Thursday, March 31, 2011

mocking up 1

In the last few weeks, I finished the routing of the body cavities, with only the neck pocket left to route. The routing went very well, and although it's not super clean, it's done, and I learned a few things experientially that will help me make the next guitar's routing cleaner.

I was intentionally waiting for the neck to arrive before I routed the neck pocket, so I could make any measurements or adjustments to my templates that I wanted, for a true perfect fit.

Well, I got the neck in from Tommy at USACG last night.

I know I said all this before, but I have never seen customer service on this level before - nothing comes close. When I got the neck, let's just say I found a few unexpected and very welcome surprises.

Not only did he throw in the ebony board at no extra charge when I ordered the neck, but, to my surprise, he gave this neck a gorgeous "marbled ebony" fretboard. I had never heard of marbled ebony, much less seen it, but man, it looks like, well, marble. It's got some streaks and such, and just has a very subtle cool to it. And it's as smooth as glass. I couldn't believe it was wood and not something synthetic - it just feels otherworldly. Next up, he had rolled the fretboard edges - again at no upcharge. Any guitar player knows that this is a godsend, and any luthier knows that it's no easy task. Hats off to Tommy for taking care of his customers with little extras like this.*

The flatsawn maple is solid and feels very, very smooth --- if I didn't know better, I would think this neck could get away with no finish. The 6150 frets didn't seem as big as I was expecting them to be, but I may feel differently once the neck has some strings running over it.

Looking from the heel end up towards the headstock, it's easy to see that this is the straightest neck I've ever seen or held --- it was just absolutely perfect. The perfection of the radius and the straightness of the neck were a little unbelievable. The rolled fretboard edges felt great, and the fret ends were - you guessed it - perfect.

Anyways, considering the price, I can't fathom getting a better product for the money without feeling like a thief.

Here is a full resolution picture of the picture above, so you can check it out up close.

It's cool to see the body with a neck mocked up on it - what do you think about the mock up?


* You may be thinking "hey, he didn't get what he ordered! Maybe he didn't want rolled fretboard edges or marbled ebony." I made it clear to Tommy at the time of order that I was open-minded and that as long as the main specs were in place (contour, radius, nut width, profile, scale length...) that I was all good.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

routing the body 3

Today I made a little progress - I hogged out a lot of the wood from the pickup cavities and control cavity using forstner bits and my drill press.

After I got as much mahogany out as I was going to get, I decided to start drawing up a pickguard design.
I want to use a mostly Telecaster pickguard shape, but with a sexier upper bout line, to fit the "mostly Telecaster shaped with a sexier upper bout shape" theme of the guitar.

I found an old Stratocaster pickguard in my basement and used it as a reference for a smoother upper bout line. I then hand drew the corners / interface points and it turned out pretty well. The upper left shoulder / corner kind of mimics the carve of the guitar's upper bout, which would be a really nice but subtle design tie. I will spend some more time getting that shoulder curve to match the upper bout curve exactly, and see how that looks. It could be too homogeneous, and if it is, I'll think up something different.

I'm going to keep the pickguard shape under wraps for now, because I am still not 100% on it.

More to come,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

routing the body 2

This weekend I got a fair amount of work done.

The biggest task I tackled was creating an MDF template for the pickup routes and control cavity rout. I wanted to include the neck pocket rout on this template, and I did, but I may not use it. More on that later.

I wanted to create a template that had the control cavity, pickup, and neck pocket routes all in one place so that I could use the same template to create a guitar, no matter what the body shape of the guitar is.

The body that I have designed here is my first effort, and I have already found parts of the design that I want to change on the next go-round. I do, however, love the Telecaster bridge design, and the Telecaster bridge pickup sound, and I know that I want this element on every guitar that I make for a while. With this template, I can rout the Telecaster bridge pickup and control cavity and neck pocket routes into any piece of wood I like, carve that wood to any shape I like, and boom, that's a guitar.

So, for this universal template, I wanted to incorporate
  1. The Telecaster bridge pickup rout
  2. The Telecaster control cavity rout
  3. A "swimming pool" rout for the middle and neck pickups wide enough to accommodate a P90, Mini-Humbucker, full size humbucker, STratocaster-style single coil, or Telecaster style single coil in either position
  4. A Telecaster dimensioned neck pocket
 As you can see, the template I created includes all of the above, and after I finished the template, I secured it to my mahogany body slab with wood screws and began the routing process.

I had to find a new anchor point for the template, as my previously used anchor point (that I used for attaching the body shape template to the mahogany slab) was not available this time around, as that part of the template was routed out for the neck and middle pickup rout. I found another anchor point in the thin isthmus between the bridge pickup rout and the neck and middle swimming pool rout. I then traced the routs onto the mahogany slab with a pencil (for reference) and began hogging out wood with a forstner bit chucked into my drill press. I only got five 1" diameter holes drilled before something else popped up and I had to quit for the weekend, but I am pleased with the progress.

Before I did any of this, I did the roundover on the body. Standard Telecaster roundover radius is 1/8", and a Stratocaster roundover is more like 1/4" (don't quote me on these, just shooting from the hip) so I went in the middle with a 3/16" roundover radius. It came out exactly how I wanted it to (radius selection, that is).

As you can clearly see in some of the pictures, I let the roundover bit sit a bit too long in some spots, which resulted in some burns. It's no big deal though, for two reasons - one is that those burns will sand out, and the other is that this guitar will have an opaque finish (white).

Also, big news!

I ordered the neck for this guitar yesterday. I called Tommy at USACG, and I have to say, he is about the nicest person in the world. He gave me his undivided attention, heard me out on everything I asked about, and gave me an unbelievable price for the neck. He remembered my mom from when she called to order the slab of mahogany that I'm working with now and the gift certificate she got me, and asked me to tell her hello - now that's good customer relations!

Anyways, here are the specs for the neck that I ordered:
  • 25.5" scale length
  • US-2 Reverse headstock
  • Tele dimensioned heel
  • Maple neck
  • Ebony fretboard
  • "Fat Back" contour, 1" the whole way
  • 1 11/16" nut width
  • 10" radius (a la PRS)
  • Creme dots
  • 6150 frets
So, basically a gigantic baseball bat of an ebony board neck with a reverse Strat-style headstock and huge frets.

Yeah buddy,