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Minimalist lightweight offset bolt-on with Formica!

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by mtorn, Apr 4, 2017.

  1. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Time for a new build!

    The last build I posted here was the Offset Neck-through Sapele one (http://www.tdpri.com/threads/offset-neck-through-sapele-build-jazzmaster-firebird-ish.689013/, which still is due for a few follow-up posts, once a few more parts arrive in the mail), and the posts was painstakingly detailed. This one will be a bit more brief, skipping the less interesting steps.

    That build had a bunch of finicky stuff, with a Jazzmaster tremolo, a neck through design, dense heavy fancy-ish wood... so this one will be, in some respects, the polar opposite.

    Shape: About the same as the previous one, an offset design of my own (although it's hard to design anything that doesn't look like a bunch of other things). This body got a few minor ergonomic tweaks, but not much, since the old design is very comfortable.

    Woods: Lightweight stuff. I really like it when a guitar is very toss-around-able, even though I pretty much always play sitting down. I also wanted to build something very un-exotic. So this one gets basswood for the body, and Home Depot mahogany for the neck.
    The fingerboard will be Richlite, that black paper-resin composite.

    Neck mounting: Bolt on, but with a twist. More on that later.

    Hardware: In the interest of being a solid and simple as possible, with very few moving parts to rattle around (so in other words, opposite from the Jazzmaster system), I'm going with a one-piece non-adjustable wraparound bridge. I decided on the Graph Tech option, for looks and cleverness of design.

    The tuners will be Hipshot's lockable ones, staggered 3x3. Even though it won't have a tremolo bridge, I really like the locking option, for the speed of stringing, and the stability of tuning. My last project had GFS Sperzel copies, which were okay, but had enough bad things about them that I decided to spring for a proper brand this time.

    Electronics: A single bridge pickup. I'm going to try one of the new Mini-Hums from EMG, a model M-60. It's a twin blade, narrow aperture, ceramic, fat-single coil-ish active pickup. Possible with just a volume control, or maybe with one of their active preamp EQs.

    Finish: Formica! At least for the front and the back. With cream binding around the edges (a first for me), black stained poly-covered basswood edges, and tru oil for the neck.

    This is, roughly, what it will look like:

    Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.23.46 PM.jpg
     

  2. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    52
    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    Looks cool and sounds interesting !

    Hopefully no compound curves for the Formica ?
     
    Freekmagnet likes this.

  3. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Not too much curviness!
    I'm doing a bent top at the forearm contour. And for the back I'm doing a rib cage contour, but I'll just do a cutaway of the Formica for that, exposing the black dyed basswood.

    I don't have the sheet of Formica yet, I had to special order that, but I did some tests on a few sample chips, and it looks quite bendable when warmed with a heat gun.
     

  4. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Holic

    924
    Jul 13, 2014
    Manchester, UK
    Sounds exciting!
     

  5. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    52
    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    Usually not hard to bend at all as long as it only bends one direction at a time . I've done rolled edges on counter tops before. I've never tried to bend it over a compound radius though.

    The body shape looks fantastic !
     

  6. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    I've never done Formica (or other laminates), but that's what I was thinking. The only bend I'm doing is a simple, soft, straight line contour. I should be able to pull that off, I hope.
    I considered wrapping the sides with a long band of Formica, but that would probably be pushing it.

    Thanks about the shape! I think it'll be by go-to standard shape, and is, as I mentioned, very comfy, at least for me.
     

  7. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    About the Formica.

    Formica is a company that makes the kind of laminate that is typically used for kitchen countertops. Other brands will probably work just fine, but the one I'm using is Formica, mostly because I like the patterns and it's easy to order.

    First I popped over to the nearest Lowes and grabbed some sample tiles in the kitchen section. You can take as many as you want for free. Most of them are faux stone or wood, but a few of them are pretty funky. Here are the ones I narrowed it down to:

    IMG_6387.jpg

    There are a few more that they didn't have samples for, but I think anything on the Formica website is available. You special order the sheet at the kitchen section, and I'm still waiting for mine to arrive. The smallest you can get, I think, is a 30"x96", so I'll have a lot leftover. The sheet cost something like $33. Don't go from the prices and availability on the website, it's not very complete.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
    Freekmagnet likes this.

