Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Gretch-like build with bent-ply, vacuum pressing, and Formica

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by mtorn, Mar 22, 2018.

  1. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

    Apr 17, 2007
    Big D
    Actually I sell tabletops to IHOP and it doesn't look anything like their tops... LOL
    fitflatpicker likes this.
  2. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Wait, really???

    I guess the contours or the top would make any spilled maple syrup run into the diners' laps.
    matmosphere and AAT65 like this.
  3. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

    Apr 17, 2007
    Big D
    Yep. One of my accounts.
    And if we do a contour top we have to replace it, lol.

    I have worked with laminate (most call it Formica although that is just a name brand of a laminate company) for many years.

    I have been kicking around using a laminated top surface for guitar for some time and have been reluctant because I have not seen it done. So you have inspired me to maybe built a countertopcaster in the near future!

    Attached Files:

    Torren61 and Minimalist518 like this.
  4. Davecam48

    Davecam48 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Dec 31, 2009
    Queensland Australia
    Great skills and ideas Mtorn. I bet you wake up in the middle of the night and say "Ahhhh I can do it this way!!!" like I do! ;)

    Your body side building method is very similar to mine.

    Instead of a cast iron camp oven/boiler I bought an old stainless steel beer keg and cut it half! :confused:

    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
    Torren61 likes this.
  5. richa

    richa Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Apr 23, 2016
    Ha! Yes...almost makes you feel like you didn't try hard enough right? In the interest of peace and harmony I promise to act offended if no one else offers this kindness. :)
    mtorn likes this.
  6. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    What a funny coincidence that I made a joke about IHOP then!
    I don't know if you saw this one the first time around, my first build with Formica. (in my cases I'm using the actual Formica brand, otherwise I'd probably call it countertop laminate)
  7. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Yep, I get middle of the night lightbulbs!
    It's also a good sign that I'm not into a TV show, if I get new ideas while watching it.
  8. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Some boring stuff next, but it took a bit of head scratching to figure out, so maybe it can be helpful to somebody else.

    Since the sides and top/back will be glued together only once everything else (including the finish) is done, I'm routing the rest (neck pocket, pickup cavity) separately.
    Most of my efforts went into getting the neck pocket right - it obviously has to be in the right location, but I also have to determine the neck angle, and figure out a way to hold a template.

    To calculate the angle, I stacked up all the components, to approximate the string stretch.


    Then I measured the height at the neck joint and at the bridge, and drew two them out on some scrap (two ½" bits of MDF glued together to make 1" thickness).


    Cut on the bandsaw, and sand the faces flat.
    That disc sander is incredibly useful!


    Split the piece into two wedges. They will go like this:


    When I tried it all out, I saw that I had been a bit off on my calculations. Some fine tuning on the disc sander, and I was happy with the alignment.

    The angle turned out to be exactly 5 degrees. Much steeper than anything I've built before.

    Torren61, Mat UK and Minimalist518 like this.
  9. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Routing next. First I hog out the bulk, pretty standard.
    Since this is only half the depth of the full cavity (since much of the depth will be in the laminated top), these are oddly shallow.


    Once you have built a few guitars, you have some old templates sitting around.


    Neck pocket next. To be sure that the will be aligned side-to-side, I check all the center lines, with the neck template sitting in the neck pocket template.


    And route away. Bad idea!!!

  10. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Classic rookie mistake!
    Since the top ¼" of the maple rim was unsupported, things didn't go so well.

    I was so focused on getting all the angles and depths right that I didn't consider this. It sounded a bit wrong when I was running the router, but I just barreled ahead.
    What I SHOULD have done was to use a small saw, and cut the rim before routing.

    I think this was my first major screw-up on this guitar, so I can't complain too much.


    Let's try to recover...
    Some Titebond, clamps, and tape, to glue together the parts that didn't fly off.

    I'm using the laminated top to help keep bits in their right places. First I put some plastic packing tape on it, to make sure that I didn't accidentally glue it to the body!


    Once that dried overnight, more of this epoxy wood putty.


    A couple of hours later I can sand it into the right shape.
    It doesn't look great, but it's seamless to the touch, and once painted I think it will be just fine.

    That KwikWood is pretty good stuff. It cures rock hard and is easy to sand.

