Telecaster Build #1: Stock prep and roughing out the body

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Blog entry by camps764 posted 11-12-2013 03:39 AM 2269 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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New meets old.

Prior to diving into the world of woodworking, I was a pretty avid guitar player. Throughout high school and into college I played in several punk and heavy rock bands. As I got older, finished graduate school, started my career and family, I stopped playing guitar as much and started making saw dust.

Over the last year I’ve started playing a little more regularly, and decided that I’d like to combine both of my hobbies. Even though I started out playing rock, I’ve always had a soft spot for good country songs, and the great guitar work that goes along with it. Like a lot of country guitar players, I’ve been chasing that telecaster twang tone. Not being able or willing to shell out the big bucks for a high end telecaster, I thought this might be a good opportunity to build one from scratch and see if I can get close. This build was also an opportunity to introduce my younger brother to woodworking with a project that he would get into and be excited about. You won’t see him in any pictures on this entry, he was manning the camera, but he did quite a bit of work as well with a little guidance and encouragement :)

The body is going to be solid cherry – fairly heavy guitar, but don’t plan to do much stand up playing with it.

Started out with 8/4 rough sawn cherry. Cut down into 3 blanks roughly 5” x 18”

These were face and edge jointed, and then planed down close to their final thickness – 1 3/4”

Then glued up into a blank for the body. My brother spent quite a bit of time fussing with how he thought the grain should line up. He was pretty proud of it when it was all said and done. :)

There were actually quite a few more clamps and some cauls involved to keep everything flat – but you get the idea. Wasn’t too worried about the ends being square – the guitar shape was going to get cut out.

While the body blank was in the clamps drying, we turned our attention to the template for the body.

The template came from a telecaster forum. I had a few full size copies run off at Kinkos – 3 copies were about $9. It was much better than trying to line up a bunch of individual sheets of paper.

Template was rough cut with a jig saw. Could have used the band saw, but I didn’t want to change the blade out just to put the big blade back on for roughing the body.

After roughing out the template, we have to clean it up and get it to it’s final shape.

Most of the shaping was done on the disc sander. Some of the curves wouldn’t fit and had to be done by hand. This ALMOST made me break down and run to Harbor Freight to get a spindle sander. If it wasn’t 10 at night, I would have been on my way. In all honesty, I wanted to quit for the night, get the sander in the AM, and finish. But my helper was relentless, so we finished it up by hand.

Here’s the template next to the blank after it came out of the clamps.

Since we started around 9 am, I went ahead and took the blank out of the clamps, scrape the glue and smoothed it up a little. Next I drew a center line on the blank, lined it up with the center line on the template, and traced out the template.

Here I am roughing the body out with a jig saw…this lasted about 10 minutes with very little progress. Then it was over to the band saw to do the rest – DUH.

With the body roughed out, I reattached the template using carpet tape, and cleaned it all up. First I used a flush trim bit with a top mounted bearing. Then switched over to a flush trim with a bottom mounted bearing to finish the last little bit. There was a small amount of tear out – don’t know if this was my technique or the cherry’s fault.

Important lesson learned – less is more when it comes to carpet tape…It took quite a while to pry the template off the blank.

At around midnight we decided to wrap it up for the evening. The body is close to final dimensions here, just some minor sanding to clean it up.

Now that the body is close, the next steps will be to create a second template, based on the first, for routing out the two pickup holes, the control knobs, and the neck pocket.

-- Steve

7 comments so far

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2600 days

#1 posted 11-12-2013 08:10 AM

That cherry is going to age nicely and quickly, it would be neat to see some time elapsed pictures over a few years of this guitar. Now I’m inspired to build a amp head out of cherry, I scratch build LOUD 100 watt tube amps. By the way if you put a pick guard on that guitar I will mock you!

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 3036 days

#2 posted 11-12-2013 12:23 PM

I’m pretty excited to see how the cherry ages.

Loud is what tube amps do best :)

I’m on the fence about the pick guard…I’ve seen some cherry tele’s that look money without pick guards…but I’ve seen some that look great with them too. I’ve got one ordered just in case. I want to lay it out on the guitar before I do any routing so I can see how it will look.

-- Steve

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2600 days

#3 posted 11-12-2013 03:24 PM

BACK away from the pick guard slowly and don’t make any sudden moves!

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8564 posts in 2658 days

#4 posted 11-12-2013 04:30 PM

Very cool. I’ve almost completely ditched guitar playing for woodworking. Can’t seem to make time for both. This will be fun to watch.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3161 days

#5 posted 11-12-2013 04:54 PM

I’m not surprised that the jigsaw didn’t quite do the trick on cherry. Must’ve been like trying to hack down a tree with a wet noodle.

-- Brian Timmons -

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 3036 days

#6 posted 11-13-2013 12:25 PM

Darth – That’s funny man.

Red – I’m in the same boat. I’m not very good with balance – If I am doing something I am into it 100% and everything else gets put on the back burner. I’m trying to be careful not to let the pendulum swing back the other way…leaving my woodworking to collect dust and obsessively playing guitar. Hunting season is in full swing too…maybe I’ll just quit my job, then I can completely focus on all three :)

BTimmons – that about sums it up.

-- Steve

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4349 days

#7 posted 11-17-2013 02:49 AM

Looks good!

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