Crimson Guitar Build Day Three

Continued from Day Two

Day three of the build started with bad news.  The neck that I’d spent a long time carving yesterday had a problem.  Because of the issue with the truss rod channel which had been routed too deep, once it was carved the back of the neck by the headstock was too thin, and it cracked.  We considered a couple of other options, but concluded that the best approach was simply to make a new neck.  Any other option would probably take almost as much time, and would leave a weak point by the headstock, which is already the weakest point of a guitar neck.

Consequently, the first hour or two of the morning was a repeat of yesterday – various steps of marking out, sawing and gluing the neck and fretboard (we had to find a new fretboard too).

While the glue on the new neck was drying, we turned to the body.  We unclamped it, since it had been glued yesterday afternoon, and that looked fine.  We then had to cut the top down to match the shape of the body, using a table router and then the spindle sander again.

The back of the body and the offcuts from the top
The back of the body and the offcuts from the top

We discussed the position of the neck and the overall layout of the guitar, and Christopher suggested that we should cut down the upper part of the body (it’s a single cut, so that’s the area where the pickup selector would be on a Les Paul).  So I trotted off to the bandsaw to cut off the part that he had marked…and we had another problem to solve.  This new cut had gone straight through the cavity that we had routed out yesterday in order to make the guitar semi-hollow, and so there was a great big hole in the side of the guitar!

Christopher (the luthier) sorted this out by making a wedge out of the same piece of sapele from an offcut of the body, and this was glued in and left to dry while I carved my new neck.

The wedge glued in to fill the cavity hole!
The wedge glued in to fill the cavity hole!

I did this faster than yesterday, and the first time I took it to show Christopher, he approved, and so that went quite fast.

Unfortunately, though, this revealed yet another problem!  Due to the bandsaw not sawing exactly vertically (probably my fault), it had cut a bit too deeply into the neck (in exactly the same place as the previous neck problem).  Again, Christopher spent some time making a small piece to glue in there, and we will see tomorrow whether that has worked.

After lunch, I decided to distract myself with a little ancillary project.  One of my ideas for the build was to make some wooden control knobs.  It always bugs me when companies put cheap-looking knobs onto expensive guitars, and I wanted something individual for mine.  I sneaked out to the machine room and cut out a number of small squares from offcuts of the maple and purpleheart that we used for the body.  At Christopher’s suggestion, I used the big sanding machine to sand them to an even thickness, and then glued them together in little piles of six alternating squares each.  If all goes well, this should result in six rather tasteful control pots, of which I need three so there should be spares in case of problems.  More on that tomorrow!

The pieces for the control knobs stuck to a spare piece of wood for passing through the sander
The pieces for the control knobs stuck to a spare piece of wood for passing through the sander

We started working on the headstock this afternoon.  I picked a template from a box of a dozen or so different designs, and we discussed some thoughts I’d had about a design for the face of the headstock.  Fortunately, Christopher didn’t seem to think that they were too crazy, so we have a plan for tomorrow’s activities.  In the meantime, I cut out the outline of the headstock – we had thought we might need to glue an extra little piece on for one of the wings, but in fact it looks like we can get away without that.

The new neck sporting the headstock template
The new neck sporting the headstock template

The last couple of hours were devoted to the body again.  The glued wedge had dried, and so I sawed off the protruding part and then sanded it down.  It looks almost indistinguishable – I think it will be visible if you look for it, but it certainly won’t be obvious.  Fortunately, it will also be hidden by the strap once that’s attached to the guitar.

After cutting down and sanding the wedge
After cutting down and sanding the wedge

Lastly, we started to shape the top.  Christopher ran it through a sander numerous times in order to create an angle at the neck end of the body, which will help to create the break angle for the neck.  Then we discussed the type of carve, and he started to do that with an angle grinder.  We hit 7pm, so we stopped for the day and I will continue with the carving in the morning.

The partly carved top at the end of the day
The partly carved top at the end of the day

From the perspective of my guitar build, it was a bit of a mixed day with some good progress, but also a lot of time spent on problem solving.  From a learning perspective, though, each of the problems required its own solution and so it was still a very interesting day!

Here is the video for Day Three!

Forward to Day Four