Thursday, July 28, 2011

Father's Day

So around comes Father's Day 2011, my very first one, and what do I get as a present? A piece of wood. That's right. I couldn't have asked for a better present.. well it's because I did ask for it. Anyway, it's not just any piece of wood. It is going to become the body of my guitar.

So what did I decide on? Walnut. Claro Walnut to be more specific. Now I can joke about my guitar when it is finished and call it my "Maple-Walnut Guitar", no you can't eat it. I will probably not be too happy if anyone tries to take a bite out of my guitar.

I went to a local lumber yard in the Berkshires called Berkshire Products which specializes is large slabs and figured wood. They also have a section for instrument wood, but most was WAY too expensive for me. It seems like if it's labeled "instrument wood" the price automatically is jacked up. Granted it was all very nice, just out of my budget. They had a section where they had "shorts" or in other words, not 10-20 feet long. The section I ended up with was a little over 40 in long - 10 in wide - just under 3/4 in thick. A little larger than I needed, but it gave me some room to get just the right pieces out of it. Also - it only cost me $35 which is WAY under what I expected to pay. Awesome!

It took a good bit of planning to figure out how I wanted to cut it up. First of all, there was a pretty side (some figure) and a not so pretty side. Unfortunately, though, the pretty side has some small "pin holes" which I had to work around. Finally, I had it all planned out (with the help of my wonderful wife) so that when the shape of the body was cut out, the pin holes would be in the waste portion of the cut. Then the next day I was off to the shop!

A little table saw here, some compound miter saw there, and Ding! Out come a guitar body! Well, not so easy, but that was essentially the process. Here is a picture with the board all cut up.

The two symmetrical pieces are for the body, the long skinny piece I am hopefully going to be able to make into a neck, but it might need some lamination and a scarf joint. We'll see.Then the little piece on the end can be used for some other project :).

Now to glue the two pieces together. I dunno, I was a little nervous about how it would turn out, but it had to be done so I just went for it!

I got all my clamps ready, a sheet of wax paper, got my glue out, a rag, and of course my wood. I applied the glue to both pieces. Some people say only one side is necessary, but my concerns was that there wasn't going to be enough glue. I would rather there be too much glue and do some cleanup than for the joint to be starved of glue and not be strong enough. At least that's my reasoning. I then used my finger to spread the glue out evenly on the edges so that they were completely covered. I laid the pieces down, align them how I wanted and tightened on the first clamp. Then I experienced what I only read about. That is, that glue is extremely slippery! As soon as just a little pressure was applied to the clamp the two board slid in opposite directions. No harm done - more comical than anything. I just slid them back together and applied the rest of the clamps, making sure they were good and tight. Then, another twenty-four hour wait.
The next day, I removed the clamps and success! The two were now made one! Again, though, there was excess glue that needed to be cleaned up. It took a while to get around to the clean up part because of personal things going on in my life, but once I was able to I did. I attacked it with the random orbital sander and after about 30 min of sanding the glue was gone and what was left was a BEAUTIFUL guitar blank, waiting to be formed.

As a side note, it is a REALLY good thing that I cut up the board like I did because of what I found. A large crack in the wood that was totally hidden when the piece was uncut! This is a picture of the long skinny piece that I hope to make the neck out of. Had I cut it differently, this crack would have been in the middle of my guitar! Ack! The crack goes deep, I will have to remove a good bit. I will probably then cut the remaining wood in half, purchase some maple strips, and create a laminated neck. Hopefully that part will work out. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment if you wish!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Wait

After being so pumped up about getting my templates completed, I then found myself coming to a sudden halt. Now what do I do? I don't have any hardwood, I don't even have sufficient tools! I resorted to scouring the internet for good deals on tools and tone wood, but all that time searching really didn't do a lot of good because I didn't have the money to buy them anyway. Buying nice figured wood can get REALLY pricey. Finally, after about a month of searching, I found a piece of wood I just HAD to have. Yes, it was expensive, but I bit the bullet and bought it. (Note to all those young husbands out there...Ask your wives first before you do anything!) I bought a book-matched spalted maple drop top. SUPER pretty piece.

