Friday, December 30, 2011

One Piece Neck Project

Thanks to the cold and dreary weather here in Ohio, I've had to lay off of the clear coating for the last couple of weeks. I have still been able to apply shellac to the Red Special body and neck. Largely because I have either been brushing it on the body or French polishing the fret-board. I have had to refrain from spraying the Strat and Tele bodies, since the smell is just too strong for indoors.

Instead, I've turned my attention to constructing the necks for the next few builds that I am planning for 2012. The photo above is of a bloodwood blank that I cut today. The photo does not do the figuring on this piece of wood justice. This will be my first attempt at a one-piece neck. It is about 1 1/8 inch thick - which will be perfect this project. I've cut out the basic shape and will route the truss rod channel soon. (I know, I probably should have routed the truss rod channel first - a mistake on my part? Perhaps, it certainly would have been easier that way.)

I also had enough Bloodwood left over that I should be able to use it ti make an interesting pick guard.

For those not familiar with the one piece necks, the fret-board and the neck are just that - one piece. While the truss rod channel is routed through the back of the neck and plugged with a contrasting wood. In this case I will probably opt for maple. This plug is often referred to as a skunk stripe. You can see this on the back of many Fender maple necks.

By the way, the Purple Heart that the neck blank is laying on will be two more necks. One of them will eventually end up on the Firebird project that I have been neglecting these last few months - my third attempt.


When I started this blog I promised to document my success as well as my mistakes. Well, here's a pretty big mistake on my part - measuring shellac flakes. The first few times that I mixed up shellac I planned on mixing a 1 or 2 pound cut. I measured out my out my alcohol, 8oz., and then I measured my shellac flakes, 1oz. for a 1 pound cut or 2oz for a two pound cut. Then I mixed it in a mason jar.

Here's the obvious thing that is not printed on the instructions label - you are suppose to measure the shellac flakes by weight... I measured it by volume, using the same little measuring cup that I used for the alcohol. So that 2 pound cut was in actuality about a 3/4 pound cut.

In the above photo on the left is what I though was a 4 pound cut of shellac that I mixed up last week, making it the same way that I had the previous few times. On the right is an actual 4 pound mixture that I did this week the proper way using a scale to measure the weight of the flakes. Notice the difference?

All is not lost though, the mixture on the left is about a 1.5 pound cut and I'll be able to use it.

On a side note, when I mixed the 4 pound cut (4oz. of shellac flakes and 8oz. of alcohol) the shellac and the alcohol looked like they were almost equal in volume. I had my doubts about whether I had mixed it properly. I really didn't think the shellac was going to dissolve. I shook the jar, placed it in warm water and then placed it under a lamp. After about 30 minutes about half of the shellac had dissolved. A few hours later there was still a large amount of shellac at the bottom of the jar. But by the next morning it had completely dissolved.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Carved Tele

Not much to add here. Just a couple of new photos. The shellac spraying method worked amazingly well. No bleeding or running of the dyes at all. A couple more coats, then I'll sand with 320 grit. Then spray a couple more coats before I move on to lacquer.

The Red Special Shellac

Above are photos of the Red Special after I used the spray method instead of French Polish. The shellac sprayed on smoothly. There was a slight bit of running around the edges. I sanded those spots. Very carefully re-applied the shellac, using a very direct method of French Polish only on a couple small spots. I then sprayed several coats of shellac.

Yes, I removed the frets from the fretboard and started all over again. I wasn't happy with the way the spraying of the shellac was turning out. I also didn't care for the way the frets were sitting. On the fretboard, I started again with  the French Polish method. Since the fretboard is maple only, I don't have to worry about the problems with bleeding and running that I had on the body.

* These photos are all taken with my iPhone. While the quality is descent, I will need to switch to a professional SLR in the future.

Shellac bleeding


Several months ago when I first tried French Polishing I ran into trouble with the alcohol in the shellac causing what I referred to as a bleeding affect. This essentially lifted the dye out of the wood and caused a swirling affect. So French Polishing ended up not being an option on the dyed bodies.

This problem also resurfaced last week when I attempted to French Polish the Red Special body. Since I wasn't using a dye on the wood, I thought the bleeding problem wouldn't pop up. But as it turns out the the alcohol in the shellac had the same effect. The red from the Padauk was lifting and running into the maple. It's faint but you can see it in the top two photos.
According to the Wikipedia entry for Padauk "Most Pterocarpus [Padauk] woods contain either water- or alcohol-soluble substances and can be used as dyes."

