The 10 Year Project

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Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Despite frequenting this forum on and off for over a decade, I’ve always felt somewhat inadequate in my luthiery abilities to join in and post anything regarding my own build progress. That being said, I have finally made what I believe to be enough decent progress in my skill levels with a guitar project that’s been on my bench in one form or another for the last 10 years to finally open up to you guys; many of whom over the years have been an inspiration to me.

In 2003, I finished the plans for a guitar based on one I made back in high school in 1998. The original guitar left a lot to be desired due in the most part to the fact that I had access to exactly zero source material on luthiery and well, to put it bluntly because i was only 15!! A further 15 years, 6 guitars, numerous books, an internet connection and a cabinet making and furniture finishing qualification later, the project is shaping up and heading toward completion.

The guitar in question is left handed and based on my teenage influences and has shaped up to be a kind of a Les Paul Reed Smithenbacker.

It is a solid body carved top six string electric constructed from walnut with a flamed maple top cap and head stock cap with an ebony fingerboard.

The guitar will boast 2 Seymour Duncan humbuckers - a Pearly Gates in the Neck position and a Custom 5 at the bridge. both pickups will be split/series parallel selectable with a phase option. this in it’s self is experimental for me but i’m looking forward to seeing what these options will present. The tuners are schaller locking tuners. M6 I believe.

The body will be finished in nitrocellulose lacquer over the top of an aniline dyed top in a red/brown burst.

I would like to share my progress via the pictures I’ve taken up to this point with the intention of further adding photographs as I complete the build. Enjoy! :)
Some of the raw material
Some of the raw material
The walnut rough shaped with some of the material removed for weight
The walnut rough shaped with some of the material removed for weight
Mock up next to the original for comparison. Top cap is glued and edge is routed to final depth ready for curved top
Mock up next to the original for comparison. Top cap is glued and edge is routed to final depth ready for curved top
Mock up with electrics positioned. The controls are attached to a cardboard template and the carve has been started
Mock up with electrics positioned. The controls are attached to a cardboard template and the carve has been started
The position so far - The neck is currently glued and is drying. Just the pickup cavities, bridge positioning and final sanding required before I can apply the finish and fittings.
The position so far - The neck is currently glued and is drying. Just the pickup cavities, bridge positioning and final sanding required before I can apply the finish and fittings.

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Just for reference sake, here are a few more pictures of the instrument today:
P2105374.jpg
P2105375.jpg
P2105376.jpg

Steve Senseney
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:45 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Steve Senseney »

Your project looks like it is moving forward very well.

Any expected finishing date?

My first ugly attempt at a mandolin took about 2-3+ years. I understand totally!

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Thanks Steve, I'm hoping to have the remainder of the woodwork finished by the end of this week so that i can dry strung at that point. Finishing is going to depend on the weather but I'd like to get started on it next month, at least prepped ready for the lacquer.

Gordon Bellerose
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:47 pm
Location: Edmonton AB. Canada

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

The 1st unwritten rule of guitar building, is that it will take you at least twice as long (probably more) as you initially thought it would.

The second rule is that you will screw up. Maybe that should be first.
That's why it takes so long to build.
The next rule is that you get better with every build. That's a great thing, because I make quite a few mistakes that I have leaned to repair, and how to avoid them.

I like your build. Can't wait to see what the finished product looks like.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Matthew Lau
Posts: 471
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Matthew Lau »

Nathan,
I think that we're the same age!

Anyways, your guitar is going to look nicer than the original.
It should be something truly nice!

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Thanks Gordon, thanks Matthew!

I have kept myself busy in the woodshop while this build has been ongoing making humidors and such like. you're absolutely right there Gordon regarding the screw ups, but what's interesting in this case is that I've been able to get back to the guitar with a subjectivity and make adjustments to things like my original neck carve etc... and also refine my tool set. Had I finished this guitar in any reasonable time frame, I doubt the finished product would have been as good as this one is shaping up to be, having said that - it's far from perfect! I almost feel that it's taken the place of maybe 2 or 3 guitars. I'm already hungry for the next project but the process of progressing this build is deeply satisfying after all this time.

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Today saw the pickup cavities routed, but just as everything was going so well the template slipped and now I have fillet just below the neck pickup drying so that I can cut it back and try to hide the damage. It's not too bad - I was able to tell that the router was going off on it's own pretty quickly. That'll be one of those lesson teaching mistakes we were talking about earlier in the thread! I dislike routers.