    Tezuka27, ModerneGuy, richa and 2 others like this.
  11. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    To route the corresponding cavities in the top, originally I planned to used the body cavities as a guide for a template bearing bit, with a handheld router just sitting on top of the Formica. But the body cavities are just too shallow for me to confidently do that - I just pictured the bearing hopping out of the cavity and the router bit causing mayhem on the top.

    Instead I'm using one of my existing ½" MDF top templates, and marked the locations, trying to copy the existing routes as closely as I could.

    A useful tip for getting sharper corners, especially for pickup routes, is to use the shaft of a ¼" bit as the router guide bearing. The bulk of the routing is done with a ½" bit, and then one more run with the ¼", just for the corners.

    StewMac has started selling the tiny Amana ¼" bearing bits. I'm tempted to get one, but they are $30.


    Hopefully my template will match!
    With some double stick and clamps, I attach the top to the template - it's easy to match up.

    Formica routes so nicely!


    Since the top doesn't lay flat on the template, it doesn't attach all that well with double stick tape.
    I'm paranoid about the template slipping, so I'm using some clamps as well.



    The new routes matched well with the body routes. Phew!
    The pickup route is a smidge (1/16") too much towards the neck, but it's a non-critical match, since the pickup route is a bit oversized. The neck matches 99%, which is much more important.

    With these large semi-acoustic bodies, it's remarkable how bulbous the rear end is!
    It's extra noticeable when you see where the pickup ends up.
    Zepfan and Minimalist518 like this.
  12. Inglese

    Inglese Tele-Meister

    Mar 7, 2018
    Building an amp will never be as aesthetically beautifull as building a guitar...
  13. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    F Holes!

    These are pretty much Rickenbacker holes, scaled and angled for this guitar.
    First I glue a paper template to some scrap MDF. I use a glue stick for this. I used to use spray glue, but it's unnecessarily messy.


    I drill a hole in each of the three corners, then use my secret weapon, the jigsaw, to cut out the shape. I'm cutting right on the line, hoping that I can get a smooth arc without too much sanding.

    At this point I do a test where I fish a volume pot through the hole, to make sure I can fit it, so I'll be able to wire it up when the guitar is done.
    Note the two countersunk holes. They are countersunk on both front and back.


    After using my big paper template to mark where the holes go, I can screw the templates to my big MDF template. The screw holes means that I can repeat the exact location repeatedly.

    Then I cut the holes in the big template, and route to match the small template. To do the other F hole I just flip it over - which is why it's countersunk on both sides.


    I attach the big template to the top (again), and using a ¼ spiral bit, the template riding on the shank of the bit, I can route the F holes.

    I got tired of pre-drilling and pre-cutting holes, so I decided to try to just cut the whole thing out with the router bit. A bit like you do with a zip cutter and drywall. It worked perfectly!

    Unfortunately it's a down-cutting spiral bit (which cuts UP when the router is mounted "upside down" in a table), so it makes quite a mess, flinging the sawdust upwards.


    Done! I'll sand the inside edges, and will later stain them black using some artist's ink.
    I was careful to make the maple inside back of the guitar look nice and clean, since you'll see it clearly through the holes.

    The edges of the holes look frayed, but it's just the protective plastic. I can't wait to take it off!

    Now the top and sides are pretty much done (apart from sanding and painting the sides), so next week I'm moving on to making a neck.

    Freekmagnet, ModerneGuy, n__B and 6 others like this.
  14. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    It's been ages (three weeks!) since I got much done on this guitar. We are having a rare spring heatwave here in Oregon, so I've redirected my efforts at getting my bike ready for the summer. This kind of stuff:


    I did get a chance to dye the inside edges of the f-holes black. This is artist's India ink.
    Before I did this, I did a test on some scrap Formica, to make sure that any ink that ended up on the Formica surface could be cleaned off. No problem, a rag and some water will wipe it off.


    Here's the fingerboard I'm using. As I mentioned before, it's a reject from an earlier build. It's fairly nice - ebony, with brass/epoxy inlays. But I made a real mess when I was putting in the frets, tearing up all the slots, getting CA glue everywhere, so I gave up on it.

    Since then, I've filled all the slots with epoxy, to the point where the frets were over-filled. The idea is that I will cut fresh slots, hopefully matching up closely with the old ones.


