We’re starting a blog of sorts… let’s call it an update on anything new here…
new stuff that’s happening regarding our pickguard production, also personal ‘side’ projects that may (or may not) be of interest to anyone ‘guitar’….
Hope you enjoy
Peter – Gilroy Guitars
I recently found an old builder’s plank… Oregon wood, or Douglas Fir, as known by in the US. Asked myself for some time – could this be the makings of a great guitar… a Telecaster Clone perhaps??
Will attempt regular updates with photos… follow along if you’re interested – there’ll be pitfalls etc, as I have not built a guitar since 1967… just a few years back…..
This shot is of a nice gnarly section – lightly sanded to see the ‘potential’. I’ve selected three similar sections from the perhaps fifty year old piece… let’s see how we go with it.
Here’s a shot of the ‘better’ side of the same piece – I have two similar billets under way at the same time.
Now it’s been filled with a thinned and filler-loaded black epoxy resin – this should get in deep to seal and/or fill all those half-century old crevices. A few applications needed here over an hour or two, so I topped up the resin with progressively thicker mixes as it sank in.
As the pieces are approximately 50 mm (2″) in thickness, by a half metre in length, this first one will need splitting so as to hopefully make a nice book-matched top
Next step… I do not have a planer/thicknesser – will have to redress that situation at a later date – so a trip to my nearest cabinet-maker was in order….
here’s a shot of both blanks, just back from the wood shop and nicely levelled both sides – looking good so far…. now I just need split them to see if we have potential…… or firewood!
How do I do that, given no fancy wood-shop tools, apart from those used to produce my pickguards??
Maybe I’ll need find me a handsaw….. something pretty sharp!
Did I say….. something pretty sharp??
Starting the split for bookmatching – How hard is this old plank??
Extremely hard… I thought Doug Fir (Oregon) was a softwood – this is after about 40 minutes of progress, with quite a few ‘breathers’ – and that’s a new saw – I’m about 10cm in at this stage.
I made and screwed on some thin nylon-type plastic cutting guides to keep everything on-centre, and clamped the piece to a metal table frame… no fancy equipment needed…
Sawing the ‘split’ for bookmatching without a bandsaw… a new handsaw, plus the nylon-type guides should keep things going reasonably true.
Securely clamped up to a steel table frame… should get through this in a day or two
Damn… this stuff is tough – here I am after the second hour in… a further 100mm maybe.
Had an old saw professionally sharpened, as the new saw just wasn’t getting it, so swapping between the two made me feel I was getting some progress, but in reality, not actually.
Will just have to perservere – there’s maybe four hours in it at my current speed. More tomorrow….
I’ve been searching for a slant-switch Telecaster Control Plate in ‘black’ – none available it seems, so, as per usual… “just make your own, dobbo…”
So I now have a few to offer WITH matching modern Tele pickguard in Natural Quilted Maple… will post them shortly on my product pages.
For my own…?? I wanted one in brass plate, 1.6mm. With a little help from the guys at PreciseBits (Think & Tinker) I obtained some of their ‘soft metal’ bits…. they did a great job on that tricky switch slot.
One in polished brass presented not too many problems – the ‘black’ finish?? More on that later….
Finally… four days down, at about an hour per day. We get a look at the potential for a bookmatched top-piece with this old Doug Fir piece.
We’d checked for the presence of hidden nails prior to sawing, using a super high-strength magnet.. any hidden steel would have pulled on the magnet…
It’s basically straight-grained with plenty of interesting knots, the odd rust blotch from a long eroded away nail, and quite a number of cracks where the epoxy didn’t get all the way in.
So more epoxy filling will be required after joining the two pieces and determining what’s guitar and what’s not….
Using a plastic sheet with the body outline marked, to determine possible bookmatching scenarios… can only go four ways I suppose.
Once decided upon, we’ll mark for and cut both pieces for the joint line… not too much of a story to that really… just dodging knots at critical positions while looking for something that just looks OK…..
Using that plastic sheet with the full body outline marked really helped take the guesswork out – made a few swap-arounds, shuffled the outline around the knots or holes that I wanted show or hide.
My saw is a Festool, on a 1400mm track, so super accurate cuts are not a problem.
All I need do now is bond the pieces, and get the body proper organised and bond the top onto it… easy….
Nothing too exciting here… jointing the two matched sides.
I’d cut each of the halve’s outer sides to a slight taper – glued up both halves, then simply hammer-wedged them in-between two outer retainers, using a rubber mallet.
This created a really tight joint…. plastic underneath, wiped excess adhesive spillout from the up-side, and put some plastic over that line so nothing stuck on that I didn’t want….
The only clamping that was needed was some downward pressure to keep it true.
I’d made this Tele pickguard some time back specifically for my own project…was the last of some nice figured maple veneer that we had – I liked the centre area clear, with the strong figuring at both sides
The 1.6mm brass slant-switch control plates I only made last week – I’ll be using the black one…..
The black one was first epoxy-coated, sanded level, then spray-coated in black 2-pak, topped with several coats of clear, then polished to a full gloss finish.
been a few days… now the three-piece Australian Cedar body is jointed – same process, just wedged between two outer retainers, with light downward pressure just to keep things flat…
This was a 1.5m Cedar piece from my next door timber/lumber yard… nothing special, excepting its nice straight-grained, and reasonable colour.
