Crimson Guitar Build – Day Two

Continued from Day One

Day two began after a full breakfast in my hotel, and a very busy evening updating this website and doing the first cut of the video for day one.  I shot 2h44 of video on the first day, which I edited down to 18 minutes.  The video still needs some work but it’s well on the way.

We started by unclamping the neck, which had been glued overnight, and that seemed fine.  However, the first focus of attention was the body, and the first task was to cut it closer to the final shape with the bandsaw.  I fixed a body template onto it, using the luthier’s masking-tape-and-superglue trick that’s much loved by Ben Crowe, and which I used many times during the day.  The trick is a simple way to attach two pieces together temporarily so that they hold well but you can easily detach them, by putting a strip of masking tape on each piece and then supergluing them together on the masking tape.

The body with a template attached (backwards) for routing out the first cavity
The body with a template attached (backwards) for routing out the first cavity

I cut around the outline with the bandsaw, fairly carefully although I did go in slightly closer than intended once or twice.  The body blank, which was pre-glued before the course, was too thick and so we needed to cut a slice off it.  Christopher, the luthier who is my tutor for the week, decided to bandsaw it so that we could save the other slice for use later on, but the widest part of the body was too big for the bandsaw, and so we had to spend some time finishing the cut with a manual saw – that was hard work!  Incidentally, when I talk about the body I mean the back of the guitar – the top was not yet glued on.

Next I used a spindle sander (basically a table with a spinning sanding cylinder in the middle) to smooth the edges of the body and make the final touches to the shape.  This took over an hour but in the end I got a shape that looks pretty good, and the edges were almost completely smooth.

Since this guitar will be a semi-hollow, we had to rout out some cavities in the body.  Christopher found some suitable templates and we fixed them (one at a time) to the body and then used a pillar drill and a router to make the cavities.

Drilling out the cavitites
Drilling out the cavitites

The longer cavity, which will be the upper side of the guitar, was done in two parts.  Then I sanded the inside of that cavity, since it will be visible if we put an f-hole in the top of the guitar.

The body with all cavities routed and sanded where necessary. The top cavity will hold the battery for the preamp.
The body with all cavities routed and sanded where necessary. The top cavity will hold the battery for the preamp.

The body and top were then ready to be glued together.  This involved a certain amount of preparation, notably clamping the two together without glue and drilling two holes for more toothpick dowels to prevent them from moving during clamping.  Then I spread glue on the body and we put the top in position and used lots of clamps to fix them together.  We put that under the desk and turned our attention to the neck.

The clamped-up body and top, hidden under the bench
The clamped-up body and top, hidden under the bench

There were several steps in the work on the neck this afternoon.  First I cut the neck with the bandsaw around a template that we stuck to the fretboard (using the same trick again), and then we used a table router to finalise the shape.

Finishing the outline with the table router
Finishing the outline with the table router

At this stage, it was just the outline of the neck – it was still a rectangular block in profile, and so the next job was to mark out and then cut the neck to the appropriate depth, again with the bandsaw.

The neck with the template, after the rough cut with the bandsaw
The neck with the template, after the rough cut with the bandsaw
Then after routing the sides clean
Then after routing the sides clean
And then cutting the outline of the back of the neck, with the bandsaw again
And then cutting the outline of the back of the neck, with the bandsaw again

Then we started work on the design and carve of the neck profile.  I had already decided that I wanted to base it on my favourite PRS Pattern Thin profile, so Christopher had worked out the relevant dimensions and we had cut the neck accordingly.  I wanted to do an asymmetric carve, with the high point of the back of the neck a little bit higher than the middle, which should fit the angle between my forefinger and thumb better.  I looked at a couple of guitars that they had in stock with asymmetric necks, and decided that they were too pronounced for me, and so I went for a subtle effect, only two to three millimetres above the centre line.

neck-before-rasping
The neck on the carving station, before starting

Having decided and marked that on the neck, I drew lines midway between that line and the edge of the neck on either side, and then a line about 1.5mm above the fretboard on the side.  Using a Japanese Shinto rasp, I made a (roughly) 45-degree cut joining those lines.

After rasping the first cuts
After rasping the first cuts

Next I marked the mid-points of all of the new sides, and used the rasp again to cut those faces into a total of eight planes, making a rough half of a hexadecagon (16-sided shape).  Then I used a combination of the fine side of the rasp and 180-grit sandpaper to turn that into a smooth carve, with some advice from Christopher and the other luthiers.

This was the last step of the day.  I think my neck carve feels fantastic – I can’t wait to play the guitar!  I only did the main part of the neck, and tomorrow I will need to carve around the heel and the nut area, to complete the neck carve.  I’m really pleased with the way that it has turned out so far, though.

Admiring my neck carve!
Admiring my neck carve!

Another positive aspect of today was that I was far more independent.  For many of the steps, Christopher told me what I needed to do, and I went off and did it on my own, which was a change from the first day.  It’s good to feel that I’m starting to acquire some skills in this area, which is largely new to me.

Day Three promises to be very interesting, and I’m keen to get back to work!

Forward to Day Three