with the carriage bolts pulling them together. I also use a piece of MDF as a flat plate to spread the pressure.

    I used ZPoxy finishing resin as a grain filler, it does add a bit of ambering/darkening. I've also heard of people applying the Varathane Ultimate WB polyurethane with a brush as a filler.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
    Wafl likes this.
  10. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I used deep throated clamps. Some 8" jobs I got from harbor freight. I dont think a 2x4 would do the job adequately.
     
    Wafl likes this.
  11. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    I often build with really punky woods, driftwood, burls, etcetera and they can be prone to router tear out from all the wiggy grain direction, and/or the inherently weak structure of the wood being used. For those, I first use a clear penetrating epoxy sealer to help stabilize things a bit before routing. I also go in very small increments when things are seeming risky - 1/16" max. You can also use a climb cut (going with the direction of the bit instead of against) in order to help reduce tearout, but it's worth practicing, as the router can catch and run away from you quickly. :) I've shared my tearout experiences here, but really, it's quite unusual to get tearout in my experience, as long as you're going in increments and using a sharp bit with no nicks or resin/sap buildup behind the cutting edge.

    For getting good clamp-set in the middle of the piece, I use MDF sheets as cauls for gluing, like in the photo below.
    I used to always wedge a board into the top riding up against the ceiling of my shop, but I've stopped doing it as I found I was getting really good adhesion in the middle of the body anyway. Here's a shot of how I used to do it:

    I had a major problem with a build (glued the bookmatched top face down :banghead:) and so I cut it to pieces when furious. I had also forgotten to put the wedged board in on top, and expected it to be poorly adhered. That was not the case, it was solid as a rock in the centre. I'm sure a piece of that was the fact that epoxy doesn't really require a lot of clamping pressure for good adhesion. In contrast, if you don't get good clamping pressure when using titebond or the like, there is a good chance it won't adhere.

    I also use either epoxy like Zpoxy or System Three Mirror Coat for grain filling, or clear penetrating epoxy sealer. All will give a really smooth surface for the final finish. In the case of Mirror Coat, it can be the final finish itself and be buffed out to a high gloss shine.

    My final note is that I also really like the simplicity of use of West Systems epoxies, but ever since West Marine crapped the bed in Canada, I've not been able to get it for anything less than ridiculously exorbitant prices. If I bit the bullet, I'd now be paying over $200 to get an equivalent amount that I can pay less than $50 for G2. :) No thanks!
     
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  12. I use a vacuum bag to clamp up the wings.
     
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  13. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD Supporting Member

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    If you have the equipment (or the budget) this is the way to go.
     
    Wafl likes this.
  14. Wood pieces slip and slide all over the place when glue is involved. I like to put a couple of brads in place (with the heads snipped off) in strategically placed, ie. in waste areas if possible, areas to make clamping and glue up as painless as possible. These brads serve the same purposes as dowels do but they’re only there for alignment purposes.
     
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