Archive for the 'luthiery' Category

Tim’s Tele…

Friday, May 5th, 2006

…is off the operarating table after some minor surgery to plug a p90 route in the neck position. More here.


So very close…

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Barring final setup, John’s guitar is complete.

Covers are all buffed out and installed (including the trussrod cover Pete!), the wiring is complete, and the tuners are installed. Infuriatingly, one of the tuner bushing got damaged during installation, so that’ll have to be replaced in time - it’s a small cosmetic problem, but annoying nonetheless. For reference; when heating tuner bushings with a soldering iron to remove them, ensure all solder is removed from the tip, otherwise it might end up stuck to the bushing. Stuck rather better than the gold plating as it happens…. *nuts*

Excuse the long whippy string ends - the strings get removed a few times during setup and adjustment, so I haven’t gone to the trouble of using a locking wrap and trimming them to length.

Edit - I’ve moved the pictures of John’s guitar into the gallery section Heres.


Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Potatoes RAWK!

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Well, they do.

Installing the tremolo was all new to me, and required at least one specialised tool I didn’t have - a superlong drill bit. I checked a few of my normal tool suppliers, but nobody had anything really long in the right size, so it was time to improvise.

Funnily enough, Easter Sunday at my grandparents yielded a perfect solution. Dad was browsing a 1948 signed edition of ‘The Amateur’s Lathe’ by L.H.Sparey (I know, how rock and roll is that?), which contained a paragraph on making extension drills, by turning down the drill shank, boring a suitably sized hole is a piece of steel rod, and brazing the drill into the hollow centre of the rod. Most importantly:

To prevent the brazing heat from softening the drill it is an old dodge to insert it into a potato during the brazing operation.

-The amateur’s lathe p.85

Duly equipped with a small metal working lathe, and a carefully calibrated potato, we made up a special drill for installing tremolo claw screws. Result!

The 4mm mild steel was originally intended to become a Gibson style compression rod and is pretty soft, but this makes it very easy to use, since it can be flexed slightly to get the best angle into the tremolo cavity. On a similar note, the only way I could get at the screws to adjust them was to daisy chain 3 magnetic screwdriver bits to make a long bendy screwdriver - not elegant, but it works!

With the trem springs in, it was time to string it up. Lots of fiddling to do to get the optimum setup, but even with an unfinished nut, and the neck relief unset, it plays nicely, with no buzzes and very low action. Apart from final levelling and buffing of the lacquer on the headstock and trem cover, all the finishing is complete - leaving the wiring and final setup still to do.

The spiffy case was John’s birthday present from Pete and Sarah. I was really hopefull they’d be able to deliver it to him with the guitar inside, but the finishing trouble I had delayed me too much. It’s a Hiscox case, and I can see why they have a good repuatation - it’s well put together, very sturdy, and (IMO very importantly) not too heavy.

Nearly there….

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

This thing is really beginning to look like a guitar…

The inlays are levelled and polished, and the frets installed, levelled, crowned, dressed and polished:

The neck is carved, sanded, polished and finished with thinned plastic coating. This seals and protects the wood, without building a high-gloss lacquer finish, leaving it super smooth and with a beautiful satin sheen - ready to be fixed in place. To dress up the neck joint a little, a madagascar RW heelcap is added (cut from the same piece as the head veneer) with a constrasting maple line to match the neck laminations.

Before gluing the neck in, I buffed out the guitar’s sides (easier without the neck in the way) and one of the cavity covers. The other cover needs to be sanded back to grainfiller and recoated, since the finish festered. The covers were sprayed together, with the same finish from the same gun - one’s like a mirror, theother’s like a pizza - Huh?! This is the same problem I had with some spots on the body, and is the first difficulty I’ve encountered with the Rustin’s Plastic coating.

With the neck glue thoroughly dried, I buffed out the body to a high shine, and fitted the pickups. The pickup rings are milled from Wenge (to match the binding) on my benchtop milling machine, and are sanded in place to match the contours of the carved top. The blue masking tape stops the nice shiny top getting scratched during sanding.

Still to do: install the tremolo springs and strap buttons, apply the headstock decal, lacquer the headstock and re-lacquer the tremolo cover, drill for the controls and wire it up, install machine heads and string it up!

There’s good news, and there’s bad news….

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

Well, it’s been a while since the last update, and lots has happened in the intervening period. First thing (and the reason for the good news/bad news tagline) was the body binding:

The good news: I finally got the hang of bending wooden binding around a tight radius:

The bad news: I only got the hang after breaking all but 3 of my binding strips, for a guitar which needs 4 binding strips….*sigh*

Anyhow, this required a change of plan, since I had no more pau ferro for binding, so after experimenting with different combinations I settled on wenge binding with a curly maple and pau ferro veneer purfling. I laminated the binding out of .7mm veneer, which made the tight curve at the tip of each horn easier, but meant I had to ditch the flame maple side purfling on the body. It also meant re-binding the neck in wenge to match, but it was worth it to get a consistant theme throughout the guitar, and actually works better than the original plan, since it contrasts better by on the darker areas of mahogany endgrain.

