Building a Custom Electric Guitar 101 - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Building a Custom Electric Guitar 101

First off, sorry Mods if I have started this in the wrong forum. I am sure you can move it to the appropriate forum if need be.

I promised Bill and a few others a build thread for some of my guitar work, so here it is. I am going to work my way from scratch to finished product. Anyone who has questions, feel free to ask. It will probably take about 2 weeks to get the bulk of the build done and document it. Finish will take longer with curing times in the wet cool environment here in West Virginia.

Step 1 - Blank paper and basic drawing equipment

Step 2 - Centerline

Step 3 - Decide how big of a guitar blank your equipment can accomodate. I am working with 5 3/4" resaw capacity and a 13" planer.

Step 4 - If you are a good artist, you can free hand draw a body, if you are good with drafting tools you can draft a body, if you have an idea in your head, just go for it. Pencil erases.
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post #2 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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As you can tell, my first attempt at drawing a guitar body free hand was completely awful. Let's just refine this a little.

Still not right...

Better, but I cant seem to get the lower bout to look right, but I like the top bout curves. I am just going to make a symetrical body shape, then add a cut away from that.

Basically what I am doing here is cutting the paper to a more workable size. Folding it in half along the centerline, and taping it to the window so I can trace the other half.


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post #3 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Now adding a cut away. A cut away allows the player to reach the lower frets without bending their fore arm around the guitar body, plus, they look cool.



Okay, I like that. I am going to roll with that.

* Important note - There is no need to worry about having perfectly flowing lines at this stage of the game. I will fix that later. I have what is called essential tremors, so my hands shake too badly to draw perfectly smooth flowing lines. But, I can fix it later using powertools!!!
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post #4 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
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Step 5 - Cut away excess drawing paper, so you can glue it some 1/4" (3/16") hardboard. Be careful with your cutting utensils, and don't get in a hurry or you have to tape corners back on.

Now its down to the workshop.

Step 6 - Glue paper to hardboard. Its good to wipe off the surface of the hardboard so you get good adhesion. I like using cheap 1$ walmart rubbing alcohol for these tasks.


Step 7 - trim to fit
Table Saw


Bandsaw


Scroll Saw


Looking more like a guitar...
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post #5 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:19 PM Thread Starter
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Here is where I get rid of all those ugly squiggles and make a sleek, sexy guitar body outline. My weapon of choice, the Mighty Rigid Oscillating Spindle/Belt Sander.

I don't want to sound like Norm Abrham or your highschool shop teacher or the guy at the gun range, but after years of not protecting my hearing around strip mine equipment, firearms, and power tools, my ears hurt...So...I wear these now.

Convex corners are done with the belt sanding attachment to preven spindle indentations. Those are a $%^&* to get out after you have routed your body with an indented template.

Concave corners with the spindles

Then I hold the template up to the light to see if I have any bumbies or indentations.

Close but needs some more work.
After I get it as close as possible with the sander, I grab an old fashioned sanding block and refine all the edges.

Now inspect the egdes for uninterupted sanding marks. alternating sanding marks indicate bumps and indentations.

Last edited by Colt W. Knight; 04-06-2010 at 11:40 AM.
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post #6 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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Transfer template to paper.


Extend centerline for neck

Determine bridge location

Mark Bridge location on paper with a straight line.
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post #7 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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This particular guitar will have a 25" scale, so from bridge to nut will be 25 inches. After the guitar is setup to play in tune, the bridge will be intonated to allow for different string diameter. Basically, slanting the final position.

I use a Stew Mac fret gauge to lay out my neck scales.


Most electric guitars have between 21-24 frets. I am choosing to put 22 frets on this guitar.


I have to calculate how wide I want my nut, and decide what type of string spacing I want at the bridge. Then lightly pencil where the low E string would fall. This takes some math and geometry.


Using this approximation, I can now determine where the neck should fall. My calculations will allow the two outside strings to have 1/16" clearence from the edge to maximize playing comfort.
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post #8 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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post #9 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Now I can round out the corners of the neck for ease of routing and visual appeal. Keep in mind that most pattern following bits are 1/2" or larger, so you want to be able to route the cavity where the neck goes. I choose 1/2" because that is what my bit is.


Then clean up the line behind the neck.



I can use a little bit more geometry and my stencil to make a clean headstock shape.

I like the overall layout so far.
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post #10 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:42 PM Thread Starter
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At this point, I don't want to draw anymore on the paper. I am going to take it Staples and have 3 copies made. I will save one copy back to have a record incase I loose or damage my templates. I will use the others to make my body templates. I am leaving the body free of pickup routes, so I can add different pickup configurations to later guitars using this same outline.

Staples only charges a few dollars per copy.

Then I add humbucker pickup routes to the guitar drawing. I like humbucker design with a 3 on side headstock design. I like single coil pickup designs with 6 on a side headstock design.
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post #11 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:42 PM Thread Starter
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I'll make the templates tonight or tomorrow, and post some more pictures.
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post #12 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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....mistake....................................... .................................................. ..................................
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post #13 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 06:04 PM
where's my table saw?
 
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Save the pieces!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colt W. Knight View Post
....mistake....................................... .................................................. ..................................
Nice job on this thread Colt. Thanks! Who knew there was so much involved and this is a solid body. Can't imagine an acoustic build. I have a few guitars myself and enjoy them all. Martin D18 would be a favorite. Also a steel.... an acoustic on Steriods.... bill

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #14 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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I am constantly trying new stuff when I am building.

When I went to glue the blueprint to the hard board, I took my scalpel and cut the outer perimeter of the body. Then I sprayed glue on the hard board, let it absorb, sprayed some more, then sprayed the paper and stuck it on. My hope is that now the paper wont peel up on my oscillating spindle sander.


Then I carefully cut around the edges with a band saw.



Then, being even more careful, I sanded to the perimeter with the oscillating spindle sander, and touched it up with the sanding block as I did before.
It came out beautifully.
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post #15 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 11:05 PM Thread Starter
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* Interesting note - when using an oscillating spindle sander to sand exact lines like this, you want to use it very similiar to a router. Work with the rotation of the spindle and belt in order to maintain the best control. Take for example the large convexly curved portion on this template. I will make a practice swing to make sure my fingers or belly don't get in the way while sanding it in one big swoop. If you stop, get caught, or slow down you will leave a flat spot.
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post #16 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
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Next I trace my master template onto another sheet of hardboard and rough cut it to shape on the bandsaw. I then fix it to the master template with two side tape.


Then I sand as close to the master template as I have nerve to do. I don't want to nick or mess up this template.


Then using a flush trim bit, I make an exact copy of the master template.


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post #17 of 105 Old 03-28-2010, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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I have been busy this week, but I hope to get even more done this upcoming week.
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post #18 of 105 Old 03-29-2010, 05:27 AM
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This is a very enjoyable post with great info. Thanks for going the extra mile to record this and I look forward to watching futher progress on your guitar. Nice shop by the way.
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post #19 of 105 Old 03-29-2010, 07:42 AM
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Great thread! Excellent photos. Thanks very much for putting the effort into this. I really want to build a guitar but just haven't been able to get it going yet. This thread will be very helpful. THANKS!!!

Brad
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post #20 of 105 Old 03-29-2010, 11:10 AM
Huh?
 
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Man, this thread rocks! (Someone had to say it)
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