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Slanted corner to top for RH comfort (e.g. Jaguar)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by andyjevans, Mar 26, 2020 at 9:07 AM.

  1. andyjevans


    Jul 18, 2010
    I don't know the technical term for the slanted corner on some basses for more comfortable RH access. It's combined with a belly cutaway on the back in this Jaguar body attached. You see the same combination on other basses e.g. early Wals. I have a walnut Telecaster body I want to make into a 30" short scale bass and the body is 44mm thick, so I was wondering about a slanted corner.

    My question is what level of skill is needed, and what tools, to do this successfully without ruining a nice body? I don't mind going slowly with hand tools. I did a lot of woodwork in school, but that's many years ago.

    Can someone also tell me the technical terms for these slanted cutouts so I can google them and find some Youtube tutorials?

    Jaguar MIJ.jpg
  2. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Most people would call that a forearm contour or forearm cut, or just arm contour.

    In the grand scheme of woodworking, it's really not a super difficult task, and there are a lot of ways to do it depending on your tools and comfort level.

    Probably the simplest would be hand tools - a good carving rasp and then a fine rasp, file, and/or sandpaper to clean up.

    The key with this sort of carving is to be able to visualize the "plane" of the cut through the body. Keep that image in your head, mentally, and hold the rasp or carving tool at a consistent angle, then take even passes until you're down to the thickness and profile you want.

    When I do this, I draw a guideline across the top where I want the break between the flat top and the cutaway. Then, I draw a line along the edge of the body at the depth I want the cutaway to hit. Then, I hold the rasp at the angle I want for the cutaway, and just make smooth passes across the edge of the body until the cutaway is down to the lines I've drawn. With a flat rasp, you will end up with a nice flat true cutaway as long as you hold it at a consistent angle while you're carving. The way to get yourself into trouble is to vary the angle or let the tool wander.

    I stop maybe 1/16" away from the lines and use either a fine file or a belt sander to flatten out the carving marks and then proceed to finish the body as normal. The cutaway area will have a sharp edge - if you bought an off the shelf body, it probably has a roundover along the edge. You can blend your carved area into that same roundover with the same rasp you used to carve it.

    If you don't have any carving tools, the Shinto rasp is a good place to start. It's easy to use and relatively cheap. There's a lot of personal preference in carving tools though.

    If you wanted to do power tools, you can make cuts like this with a flap disk on an angle grinder, or a power carving tool (the "donuts" with spikes on them) or even a belt sander. I find that when first starting out, it's easy to get ahead of yourself with power tools and end up with an uneven mess, so it may be better to start with hand tools.
  3. andyjevans


    Jul 18, 2010
    That's all exceedingly helpful. Basically this is all called "contouring". Most used terms are forearm contouring and belly/tummy contouring. I've now found several Youtube videos that show different tools that can be used. I'd be using hand tools I think, and a random orbital sander.
  4. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    An angle grinder with an abrasive pad works well to remove bulk, then doing the RO with varying degrees of grit is probably the fastest way I've done it.
    A sureform is also a good tool for it. Cheap and effective.

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