Cut to three equal widths at .5m in length… Titebond III on both sides of each joint – I could have (should have??) wiped the excess away, but it’s gonn’a be levelled and thicknessed in any case.
Now have screwed my Cedar body blank down onto my router sled base, and we’re set to go for levelling and thicknessing of both sides. Note my dust extraction… it ain’t visible in this shot…. provided by a Festool Hepa extractor – I also wear a high-efficiency 3M mask, and ear protection… (eye protection too!)
My old B&D router is OK for this job… the router sled is made from two aluminium angles at about 1.3m length – enough width so the router bit can cut fully to either side if needed.
I have height-adjustable slides both sides for accurate levelling…
with a light source behind, I check if the rout-sled has done it’s thing… pretty darned good for a few dollars to make the sled.
I have only levelled the sides to be bonded thus far – the face and rear of the guitar body will be levelled, and overall thickness determined after the two have been bonded.
Have never worked with Australian Cedar previously… this piece appears to be of medium hardness. The ‘found’ piece at the timber yard had a softer lighter coloured area on one side – that was cut away prior to joining up the three-piece body blank.
Here’s a composite shot showing both pieces pre-joining.
A thin film of epoxy on both surfaces to fully wet both join areas, then spread with a lightly cellulose filled clear epoxy.
Why is there a cross-grain there?? I cross-grain applied a slice of Tassie Oak veneer to the Cedar – I wanted the neck heel to be sitting on something harder than the Aussie Cedar… hopefully to increase sustain of the finished guitar.
Note the small holes outside of the profile shape in both pieces – I used 25mm pieces of bamboo skewers as ‘register pins’ – did not want to be hitting any metal at a later stage, like.. sawing/routing out the profile….
Problem.. how to clamp the top to the body for 24 hours while the epoxy sets up, ensuring enough pressure to make a really tight bond?
I bought in a TAP – a thin air press will produce about 4800 lbs of pressure over that area – beats clamps hands down, and just uses vacuum and the power of our atmospheric pressure.
Ain’t science great??
TAP’s are used extensively in the Skateboard industry, and elsewhere, to produce your shaped skateboards, also used for architectural and furniture projects… anything that needs timber bonding… many aplications on YouTube, also DIY make your own…. I bought a Roarockit TAP.
Final Tele build layout – maybe a duplication photo… I needed get the actual bridge that I’m using centered in position so I can securely clamp the neck in position once aligned.
Prior to this setting up I’ve applied clear ‘contact’ book cover plastic to the whole body that allows secure positioning using double-stick tape. Applied that to both face and rear – will be double purpose to protect both surfaces while routing all the cavities.
Using two alignment methods – with a laser level to ensure dead centred-ness for the neck-body line, and also using thin ‘hat elastic’ stretched from both bridge E saddles, to the two outer E string cuts in the nut to guage for even string spacing at the 22nd fret…..
- milled pine boards and end-stop set in position around the neck while it was in position – these were held using 3mm steel pins, not trusting to double stick tape for the sides…
- checking progress at half depth – I used the router sled for this rout to avoid the risk of any off-vertical routing – router bearing running on the milled pine.
- down to the final depth, with the cross-veneer of Tasmanian Oak hardwood as the bearer for the neck hell rather than the softer Cedar. While I was at it I changed router bit to a ‘top bearing’ type, and cut some acrylic neck pocket templates for future use….
Arrived at final depth for my neck pocket – time to check how the neck sits… is it a tight fit?
All looks good… marked the neck centreline onto the body face using an el-cheapo laser level… then set the bridge position and ready to cut all the body routs.
Note – I put a protective film (clear book-covering plastic) onto the top – this should protect it through all the up-coming processes.
Just finished all the routs for the pickups, controls cavity etc…. used my router sled and an MDF template, secured the template with a few positioning pins – holes still visible -they won’t be seen, under the pickguard and the bridge.
I’ll take a half millimetre off the top – get rid of the few epoxy repairs and the odd flaw in the top.
The first cut to the body profile – again using my router sled.
An MDF template used for the outer profile – there’s a couple of the positioning pins used still in there.
I’ll transfer the blank onto the bench router now to finish off the body shaping. No template required – just running the top bearing of the bit onto the profile of the top-cut .
Small ‘bites’ as always with the router, taking care at all times… checking the grain direction for potential grabbing of the piece by the router bit
I have decided on black inserts instead of the traditional neck backplate… mainly as I’ll be putting a chamfer/cutaway on the underside of the neck area for easier higher fret access…..
The Aussie Cedar is softer than Ash or Mahogany… so I’ve drilled the cedar out, and will fill with an epoxy plug to avoid having the washers ‘pull’ into the rear of the body.
Second pic – now epoxy-filled and levelled… the centre ‘core’ is matchwood to stop the epoxy from draining right through the neck screwholes.
What’s going on here??
Decided on a nice hard veneer for the rear of the body – the Aussie Cedar just didn’t pass the ‘buckle-rash’ test… so I book-matched some nice Curly Maple and bonded it on with epoxy for added hardness. 16 psi pressure from the Thin Air Press ensures a tight bond with a 24 hour cure.
Just finished the rear shape here – detail of the jackplug area – next step, will round-over the body top and bottom