Archive for September, 2006

New Job…

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

…or to look at it another way; job.

It had to happen eventually, and it has. This morning I accepted a trainee locksmith position with a local locksmith. Hours are long and the pay during training is pretty tight, but the work should be interesting, they seem like a nice bunch, and they were very keen to employ me, even after I initially declined the position.

It’ll inevitably mean having a lot less time to spend on guitar building, but I’ll still keep working on them in my spare time, and posting progress on here.

So there you go, I’m employed, and I start on Tuesday.

P…p…p… picking some pickups…

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Every now and then, despite the best efforts to keep him locked out of the workshop, I’m paid an unwelcome visit by the cockup monster. He’s a tenacious little bugger, and if he’s really determined to visit there’s not much you can do to prevent it.

What you can do, is learn to clean up his footprints so nobody but you knows he was ever there*. With a little bit of creativity it can even work to your advantage.

So, exhibit A:

rosewood_p901.jpg rosewood_p902.jpg

One pair of Rosewood P90 pickup covers, made entirely to satisfy my whim, and not at all inspired by a template shifting slightly and making my routes a tad too big for a regular P90 cover…. honest!

These’ll be going in my LP jnr style, which (fingers crossed) will be getting some finish very soon. I’m still trying to decide which P90s to use - I’ve heard great things about Lollar and Fralin, but I’m also tempted by Vintage Vibe.

Any thoughts?

*Unless, of course, you post it on your blog. That might give the game away.

Taming the buttered ferret

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Or: Scarfed headstocks continued.

In the last post I explained why I like scarfed headstocks - they’re stronger, and less wastefull. So - why are they not used on expensive instuments like Gibson’s and PRS’s? The answer is pretty simple - tradition, and aesthetics.

Tradition I’ll set aside for the time being - it’s a whole can of worms. But aesthetics are easier to address. With a little thought, you can make a scarf jointed head look as good (hell - better!) than a 1 piece, and still keep all the benefits it brings to strength and conservation. Here’s how I do it…

After the scarf joint has been cleaned up with a plane, I mark the headstock thickness, and sand a radius upto this line. There are several ways to do this - with the idle roller of a belt sander, with a spindle sander, or with a drum in the drill press. Once the radius is sanded, I thickness the rest of the headstock. In these pics I have used my router thicknesser to thin it, but I now use a drum sander and fence in the drill press, which thicknesses and sands the radius at the same time.

backstrap1.jpg backstrap2.jpg

Next, I glue ears onto the headstock to make up the width. This is another concession to saving wood, but also hides the sides of the scarf joint. I trim the headstock width before attaching the ears, so that after shaping the ears will taper to practically nothing. That way there’s no evidence of the joint in the end grain near the nut.

(Sorry about the crappy pic - I forgot to take one, and had to blow up a fragment from the back ground of another image)


After attaching the ears, I trim them flush front and back with a plane, scraper and chisels. Then, I prepare a piece of constructional (1.5mm thick) veneer. I prebend it, otherwise it’ll crack when I try to bend it into the curve on the back of the headstock. I spritz it with distilled water, wrap it in foil, then heat it with a heat gun. Once it’s steaming, it bends like butter (What!?), and I clamp it up with a matching caul. I don’t apply glue yet - the dry run holds the veneer whilst it cools, and lets me check everything fits nice and tight. After the dry run it holds the curve nicely:

backstrap5.jpg backstrap4.jpg

The glueup is just like the dry run, except with about 10 times as many clamps… no pics I’m afraid. Here it is after drying over night.

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Once it’s dried, I trim off the excess with a veneer saw, shape the headstock with a template and template bit in the router, then profile the neck and carve the volute. Somewhere along the way I apply a headplate to the front of the head, and in this case, bind it too. With all that done, there is no evidence of the scarf joint left - the ears conceal the sides, and the veneers cover front and back.

IMO, every bit as slick as a 1 piece headstock ,and a good deal stronger and stiffer to boot!

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Simplifying scarf joints…

Monday, September 4th, 2006

I’ve been scarfing my headstocks as long as I’ve been making guitars, because it’s a stronger and less wastefull than sawing out a 1 piece neck. Because both of the parts being glued in a scarf joint are wedge-shaped, getting the joint glued and clamped can be a bit like wrestling a buttered ferret. There are many ways round this, from pinning the joint in areas which will be cut away, putting some nipped of staples on one of the glueing faces, or making an elaborate clamping jig to hold both pieces. Here’s my solution, which I think is pretty much foolproof (to this fool at least…).

With the pieces cut and planed, I first check fit and alignment:

scarf01.jpg scarf02.jpg

Then, with the pieces arranged properly, I tape one side of the joint with common or garden masking tape, so that joint can be hinged open:

scarf03.jpg scarf04.jpg

I hinge it completely open to expose the glueing faces, apply a generous amount of titebond original, and spread it out:

scarf05.jpg scarf06.jpg
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Then, I close it and clamp it. 2 small g-cramps apply most of the pressure, and 4 spring clamps hold down the feather edges at each end of the joint.

scarf09.jpg scarf10.jpg

As well as clamping the joint closed, the clamps push down on the masking tape, and prevent it lifting or slipping, which in turn keeps the joint perfectly aligned as you apply the clamps - simple, but it works really well.

The result:

scarf11.jpg scarf12.jpg

Coming soon: Back strapping the headstock.