First Tele-Type Build

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Jim_in_PA, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    As noted in my "introduction" thread, I'm embarking on some guitar building for "personal enrichment" purposes including increasing my CNC skills as well as satisfying my musical itch. I'm a lousy guitar player, but there's still no harm in creating something that hopefully sounds good in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing!

    At any rate, I referenced CNC. While a lot of folks work with purchased bodies and necks or cut/shape by hand, since I have the machine, I'm going to use it. Part of that is because I want to take advantage of modeling to create my own personal variations virtually before committing to expensive hunks of wood. While I'm capable of taking an existing plan/drawing directly to design/toolpathing (cutting instructions to the machine), for this first effort I purchased Alex Navaro's (3DCNCGUITARS if you want to Google it) '62 Telecaster files to use as an instructional part of the process. He's also been very helpful in answering a few questions I had before I started modifying some things to suit my perceived needs better. There is also one thing to keep in mind...yes, I'm cutting out the parts with the CNC, but there is still the same amount of work in preparing them as there would be if they were being made with other tools, outside of less manual stock removal on the neck, particularly the back side.

    Prior to the included photos below, I already cut a few necks to refine the process for me and prove things out as these are cut as double sided workpieces. I also did a test fingerboard but the instrument will get a new one that I recreated to insure it was modeled with the desired radius. Finally, I did cut two body templates. While these could be used traditionally to establish a line for a bandsaw cutout, my purpose for them is to be able to set them on a body blank and determine where my center line needs to be oriented for the best possible visual appeal for a body where the wood will be visible. (non-painted bodies) I did two; one with the traditional Tele pickup arrangement and one with a two HB pickup arrangement. The latter is because I don't anticipate using a pick guard on that arrangement and visual in that area is also important.

    For this first build, I chose to do a laminated neck rather than a simpler flat board. My test pieces were fine with the flat board in both maple and cherry, but since I had some material that had some very nice "fleck" on edge of some maple, I decided to leverage that for the first "real" neck. I did change the headstock profile a little...'just a personal thing and a chance to see what modeling that entailed.

    The top of the neck gets cut first and that includes using the machine to refine the thickness to the "correct" 20.74mm (I work in metric by preference when I can) as well as shaping the headstock, cutting the 10mm holes for the tuners and cutting the accommodations for the truss rod.

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    The neck blank is flipped and the alignment holes on the centerline are used to precisely place it so the back side can be cut to profile. There are two steps to that...a "rough" cut which removes the bulk of the material and a "finish" cut that completes the profile. The surface is contoured correctly, but it's not finish-ready...no different than using other methods in that respect.

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    So that means a whole bunch of sanding both manually and with appropriate tools. The final sanding doesn't happen until the fretboard gets glued on just like in any other methodology.

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    And at that point, we have a neck that's ready for next steps. Here it is with my test fingerboard taped on. That alone is instructive as it helped me to understand the headstock end of the fingerboard better so I can trim that end more effectively when I cut the actual piece to use on this instrument. I love the constant learning process!

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    Next up will be said fretboard and the first body...which will be posted after I do the work.
     
  2. Clifton C

    Clifton C Tele-Holic

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    Cool! Looks like a fun build!
     
  3. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Best wishes with your build
     
  4. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Thanks, folks.

    The journey continued today with cutting the body once I got the blank surfaced. I scored a length of Alaska spruce in the "shorts" bin of a local wood lovers candy store the other day as I thought it would be nice for a lighter weight to a solid body and it had exceptionally fine grain. It wasn't quite long enough to to the job by itself, but I had some excellent vertical grain Douglas fir from a client's recent kitchen island top project available and used it to make up the difference since this will be a painted body and movement characteristics were "close enough" for something this small. After surfacing, I was a hair under the standard thickness, but compensating wasn't a hassle. As with the neck, this was a two-sided operation with a few things done on the back side first Those included the alignment holes so I could flip it around the center axis, ferrule recesses for the type I intend to use and pre-routing the eased edge.

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    After flipping the workpiece over, the recesses were cut on the front and then the edge was eased. I kept the final cutout toolpath separate so I could get a start on sanding the front while it was fastened down.

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    For folks interested in using CNC for this kind of work, note that for cutting out the body, I used a long specialty cutter that has a relieved shank which reduces friction as each pass gets deeper. This is a good practice when slicing through about 45mm (~1.75") of wood. It's the longest cutter I have and I actually bought it with guitar bodies in mind some time ago, although it's seen other use, too.

