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gb Custom Shop

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I've learned plenty from this forum the last couple years, and was always impressed and appreciative of everyone's build threads. So, I figured I should post my own! I am currently working on a thinline tele, and seems like a good time of year to share what I've been up to.

Let's start with the neck. My wood choices are torrefied maple, and a katalox fretboard (first time using katalox) The maple was from a 2-1/4" thick piece that I was able to resaw a slice and drum sand down to 3/4". I'm using a stewmac low profile truss rod with headstock access.

I use the router table with a fence to route this out. Since this truss rod has a full length rounded bottom, I decided to try using a 1/4" ball nose bit. Then since this truss rod is wider at the end, I used a 3/8" round nose bit, which accommodated that portion of the rod, but also became my truss rod access hole. I route till the truss rod is a hair shy of the surface. I got a super snug fit which I'm very happy about.
20220316_211856.jpg


Moving along to the fretboard. First let me say, katalox is no joke to work with. The densest wood I've ever worked with. Anyways, I start by cutting fret slots at the table saw. Double stick tape fretboard to my template, and then I use the stewmac blade in my crosscut sled.
20220316_212415.jpg


Frets are cut and fretboard is ready for glue up. But first, I route my neck flush with the template and mark tuner holes. Take the template off then line up the fretboard and clamp dry. Once clamped I drill a hole thru the fret slot, so I can use a couple brads for alignment. Since the katalox is an oilier wood, I hit the underside with acetone right before glue up.

Here you can see I'm just using titebond. I got my brads in place, and a caul with holes for where the brads go (so I can take the brads out once clamped)

20220317_221146.jpg

I clamp from one end to the other, and I let this one sit a couple nights. First glue up complete!
20220317_222455.jpg
 

gb Custom Shop

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I realize I forgot to take pictures of the necks progress. Things kinda just happened....

Anyways now that the neck is glued up, first thing I'll do is flush trim the fretboard to the neck. Since I'm doing a 22 fret board with overhang, I make sure not to route that overhang area on this pass. Next I'll put my template back on, just scooted down a little, so I can route majority of the overhang. I'll clean the rest up with sandpaper.

At this point I'm also going to sand the edges of the neck with a flat block just to get everything perfect. Even though I routed the neck flush, I want to get out all machining marks now, before fretting. (This will help reduce time spent filing fret ends flush)

Since I marked my tuner holes before the glue up, it was just a matter of going to the drill press. I always do some test drilling on scraps to ensure the fit it right. Here I'm using gotoh vintage style tuners, so an 11/32" Brad bit is the ticket.

To thickness the headstock, I like to use a router. Basically I have 2 pieces of MDF glued together to make it tall enough, and with a cutout for the headstock. Clamp that down, clamp the neck down, set my router depth, and consider it done.
20220417_103942.jpg

Once thicknessed I'll do the swoop. I use a shop made router table fence to clamp the neck to, and ROSS basically takes care of the rest. I try to get as close to 1/8" away from the nut slot as possible. A little hand sanding afterwards and it's good to go.
20220417_103547.jpg


Dot markers are next. This time around I'm using a template to mark my position dots. Much quicker than marking them out individually and making calculations. Then I set the depth on my drill press, and hog out those holes while everything is still flat on both sides. I used mother of pearl 6mm dots and CA glue.

Now onto radiusing....with the katalox board, this was a nightmare to do by hand. I used a long aluminum radius beam, with supports on both sides to keep the beam going in one direction only, and double stick tape the neck to that center line.
Started with 40grit PSA, which I had to return because it was the worst sandpaper I've ever used. The grit was so loosely attached, that it just kept falling and digging into the board. Getting 40 grit sanding scratches out of this katalox was no joke. I ended up doing majority of the shaping with 80 grit. Took forever and very painful hands afterwards. Also made me feel super out of shape haha. After this very frustrating situation, I ended up just buying a radiusing routing jig which I'll use on my next builds.
Once shaped I work up the grits. Ended up going to 3000. Here's where we're at now:
20220417_103654.jpg
20220417_103616.jpg


With the fretboard finally radiused, I'll now do the side dots. I line up my dot drilling template again, clamp that down, and mark the positions with an awl. I clamp the neck to my router table fence again, but this time we need the top side of the neck to be on the same plane. This is to ensure my drilling depth remains the same at the drill press. (If I lined up at the center line, my drilling depths won't be the same! Don't ask how I know!)
20220417_103753.jpg


Side dots are in with some CA glue, and I sand till almost flush. I'll get it completely flush when I'm filing fret ends, so I only have to do that once.

