Introduction: How to (not) Build the Body of an SG-style Guitar
Hey all you awesome Instructable-peeps out there! I've been reading for years and have finally got off my ass to start building (credit for inspiration to do so goes to my gf, my fangirls and you all playing at home)
So, when I decided to start building something, I asked myself what am I capable of? What can I start that I won't soon lose interest in? I tried building a brick grill a few years back and only got as far as laying the cement for the base and starting the Instructable (which was never published).
Then, I got inspired by a few of the guitar building-ables on here:
and thought "if they could do it, why can't I?! It seems simple enough!"
Yeah, big mistake.
This Instrucable isn't so much a step-by-step on how to do something properly as much as it is a chronicle of the things I did wrong and what I learned so that when I reattack this project soon I'll do it correctly.
Also, keep in mind that I'm by no means an expert on how a guitar works. I play one. I rock. But I'm still learning how to build, so if any experienced guitar builders out there wanna lay down some knowledge on what I can do better in the future, I'm open to ideas!
Step 1: Grab Your Wood!
The first step in this was to find a suitable piece of wood to use as the body. All of the instructables I found here relied on wood that was already the correct thickness but I couldn't find any within either my budget or vicinity.
The local Menards (hardware superstore) was closing for renovations with "40% off everything must go sales!" So, I took the opportunity to snag a premium 3/4" thickness plank of solid select oak. IMO, anything that is intended to be seen should be "select grade" - it has the best grain and no knots.
Normally the plank I picked was $25 (a FAR cry from the $200 for a body blank, but still too rich for my blood) but with the 40% off + a $10 gift card I snagged by filling out an online survey some time before, it brought my total to only $5!
Now, the standard thickness of a Gibson SG is between 1 and 3/4" and 2" but I wanted something a bit thinner, reminiscent of the late 70's- early 80's models they produced, so 3/4" + 3/4" = 1 and 1/2" and I was sold!
Below is the only photo I have of the plank before cutting it, but I'd already done the templates... SO ANACHRONISTIC!
Step 2: Finding Another Dimension (unfortunately, Not of Sight and Sound)
Plans for Gibson SGs can be found on eBay as well as Amazon, but they'll cost you a pretty penny. I have background in drafting so, drawing upon that, I did some digging and found a web forum where a member graciously posted all kinds of measurements of his vintage SG, which helped invaluably.
Vector images provided by http://dylantuuta.com/2010/gibson-sg-template/ helped a great deal because he included a scale along with his drawings, telling me how much to enlarge the image in Photoshop.
Using my guides, I was able to use the measurements I got from the web forum in conjunction with the vector images to draft a scale 2D model to use when tracing the shape onto the body before routing/jigsawing
Using the straight edges of my wood plank as a guide, I copied the dimensions of the perimeter of the guitar body onto the wood and traced the cut out template, making sure to keep the center of the join in the wood on the center line of the guitar, for aesthetic reasons.
Up til this point, everything is going really well as these are areas of my expertise, but I have little experience in wood working, so this is going to get interesting very quickly...
NOTE: The only reason I've included the vector from Dylan's website is because it is not linked to correctly and took some ninja sleuthing to find in his root directories.
For the dimensions I found, they are archived at this web forum: http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Rec/rec.music.makers.builders/2007-11/msg00023.html
Step 3: Grab Your Wood! (part Deux)
Once I knew the dimensions, I made sure that by cutting the plank in half I'd have enough room to still fit the guitar template onto it. Everything fit, so I was happy :-)
Using a circular saw, I halved the wood plank and fit the halves together. The plank was both long and wide, so it had a very slight bow to it, which meant that the halves had to fit together a specific way, or else I feared that when glued together they would not hold and would end up pulling apart.
Taking final measurements, I made sure both centers lined up and drilled a 3/8" hole in each corner to make sure that when the time came to glue, I would:
a) already have the wood lined up the way I wanted
b) not have to use clamps like other Instructables have shown how to hold wood together when gluing
c) pretty much feel awesome when I made this Instrucable and could brag about coming up with a new convenient way to clamp together wood
Well, long story short, the bolting method is awesome, but I wish I would have done the gluing immediately after halving the wood...