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    It's also important to note that you don't want to just cut through all the way around without some method of keeping the body from moving and getting ruined. One method is to use "tabs" which basically is some wood left in place to hold the workpiece. They are simple to cut through manually on the bench and then shave off or sand off the remainder.

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    At this point nothing is different from any other build...it was time to sand things smooth...the edges need more attention than the surfaces simply because of the nature of wood and the tiny bit of chatter that happens with a long cutter. Soft wood like this is also subject to tear-out, but anything remaining after sanding will get filled as part of the prep for finishing and paint.

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    Test fit....yas!!!!
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    Marking the hole locations in the neck so proper size pilot holes can be drilled once I get the neck plate hardware I'll be ordering.
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    Wiring channel holes with da big long bit...
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    And now my "kit" is almost ready for the more fun stuff once I cut the "real" fingerboard.
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  5. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    I got back to work today and cut the fretboard after getting a small commissioned CNC job out the door. While my original test fretboard was pretty decent, there were a few small refinements I wanted to make for the "real" one that would make finishing up at the headstock end a little easier with some relief cuts to mark where I wanted the top end to end, as it were. I also added a finishing pass after cutting the fret slots to clean things up and reduce sanding on the sides.

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    I think this will work nicely...

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    And at this point, I'm essentially done with all the major "component cutting".

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    The truss rod should be here in a day or two so the neck can get "final assembled" and sanded. In the mean time, there is much fine sanding and minor filing to tear-out on some end-grain to do on the body prior to commencing with applying finish. I have two colors on order as I just have not been able to choose yet between red or teal for this first build. Feel free to express an opinion... :)

    And, of course, no good project goes on without having to buy a few more tools. heh...heh...I have all the kewel things to build furniture and cabinetry and do extensive sign work and other CNC commissions, but I just wasn't setup for things like installing frets and setting up a guitar. So...more tools are on the way! :D
     
  6. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Yesterday, I cut a "paint stick" to assist with the coming finishing process for the solid body of the first build. I figured that having something that fit well that was also an opportunity to do an "almost round" two sided cut on the CNC was worth the few minutes of work it took to draw out and toolpath. Every day is a learning experience in my shop. :)

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    I also glued up the fretboard and neck the night before. In all honesty, I'm not totally happy with this glue up...it's not up to my quality standards and it's likely that I'll build another neck for this instrument as well as a radiused clamping caul to assist with future versions. In the mean time...it IS perfectly flat and ripe for learning how to press frets and then work them. I'd rather burn ten bucks of pre-bent frets to practice and then get it right for a better neck to come.

    Oh, and while I was waiting for a client to stop by to discuss some CNC work he needs for a customer project of his own, I started cutting another body to test the process for creating a thinline inspired design.

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    Getting this worked out will be very useful for both a typical thinline type body but also for the process necessary to do a planned humbucker version without a pickguard from some very nice material I have in the racks.
     
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  7. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Which brings me to a (second) request for input...which of these two colors should go on the first solid body? :) Hardware will be chrome on this one if it matters relative to your opinion. If the colors look wonky on your screen, the red is 'somewhat' like the fiesta red that folks faun over and the other is a nice teal.

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    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  8. oldrebel

    oldrebel Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    They look great!! Did you cut the radius around the first body on the CNC? If so, how did you program that step?
     
  9. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    oldrebel, you can conceptually equate the CNC operation to be "very similar" to how you would cut using a router and a template. The difference is that with the CNC, the template is virtual...a set of "vector" lines... and rather than a bearing on a hand-held or table mounted router following the edge of a physical template, the CNC machine just gets numeric instructions on how to "follow the line". This is done numerically using a x (left-right), y (front-back) and z (height) coordinate system. For example, for the body profile, the machine is told to put the edge of the selected cutter to the outside of the profile line (the "template" and then run around that line at an appropriate speed, tooling RPM and depth for each pass to get a clean cut. What's truly nice about having this tool available is that one can "build" the part virtually on the computer screen in every way prior to finally committing it to expensive materials. (or cheap materials as the case may be :D )

    We don't have to manually program anything...the drawing, once complete, has "toolpaths" generated by the software (Vectric Aspire in this case) once you tell the software what operation, cutter and other parameters you want for a given vector. For what you see below, there are multiple vectors that need to be cut in different ways, so each as its own "toolpath". Some of them are very similar, only varying in depth, such as the pickup and control recesses/pockets and they use the same tooling. String holes and other smaller things use different tools and one changes them at the appropriate time in the cutting process. (My particular machine prompts for the next tool and then automatically measures length before returning to cut the next toolpath) I cut the bodies as a two-sided operation. You'll note in the photos below the two alignment holes, top and bottom. Those are used to flip the workpiece so I can start with the ferrule holes and slight round-over of the bottom before flipping it over to do the cutting on the top side. This provides precise alignment of top and bottom so, for example, when the machine drills the string through holes from the top, they are exactly centered on the ferrule recesses on the bottom side.

