Ok, here we go. Some time ago I was inspired by my friend to try myself at woodworking. Like many others, I have started with making a couple of boxes trying different materials, joineries, finishes, and techniques. Surprisingly, I did not fail and few weeks later, I was making a writing desk and chair for my kid using some beautiful mahogany boards. All those projects were published on my Facebook page and one of my buddies commented jokingly that mahogany is also a great tonewood.
It is not that I have never thought about trying to build a guitar. But it did look to me as some really complex project to do myself. Keeping that fear in mind, I have started reading different forums and watching hundreds of hours of YouTube videos showing luthiers at work. And suddenly, that complexity has started to go away. Instead of being an overcomplicated project it started to be… just a project; which still requires a lot of patience of course.
I have started to plan it. At that stage, when you do not have all the tools, timber, plans, hardware and many other required things, it is a game of finding the right combination of all those. The biggest factor is a lumber of course. To make an electric guitar, first of all I needed a mahogany (or some other tonewood) – it should be 2 inches thick and 13 inches wide. The easiest way is to buy it online for the price of about $100 per one guitar blank. That seemed a little bit over budget taking into account other stuff to buy. So, after checking out lumber yards and the smaller stores, I have found this figured cherry piece at Rockler.
The only little issue with that was its width – just 11 inches. I could either make some flat top guitar (Fender, Suhr) or do neck through design. Splitting it into two parts and then gluing the top (and hiding all that figure) did not sound right to me. As a result, for some time, I was thinking about making Suhr clone. And yeah, Cherry is heavy.
I kept visiting lumber stores here and there. Every time I was in the new place, I googled for the local lumber yard or Rockler store. And one day, I have stopped at Rockler at Ontario and they had some mahogany off-cut – 2 inches thick, 14 inches wide and 6 feet long. Just for $100. So, I have got 3 body blanks for the price of 1 if bought online. I have milled those into 3 pieces – 2 for Les Paul clones and 1 for something bigger.
For the neck, I have chosen the laminating method – it adds stability and is preferred when lumber origin is unknown. On a next picture, you ca see all neck blanks in one picture. All flat-sawn, so, when glued together those will form quarter-sawn laminated neck.
For the top, I could follow tradition and use some highly figured Maple top. But at that point I was not sure that I will succeed (and still not sure), so, I have decided to not spend $300 and use something cheaper this time. I bought 5″ wide and 3/4″ thick walnut board at Home Depot. That was the most figured lumber I could get at that moment and it will look great when finished with Gun Stock oil. The only issue, again, was size – 5 + 5 gives 10″ and I needed 12-ish. So, why not laminating some insert between two boards. That will mimic the back of the laminated neck and separate two not book matched boards visually. Here is the result (do not pay attention to the bridge – I will use Hipshot Tone-A-Matic).
To make a replica of Gibson Les Paul 59, I have got great blueprints from Bartlett Guitar Parts. Using those, I have made couple MDF templates for the body and the neck. Here is the result.
Ok. Time to start. First I have hand planed both blanks – body and the top. Stanley No7 is great by the way.
After that, it is time to cut the mahogany body. First rough cut with a jigsaw and right after that fine cut using the router, template, and 2″ flush trim bit. Like I have read it on other forums, from now (when the body is cut) it starts being a guitar – well, at least now it looks like a guitar.
Before gluing the top to the body, it is time to route cable channel. It will connect switch, both pickups and control cavities. The method is straightforward – some people use a template as well, but I just used an edge and plunge router – the result is exactly the same. When routing is done it is time to glue two pieces together. For this build, I use Titebond III glue.
I did not make pictures of gluing the neck. But, as you can guess, the process is simple. Apply glue, assemble the sandwich and apply pressure. After the glue has dried, I have squared the blank little bit. Neck blank is enough for two necks. Now it is time to cut those out. The only issue is that 4″ is too think for the jigsaw (at least with stock blades I had) and I do not have neither bandsaw nor a place to install it. After googling, I have found that Bosch makes huge blades for a jig saw. I have got it and it did work. I was surprised. On one of the pictures below, you will see the difference in size between the standard blade and the one I have found.
So, at the end of that day (actually a weekend), I had glued body and two roughly cut necks. Stay tuned.