  8. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Here are a few mockups of possible Formica contenders. It was hard to pick my favorite, but in the end I picked "Charcoal Greek Key". I liked how it looks against the cream pickguard and binding.

    I also picked that one because it has a matte (kind of pebbly) texture. It's really hard and scratch proof.
    Most of my other options were glossy, I wasn't sure if that would look too tacky, but after going through a lot of work doing conventional gloss finishes, it was tempting to get gloss without doing any work!

    I'm not certain about this, but I think all patterns can be ordered as either matte or gloss.

    Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.52.11 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.52.36 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.52.49 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.53.02 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 7.53.17 AM.jpg
     
    Freekmagnet likes this.

  9. falcon5romeo

    falcon5romeo Tele-Holic

    767
    Dec 15, 2015
    Lehigh Valley
    that last green one looks awesome, very atomic age.
     
    Deeve likes this.

  10. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Some conventional build steps first.
    The body is from basswood. An un-sexy choice, and a first for me.

    I picked it mostly for its light weight. At the wood supply store I tried to get a feel for how heavy each piece was by picking it up, but man, it's hard to get a proper sense of weight, especially when manhandling a 16 foot long board!
    Once home, I measured and weighed the board I picked, and once I made the calculations, it seems that I picked an unusually heavy board. Not much lighter than typical alder, it seems. The upside, I suppose, is that it's probably a bit more dent-worthy and holds screws better because of its higher density.

    Jointing, and then a glue-up. It's a basic 2-piece body.

    IMG_6402.jpg

    I designed the body shape to be 13" at it's widest, so it can fit through my thickness planer. The basswood planes a whole lot easier than denser hardwoods! I'm struggling a little with snipe, but who doesn't?

    I planed it somewhat thin, at 1.5", mostly for weight. I couldn't think of a reason to go with the more typical 1.75" thick.

    IMG_6403.jpg

    I had made a ½" MDF template, and after bandsawing, and sanding close to the line, I used a template bit to get to the final shape, in 3 passes. But ouch! Tearout!

    I've never really had great success with template routing bodies. Either I've gotten tearouts or burns. I've usually just done freehand sanding, to the line. I probably should spring for a $100 spiral or compression bit, but first I'll try the StewMac robo-sander.

    Here you can also see the pickguard, already made. I didn't take any pictures, since it's all standard techniques.

    IMG_6413.jpg

    Not too bad though - this part of the body can be reshaped a little without anyone noticing. After sanding out the problem, about ⅛", all is well. The dark diagonal line is a knot in the wood that got exposed.

    IMG_6415.jpg
     
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  11. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    I ALMOST went with the green. If I knew that I could get it in matte, I would probably have picked that.
     

  12. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    On to the neck.
    I want a lightweight, rigid neck. It'll have a straight, Fender-style, headstock (no angle), but with a 3+3 tuner setup. I just prefer the ergonomics of a 3+3, I can find each tuner by feel, without looking.

    The wood is Home Depot mahogany (!), African it says on the label. Who knows what it really is... I picked it up on a whim, because it looked nice and straight, and while it was very light, it wasn't too soft (I covertly check with my fingernail).

    I cut it into three strips, each a bit over 1" wide, flipped them 90 degrees, to get them closer to quartersawn, flipped the middle board end-to-end, to get a /\/ grain pattern. This is done for stability, I think this is how Hamer does all their necks.

    IMG_6435.jpg

    And then a glue-up. I used my drill press aux table to get a flat reference surface to clamp against. First I glued two of them together, then separately glued the third.

    IMG_6398.jpg
     

  13. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Once jointed flat and thickness sanded, headstock ears where glued on.

    This is a little too lightweight for me to have full confidence in its strength. I think the rigidity of the neck is an underestimated factor in the tone of an instrument. So...

    Carbon fiber!

    This is a first for me. I ordered a couple of sticks from eBay. It's pretty flimsy stuff as it goes, 6x6mm square tubing with a round hollow, so I don't really know it will add all that much strength, but I wanted to give it a go anyway. I think this kind of carbon fiber is what people use to build quadcopter drones.

