Crimson Guitar Build – Day Four

Continued from Day Three

Day Four is finished and I am exhausted. The course is supposed to consist of six 9-hour days, from 9 to 7 with a half-hour lunch and a break in the afternoon.  We haven’t been taking any breaks, and today I arrived a little early and left around 7:20pm, so the working day was about 10 hours.  I’m not complaining – far from it, because we got a lot done today, ending ahead of where Christopher thought we would get, but I’m not used to standing all day and I’m exhausted!

This does lead to a serious point about the course, if anybody is considering it.  It is hard work – you’re on your feet and moving around all day, and if you aren’t used to that, or if you have any physical problems, then you may need to take that into account.  I certainly don’t want to put anybody off the course, as it’s a great experience, but be prepared.  I’m reasonably fit, but I work in an office and so I’m used to sitting down for most of the day.

We’re not here to talk about fitness or aching legs, though – we’re here to talk about building a guitar.  Yesterday evening, we were part way through carving the body – I thought about half way through; more fool I!  I took over the angle grinder from Christopher in the morning and set about attacking my beautiful top.  I don’t know how long it took; certainly well over an hour before I had a carve that he and I were both happy with, and even then there’s a little flaw in the wood that we will have to fill (probably tomorrow).

The body most of the way through the carving process
The body most of the way through the carving process

After the angle grinder, I took an orbital sander to smooth the top and do some fine tuning of the small irregularities that the angle grinder had left.  I started with 80 grit paper, and then moved on to 180.  Again, this took quite some time, and after the body I started sanding the neck, which again also allowed me to smooth out some ridges or slight bumps in the carve.

And at the carving station in the machine room, ready for the orbital sander
And at the carving station in the machine room, ready for the orbital sander

Staying with the neck, I borrowed a half-moon rasp from Ben (Crowe, the owner of Crimson Guitars) in order to carve the volute and the joint to the headstock.  The volute is the lump at the back of the headstock joint which strengthens it and helps to prevent the headstock from breaking off, which is a relatively common problem seen on guitars without one (a certain very well known brand is infamous for headstocks snapping).  After carving that, I sanded it again and managed to get a very pleasing shape and smoothness.  The extra piece that Christopher glued in yesterday seems to have worked perfectly – it’s visible, but we will see if we can do something to mask it.

The piece of wood glued into the back of the neck - unsightly but effective!
The piece of wood glued into the back of the neck – unsightly but effective!

Next came another arduous task, which was radiusing the fretboard.  This is one area where I didn’t want to complicate my life by demanding a compound radius, so I fixed on a straight 12” curve.  I did this in two steps, first planning down the sides of the fretboard and then sanding with a radius block.  Since ebony is a very hard wood, this took quite a lot of time and effort!

Having made a good start with the critical path items, at the beginning of the afternoon I took a small detour in the direction of my experiment with control knobs.  They had glued together quite well overnight, and then Christopher advised me to find some dowelling and drill a hole in each of my little stripy blocks to glue a dowel into, so that we can turn them on a lathe tomorrow.  I wrapped them in masking tape to provide a bit of compression for the glue, and apart from removing the masking tape later, that’s all we did with them today.

The future control knobs, hopefully, wrapped in masking tape while the dowels are glued on
The future control knobs, hopefully, wrapped in masking tape while the dowels are glued on

The rest of the afternoon consisted of preparing the body for the neck and vice versa.  We routed out the neck pocket (the hole in the body where the neck is glued in), and also measured and made the pickup cavities.  We cut the heel of the neck down to size and measured that, in comparison with the bridge height, to get the right neck angle, and then planed down the heel so that the neck will attain this angle.  We also discussed the control layout and decided on the size and shape of the control cavity – it’s going to be very large, to accommodate all of the extra controls and the preamp that come with the piezo bridge.  I will have three knobs and two selector switches, as well as the preamp and a battery that will be hidden inside the cavity.  We will rout out the cavity tomorrow.

The neck, before being glued into the body
The neck, before being glued into the body

Towards the end of the day, I drilled the holes in the headstock for the tuners and we made the first veneer that was glued onto the face of the headstock.  We also glued the neck into the body, and so the guitar is now whole, and sitting on the bench for the night with half a dozen clamps!

The guitar at the end of the day!
The guitar at the end of the day!

There were many more steps that would be too tedious to document, and all of the above was a lot of work.  We managed to make it through the day without encountering any new problems, though, which was a big relief after yesterday.  After dinner, I can look forward to an evening of editing of the video footage that I took today (about 1h45, which I shall aim to edit down to about 15 minutes).  Or I might just fall into my bed and go out like a light!

And here is the final product of my video editing for Day Four (down to 12:43)!

Nearing the end: Day Five