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quick body build pictorial

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Musiclogic, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    I get a lof of people asking me about pricing on a 1 off custom body, generally most are put off by the cost when they can buy an off the shelf J or P body for $100+ less than having a custom body made. So this is just a quick pictorial of a 1 off body and the process to help people understand what goes into doing 1 off customs as opposed to the standard cookie cutter shapes.

    The process start with smoothing out the customers design into a balanced and cohesive drawing to create the template.(Body will be just over 12" wide...small body) The body woods are chosen for the blank(in this case I bookmatched Bubinga for the top and back, and Alder for the core) I didn't figure we needed anymore pics of blanks being made as there are hundreds on here already. I used the custom template to plot out the body on center.

    the body is drawn and the neck pocket located the excess is drilled out with forstener bit

    The neck pocket template is placed on center(Fender 4 string) and routed

    then the pick-ups are drilled out and routed on center

    Next the body is rough cut to shape and then the template is double sided taped to the rough cut and trimmed up with the router.

    I drill the edge mounted controls that the customer requested and put in his drawing.

    from here we do the roundover, of the top and back along with the forearm and belly bevels. I do my roundovers with a router and a 3/4" radius bit on this piece and the bevels are done with microplanes and a router jig(my little secret....for now)

    Then I take the custom rear control cavity template, mark out the position, drill out the excess, and rout the rear control cavity

    For custom 1 offs there are a minimum of 3 custom templates made to accomodate the design of the customer.

    The neck ferrules recesses are drilled and the neck block is sculpted per the customer order

    Next I make the rear cover recess template, rout the rear cover recess, then shape and fit a custom rear cover for the recess by hand.

    From here it is just sanding out to 220 making sure of the fit for parts, packaging and shipping. Total work time 16 hours.
  2. AWESOME. You just reminded me why I joined TB. :cool:
  3. Great post, thanks
  4. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    I just wanted to emphasise how much time is spent doing things like creating templates and doing laminations. Drawing out templates, cutting and shaping, etc takes a lot of time. Same deal with resawing wood for tops and backs, joining them, and laminating them together to make the body blank. The fact is that takes several times longer to do than just doing a two piece non-lamented body. The same is true for necks with multiple laminations, veneers, etc.
  5. Awesome stuff JC..... my work shop is almost done...I'll be back to cutting and slicing ...
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Great, thanks! Your rough cut before routing looks better than some people's finished product.

    Question: is sanding to 220 your standard for something that will receive a clear finish? I keep reading about people going to 600, even to 1000-2000 on maple.
  7. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Thanks to all for the comments.
    Jason, you make some very good points....now can you make me a template of that blue body...cheap??? LMAO

    Dave, good to hear, looking forward to you getting back in the swing!

    Pete, this was to 220 because the customer is finishing it in oil, and will be doing the finish sanding before applying the finish. I usually will send a body out sanded to 320 which is where I will generally do a wash coat sealer for a spray finish, then sand back to 400 before shooting the clear coats. Sometimes I'll just sand to 320 and start the finish, for me it depends on the wood and the finish. 320 is always a good rule of thumb, after that it can be a bit anal, 400 if you really want to be anal, after that is generally pointless on bare wood before a finish. On FB's that will be oiled or left raw, 600 to 1000 can help to keep it clean and smooth to the touch.
  8. Jason_A


    May 26, 2009
    Marion, IA
    That body is actually a good example of why custom designs are expensive. For those basses I had the templates CNC cut, and I think it cost me something like $70 for the materials and CNC time... and I did all of the CAD work. I figured that was actually a decent deal compared to making them by hand (if I valued my time at all)
  9. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Exactly, just have a maple MTD neck sitting here needing a body, and no time to get to kinkos to make an enlargement.....LMAO. That body is pretty close, so I thought I would try and cop a cheap template....LMAO:p
  10. You are so far ahead of me on body building - thanks for some of your secret moves!

    What material are the templates cut from and how thick?

    I have been using router bits with the bearing on the end instead of the ones with the bearing up near the chuck. These I've used to trim the outlines of the body with the template on the bottom of the body I'm trimming. Yeah - I know - backwards.

    That setup cannot be used for the p'ups and control cavity areas however.

    For them I use a template and a plunger router bit with a smooth same-sized shank rubbing on the pattern. It's worked so far, but I can see troubles in the future.

    Do you ever use router bushings?

    At this time I've only made a body template for the '50s P bass and the various holes that belong in it. Fortunately the routing for that bass has been very easy - but I can foresee things getting more complicated soon.

    I just picked up one more pine body blank today - so that's another project to get into after the one I'm doing right now.

    Oh yeah - I am using a 1/2" round-over for the edges, but it looks like the size you are using is better.

