First (Practice) Build

SpHowe3319

TDPRI Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2022
Posts
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Age
32
Location
Canada
Hello, hello,

I have been learning about guitar building for several months, buying up the tools to get started, and digging into this forum.

I started making some templates and practice pieces to work on before the cold weather sets in. I work out of an uninsulated shed that doubles as storage during the winter, so all the tools will be coming inside in about a month.

Here’s the progress since the end of July…

I used Inkscape to print a body template over 4 sheets of A4 paper, lined up the grid marks added via Inkscape and taped it all together. I repeated the steps for the neck template as well.

Using a craft knife and self-healing mat, I carefully cut the templates out.

Note for next time: limit overlap between the A4 sheets, too much overlap lead to the upper layers flapping about while shaping the MDF. Though it didn’t cause major inaccuracies, it was fairly annoying to work with.

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Next, I laid out the templates on a sheet of 3/4” MDF and marked off the neck/body allotments. I used a Japanese pull saw to roughly cut the allotments (because I needed the practice with the pull saw).

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I glued the templates onto the MDF in prep for cutting them down to size. I didn’t have spray glue on hand, so I used a glue stick.

Note for next time: glue left by the stick dries too quickly while trying to cover the paper. Buy spray glue!

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Roughly cut the MDF down to template size using a scroll saw ($15 at a yard sale!)

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Next, sand the MDF down to the final line. Not pictured: using my new Ridgid belt and spindle sander to do the lion’s share of the sanding. The spindle sander was great for sanding around the horn and small contours of the headstock.

After the power tools, it was on to menial hand labour! I used a lot of superglue and masking tape to stick sand paper on a level. This made for easy and accurate work in getting to the final line. Additionally, I used other concave and convex-shaped objects to reach the final line.
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And here is where I’m at today:

I’ve cut some 2x4’s down to 1 3/4” slats for a practice build. I need to find a way to square the sides and glue it together into a body. No plans to actually put electronics into this build, but practice the woodworking steps so I can screw up with confidence.
 

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gb Custom Shop

Tele-Meister
Joined
Jul 20, 2020
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Location
Winnipeg, Canada
I need to find a way to square the sides and glue it together into a body
Your method for edge jointing will depend on the tools you have access to, but luckily there are a handful of good methods.
I've found a no.7 jointer plane works best for me. That gives me the most seamless joint.
But you can also do this with a power jointer, a table saw, or a router, and given the dimensions of your pieces, you could also use a planer.
There's also a poor man's method of using sandpaper on a perfectly flat fence that is 90 degrees to a flat surface.

Dimensioning lumber is a fundamental woodworking skill. I would highly encourage you to explore what works for you based on tools you have access to. If you don't have the tools now, a local wood shop likely will. They often charge a nominal drop in fee, but may require you to take their safety course beforehand, which ain't a bad idea.

When you're ready for the glue up, always do a dry fit before you put actual glue on. Some wax or parchment paper is useful in that glue doesn't stick to it. You'll also want to keep everything as flat and linear as possible during the glue up - less planing afterwards.

BTW, congrats on taking the plunge on scratch building. It's a fruitful and addictive journey. Feel free to reach out with questions at any time; this is the place for it!
 

Steve Holt

Friend of Leo's
Joined
May 29, 2016
Posts
3,608
Location
Kansas
Welcome to the forum! I saw this last night and glanced at, then read your welcome wagon post and became a lot more intrigued. There are loads of people here to help you on your journey, just ask!

I saw a guy the other day use a steel level with sandpaper attached to it as a way to joint his boards. I can't speak to how well that would work as I've never tried it, but it definitely seems like an idea if you don't have access to a jointer.
 

SpHowe3319

TDPRI Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2022
Posts
54
Age
32
Location
Canada
Update #2
Hey everyone,

I’ve had time to work on my practice build a bit more this last week, and ran into two similar, yet opposite issues.

Issue 1
When I cut the 2x4’s to 2” strips, I didn’t cut them long enough to account for snipe when running them through a planer. I’ve cut up some 2” thick blocks to run in front/behind them, avoiding the snipe. A friend has offered to let me use his planer, so we’ll see how that goes.

Issue 2
The same friend who offered the use of his planer gave me some pine to work with. It was 1 3/4” thick to start with, so after planing the material, it was a little less than the required thickness for a Tele. I’m very thankful for the wood, and am using it as an additional practice blank.

With the pine milled, I needed to glue up three pieces side-by-side in order to get the required width for the Tele body. My buddy had some pipe clamps so I started the glue up and learned a lesson about not rushing…

I did a dry fit and everything was nearly square. I was running out of time and rather than wait to glue up the next day, I tried to make it work in a rush and got burned. The body was slightly out of square, which meant losing even more of the thickness I needed to keep. With the body blank being so wide, it had be planed by hand rather than through a planer. Here’s what it looked like once it was planed and the template traced out:

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I cut away the majority of the waste, and used two forstner bits to get into the horn:
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Lastly, I found a church pew for free on Marketplace. I was able to salvage a piece of the seat to use as a neck.

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Upwards and onwards!
 

SpHowe3319

TDPRI Member
Joined
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Posts
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Age
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Location
Canada
Update #3
The body has been rough sanded to shape, and the neck as well. My friend helped me plane the board down to size, though there was a bit of a bough in it. With this being a practice build, I wasn’t too concerned.

I’ve had to make the tough decision to not continue with building guitars as a hobby for a number of reasons. That being said, I will finish the practice build and have a guitar-shaped hunk of wood to use for something else down the road.

The next step will be to route these two pieces to their templates. Hopefully in the next week or two!
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Doutorfunga

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Location
Portugal
I say make this practice build a working instrument. Add some inexpensive hardware if you don't feel like spending too much, and rock it out. At least you will leave with a tangible, playable reward for your efforts!
 

SpHowe3319

TDPRI Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2022
Posts
54
Age
32
Location
Canada
I say make this practice build a working instrument. Add some inexpensive hardware if you don't feel like spending too much, and rock it out. At least you will leave with a tangible, playable reward for your efforts!
I wish I could, but I have to put the money towards other things. I don’t have all the tools needed to finish the guitar; between tools and hardware, I’m about $300-$400 short
 

guitarbuilder

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Ontario County
I think you should re-evaluate what it takes to build a guitar. The most critical thing is a fretboard and frets. A saw that cuts the proper kerf for frets is about 25 dollars. Fretwire can be purchased from stewmac in 2 foot lengths and you'd need about 3 of them. You can make your own dots. You can make your own radius beam. A scroll saw or coping saw cut out a body and neck. Less dense materials would be easier to work with. You can get cheap parts from Asia. If I had to buy one machine, it would be an oscillating drum sander like a Wen or the Ridgid one. Another useful tool would be a router and a trim router and cheap bit would get you started.

You can buy a pre slotted fretboard on Amazon or ebay for less than the saw.

Where there is a will there is a way. Sometimes it'll take more bullwork by hand.


Now granted I'm equipped with what I need, but these worked out










 
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