That little saga took quite a while, but was eventually scraped flush and sanded smooth. After completing the binding, I had to build a router base for my dremel tool to do the inlays on the neck:

It got it’s first outing when I used it to inlay a pau ferro/curly maple/wenge accent strip in the back of the guitar, and across the tremolo spring cover:

After all that fussy detail work, it was time to grainfill and sand the body in preparation for spraying, which was delayed for a couple of days by the death of our air compressor. Fortunately, I had access to Dad’s impressive diagnostic abilties, which (coupled with a comprehensive dismantling and a brief trawl of the web) revealed the problem was a blown capacitor - £3.49 and 15 minutes of tinkering had it running again - thanks Dad! The forced interruption gave me a good chance to de-dustify the garge and thoroughly clean my little spraygun, which resulted in a nice smooth application of the lacquer (marred only by some wierd blistering in places which needed cutting back and respraying).

With the finish curing I worked on my inlay design, a variation on the Martin split diamonds and snowflakes pattern. I cut it out of paper to see how it looked, and so I could run it by John for approval. Then, with the OK from John, I cut the pieces from Mother Of Pearl (MOP). I cheated a bit and used a cut off wheel rather than a jewlers handsaw since the pieces were fairly geometric in shape. Mouting the cutoff wheel in the benchtop milling machine made it easy to keep the sizes and shapes consistent and accurate.

With all the pieces cut, I tacked them to the neck with small spots of superglue, and scribed around them. I routed the cavities with the dremel and a variety of small dental bits, then glued in the inlays with epoxy mixed with rosewood dust - pics tomorrow when it’s levelled and polished up.

Ack…. my fingers!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Note to self: No more carving the inside of guitar tops until I’ve invested in some gouges. Or maybe a CNC mill. I could find the space…

No blurb yet (I’ll write something tomorrow) but a few pics:

Glue up…

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

The tops have been glued on, and the cavities completed. John’s guitar has only been temporarily glued, with a bead around the edges of the top. There is a method in this madness; I plan to carve the top in situ, then separate it with a hot spatula, and hollow the inside some more, before regluing the top. I had planned to carve it before glueing in place, but the blank had cupped a little since glue up, so I had to find a way to stabilise it whilst carving - time will tell how much of a PITA I’ve made for myself :) It’s more work, but paired with the body chambering it should make the guitar livelier and more acoustic sounding, something John liked in the maple DC which this guitar is based on.

Today I planned to start top-carving, but progress has temporarily been interupted by the addition of a new bench to the workshop. It’s a traditional solid beech workbench fitted with 2 Record no.52 vices, and was a steal at £25 from my old university. I also got a retired bobbin sander which will be a great addition to my stationary powertools - another great deal for £60, including a few spare sanding sleeves and 3 different bobbin sizes. It’s a Secret & Marriott ‘Mini-bob’, made in Burton on Trent. If anyone reading this knows anything about the company I’d love to hear some background. They still exist, but as an an egineering works, not a tool manufacturer.

Excuse the state of the garage - everything is in chaos to make space for the new bench. Hopefully I’ll get a good ‘after’ pick to show the bench once it’s been properly cleaned up.

Calling all cars…

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

You’ll like this. Not a lot… maybe not at all.

Today I chased up Craft Supplies, since the neck wood for John’s guitar *still* hasn’t arrived. Their records showed it as being sent last week, and the Parcel force records showed it as delivered. Which it wasn’t.

So, the ever helpful Hayley @ Craft Supplies rang Parcel Farce to see who signed for the parcel. And…?

The van containing my order was stolen from the London Parcel Farce depo. Somewhere in London, some scabby little git is driving around in a stolen van, with Craft Supplies’ last 2 Santos Rosewood neck blanks bouncing around in the back. Yep, their last 2. The only 2 they had.

Thank you Mr. Criminal mastermind, you’ve really made my day. You bastard.

On a lighter note, has anyone seen the Burger King ‘Kong your Whopper’ ad? Man walking down NY street, burger falls from sky… squashes car (apparently quite common)… ring any bells? Next time, keep any eye out for the small print which flashes up: Burger shown not actual size.

Dear god…

StewMac 1 : Craft supplies 0…

Monday, December 19th, 2005

As ever Stew Mac have lived up to their reputation for great customer service, by getting the hardware I ordered for John’s guitar delivered from the States in under a week.

Grover sta-tites and Hipshot Tremolo

Apparently my Craft Supplies order should also arrive today, so I’ll withhold and proper griping for the time being… and make do with a minor grumble about how it’s possible for StewMac to get goods from America to my door in less than 7 days, and Craft Supplies takes twice that time to get it here from Derbyshire. Whilst I’m having a grumble, I’ll take the opportunity to bitch about the prices of UK suppliers. The Grover tuners I got from Stew Mac cost £22, plus shipping and import tax (if I get stung by DHL for processing). The price from WDUK? £47 - nice little markup for somebody….

Still, the price difference meant that by ordering from the States John will get a much nice bridge for his money. The hipshot tremolo looks like a great piece - very nicely finished, and intelligently designed. Instead of machined knife edges which can get burred and cause tuning problems, the hipshot has polished ballbearings - nice idea.

Shiny bearings!

On a kind of related note, my guitars saw their first stage useage last night, in the debut performance by The Lobsters. More on this on Pete’s Blog. Neither of them blew up, fed back, or otherwise disgraced me.

**Edit** - No show from Craft Supplies’ order. Apparently it shipped on Thursday, but I guess it’s tied up in the Xmas post. Bah Humbug :(