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First build

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by makerdave, Mar 7, 2020.

  1. makerdave

    makerdave NEW MEMBER!

    Mar 6, 2020
    I've been lurking on the forum for a few weeks now and finally made an account :) All the build threads here have been a big help while I've been researching.

    I thought I'd start a thread of my own so I've got a place to ask for help when I need it, and to kick it off, I wanted to ask how best to accurately align a prebuilt neck with a template...

    But first a bit of background. My name is Dave and I'm primarily a software engineer/educator. I've done a bit of woodworking. A couple small pieces of furniture, a workbench, miter saw stand, tongue & groove plywood before tiling a floor... and other little things. I'm very new to using a router though (more on that in a bit).

    This being my first guitar build, I decided to build the body and buy a premade neck. Fewer special tools needed, and I don't have a planer or jointer, but mostly I just wanted to stack the deck in my favor as much as I can. I bought one from Warmoth and I'm very happy with it so far. Looks nice, feels nice and smooth.

    Here's where I'm at so far. Printed out the Terry Downs template and stitched it together with packing tape:


    Glued it on some leftover hardboard. It's only 1/8 or maybe 3/16" thick though... I think I'd get some 1/4" if I do another one:


    Used a jigsaw to roughly cut out the template. I tried to get pretty close to the line and took it slow, since I knew I'd be hand-sanding the excess.


    All cut out.


    Then I sanded it with a block and a sandpaper-wrapped dowel for the inside corners, and went around the outside edge with some thin CA glue to strengthen it:


    A few days ago I drilled some starter holes where the cavities are...


    Then cut those out with the jigsaw and sanded them to the lines:


    I've read a bunch of times on here that it's best to create a working template from the master, and since my master is super thin, I definitely wanted to do this. Also, good router practice! So I drove a couple screws through the template into 1/2" MDF, cut it close to the line with the jigsaw (probably within 1/16" in most places) and went around it with the router.

    Here's the end result...


    Buuuut this happened:


    That upper-right horn wasn't screwed down, and I think it lifted up a little as I was routing past. The router caught the template, and so I left a gouge in both the master and the copy. (hey, at least the gouges matched) I had read a suggestion here about using CA glue + sawdust as a filler so I was able to do 2 or 3 layers of that in the master template, sanded it smooth, and it's good as new :) Phew.

    Couple lessons learned:

    - make sure the template is better-secured (maybe double-stick tape? or the trick I've heard about with CA glue + activator + two pieces of painter's tape)
    - make a router table and use that instead (I'm planning to do a simplified fenceless version of the one from this thread out of 1/2" MDF reinforced with a couple 2x4 rails)
    - use thicker hardboard next time. The little gap between the bearing and the cutter on my flush trim bit means that I have to raise the bit up enough that verrrry little of that bearing is riding on the template.

    My current dilemma is how best to align the neck pocket. When I put the neck in the right spot, and measure from the nut to the bridge mounting holes, it's 25 3/4" like StewMac's fret calculator said it should be. Good so far.


    I'm thinking I'll cut out the neck pocket area of the master template so that I'll have a surface for the heel line, and then I can transfer that heel line to the thicker MDF template (mainly for practice), and ultimately to the actual body blank.


    Then I'll use the technique I read about here where you clamp boards to both sides of the neck and use the neck itself to make the pocket template, making sure to line up the bottom of the neck with that line, centering the neck with the center line, and running a string down the middle so I don't mess up the angle.

    Does that seem reasonable?
    E-miel, Macrogats and Blue Bill like this.
  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    Just my opinion a few things. Make a separate neck cavity template. I make mine out of pine or plywood. Clamping 3 pieces around a neck works well. Make sure they are nice and straight and the same thickness.


    Make sure it is 3" on each adjacent side to support a large router. Doing this before you cut out the body makes it easier. You may want to make your neck template longer so you have some places to put clamps.

