I’ve wanted to build another cherry guitar for a while now, so, on the most recent trip to the lumber yard I picked up a medium figure board that had a good ringing sound and started the planning. I wanted to try a different body style; something a little more comfortable/ergonomic. My engineering brain was not being very creative so I asked MG forum member Josh (“Justin Bailey”) if he’d like to come up with a body shape for my next build, and he came up with exactly for what I was hoping! Many thanks to Josh for the body shape! When seeing the body shape for the first time, my girlfriend said it looked like a guitar that Tim Burton would have designed, which lead to calling the guitar "Timmeh" after my sister's cat, named after the South Park character.
As with a couple of other recent projects, I took pictures in-progress with my phone and messaged them to friends and family so they could see the build in (nearly) real-time. It was a lot of fun, and kept me motivated (or distracted from other stuff, depending upon your point of view). That in mind, the pictures may not be the best quality.
I didn’t get a picture of the starting board, or the neck blank board in the clamps, but, here’s the neck blank, fresh out of the clamps, ready to be planed square. The plane in the picture was used to remove glue squeeze-out and roughly level the surfaces. After that, I used a jointer and thickness planer to get it square and flat.
I used a bandsaw to cut the 10 degree head angle, and then a smoothing plane and scrapers to finish it off.
The truss rod channel is routed…
…and a chisel is used to widen the end for the adjustment spoke’s barrel.
The cherry fingerboard blank is made with the help of the thickness planer…
…and then glued to the neck blank. You can’t use too many clamps.
The next day it’s ready to be cut to final shape.
Using the band saw to do the cutting…
…then a router template (the clear acrylic thing shown above the neck) and router to do the finished shape.
A simple paper template is used for locating the tuner holes.
Now the fingerboard is radiused using a Stew-Mac radius block and various grits of sandpaper. I mark it with a pencil to keep track of the progress.
A little figuring can be seen when it’s wiped with mineral spirits (or naptha, I don’t remember which).
Now, the tricky part: cutting the fret slots. A paper template is attached to the fingerboard with double sided tape…
…and then the radius block is used to align the saw blade. Note the depth stop on the blade. It’s a simple piece of plastic attached with heavier double sided tape.
Fret slots are done!
Side dots are super-glued in place. The drill bit with hi-tech depth gauge (masking tape) is on the left.
Frets are installed. I used an arbor press and fret press caul, but, forgot to take pictures. And where’s the green bench towel?
Fret ends are a bit long (better to be too long than too short). And the bench towel has returned!
A dremel tool and file are used to bring the fret ends flush with the fingerboard.
The fingerboard is masked off and then the fret tops are marked with a black felt-tip pen.
To level the frets, I used a 4 foot level with 100 grit sand paper taped (double sided of course) to one edge.
The fret on the right side still has black marker, which means it is lower than the fret on the left side which has been sanded away.
All the frets were leveled, which left the tops rather flat.
Crowning files are then used to re-round the fret tops.
Now it’s time to start the body. The blank has been glued up and planed flat.
The handy neck pocket template is clamped in place…
…and the pocket is routed.
The neck is test fit.
Paper template of body shape is taped…
…then cut out using the bandsaw.
Pickup cavities are routed using the template.
Pickup wire hole is drilled.
The neck is cut to approximate thickness…
…then shaped with rasps and a crappy little spokeshave.
I tape off the area around the neck pocket so it’s easier to clean up the glue squeeze out when the neck is installed.
Neck is installed and the body contouring begins.
Bridge is located and string-through holes are drilled.
It’s strung up for the first time, played a little, final contouring and shaping is being done.
The first coat of tung oil is applied. The first three coats were half mineral spirits, half tung oil; the final four coats were full tung oil.
After a week of curing, and building pickups for the guitar, it’s buffed out, assembled and wired up!
The guitar is super comfortable and I’m really diggin’ the tone. It’s somewhere between mahogany and alder. Thanks for reading!
Wow, some pretty ingenious ways for building this guitar without all the luthier tools! If I had to say one thing about it, it would be "classy".