New Tele builds: Cuban Mahogany and Guanacaste (Parota)

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by theprofessor, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    A friend of mine is a woodworker by trade, and he plays the acoustic guitar. He's been wanting a Telecaster, and I started off our venture together by giving him a roasted maple Tele neck I had. So he decided it was time to build a body. I served as a kind of apprentice and advisor, since I have put together a couple of partscasters and have an idea of how things to together. So we used his home shop and his shop at work, along with wood he already had on racks, to build the both of us two Telecasters (of course I had to build one too!).

    Here's a pic of the shop behind his house where we did a lot of the work.

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    We ended up building three T-type bodies so far: (1) a two-piece poplar body that served as a practice body (which is very helpful, by the way, if you can find some wood to practice on). (2) a T-type made from Guanacaste (parota) which is his and (3) a T-type made of Cuban mahogany that he inherited. It made its way here before the embargo during the Kennedy administration, and he's been waiting for something special to make with it. He was kind enough to let me make a Tele out of it.

    We ordered a template from ebay, which seemed to work fine, and we made some copies in MDF as well. I'm not convinced that everything is perfect on the template we used, but it is quite good. It could be that the fact that my neck pocket isn't perfect, for example, is user error.

    I decided that a few things could be very slightly deeper than spec, such as the route for the bridge pickup. I think we went a full 1" there, where 7/8" is spec. And we made the wire holes to the control cavity one size bigger as well. I am often annoyed when all the wires from grounding the bridge plate and the shielding and the bridge pickup get jammed up and can't make their way easily to the control cavity. That happens especially when there is a separate ground that is not grounded directly to the back of a copper base plate on the bridge pickup, which means there are four wires trying to go through that hole: two from the ends of the pickup windings, one separate ground wire from the pickup, and one from the shielding/bridge.

    Here are the templates we used. It was confusing at first, since the back template is facing in such a way that would lead one to trace out the body backwards. So we flipped that over when we made our MDF copies.

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    Here's one of the MDF copies.

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  2. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Here's a pic of our poplar "practice" body. Due to our confusion in using the back-side template at first, we traced it out so that the really nice matched grain was on the back. Bummer! But if it's sprayed an opaque color, no one will know that.
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    Here is the Guanacaste. We're using some water to see what the grain will do and to figure out where we might get the best grain for the body. We actually didn't make a body out of this portion of the Guanacaste. It's still sitting in the shop with the outline of a Tele on it. I think it looks really cool, and we may have to go back and do this one.

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    Here's the one we did end up making out of the Guanacaste. It has some evidence of nice worm activity in the creamy heartwood. The grain on the Guanacaste really sucks. It mills pretty grainy, and the sawdust is really awful. It's just really porous wood, but this one turned out really nice, anyway.
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  3. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Looking good! Keep the pics coming!

    Eric
     
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  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    This Cuban Mahogany, on the other hand, has really nice, tight grain and some wonderful red in it. I have never seen a Tele made of Cuban Mahogany, though I have seen some acoustics. It has some great flecking and stripiness that is not characteristic of your typical piece of Honduran Mahogany.

    Checking out what a piece of Cuban Mahogany might look like...
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    As you can see from the pics above, making a body out of this meant putting two pieces together for the width of the body, as well as sandwiching a two-piece top and a two-piece bottom together. We put the seam on the guitar top near the control cavity, while the seam on the guitar back is up near the upper bout. Throwing characteristic caution to the wind, we just glued it all at once. One of the boards was a bit cupped, so we had to put the convex side out and the concave side it. It meant we ended up gluing some of the better grain into the inside of the body, but we had no choice. It call came out straight after the glue-up, which gave us a body that was basically right at 1-3/4" thick. Here it is, all clamped up with Titebond 3.

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    And here's the back after the glue-up. This took a lot of sanding, but it worked out great.
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    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  5. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Our builds took place over the course of the entire summer, here and there as we could get together at the shop. In the mean-time, I ordered a neck for myself--a Warmoth vintage-spec'd roasted maple neck with 6105 (narrow tall) stainless frets and a 7.25" radius with a Boatneck (V) profile. After playing this guitar recently, I've found that I'm absolutely bonkers over this roasted maple and over stainless steel frets. They are both so remarkably smooth. Transitions from fret to fret are really almost effortless with stainless steel.

    I wanted to leave it as natural as possible, but I also didn't want it to collect too much gunk all over the back, as it might without any treatment at all (though no treatment is required for stability). So after some reading around, I decided to burnish it with 3M flexible microfiber from Stew Mac. That stuff is probably my new favorite "tool" for guitars. I used 4000 after we sprayed the body, and I use them on the bone nut as well.