    Put a centerline on your body. Measure equidistantly from the centerline with a machinist's scale and then draw in some pencil lines that represent the dimensions of the cavity on the drawing you used.

    Then its a matter of sticking and clamping the template to the body. Many people use a forstner bit in a drill press to remove the bulk of the wood. If you have a half inch long template bit, you'll take less out on the first bite. If you don't your neck template should be thicker.

    I use double sided duct tape from lowes. I think the tape and superglue idea has merit if you like the smell of superglue. It gives me a headache and tape is cheaper in the long run I think.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
    Mr. Neutron likes this.
  3. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    hemingway, mfguitar and Blue Bill like this.
  4. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Feb 15, 2014
    Welcome aboard, Dave. Looks like you're off to a good start. If your attention to detail holds, this should be a precision instrument!
  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

    Aug 22, 2018
    Anther welcome to the forum and the crazy world of building your own guitars. Listen to Marty and Ron, they know what they are talking about. I'll add a couple of things based on my limited experience.

    1 - get Melvyn Hiscock's book - it is all there. He covers literally everything you need to know - materials, tools, geometry, finish, wiring, SAFETY. He builds three different guitars with different neck configurations and joints.

    2 - Ron and Marty have told you how to establish your neck pocket. I'll add that I never drill bridge or pickup holes or cavities until my neck pocket is made and the neck is fit to the body. Then you can lay out your center line and scale length. If you are a hair off on your neck cavity it won't matter but if you try to fit your neck to pre drilled bridge holes you can end up with it off.

    I make a separate neck cavity template that tightly fits my neck. Then I put a couple of pieces of masking tape on the router bearing surface which makes the sides of the cavity a few thousands tight on the neck. Its easy to take a little material off with a scraper and sand paper to make the neck fit perfectly.

    3 - Have your bridge in hand when you start laying out your neck angle and geometry. They are mostly all the same but its nice to be able to set the fret plane to the bridge rather than trying to measure it.

    4 - Have fun
    Macrogats and RatBug like this.
  6. mew122

    mew122 TDPRI Member

    Jan 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    I'm very much new to building, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But...I built a tele for my first build as well. I ended up buying some templates online to simplify the process, but good job making your own. It's definitely good practice and it looks like you have done your homework on how to best make them. One thing that I can hopefully help with is the neck pocket. If you're using a Warmoth neck, it should be a standard dimension to be able to drop into most tele bodies. So you could probably use the plans you have to make the neck pocket vs trying to tailor it specifically to your individual neck.

    If you haven't already started cutting out the cavities on your working template, what I would do is leave it as is and use it just for routing out the body shape. So something like this:

    Then make a second template with all of your body routes and also for your neck route, which I think is what guitarbuilder was suggesting. Like this:

    Having that width around the neck cavity give you a nice base to clean up the neck pocket with a trim router. I would follow Freeman's advice and use some tape when you route if having a tight neck pocket is really important to you.

    Now making this template with a clean and accurate neck pocket is trickier. You could buy one from Stewmac to be really accurate. But I would personally leave the master template as is and print out a second set of plans just to use for the neck pocket. If you have the right size drill bit per the plans, you can drill out the two corners of the neck pocket to establish the correct radius. Then use extra pieces of mdf as a straight edge and line it up with the neck pocket lines on your printed plan and route the edges out with a trim router. Then attach your master and use it to route out the rest of the cavities.

    But otherwise, it looks like you're off to a good start. Tele bodies are pretty simple so I'm sure you will come out with a great guitar.
    Mr. Neutron, E-miel and Macrogats like this.
  7. Macrogats

    Macrogats Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2017
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Welcome Dave. Looks like you’re off on the right foot. All I will add is heed all the above advice - and there will be more to come. I sort of fumbled my way round my first few builds, but they were/are all decent playing guitars. As time moves on things get easier and you keep learning more along the way.

    Good luck, and be sure to post lots of pics!
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