So You Want to Build a Guitar? Pt. 3
I see you’re brave enough to check back in sure to take dial calipers when you go wood
for this month’s edition. Sharpen up those shopping. Also, if staying with a transparent
pencils and tools because we’re getting in finish use excess from the neck center to
deep this month. Remember that a com- create your earlobes so they get a good
plete written plan is important, so keep color and grain match.
your brain on track – some things
you can decide as you go, while
other details must be known in
advance. Here we’ll address things
in a day-by-day format.
We have to create our rough parts,
starting with our neck center measuring 38” long x 2.400” wide and
anything greater than 1.915” thick.
If you decide on a six-inline tuner
design, you may need more length
than our three-on-a-side headstock.
This underscores the importance
of making a full size pencil or CAD
drawing, so you know the dimensions in advance.
Now that the materials are ready it’s time
to glue them up. The most important thing
to keep in mind here is to not let the wood
slide much, if at all, up or down. Using C
clamps, very lightly pull the surfaces level
to each other, then use bar clamps
and tighten until the glue oozes from
the joint, wiping up the exces. The key
is keeping the back of all three sections (wing, center and wing) flush.
The front will eventually get a lot of
surfacing when most of the body will
be machined down to 1.780”. The neck
section is where we will need every
bit of the 1.915.”
Manipulating the Beast
In case you have to use wing material
that is thinner than 1.915” – yet thicker
than 1.780” – you can simply glue two
strips of wood to the face of the body
measuring roughly 17” long by ½”
wide by ¼” thick. These will eventu-
ally get machined off, but we have to
surface sand the front and rear and
these sticks will help us tremendously
if you end up with too little material.
If the neck is at full thickness and the
wings are undersized, the material will
teeter while being surface sanded,
because the thickest section is only
2.400” wide and located in the center.
With the overall body width roughly 14”,
these extra little sticks placed far left and
right on wing faces will help stabilize the
mass to keep things nice and flat. If the
thicknesses are all the same, you’ll have
no worries! Check back next month, when
we’ll begin day two.
Gluing the three sections.
Next we have our body wings,
measuring 5. 5” wide by 19. 5” long
for the bass wing, and 17” long
for the treble wing, with both also
being greater than 1.915” thick. If
I’m using narrow lumber – like 5. 5”
wide – I like to create the wings
using consecutive pieces so the
grain patterns match nicely, referred Gluing the headstock earlobes
to as a “drop match.” If you have 11” wide
raw material, you can simply slice it up the
center and place it on either side of the
The headstock “earlobes” measure 6” long
x 3/4” wide and greater than 1.915” thick.
Earlobes are added by many companies to
utilize a neck blank roughly the width of the
end of the fretboard, therefore not wasting
as much wood. The 1.915” thick specification you see is all depending on how rough
of a surface you have; rougher surfaces use
thicker material, smooth surfaces use thinner. The difficult part is that lumber yards
call this 8/4 lumber, which means roughly
2” thick, but it’s usually undersized, so be
Once the material has been rough-sized
using a skillsaw or table saw, we then
need to make sure the gluing edges are
jointed – sanded flat and square with the
face for a good gluing surface. The faces
don’t need any attention as of yet unless
they are heavily cupped, in which case you
would joint the face first to create a flat
surface, then place the face flat against
the fence and joint the edge. These two
edges are now square. If the faces are
close to being flat, don’t worry about it just
yet. They’ll get cleaned up soon enough;
just remember to place your flattest face
against the jointer fence while jointing.
Any questions or comments visit
Fine Tuned Instruments LLC, home of his “b3” instruments.
76 PREMIERGUITAR NOVEMBER 2007