Fluffy Explorer Build

skipjackrc4

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I've been wanting to make a fuzzy Explorer like the one ZZ Top used in the "Legs" video for years. I want to get some practice with spraying Brite Tone before finishing a Tele and Jaguar I have going on now, and what better way to practice spraying than on a guitar that will be covered in fur? ;-)

I'm making the body out of Poplar and the neck from flatsawn maple. I shrunk the giant upper wing on the body a bit so that the blank would fit through my 16" jointer. I think I like the shorter upper wing than the standard Gibson one, TBH. I glued up the poplar body with T88 epoxy, which I've never used. It seems to work well, but took a full week to cure and was much more of a hassle than Titebond or similar.

PXL_20220517_195632960.jpg


Body cut on the bandsaw:
PXL_20220520_183951385.jpg


I routed the body and pickup cavities as so:
PXL_20220520_213126872.jpg


I routed the control cavity and a 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet for a magnetic cavity cover. The rabbet was cut with a standard rabbetting bit. This pattern bit obviously is a bit dull, given the burning.
PXL_20220520_234119892.MP.jpg
 
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skipjackrc4

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This will also be my first angled headstock, so this was a good opportunity to learn. I jointed the maple for the neck and cut a 10 degree scarf joint on the bandsaw using a miter gauge:
PXL_20220517_211920281.jpg


Cleaned it up with a hand plane, which left a slight twist in the angled face. Some 150 grit sandpaper on a granite stone took care of that:
PXL_20220521_024245330.MP.jpg


All clamped up. I think in the future when clamping up scarf joints I'll use a couple brad nails or 1/8" dowels to align the two pieces so they don't slide under the clamping pressure. I think this joint will be fine, but it would have been a lot easier if it wasn't needing constant realignment.
PXL_20220521_025808087.jpg
 

Jim_in_PA

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Yep, Minimax fs41ex. It took me a while to finally pull the trigger, but I'm glad I did. The transition between modes is really quick and easy.
Excellent machine. I have its older step-sister, the FS-350. Over the years I've occasionally regretted I didn't go for the 410mm/16" wide machine, but at the time (like 2005) the deal was unbelievable because it was a show floor static demo. On those real occasions that I need to flatten something wider than 350mm/13.65", I have a friend in Princeton with the FS41ex.
 

skipjackrc4

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After the glue dried, I cleaned up the headstock with a hand plane.
PXL_20220521_210100883.jpg


I'm using an Allied Lutherie FlexStrong truss rod. I bought a Hot Rod for this build because the Hot Rods are quite a bit cheaper, but I'd forgotten how much nicer the Allied rods are and went ahead and used one anyway. It requires a 1/4" x 3/8" channel.

I jointed the glued up neck to get a straight edge and then adjusted the router table fence to get the slot dead center using a height gauge:
PXL_20220521_214026144.jpg


I got the channel routed and then added the truss rod access with a 5/16" round nose bit:
PXL_20220521_220639072.jpg


I cut out and routed the outline of the neck. To align and secure the fretboard, I tried the Elevate Lutherie fretboard alignment jig for the first time. It clamps to the neck and self-centers. I used a 1/4" setup block to offset the jig by the width of the nut.
PXL_20220522_003954026.MP.jpg


To use the jig, you drill a 3/16" hole in two locations in the neck and matching holes in the fretboard. Little plastic rods then align the two pieces. It seems to work pretty well.

Because of the angle in the headstock, I thought it would be easier to drill the tuner holes with a hand drill and guide block:
PXL_20220523_001753778.jpg


Pretty clean for doing it without a drill press:
PXL_20220523_001858226.MP.jpg


I clamped up the fretboard with a radiused sanding beam and aluminum extrusion under the neck to keep things flat:
PXL_20220528_030510697.jpg


And here we are:
PXL_20220528_232622590.jpg
 

skipjackrc4

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I was originally planning to do a set neck, but I think gluing on the sheep skin around a set neck would be pretty tricky. So it's now a bolt-on with Tele-style heel and contoured (gold of course) neck plate.

