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Les Paul Style Guitar Build

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D_W

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sneaking time here and there....
20220114_055402.jpg


More push back and hollowing of the raised field at the edges before binding - on the fence about coloring the limba. If not, I think tortoise is a good binding choice instead of ivoroid. coloring the limba is a bit of a pain as the dyes that I have don't make it look that great and I know it looks wonderful by itself with buttonlac (but against the rosewood and the maple neck, maybe some clashing.

Will make some kind of travishing tool pair or pullable shave as most of this has been spokeshave and then card scraper. Evening out the side height and then adding binding on the top will help with the carve, but pushing the carve back a bit further before fairing the curves into the top would also make it easier to add the binding.

Pickup cavities just drilled and roughed with a chisel so far. Will finish them to size and then either gouge/chisel the inside or use a trim router to match the tip side of the cavity and leave a clean bottom - not sure yet. Looking at pickup cavities is a popular thing to determine workmanship in a guitar, but I can't get motivated about it being important.
 

D_W

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After a bunch of scraping and shaving while waiting on someone over lunch yesterday (work was to leave no free lunch this week, but thanks to waiting on other people, I got stranded a little, giving some time to work on this stuff and then a little more scraping last night, I've gotten off track a little on the shape after the first go around and figured there's no fighting it at this point, just make the lines look as nice as possible.

With most of the roughing done (binding will follow after I cut the neck pocket, which is fast approaching), I sanded some of the contours with coarse paper to consolidate and remove unexpectedly lumpy areas. the contour is similar around the body until you get far enough up on the lower bout that the sides tuck in, then it has to narrow proportionally. But I can see the way this looks, the bell that's left there is a bit out of place, and needs to be cut down. Next picture after this one shows why - but basically the issue is that there's a curved surface with a flat part above it, which is unnatural looking.

20220114_184917.jpg


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Looking from the side makes it a bit more obvious - the curvature is pretty even around the body, but the bridge will end up around where the top arrow is, and the combination of curve to large flat area is ugly. So the "hill" at the belly/bottom of the guitar needs to be shaved down Nothing really gets done to the top as the front is a flattish area where the fingerboard comes on and the pickups and bridge are in the middle and break up the look of the flat are. On a les paul, that are is nearly flat. On some chinese copies, I've seen the bell go up after the neck comes on flat with a dip in the middle. They look really terrible.

It'd be lovely to get the first one perfect but this kind of thing is how I like to work - see what you're doing so when you work out a method that works with your tools, you know what you're doing and why. It's not going to look terrible, just a different contour than I expected and no violin rout at the edges as the expanse is a bit too wide and shallow.

The edges look a bit uneven to the eye, but I'll fine them up just a bit before routing the binding channel.

Not being able to see the center joint is becoming a pain now that it's not flat!! each time I need to freshen the centerline I'm not totally sure, so I've notched the top on the back of the body - my only real observable part of the joint is the unmatched grain at the top of the neck pocket and that's going to be sawn/chopped out. I know people like to rout that with a template, but no thanks. Me and routers have a history of ruining things.

Leaning toward coloring the limba now and not the neck, and binding only on the top with ivoroid. I have keda dyes (they're aniline) but not premetallyzed or whatever you call the transtint types. I also have micronized pigments (which would be more of an opaque stain) and would rather use those, but can't locate the bags of them now as they're something I rarely use and i'm sure I put them in a box somewhere for fear that the bags would break. Micronized pigment isn't the kind of thing you want to drop.
 

the great waldo

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So, i did get some unexpected time mid day today waiting on someone else:

The excellent glue joint has come back to bite me. Can you find it? I didn't find it that easy, and after this had to get a steel straight edge and locate it in two points and make a mark. It's important at this point now for template alignment so that not too much screwing around is needed when fitting the neck. I don't want to measure alignment as it's a visual standard, but don't want to have strings going down the neck of the guitar with uneven relief from the edge on both sides.

View attachment 126768
It's not actually visble on the guitar in any part that will remain, and the light line on the right is just a track from thicknessing the top.

Certainly, it will be visible on the end? Not immediately apparent. But I found it later changing angles/light (on lighter woods, this always works more easily, but I guess not on rosewood.
View attachment 126769


For giggles I planed the front of the guitar down to a 4 degree neck angle (3.8 is the target - I have no way of measuring 3.8 vs. 4 other than kentucky windage.)

