Walnut Telecaster build

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by theprofessor, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I've started in on a Tele build, so I thought I'd begin a thread to document some of it. A lot of this is notes to self about process and the like, so that I can remember what I did, but I hope it will be useful to others, too.

    I got a slab of walnut for Christmas. It was from a family member's back yard in Neosho, Missouri. After the death of a great grandparent, the children gave permission to some of the grandchildren to mill the huge black walnut tree, with the intent of making furniture and the like from it for the whole family. That was done about five years ago or so. The tree was quite large, with the first branches about 22 feet high. It dried on stickers for about 3-4 years before being moved to a storage unit in Little Rock, AR. And that's where I got it. In total there was about 7,000-8,000 lbs of black walnut that was milled at ca. 2-1/2" thick. I just got a small piece -- ca. 34" tall, 14" wide, and 2" thick. That piece weighed about 22 lbs. Here it is sometime around Christmas Day. I'd say it looks like a part of a rather large branch.

    One family member told me I needed to get a piece to make a guitar out of, so I HAD to do it, right?

    Black walnut 1.jpg
    Black walnut 2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  2. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I recently picked up a set of Ron Kirn's Tele templates second-hand. They are no longer in production from Ron, but a member here had a set to pass on. So I'm using those. I'm uncertain as to whether they've been modified or not, but I don't think they have.

    Ron's templates were based on an actual 1950 Broadcaster. In comparing some of the shape to another, more standard Tele template I had access to, I found the differences interesting. Note that it's thinner at the waist, the lower horn is tighter, it's slightly shorter at the bottom, and it lacks the flat spot near the jack plate.

    IMG_1808.JPG
     
  3. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Given the weight of the piece, I knew I'd need at least some weight relief. So either a thinline or a chambered body. I decided against a thinline, but chambering meant cutting the piece length-wise to make a top and a bottom. I was visiting a buddy in Nashville who has a nice shop, so I took it up there, and we cut it. First, ripped down the middle. Then take each of those pieces, turn them on end, and cut off a little more than 1/4" with several passes on a table saw, finishing with a bandsaw. Then, we planed the two top pieces to 1/4" and the two bottom pieces to 1-1/2" and glued the two top pieces and the two bottom pieces together with Titebond I. We got a fantastic seam. I can't find the seam on the top at all, with my face pressed up to the board.

    Here is the 1/4" taped on top of the 1-1/2" bottom for travel, to keep the top from getting banged up. I traced out in chalk where I thought I might like to cut out the top. I think I would have liked to avoid the wane altogether, but given the width of the piece, I had to settle for some wane on each side of the lower bout. I think I'll be able to avoid catching any on the upper bout or the horn.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I traced my Tele template onto two large pieces of paper and had full-size copies made at Office Depot. These allowed me to draw on the paper to think out loud and spitball how I might go about chambering and where. Here are a few of my thoughts. But since curves are stronger than straight lines, we dispensed with the straight lines in practice.

    There will be a "swimming pool" rout from the top (basically, the size of two P-90's, side-by-side), along with the traditional Tele bridge and control panel routes.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
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  5. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Here's what I did in practice. A friend of mine helped.

    First, we had to ensure that the template outline I had drawn on the top would be matched on the bottom piece. So we aligned the top and the bottom as best we could, given that there was at least 3/32" lost between top and bottom from the width of the table saw blade, plus the re-planing. Then we put the template back on the top and indexed the top and bottom by drilling the registration holes all the way through. This allows us to index the top and bottom together by putting 3/32" drill bits into the registration holes.

    I spent some time carefully drawing out where everything would be on the bottom piece, so I'd know where to put the chambers, and what places to avoid. We ended up with a very cautious approach. I didn't want to sacrifice any structural integrity, so we left the walls between 1" and 1-1/4" thick all around, making sure there were no thin spots in the design.

    IMG_1817.JPG

    Then we got after it with different sized Forstner bits, going down 1" deep to leave a back wall 1/2" thick.

