Monthly Archives: December 2014

Guitar #29/4

Today's efforts: neck & fingerboard

Today’s efforts: neck & fingerboard

To make a guitar you need a few essential tools. The band saw is one. Another is a combination bench sander; the kind with a belt and a disc. This is the quickest and most reliable way to make flat surfaces. To prep the neck today I first band sawed the angle of the heel. On this guitar it is 2.5 degrees, because the top has an arch. Now that the band saw works reasonably well I made the cut fairly precisely and then finished it up by dressing it dead flat on the stationary disc sander. Next I flattened the upper face, to which the fingerboard is glued. Although the three pieces of the neck had flat surfaces to begin with, after gluing they’re never perfect, so the face has to be made dead flat. For this I used the stationery belt sander. After the face was done I marked the break where the fingerboard ends and the headstock begins. More sanding to get right to this line and the neck was ready for the truss rod.

neck clamped in the workmate table

neck clamped in the workmate table

I decided to go with a hidden truss rod. It will have to be accessed from inside the box, but it looks cleaner. To cut the channel for the truss rod I use my 1 HP router. This is very powerful, but it works perfectly if you set it up right and push in the right direction. Once I set up the jig and secured the neck in my Workmate (another essential) I was ready to cut. This took about 30 seconds. Then it was time to do the worst of all jobs: cut the dovetail. I decided to tackle this right away while I had the router out. For this I have a jig with templates for cutting the male and female dovetails. Although the body is not yet made I can still do the neck joint. I use a special tapered bit and a guide collar that fits the router base. The dovetail is 70mm long and 15mm deep.

Dovetail jig

Dovetail jig

Router and cut slot - the guide is on the far side. Router cuts from right to left, not the other way!

Router and cut slot – the guide is on the far side. Router cuts from right to left, not the other way!

The neck, the hardest parts are done!

The neck, the hardest parts are done!

Next step, glue the truss rod into the slot with 5 minute epoxy. I like fast epoxy for this, because it only takes two or three minutes to apply the 1/4 ounce of glue required, and it sets up fast. Sometimes regular epoxy needs 24 hours to get super hard, and by that time I’m ready to glue the fingerboard. I mixed up a small amount of epoxy, about one table spoon, and with a tiny art spatula I applied epoxy to the sides of the groove and the sides of the truss rod. It dropped right into place, but the epoxy takes up all the extra space, so it then has to be clamped to fit. Waxed paper (essential), popsicle sticks and several screw clamps do the trick here.

Truss rod with epoxy, wax paper and popsicle stick used as a caul for the clamps

Truss rod with epoxy, wax paper and popsicle stick used as a caul for the clamps

While this was setting I got out my little table saw (essential) and cut the neck and tail blocks from the left over end of the neck blank. Then I switched to the fret saw blade, a special blade that cuts a very narrow slot. I made a sled jig that runs on the saw table for fret cutting. I use a fret scale, which is invaluable for this job. The edge of the fingerboard was planed flat first, then I taped the appropriate scale to the blank fingerboard. A few test cuts set the slot depth at 3.5mm. Then I carefully cut the 20 frets and the zero fret. Once they were done I marked the ends and raised the blade to make the end cuts.

Fret cutting jig, with engraved fret scale

Fret cutting jig, with engraved fret scale

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Guitar #29/3

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miscellaneous parts – kerfed liners, truss rod, fingerboard, nut blank, fret wire, wood binding, cut our neck blanks

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neck blanks glued and clamped

I ordered some parts yesterday from Stewart MacDonald in Ohio. They just arrived this afternoon. Ohio to Memphis to Vancouver to Victoria in 24 hours. Before they arrived I worked on the neck. I bought a nice piece of mahogany at a local shop, but it was warped, so I had to go back and get a straight piece. Earlier I spent several hours adjusting my band saw, which was working poorly. Now it works slightly less poorly. It’s a cheap thing and I’ve had it for years, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. But I will. I discovered that the table was not flat. I don’t think it warped recently, it’s made of cast aluminum. All this time I had a warped table and didn’t realize. So I spent some time grinding the top of it on my bench sander. Then I adjusted the blade after watching a good video on Utube about this.

So once it was working again I set to cutting the neck blanks. I already had a cardboard template for a 25″ scale, so I used this to trace the outline onto the mahogany blank. The blank was 3.5″ x 3/4″ and 5 feet long. I cut out four blanks, since you can get 2 per 2 foot length. They nest together. The extra length will be used for the neck and tail blocks inside the body. The saw cut better after the adjustment, but still a bit wonky.  Next I took the 3 best pieces and set them on the bench with the long flat edges down. The finger board will be glued to this face. Then I liberally slopped on the Titebond type 3 glue, which is waterproof. If you want to be able to disassemble any wood parts, you have to use regular PVA carpenters glue, but for the neck pieces I used glue that cannot be heated or steamed apart. This is for one main reason. If ever the neck has to be removed in future, it gets steamed off at the joint with the body. I’ve seen the seams of the dovetail end of the neck separate a bit after this steaming, so I’m being careful here to ensure that doesn’t happen one day.

Once the glue dries I will  shape the neck some more, and install the truss rod.

neck pattern

neck pattern

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the neck glued up & clamped

 

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Guitar #29/2

Guitar mold - day 3

Guitar mold – day 3

The order for my wood is being processed. I buy the wood from a dealer here in BC, and they sand it to my specs. I used to have to sand it myself, which required having a wood shop do it, or a friend. Now I get it done for me, which saves a huge amount of time. They only charged me half an hour labour.
I spent a long time sawing the outer edges of the mold today. My tiny band saw is not made to cut through 3″ thick plywood. But it did, painfully slowly. I sanded it all up and put the halves together. They didn’t mate perfectly, of course, so I sanded the mating surfaces. Then they were a bit short so I added a thin piece of spruce to each end to make up the loss. They were still not mating perfectly, so this time I did what I should have done first – I got out the JB Weld.
I separated the halves with a little waxed paper, and applied a gob of epoxy to the mating surface ends of one half. Then I gently pushed them together, with the whole thing flat on a table. I bought draw catches to clamp the halves together and I will put dowels in to ensure they register properly. Document (35) (2)

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Guitar #29/1

Martin O15

I’m building a guitar for a friend. It will be based on a Martin O-15. It’s small, about the smallest full size guitar Martin ever made, but it has a great sound. The 15 series were all mahogany, and had minimal trim.
The one I’m going to build will be made of walnut, with a cedar top. It will not be a flat top, but will have an arch. This will require a tailpiece and a floating bridge. Martin made some like this around 1932, the R model, but they were short lived.
So far I’ve traced the body shape of an O-15 I borrowed, and made a paper half template. From that I traced a full size body outline on Bristol board. Next I drew in where my braces and the sound hole will go. Then I made a body mold from 8 pieces of 9x22x¾” plywood. This involves band saw cutting, drum sanding, and finally routing the seven rough sawn shapes using the master as a router template.

Body plan and half template of bristol board

Body plan and half template of bristol board

Body mold glue up

Body mold glue up

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Look Up, it’s Skywriter!

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Sears Chieftain – Smith Corona Skywriter

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Royal Futura with new paint job

Royal Futura with new paint job

Does Sears still fix 50 year old typewriters?

Does Sears still fix 50 year old typewriters?

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