Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cutting Out the Guitar Body from a Block of Wood

Let me say this up front - this post should have been titled, "Cut the Guitar Body, Don't Cut Corners".  More on that later.  Today, I'll be moving on to my "scratch" build guitar full time.  That doesn't mean I'll be spending 40 hours a week on it, rather it means I'm not concurrently working on another guitar at the same time.  With the 7-String LED Guitar completed, I can now devote my full attention to my first guitar built completely from nothing from a block of wood.


Previously, I posted some discussion on my building MDF templates for this new project.  As a brief recap, I printed full-size blueprints for a telecaster, and cut them out on 1/4 inch thick MDF.  There are a few reasons to do this:  1. MDF is cheap, and if you make a mistake, hey - it's only MDF! 2. Once you have a body template that makes you feel awesome, then you can make as many actual guitars from it and to the exact specs of the template.  Above is a shot of both the neck template, and the control cavity template in place.

Here's a long shot of the two templates. 

Note - it is important to make sure that not only does the neck fit, but that the center line of the neck and guitar body, match perfectly.  After all, you don't want your neck to shoot out at a ridiculous angle, do you?  It would be nice if this thing actually intonated properly, once completed.  In the shot above, I am using a long ruler to observe the center line.  This is after some slight hand sanding, in order to adjust the neck angle. 

This is wood.  Take a good look, as you may not have seen this "wood" before. Wood comes from things called "trees".  In this case, I purchased my "wood" from a place called "eBay".  I don't have a thickness planer, so it made my life easy to buy a block of wood large enough to fit my template, and that was already sanded to 1 and 3/4 inches thickness.  Oh, this is Poplar...

The first step is to use a pencil to outline the body shape on the Poplar. 


This is a top-down shot of the alignment.  I was careful to make sure there were minimal imperfections in the portion that would eventually fall inside of the guitar body line.

The pencil line.  Note - The neck pocket may look a little crooked in this shot, and it is.  I was quick with my pencil outline, as this is just for rough cut purposes.  We will do a fine cut later with the templates, and a table router. 

I bought this Band Saw off of Craigslist for only $120.  The reason I got this so cheap, is because the guy selling it told me it worked perfectly, but when I got it home, found that the blades would not stay on the unit.  The jackass thought he pulled a fast one, but little did he know it would only take the installation of a new $5 urethane bandsaw "tire" to get this back in tip-top shape.  For those of you reading from outside of the United States who are unfamiliar with the term "Jackass", you could describe this person as one who has minimal intelligence and little to no friends.  Because after all, no one wants to be friends with a "Jackass".

Here's a shot of the body rough cut.  Note, I didn't cut out the actual neck pocket.  Don't forget, this design has a heel (area where the neck attaches to the body), and so that portion will be routed to thickness later. 

Here's a shot of the body after a quick spin on my belt sander.  It has somewhat of a more refined appearance, but is still well outside of the actual body lines. 

Here's the body sanded much closer to the body lines.  The goal is to sand the body as close to the body lines as possible.  At that point, I will use the MDF templates, and a table router, to cut the body exactly to spec.  It is necessary to sand the body close to the line, as it isn't advisable to use a router to remove large amounts of wood.   

And another angle of the rough sanded body. 

DISASTER!  Here's why you shouldn't cut corners!  I began cutting out the body on my table router, and all went exceptionally well.  The only problem is that my pattern router bit was only long enough to cut about half of the thickness of the guitar body.  So rather than waiting, and ordering a new router bit, I decided to use a different bit in a handheld router.  Now if you haven't used one before, let me tell you that handheld routers are great tools, but have nowhere near the stability of a table router.  From the shot above, you can see that I started towards the top right of the body (moving counter clockwise), and made it all the way to the bottom of the guitar, and then experienced a sizable tear-out.  Shaken a little, and for some unknown reason, I thought I would continue, and got some additional minor marking towards the right side.  At that point, I actually became smart enough to tell myself to just stop.  


Here's a closeup of the tear out.  I'm going to have to glue this piece back on, sand it flat, and then glue another block of wood in place.  Once that is dry, I'll have to cut the glued wood back to the template specifications, re-sand, and then re-rout. 


 As I mentioned, the bottom half of the guitar went perfectly, as you can see in the picture above.  While I'm waiting for the glued scrap to dry, I ordered this longer router bit.  It should be here in a few days, thanks to quick Amazon Prime shipping.  

Here's the minor marking, at the bottom of the guitar.  Luckily this is small enough that it should be mostly removed when I round the edge over.  If any marks are left afterward, I will use either a grail filler, or epoxy, to fill the rest.  Now, I'm waiting for glue to dry, and Amazon to deliver...




2 comments:

  1. Hi Hellecaster, great blog you have here! I've gone and read everything right from the start and found it really helpful. I'm currently working on a DIY blue metal flake bass and am experiencing similar challenges to your kaos pad build. So far I've done 20-30 coats of clear acrylic and still have more to go before I get to the sanding stage, check out my blog markstipic.wordpress.com and let me know if you have any tips! Keep up the good work and keep enjoying what you're doing.
    Mark

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    1. Hey Mark, I'm glad you are enjoying it! The one major tip I would offer is to take your time between coats of finish. I've found that it is best to spray 3 to 4 coats a day. That will give the finish time to harden properly.

      I took a look the progress you are making on your sparkle bass. It looks great! When it is done, it will probably be your favorite instrument, due to the time you put into it...

      -Tim

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