The 20th day of April 2011
The last 5% of work done on something like a custom guitar is the first thing that the client sees and also the place where the luthier is most likely to slip up. My natural impatience to see a guitar finished and in the hands of the musician has to be curbed, and curbed HARD! The final finish is arguably more important than most other things in the build, unfortunately!
Here a small brush is used to touch up some of the silver paint on the paf hollow/RF Hollow crossbreed.
I regret not masking off the binding, it all needs to be scraped clean with a new scalpel blade.
the big reveal! I love watching a guitar come to life
and this beauty will be amazing once lacquered.
I have decided to make as many neck blanks for upcoming projects as possible as quickly as possible. The reasoning is that the longer the neck blank is in one piece the more stable it will be when it becomes a guitar. While all our timber is perfectly dry and seasoned once it is cut into smaller pieces you can never quite tell where it will go- the joy of wotrking in a natural material indeed!
Rosewood shavings meet up with the zebrano on the floor as the thicknesser works hard for it’s place in the shop.
A plank straight off the planer is not good enough to joint yet, the planers blades leave very shallow dips alomg the length of the wood. Up until now I’ve had to continue the planing by hand with my number 7 but now the drum sander takes the strain out of the job and we end up with a perfectly servicable joint.
A bubinga and zebrano multi-laminate neck.. or two, I’m looking forward to seeing this guitar come to life.
Perfect joints, good glue and lots of evenly spaced pressure are the important things here.. I’m rare among me in that I drool over pictures of clamps in catalogues more than I lust for most everything else..
Now, back to the celtic cross inlaid snakewood fretboards. These bring me back to my opening statement about taking the neccessary time over the smallest details; the original boards that these are being made to replace had sub-standard inlays and were just not up to par. A final coat of glue seals the new abalone and silver inlays in and is left to cure.
Back to the neck blanks, I love the colours inside these planks of Indian rosewood.
the clamps come out again, while I love the pin-striped look adding the veneers also gives me that many more surfaces to apply glue to in a short space of time!
Worth it though!!
Back to the inlays, a fine file is used to flatten the glue down to the level of the fretboard.
Still made by hand, with some of the attendant small imperfections, but all in all I could not be happier.. now, what’s missing?
Last week we installed this multi-ply binding on one of our custom 45rpm guitars
The time has come to flatten it off and normalise the carving using my violin-makers thumb planes. A friend walked in to the workshop at this point in proceedings and was amazed, he thought that these planes were a myth or just a toy… not when machined at £40 a pop by a man in a shed!!
The cutaways shape is carved with a few small gouges and then sanded by hand. I love the hard line you see on this one, it is similar to a custom Les Paul I saw at the Bareknuckle Pickups workshop once that just stuck in my mind.
The guitars flat back is.. flattened, doesn’t my little number three plane look cute here?
A solitary comfort carve is cut into the mahogany body.
And, again for some subtle comfort, the side in the cutaway is angled a little.
The sides are bobbin sanded down until they are flush with the binding, when installing the binding I purposfully leave a very small ledge so a perfect edge is guaranteed.
More neck wood, this wenge is in ,y way and will be reduced in size somewhat!
The problem with wenge is that the splinters are vindictive little buggers and it doesn’t make good shavings as it goes through the thicknesser, it turns straight into a foul cloud of dust that is, also, bloody-minded and tastes horrible!!
Split.. it does look good though!
We’ve realised what is missing on the twins fretboards, maple purfling! My little Proxxon router is set up to rout a .65mm channel down the edge of the boards.
four strips of flame maple veneer are cut out with a straight edge and scalpel blade.
and, using titebond, they are glued in place.
Back to the machine shop and it’s definitly time to clean out the bandsaw.. I see padouk, oak, ash, poplar, rosewood, wenge and mahogany dust in here and it’s beautiful.
On to neck building, two strips of aluminium are cut to size
and then more wenge is cut up and thicknessed
then the positioning is worked out. The grain direction etc is taken into consideration when putting a multi-laminate neck blank together.
To clear my bench off the end pieces of purfling are glued into the snakewood.
And it’s back to the aluminium, the surfaces are roughed up with the big random orbital sander.
And the wenge, bubinga and aluminium strips are glued together using a specialised boat building epoxy.. this is experimental for us and the whole point is that the guitar will be even more stable than usual, every facet of the build process is aimed at achieving this.. fingers crossed it all goes well!
the purfling has cured and excess glue and veneer is chiseled away..
I am excited about these guitars! There will, in the end, be another strip of flame maple along the outside but this will come after the fretboards are glued to the necks.
After a day under pressure the clamps are removed and this is looking good, at the very least the neck blank did not de-laminate imediately.
It took eight years, or more, to figure out the best way to store this many clamps! (Unless any of you have a better idea??)
Now, the original fretboards on the twins, three or four of the inlays are just not good enough so the time has come to remoe the boards.. overkill maybe but perfection is an important ideal to try and achieve.
As I’m not trying to save the fretboards the frets are just ripped out by main strength, it’s surprisingly fun destroying hours and hours of painstaking work.. interesting, are the seeds of our own destruction hard-wired into our physches?
Ebony dust!!! The bloody stuff gets everywhere!
An aside, before I can move on my planes are in need of fresh razor edges!
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as using a properly sharp tool.
A definite upgrade from the ebony, the joint is so flat that I could glue it down with just the pressure of my hand..
I think I’ll stick with tradition though, the glue is applied
spread out to cover every part of the joint and then the new fretboard is glued in place on the rosewood-topped guitar,
and then the same process follows with the wenge-topped beastie.. two truly custom guitars!
All my best to you and yours,