My Winter 2020 Projects

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Gary_M, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Hello everyone. I'm building 2 guitars this winter, so I was hesitant to post individual build threads for them. I mean, this is TB after all and we're smack in the middle of the awesome build off. So, I'll just make a combo thread and post a few progress pics as things move along. I do have some bass builds in mind for later winter/early spring. :D

    I've been on a bit of of quest to fill the holes in my instrument collection... right now I have no guitars with single coils. So I decided that I needed a Strat and I also wanted something with P-90 pickups. I'll do my own version of a late 50s to early 60s strat and I'll also do my own twist on a Les Paul Special double cut. Many of the choices that I made were in an effort to keep costs to a minimum, so I tried to use as much wood and materials as I could that I already had on hand.

    I don't think there are a lot of "purists" around here, so I'm sure no one will mind if I take quite a number of liberties. ;) These are not intended to be replicas, copies or anything of the like. I really wanted to include the qualities of the original instruments that I like the best along with my own deviations that I feel will be nifty.

    I've already posted the first couple of pictures in the What's on your Bench thread, but they're worth posting here again.

    For my version of a Les Paul Special DC, I'll be using Honduras mahogany for the body and neck with a lace redwood burl top and a Brazilian rosewood fretboard.

    The Strat will be relatively normal, but I will be using cherry for the body and figured maple for the neck. I normally would not use figured maple alone for a one piece neck, but this piece seems to be really stable; we will see what happens. Oh, I'll be using Madagascar rosewood for the fretboard.

    Rough cutting MDF for template copies.

    Making a copy of the Strat template on the inverted pin router.

    A pile of templates. The masters will get put up on the shelf in case of emergency. :thumbsup: Oh, I won't be making a Jazz bass right now... I already have 7 or 8 of them. :laugh:

    More to come soon. :)
  2. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Here are some progress shots that show the prepping of the body woods.

    This is the cherry that I'll be using for the Strat. I used a router sled to flatten one side. I normally just flatten one side with hand planes and run it through the planer, but this piece is too wide to fit in the planer.

    After flattening one side on the router sled, I jointed an edge, then resawed the waste away on the band saw. After that, it went to the drum sander where I brought it down to just over 1 3/4" to allow room for sanding. You can see here that there will be some sap wood that shows, particularly on the back. I don't mind that, but I'm going to experiment with a 2 color sunburst to see what that looks like on scrap. The heart wood will darken substantially, so I want to experiment with the finish after the wood has had some UV exposure.

    I had a limited amount of Honduras mahogany to work with for the Les Paul Special body. The piece that I did have was 10/4 material, so I removed the excess on the band saw again. Not sure what I'll ever use that piece for, but I could resaw it again and use it for laminates in a sammich. :D

    The Les Paul Special will have to be a 2 piece body due to the limited material on hand. Here you can see how tight this is... I had to nest the halves in the layout. I also had to work around some worm holes! :eek:

    I have some cool redwood lace burl that I want to use for the LPS top. I have 2 pieces just like this that are bookmatched... hmmm fairly thick. :cool:

    I started to think about this and I'm thinking that body binding may look cool. I decided that a single piece would be thick enough to resaw... This would give the added benefit of the binding covering the joint between the body and the top. So, again off I went to the band saw and resawed that puppy right down the middle.

    Here is is fresh off the saw with some naptha. This is some pretty trippy looking stuff!:wideyed:

    Jointed the bookmatched edge and glued it up.

    Cleaning it up on the drum sander.

    Thanks for looking. :)

    Good luck to everyone who is participating in the build off, we're all counting on you. :thumbsup:
    StuStu, robert43, ArtGuy9516 and 11 others like this.
  3. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Here are a few more progress pictures to show.

    I separated the two halves of the LPS body and glued them up using hot hide glue. I left as much of a straight edge as I could to make the glue-up easier.

    I rough cut the strat body outline, mounted the template, then went to town with the pin router. Routing the trem spring cavity here. In this case, the template is mounted to the front for the pin to register while the bit cuts the back.