I built a new jig for neck pocket routing that seems to work pretty well. It's two pieces of Al extrusion that can be locked at any angle:
PXL_20220528_223234152.jpg


The jig has a template that slides up against the heel to allow either a flat Tele-style or 5" radius Strat-style heel shape.:
PXL_20220528_235814806.jpg


The neck is designed for a 2 degree angle. I routed the pocket to about 1/2" deep with the flat jig as shown in the photo above, then pulled the jig off and got out the router sled (adjusted to 2 degree) to finish up.
PXL_20220529_181843937.jpg


This brought the pocket to 5/8" depth at the shallowest spot. I drilled a 1/4" hole from the neck pocket through the two pickup cavities to allow for wiring. I then enlarged the hole in the neck pocket wall to 5/16" because the original 1/4" was somewhat distorted (12" long bits are hard to control) and filled it with a plug:
PXL_20220529_192547863.jpg


And then cleaned up the plug with a chisel (and drilled neck mounting holes as described next):
PXL_20220529_213602423.jpg


I didn't add neck mounting screw locations to the template because I didn't have the dimensions of the contoured neck plate. I needed to mark locations of the holes in the neck plate and I don't have any hinge bits this size. I made a little jig out of maple that centers the big in the neck plate hole:
PXL_20220529_205317366.jpg


PXL_20220529_211117319.jpg


It worked, but started getting a little sloppy at the end. I think I'll remake it using a hardened drill bushing.

I drilled the screw holes in the neck at a 2 degree angle to match the angle of the neck. Here's the neck attached with the Gotoh wraparound bridge also attached:
PXL_20220529_235354163.jpg
 
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skipjackrc4

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I used the Stew Mac 10 mm tuner hole reamer to open up the tuner holes on the back of the headstock. Since the headstock is angled, I made a little "jig" (if you can even call it that) to hold the headstock parallel to the drill press table.

PXL_20220603_211936348.jpg


Nice:
PXL_20220603_214933429.jpg


I thinned some maple to 3/16" and cut out the control cavity cover on the scroll saw. Mounted all the magnets:
PXL_20220605_220437145.jpg


And here we go. It's a nice fit, but I'll probably need to shrink the cover slightly to accommodate seasonal expansion and finish thickness:
PXL_20220605_220447170.jpg
 

skipjackrc4

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I like the magnet idea. Very nice!
Thanks, though I can't claim credit for it - I've seen similar things on a few builds. This is the first magnetic control cavity I've done, so I had to build a little tool for removing it. I turned a little handle on the lathe for the removal magnet. I put a few coats of shellac on it and should finish it tomorrow.

PXL_20220611_194435459.jpg
 

Peegoo

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Beast of Bourbon
Very nice work!

The first time I saw the magnet thing was when I got into RC airplanes years ago. Many builders were using tiny neo mags to keep access hatches and panels secure on their planes; no screws necessary. It works extremely well.
 

skipjackrc4

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The nice thing about having a magnet in the handle is that it gives an easy way to attach to the lathe for finishing:
PXL_20220612_194709577.jpg


I've been trying to figure out what to do about fret markers. I'm painting the fretboard white to match the neck, so whatever fret markers I use will need to be either installed after painting or be somehow masked. I'm going to be only doing side dots to avoid having to deal with larger inlays on the fretboard.

I had thought about using gold mica powder in epoxy as the marker material and made a sample piece. The powder matches the gold hardware pretty well, but when mixed with epoxy (System 3 Mirror Cast) it gets too dark. It holds that darker color once dry. So the epoxy is probably out. I think I'll just do black plastic.

PXL_20220612_201757168.jpg



The plan is to drill the marker holes now while the neck is still square, then keep the holes clean when spraying and glue in black plastic markers once the opaque paint dries. Then clear the whole thing.

