Crazy 12-string part 3 – construction

I didn’t update this website as regularly as I had intended, and I will skip through the rest of the build fairly quickly. I did make several videos of this build, though, which can all be found on the index page for this guitar.

I don’t have all of my photos available at the time of writing, so I will update this page later. Building the sides of the guitar body was the first main challenge of this guitar, and in fact this is best documented in the video below.

Side Construction

Briefly, I measured the length of the outer edge of the body and calculated how many blocks I would need, and what size they should be. If I remember correctly, I came to a length of about 17 mm per block, and something like 50 blocks. Depending on the curve of the body, some of the blocks would need to have a slight wedge shape, with the inner side either narrower or wider than the outer side.

I found that it was not immediately obvious how to cut the sides of the blocks so that they were perfectly perpendicular and ready to glue. After a bit of experimentation, I found that I could do this quite easily using the disc of my belt sander, once I adjusted the support plate to ensure that it would sand at exactly 90 degrees.

I also had to experiment with the methods of gluing the blocks together. Superglue would have been the quickest, and perhaps that would have been perfectly fine, but it is relatively susceptible to coming apart when struck, so I preferred to use normal (Titebond) wood glue. This, however, meant long drying times, and therefore a very slow process of building the wall.

I thought that I would have to glue one block, clamp it and leave it to dry before doing the next one, which would mean at least an hour between blocks (I could work on both ends of the “wall”, though). However, I found that this wasn’t necessary, and I could glue and clamp a block, and then happily glue and clamp another block next to it without any problems. I was only limited by the number of available clamps, but this meant that I could set quite a few blocks in place at a time.

I decided to add the layer of ebony between the two rows of blocks for two main reasons. Firstly, I think it looks pretty smart and adds a nice visual touch. Secondly, it hides any slight imperfections in the alignment of the blocks, by separating the corners where four blocks would have met without it. This was particularly useful since, when the sides were sanded back to get an even edge, some of the joints moved along where I hadn’t been smart enough to ensure that the joints between the blocks were all perpendicular to the ever-curving side. That’s a lesson learned if ever I make another guitar like this!

I also didn’t have a lot of ebony available, just a couple of narrow offcuts from a fretboard, and these were not wide enough to cover the entire blocks. I therefore had to glue thin strips of the ebony around the outside, and a second set of strips of another wood around the inside, to provide a solid base for the second layer. This is invisible in the final guitar – and in fact there are lots of joins in the ebony strip which are also pretty well invisible – and the whole thing worked out very well.

Centre block and miscellaneous bits

After I had shaped the neck, it took me some time to work out exactly what to do inside the body, and how to prepare the edges of the blocks to fit the neck in. Since this is a hollow bodied guitar, I needed the centre block to support the bridge and the pickups, and I ended up having to glue extra pieces to the sides to get the necessary width. I also tried to increase the resonance of the back by hollowing out a part of the bottom of this block, but in the end that caused me some concerns about the depth of the pickup cavities, and I think it was a bad move. It didn’t cause a real problem, but I wouldn’t bother with it again.

The innards of the body

You can see that on the picture above, and I have marked the locations of the bridge line and the pickups. The two larger blocks that are glued inside the body were made to support the control plate, as you will see later. The small pillar at the top was intended to support the central strut of the sound hole, but in the end that didn’t really work, and was removed.

I stained the inside of the body red because I’d made a sound hole in the top, and I wanted the interior to match the stain on the exterior of the guitar.

Lastly, once the top was glued in place, my access to the inside would be very limited, and so I had to install the output jack at this stage in the build.

On the next page, I will show my crazy inlays!