7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

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Hans Bezemer
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7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I'm planning to build a 7-string Charlie Hunter-style electric guitar, using plywood and simple handtools only.

I want to build a good quality guitar using as much as possible DIY-store material and using common handtools.
IMHO plywood is pretty stable due to the lamineted structure and I like the look of the pine plywood.

Specs.
String length: 660-760mm
Tuning:
Bass side: E A D
Treble side: a d g b or d g b e

Body: 3x 18 mm Pine plywood
Neck: 3x 9 mm Birch plywood
Nut / saddle: Bone
Bridge: Birch plywood
Pick-ups: GFS humbucker and musicman
Tuners: simple open tuners
frets: medium size

I like to document the build for those who like to build an electric guitar without having (the oppurtunity to use) a lot of tools and I would gladly like to recieve some feedback.

Hans
Last edited by Hans Bezemer on Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Hans Bezemer
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Making the body

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've started out by making a drawing and printed it and cut out.
I drew the outline off the body on a piece of plywood of appr. 380 x 480 mm and sawed it with a scrollsaw set with a coarse toothed saw.
The body will be made out of 3 piece of plywood. With the first layer I sawed out the neck pocket and the cavities for the pick-ups. In the second and thirth layer I sawed out the cavity for the jack input.

Hans
Attachments
CIMG5387.JPG
CIMG5383.JPG

Justin Pruitt
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Justin Pruitt »

I like it! Can't wait to see how it comes out. I would caution when using hand tools (planers, chisel, etc) to be careful as plywood layers have a tendency to come apart. For example, if you are using a chisel, the wood will want to split along the glue line rather than the actual depth you want it to go. I also found the glue in plywood to be really soft.

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've sawed the plates. It's a bit time consuming using a scrollsaw (I'll be using a coping saw the next time), but it has some kind of relaxing quality's also... ;)
I was a bit afraid that the plywood would splinter, but it turned out fine.

I've made a little error by using the top plate as a template (instead of the paper template) for the other two plates, making the other plates about 0,8 mm wider, so there will be some more sanding to do.

Hans
Attachments
03a Topplate.JPG
04 middle plate.JPG
05 all plates.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Justin Pruitt wrote:I like it! Can't wait to see how it comes out. I would caution when using hand tools (planers, chisel, etc) to be careful as plywood layers have a tendency to come apart. For example, if you are using a chisel, the wood will want to split along the glue line rather than the actual depth you want it to go. I also found the glue in plywood to be really soft.


Justin,

Thank you for your feedback.
I have noticed the same. I'll try to deal with this by scribing the cut with a knive, chiseling with the bevel down (like the way it is set in a plane) and making sure that my chissel is rasor sharp.
The birch plywood is easier to deal with because of thinner layers (appr. 1.2 mm / layer) and finer woodstructure.

Hans

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Alan Peterson
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Alan Peterson »

I too am looking forward to the outcome.

Can't help but think that's gonna be one heavy bit o'lumber hanging off a strap when complete.
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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Alan Peterson wrote:I too am looking forward to the outcome.

Can't help but think that's gonna be one heavy bit o'lumber hanging off a strap when complete.


Alan,

You're right about that. Although I mostly sit while I play, the next build will have some chambers in the middle plate!

Hans

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Hans Bezemer
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Making channels

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Now I've made the channels on the inside of the top plate.

The guitar will not have a tone or volume pot because I never make use of them.
There will be two separate outputs. One for the bass side and one for the treble side.
I made the two channels by scribing the groove with a Stanley knive and then chiseling the wood away with the bevel of the chisel downwards, which worked ok. This was a good warm up for making the truss rod groove! ;)

Hans
Attachments
06b making a groove.JPG
07 Chiseling.JPG
08 checking the depth.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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Glueing up the body

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Glueing up the plates. I did this in two runs, first the middle and bottom plate and then the top.
I had some difficulty aligning the plates, but in the end it turned out ok.
I used two pieces of plywood and a bunch of clamps as a press.
Maybe next time I'll nail or screw them down while glueing. Any suggestings?

I kinda like the look of the side of the body, although there are some gaps which need to be taking care of later.

I want to use Danish Oil as a finish, maybe I use some waterdye to stain the wood...

But first things first...

Hans
Attachments
09a Gleuing the plates.JPG
09b I like the look of the side.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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making the edges of the body round

Post by Hans Bezemer »

When the glue dried, I sanded the body up to 120 grit.
It took a while before the sides where nice and smooth.
As said before, I'm fond of the look of the side of the body.

I scribed a line with my compass and made the edges of the body round using a surform, rasp, files.
After that I sanded the body using 80 - 120 - 180 grit sandpaper.

I've also filled a gap in the side of the body with a piece of scrap plywood.
There are still some little gaps in the sides (about 2 mm wide), because of the knots from the pine. I'm not sure what I'm to do with them. On one hand I can fill them with sawdust and glue, on the other hand they contribute to the plywood look...

Next week I'll post some pictures of the neck.