I used my typical side dot setup with a magnetic drill press fence:
PXL_20220612_211947051.jpg


I kept the neck clamped to the fence and slid along the magnetic brackets to align the dots.
PXL_20220612_211952143.jpg


And here we go:
PXL_20220612_212718138.MP.jpg


There's a 3/32" reamer on order from McMaster Carr to help keep the holes clean. I'm hoping the reamer will do less damage to the finish than a drill bit, but we'll see...

Fretting is next.
 

Whitebeard

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Jun 26, 2009
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Port Richey, FL
I've been wanting to make a fuzzy Explorer like the one ZZ Top used in the "Legs" video for years. I want to get some practice with spraying Brite Tone before finishing a Tele and Jaguar I have going on now, and what better way to practice spraying than on a guitar that will be covered in fur? ;-)

I'm making the body out of Poplar and the neck from flatsawn maple. I shrunk the giant upper wing on the body a bit so that the blank would fit through my 16" jointer. I think I like the shorter upper wing than the standard Gibson one, TBH. I glued up the poplar body with T88 epoxy, which I've never used. It seems to work well, but took a full week to cure and was much more of a hassle than Titebond or similar.

View attachment 985587

Body cut on the bandsaw:
View attachment 985588

I routed the body and pickup cavities as so:
View attachment 985589

I routed the control cavity and a 1/4" x 1/4" rabbet for a magnetic cavity cover. The rabbet was cut with a standard rabbetting bit. This pattern bit obviously is a bit dull, given the burning.
View attachment 985590
Contact Dean Zelinsky. He made that fuzzy guitar and bass for ZZ Top. https://www.deanzelinskyguitars.com/
 

gb Custom Shop

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Jul 20, 2020
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I've encountered that same issue when mixing epoxy with mica. It seems the mica sinks down while the epoxy is setting, with the final result looking much darker than what it looks like at time of mixing. If you mix this up in a clear plastic cup, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about once it sets.

Couple resolutions:
1) fill the majority with clear epoxy, then go back a second time with the gold mix, so the mica sits much closer to the surface. And also use a lot more mica in your ratio.
2) filling the hole with the mica by itself (dry), and then use thin CA. However, the mica might shrink below the surface, requiring a second application.
3) push down gold foil, and cast that with either clear or the mica/epoxy mix
3) use a solid brass rod instead, although the colour may not match exactly to the rest of the hardware, it will be pretty close.

Great looking build so far! Excited to see things progress
 

skipjackrc4

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Jan 21, 2011
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USA
I've encountered that same issue when mixing epoxy with mica. It seems the mica sinks down while the epoxy is setting, with the final result looking much darker than what it looks like at time of mixing. If you mix this up in a clear plastic cup, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about once it sets.

Couple resolutions:
1) fill the majority with clear epoxy, then go back a second time with the gold mix, so the mica sits much closer to the surface. And also use a lot more mica in your ratio.
2) filling the hole with the mica by itself (dry), and then use thin CA. However, the mica might shrink below the surface, requiring a second application.
3) push down gold foil, and cast that with either clear or the mica/epoxy mix
3) use a solid brass rod instead, although the colour may not match exactly to the rest of the hardware, it will be pretty close.

Great looking build so far! Excited to see things progress
Thanks, there are some good ideas here. I have a few sample holes that are partially filled. Once they cure, I'll try a second application with heavier mica loading.
 

skipjackrc4

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Jan 21, 2011
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476
Location
USA
Got the initial fretwork done today. I hit the board with a fresh coat of shellac to seal the maple against CA glue absorption. There is no binding on this board, but I'm nipping the tangs to prevent fret sprout.

PXL_20220619_220144986.jpg


Hammered the fret ends in:
PXL_20220619_220208705.jpg


And then pressed in using the Stew Mac arbor press. I've always used my drill press for this, but recently decided it was cheaper to buy a cheap arbor press than to repair a gearhead drill press. The Stew Mac press is OK - not great quality and fit/finish is very poor, but it works. The added features like the table and spring return are probably worth the price increase vs. another press like those from Harbor Freight.

PXL_20220619_225642684.jpg


And here we are:
PXL_20220619_235829493.jpg


Tomorrow I'll glue them in and trim the ends.
 




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