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Okay, you finished high school, now the learning starts...

One of Charlene's friends from a college years ago has two kids who've recently graduated from high school. The elder dived into travelling around Europe and heading off to college on the other coast and generally diving into life. The younger, Daniel, is an Eagle Scout, but post high-school has been casting around trying to figure out what he wants to do. He's been feeling stuck in a small town up in the Sierra foothills, and we've dragged him down to closer to the cosmopolitan big city. He's been noodling around with a guitar, so we introduced him to some musicians, and talked about other things that might happen around guitars.

He came to visit just as we were finishing up building our workshop, helped out a bit on that, and I made some noises about how if he wanted a really cool guitar he should come down and hang out for a couple of weeks and build one.

A week ago he called my bluff. So he arrived, and he spent a few days searching the web for templates and hardware, and after a while we settled on some drawings we found of a 1950s Les Paul as a starting place. He marked up those a bit, drew a different peg board headstock, changed the shape of the horn on the bottom. We then dug through my wood stash, and ended up deciding to go with a through neck laminated of Walnut and Maple, with a body composed of quilted Maple over a center of Mahogany, with a Pao Ferro fingerboard that I'd snagged out of the seconds pile at Luthier's Mercantile last time the local woodworking group had a meeting there. With a little bit of Purpleheart I had lying around for trim.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled out my credit card and clicked "Buy" on the brass hardware he wanted, and we went out to the shop and started to get to work. First up, using the jig saw to make a template:

2012-12-06DanielWithFirstTemplateAttempt.jpg 2012-12-06DanielPlaysAirGuitarTemplate.jpg 2012-12-06DanielCutting2ndGuitarTemplate.jpg

The second template came out better, though we had a lesson in router bit management that meant that as we were testing that template we dinged the crap out of it. Fixed it with putty. Daniel started to see possibilities. Then we drew out the neck on a piece of wood, and I went off to work while he cut the neck. Mostly. He got the Walnut right, but because of various issues in wood management it took three tries to get the maple blank. Measure once, cut twice.

Neck clamped and glued, we used a couple of bearing bits on the router to machine the top flat, and clean things up.

2012-12-07DanielCuttingGuitarNeck.jpg 2012-12-07GuitarNeckGlueUp.jpg 2012-12-07DanielRoutingGuitarNeckFlat.jpg

Then he had enough router experience to go off and do the body cavities:

2012-12-08GuitarRoutedPotentiometerCavity.jpg 2012-12-08DanielDrillingGuitarTemplateForSwitchCavity.jpg

While he was distracted with that, it was time for me to do some learning. I got to work gluing up a Maple and Purpleheart assembly for the neck pips and experimenting with building an inlay system, so that he could route the neck inlays and we could then work on sanding and fitting the inlaid pips. And carefully, ever so gingerly, cut the fret notches

2012-12-07GuitarNeckPipInlayGlueUp.jpg 2012-12-09GuitarFretboardPipTestFitted.jpg 2012-12-09GuitarCuttingFretNotches.jpg

Then he went inside for lunch, and I snuck over to the planer and smoothed and sanded the whole thing, wandered into the kitchen and surprised him with it. I think this was the moment where we went from "we're building a guitar" to "we're building a freakin' awesome guitar, dude!". And with that we went back out into the shop and drilled out some switch cavities, and did the first glue-up on the lower body part.

2012-12-09DanielHoldingPlanedGuitarFretboard.jpg 2012-12-09DanielDrillingGuitarSwitchCavities.jpg <a href="">2012-12-09GuitarLowerBodyGlueUp.jpg

Today hopefully when I get home he'll have cut out the pegboard headstock and we can start with the neck shaping!

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fun stuff…cant wait to see the finished product…and HEAR it…

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Trying to not rush

Daniel's missing his friends and wants to head home, so while I'm trying to get him to slow down and take his time on the finishing, I'm aware that he wants to ditch us and head for the hills.

The finish is still a bit soft, and if it were up to me we'd spend another week adding a layer, sanding it off, adding a layer, and so forth, but we're not there. So last night we installed the frets, the nuts for the bridge hardware, and the tuning machines.

Hopefully tonight we'll carve another nut (I made one already, we lost it in my shop), finish the adjustments for the pickups, put the final screws in the tuning machines, and string this sucker up!
kids kids kids…so impatient! LOL…just kidding Daniel!!! I get it dude!

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Done. For now.


Daniel came back for another visit and said "yeah, it sounds really off at the 12th fret". With visions of "oh, crap, we have to mill off that fret and move it" we started playing with things, and discovered that the bridge was in the wrong place. The bridge had individually adjustable string positions, so we moved them, and got a sound that was okay, but the bridge was also really too high.

So I chucked it up in the milling machine, milled it down a bit, then tried to clamp it at an angle to put a bevel back in some of the pieces, and of course that caused the whole thing to flip out of the clamps and be munged by the bit and… yeah, it was ugly.

With no place to buy a replacement bridge open yet on a Sunday morning, we decided to make our own, out of purpleheart and some strip brass I had around, and lo and behold it let us put it in exactly the right place, and sounded awesome! What's better, there's enough room in the frets and vibrato in Daniel's playing style that the micro-adjustment didn't matter, he was playing with the sound all the time anyway.

Then we went out and built another bridge, being a little more careful with the brass filing this time, and did a few other tweaks, and declared it done!

2012-12-27Guitar1.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar2.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar4.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar5.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar6.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar7.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar8.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar9.jpg 2012-12-27Guitar10.jpg

Same content at my personal site.
i love it! congrats! may it bring enjoyment for a looooong time…that is why I love projects like this-projects that get used--instruments, boats etc…not just something sitting up on a mantle…real enjoyment…(not to say there is anything wrong with the other projects--I have made a few--but when its a project that gets used…I think its extra cool!).
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