    The vector drawing looks like this:

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    The virtual rendering (which is even animated for each cutting operation for the pockets and profiles) looks like this on the screen:

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    Because of this, it's uber-easy to customize things. The Telecaster type guitar is about the best design for creativity to my eyes...the body and neck are in a parallel plane (no neck angle) so as long as you maintain the technical dimensions for the scale, etc., you can get really creative with the body and headstock as many folks have already illustrated here in the forums. Aside from the design simplicity which makes for an easier first build, that ability to "do kewel things" aesthetically over time is a major attractive thing to me.

    BTW, I'm guessing from your avatar that your choice would be the red. LOL
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  10. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    For the first build, I did some final sanding of the body and then shot a few coats of sealer on it so I could, well...sand it some more. This will allow me to see if I need to do any more filling before I spray a few coats of high solids primer with more sanding prior to the color coats. My "painting stick" worked out nicely today with just hanging, but I need to construct a more maneuverable method for holding the body for spraying. (I really like the look of the spruce with clear so I hope I can score some more at some point where I have enough for a whole body)

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    I also worked on the neck getting a few things more to my liking, installing the markers and sanding some more. There are some aesthetic things that bother me as mentioned previously, but nothing that will affect functional. I do need to adjust the size of the pockets for the markers for the next time around...they were way too tight and suffered visually because of it.

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    Today also included milling and joining the top piece for the second body that will be more of a Thinline inspired build. I had some very nice vertical grain Douglas fir left over from a client project so I took that to about 11mm thickness (it was re-sawn from far thicker material) and glued up a panel after some careful grain and color matching, just in case I decide to keep the wood visible for the top. I'm toying with that with binding to separate the top from the heart pine back which I most likely will make a solid color.

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    Of course, milling lumber...especially softwoods...creates a whole lot of very fluffy shavings. Hence, yet another opportunity to dump the cyclone's bin.

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    Given I just may do the "f-hole" a-la Thinline for that second body, I decided to paint the cavity prior to gluing on the top panel...I's just a personal preference it to be dark in there. :)

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    Rather than pull the body off the CNC machine to glue on the top, I just did the deed right there using screws into "safe areas" to clamp things down while the Titebond did its thing. The extra weight was merely to help with an area that the screws just were not possible. (That old cast iron indexer is very heavy)

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    Tomorrow, the screws come out, the combined workpiece will get surfaced slightly to get to exact thickness, and then the pickup and control pockets will get cut and the string holes bored. If I decide between now and then that I'm going to bind the top, the necessary rebate will get cut prior to doing the final cutout of the body.

    ---
    'Still need folks color opinions from the two choices up above for that first build!!! ;)
     
  11. Urshurak776

    Urshurak776 Tele-Holic

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    I really like the blue! Nice job on this. Really cool.
     
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  12. samuelmorrissey

    samuelmorrissey Tele-Meister

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    Looks amazing! Can't wait to see the finished result
     
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  13. RiversQC

    RiversQC TDPRI Member

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    Your build is looking amazing, and great work in documenting all the steps - I'm sure it's going to turn out great.
    Seeing as you managed to CNC a painting stick, your skills are clearly beyond mine. :) However, I figured I'd share what I do for a small & maneuverable painting rig: basically, PVC piping mounted on plywood which locks onto the top of a portable workbench. In my painting sticks I have drilled a hole which both gives me something to hang it with when curing/drying, as well as when on the rig I run a bolt through it -- this ensures it (a) doesn't fall and (b) I have cut notches in the PVC pipe so that, using the bolt, I can lock it into position flat, sideways, upside-down, etc.

    spray rig.jpg
     
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  14. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Rivers, what you show is very similar to what I'm thinking about...I need that kind of positional flexibility for the color and clear coats for sure. Getting into the cutaway areas at the top of the body with my gun, no matter how well-tuned it is, is difficult without being able to move things around...something impossible with merely hanging it from the ceiling. I will also likely leverage a portable support like the WorkMate you show, too. Thanks for showing me your solution!