    As it came from Warmoth (I added the relic'd tuners)

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    Now burnished with 400, 600, 1200, then 4000.
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    The grain "pops," and the neck becomes a slightly lighter color. It gets more dimensional (depth), and it glows more. I did the back of the neck, the back of the headstock, and the front of the headstock. Since the neck was already fretted, I left the fretboard alone. (The fretwork from Warmoth was perfect, by the way. Perfect)

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  6. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Here's the Cuban Mahogany body after routing. I decided to go with a P-90 in the neck, though I had not thought I'd do that originally. I used one of the separate acrylic templates from Stew Mac and used a P-90-routed Tele guard to help align where the rout would go. That did not work out perfectly, and I later had to re-rout it to get the pickup in the correct position. I also had to epoxy the pickguard holes that I had made when I attached the pickguard to the body to figure out where the rout needed to be. No big deal, though. All that is under the pickguard now.
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    Here it is after applying some water to see what the grain would do:
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    What might this look like with a black pickguard? About the pickguard: I really wanted to use a bakelite one that I had, but it was cut for a regular Tele neck pickup. I tried to modify it for a P-90, but that was a disaster. That bakelite does not like to be cut. It is, well, fibrous fiberboard (surprise, surprise). So there's a nice bakelite guard down the tubes. I ended up getting a cheap P-90 one from the Stratosphere, but I made it look less plastic-y. I took the shine down with 600-grit, and then took it all the way back up to 4000. I also softened all the edges from 400 to 600 to 1200 to 4000 as well. IMG_1539.JPG
     
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  7. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    A bunch of sanding. This Cuban Mahogany sands really nicely. Apply water every once-in-a-while to raise the grain. Sand and sand some more. The dots on the top are where I filled holes with 5-minute epoxy.

    Challenge: try to find the seam on the top. It's pretty difficult. I'm really proud of how tight the top is. The seam on the back is easier to find, but after spraying, it's even a little less obvious than in these pics.

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  8. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I wasn't really sure how to hang the body for spraying. I decided to attach a stick from the back, with 2" screws all the way through from the back, going through vinyl spacers, and into the stick on the front. It worked out fine. The spacers allowed easier access to the back and sides that are just under the neck/stick than if it were flush down into the neck pocket. I put some painter's tape in the pocket because I wanted to keep that unfinished. I'm thinking the greatest wood-on-wood contact here, with the tightest joint, is best.

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    You can see the seam between top and bottom on this pic.
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  9. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Now for spraying. For this step, we went down to the big shop downtown where the sprayer and the compressor are, along with the big fans. I bought a respirator off of Amazon that worked really well: a 3M paint project respirator 6001.

    We finished it with something that my buddy uses at work almost daily when building industrial and office furniture from wood: Sherwin Williams Sher-Wood Super Kemvar Type M, clear catalyzed vinyl finish. Here is the gravity fed sprayer, hooked up to the compressor, with the body hanging from the ceiling.

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  10. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Now back to some pictures of the Guanacaste body. I don't have as many pics of that one, because it's not mine.

    Before spraying: IMG_1480.JPG

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    Doing some wet-sanding with Klingspor Auto-paper. Probably with 600 grit here, since this one got too shiny and needed to be taken back down. This sanding really improved the finish, though, as the catalyzed vinyl acted as a grain-filler. Then we got out all the high spots and re-sprayed. The Guanacaste really needs to have the grain filled with something.

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  11. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Here's the Guanacaste body after the final spray. Drying, hanging precariously from a bungee cord, while spraying the Cuban Mahogany body. Some of the build-up on the sides got a bit too shiny. That will be taken down in final sanding.

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  12. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Now back to the Cuban Mahogany body. It was also pretty glossy in some spots, right after the spray. I let all the coats (probably 7 or 8 light coats, which you can do over the course of a mere 3 hours or so) dry overnight, and then I went over the whole thing with various grits of my 3M flexible polishing microfiber. I started to burnish with a wadded up brown paper bag, but it didn't do anything to this tough vinyl. I found that a lot of rubbing with the pink 4000-grit microfiber did what needed to be done. It took the high shine off where it needed to be taken off (you can see some high shine/buildup still there in the third pic, at the bottom). And I really love the look of this mahogany without the pores being filled too much. It looks (and feels) really natural.

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  13. UjwalB

    UjwalB TDPRI Member

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    Very nice. I am also working on a P90 tele at the moment.
    Both bodies are nice the Cuban mahogany is perfect, but it would have been even more interesting to have that white part of the wood on the Guanacaster run through the middle.
    That is an interesting looking timber.

    All three are going to turn into great instruments. Great work!
     
