Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Part 10: Bling, bling, bling...

I have consolidated this blog with another guitar blog.  To see the finished product go here.

I didn't think I was going to get back to this project until November - I have a few irons in the fire right now (acoustic and lapsteel) that are further along in the process - so I figured this one would be on the back burner for a bit.

Then I saw this...


Well, actually what I saw was this.After that it was just a matter of deciding what to put on the neckplate (my family crest) and all of a sudden this project started to become more interesting.

Not long after I found the above website I found this website - which seemed to seal the deal for me.It looks like I'll be working on this project for a little bit.

I figure - since this is a semi-hollowbody it's gonna need a sound hole.I didn't want to go with f-holes so this (plus the family crest) seemed to form a picture for me.Now I just have to decide which one to use...

Part 9: All wrapped up and nowhere to go

It has been almost 5 months since I last worked on this guitar.Which is a bit sad but not really all that surprising as I spent April building an Acoustic guitar, May riding a bike through Spain, June and July training for the Pan Mass Challenge, and August training for Reach the Beach.Let's also not forget that summer is for lazing about occasionally - so it really shouldn't be a surprise that I didn't get that far with this over the summer.

But now it's almost fall - and that's prime luthier time.Here's what I've been working on...

I had some Cocobolo binding strips left over from my lapsteel build so I decided to try binding this guitar.I'm hoping that it will make up for the fact that this body shape is basically a PRS - but it doesn't have a carved top.

So what is binding?Usually it is a strip of plastic (and occasionally wood) that is used to 'dress-up' a guitar.On acoustics, semi-hollowbody, and carved top electric guitars it is used to hide the seam where the top of the guitar meets the sides. Bindings also help protect that joint from bumps and bruises.
Since this guitar has a top glued to the rest of the body - the binding should help beautify and protect the instrument.

But how is it done?First you have to route a channel around the body for the binding to sit in.It should be less than the thickness and height of the binding itself and you scrape the excess off.I used a router with a bit that had a small ball bearing guide on the bottom.The ball bearing follows the contour of the guitar and the blade (set to a shallow depth) cuts out less than a 1/4th of an inch of wood from the top and side of the guitar.Once you've done that - you glue your binding in the channel.

If you have plastic bindings - it's usually no big thing (spoken by a man who has only used them once).The plastic bindings are flexible and can be glued to wood with several types of glue.The one and only time I've done it - it went fast and smooth.Now wood bindings are a whole other thing...

Normally when you bend wood you want to apply heat and moisture to weaken the wood fibers enough for them to bend but not enough for them to break.I used the left-over cocobolo binding. Cocobollo is an almost water-proof - so moistening the wood would be pointless.I had to rely on heat alone.For this I used a heatgun - which is basically a hairdryer on steroids.Whether you are using heat and moisture or just heat alone - you have to go slow - don't force the wood into it's new position too fast because it will break.Also, keep the heat source (or the workpiece) moving constantly.If you stay in one place for too long your binding will look like Zydeco Jim's catfish-burgers - blackened.I had a few crispy areas around the horns of the body but that was more because in order to do a full u-turn with the binding I had to sit there with the heat for a while.For the most part you could tell when the binding was going to start bending - it just started to feel like it had some give to it.

I installed my bindings in a two-step process.Heating the binding and bending it to the shape of the body was part 1.In order to help the binding keep it's shape I taped it to the body with painter's tape.Once the binding was completely cool (about 15-20 minutes) I started part two - gluing the binding.You also end up taping the binding to the body when gluing (or if you have enough of them - rubber bands work too).Some people may be able to do this all in one step - so you only tape the body once.I did it in two steps but the results came out pretty good.I still had to hit the horns with the heatgun again as I was gluing (warning - you glue will start to dry super fast if you do this) but mostly the binding held it's shape after heating/taping.Here's a close up of part 1 (part 2 looked pretty similar :D ).

Once your glue has dried you have to scrape the excess binding material.I actually like scraping.I'm a big fan of the card scraper (also known as a cabinet scraper).They are small, fast, and accurate - especially when sharpened correctly.So, below is the binding post glueing, drying, and scraping.I'll have to touch-up the horns a bit - but I'm pretty happy with it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Part 8: What kind of sea urchin is that?

