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Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:51 pm
by Dave Locher
I have been toying with the idea of building a guitar from scratch almost since I started playing guitar in the early 1980s. A couple years ago I started thinking about it again and found the old version of this forum. You know the rest: it only took a few weeks to progress from thinking about it to planning to do it, and then a few more weeks to go from planning to actually cutting wood.

This part will probably also sound familiar: I thought I would knock it out in a couple weeks. That was about 18 months ago! I did not account for having to wait for glue, which meant my long weekend break in fall 2011 only got me a half-cut body and a square neck with no fingerboard. Working here and there until March 2012 got me as far as a roughed-in and fretted neck, a cut and contoured body, and a new baby boy.

Then this also common story: didn't touch it after Nate was born until a couple weeks ago.

I have been planning all along to wait until the guitar was finished to post photos, but as time keeps slipping by I'm realizing that could be months from now! So here are some early construction photos. I have more, somewhere, but can't find them but the guitar is now stained and sealed and I just last night drilled the holes to locate the bridge. After that it's a matter of more sanding and carving (changed my mind about the top edge contour), then cutting and drilling for the pickups and controls, and then by golly I'll have a playable guitar.

The body is made from a hunk of mahogany my brother-in-law salvaged from an old building 20-30 years ago (it's probably over 100 years old) and a bunch of lighter colored mahogany that was woodwork in an old house (ditto on the age). The top is a piece flamed maple I bought after seeing so many beautiful tiger tops on this site. We bookmatched it and planed it down to 1/4" thick. The neck is a three-piece maple using boards he had laying around that are new by comparison, probably less than 20 years old.

Neck: 3-piece maple, 24 3/4 scale, 11" radius (I bought a 12" radius rosewood slotted fingerboard from StewMac and sanded it to 11)
Gotoh TOM bridge
Neck pickup: Golden age
Bridge pickup: a late 1970s Seymore Duncan JB humbucker I've had since around 1995
Tuning machines: no-name imports I had on another guitar since around 1995
Volume for each pickup, master tone, 3-way switch
Body: heavily chambered mahogany with 1/4" maple top

I have made many, many mistakes on the way to getting here, including the current finish which is ugly and will be sanded off the next time I have an hour or two of free time, but best I can tell I am slowly winding up with a functional guitar that will hopefully sound and play well. We'll see!

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:52 pm
by Dave Locher
The glued-up body with the cutting guide we made out of 3/4" plywood. (Why does it look so pretty in a photo?)
Rough body.jpg

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:53 pm
by Dave Locher
Sorry about posting that photo twice! I can't figure out how to delete one?
In any case, here is the mahogany glued up, cut to shape, and routed out.

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:15 pm
by Charlie Schultz
Duplicate deleted. You should see two file attachements when you edit the message, just click on "Delete" for the one you don't want.

Found the photos on my old camera!

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:21 am
by Dave Locher
I found the missing photos on my old camera.
As you can see, I skipped documenting some steps.
As of today the body is stained and sealed, with the holes drilled for the bridge studs, tailpiece studs, strap buttons, and neck bolts.

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 1:03 pm
by Dave Locher
Here is where I stand right now. Ignore the lumpy and unattractive finish: I experimented with black dye on the wood followed by a heavy coat of Z-Poxy and ended up with odd blue and green hues. That'll all get sanded off once all the rest of the drilling and cutting for the pickups and controls. Right now it's doing a good job protecting all that nice wood from my clumsiness!

I was really, really worried about locating the bridge holes correctly but I did it last night and totally nailed it - strings centered on the body and the neck and the intonation nearly perfect with all saddles centered on the bridge.

I do have one question though: how big do you drill your holes for those studs? Right now the 4 holes I have would allow me to press those studs in with a great deal of effort. Should I enlarge the holes a bit? I don't want to make them too loose but I don't know if I can damage the body trying to force them into too-small holes. (In the photo they are only stuck in a bit. Once they get to the knurled portion there is no way I could press them in without using my arbor press and I don't know if I'd be able to ever get them out.)

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:54 pm
by Mark Swanson
and the intonation nearly perfect with all saddles centered on the bridge.
This will be fine if you are able to get your intonation set, but it's not really the right way to do it. The high E string saddle should be almost all the way forward, not centered. Since you will never need to move the saddle forward (toward the neck - you will never need LESS than the scale length) but only back, if you start with everything in the center then you have taken away half of your adjustment room.

Re: Early progress photos of my long-term project

Posted: Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:56 am
by Dave Locher
Ah! NOW you tell me!!
The bridge I'm using has a pretty good range of adjustment (not the one in the photos) so I should still be fine. I did think it looked more slanted than some of the Gibsons I've owned, though, and now I know why!

I hate learning by making mistakes, and I've done a lot of it on this project! At this point as long as it plays well and sounds good when I'm finished I will be a happy camper. Perfection was never my goal but great was. Hubris. Wood teaches humility, doesn't it?