  14. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks! As for the Guanacaste: the creamy sapwood was at the two ends of the big cutoff we had, so that meant it had to be on one of the sides of the guitar, instead of running through the middle. We were able to make a one-piece body out of it, though.
     
  15. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I started to put my Cuban Mahogany Tele together. I ended up having to re-route the P-90 cavity to make the pickup poles line up properly with the strings. I relic'ed all the hardware myself, except for the tuners and bushings, which I bought relic'ed. I used the Muriatic acid fumes method that Billy Penn from 300 Guitars talks about on YouTube. Before putting the hardware into the fumes, I knocked off some of the plating with 600 grit sandpaper. Then about 45 minutes in the fumes did the trick for most of the hardware.

    It was interesting to see how all the different types of hardware reacted. Some were definitely better at reacting with the fumes than others. The Stew Mac string ferrules were basically impervious to it, and the chrome-plated Fender bridge plate required a lot more work than, say, the control plate or the flat-top knobs. It seems to me that nickel hardware reacts the best and most consistently. Stainless does change color a bit, but that's about it. The chrome-plated zinc screws reacted really well, but they're also crap in positions where they'll be put under any stress. Some of the stuff that needed extra attention after the Muriatic acid got treated with straight apple cider vinegar and salt. That helped on some parts and not on others.

    One thing I will never do again is use chrome-plated zinc wood screws. I got them at the hardware store without paying too much attention, largely because I knew they would be easier to relic. In the past, I've always used stainless machine screws in Tele bodies, for example, and I've never had a problem. When I was putting the #6 x 1" wood screw into the body for the bridge plate, I ended up snapping off the head of one of them in the body, and that really ticked me off. I did not use the bee's wax on those screws, as I had planned, and I think I needed to drill the holes out both wider and deeper. Thankfully, the other three were fine, so I did what I should have done before: drilled everything where the screws were under no stress at all and also coated them with bee's wax before putting them in. Next time I remove the bridge plate, I'll put all stainless screws there. I've decided not to try to extract that one screw that broke off about 1/4"-1/2" down. The other three screws hold the bridge plate in place just fine, and I don't want to risk messing anything else up at this point.
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    There is a bigger gap between body and neck on the top-side of the neck than I'd like. The mounting holes in the neck were already pre-drilled, and I'm still trying to figure out how much I want to mess with that gap. I may just try to shim it, since my string alignment is pretty darn good, and they also align with the P-90 pole pieces quite well. I don't really want to move everything, either.
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    The farthest bridge plate screw on the right is made of copper and is cut down to about 1/4", just to fill up the hole. That really ticks me off, but it makes no difference whatsoever in performance. I also relic'ed the bridge pickup pole pieces with Birchwood Casey aluminum black.
    IMG_1597.JPG
     
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  16. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    A few more of the Cuban Mahogany Tele from the back side. IMG_1598.JPG IMG_1599.JPG
    I think the seam on the back receded nicely. Still there and noticeable, but not bad.
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  17. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Here are a few from the top, where you can see the headstock and the nut. I'm using an unbleached bone nut that I got from Stew Mac. It's pre-slotted. Since this pic, I've finished two of these nuts, but I've managed to mess up both somehow. The first one split when I was trying to cut it down (bone is very brittle!), and on the second one, I cut the slot for the 3rd string too deep. When I was putting it back into the slot to measure the height above the frets, it was getting pinched above the bottom of the slot, so I thought it was still high. I kept filing down below with that tiny .16 file, and once I realized what was happening, it was too late. It is still playable, but the 3rd string rattles just a bit. So I'll make yet another one this week.
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  18. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Tonight I went up to my friend's shop to help him align the neck on his Guanacaste guitar. His neck had not been drilled, and he's going to be using neck inserts in his. Bill Crook uses inserts on his guitars and recommends these EZ Lok 329-008 threaded inserts for metal 8-32 inserts, steel, black oxide, kit. http://www.crookcustomguitars.com/2014/09/01/increase-sustain-with-guitar-neck-inserts/ Then you just need to find some 1-3/4" 8-32 oval head Phillips screws to hold the neck plate on.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BXYNSDT/?tag=tdpri-20

    We'll see how that goes. I have mine held together with the traditional wood screws, and I don't plan to take the neck off at this point to put in inserts. But maybe I'll change my mind at some point.

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  19. Macrogats

    Macrogats Friend of Leo's

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    Wow Professor. That is one fine looking guitar. Excellent work - love the reliced look of the hardware.
     
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  20. jimilee

    jimilee Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    What an awesome set of teles! I have a hoody router I bought to do some modifications, but is it pretty “easy” to route the top when using a template?


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