    Here are the finished routs.

    Pin routing is complete, now I need the roundovers, belly carve and forearm contour.

    Once the LPS body blank had dried over night, I rough cut the outline, attached the template and went to the robosander to get it trimmed close.

    I then went to the pin router to finalize the outer body contour. I'm very pleased with the center seam given the limited material that I had to work with.

    I rough cut a couple of neck blanks from a mahogany blank and marked out the pickup layout. The neck blanks will be resting for a few days. The pickup routs won't be done until the neck can be fitted and I confirm the centerline, etc.

    Thanks for looking. :)
    wraub, washjayb, Jeff Siddall and 7 others like this.
  4. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    On to the fretboards. I prepped up a couple of Madagascar rosewood boards and a Brazilian rosewood board. (I'm making 2 necks for each build. Partly in case one goes wonky and ideally parts for future builds.)

    I marked out center lines, then cut fret slots. The Brazilian board has sapwood which may slightly show after the board is tapered. It won't be enough to be a future, so I'll probably color it. It will be bound anyway, so the edge will not show. The Brazilian board also does not have a "centered" centerline in an effort to work around the sap wood.

    To radius the boards, I mount them to a flat fixture while maintaining the centerline. I then use radius router bits to shape them. The Strat boards are getting a 9.5" and the Les Paul Special will get a 12".

    Close up to show the bit a little better.

    Here is one of the Strat boards right off the router table.

    Family photo.

    Thanks for looking.
  5. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    Very cool projects, I'm in

    Sub'd :thumbsup:
    SlingBlader likes this.
  6. Okay, 2 things -
    1. What an amazing idea on radiusing fretboards. I'd love to hear a much more in-depth breakdown of this, as this step has me freaking out almost as much as the back side of the neck. Pretty much the whole neck has me freaking out.
    2. If it was me, I'd be leaning over on that sap wood stripe and keeping as much of that as I could. I love that stuff. You say it's not enough to be a feature, but it is man, it is.
  7. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Hey sorry about the late response, somehow I missed this. :)

    I'm not sure how much detail you want, as the process is pretty straight forward. I bought several bits on Amazon all from the same maker, SJE Tools... although I think Amazon has a better selection now from other manufacturers. They have a demo video on YouTube, although I do not use the same process.

    Here is how how do it:
    I process and true up the board, establish a centerline and slot the board first. Then I attach the board to a square and flat plywood fixture while maintaining all centerlines. I mount the correct radius bit, and I leave the bearing on. (it can be removed, but I feel like it's a safeguard)

    I start with the fence gapped away from the bit somewhat. I'm only removing a small amount of material at a time. I take about 3 passes on each side while moving the fence in slightly each time until the bearing is essentially flush with the fence. The bit height is set so that the bearing is just above the centerline so that the cutter can reach the center.

    Fresh off the table, I'm usually left with a very minimal "flat" along the top of the radius, but I use a leveling beam with 160 grit paper to give the board a "once over". This quickly blends it all together and removes the tooling marks from the bit.

    Because the board is centered on the fixture, and because the fixture is square on both sides, I only have to flip the assembly to profile both halves of the board... I don't have to remove it from the fixture like they do in the YouTube demo. I've never had problems with tear-out slotting the board first. (it can knock out some of the wood at the nut slot on a Fender style board) I will say that their technique for leaving square ends so that the board can be slotted with a fret slotting jig after being radiused is very cool and I'm sure it would work.

    As for sapwood. I'm usually take a very "pro-sapwood" stance. But there are a couple of things about this board that made me go the other way. First, this particular guitar is a version a late 50s classic Gibson... and I wanted to keep that part of the original look with a dark board. Secondly, if I did want to feature a board that had a "split look" with the light and dark... it just did not have enough area of sapwood to make it look right, in my opinion. Third, is the fact that this is Brazilian rosewood. Although it isn't that hard to find, sellers to charge a very high premium for it; especially a board that is very dark and I could not bring myself to essentially waste the "better" part of the board just to show sapwood. I guess another point is that I'm doing crown inlays... so again, not entirely appropriate.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, hopefully this clears things up! :D
    wraub, Gilmourisgod, Beej and 2 others like this.
  8. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Bound and crowned... well, crowned for now anyway. :) I'm using some vintage style cellulose nitrate "crown" inlays for "Les Paul Special" neck.