    It was easy to cut to length.

    IMG_6426.jpg

    I used my truss rod channel jig, with a ¼" bit, to make the channels.

    IMG_6427.jpg

    A ¼" is 6.35mm, so it leaves just enough room for some 60-minute epoxy. The bbq skewers let me clamp them down without gluing the clamps to the neck.

    IMG_6428.jpg
     

  14. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

    Mar 27, 2012
    Calgary, Alberta
    Awesome! I like the pattern of the dark colored Formica first then the green.
     

  15. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    If this one works out, I'll be tempted to build a green one. Maybe a bass?
     

  16. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    About the neck joint.

    This one is, in most respects, a regular bolt-on neck.
    People often will talk about the benefits of a tight neck joint, saying that you'll get a better transfer of vibrations to the body, or as I think of it, less string vibration lost to friction in a bad joint, and to a bunch of spongy wood taking the long way around from the nut to the bridge.

    The problem is that the sides of the neck will have to sit so tightly in the pocket that they are actively pushing on the sides of the pocket. That's rare to find, and hard to make.
    Instead, it occurred to me, let's use a taped neck pocket, and use a bolt to pull the neck into that taper. It's a bit like the tapered conical connection between a drill chuck and its pocket. It's held entirely, and strongly, in place with surface friction. So I decided to give it a go.

    First I made a template for the neck (the white one). It goes straight for a bit, and then it tapers with an arbitrary angle on each corner.
    Then, to make a tight fitting template for the pocket, I used a hot glue gun and some sticks to make an intermediate template, wrapping them tightly around the neck template.
    (The MDF template in the picture is a separate one for the fingerboard and headstock)

    IMG_6418.jpg

    Then I made an MDF template from that, with a bearing router bit. I made the pocket a little longer than the neck tenon, I don't want the very end of the neck to touch the end of the pocket. The two templates fit tightly (but only at the tapered part, which is all that matters), and with a little push, they stick together well enough that you can pick them up as unit.

    IMG_6420.jpg
     

  17. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    52
    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    Interesting neck build up and pocket design.

    The CF should give you some rigidity. Although I always sandwiched it as part of a lay up.

    I used to use CF to add rigidity to wing spars in 3.1m (10 foot). RC Sailplanes back in the day. It added an enormous amount of rigidity compared to a lite ply only build up.

    This will be a fun one to watch progress !
     

  18. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Age:
    59
    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Love it!

    I'd be a little worried that you are making the neck too stiff, and won't be able to get any relief in it when it's strung up.

    I bough the really expensive spiral bearing bit for my router table, and I'm really sorry I did. I hate the thing. It's extremely loud and extremely frightening. If you make a mistake and go the wrong way, you get really bad tearout and it violently grabs the body and hurls it around. It ruined one nice body blank. I just did two more, and I get much better results with my spindle sander and I'm going to have to put these tow blanks on the spindle sander anyway. I get much better results with a spindle sander. Don't waste your money on that bit.

    I'm willing to admit it could be user error. Some people are probably better with a router than me. In general, the router is my least favorite tool by about 100 miles
     

  19. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    566
    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    That's nice to hear. This carbon fiber tubing is remarkably light. I went with square, thinking that it would have more rigidity in the direction of the string pull (compared to round). And easier to route the channel!

    What kind of CF did you use for the sandwich? It seems like thin sheets between wood layers would be the strongest method, but I wasn't sure if, once the neck had been shaped, the exposed CF sheets would be intrusive to the hands.
    I saw on the Strandberg guitars blog that he was experimenting with laying CF fabric between layers, soaked with fairly thick epoxy, binding the layers and strengthening the fabric. Not sure how he liked the results.
     

  20. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    52
    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    I used carbon fiber tape layered with lite spruce ply . Basically creating a box spar . Saturated with epoxy.

    But I wouldn't want to slide my hands along it either ! Kind of hard on cutting tools as well. Sands easy enough though.

    Today they use vacuum bagged lay ups with little to no wood at all, but I haven't tried that myself.
     
    Johanbrand likes this.

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