The neck is just about ready for fretting. I'll discuss that in a future post.
 
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gb Custom Shop

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While I wait for a new fret press caul from stewmac, I'll get started on the body. I'm using African mahogany and a maple cap. Let's start with jointing.

I used the table saw with a glue line rip blade to joint the top. Both halves get taped together, clamped to my jointer jig, and one pass cleans it up. I try to glue up as quick as I can after jointing so things don't move on me. Here I'm using titebond translucent wood glue. Do I think it makes a difference over #1? No idea, but I have it so I'll use it.

Here's my clamping setup. Bottom side is a spare bathtub tile, with a piece of parchment paper underneath the glue seam. An aluminum level with packing tape on the underside helps keep things nice and flat. And then just some very light clamping pressure. These clamps are overkill for gluing a top, but damn I love these bessey clamps. I'll come back in 30-60 mins, remove the level, and clean up the squeeze out with a scraper.
20220406_224408.jpg


The body blank started at 2.1" thick each half, and a lot longer than needed. I crosscut the excess length at the table saw, then I resaw ~0.5" at the bandsaw, and then just cleaned up the bandsaw marks on the drum sander.
I jointed with a #7 plane, and it's ready for glue up in a couple passes. I only took a pic of the dry fit, but it's pretty damn seamless.

20220407_220249.jpg


After glue up, I'll take both to final thickness on the drum sander. Then i very carefully align the top and body, and go the drill press to hog out my alignment holes. With those alignment holes, I can then attach my template for the f hole. I drill some holes in the f hole so I can fit the router bit.

This is my first time routing an f hole, and bought a 1/4" spiral bit just for the job. It couldn't have gone smoother at the router table.
20220416_174605.jpg


20220416_174540.jpg


Now it's time to chamber the body. Again with the alignment holes, I can attach my template for chambering. First I'll hog out majority of the material at the drill press, then clean up with a router.

To be continued!
 

wadeeinkauf

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The pictures make the maple look as if it has a red hue. Does it look that way to eye? Looks great. If the truss rod channel is too tight I would be concerned about it not having free travel to do its job. It is my thinking that a little play in the rod’s channel will cause no harm. The concern might be that it would rattle but the rod should have enough tension to prevent this anyway.
 

gb Custom Shop

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The maple does have a reddish hue to it, good eye! That will factor into some finishing decisions and my binding & pickguard choice. Which I'll discuss in a future post of course!

I wouldn't say the truss rod channel is too tight, rather perfectly snug. Afterall, I used a 1/4" bit for a 1/4" wide truss rod. I also made sure to route it just a hair deeper than the thickness of the rod. I'm sure it'll do it's job just fine 😃
 

gb Custom Shop

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I finished up chambering the body. Boy what a mess that makes!

Started at the drill press with a forstner bit:
20220417_153117.jpg


Then used a couple different bits to route out the rest. I took out ~1.2". The oak Grigsby switch I'll be using needs a minimum clearance of 1.3-1.35". Factor in my 0.2" top, and we're all good.

20220417_163654.jpg


On my last tele build I wanted to route a channel at this stage for the pickup wires (instead of drilling this later), and i totally forgot to. So I made sure to do it this time around. I'll eventually route both pickup cavities to a depth of 1", so I went about 0.80" here. Also I made sure not to route into my alignment holes in the bridge pickup. I'll be using those for my glue up .