    IMG_1818.JPG IMG_1819.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

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  6. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Then we got out the chisels and cleaned out the cutout before taking a router and a Whiteside spiral bit after the chambers and free-handing the sides.

    IMG_1820.JPG IMG_1821.JPG

    Those chambers relieved 14 oz of weight. Before the chambering, the bottom slab measured 16-7/8" long x 14-1/2" wide x 1-1/2" thick, and weighed 8 lbs, 13 oz.

    After chambering, the bottom slab weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz. Basically 8 lbs. And the top weighs 1 lb, 5 oz.
    IMG_1822.JPG
     
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  7. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    With the top aligned, now for the glue-up with Titebond III.

    IMG_1824.JPG

    Lots of clamps, and we put some self-drilling screws where the two pickup cavities will be, to hold the top down the middle.

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  8. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    And here is the new slab, top + bottom. All dry and ready for edge and cavity routing. That's the next step.

    It now weighs 9 lbs, 6.8 oz. It's 17" long x 14.5" wide x 1.75" thick. I'll be interested to see how much weight the remaining cuts and routes will remove, but I think it'll still be on the heavy side.

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  9. Seattlesurfer

    Seattlesurfer TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    Keep us posted, I’m thinking walnut myself but will start with an unfinished thinline body.
     
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  10. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Will do, absolutely. I'll be interested to see how it feels and sounds.
     
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  11. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    That's going to be a nice instrument....great material to work with, too. Good call on chambering; otherwise, it's would be "really" heavy!
     
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  12. old wrench

    old wrench Tele-Afflicted

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    That should make for a pretty looking guitar :).


    And the wood has a history and a story behind it too.
     
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  13. Macrogats

    Macrogats Friend of Leo's

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    Great stuff. I love the look of walnut. This should come out real nice!
     
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  14. SAguitar

    SAguitar Tele-Meister

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    Well on your way now! This is gonna be one beautiful creation.
     
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  15. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I was hoping that I could get the body cut and routed this weekend, but we didn't have time to get into the shop. So I took the opportunity to relic the hardware.

    I take off the outer shine with 400 or 600-grit sandpaper or microfiber first. That gives it a kind of brushed look.
    IMG_1832.JPG IMG_1834.JPG

    Then I use the muriatic acid fumes method. Here are the parts after about 1 hour in the fumes (I check on them every 20 minutes).
    IMG_1839.JPG
     
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  16. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    After taking them out of the Tupperware, I wash them off with water and let them dry a bit. Then I put apple cider vinegar and salt directly on them. After that's done, I wash them off again and let them dry. Then, when all that's finished, I'll go back over any parts that have too much rust with WD-40. Things start to look like this:

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  17. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    I put some water over the surface of the top to get a sense of what the grain will look like when finished. Here's an idea in direct light:

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    And now in less direct lighting:

    IMG_1848.JPG

    IMG_1849.JPG
     
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  18. Dreadnut

    Dreadnut Tele-Meister

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    Beautiful slab o' wood! My buddy Scott had a custom acoustic made by Del Langejans in Holland, MI, deep body dreadnaught with Walnut back & sides, cutaway, Engleman spruce top, maple binding, snowflake inlays, electronics, other deluxe accoutrements. Scott passed away almost 2 years ago now. This guitar is still for sale. It is a LEFTY, or I would probably own it now!
     
  19. RogerC

    RogerC Poster Extraordinaire

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    Your hardware was in the acid fumes for an hour, and it only looked like that? You might want to check your acid. I’m guessing it’s marked as “safe” or “safer,” which doesn’t work the same as normal muriatic. The fact that you have to do further aging with vinegar and salt also leads me to believe that.
     
  20. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, I was surprised too. It is full-strength muriatic, and I've used it before on other hardware. That hardware only took about 20 minutes. I wonder if I opened up too much this time to check on things, or if the fact that it was freezing cold and I was doing it outside made some difference.
     
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