The templates that I have are for a router (I think). I really don't feel like using a router, so I gouged and then spokeshaved off to the first line and tried to visualize the profile of the curves that will follow. I need to do other things to the guitar before getting heavy into that but realized that I don't make these and while I put a few topographical marks on the guitar with a pencil, it would be very dumb to start going any further as I couldn't visualize what's actually on my other guitars (and they don't necessarily have the profile I want - newer guitars are flatter than the older guitars. I'm on the fence, but google will help out. Back to the holding tank for this stuff, though. Using the router templates would be wise and safe, but it would also be totally unstimulating. I want to cut this by hand, carving, scraping and planing. I'm not going build half a dozen of these things over the next year or two and cut them all with a router template - it's like going to the dentist and doesn't feel like woodworking. If the results turn out to be lumpy uneven doo, well, I made this choice. Imagine how nice this would be to carve in a wood 1/3rd as hard. At least rosewood works nicely for its hardness.

View attachment 126770

(much work will be done to take care near the edges to make them relatively even so that the binding doesn't end up going on wavy)

(from the picture above, I this is where the joint ended up being - I know it's in between two of the dark rings)

View attachment 126771
the joint looks like a couple of mm to the left of the red arrows!
Cheers
Andrew
 

D_W

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Indeed, it does, but it's actually in the light bits between the dark. To find it, I had to take two visible points elsewhere at the neck and pickup cavities and follow a starrett straight edge.
 

D_W

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An unexpected (sort of expected), and unwanted challenge arrives. The router base for the binding channel that goes around the top of the body is flat. There's a couple of different fixes available - a dremel tool that people describe as inaccurate (not sure I want to cut binding channels with a dremel tool, anyway - already blew the money on bearing bits that will cut a channel specifically for 1x6mm binding).

the other fix is some kind of trick thing that stew mac makes that puts the router on a linear rod with a rounded base (I had already thought of the second part but never considered confining the router to a linear movement range up and down to keep it perpendicular). Stew mac already pretty much doubles any chinese tool, and their little contraption to hold the router up with an addon plunge base is $400. No thanks. I wonder if there are repair people and luthiers who buy most of their stuff from S-M- if there are, they must be broke.

So, I need to turn something in the lathe that will fit on the bottom of my router and I'll judge vertical by eye (which may be a disaster for most, but I have a pretty good freehand sense of that stuff. Whatever goes on needs to seat on the top of the guitar reasonably well but not reach in so far that it will interfere with the top contour on the sides.

It would take me hours to mark (With a purfling gauge) and neatly cut the binding channel and any misstep would be permanently viewable (which is a bigger problem than the hours.....but I may do that, anyway - cut by hand instead of making a supplemental base for the router. )
 

Simo

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In case it's of interest.. here's a slightly more budget friendly alternative to the Stew Mac jig (shipping is from China)

 

Setch

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Looks like you've decided against tortoise bindings now, but if you do go that route, I'd recommend a narrow white/ivory strip inside the tortoise.

The the colour variation in tortoloid is very transparent in the light areas, so if you use it over a dark background like your RW it will look very plain, and not very "tortois-ey".
 
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Setch

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My solution for binding a LP was a simple base for the router to sit on, mounted on a block about 2 inches tall, bolted to the bench, with the router overhanging so you could pass the guitar over the router base.

Idiotically simple, but it worked. I think if you Google the Setchell carved top jig you might find someone's version of it. My blog where I documented it is long gone.
 

D_W

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In case it's of interest.. here's a slightly more budget friendly alternative to the Stew Mac jig (shipping is from China)


Thanks, simo. It looks like Elmer guitars pretty much copies half of the stuff on stew mac's site, but there's no guarantee that stew mac came up with all of it. I just did the binding channel by hand which will encourage me to not fo it again by hand as note I'll have some extra repair work to do and some recontouring of the outside to do to come back to the binding where the channel got a little deep.
 

D_W

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So, I did this by hand because I don't wake up to make router tools. It's generally good, but there are a couple areas of wander that may force a darker finish for the back wood. Ultimately, I'm not satisfied with the result but I'm happy with myself for being willing to experiment .
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Sorry, I didn't get pictures of the bad areas, but will show them after I get the binding on, which won't be until after the neck pocket is cut so that i can flush the cutaway joint with the neck.
 