I'm afraid I don't have pictures of this piece unglued, sorry.

When it finally arrived from California, I took it out of the box and stared at it with a big smile. However, when I set the two halves side by side, I encountered a problem I didn't expect, perhaps I should have. I don't know. In any case, the two pieces weren't flush to each other. There was a nice big gap in the middle.

So, this is where "The Wait" comes in. I didn't really have any tool that could take care of this problem. So, in my storage room they sat. And sat. Then one day, I don't really know why, but I brought the pieces into work (I work at a college) to see if anyone on the Maintenance crew would have any ideas for me. My friend from church who also works with me, Bill, had the idea to introduce me to a guy in the wood working shop (!!!!!!!) and maybe he would show me how to use the jointer! So, after work we went down, met the guy, he showed me what to do and ....It worked! My two sides were now flush and ready to be glued!

As a side note (a very significant one), I now have access to that shop any time I want to use their equipment! SCORE! Now, I won't have to buy all my own tools right away in order to complete my project. So awesome.

Now, the gluing. Seems simple enough, right? Slap on some glue, clamp it up and forget it. Well, it was a little more complicated than that because my boards were a bit warped and needed to be flattened at the same time that they were being glued. I set up a simple solution that is better described in picture form so here it is:

I put a couple pieces of saran wrap in between the boards to keep the glue from binding to them. Once it was all set up, all that needed to be done was - more waiting. Twenty-four hours of drying just to be sure the glue was well cured. I had finished clamping at around midnight, so that of course meant that I needed to stay up till midnight the next night! :)

...and the result? Well... it was okay. Not quite as good as I had hoped. There was a lot of left over glue on both sides, and the two boards had raised portions in the middle where the boards bowed a little, but at least there was a tight bond! I asked my good friend and fellow guitar maker from what I should do about the glue and the bow, and his reply was quite simple. Orbital sander. So a couple days later I went to town on the thing and when I was done this was the REAL result!

Isn't it pretty! I cannot wait to see what it will look like with a clear coat! Those curls with pop right out.

Stay tuned for more updates to come. I actually have some catching up to do with my blogging as my progress in real-time is farther along.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Slow Start

So it begins. Well, kind of. At least the idea. I have always had the dream of building my own guitar someday, but I never thought it would actually happen. It seemed like there was too much involved and too many required skills I didn't have as well as a variety of tools that are way too expensive for a tight budget like mine. But still, the dream was there, so I would often find myself reading blogs like this one where people had posted their experience of making guitars. By doing so, I gained a lot of ideas and it showed me that it wasn't altogether impossible for me to do this.

The idea for this guitar began while I was at work. I took a post-it note and a pencil and sketched out a rough design. I really liked it and decided this is what I wanted my first guitar to look like. (I also toyed with some names.)

I was very exited about this of course and wanted to start right away. I didn't have any wood, but I found a large piece of masonite that my work allowed me to use. I took it home and decided to first make my templates which would be very useful, well essential actually. A good place to start. However, I was a little uneasy about this because I knew certain measurements need to be very precise. That's when I had the idea. I noticed my guitar looked very similar to a Les Paul and I took advantage of that. I went online and found a free template of a Les Paul guitar that I could print out. I had to use several pieces of paper and then taped them together to complete the full sized template. I then "modified" it to resemble my own design. By doing this, I knew that it would give me that guide that I needed.

Once I had that completed, I carefully traced the outline of the body onto the masonite I had acquired. I actually needed two identical templates for different uses so I fixed one masonite piece on top of another, before I traced the outline. Once that was done I proceeded to cut out the pattern using the scroll saw that my in-laws purchased for me at a yard sale (THANK YOU!) VERY tedious work, especially since I had only used the scroll saw for the first time that day. But it came out well. Some of the edges were a bit rough, so I took a flat file and smoothed them out a bit as well as using small drum sander attached to my cordless drill to work it until I was pleased.

Finally! I had accomplished the first step! It made me feel good knowing my project was actually under way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Soon To Come

I will be posting my progress as I work on my first guitar. Hope to post soon.