Step 4: To Get Jiggy or Not to Get Jiggy With It?
The problem that I had was the lack of equipment. I'm not a wood worker and I wanted to keep this project as inexpensive as possible so buying a plunge router or a drill press was out of my price range, but I DID just buy a Black & Decker RTX rotary tool.
The idea was to rout/drill out the cavities for the pickups and the bridge and controls, etc before gluing them together. In a perfect world, if you're making an SG "by the book" this could work, but the problem was that I wanted certain things, like a bolt on neck and a floyd rose bridge.
Not knowing enough about scale length and not knowing enough about how long the butt of my neck I had yet to order was, I mulled over the decision for a few days and decided that when it came time to rout, I'd find a way to do so.
So, I decided to glue. And that's when everything went downhill.
Step 5: Murders in the Glue Morgue
It had already been about a week since I halved the wood plank and had forgotten alot of details. I was gung-ho about gluing so that's what I came to do.
After unbolting the wood blocks, I realized I had them fit together funny. They didn't fit snug against each other. Odd. I figured that when bolting them together that I'd simply just bolted them together wrong.
Turns out the wood, thru some strange barometric property, started bowing slightly in the other direction since cutting (I had everything in a slightly humid basement and we'd been having muggy weather all week)
Long story short I flipped the wood around and forgot all about the bolt holes which didn't line up when you flipped the plank around (like I so carelessly did)
Applying layer after layer of sticky sticky wood glue, I plop the planks atop one another and realize what happened.
It's amazing how fast you can move when glue is in danger of setting. I had to think quick and the solution was simple but brilliant:
take apart the halves that don't line up, turn the planks back to an orientation that works (somewhat) and bolt to the best of your ability. Then, once you're done crying that you wasted 5 bucks, grab a bunch of 2" wood screws and a power drill (and preferably have the center of the wood blocks elevated a few inches off the ground) and start drilling around the perimeter of the guitar body that you've traced onto the wood earlier.
By doing this, the screws act as a clamp by pulling the planks together and actually hold very well. Doesn't change the fact that after putting all that work in, you could lose it all because of a stupid mistake.
Lesson learned? Keep records of everything you've done, and don't doubt yourself. if you did something, you most likely did it for a reason, even if you can't remember why...
Step 6: Take a Break! (you Need It)
Take a break. Seriously. After that panic attack, do something else for a while. Not to mention that the glue needs time to cure and bond to the wood!
I used that time to organize my DVD collection and thin it out, refinish my main Strat (which I'd been meaning to do for years) and then using the money made from thinning out the DVD collection to buy a new amp =)
Step 7: MY GUITAR, IN RUINS!
Now this was a new step for me. I'd always done exceptionally well in wood shop, metal shop, home ec, etc, but it's been years since then, so this was the part of the project where things most likely were either going to go well or incredibly wrong. I was hoping for the former, but instead I got the latter.
And here's what happened.
In a fit of passion I decided that it was a good idea to use a jig saw that I'd never used before in order to cut out something that I loved so dearly.
In theory it seemed like a good idea; using that unbridled energy as a catalyst to continue work on a project that had lost some steam, but in the end I should have waited and practiced a bit.
The jig saw I used had a malfunctioning blade keeper-inplacer thing which I didn't notice before it was too late, which meant that every cut was being made at an angle of about 15 degree outward towards the back, which was a good thing since it meant that the excess wood only had to be cut off.
Growing foolhardy, I ignored the fact that my borrowed jog saw sucked and made an egregious error that ruined the structural integrity of the neck support.
Lesson learned: Don't use tools which are foreign to you (either a tool you've never used before, or a borrowed tool which is different from the one you are used to) without trying them out on a practice scrap first.
Step 8: Reflections and What to Do Next
Well, overall I've learned alot about many things and when I'm ready to attack this project again, I'll know what to actually do.
Relief cuts, using sharp tools, taking time, etc
The ruined plank? It's being used to practice the next steps on. I'll be using it to learn how to use a rasp to create the bevels, how to rout the cavities, and how to properly apply stain to the wood grain once all is done.
Plus, it'll just be nice to have a cool looking SG body to hang up in the house somewhere =D