20220418_195613.jpg
On the wire channel going to the control cavity, I sanded the edges there so the wires arent sitting on something sharp. Then I just did a super rough cut out on the bandsaw. I also resawed the side scraps for finish testing purposes
20220418_203436.jpg


I hit the inside of the left and right cavity with 220 grit, as well as the underside of the f hole on the top. So I'm ready for glue up.

I found some dividing opinions on whether or not to hit the insides of the cavities with shellac or something before glue up. What would you guys do? Shellac or no shellac?

Also, it sounds like a good idea (in my head at least) to tape the underside of the f hole at this point before glue up. I'd use something fairly low tack. Thoughts??
 

RickyRicardo

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In the Thinlines I've made, I like the natural wood on the inside. I don't see the point of putting a finish of some sort in the cavities because no one will see it and the wood doesn't need to be sealed.. I stuff the f hole with something before spraying like a large chunk of paper towel or newspaper hat will come out easily. That's to keep the finish out of the cavity. Tape works too.

I would suggest you make a working template out of your originals. If you ding your master with a router bit then you're getting out the bondo to fix it with no backup. Templates are expensive.
 

gb Custom Shop

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Thank you, I appreciate your input!

I've made spares of these templates, so if they get buggered up I'm prepared for that. I use them because I prefer the engraved centre line on these, and since they're my "nice templates" it forces me to be more careful with them and my routing.
 

Freeman Keller

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I don't finish the insides of any of my guitars, but I don't think it makes a difference either way. I do put my maker's label where it can be seen thru any holes. I do mask the insides of any f-holes - after finishing the tape can be peeled off to the insides and pulled out thru the hole.
 

gb Custom Shop

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Thanks for the advice guys, I opted to not shellac the inside before glue up.

Here was my glue up process. First I taped the inside of the f hole with low tack tape, then placed my alignment pins in the top. Then I prepared my "mise en place" for the glue up - got all my clamps out and accessible, glue, brush, rag, caul, etc. I try to be as prepared as possible for the glue up, because if you're not, its easy to get stressed out lol!

I lay the glue down, brush it around evenly, then use the alignment pins to place it in position. Then I'll screw down the top via the pickup cavities, making sure everything stays centered. Spare template caul goes on, and so do the clamps. Everything goes smoothly. Very satisfying in the end.
20220419_205715.jpg


While that sets, I started to play around with some colours. I can't decide if I want to leave the mahogany natural, or stain it. I'll be using zpoxy regardless, and have no interest in spraying a tinted clear.

So I played around with using shellac, different dyes in alcohol, zpoxy. I really liked the chatoyancy exhibited under the shellac. But I can't tell if the stain actually adds any improvement compared to the natural colour. I learned I definitely don't want it too dark, but I don't mind the reddish brown. However I still don't know if i prefer it stained or natural. Both can be quite pretty... 🤔🤔 would love to hear some opinions!

Some other considerations, the neck is torrefied maple, so obviously that will be a natural finish. The top I plan on doing something like an amber-yellow burst, maybe with a hint of red. The binding & pickguard will be red tortoise
20220419_224824.jpg
 

gb Custom Shop

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Today I took the body out of the clamps, made a gameplan of all the tasks I needed to do, and got to it!

First up, at the bandsaw I trimmed off some excess material from the perimeter, and got a bit closer with the spindle sander. Then I attached my template with double sided tape.

While I still had my plunge router set up (from when I was chambering), I began to route the pickup cavities, and control cavity access. Then it's off to the router table to hit the perimeter. I load up the big Whiteside spiral bit and get to it. Well...we hit a minor speed bump... anywho I carry on and finish routing the body shape. Here's the aftermath:




20220420_225907.jpg


When I first started building guitars, something like that would have really frustrated me. But this time around, I'm not really phased by it. We can fix that, even if it means deviating from the original plan.

While I still had the template on, I marked out the neck plate holes, and drilled for both the bridge and ferrule holes. The ferrule holes only go partway deep, which will be addressed later. At this point I've done everything I need to with this template, so it's good to come off.

