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Watch a Noob build a Tele body from scratch

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by kleydejong, May 31, 2017.

  1. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Jumping in the deep end. I have long assembled partscasters. I've even done some finish work. But I've never really done any of the woodworking side of making a guitar. Always wanted to. I have lately been getting into woodworking and have completed a few projects, so what the heck. This will be an outline of my adventure - probably with too many pictures. I openly welcome any and all feedback.

    The Project

    I want to make a guitar body from scratch. I have some lumber that I grabbed for free after my folks redid their deck. I figure it would be good to learn on and if I mess it up horribly I'm not out any money. I grabbed a lengthy 2x4 to start.

    [​IMG]

    I have a workshop and some modest tools. My super legit 'table saw' which is basically a plywood box with a circular saw mounted upside down to a melamine board. DIY cross cut sled worked quite well here.

    [​IMG]

    Then I took a tape measure to an existing tele body I have. I measured about 16" top to bottom. So I did cross cuts at about 17" to give myself some excess.

    [​IMG]

    I don't have a jointer or a planer. But I did make a jointer jig to use with my table saw. You can see it in that first picture on the lower shelf of my workbench. I clamped these boards to the jig. The jig has a known square edge to run against my fence. Then I take the board out of the jig and flip it around, running the ripped edge against the fence. Supposedly creating two sides that are square and parallel to one another.

    Here are the results:

    [​IMG]

    Not as perfect and seemless as a jointer would produce I'm sure. But I then used a #5 hand plane to knock down any slight high spots. At this point, I guess we'll see how it goes. Not sure if this will be a viable approach to joining these boards. But I got it to a point that I think might work.

    Dry fitting before glue up.

    [​IMG]

    I find gluing to be very enjoyable for some reason.

    [​IMG]

    Especially once you smooth it out.

    [​IMG]

    And get that squeeze out to be nice and even.

    [​IMG]

    Again, no idea if this is actually a good idea or not - but I took some saw dust from the table saw activity and smooshed it on the glue lines. I think the idea is to help fill any minute imperfections in the joints, or if nothing else to absorb excess glue to make it easier to scrape off.

    [​IMG]

    Now I wait to let it dry overnight.
     

  2. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    After drying and sanding:

    [​IMG]

    I took a tele I already own to draw the outline. Then a Jig Saw to cut out the contours.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Jig Saw does an okay job. The tighter corners gave me some trouble. So I would have to come at them from two angles of attack as opposed to a continuous curving cut. Caused this:

    [​IMG]

    And the blade tends to wander a bit when curving. The lower portion doesn't track the angle of the cut as quickly or consistently, so it is actually kind of oblong as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    I think this was a fine approach. I can see how the template + flush trim router bit would be very handy here. If I could do it again I think I should have gone a little slower and gave myself a few more mm of space between the line and my cut with the jig saw.

    Now I'm deciding if I want to buy a proper route bit to polish up this cutout, or if I'm just going to attack it with sand paper...
     
    hemmings likes this.

  3. awasson

    awasson Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Age:
    54
    Nov 18, 2010
    Vancouver
    That's awesome! I like your shop and tool selection. I've got about the same selection of tools and a smaller shop space but I see the need need to get busy making some jigs like yours, sled, jointer jig, etc...

    I think a spindle sander would be nice for doing those inside contours.

    I haven't built a scratch built body since high school (35 years ago) but I'm getting the itch to do something like this too.
     
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  4. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    I smoothed out much of the outer curves using a sanding attachment on my drill:

    [​IMG]

    I made some passes with grits starting at 80 and going up to 220. It actually went pretty well.

    Then I used a dremel with a sanding attachment to work out the two more narrow horn areas above and below the neck pocket.

    At this point I feel the need to commit to some specs. I think I'm going to use a strat neck pickup and a P90 bridge pickup. That would be a pickup combination I would be very interested in trying and it would slot in nicely with my other guitars to fill a gap. I also know I have a TOM style bridge I could use on this body. It might be risky to fudge it, but I think I may try and wing it a little bit. I have a center line on my body. I have a neck that I want to put on this body. So the plan is to fit the neck pocket to the neck itself. This body has 1 1/2" depth, so I may use a slightly shallower neck pocket depth. Then I may try to counter sink the TOM bridge holes. And then perhaps a bit of a shim. All of the above will hopefully compensate for a flat neck angle + TOM bridge.

    Then for alignment I am going to try and drill in two pieces of string for the high and low E strings. I figure if the bridge and nut are aligned with one another everything else is kind of secondary. To route the neck pocket I'm going to try to create a temporary jig as seen here:



    I believe the idea is to use the neck itself. Place it on the guitar where it needs to be. Then sandwich it along the edge of the pocket with flat pieces of wood. Clamp them on. Start with a forstner bit to hog out most of the material, and then use a flush trim bit with a guide bearing running along those sandwiched pieces to clean up the neck pocket. I'll add a couple pieces of tape to the guide rails to make sure the fit is nice and tight.

