Crazy 12-string build part 2 – main components

Part 1 covered the design and the purchase of hardware for this build.  This page shows the creation of the main components – the neck blank, the top and back, and the blocks for the side of the body.

Top and Back

These were quite straightforward.  I had two zebrano caps in my wood store that I’d bought, on separate occasions.  One has a very curved grain pattern, and the other has a straight pattern but with lots of burls, which is apparently quite rare in this type of wood.

The two zebrano caps

Essentially, I prepared each of them like a top.  I first glued them together…

The back pieces – bookmatched – being glued together.

Then I designed the outline of the guitar.  I used a PRS Custom 22 for the basic shape, but I lengthened the top horn so that the strap button will be a bit further along the neck.  This should help to balance the guitar, since it will have a light body and a heavy headstock.  For visual balance, I also lengthened the lower horn.

To do this, I first attached the two caps together using masking tape and superglue, making sure that the centre lines matched.  Then I drew the outline and adjusted it as mentioned, and used my band saw to rough cut it.  Then I finished the shape using my spindle sander and finally hand sanding to eliminate any bumps.  This was the final result, which I’m very pleased with.

The final shape!

I will make a deeper cut in the top for high fret access, but that will be filed out later on.

I made sure that the edges are very smooth and precise, because I will use them as a pattern to trim down the blocks with my router later in the build.  A bit of care at this stage to get the edges right will greatly reduce the work that will be needed later on in the build.

Neck blank

I wanted to make a laminate neck for the extra strength, plus I think they make an attractive feature.  Having already used three types of wood for the body (zebrano, sycamore and padauk) – and even four, if you include the ebony strip – this meant that I shouldn’t go too wild with the wood selection.  Fortunately, I had longer pieces of all three woods in my store, and so I went with the same woods for the neck.

The neck woods – sycamore, padauk and zebrano.

The piece of sycamore  that I had available was only just wide enough if I cut it diagonally, to the right size to make the taper of the neck.  I decided to use my circular saw to cut that, since my band saw wanders too much – hence the saw mark that’s visible in this picture.  That will be hidden inside the body, though, so this little mistake wasn’t important.

After gluing these together, I had my basic neck blank!

Gluing the laminate strips
The neck blank

Because of the inaccuracy of my band saw, I had a couple of gaps that you can see in the higher padauk strip, but I made sure that these were in parts of the blank that will be cut off when the neck is shaped.  For the rest, it was fine.

Building Blocks

Finally, I prepared the blocks – or bricks – of sycamore and padauk from which I will make the sides.  To achieve a fairly standard body depth of about 43mm, these need to be 15mm high, and I decided to aim for about 30mm length.  I had reasonably sizeable blocks of these woods left over from previous builds, which I first cut into strips.

The strips of sycamore and padauk

These strips were about 40mm deep, so I cut them all lengthways and then glued the flat sides to a board (masking tape and superglue!).  I ran that through my planer thicknesser in order to plane them all to a consistent height – I don’t have more photos of this, but you can see it in the video episode 2.  Finally, I cut them down to pieces about 31-32mm long, to allow a bit of extra material for the fine shaping of the blocks.  I had measured around the perimeter of a guitar body and estimated that it was about 140cm, so I needed a total length of about that for each wood, given that there will be two rows of bricks.

The rough cut blocks

There should be more than enough blocks for the job here – and all from offcuts.  This is an economical build as well as, I hope, an attractive one!

Page 3 will cover the shaping of the neck and the construction of the sides!