    So...red or teal?? :) :D
     
  15. RiversQC

    RiversQC TDPRI Member

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    Ooh man. Not to split the vote, but I like the vermillion/red (though the teal is nice too, no wrong choice!). I'm a bit of a sucker for orange/reds, so take that into account, but I feel like it will pair really nicely with the maple fingerboard. I like light blues with a rosewood/darker board. Usually. ;)
     
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  16. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Yea, that's why this is such a hard decision...both are great colors. I think in the end I need to build a second "matching" instrument of the alternative color. LOL After all, a keyboard player can never have too many guitars. :lol:

    Speaking of color...I took the idea above for work-holding during spraying and cobbled this together with a few pieces of common 2x4 lumber. It's supported by the floor as well as an adjacent tool or bench, depending on time of year and location in my shop. The 35mm holes were put in at an angle which puts gravity to work keeping things from moving unless I want them to. There's a bolt through the round bar as was suggested up above.

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    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
  17. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    I was thinking that was orange. But I've been thinking of building an orange guitar.

    Nice walk through.


    Orange like this Reverend.

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  18. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    I had limited time today because of errands and getting started on a small client project, but did have time to complete cutting "body number two". After removing the clamps...er...screws :) ...I surfaced the top down to just proud of the normal thickness, leaving just a little for sanding. While I started this process with my normal insert spoilboard cutter, I was getting a little too much tear-out on that d-fir, so I switched to a simple down-cut end mill and increased the step-over to reduce cutting time a little. That worked nicely with getting a sanding ready surface. From there, it was cut the neck, pickup and control pockets.

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    One of the nice things about an applied top is being able to precut wiring channels which becomes important for an instrument that might not have a pick guard or a minimal one. This was a good opportunity to work it out for another build I intend with humbuckers and back-access to electrical. All of the top pockets were cut with a compression bit to insure that the edges stayed clean...which can be a challenge with softwoods including splintery ones like Douglas Fir and Pine. Compression bits, if you're not familiar have about the first .25" at the end as an up-cut and the rest is a down-cut. As long as your first pass is deeper than the cutting length of the up-cut portion, the edge stays crispy and splinter free. (These are most used for cutting sheet stock in one pass, but I use them a a lot for solid wood, too)

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    I did decide to try and bind this body because the top will be wonderful with natural grain showing with the back and sides in color...likely black. Because a CNC is like a hammer that sees everything as a nail, I cut the rebate for the binding prior to cutting out the body. That part worked out nicely, but I realized after the fact that sanding the edges at the OSS may compromise the narrow 1mm rabbit depth, depending on dealing with tear-out in the pine. As much as I love to use my CNC for everything, something tells me that for the binding, at least in softwoods, it may be best left to doing with a hand-held router and appropriate piloted cutter after the edges are dressed.

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    At any rate, the body is cut out and ready for sanding and filling which I'll get to in a day or three...I gotta get that client work out the door, get the lawn mowed between rain storms and handle a few other things I neglected this week. :)

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  19. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Wow...that's a COLOR!! I love it. The red is "Vermillion" in Benny-Moore speak. It is on the orange side of red to my eyes, but it's not orange-orange. I'll add orange to my list for future bodies, however, as a quart of the Target Coatings EM6500 water borne lacquer I use is very reasonably priced.
     
  20. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Meister

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    Today seemed like a good day to get the high-build primer onto the body since I could shoot and then take care of some landscaping work in between coats. A total of three coats went on with sanding and, um...fixing things...done between coats two and three. There nothing like that primer highlighting the defects that got missed after the original hand sanding! The work holding stand I made worked out in a stellar way...I can see why this general format is popular.

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    One boo-boo on the front...
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    And one on the edge...
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    Oh, and I've officially decided to use the teal for this first body and save the red for a future build. I think the teal is going to look very nice with chrome hardware and a white pick guard as well as with the maple neck.

    Meanwhile, when I was done sweating with the landscape work and some rain blew up, the Thinline inspired body got the edges and back sanded and filled. The edges were successfully smoothed on the OSS without damaging the rebates for the binding, but there was a bunch of tear-out in the pine that had to be filled.

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    Of course, at that point, I suddenly realized that I forgot to cut the f-hole in the top before I took it off the CNC and cut the tabs. So back it went on the table to get that important feature. In exuberance to get the top glued to the body the other day, I forgot to relieve the area around the f-hole on the underside of the top, so this one is going to have a bit more thickness in that area than would normally be seen, but I may try to carefully deal with that with files/rasps.

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    This d-fir top is going to be absolutely beautiful and while the sides and back will get to be black, I'm going natural here, maybe with a mild sunburst. The wood is too beautiful to hide!

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    Accordingly, the top got masked off so the high-build primer could get applied...there will be more filling required, but things are too hard to see in the pine without the color.

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    Next up with be a final block sanding of the solid-body and then color coats. The neck also needs the side markers.
     
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