    I had already radiused the board to 12" as detailed earlier. I applied tape to the surface of the board and transferred the centerline. Then I marked perpendicular centerlines at each inlay location. I have a laser cut template for my inlays with corresponding centerline marks. So, I just aligned the template and traced the shape.


    Next, I very carefully scored around the outline of each. I score pretty heavily and this really helps later when routing and chiseling the cavities as it prevents chipping out. Here I've removed the tape from the inlay areas.

    Next, I use a very tiny inlay bit in my dremel to outline each inlay pocket. (not pictured) I'm unsure of the size, but smaller than 1/16". I set this bit to be deeper than the finished pocket needs to be.

    Then, I come back and use a 3/32" downward spiral bit to hog out the remaining material. I allow the router base to follow the radius of the board. (the pockets do not have a flat bottom)

    Next, I remove the tape ,then I use chisels to clean up the edges. This is pretty straight forward since I have a knife line to use for the chisel. (assuming that I didn't already get up to the knife line with the outline procedure from earlier)

    Here I'm finalizing the fit of my inlays. The fishtail chisel is great for tight spots. I'm not aiming for a piston-tight fit. I just want to be sure that the inlays sit down nicely while leaving them a bit proud of the surface. If there are some gaps around the edges, they will be filled later.

    I use medium CA to glue the inlays in place, but not so much that there is squeeze out. I need to leave any perimeter gaps unfilled for the moment. I lightly sand the back of the inlay before placing it. As you can see, this board is still unsanded. I sand as little as possible to avoid my measurements from getting away from me.

    I set the inlay in place and clamp it firmly for a few minutes. The clamping makes the inlay conform to the curve of the pocket. The benefit of the curved pocket is that the inlay thickness remains uniform and the color will remain consistent as a result.

    Next, the inlays need to be sanded flush to the board surface. Here I'm using a radius beam to accomplish this. The smell of celluloid is somehow very pleasant to me... sort of like Mentholatum. :) Of course it is also incredibly flammable. :eek:

    OK, this is getting lengthy. I'll continue in another post. :thumbsup:
    robert43, wraub, Gilmourisgod and 5 others like this.
  9. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Once the inlays are sanded flush, I roughly tape around them. I take a scrap of fretboard material and sand a nice pile of dust. Brazilian smells so delightful, sort of like root beer mixed with bubble gum. Hard to put my finger on it, but it is nice. :)

    I take the dust and smoosh (that's right, smoosh) it into all of the gaps around the inlay, then I brush away the excess. I then wick in some thin CA. I repeat this as needed and peel off the tape when it is in danger of being glued down too much.

    Once this is complete, I lightly level sand and blow the dust out of the pores, then sand up from 320 to around 1500. I realize that this is completely overkill, but I enjoy it. :D

    Once sanded to 1500, I burnish the board surface with a brown paper lunch bag wrapped around a foam-backed sanding block.

    It brings it up to a very nice sheen. Again, overkill. :laugh:

    You can see that just a sliver of that sapwood snuck its way in there to the surface of the fretboard. I'll be dying that to blend it in. :) The edge of the board itself will be covered with binding later, so no worries about that either.

    Thanks for looking, let me know if there are questions or if I'm posting too much detail. :thumbsup:
    Chris Todd, robert43, rubis and 16 others like this.
  10. BishopJP


    Apr 5, 2019
    North Carolina
    That fretboard looks great!

    I've been using the "brown-paper-bag trick" forever and a day and I never thought to use a sanding block! Mind blown!

