Introduction: Guitar Project
So I have been planning on building a guitar for quite some time now. I play some and I like to make things quite a bit, this seemed like a fun project so I got started. A few friends asked for pictures so here they are.
Please note that this is just a summary of the way I did things. It is in no way the only and in some cases not the right way to do things. If you use power tools be careful and follow all the safety instructions.
Step 1: Planning
You have to start some where. I sketched out a very detailed full-scale plan of exactly what I wanted to do on the back side of some old wrapping paper I found in the closet. I put every detail I could think of, having a reference made things down the road much simpler and also pointed out some potential problems. I had some guidance from a book on guitar building I found at the library.
Step 2: Materials
So after a short trip to my local hardwood store I found that wood is very expensive. Seeing that the maple tree in my front yard was half dead and my parents were having it taken down, I was able to harvest some for my project. One of the guys on the tree removal crew was nice enough to cut me a good sized slab right out of the trunk. Since it was green I had to dry it out in my basement for about a year.
Unfortunately the wood started to end check really bad and I had to cut it into smaller pieces. There is white paint on the ends to help prevent the end checking as well since the moisture runs out the ends faster than the faces. After it was done drying I sawed it up on my dad's table saw.
Step 3: Squaring Up the Pieces
The table saw did a pretty good job of cutting the wood into workable pieces, but since the rough pieces weren't very square going into the table saw they didn't come out perfectly square. So, I took all the pieces to my uncles house and squared them up on his joiner. When the pieces were finished It looked like I bought them from a wood store!
I test fitted them up to see how they would go together.
Step 4: Joining the Pieces
I biscuit joined the individual pieces together. Basically slots are cut into the sides of each piece and a sliver of wood is glued between them. This makes for a much stronger joint but is not exactly necessary. Care has to be taken when picking the placement of the biscuits so that when the profile is cut out none of the biscuits can be seen. I then glued the two halves together instead of making one big slab. This is so that I can run it through my uncle's plainer. It wouldn't fit if I tried to run the whole thing through at once.
I tried my best to keep the pieces flat however even with the biscuits some pieces still ended up askew to their neighbor. This will be taken care of in the next step.
Step 5: Finishing the Slab
Pretty self explanatory. Plained the pieces, glued them together.
Step 6: Finishing the Body
I cut out the shape with a scroll saw and bandsaw. The slab was pretty thick and the saws were fairly small and didn't like it much. But after a bit of trial and error the blank got cut out. I smoothed the sides with a drum sander attached to a drill press. Unfortunately I never did get a photo of that. Anyways, once the blank was done I glued some pieces of wood to the top to make a pattern for a router to follow. I used a straight fluted router bit and ran the shank against the pattern cutting the cavities for the electronics into the top of the blank. Once this was done I drilled out the mounting holes for the bridge and tail piece.
Now that all the critical cuts have been made I took to the top with a little jack plane and rasp to give it a nice arched top. Once that was done I sanded the whole body down to 320 grit sand paper.
Step 7: The Neck
I made the neck out of piece of walnut. It was pretty straight foreword. Since the piece I had was not wide enough for the head I built it up by glueing some pieces to the side. The seams will be covered up by a thin veneer. Probably the hardest part was cutting the angle at the top. This was done using a band saw to get the rough angle and then running that face over a joiner. Probably not the best way to go about it but it worked for me.
Next the slot for the truss rod was routed out with a router table. Unfortunately I let the neck wander away from the fence at the end and messed up the slot. The good news is that this will be covered up with the veneer as well.
The rest of the shaping was done by hand. It was to late at this point to call one of my uncles and see if they would let me use one of their power saws and I was much to impatient to wait until the next day. (I did this project while I was home for christmas break and had only three weeks to do it) The bulk of the roughing out was done by hammer and chisel. After this I took to it with an array of hand planes and rasps. I finished it off with some sandpaper and moved on to the fret board.
Step 8: The Fret Board
I did go out and buy a nice piece of cocobolo for the fretboard. It is a really nice variety of wood and looks really sharp. The spacing for the frets were found with an online fret calculator. You can just search google and find a decent one. Then with a dial caliper and square the individual positions were scribed and cut with a thin saw.
While perusing the home depot I found some hardwood screw caps and used them to make the dots out of. Just drilled a bunch of small holes, glued them in, and sanded them flush. Finally the top of the fret board was rounded with a home made radius sander.
The sander is a pretty simple device. I saw one at a store and decided it was to simple and useful to shell out $35 on, so I just made it on my table saw. Its a pretty simple concept. Take a short length of 2x4 and saw a wide channel. The thickness at the bottom should be about a 1/4" glue some sand paper to the bottom and use some nuts and bolts to expand the top and change the curvature of the bottom. It does a surprisingly good job.
Step 9: Gluing the Neck Together
I glued everything together with conventional wood glue as suggested by the book I got from the library. Unfortunately upon tensioning my truss rod the fret board popped off. This may have been partially my fault seeing as I am no professional, but I followed all the suggestions given by the book and thought it should have held. It was really unfortunate since I had put the finish on at the time it came off which resulted in a LOT of extra work. So round two I went for broke and got the strongest two part epoxy I could find. (No problems yet!)
I used about every clamp I could find in my house for this step. Just a note quick grips work pretty well for quick non-important clamping needs but supply nowhere near the force that regular c clamps can supply.
Step 10: Test Fitting
Okay, so these may be slightly out of order since I did a lot of test fitting along the way. Just make sure that everything lines up right before you spend a week on the finish and find out that you have to recut the neck pocket. (No, I did get it right the first time just making the point that that wound not be fun)
This is also a good time to get a pack of strings and see that they will run from the bridge over the pole pieces and to the neck. Also take a look at the action over the fret board and ensure that the neck is at the proper angle.
Step 11: Finishing!
Definitely the most time consuming part of this project. I put about 20-25 coats of high gloss poly-acrylic finish. I realize that this is over kill but I wanted to build up the depth and added a few unexpected coats to cover up the fact that the fret board popped off. Make sure that you try all the finishing products on scrap pieces of wood to make sure that you get the result you are looking for.
But before the gloss finish was applied the stain was added. I tried out a lot of colors b4 deciding on the red and amber. The sun burst was achieved by using wood dye or tint. This threw me off for a while because I was looking for different stains. They don't make stain in the colors I wanted and was told that maple does not stain very well.
Making the fire-burst was actually a lot easier than I thought. I did it completely by hand, no spray gun or anything. If you are planning on doing something like this I would suggest going to youtube and looking up "hand rubbed sunburst guitar" there are a bunch of videos that will demonstrate the process much better than I can describe.
The only thing that I do advise is that if you use water based stan and finish be careful when applying the finish. The color may run and result in brush marks. Apply the stain from the lighter color to the darker for the fist few coats to seal in the dye.
Step 12: Finishing Continued
Next the body is attached to the neck and the finish is polished. In between coats the finish was steel wooled with 5-0 steel wool to get rid of the brush marks. Next it is wet sanded with soapy water and 400, 1000, 2000 grit sandpaper. Next a car wax was used to buff it and furniture wax applied to give it a very fine finish. It isn't quite a commercial quality glass finish but it is pretty shiny. You probably could get it glassy looking but it would require quite a bit of buffing and polishing. That pretty much finishes it. Screw the hardware on, bang the frets into their slots and string it up. I didn't get a whole lot of photos on that. Its pretty easy but you would be much better off getting a book with very detailed instructions.
Thats about it. It play really nice and I'm very happy with the way it turned out. Thanks for looking. Feel free to ask any questions, sorry if I'm not too quick at responding.
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