D_W

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I cut that with one of my paring chisels. The effort to make those as well as possible paid off. They were totally indifferent about paring the rosewood. Paring marks removed then with a safe edge file that I use to make chisels.
 

rwillett

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Utterly wonderful.

If you fancy shipping it to the UK for a while (10-20 years?), I'll give it a good test and check it all works. There is no charge for this service. After this time, I might even be able to play well enough to do this justice.

Thanks

rob
 

thetyreman

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can you show us the purfling tool you used for this? I'd be interested in seeing how it's done.
 

D_W

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can you show us the purfling tool you used for this? I'd be interested in seeing how it's done.

I'll take a picture - you'll be unimpressed!

The pictures of the edge shown are better than some of the other ratty areas in tight curves, but I have some material to move those back and do them a little better.

This guitar is teaching me a bit of a lesson - but the hope in the end is even if I "learn a lot from it" (as in, there's ratty things, or bits I had to do twice)....that I'll...learn a lot from it. I can't ever make one of something and the magic of making 6 is that by number 3, you're making twice as fast (even by hand) and the rework is a small fraction.

(I think the trim router and fixtures to do this is far more practical as once everything is lined up, you get a perfect little slot with very little damage to fix and the bearing on the router makes the channel just the right depth whereas I should've probably taken a break somewhere in the middle of this.
 

D_W

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Utterly wonderful.

If you fancy shipping it to the UK for a while (10-20 years?), I'll give it a good test and check it all works. There is no charge for this service. After this time, I might even be able to play well enough to do this justice.

Thanks

rob

By the time I'm done, it may take rubber cement to hold it all together!! But no worries, I'm not a good player, either. Played in a cover band in high school, but the bar is pretty low - and was back then. Classic rock was attainable and the biggest thing is have a good charismatic singer (We did...definitely not me), learn the parts and don't stop playing. Now, I have guitars I should absolutely not have at my playing level (a collings CL deluxe is perhaps the most wonderfully made production guitar I've ever seen with the little bits that make makers woo - like the ability to remain perfectly straight for 15 years with no sign of movement anywhere on the entire guitar....).

Maybe the biggest statement is that I can easily make a guitar that doesn't limit my playing even though it's not going to be nearly as good as a collings!
 

D_W

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20220117_161344_copy_2016x980.jpg
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The group of tools (I did use an incannel gouge for some inside curves, but forgot to show it here, that's a bit risky as the rosewood is much harder than the limba and cutting a thumbnail of limba out would be easy).

The little plane shown works a treat, but I would need two along with another in short radius for the cutaway. Limba in this case is less forgiving as that plane goes by on the rosewood as it can push fibers to the side and past the lower mark.

The process is just to mark lines on the side and top reasonably deeply - same issue on the inside curve appears - no matter how small your marking gauge, it needs to have a radiused face. Years ago, I bought a mini wheel gauge from LV and then after getting that and the shoulder plane thought "how dumb am I to be buying these trinkets?"

put it away, and then yesterday, remembered that I had it and brought it out and ground it (rounded in one dimension so it fits the inside curves). It works OK - for that job, you just need something that works Ok.

I'm on the fence between making some little planes like the one shown, though, a set of four - two regular ones and two tight radius, left and right with nickers and a fall away fence. It wouldn't take long and much of the work here would be eliminated.

The pricey router setup would be better in terms of speed, but this little plane was enjoyable to use - it just wasn't quite as clean as paring close (across the the guitar, not down from the top toward the back- you'll overcut something sooner or later and if you fence the chisel with your fingers and it's sharp, you can pare very cleanly and then use a safe edge file.

Long story short, it was an adventure in just fetching stuff and seeing if it would work. the paring chisel worked the best. as you can pare the groove and then slowly move over to the marked line.
 
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D_W

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It's all turning into a little bit of a mess with misfit things - the tenon isn't as tight as I'd like on the surfaces end to end (so I think I will solve that by laminating a shim to the part that's a bit narrow and working back to snug), the fit of the neck heel isn't that great, but it's OK, and the binding channel is a mess in places.

Thanks to not thinking bout the templates, I used the templates blindly for the neck and they are done to a 5 degree neck angle. I want something lower, and combined with not quite as need as needed work on the top part of the guitar where the heel meets, I had to move the shoulder of the neck back about a tenth to get a flush fit all the way around.

