A pallet wood guitar isn't super revolutionary, but this one is special because it's mine. The body is made from a lamination of some amazing looking pallet wood including cherry, oak, maple, mahogany, pine, alder, poplar, and probably a few other species. The blank for the body was something that I made in my shop and then brought it to my buddy Tim where he showed me how to turn it into a guitar and I helped a little bit. The body was shaped with a CNC and branded with a laser engraver and then the organic shapes were carved by hand. The neck of the guitar is one that we reclaimed from another guitar, did we take the easy way out? Yes, but I never do that so I figure this is my chance for once! Also, Tim said that he always recommends with anyone's first guitar build they should just buy a pre-made neck and then if you make another one (and you will), then try building the entire thing from scratch that time.
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- Pallet wood https://goo.gl/maps/wmJSf6YkiEp
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2PaeJrm
- Guitar neck and strings
- Guitar pickup
- Copper tape https://amzn.to/2UzlFUZ
- Input jack & controls
- Tung oil finish https://amzn.to/2DeRYxw
- Bluetooth hearing protection http://bit.ly/2X9SoNt
- Bar clamp http://bit.ly/2ZlkJSW
- Crosscut sled http://bit.ly/2Imq72F
- Silicone project mat http://bit.ly/2PdhFng
- Pipe clamps https://amzn.to/2PaSwtp
- Glue spreader bottle http://bit.ly/2G7Fete
- Glue scraper https://amzn.to/2ImgTDU
- Laser engraver
- CNC router
- Angle grinder carving disk https://amzn.to/2IobgF4
- Random orbit sander https://amzn.to/2XcEmui
- Bench cookies http://bit.ly/2UBRBbo
- Sanding sponge https://amzn.to/2IkdVzI
Step 1: Rough Cutting the Materials
Here we are again. We start with a big fat pile of pallet slats on the workbench and cut them down and glue them together again. When will this madness stop?!?! I'm not sure, but that day is not today. I start the process by planning down all of the slats in my thickness planer until each face of the slats is smooth. Then I rip the slats down to width, which is 2 inches so that I can bring that down to dimension (1.6") after the glue-up.
I then use my crosscut sled on my table saw to cut the slats down to length at 23". The final size for the guitar blank is 13.5" x 20" so this gives me a little room to trim around the edges after I glue all of the slats together.
Step 2: Laminating the Pallet Slats
Once I have enough slats to span the 13.5", I organize them and get them ready for the glue-up. I inspect each of the slats and put the worst looking edge down so that they are all on the same side and this will become the back of the guitar. I mark the top with a line to make sure I keep this orientation and then spread glue on each of the slats and clamp them all together.
I need to be less clumsy, but either way it helps with the removal of the clamps after the glue has dried.
Step 3: Flattening the Blank
The surface is a bit rough after the lamination, but the blank is too large to fit through my thickness planer, so I instead flatten it and thickness it using a large straight bit in my CNC. I drive it around the entire surface to flatten it and then flip it over and bring it down to final thickness. Then I use my table saw to cut it down to length and width and we have ourselves a guitar body blank.
Step 4: Bringing the Blank to Tim Sway
Next, we take the sweet sweet journey hike up to Connecticut and break in on my bestest of friends Tim Sway and force him to teach me how to build a guitar. We were able to do the entirety of the build in just one day, so you might notice a little bit of cheating going on here. I assure you however that that's just all a part of the magic.
He tells me that it's not possible to make a guitar out of trash, but I know better than to trust a guy with a face that looks like that!
Step 5: Engraving My Logo on the Body
Now let me tell you a little something about my buddy Tim. Tim likes saving trash from the trash even more than I do (I know!) and he has a lot of toys to make that happen. So you'd better believe that I'm going to take full advantage of every one of them while I'm there! We start off by using his laser to engrave my logo on the blank, pretty self-explanatory, or jackman-explanatory actually.
Step 6: Cutting the First Side of the Body on the CNC
Then we mount the blank to the bed of his CNC with screws in each corner and zero out the bit to make sure everything is ready to cut.
And then you simply sit around, sip your coffee, and watch as a robot does all of the hard work for you. Seriously though, there was a ton of hard work that went into developing these tool paths and refining them to this point where they work every time. Tim is THE guitar guy in my life and I've watched him meticulously transfer all of his router templates into the CNC software. Really it's all just template work with a router but just done on a different machine. I don't know why I'm defending CNC work anyway, because the type of people to complain about it are the exact opposite of the people who will read to the end of this sentence.
