Les Paul 01

Jun 21 2004

Well, here it is - a pile of lumber soon to be turned into a Les Paul.

Woods are:

-1 piece mahogany body blank.
-2″x4″x30″ Mahogany neck blank.
-1″ thick bookmatched plain maple top.
-Rosewood fretboard.

Also in the shot, an agoya inlay blank, and u-channel trussrod. The second image is the same wood plus the fretwire and body template.

In this shot I’ve ripped the neck into 3 blanks. The two L shaped blocks will be 1 piece necks with scarfed headstocks, the other will be ripped the same way to make a 2 piece laminated neck.

Rough cut necks

Here I’m truing up the neck blank with a big sanding block. It’s supported at either end to prevent any bending - I want the top to be dead flat when the neck is sitting passive.

Truing the neck blank

Once the blank is dead flat, I cut the scarf with a japanese pullsaw, and true it up using a plane and router jig (much like the one shown in Martin Koch’s book/website).

Cutting the scarf joint

Once the headstock is glued up (no decent pic) I trued it up and thicknessed it using the same router jig. Once it’s trued up I have a fixed reference point to markout all the key neck dimensions on the blank.

Next I routed the trussrod channel on my new router table, taking it a bit deeper than normal so I can fit a tiny fillet on top. This isn’t necessary with a u-channel rod like mine, but I though I’d try it this way for a change. Pretty lousy picture…

trussrod channel

Once the trussrod is routed, but not glued, I shape the heel and headstock transition using my belt sander. I clamp it sideways to a flat slab of counter top material (a tip I got from Lex) and carefully sand down to the thickness marks I laid out. I mark my neck thickness at the 1st & 12th fret, and mark it 1mm thicker than final dimension - no matter how I carefull I am I always creep .75mm too deep, so this gives me a little wriggle room!

Heel sanded

Once it’s done at each end I rough bandsaw the profile, before setting up my router thicknessing jig…

Bandsawn profile

The neck is thicknessed using a simple router jig. I clamp down a pair or aluminum rails to a flat slab of counter top (I think every workshop needs a slab of this) and place the neck blank between them, clamped at the heel end. I then slide a wooden wedge under the headstock to raise it until the correct taper is achieved.

Router thinner

Once I’ve checked everything twice, and ensured that nothing can move, I run the router along the rails, removing the excess until the neck is at the correct thickness along most of it’s length, leaving a tiny portion at each end untouched.

Once I’ve removed the thickness I clean up the transitions where the router can’t reach, using a sanding block, and a few different planes. Below is a shot of the finished neck, and the planes I use to clean up: On the left, 2 homemade carving planes, and on the right a record block plane with interchangable noses - it can be used with a long nose, snub nose (as pictured) or no nose to get right into corners.

Thinned neck with planes

John asks: How much did your plain maple top cost?

My maple came from Craft supplies and cost £20. They don’t list it in the catalogue but you can ask for it if you talk to the tone wood guy (Roger… I think?!)

Goran Popovic asked: Very nice work Setch!!! And also very very nice planes! Did you make the blades, or gotten some replacement ones? What’s the width?

I made the plane bodies, but the blades are both ready made. The tiny plane uses a replacement blade for the smallest Ibex carving plane (bought from LMII), and the larger uses an iron from a rebate plane my grandfather gave me. I think the Ibex is 10mm and the other 12mm.

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