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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:27 AM   #1 (permalink)
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CNC Build

Hi everyone,

Since reading many build threads on this excellent site I decided to try my hand at making a body from scratch. I can’t and won’t lie; Ed Hawley’s ’53 and Broadcaster threads have been my greatest inspiration.

This project has been many months in the planning (as far back as November 2012), as the CNC machine I have access to has been grounded a few times due to new software, plus the pneumatic tool release completely jamming up at one point. I ended up putting a lot of my own time in to help get it running, and to learn how to operate the software and system in general. I’m still far from being an expert, but I know enough to do most things.

The goal is a 60’s style aesthetic with some 50’s influences (rosewood cap neck, 5 hole single ply white pickguard, three barrel brass saddle bridge), but I’m still not sure about the actual finish. Since I have zero experience in spraying, a simple wipe-on clear polyurethane is probably the safest and simplest route. But my ideal finish would be either surf green, or translucent white.

I already have all the parts (Fender hardware, Gotoh SD91 machine heads, Fender Custom Shop Nocaster pickups, Allparts TRO-FAT neck), so it’s just a matter of finding time to get it all done. That will be difficult, as I am in my final year of university... I’m guessing late November/early December might be the earliest I can get back to this project.



The piece of ash, from the sterling folks at Stewart-MacDonald:




The weight:



3.199kg / 7lb 0.8oz. I calculated the body to be roughly 54% of the volume of the blank, equating to a theoretical final weight of approximately 1.728kg / 3lb 13oz.


Grain orientation Mock-up #1:




Grain orientation Mock-up #2:



After weeks of indecision, I finally decided on Mock-up #1. I almost changed my mind last minute to Mock-up #2 when I was about to cut the blank…

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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:27 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The drawing:



Many thanks to Ed Hawley and Terry Downs for the raw drawings. I made a few changes, such as modifying the pickguard to match as closely as possible a genuine Fender "Vintage Tele White" I bought. I initially decided to just buy a pickguard, but I thought it made more sense to make one so there would be no doubt it would fit correctly. The other major change was adding my own jack flat. I know Terry's drawing already has one, but I used Ed's Broadcaster drawing as a base for whatever reason.


Cutting tools:



From left to right: 8mm single flute down spiral; 1/8" (3.175mm) single flute down spiral; 2mm centre drill. 8mm for cavities and body perimeter, 1/8" for string-through ferrules and neck mounting holes, and 2mm for marking holes to later drill on a drill press.


Sacrificial 6mm MDF underlay:



The bed has a vacuum, but since the surface area of the underlay isn't large enough to confidently eliminate any possibility of it sliding around, it must be clamped down.


Getting my bearings:



I don't trust that the 0,0 marker on the bed is accurate enough, so I first route two V-channels into the underlay. I do this for two reasons. To get an absolute centre line (so I can line up the blank joint right down the middle of the body), and to check the actual depth of cuts (since the dimensional thickness tolerance of MDF can/will vary). It turns out cut depths are +0.2mm over that specified (i.e. 3mm = 3.2mm), so all I need to do is reduce all depth dimensions by 0.2mm.


Blank clamped down and ready to go...



I couldn't get bolts long enough for the thickness of the blank, so I had to drill recesses for the clamps to properly secure it to the bed.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:28 AM   #3 (permalink)
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So far, so good…



The CNC setup has dedicated dust extraction, but because it is designed for thin building panels (plus certain cutters aren’t that long) the dust extraction hood would foul the blank. So I remove the extraction hood and chase the cutter path with a hand-held vacuum. Note the test cut of the bridge pickup cavity far left. Since my research has indicated that climb cutting is usually recommended when cutting across grain, I thought I might as well try it as a learning exercise.


Neck pocket and pickup cavities:




Wiring route and bridge pickup cavities:




All cavities completed:



2mm centre drill and 1/8" bit about to, er, drill.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Final cut:




Semi-automatic tool changer…



Can anyone spot the discrepancy, besides this image being out of sequence?!


Finished:



No tabs/bridges used. The down spiral bit literally packs the channel with chips, keeping the body from sliding around. In addition, the vacuum also helps to stop the body from moving around, too.


The raw body:

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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Preparing to countersink the ferrules:



The next (and final) step is to cut the string-through ferrules on the other side. One sheet of 12mm MDF over the top of the 6mm sacrificial sheet. Clamped of course.


Hold on, is that a lefty?!



A mirrored internal offset route of the body shape is cut to index the body, ensuring the countersunk string-through ferrules on the back line up with the string-through holes on the front. Note the notches around the perimeter. Their reason for their being was so I could see if the body dropped in square and sat flat on the base. I was running out of time and had to cull the rest of the notches.


Success:



The body dropped into the cavity and countersunk ferrule holes cut. It turns out the body was about 0.15mm narrower than the offset route, so a few pieces of tape between the body-cavity interface ensured a snug fit.


Ferrule holes:



I specified the dimensions such that the flange/lip is a non-interference fit (to account for build-up of finish/grain filler, etc.), with the main “barrel” being a gentle interference fit.

Last edited by 017_017; August 13th, 2013 at 07:52 AM.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 06:30 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Front:




Rear:




Weight:



1.691kg / 3lb 11.6oz. Very close to my initial estimate of 1.728kg / 3lb 13oz.


Neck pocket:




That’s all for a while. Next on the agenda is sanding the sides smooth, putting a 1/8” round-over on the body, and getting a finish on it.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 07:04 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Very nice. I'm surprised to see the .009 offset error on a big old industrial type machine.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 07:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Me too. I just went back and double checked, and it is closer to 0.15mm off (figure updated above), both across the width and length. Both the neck pocket and control cavitiy widths are as per the drawing, so I'm not too sure why the perimeter is out. The MDF fixture was cut conventionally, compared to climbing on the body. Maybe that could be the reason?
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Old August 13th, 2013, 08:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Damn - I wish I had these skills.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 08:40 AM   #10 (permalink)
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That grain is to die for! Hope you plan on a transparent finish.
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Old August 13th, 2013, 08:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by '59_Standard View Post
Damn - I wish I had these skills.
I wish I had that machine!
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Old August 13th, 2013, 09:08 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I bet!
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Old August 13th, 2013, 01:42 PM   #13 (permalink)
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What brand and size CNC is that? HAAS?
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Old August 13th, 2013, 07:52 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The setup is from Multicam Australia (the router unit is from HSD Italy). It can cut panels circa. 1200mm x 2400mm.
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Old August 17th, 2013, 09:07 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I managed to get two wash coats of Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane today. Body sanded to 220. Looked good outdoors during the day, but when I brought it inside and I caught a glimpse of it at the right angle under fluorescent lights… Flame!




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Old August 17th, 2013, 09:08 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I hear flame is rare on black ash. Is this true?


Oh, and apologies for no process photos of finish sanding, rounding over the edge to 1/8" and the urethane itself. I always think I’m going to make a mistake (I am least skilled in fine finishing) and forget to get the camera out...
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Old August 17th, 2013, 11:19 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Looking great. Can't wait to see the finished product.
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Old August 17th, 2013, 08:27 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Thankyou.

Quick question. I've put two coats on the bare timber that have all but soaked right in. I will be pore filling with Timbermate. Should I apply the Timbermate as it stands, or should I sand the two wash coats back down before filling?
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Old August 17th, 2013, 11:11 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Wow that looks great! Beautiful piece of wood there!
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Old August 17th, 2013, 11:51 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Been going in circles today, mixing Timbermate colours together to blend in with the grain. I want as natural a look as possible. I either get it too dark, or too light. Urgh...
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