Since Gene Baker is covering the process
of building a guitar, I thought I would contribute some pointers on working with hand
tools. Using hand tools – a jackplane, for
example – has numerous benefits:
• They may be all you have room for, or
can afford, if you’re just starting out.
• They give you a really intimate, organic
er, and it’s good advice for general woodworking. However I usually stop at “stoning,”
and don’t proceed with “turning the hook”
or “burnishing.” The scraper requires stoning pretty frequently when I use it, but it has
only taken seven years to wear away over
an inch of metal. I think the hardness of my
materials and the technique I use depend
more on a fine square edge than a burnished
The second photo shows the same technique
on a clearcoat finish. This won’t work well on
softer coatings like nitro, as it tends to grab
and pull the paint off, but on hard stuff like
polyester it is a great way to level runs, edge
build, orange peel and drop fills without having to worry about sanding through.
It is essential to use both hands when scrap-
Photo 1 – The leading edge technique on a new neck
Photo 2 – The leading edge technique on a new clearcoat finish
understanding of the structure and behavior of wood fibers – which can give you
experience to help you avoid large-scale
errors (such as tearing out grain) when you
advance to power tools.
• For some tasks, there is simply no better
tool than the one you have in your hand
The one tool that is in my hand the most is a
cabinet scraper. A scraper is a flexible rectangular sheet of tool steel; I prefer a thicker
one and it is indispensable for the final shaping of necks, fingerboards and body sides. I
also use it to scrape down the first group of
clearcoats before the final spray coat – and
I use it again after that prior to wet sanding. You should try using a scraper instead
of rasping or sanding because it gives you
much better spot control and doesn’t leave
Wood magazines and books will give you
instructions on using and sharpening a scrap-
hook. The technique involves pushing or
pulling the scraper nearly flat across the surface, using the leading edge to get a very
fine, continuous shaving cut. A hooked edge
– the traditional scraper edge – won’t cut in
that direction. It will if you stand the scraper
higher on its trailing edge to hog away more
material, but I use a separate tool for that
kind of carving.
The first photo shows the leading edge technique on a new neck, after rough shaping.
Push or pull diagonally to gently shear down
high or irregular areas. Try this with just a
slight flex in the scraper and scrape at an
angle to the grain going around the curve.
If you start to gouge the grain, stop and go
over the gouge from a different direction, or
sand the gouge out. I routinely alternate this
technique with sanding ( 100 or 120 grit with
a concave block) when doing the final taper
and rounding, and frequently check my progress with a straightedge.
ing like this – you can’t control the tool
with only one hand. So you need to find a
way to hold your work firmly… perhaps in a
Jeffrey Earle T.
Jeffrey Earle T. handbuilds JET Guitars
in North Carolina, USA.