    Quick question; with that level of polishing on the fretboard before frets are installed, do you not glue the frets or do you have a secret technique for not getting glue on the fretboard?
    SlingBlader likes this.
  11. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
    Man, that's purdy!
    SlingBlader likes this.
  12. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Thanks! The trick with the sanding block is the foam backer. This really allows you to exert some pressure and build up some heat, so to speak.

    Once the board is ready for fretting, I usually coat it with some paste wax. If I get any CA on the surface of the board I wipe it up immediately. Further cleanup can be done with a rag soaked with acetone. Once fretted, leveled and polished, I hit the board again with the bag-n-block treatment. :D
    wraub and BishopJP like this.
  13. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Thank you. Hoping to make some more progress on these soon. I was getting spoiled by this mild winter, then it got cold and chased me out of the garage for a few days. :)
  14. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    A little progress on the Strat neck(s).

    I mentioned this earlier, but I'm making two necks for each guitar. Partly in case something goes wonky, and partly so that I will hopefully have pre-made parts available for later. I am only prepping 1 fretboard for the LPS neck, however.

    I have some nice figured hard maple that I'm using for these necks. Being frugal, I'm trying to get as much out of my material as possible. So, I laid out two necks in a nested arrangement on this piece. I made sure to keep each centerline parallel to the corresponding edge. That way I can still use the router table to cut the slots.

    I'm using spoke wheel double-action truss rods for these. I think they look pretty neato, and I've always wanted to try them. :)

    Here I'm aligning the bit to the centerline for the outermost neck. I had marked layout lines and traced the neck outlines on both sides of the blanks so that I could visualize what I was doing. I had to lift and lower the blank so that I didn't clip the headstock area of the adjoining neck.

    First main slot is cut, which is 6 mm in this case. Here I'm making room for the barrel part of the spoke wheel with a 3/8" bit.

    Both slots cut and both barrel areas cleared.

    Here I'm setting up with a 1/4" spiral bit to cut the clearance for the spoke wheel itself. I'm using the ply as a fence for the trim router to ride against.

    Here is a wheel pocket cut.

    The necks were then roughly cut out on the band saw.

    Here is one of the truss rods laying on a neck. I still need to square up the far end of the slot and file down the welds on the rod so that it fits properly. Naturally, I'll need to make a corresponding cutout on the end of the fretboard.

    For now, these neck blanks will sit for a while. If they behave, I'll continue to process them. :)

    Thanks for looking.
    robert43, wraub, BishopJP and 5 others like this.
  15. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    More hot Strat neck action. :roflmao:

    Well, the necks sat for a while and I'm happy to report that they have stayed dead straight. Here are some progress picks.

    I attached a template, then went to the Robosander. I wanted to get these trimmed down very close before routing to final shape to help minimizing any tear out. This figured maple is very chippy.

    Next, it was over to the router table with a spiral compression pattern bit to trim to final shape.

    Here are both necks routed to their final outline. They came out really well with no tear out to speak of.

    Next, I aligned the fretboards and drilled for registration pins. Once the pins were installed, I clamped the board on, then clamped the whole thing in a vise so that I could see the spoke wheel pocket better.

    I scored lines for the extent of the cutout, then I used my Dremel with a spiral bit to rout away the access hole in the board. This was quite a balancing act.

    Close up of the routing step.

    Once I had the access hole routed, I finalized the shape and profile of the pocket with files.

    Here is the final outcome on both of the necks.


    More soon, thanks for looking. :)
  16. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Even more Strat neck stuff...

    Yes, back by popular demand is more progress on the Strat necks. OK, so maybe there is literally no demand, but I'll post some updates anyway. :roflmao:

    Once I had completed the spoke wheel access and had the alignment pins in place, it was time to glue the boards on. First I roughly trimmed the excess from the fretboards at the band saw, then I heated up the hide glue and preheated the parts with a heat gun.

    MMMMmmmm... It's delicious on toast. :thumbsup:

    No time for action shots, but both necks went straight into the bag and were under vacuum for around 4 hours. Once they were out of the bag, I let them completely dry overnight.

    I sanded the fretboards as closely as possible with the Robosander.