At that point, I laid my neck out and measured it and where the nut was was at 24.65 inches. I thought "great, it's probably a 24 5/8" template set, because there aren't many 24.75" neck les pauls.

Nope -24.75. I left some squish room at the top of the neck blank (it's still fat all over and I think that won't be a problem, though. We'll see. The worse the mistakes get, the darker the finish :)

I was aiming for 3.8 degrees with no particular thoughts about accuracy, though, and the top slope of the body is ....a tiny hair under 4 - that's at least a good result.
 

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D_W

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Looks like you've decided against tortoise bindings now, but if you do go that route, I'd recommend a narrow white/ivory strip inside the tortoise.

The the colour variation in tortoloid is very transparent in the light areas, so if you use it over a dark background like your RW it will look very plain, and not very "tortois-ey".

I think I may not have responded to this. I agree with what you say - you lose the effect of the binding if it's too close to the guitar color, and the pattern itself gets diluted. that's part of the draw to some extent, and I realize that's not general taste.

I lulled myself into thinking this would be easier to do mostly by hand than it is (fenders were never made to be done mostly by hand, but there's generally something flat to reference in them and binding the slab top even with just a paint remover gun, acetone and celluloid is pretty easy.

I'm not going to react to this by not doing it by hand again the next time even though that would be the smart thing - after failing to make the binding channel as neat and even depth, I'm more apt to take on the challenge of making hand tools that will assist. famous last words.."it can't be that hard to figure it out".

I had a contract made USA dean guitar at one point - one that was sort of a copy of the PRS double cut design. I found it interesting that they bound nothing on the guitar....

it had an ebony fingerboard and it took me only about 8 years to notice that the fingerboard was actually bound. This was before I ever built guitars, but you can hide fret slots without binding pretty easily on ebony if you want to...that's my defense, at least. It had black binding so neatly done that it was hard to see.
 

D_W

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I experimented with something yesterday that I don't figure most would be comfortable with, but after cleaning up the cutaway area (it was already a bit fat of the template, and the binding channel cutting was worst there, so I used the OSS and cleaned up most of the channel and recut it).

But then, I realized that I have a right angle battery die grinder (which seems to me to just be a battery powered VS router in drill form.

I realized that I can actually cut shy of the bottom mark freehand with the bearing bit. I don't think most people would be comfortable with this, as there's no depth stop. Then, thinking this morning, I figured I could clamp a depth stick to the side of the die grinder and round its profile a little bit so that it won't contact the carved top in from the edge.

I suppose that some may place this bit onto a guitar and lose control of it , and obviously, eye protection is needed. The operation is two handed by necessity for accuracy and control, so there's probably not any personal danger.

I'll fashion a depth stick later today and see how it works on a test piece (this guitar already has a binding channel that's cut a bit deep, so nothing is needed - but that will create extra work contouring the body sides back to the binding when it would be nice to have things very slightly the other way (the binding channel more accurately cut and just proud of the guitar sides so that the binding can be scraped back after affixed.

This type of experimentation is a large part of the fun for me.


(This is the "die grinder". It's surprisingly good, extremely strong, and not cheap - about $100 just for a bare tool, but it has decent speed control plus four ranges topping out at 10k through 24k rpm. The binding channel bit takes such a small amount out that I didn't even feel the bit trying to do anything untoward on a climb cut just faffing freehand, and then used it freehand to cut near the line on *rosewood* inside the cutaway with no issue. Without anything other than the bit, though, you have to have a careful hand so as not to cut past the line and not let the thing wander off the side of the guitar, and then you still have to pare to the depth mark.

with a stick on the side of the die grinder, no mark will be needed at all, and as much as I'd like to cut everything possible by hand, too much handwork after cutting the binding channel may leave the sides of the guitar looking less good - care will be needed to make sure that the recontouring, even though it's a very small amount - like a fraction of a mm doesn't leave marks.

Neck is fit and cut to size width wise, so next thing to do is bind the body and prep for making the fingerboard and shaping the neck. Neck fit seems decent - we'll se how close it ends up being to straight (Center line all in place and not oddball string or pole piece issues like you can find on a gibson where the strings can be off to one side of the neck and or not over the pole pieces on the pickups).
 
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