    Then once the neck pocket is in place I can secure the bridge location. Then using my two E 'strings' I can locate the pickup routes. I'll size those based on some pickup covers I have lying around. Then the control cavity.
     

  5. zezone

    zezone Tele-Meister

    Steady going. One trick to help with tight corners when cutting with a jigsaw is to drill holes just outside the pencil line.
     
    kleydejong likes this.

  6. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Great tip, thanks!
     

  7. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 6, 2012
    North of Boston
    Looking good!..a lot of us do give ourselves plenty of space between the line and the blade and then sand to the line
     
    kleydejong likes this.

  8. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Great tips guys, thanks! I can already imagine that #2 will be quite a bit better.

    Looking for some help on my next step. I am kind of making this build up as I go, with no particular intention of sticking to a strict 'tele' script. So I'm thinking about how the next series of choices will interact.

    First, my body thickness is 1 1/2" - so a little under the typical 1 3/4". Some research says that this is not really a problem though. Given this body thickness would you still do a neck pocket depth of 5/8"?

    Given the above question, what if I told you I had an extra TOM bridge sitting in my parts drawer? I understand a TOM typically goes with an angled neck of about 4-ish degrees. But I'm wondering if perhaps I shave it back to maybe 9/16" or an even 1/2" neck pocket depth. Combine that with a shim and I think I can get a workable neck joint, no?

    Next variable is pickups. If I use a P90 in the bridge and a strat single coil in the neck, I may just screw the pickups directly into the body. That way I can bump the height up a bit compared to normal and am not restricted by a pickguard.

    Any glaring errors in this plan?
     

  9. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 6, 2012
    North of Boston
    Yes, 5/8 on the neck pocket.

    Yes doable on the TOM bridge idea but may look a little odd. If you apply the angle to the neck pocket & the depth at the heel isn't quite 5/8 that will work and look balanced. Use/create 2 shims on either side of the neck pocket to create the angle. This whole part sound complicated but isn't. I made 2 8 inch shims with a 3 degree rise. Actually I made one and then cut it in half the long way ;)

    I agree with your idea about pickups.
     
    kleydejong likes this.

  10. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Went to Ace Hardware. Came home with a forstner bit, 1/8" roundover bit, and a flush trim bit. Probably coulda just bought a new unfinished pine body for that much - but what's the fun in that?

    I marked a 5/8" depth and started with the forstner bit. Hogging a lot of the material out with the forstner bit was awesome. Very effective.

    [​IMG]

    Left me with this.

    [​IMG]

    Then a couple of passes with the flush trim bit. I shimmed the heel side of these jig boards a bit to add some angle for the TOM bridge.

    [​IMG]

    A few more light passes to clean it up. Not perfect, but I thought it could be worse.

    [​IMG]

    Fits quite nicely! Starting to look like a real guitar now.

    [​IMG]

    I gotta admit. This is some fun stuff!
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
    tonyv77, MM73, ukepicker and 5 others like this.

  11. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Tele-Holic

    802
    Jun 17, 2008
    omaha
    Fun is fun!!!!
     
    kleydejong likes this.

  12. Macrogats

    Macrogats Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    51
    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Good stuff. It's not looking too bad - better than the ones I've created. ;) I need to get the proper bits for neck pocket routing.

    What's your intended finish?
     

  13. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Thanks!

    Good question. I'm thinking I will paint this one. Tru oil is an option. It would be an open declaration stating that this guitar is made out of a 2x4 and has many imperfections. But I kinda like that. Paint and lacquer from a rattle can is also an option. Specifically thinking about maybe doing some kind of mutt finish to use up various cans of half empty paint I have sitting around.
     

  14. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Trying to be detailed at this stage of lining everything up. Because I'm not using a template I am relying on fitting the parts onto themselves. So neck alignment is done by using string for the fake high and low E strings. Center line is used to align the middle of the bridge saddles. Then paying attention to the string as it runs down the neck. Looking for even space between the edge of the fretboard. Bridge is placed 25.5" from each point of contact at the nut and at the saddles. I'll drill in the bridge posts next.

    I was reading through another thread about a TOM bridge + flat neck angle. What if I just countersink the holes for the bridge posts with a router by about 1/8"?

    [​IMG]
     
    fenderchamp and DrASATele like this.

  15. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    My searches led me to this veritable goldmine of information - http://www.tdpri.com/threads/mike-simpsons-2011-tdpri-build-challenge-thread.263769/.