(click on an image to enlarge)

Part 7: Day of Inlay - Part 1

(click on any of the images to enlarge)
Since I was working on the inlay for another guitar (yes I have two going at once - three if you count the lapsteel) I decided to start with the neck inlay for this guitar prior to doing anything else.
To see "part 2" of my day of inlay go here.

I started working on the other one first and I can truly say that I am much more aware of the differences between porous and non-porous woods now.The other guitar is an acoustic and has a mahogany neck.My chisel which is reasonably sharp - cut through the mahogany pretty well.There were some mistakes (as I'm still new to this) but for the most part - it went well.Man o' man was the maple on this neck harder to work with.This was both good and bad.The chisel didn't tear through this (by the way - I used no hammer or mallet with this chisel - just my hands).

Me + chisel + hammer = mass destruction

The chisel took off tiny slivers at a time.This was good though - because it made me take my time.It was bad because it required me to use more force than I would have liked.Time and sharper chisels will help this but because of my inexperience the fit is not as tight as I'd like - especially around the coin.The acoustic came out better - but that had more to do with having the right sized bit for the coin inlay...

Because I didn't shoot the process - here it is...

Strip of inlay:
1) Rough placed the strip of inlay material on headstock.
2) Used calipers (I love these things) to identify absolute center/position of inlay
3) Mark off position with a pencil (remove bit of inlay)
4) tape off line with painters tape
5) score the line with a razor (to a depth of about 1/64 inch)
6) use chisel to carve out wood
7) use chisel on headstock and sandpaper on inlay to make a snug fit.
8) dryfit/sand/chisel until satisfied with fit
9) glue inlay onto headstock
10) clamp with cauls and vice grips
11) wait (about 2 or 3 hours)

Coin inlay:
Same as above except no painters tape and the first pass is done with a forsner bit.In this case the bit was too small - so I enlarged it with the chisel (using it as a scraper).You can see my result (so-so).But I have yet to find a drill bit that is the exact size of a 1970 Irish 5 pence piece - so I sense some practice in my future.

Part 6: It's all coming together as planned...

(click on any of the images to enlarge)

The neck arrived (about bloody time).And it's a beauty.It was worth the wait.I can say that - because I didn't really have that much time to work on this anyway.So, no harm - no foul.Still, the next time I order a neck (if I ever do again) I'll build in a 6 week buffer.

So, what did I do as soon as the neck arrived?Did I go straight to work and start prepping the body to receive it?Of curse not.I got all my blocks out and layed them out to look at them of course...

What you are looking at is what I *hope* the finished product will look like.Nothing in these pictures is final.This is all pre-visualization.But you get the idea.The pickups will go about where they are.The knobs and switches - the same.What you can't see is the cocobolo binding that I have been playing with.There is a scrap of it on the table.The binding will go all the way around the top (hiding the seam where the top and the body meet).

The upside of pre-visualization is that it gets me excited about the project.So, the next day I went to work on it.Starting with that headstock...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Part 5: ...waiting...

...and waiting...
...and waiting.

I ordered a custom 12 string neck 4 weeks ago from Warmoth guitars.I'm told that 5-6 weeks is the normal waiting time - so I shouldn't complain.But I hate waiting.Especially since I can't move forward with the build until the neck arrives.

So, we wait and stare at pictures of what the neck will look like when it gets here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Part 4: Set my people free!

(please click on an image to enlarge)

I've been in a holding pattern with this build.Because of the holidays, vet bills, vacation plans and other expenses - work on this 12-string has had to grind to a halt.But things are now back on track.The neck (from Warmoth), bridge (from Ebay), and the tuners and pickups (Guitarfetish) are on the way.That means that those things need a body to attach to.Which means it was time to bust out the router.Below are some pictures of the process (warts and all).
Normally I would have used a jig saw to rough-cut the shape out of the wood and then use the router to clean it up.But this butternut wood is so easy to work with I just went straight to the router.The only thing that worries me is that the butternut might not be strong enought.
Time will tell.

Had a small slip here.Zigged where I should have zagged.This bump has mostly sanded out already but it pays to take your time and make many passes.
It doesn't look it in the pictures but I made many passes with the router - never digging out more than 1/4 of an inch at a time.