Hans
Attachments
10 scriping with a compass.JPG
11 Using surform rasps and file to shape the body.JPG
12 sanded body.JPG

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Alan Peterson
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Alan Peterson »

Hans - I can appreciate the amount of actual handcrafting going into your instrument, but forgoing a router with a corner rounding bit to pretty-up that edge?

Wow Hans... you're a better man than I am. By and about this time, I'd be tempted to switch to a power tool when no one was looking. Best of luck for the rest of the build.
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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I glued to 9 mm pieces of Birch plywood together and I drawed out the neck.
I sawed the straight parts with a handsaw leaving appr. 1-2 mm wood, which I'll plane down.
I used a scrollsaw for the headstock.

The neck will have a Fenderstyle headstock, but will be rather thick (18 mm). This is no problem for the tuners, but I'm a bit worried about the string angle. I'm thinking of countersicking the tunerholes or using some kind of stringguide.

I was a bit worried about the strenght of the Birch, but after glueing the 2 pieces together it feels pretty stiff.

Hans
Attachments
13 neck.JPG
14 the neck.JPG
14 the neck.JPG (136.42 KiB) Viewed 10709 times
15 Sawing the neck.JPG
15 Sawing the neck.JPG (84.36 KiB) Viewed 10709 times

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Alan Peterson wrote:Hans - I can appreciate the amount of actual handcrafting going into your instrument, but forgoing a router with a corner rounding bit to pretty-up that edge?

Wow Hans... you're a better man than I am. By and about this time, I'd be tempted to switch to a power tool when no one was looking. Best of luck for the rest of the build.


Alan,
Thank you for your feedback and support.
I'm just taking my time for it, and I actually really enjoyed carving the edges. An unexpected advantage of the plywood is that the different layers give you a good guide to see if your on the right track.

Btw. I have my router within a 2 foot range, but I'm still not tempted... not yet that is... :)

Hans

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've made the truss rod groove, by cutting the outside lines using a stanley knife and a ruler and removing the wood with a chisel. Again, I only use my chisel with the bevel downwards, this gives me a good control on the process.
Had to make appr. 8 runs of cutting and chiselling to get a 10 mm depth, but it was a pretty straight forward procedure.

I've sanded the groove using a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a big flat file (sorry for the bad picture).

For this neck I'm using a 10x10mm square steel bar as a truss rod, because I'm curious if it will work.
The bar has a nice snug fit in the groove.

Hans
Attachments
16 Chiselling the truss rod groove.JPG
17 Sanding the groove.JPG
18 Truss rod installed.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've made the fretboard from a 9 mm piece of Birch plywood, and tapered it with a bench plane.
To avoid tearout at the ends of the fretboard (because of the cross grained inner layers of the plywood), I've left the plywood a bit longer on both sides and sawed to the right length when it was planed down to the right taper.
I made sure that my plane was sharp and that it shaved just a thin curl.
Unfortunately I've slipped one time with my plane, leaving a small bevel on one of the sides.

I've glued the fretboard on the neck, using two nails (one on the 1th fret and one on the 12th fret) to keep it in place. I've put some masking tape on the truss rod to protect it from the glue.

When the neck dried, I've shaped the sides of the neck using a plane and sandingblock and made it fit into the neckpocket, which was a pretty delicate job, but it fits all right now.

Next up: sawing fretslots and shaping the neck.
Attachments
19 planing the fretboard.JPG
20 Glueing the fretboard on the neck.JPG
21 fitting the neck in the neckpocket.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

I've cut the fret slots using a small tenon saw. The layers of the plywood are a good guide for the depth.
Although I've used this saw with another build with good result, this time the fret slots are a little bit to wide (the frets hold on the sides but pop up in the middle), so I'm afraid I have to epoxy the frets in. Any other suggestions?

I've adjusted the saw for a future build.
Lesson learned: check twice, saw once...
Attachments
22 Cutting the fret slots.JPG
23 Fret slots cut.JPG
24 Frets standing by.JPG

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Hans Bezemer
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Hans Bezemer »

Made some more progress:
I shaped the neck using rasps, files and a small nose plane (I've tried to use a spoke shave but this didn't work on the plywood because of the cross-grained layers) and sanded it up to 180 grit.
The neck is about a inch thick (27 mm).

After that I drilled the tuner holes and made the nut out of a piece of bone.
I've attached some sandpaper on a piece of plywood to create a sandingboard for shaping / sanding the nut (and also the tips of my fingers... ouch :? ).

Hans
Attachments
25 Shaping the neck with a small plane.JPG
26 drilling the tuner holes.JPG
27 fitting the nut.JPG

RD Yazidi
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by RD Yazidi »

This is looking amazing / inspiring so far. I can't wait to see what it ends up looking / sounding like.

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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Mark Swanson »

Hello "lossfizzle" please know that we require the use of full names first and last here. Please Pm one of the moderators or leave a message with your real name and we'll take care of that for you.
  • Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff

Barry Daniels
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Re: 7-string guitar: All plywood and using simple handtools

Post by Barry Daniels »

The headstock is too close to the fingerboard. You hand will run into it when trying to play an F chord. Typically, a transition from the fingerboard to the headstock is used.
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