The upshot to all of this though is that the guitar is now dry strung and all of the woodwork save for the recess for the backplate is done and dusted. I now need to fine sand the body ready for painting and so can begin another round of lessons to learn (hopefully not the hard way!!)
Attachments
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Eric Baack
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:28 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Eric Baack »

yeah, that's why I stick just a couple of tabs of double sided tape between the template and the work piece even if I'm clamping them!

great looking guitar you have going there. I look forward to seeing it finished.

Rob Ficalora
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:12 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Rob Ficalora »

I'm new here, but it looks great to me. Nothing like the chunk of tear out my son & I got routing his first blank. I'd told him to take very shallow passes on the end grain but he got a little agressive and the bit caught. He'd bought all the wood & supplies and when it happened he was really depressed. I went ahead & re-bought new wood so he could start over. I'm going to repair & finish the 1st one & hopefully sell it when it's done to recoup the money I spent on the new wood for him. But I know how you feel. You're way further ahead than we were; at least it's in a fairly inconspicuous spot! Once you repair it only you will know it wasn't originally meant to be that way.

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Thanks for the kind words Eric and Rob, it could have been a lot worse! learning how to tame the router and avoid breakout is an important life lesson! Kudos for buying the wood for your son to start over, that's gotta score high dad points! You're right that I'll be my worst critic regarding that little slip but I'm determined to mend and progress ;)

Eric Baack
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:28 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Eric Baack »

I had a nasty case of tearout on my first guitar build. I ended up getting a new maple cap and starting that part over. The chunks flew across the shop and were never seen again.

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

When i was studying cabinet making, my college had an old pin router that required a step up transformer it was that antiquated and heavy duty, and my friend was passing a piece of ash through a moulding bit when it caught and threw it the length of 40 foot machine shop and it slammed the wall hard. It missed my friend by inches and luckily we were the only ones there. I've had a healthy fear of routers ever since!!

Art Davila
Posts: 292
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:07 am
Location: Chicago, Il U.S.A.

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Art Davila »

Nathan Dodd wrote:Today saw the pickup cavities routed, but just as everything was going so well the template slipped and now I have fillet just below the neck pickup drying so that I can cut it back and try to hide the damage. It's not too bad - I was able to tell that the router was going off on it's own pretty quickly. That'll be one of those lesson teaching mistakes we were talking about earlier in the thread! I dislike routers.

The upshot to all of this though is that the guitar is now dry strung and all of the woodwork save for the recess for the backplate is done and dusted. I now need to fine sand the body ready for painting and so can begin another round of lessons to learn (hopefully not the hard way!!)

What router were you using for this?
I do my pick up cavities with a trim router, much lower in power but easier to control.
I have a lot of experience on how "not" to do things.

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

To be honest Art, it wasn't really the router's fault in this instance - I had good control but my template was poor. despite it being clamped, it came apart at the area just below the bridge pickup. My router is a 1/2" variable speed router with a good level base. I'll chalk this one to experience and go back to the drawing board regarding my pickup templates. I need a nice scroll or jigsaw really so that I can cut one piece templates as I will be with my backplate recess shortly.

Eric Baack
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:28 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Eric Baack »

heck, I've managed to slice myself pretty good just on the bit when the router wasn't even on. A good sharp router bit is nothing to trifle with even when the router is turned off

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Well I fought the final fight with the router today on this build and won, the back plate recess is cut and complete. All that remains now is fine sanding and a spraying regime.

I'm thinking of carrying out some kind of burst on the top, just a duo colour with the back left quite natural. Possibly a brown/honey burst. Either that or a vintage Gibson cherry red.

Do i have the right idea with cellulose if I:

Fine sand
Grain fill
Sand
Primer/sealer sanding between coats
Colour
clear
Set
Sand and buff

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Greg Robinson
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 1:54 pm
Location: Coburg North, Victoria, Australia

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Greg Robinson »

Nathan, sounds like a good plan for finishing, but you won't need to grain fill the maple top (maple is a closed grain wood).
Good luck!
MIMForum staff member - Melbourne, Australia

Nathan Dodd
Posts: 68
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:56 am

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Nathan Dodd »

Greg Robinson wrote:Nathan, sounds like a good plan for finishing, but you won't need to grain fill the maple top (maple is a closed grain wood).
Good luck!
Thanks Greg, the walnut is very open grained so I may use a clear filler and go over the whole thing for peace of mind. Good to know I'm on the right track with the finish regime!

Eric Baack
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:28 pm

Re: The 10 Year Project

Post by Eric Baack »

I used this method but with varathane wood filler (dark walnut)

http://youtu.be/NuQaLbZ9OTI

It really pops the grain out to use a darker filler then just filling with clear.

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