Making a poplar thinline

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by RiversQC, Jun 8, 2019.

  1. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    I love build threads, so I'm finally going to start one. I'll do my best to keep it moving since I'm working to a deadline!

    I'm making a thinline telecaster for a friend's birthday in September - she's been learning to play but doesn't own an electric. A lightweight, resonant one she can play unplugged will be perfect. Meanwhile, I've got to do something with all the guitar builds I've been starting. :)

    Nothing complicated here: this is among the first guitars I've been building and I'm still very much in the process of tooling up. I dont have a proper workshop so I'm mostly working outside on weekends, and doing my best with what's available. However, as a teaser of sorts, here's another one I've been working on:

    20190608_084111.jpg
     
  2. perttime

    perttime Tele-Afflicted

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    What poplar is it?
    Names for wood are sometimes confusing. There's lots of different varieties of poplar trees, and then there's "poplar wood" that comes from totally unrelated trees....

    In my corner of the world,pbeople have been successfully using Aspen (populus tremula) for guitars.
     
  3. Guitar MD

    Guitar MD TDPRI Member

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    Curious what sort of tools / setup you need to create such an amazing result. Bought a cheapo alder Tele body from China to “practice” on for herringbone purfling + binding. Would love to do cavities for thinline w my Bosch router and get my Dremel et for binding work. Have nice 1/4” maple for top.



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  4. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    So, here's the progress on this new build so far! I'll try and go slow, as I have learned so much from the other threads here and hope I can help anyone making a similar plunge into building.

    I've chosen poplar for the price, convenience, and, yeah, for a bit of the fear factor of screwing up something nicer, lol. I'll get into fancier woods soon. But my experience with poplar - apart from store-bought guitars which have sounded good - is it tools well and can even have nice figure when pale. I'm undecided on an ultimate finish.

    Anyway, here's the top I'm using. It's a piece of 1/4" x 8"x 4' I got from Lowes for about $10.

    20190604_135913.jpg

    I started with the f-hole. Might as well get inspired, right? I have tried and admittedly failed to make a decent mdf template of that cut through a 1/2" thickness, but then the top will be thinner anyway, right? So here's a method that has worked so far.

    I trace half the guitar shape from the main template I'll be using. With a paper cutout of the f-hole, I locate it along the body curve and trace it in too. 20190604_143246.jpg

    Downstairs to the indispensable drill press. (I found a used Delta for $40, definitely something to get).

    I used forstner bits (1/2" for outside curves, 1/4" for inside curves) to get the curve radii right. Here's the after shot.

    20190604_145701.jpg

    I then use a jigsaw to make the cut. I've found it works better and faster than a coping saw. Good blades are important. I took a recommendation from someone here to use Bosch T308B blades - they work great (note they are T-shank). Then clean up with files and sandpaper and we're getting close:

    20190604_150101.jpg

    20190604_152950.jpg
     
  5. Guitar MD

    Guitar MD TDPRI Member

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    Nice template for top / cavities. Did you make this based on paper printout?


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  6. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Hm, well, the top is whatever poplar Lowes sources, could be anything in north america. My body wood poplar I've bought from a specialty place in Ottawa - assuming it's sourced fairly locally to this region. Just sold as poplar species, though.
     
  7. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    The main tools I have gone out to buy to make guitars so far are a drill press (used Delta, $40), spindle sander (used Delta, $125), plunger router (new B&D, $60, plus a few key bits). Just citing prices to give an idea of investment if you're patient and look around. I'm building this up over time so i've had a few bottlenecks along the way.

    P.s. I also started with a kit build but its sitting unfinished. Decided pretty early I could do better and more of what I wanted!
     
  8. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Yeah, I would have downloaded it from one of the usual spots (Electric Herald?), printed out a 'poster' version at 100% scale, cut and taped, glued to mdf, cut out with jigsaw.
     
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  9. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    That is most likely Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) which is a hardwood that grows native in North America, particularly in the East and Northeast, tall and straight. Very much used in the furniture industry and it can mimic a number of different close grained species with careful dye work and it's also great for paint. The heartwood tends to be greenish when fresh milled, but that mellows to a very nice brown with oxidation and UV. I've used a lot of it for projects over the years because I had thousands of board feet cut on our property thanks to a septic install when we bought the place. That Thinline design looks great!
     