    I just want to stop for a moment and sincerely thank all of you veteran tdpri members who have been posting for years. Pretty much any time I have a question or an uncertainty about building a guitar I have come to find that the answer is to be found somewhere in this website's treasure chest. I am consistently amazed at the craftsmanship, expertise, passion, and helpfulness of this community. And all this information is given away for free. It blows my mind that some poor schmuck like me can learn how to do something like this by pouring over web posts made by some stranger back in 2011.
     

  16. awasson

    awasson Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Age:
    54
    Nov 18, 2010
    Vancouver
    Well what goes around comes around, doesn't it? I imagine 5 or 6 years from now someone's going to stumble on one of your build threads and see a router sled or jointer jig and it'll be exactly what they were looking for.

    And yeah, I've followed a few Mike Simpson threads. Awesome stuff. In that league, check out Marty's builds @guitarbuilder. He's got neck building threads that'll make you believe you can do it too. Here's one I'm waiting for him to finish up: http://www.tdpri.com/threads/100-tele-style-build-redux.660179/page-14
     
    kleydejong likes this.

  17. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 6, 2012
    North of Boston
    Wow, looking good! Funny how the right tools actually make it "kind of" simple if you have a sense of direction.
    I remember that first time I place a not so snug neck in a freshly made neck pocket. Awesome!
    Look up Colt Knight if you decide to go Nitro on the finish, some great info there. Can't go wrong with the folks mentioned above either. The best source of info just might be the Challenge build archives. Seriously amazing things happen in those threads, often new ways of skinning that old cat often with more efficiency and precision.
    Get your hands on some of Ron Kirns booklets and read some of his treads too. guitarbuilder's building a neck using facets is a top notch thread on neck profiles when you get there.

    side note... order a short (like1/2 or less) 1/2 diameter template bit... if you need to re-do the depth of adjust the angle of the neck pocket the shorter bit will allow you to use the existing rout as the template, then the angle can be supplied by shims (hint make them longer than the rout) and make sure that the bearing stays in the pocket.
     
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  18. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Tele-Holic

    802
    Jun 17, 2008
    omaha
    TDPRI Home Depot is the best place on the internet if you want to build a erm....telecaster. The best guitar ever. what's not to love?? It's made a huge impact on my life...seriously :)
     
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  19. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Some slow progress. But that's a good thing for me. I tend to be kinda loosey goosey 'eh I'll just go for it' and then end up screwing something up. At this point I thought I'd have a number of problems to fix because I'm not using a template, but the idea of measuring a cut with the part itself has been working really well for me!

    TOM anchors:

    [​IMG]

    Little detail that probably seems really obvious to some, but I am having success with these kind of tasks by starting small and slowly working my way to final depth. So for these post holes I start with a pretty narrow drill bit and work my way to a larger drill bit.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Fits really snug.

    [​IMG]

    25.5" from nut to saddle point of contact. This bridge has a reasonable amount of adjustment forward or back though, so I think I'll be fine.

    [​IMG]

    Checking alignment with string again.

    [​IMG]

    Sorry if this is just a lot of pictures of very basic tasks. This is partially for my own reference.
     
    tonyv77 likes this.

  20. kleydejong

    kleydejong Tele-Holic

    591
    Aug 30, 2010
    Orange City, IA
    Next objective is the pickup routes. I have decided to go with a strat neck pickup and a P90 bridge pickup. An HSS strat style setup has always been my favorite - but in recent years I have actually developed a real enjoyment of single coil pickups in general, especially hotter tele or P90 style pickups in the bridge position. Also I like abnormal things. Frankly, I don't know why single coil neck + P90 bridge isn't more of a thing?

    Again, I used an extra strat pickup cover and then took a piece of paper and outlined a P90 in another guitar I have for the measuring.

    [​IMG]

    I spent a fair amount of time doing research on the dimensions of the pickup locations. How far are the bridge pickup pole pieces from the bridge saddles or how far are the neck pickup pole pieces from the 21st fret? Pretty fascinating topic actually.

    The consensus I settled on is that the location is a very powerful variable in the sound of each pickup. In an ideal world they would be adjustable from to back just like they are up and down - but this would be pretty impractical. And each guitar may be different from one to another.

    I've spent a fair bit of time micing speaking cabinets, and in my mind there are lots of parallels of mic position to pickup position. They have a large effect on tone and feel. Every time I record an amp I spend a meaningful amount of time listening to the sound and tweaking the mic position.

    But given the practical difficulties involved in achieving that kind of setup in a guitar, it really doesn't seem worth it.

    So, I ended up finding my best sounding stratocaster and measured its pickup dimensions.

    The neck pickup measured 1 3/8" from 21st fret to pole pieces.

    The bridge pickup is angled. The low E is 1 3/4" from saddle to pole piece. High E is 1 1/2" from saddle to pole piece. So I'll use some combination of that information to measure my cuts.
     

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