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
Here’s the test fit, neck to the body… checking for tightness, correct pocket depth, on centerline with the bridge position etc… All looks good, with no adjustments needed…
Confucius quote “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
He may have also said…. “Measure twice, cut once.”
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
After rounding over the edges, now filled and sanded – a number of low spots showed up, so we’ll need to do a second fill before staining.
Second shot is of the under neck area – I’ve planed away a bevel to allow better access to the upper fret area for the left hand.
Third… again edge-filled with a black tinted sander-sealer prior to staining the whole body….. visible is the cross-ply of hardwood Tasmanian Oak bonded in to give the neck hardwood to sit on in preference to the Cedar….
here’s a shot of the top – it’s been final sanded to #400 paper, and stained pretty dark with several coats of black – I use meth spirit based and/or solvent-based stains mostly due to them not raising the grain. Sometimes with my pickguards I’ll be happy with a stain result and just leave it that, so I can go straight to applying sander/sealer.
Will sand back the top for some nice contrasts… see what happens…..
here’s the top after sanding back the heavy black stain – using #400 paper for a gradual lessening with more control… when to stop sanding is always the decision, as that will affect the final look… I’ve gone for about a 50% contrast of light to dark… how it will come with clearcoat is up to just how much of the black has been retained by the grain.
Looking forward to getting some paint on… let’s see what happens…..
And… here’s the back veneer of bookmatched Curly Maple after sanding back of the heavy black stain – I’ve gone for about a 50% contrast of light to dark… like with the ‘top’. How it will come with clearcoat is up to just how much of the black has been retained by the grain. Each wood is different on stain absorption etc, and how it cuts back with sanding… I’ve tried for a similar look to the top, and hope the black tones kind’a match, in spite of being different woods.
Hmmm.. how to drill the Jackplug hole accurately – just a little tricky, but using my drillpress with the baseplate swung away, with just a few boards and clamps holding the body secure, and starting in nice and slow with a 7/8″ Speedbore bit..
Seems involved, but the drilling can be aligned perfectly to enter into the controls cavity, with both correct height and direction
Jackplug drilling result… not too bad for a ‘speedbore’ bit – minimal tear-out, probably due to the softness of the Cedar body.
I should’a used heavy duty tape on that area to prevent any tear-out… live and learn, they say….
missed just a few steps, the sanding sealer coat etc – Here’s the top, finish coated in 2-pak Urethanes, complete with black edge-burst.
A nice amount of contrast, and has definitely come to life, and about how I wanted. Have stained pine-type timbers previously… care needs be taken, as the softer areas are easily cut too deep with the orbital sander, ending with the speed-bump feel across the grain.
And… here’s the back – same treatment, a few sanding sealer coats, sand level with #400 paper, a thinned clearcoat before edgebursting with black, then six thinned coats on top, sanding in-between.
Final result is a nice thin finish with just a slight ‘orange peel’… just needs several weeks to fully cure out… slower in cold, faster in hot weather….
I’m making a few Tele controls plates from 1/8″ brass.. one in black, already primed with black epoxy. I’ll top it with a few sprayed coats of black 2-pak, then mill for the offset pickup switch, and drill for the Volume and Tone-pots.
Finally have decided on my ‘black’ theme, also opting for the 4-Way Tele wiring mod.. could not find a black Tele Controls Plate in black WITH a slant-switch configuration, so… make my own
Not planning on selling this guitar, but, would still like to finish it off, so to speak, with a reasonable-looking headstock logo.
Photoshop mockup here… options are a waterslide transfer… reasonably priced, with a few suppliers, or a metal foil ‘dry rub’ option… more expensive, but super-professional… decisions decisions….
Next job… I’d bought a new ‘licensed’ replacement neck… I did not like the fretwork or the fretwire used, so I decided to refret it with my favourite 6100 jumbo wire… Set it up on my DIY neck/refretting jig …
The jig is fitted with a standard bridge that allows stringing up and tuning to pitch. The trueness of the neck can be checked under string tension, with adjustment of the trussrod to level the fingerboard…. looks OK….
The rods under the neck are then tightened in position, then the neck can be un-strung and worked on while at virtual full string tension.
So now the removal of frets is under way… first heating with a soldering iron and a touch of solder… Lots of chipping out of the fingerboard evident, in spite of using guards etc and extreme care..
Have not experienced chipping so bad as this… either the fingerboard is dry and brittle, or frets are epoxied in, or the fingerboard is just plain rubbish, as there’s cracking and splits visible in the fingerboard.
Proceeding up the frets… it’s evident that it’s all three or four of those possibilities.. with several huge chunks of fingerboard lifting out along cracks and deep split-lines…
This shot is typical of what’s just come away, so I’m not repairing this sucker… it’s time for some serious considerations…. also the trussrod was very stiff to adjust, so the fingerboard has to come off for a total replacement!
have taken the neck off the jig, and now have the router sled levelled over it. I’m checking for the depth of cut over the entire length to remove the entire fingerboard.
Ideally make the removal in several passes at maybe 2 mm each pass, try each side first with a very shallow pass to avoid chipping out… have no idea what adhesive was used for it’s production, so it’s trial and error just how clean it’ll come off….
Part-way through, as I’m now down to the white plastic side fret-markers. Chipping out on that side is evident… it made no difference which direction it was routed… multiple passes made from nut to heel.
Fingerboard fret markers were partially drilled out prior to this, when it was thought I could save the fingerboard… they weren’t coming out easy either, as it looked like they’d been set in with epoxy.
Missed a few stages here… stripping the fingerboard with the router.. the fingerboard was level, but the neck under was not, so I took it a little deeper, and added a maple veneer to make up the thickness.
You can see the added veneer, cut away for the trussrod to drop in, as well as a replacement block of carbon fibre and epoxy for trussrod access adjustment.
I’ll drill the block out and level and trim it off when it’s all set and cured.
OK… the epoxy is fully cured, so I marked out the centre of the trussrod and drilled through the block with a 1/4inch extra long drill-bit.
All checked out OK and in line… can start on a rough trim, as well as level the top so I can get the new fingerboard on.
I have levelled the trussrod block with the veneer, and tidied up all ’round the rod-end, also adding some maple blocks either side (not there initially) to stabilise the rod’s position. The rod was totally bound up with silicone too.. I’ve cleaned all of that off, as it was impeding adjustment.
Visible now are my three register points drilled in the neck to use when bonding the new fingerboard to keep it in it’s correct position. I’ll drill corresponding holes in the underside of the fingerboard and use small dowels when glueing up.
Detail shot of the trussrod end… small blocks either side in the end cavity blocking any movement as the rod is adjusted.
Visible is one of three register holes for determining the correct position of the fingerboard while adhering it to the neck
preparing to rout the fingerboard shape, using double-stick tape and three register pins to hole the fingerboard secure.
The same pins and positions will be used while glueing the ‘board to the neck
routing the fingerboard to shape using a top-mounted template.. note pencil marks to line up the first fret position on both template and ‘board.
I mostly use a router table and top-mounted bearing bits for most of my cuts. I made the template a few millimetres oversize to leave some trim on either side after glueing
showing the nut end of the finish-routed PauFerro fingerboard.
Looks like some nice dark side-grain….