I'll start to sand the perimeter of the body, I want to get it perfect before I rout the binding channel and backside roundover.
20220420_225841.jpg
 

gb Custom Shop

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Starting to think about how I'm going to deal with that blow out. On the maple it goes ~1/8" into the top, so plastic binding alone won't cover that. I'm thinking I can install purfling in addition to the binding, and that would cover the maple perfectly. I have some herringbone that I was going to use on the next build, but we might have to use it here...

As for the mahogany, I can think of 2 ways to hide it. I could do a tinted clear and build that up, but honestly prefer not to.
I'm leaning towards using some Crystalac grain filler that I could tint, or colour over that, which would give me some opacity. I'll do some tests to see if I like that. Might also consider doing the end grain opaque and fade that into transparent sides, could be cool!
 

Moldy Oldy

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Any idea how/why that happened? I would imagine it was a pretty good adrenaline shot. The first time I used my Whiteside bit I must have accidentally backed up a little and it grabbed the wood and literally threw it across the garage... about 15 feet. If the door had been open I’ll bet it would have gone 30 feet. That was apparently its way of making sure I have proper respect for it.
 

Moodivarius

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Starting to think about how I'm going to deal with that blow out. On the maple it goes ~1/8" into the top, so plastic binding alone won't cover that. I'm thinking I can install purfling in addition to the binding, and that would cover the maple perfectly. I have some herringbone that I was going to use on the next build, but we might have to use it here...

As for the mahogany, I can think of 2 ways to hide it. I could do a tinted clear and build that up, but honestly prefer not to.
I'm leaning towards using some Crystalac grain filler that I could tint, or colour over that, which would give me some opacity. I'll do some tests to see if I like that. Might also consider doing the end grain opaque and fade that into transparent sides, could be cool!

That sucks, but when things like this happens you have to deal with it.

It seems like you already have some good ideas up your sleeve.

Thinking of solutions to rectify, is part of being a luthier. Overcome the problems and continue on.

It’ll come out great when it’s finished.




Scott
 

Freeman Keller

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I'll toss out a couple of ideas for both your question about finishing and the blow out.

I do a lot of mahogany bodied guitars and I do stain it when it fits the overall theme of the guitar but most of the time I don't. I do use Zpoxy for all of my pore filling and really like the way it pops the grain. Wetting the wood with naphtha will give you a pretty good idea of what the resin will look like, especially if you do a dilute coat as your last one.

Some of the decision about the mahogany would depend on your ideas for other parts of the guitar. Personally I would not put herringbone or a lot of marquetry purfling on a T style guitar. However with your nice maple cap I would seriously consider binding in wood - rosewood would tie in to your fretboard and make a nice contrast between the maple and mahogany. Wood binding is tricky to bend for a tele but it can be done. It is not thick enough to hide your blow out but if you routed that horn a bit smaller an 0.080 binding would work fine. Here is a mahogany bodied (chambered) tele with a maple cap and rosewood binding. I did a very light edge fade to try to carry the color of the mahogany over to the top

IMG_5276.JPG


Just a thought
 

Bob J

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I’m with Freeman on the blowout fix. A slight change to the shape of the upper horn (I would just sand it to avoid more router damage), and whatever binding you choose (or a roundover) will take care of the rest.
 