    So now I have to clean the epoxy up, and establish a new surface. It went surprisingly fast, with a radius board (10", no compound for me) and some sandpaper.


    I think that will work out fine. A few slots weren't 100% filled to the top, but that won't matter.

  15. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Time to build the neck. Necks are a bit mundane, so I'll try not to go into too much detail.
    Where I'm going into somewhat (for me) uncharted territory is that this is a scarf joined angled headstock, so I'll babble a bit about how that goes.

    These are the materials:

    - First, a MDF template I made for a different build that I can use again.
    - Then the neck beam. It's a nice quartersawn piece of maple I had, waiting to get used. That's one of my favorite things about having built a few guitars already - you amass a nice stash of leftover materials and templates.
    - A (pre-thicknessed) piece of mildly figured maple for the headstock.
    - And the aforementioned fretboard (pre-epoxy sanding)

    This is not one of those builds where I seek the maximum rigidity or sustain, so there will be no laminations or carbon fibre here.


    Most people seem to use a table saw to cut a clean angled cut for the scarf joint. I can't do that, because my table saw is a little old 8" one, so it doesn't have enough cut height. When I build ukuleles, that was enough, but not for a guitar.

    So I'm rough cutting it on my bandsaw.


    And then use the table saw jig that I have leftover from those ukulele builds, but instead I'm using it on my new disc sander!
    It was pure luck that it fits perfectly in the miter slot.


    When I built the sander, I was careful to make a good (non-adjustable) 90 degree table, as well as making sure that the miter slot is parallel with the disc.
    That paid off, because the sanded edge is nice and square!

    Zepfan, Mat UK and Minimalist518 like this.
  16. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

    Apr 17, 2007
    Big D
    looking good!!
    mtorn likes this.
  17. Michael Vilogi

    Michael Vilogi TDPRI Member

    Apr 25, 2018
    Kingston PA
    Looks GREAT! Such attention to detail, im excited to see result! Keep up good work
    mtorn likes this.
  18. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Instead of devising some kind of elaborate glueing jig, I just use two alignment pins embedded in the neck.
    They are really just two little nails, hammered in and snipped of at an angle.


    After aligning the two parts visually, push to make an imprint, and drill the second component (the headstock) at those places.
    Once that is done, I can locate and remove the headstock as much as I want. I set them up to protrude a little bit, and then nibble away at it with the disc sander jig, checking often until it's flush.


    But before gluing them together, I can do a few things that are easier to do when they are still apart. Like bandsawing and spindle sanding the shape.
    I don't bother with template routing, I just sand to the pencil outline.


    And drill for the tuners. Things go fast when you have a proven template!

  19. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Also before gluing the headstock I want to make the neck fit the neck pocket.

    The neck pocket is made to fit the fingerboard (not to the neck template, they are slightly different sizes), so I use the fingerboard (double tape stuck to the neck) as my template to route the end 5-6" of the neck.

    I don't flush route the whole neck, that's better done when the fingerboard has been glued on. But since I need to round the corners of the neck (and want to retain the square edge of the fingerboard), I have to do that before gluing the fingerboard.
    And it's all easier to do before even gluing the headstock.


    Rounding the corners is done on the ROSS band sander instead of the disc sander. The disc sander, as much as I like it, is too aggressive, and would leave sand marks opposite the direction of the grain.


    After a few tries it fits well. It's very snug, so I'll probably have to sand it down a little (after the fingerboard is glued on), to leave some room for the thickness of the finish.

    The fingerboard is just sitting on top, for visualization.

    Minimalist518 and Mat UK like this.
  20. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    For some reason I kept the cutoff piece from when I bandsawed the scarf angle. Now it comes in handy as a clamping caul. A little double stick tape keeps it from slipping around.


    Time to glue!
    I was pleased to find that I could fit four clamps on there.
    I just recently picked up a few more of these Harbor Freight clamps. They have held up well over the years, and these four are the shortest variety, at 6". It really makes it easier to maneuver than my 18-24" ones!


    Out of the clamps things look pretty good.
    I'm not entirely sure that this headstock shape works as well in the angled style. Time will tell.


    A little tight here for the high E tuner, but most of that wood will be removed when shaping the neck.

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