    Again, I went to the router table with a spiral compression pattern bit to trim everything nice and flush.

    Next I marked and punched the dot locations.

    Both necks with dots installed. Since I'm using parts that I have on hand, one neck has 6 mm plastic dots and the other has 1/4" MOP dots.

    Here are both necks after the dots are sanded flush and the fretboards are polished and ready for next steps.

    I'm hoping to get these necks pretty much wrapped up by the end of this weekend. Not sure if that's possible for me as I tend to move pretty slowly! :D

    More soon. :)
    robert43, wraub, Jeff Siddall and 6 others like this.
  17. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    Working on the headstocks...

    I used my template and a brad point bit to mark the tuner hole locations on the back of the neck.

    I drilled through pilot holes with a 3/32" bit.

    Drilled appropriately sized holes for the bushings part way through from the front, then drilled larger holes part way through from the back. (bushing holes completed here) The pilot hole kept the larger holes concentric and the brad point bits helped to avoid tear out.

    To bring the thickness down on the headstocks, I used the band saw with a fence to make a nice straight slice, stopping short of the fretboard overhang.

    I cut this piece free at the band saw.

    With the piece out of the way, you can see the "steps" that need to be sanded into a transition.

    Sanding the transition with the spindle sander.

    Sanded the face flat and blended.

    Now I need to get these fretted, nutted and get the carving done!
    robert43, wraub, BishopJP and 4 others like this.
  18. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    A little more progress on the necks.

    Trued up the nut slot. Yep, flat bottom. I can't handle complications. :D I had to push through that severe boo-boo that I had on my knuckle at the time. No pain, no gain.

    Settling in with a nice porter for some fretting. :) The boards get a light coating of Johnson's wax.

    Pressing in frets. Side dots have been installed, but not filed yet. This neck is getting plastic side dots, the other gets MOP.

    Frets installed, ready to be trimmed. Before trimming, I wick thin CA down the fret tangs and quickly wipe any excess. The waxed fretboard helps to prevent any CA from marring the surface of the fretboard.

    I undercut the frets a bit, so here I'm filling the slots with rosewood dust and CA. Repeat and rinse as necessary.

    Frets are filed flush and beveled.

    More soon. :)
    wraub, robert43, Beej and 7 others like this.
  19. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    A little work on the Strat body...

    I mounted a roundover bit in the router table.

    Created roundovers in 3 passes, only taking a small amount on each pass to avoid tear-out.

    Drilled the neck screw holes and put a little chamfer on them.

    Marked the belly cut and got ready to start carving.

    Belly cut roughly carved.

    Ready to start on the forearm contour.

    Forearm contour roughly carved. Marking out blend lines to be rounded over by hand.

    Starting to come together here.


    I could probably thin this out a bit more. This is my first time on a Fender styled build, so I'm a bit unsure... just winging it. ;)

    Pretty much finished with the body aside from the tremolo studs.


    I'm pretty happy so far. Once I test fit the neck and get the trem studs located, I'll give the body another once-over and tweak some lines where necessary.

    Thanks for looking, more soon. :)
    robert43, Jeff Siddall, wraub and 7 others like this.
  20. Gary_M

    Gary_M Formerly known as SlingBlader Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Northern Indiana
    I haven't updated this thread in a while... mostly due to the current events. Strange times, indeed!

    I've made some good progress on the Cherry Strat project, so here are some shots of getting the neck carve completed.

    Using the StewMac 1962 Strat neck profile template outline along with the dimensions of my rough neck to calculate facet placement.

    Marked the facet lines and drew in additional contour lines.

    First facet mostly done.

    First two facets roughed in.

    Laying out the next set of facets and initial stock removal.

    Roughing in the headstock contour.

    Starting to take shape here. Still pretty flat on the back of the neck as I have not touched much of the center yet.

    Bringing the overall thickness close to final dimension and working with scrapers and sandpaper at this step.

    Looks pleasing to my eye. Not sure if it's technically correct or not, but who cares? :D
    Means2nEnd, robert43, wraub and 10 others like this.