gb Custom Shop

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Any idea how/why that happened? I would imagine it was a pretty good adrenaline shot. The first time I used my Whiteside bit I must have accidentally backed up a little and it grabbed the wood and literally threw it across the garage... about 15 feet. If the door had been open I’ll bet it would have gone 30 feet. That was apparently its way of making sure I have proper respect for it.
I can think of 2 things, but honestly it happened so fast in the moment I can't say for certain. Either the bit was biting into too much material, which of course was end grain. Or for a split second the piece was fed in the wrong direction. I had a firm grip of the piece, so thankfully it didn't go flying! I'm usually very careful when routing, but ultimately the blame is on me. Live, learn, & deal with it.
~~~
Appreciate all the advice and encouragement from all you guys!

My fret press cauls finally arrived in the mail, so I might give the body a night's rest or two, while I work on fretting and thinking over my course of action for the body.
 

Blue Bill

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Wow, gb, some nice work there! I'm glad I found your thread, I'm looking forward to the show. I feel your pain on that chip, been there, done that.

I'm not sure if it would work on this one, with the direction of the grain, but I had a chip tear-out, about that size, on a mahogany body, before the maple cap went on. I used a large flat file to establish a crisp 90 degree notch, then cut a patch piece, matching the grain as well as I could, then glued it in. It may not work for you; the shape of the chip is different, but maybe you could repair the maple cap this way, then you would need only a small amount of re-shaping to erase the tear-out on the side. You'll figure it out, your skills are quite impressive.
 

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gb Custom Shop

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Thanks for the advice guys. I ordered a couple different wood binding sets. Once they arrive (hopefully this week), I'll have a better idea of how exactly to proceed with the body. I'm entertaining the idea of slight reshaping and using slightly thicker binding on the body. We'll see...

Anyways I got to installing frets on the neck. Let me preface by saying, the last neck I built, which had a rosewood board and SS frets, developed a backbow that did not relieve itself uniformly with string tension and truss rod adjustments alone. Picture a slight 'w' shape. Now this could be for a multitude of different reasons, but I understand fretting to be a possible contributor. I'd like to mitigate that risk on this neck.

Nonetheless, preparation for fret install is key. First I ensure my fret slots are deep enough. This little gauge from stewmac is very handy for that. If needed, I'll deepen the slot with a handsaw a couple thou, or literally just a couple strokes.

20220424_145128.jpg

Next I'll put a slight chamfer on the fret slots with a small triangle file. And I'll clean out the fret slots as best as I can.

I'll also take this opportunity to ensure my nut slot is perfectly level
20220424_134846.jpg


Now just about ready for fretting... Since this katalox is extremely dense (~3700 Janka), I figured it'd be a good idea to file the barbs on the fret tangs ever so slightly. I'm using the SM fret barber for this. It's overpriced for what it is, and the only unique thing about it are the radiused files (7-1/4"). I'm using jescar NS pre-cut/pre-rad (9.5") wire. So this step was a little cumbersome, and honestly not sure if there was much, if any, ROI.

Last few necks I've made I lined the fret slots with CA glue before pressing. I'm going to forego that practice on this neck, and just wick thin CA from the sides after seating.

Last thing before fretting is to ensure the fretboard is perfectly level. NOW we can install frets. I load up the drill press with my fret press caul & 9.5" rad insert. Lightly hammer one end of the fretwire into the slot, then press 'em home where they belong. I'm cutting the fret end while the press is still engaged. Everything seems to be pressing in just fine!
20220424_153215.jpg


Since this fretboard has a 22nd fret overhang, I place a cut off from the neck blank when pressing that 22nd fret
20220424_154724.jpg


Once all pressed, I'll go along with a fret rocker in case I need to hammer in any particular areas. I was very happy with how the frets seated.

I then continuously wicked thin CA glue from the side, underneath the tang. I clamped the neck into a slight forward bow for a couple hours while the CA fully cures.

I'm not sure if clamping here had any ROI. The neck still had the same backbow once out of the clamps. That's OK, and obviously something normal with fretting, but I will tension the truss rod so it doesn't get out of hand.

Anyways, I'm ready to file the fret ends flush. Here I'm just using a file that's been epoxied to a piece of mahogany.
20220425_083136.jpg

I'll follow that up with sanding to ensure no file marks remain.
20220425_090301.jpg


Beveling is up next. I don't see this often talked about, but I learned (from experience) there's a trade off when calculating the angle to which to bevel the fret ends. The higher the angle, the more comfortable, however results in less playing real estate And vice versa with a lower angle. Most guys go to 30-35 degrees, but just never explain why. Having made necks in the past with a sub 20 degree angle, I do prefer the 30-35 degree range; it's just more comfortable.

I'll post another picture here once back in the shop.
 
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