(Most recent updates in separate comment on 8/29/10)
My oldest son recently asked if I’d build him a solid body electric guitar…. my 2nd guitar project. We agreed on a unique slightly goth shape, green curly maple front, and a black back made from ash. A purchased unfinished Les Paul style neck is on order, which will likely be painted black. The head stock will be shaped to compliment the body…maybe some color compliments too. It’ll be trimmed with gold and black hardware. The pickups will be a GFS Fatbody single neck, Wilkinson single mid, and a double humbucker from an OLP John Petrucci Signature guitar. We’re still deciding on a wiring scheme, but it’ll likely be a simple 5-way switch, tone, and volume pots.
So far I’ve traced out a template shape that I’d acually build for him (first few way more radical), cut the front and back blanks from the template, and have shaped the front using a combination of router bits and hand chisels. Lots of sanding too! I’ve also cut a chamber for the electronics in the back, and have fashioned a cover. The back will likely be painted black, but since the first step in popping the grain on the maple was to stain it black, I stained the back at the same time…no harm done, and if the paint ever chips, it’ll reveal black stained ash. The next step was to sand off the black stain, leaving just the darkened grain on the maple. Kelly green was then added to stain the front. I was ready to give the Transtint dyes from Woodcraft a shot, but rather than make the 28 mile round trip and spend $18 per 2 oz bottle, I decided to experiment with the RIT fabric dyes from local stores…$3 each, and so far the results have been really good.
The roughed out body routed using a pattern bit on the template:
The front side of the back piece with the chamber for switches hogged out:
The back stained black, with chamber cover (back will get black lacquer):
The maple front after receiving black stain, then sanded:
The maple front stained green:
More to come!
Updates from 8/17/10:
Here’s where things stand as of noon today. All the parts and hardware are in.
Here’s the top with the natural maple revealed on the sides. There’s one coat of spar varnish to protect the stained surface, plus help prevent fading.
The back now has black paint. While rounding over the edges, we liked the look of the natural ash revealed as well, so we’ve decided to keep it….got some sanding ahead.
Here’s the top and back together next to the unfinished Eden neck. The maple and ash should take on a more golden color as we clear coat it. The neck will get black paint.
Since all the parts are here, we couldn’t resist a sneak preview of how it’ll look. The unfinished neck is just sitting there, as are the pickup covers and knobs. These pics give the illusion that we’re much further along than we are, but we’re encouraged by the look so far.
Still to come…some sanding of the back, many more clear coats (lacquer), cut outs for the pickups and input jack, more clear coats, fine sanding, shaping the neck, painting the neck, more clear coats, very fine sanding, drilling holes for the tuning pegs, final clear coat, wiring everything, setting the neck, polishing, stringing it, and sound check! (I probably forgot something too…)
Updates from 8/18/10:
Some cosmetic changes took place last night…the two-toned back revealing the natural ash is out, and the back is black again, as planned. It was just too sloppy and detracted.
Here’s the painted back, and the top with a couple of clear coats sitting on the back:
Today I added a curly maple veneer to the front side of the neck headstock to match the front of the guitar.
Here’s the neck with the veneer in place:
After receiving black dye:
After sanding the black away, the green dye goes on:
Adding the shop-made curly maple veneer to the front of the headstock was a little tricky because it’s attached to an existing neck. My plan to rout down the face to accommodate the thickness of the veneer didn’t pan out as planned because the radius on the fretboard made it rock. Instead, I ended up using the flat edge and back of the “paddle blank” as a reference and sliced the cutout on the band saw. Once the veneer was in place and glued, I cut the shape with the BS as much as I could, then sanded to final shape with my OSS. The headstock is now shaping up fairly nicely. The back of the neck will get black paint, then I’ll reveal the natural curly maple edge on the headstock like the front of the body. Next I’ll drill the holes for tuners, give it more clear coats, and some fine sanding and rubbing to smooth out the eggshell texture, etc.
I’m at what I consider the high risk stage…after hours of planning, cutting, shaping, staining, and sanding, I’m now cutting holes in the front of the guitar. It’s easy to inflict a few battle scars, and it generally just stresses me out a little.
The guitar is coming along pretty nicely and faster than I planned, but I’ve been going at it pretty hard the last couple of days. The shop’s a mess, I’m tired, stressed, and need to back away for a while before I really goof something up! (it definitely happens!) Time to mow the lawn, take a nap, tidy up and the shop, and hit the shower. Better to rejuvenate and come back to this later…after all…this is for fun, right?
Update for 8/21/10:
The pressure's on! (on both of us!) I glued and clamped the front to the back today....definitely a critical step. I used the guitar templates to help even the clampling load, and used a piece of scrap plywood to put pressure in the middle....19 clamps in all.
I've also put a coat of paint on the neck and the cavity cover:
Gotta work the next couple of nights, so won't be making much progress for a few days.
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