  10. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    My MIM Strat is Poplar I believe and it's a great tonewood actually. Poplar is common here in the PNW also. They can be BIG trees. Often 80-100 ft tall. For some reason the farmers up here plant them between fields like in this picture. I was told as a wind break. Those fence posts you see between trees are probably 5 ft tall or so.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
  11. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Here's the body blank I'll be using. Two pieces of 6/4 poplar, about 1.5" thick. I had cut and jointed it (against a sandpapered straight edge) over the winter.

    20190607_131613.jpg

    Only problem is a very slight cup. This is after hand planing.

    20190607_131717.jpg

    It is very slight, but affects both sides. I want to get this right, but I dont have (or really have room for) a drum sander, large planer, etc. I dont have any friends with such equipment either. Finally, there's no school or makerspace available (the only one nearby is full and no longer offering memberships, argh). So I have been stuck looking at this for a while.
     
  12. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Now, I wouldn't do this as a one-off, but as thickness planing has been a bottleneck on a few builds, I decided to build a router sled.

    I didn't use a particular plan, just a mish-mash of a few of them you'd find online. I can accommodate a 16" wide blank, up to 3' long (anticipating necks), and 2 1/4" tall. I used mdf for the price and precise machined edges. Cut with a circular saw as I dont have a table saw (yet). I know that using a glass patio top is a bad idea, just dont have anything better for now, haha...

    20190607_132212.jpg

    Here's an action shot, working on a different/thicker (one piece) blank, that better shows it working. I'm really happy with how well it works, especially for a cost of maybe $20?

    20190607_143446.jpg

    Finally for today, here's a shot of the now square blank, prettier side up. This will be the back, and maybe worthy of a clear finish.

    20190607_134034.jpg
     

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  13. Treadplatedual

    Treadplatedual Tele-Holic

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    Nice! That's grain is very pretty, definitely clear or trans finish.
     
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  14. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Good work. Look forward to seeing the progress.

    Eric
     
  15. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    There are a number of trees that are called "poplar". Some are in the willow family (Salicaceae), which I believe includes what you show in the photo, but the one most used for furniture, millwork, etc., is Tulip Poplar/Yellow Poplar/Tulip Tree and is a member of the Magnolia family. (Liriodendron and specifically Liriodendron tulipifera) These also typically get to 80-100' tall. Those right behind my house are in that range and as much as 36" in diameter at about 5' height.
     
  16. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    A bit more progress. Started by setting the centre line and tracing my outline.

    20190609_080750.jpg

    Used the drill press and forstner bits to hog out some of the wood from the cavities. A bit of cleanup with a chisel.

    20190609_095441.jpg

    ( I discovered my drill press couldn't reach the back/center cavity since I haven't yet cut the blank to shape. Will have to do that one later!)

    Plunge routed, with template to start, then worked off the flat top:

    20190609_094850.jpg

    Voila:

    20190609_102031.jpg
     
  17. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Almost forgot that I should route the wiring channel before the top's on!

    Set out the hardware in rough formation:

    20190609_105249.jpg

    Set up a template and tracings to guide the cut (with stop lines for my router base):

    20190609_110255.jpg

    And three passes with a 1/2" bit:

    20190609_110643.jpg

    I'm about ready to cut this out. Just have finish putting a new blade on my bandsaw... never done that before!
     
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  18. joewg3

    joewg3 TDPRI Member

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    Looking good!
     
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  19. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Nothing much happening during the work week, unfortunately, but I have left the top in the sunlight to see if it will bleach at all. Maybe fade some of the slight greens to browns. Nothing too scientific here.

    20190611_082845.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
  20. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Don't worry about the color now...as soon as you sand it, it will be back to exactly the same as before. "Bake it" a little after final sanding before you start applying finish. BTW, if you intend to apply color directly to the poplar prior to clears, use a dye rather than a pigment stain. The best is alcohol soluble applied by spraying (for great control). Water soluble is fine, but will look muddy until you knock off the nubbies and seal with a very light application of de-waxed shellac or lacquer. (the latter if you can spray that safely) Poplar has a very close grain and small pore structure so pigment stains don't look all that great on them. If you leave it natural, it will be a very nice light brown once UV and oxidation "do their thing".
     
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