    Gawd! Your laminations look terrific! :bawl:
  11. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Thanks for all the kind words Joe. I have been doing this off and on for 28 years now. Building has always been more of a 2nd or backup for me, as I do mods, repairs, and have a small parts clientele, so building is as I have time, I stick to a very strict schedule for builds now.

    My templates are mostly MDF, 3/4 for my permanent Masters which I glaze the edges with Minwax wood hardener to keep the edge nice and hard, and usually a coat or two on the faces...helps with double sided tape removal. I make 1 off templates out of 1/2" MDF, as they are usually throw away.

    I cut my bodies out to approximately 1/16" of the outline, giving me an effective 3/32" of material to remove....this is easier on the router. I use a 3/4" pattern bit(top bearing) with the template and remove the first inch from the top, and because I do not like tear out or chip out, I make 1/8" deep cuts. This keeps my routers from burning up, and helps to prevent chip out/tear out. I remove the template, and use the router to cut to 1/8" from the bottom, then flip the body and use a flush trim bit(bottom bearing) to remove the last 1/8". It takes a little extra time, but the amount of sanding time it saves is worth itm. I use many different roundovers, on this body it was a 3/4" roundover. The body being 1 5/8" thick called for this roundover, as the customer wanted a "Warwick" style rounded edge. For Fender style bodies I use 3/8, 7/16, and 1/2" rounds depending on the year I would try to immitate, but I don't do F types often.
  12. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Spiral bit with router bushing is my favorite way to do pickup cavities, but with the common pickup shapes and sizes, I am still using 1/2" and 3/8" pattern bits unless I need a 1/4" corner, then I will break out the spiral bit and the bushing plate.
  13. All very good info - thanks.

    I've shy away from the spiral bits as I think they don't follow well with the bottom being somewhat behind the top when it comes to a deep cut, but like you said you take 1/8" cuts, so I may have to just slow down and take a few more passes.

    I'd like to get all the mistakes I can completed and out of the way so I can get on to just doing it right with no hang-ups - hah! Every cut is a learning experience, but it's fun anyway.

    That's where the muse really talks - in the fun and educational entertainment. Fortunately I'm working with not much more than shoring timbers for body wood here, and mistakes are cheap (and plentiful), but not so expensive for me yet.

    What a refreshing attitude you have, Good on ya.
  14. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Not bad for an old guy ;)

    But seriously, this should stickie......
  15. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Thanks Joe, and Jason(if I were a young guy, I might get more done, huh?.....LMAO)

    Joe, I just try to be affable, and throw out how I do things, and maybe it will help someone. I played professionally for 14 years, and met a lot of repairmen and builders between needing work done, and NAMM shows. A lot of them were very short and less than friendly with people who were not known should we say. So I try to be respectful and easygoing, rather than being arrogant. My mentor Pete Moreno is that way with all of his customers, everyone loves Pedro, he's a great guy, and one of the best repairmen in the business. Also, Mike Tobias was really down to earth and straight forward with me, so I figure if he can just chat with a nobody like they have been friends for years, I should avoid an attitude(of course that doesn't always happen, but I try).LOL sounds like confessions of a wood junkie.....LOL
  16. I know I read it in another thread but don't remember the reason. What is the advantage to routing out the neck pocket and pickup cavities prior to cutting out the body shape?
  17. AFAIK - it's for the stability and a square surface upon which to work.

    Once the body's sculpted, the placement of a template is a lot harder.
  18. Dark Horse

    Dark Horse

    Jul 31, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Nice pictorial ... and nice looking work ! It should at least give people a "clue" as to what is involved.

    (Sadly, the pictures still don't show the huge amounts of "incredibly tedious" labor that goes into a body !)
  19. Would anyone like to guess the time spent (hours/minutes) on hand sanding and just prepping for a color coat? Personally I think places like Fender Mexico have to be very hands-on intensive with all the manual finishing.

    I heard a rumor that a major guitar company has a robot that does all the polishing of their guitars.

    It is supposed to have sensors that make it back off when the surface gets too warm and the thing is a blur of buffing wheels going all over the place and what took hours takes minutes now.

    That makes me feel that hand finishing other than parts installation is the greatest black hole of labor costs for building a guitar.

    Just the body alone takes me days and lots of effort to get the shape just right and keep the surfaces flat or curved nicely. I'm nowhere near the artistry of Musiclogic, but I feel he's got a steep hand labor curve too, if that's not assuming too much.
  20. Ben Coffin

    Ben Coffin

    Dec 8, 2009
    Auburn, AL
    Absolutely stickie this. Great information, and great pictures. Thanks Musiclogic

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