Step 7: Cutting the Back Side of the Body
Anyway, the first tool path on the CNC cuts out half of the profile of the guitar along with the pocket for the neck. At the same time, it cuts out a few reference holes in the scrap piece surrounding the blank. We then cut these same holes, but mirrored on the bed of the CNC so that the blank can then be flipped over and aligned using these cut off dowels in those holes.
The blank is aligned with those pinned and screwed down to the table again to hold it in place while the CNC cuts out the next tool path on the back side of the body. This path cuts out the rest of the outside profile of the guitar, the countersunk holes for the guitar neck screws, and the cavities where all of the wires run and were the electronics are stored.
And there you go, we build a guitar, all done! Thanks for checking out this build and don't forget to check out the build video linked in the top photo... Oh wait, we have to do hand work now? Oh boy!
Step 8: Power Carving the Body
The shape of the guitar body directly off the CNC is very meh so we refine the shape of it using the Turbo Plane cutting disk in an angle grinder. These adds some really nice curves and flow to the shape of the guitar body.
Step 9: Make the Neck (kind Of)
Next we make the guitar neck. This was a lot easier than expected honestly, all that you need to do is take one of Tim's guitars off of the wall and steal the neck from it and you're done! Seriously though, Tim says that with your first guitar build he always recommends to use a store bought neck and then on your next inevitable guitar build take a deeper dive and make your own from scratch.
We install the neck temporarily and use this ruler system to measure from the frets on the neck to show where the pick-up will be located (which we already cut out) along with where the strings will mount.
Step 10: Installing the Electronics
We now drill a couple of holes to connect the front of the guitar to the back so wires can be run. One wire runs from the cavity where the pick-up will be installed and the other will complete the circuit to the strings.
Speaking up the pick-up, that can now be installed in place. We run the wires through the holes to route it to the rest of the electronics and it's carefully held in place with a couple of screws.
The pick-up (which is actually hand made by Tim's friend from vinyl records) is installed in place with a couple of screws and the wire is ran back where it connects with the switches and input jack. To ground all of these pieces we actually install slug tape in the bottom of the cavity. They sell specialty copper tape for exactly this purpose, but the slug tape is just the same stuff for cheaper.
Step 11: Installing the Neck and Strings
Now the neck can permanently be installed in place with 4 screws through the rear of the body of the guitar.
And the bridge is screwed in place at the location that we marked out before. Tim was sure to specify that you should never use a screw gun to attach the bridge, because it will always strip out the screws. Do as I say, not as I doodoo.
Last couple bits to finish things up is the installation of the knobs on the front along with the guitar strap buttons.
Step 12: Covering Up the Electronics and Tuning the Guitar
Then lastly, to seal everything up we install the covers on the back to cover up all of the electronics. These are also made from old vinyl records because we're hipster millennials and that's a requirement.
Now the guitar just needs to be tuned and then I can jamb. And somewhere in between those 2 steps, I need to learn how to play the guitar, just maybe.
Step 13: Traveling Back to DC
Then just when you think that the magic is never going to stop, I'm magically transformed into Tim at my own shop. Here I ditch the stupid red bandanna and disassemble the guitar to separate the body from everything else and destroy all of Tim's hard work. Well not really, just destroy most of his hard work.
Step 14: Sanding and Finishing
I cover up the back plates with blue tape to protect everything and then finish sanding the guitar body up to 220 grit.
And now I get to apply the finish! This takes some time to do right, so I opted to bring the guitar back home and finish it up here. It takes 5 coats of tung oil until I'm happy with the look of it. The amber color of the tung oil really pull out that color in the pallet wood that we all have come to know and love, or really just me.
Step 15: Reassembling and Tuning
And after the finish is completely cured, I can assemble the guitar back together again without even needing any help from all the kings horses and all the kings men because I'm the best.
And lastly, I attempt to tune the guitar on my own. And I must say, it sound spectacular to the untrained ear, so that means I must have done a great job.
Step 16: Taking the Guitar for a Spin
Luckily, Mr. Sway took the guitar for a spin so that you could hear what it sounds like when a real musician plays it as opposed to a monkey trying to play it (me). Checkout the YouTube video above and while you're listening to the sweet tunes, please SMAAAAAAASH that like button.
Step 17: Glamour Shots
Guys, guys, exciting news, I started a band!!! Check out my bands YouTube channel. Also, don't believe anything I say.
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