I switched to a spray method in an attempt to avoid this problem. This worked wonders on the Red Special and the Tele body. However, the Strat still has issues. Instead of the swirling, this time I encountered a bubbling effect. I'm pretty sure that this is being caused by the spray spitting. So, I re-sanded the top (yet again) and re-sprayed. And yet I am still seeing the same effect.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Red Special final sanding

Today, I did the final sanding on the Red Special body. Started with 80 grit taking out any deep scratches or gouges. Broke the sharp edges to a more rounded feel. Proceed through 120 and 150 grit. Then ended with 220 grit. One of the problems with using Padauk and a light Maple or an Ash is that the saw dust will get stain the lighter wood. So extra care is necessary when sanding a body like this.

The next step will be to shellac the body. Because no actual stain was used in this build, I'll try the french polish technique.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reverse Strat and Tele Staining

I've stained the Strat and Tele bodies. I've opted for a red sun-burst on the Tele and a simple blue on the Reverse Strat. The sides on both bodies are stained black. On the Tele body, I worked amber dye into the center and red between the amber and the black. The next step will be to spray a couple coats of shellac.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fret work

Today, I worked on two of my neck projects. The top one for the Red Special and the bottom one for the carved tele. I set my frets into place. I've learned a few valuable lessons here.
1. Over radius the frets before fitting them. The fret boards on both of these necks are radiused at 16 inches. When hammering the frets into place they flatten out. On the maple fret board I bent the frets to exactly 16 inches. On the ebony fret board I bent the frets to a tighter radius. When I hammered them they flattened into place.
2. I am planning to put a shellac on the maple fret board to protect it. I'm still undecided on the best approach for future necks. But here I decided to shellac the neck after setting the frets. In the future, I'll try shellacking the neck before I set the frets.
3. I start hammering each fret from center and working slowly towards the edge. (By hammering I really mean a gentle tapping. remember these are not nails but a much softer metal.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Today, I worked on the fret board for the Red Special, sanding the 18" radius to 400 grit. sorry, no pictures. it really wouldn't look all that different from the last images. I'm debating putting a thin coat of shellac on fret board. Something similar to what Fender does with most of their maple fret boards. I'm worried that if I just leave it bare, the fret board will discolor too easily. Where as with the finish, it will take longer for it to get that more vintage well played look. I just have to find out if I shoul rub the shellac on first, and then put the frets on, or the other way around.

In additions to working on the neck I;ve also, sanded the sides of the Red Special smooth. taking out all the band saw marks.

On a different front I got back to work on the Reverse Strat and the Carved Tele bodies. I sand off all of the excess grain filler an put on the first stain coats. They are a combination of Black and the likely base color. Red on the Tele and Blue on the Strat. The Tele is looking a bit more purple than I was hoping, Will see if that looks any different after my first sanding. The reason for staining and then sanding that first stain to help bring out a more 3-D look to the grain. The first coat gets absorbed more along the grain lines than the rest of the wood. At least that's what I've read somewhere on the interwebs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Patrician Restoration Photos

Just catching up on some old restoration photos. I used epoxy to fill the three cracks on the back and to fill a small gouged hole on the front. I mixed the epoxy with with mahogany sawdust to match the color of the wood. I then sanded off the excess epoxy after it dried. I also glued a cracked f-hole using Titebond wood glue and a clamp. I sanded the body smooth to 220 grit. The grain is filled. Then sanded and wiped clean. After removing the frets and the inlay blocks I sanded the fretboard with a 12 inch radius block to 1000 grit. The shine on the fretboard is thanks to wiping it down with mineral spirits. The body is being finished with several layers of Shellac.

Up next I will try to tend to the fretboard, adding jumbo frets.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Red Special Progress

Time to drill the holes for the DPDT switches - six of them. I started by carefully measuring the spots on a piece of paper for each switch and the angle that they would be cut at. I ran a test on a thin piece mahogany. (I'll use this test piece again later when I solder the switches before placing them in the body.)

I tape the paper to the top of the body. First drilling a small hole through the top. I then follow with a 6mm brad point bit, carefully lining the bit up with the hole.

I fit the switches, the pots and the output jack to see just how this will look once I'm down.

A view from the top of how the switches, the pots and the output jacks will look.

Next, I move onto the rear electronics cavity cover. I will use a piece of padouk picked out to match the front of the body. I found this 3/4 inch piece with a nice figure.

Using the bandsaw I carefully re-saw off a 5mm thick piece of padouk. I then cut a rough shape to match the opening.

I then cut a rough shape to match the opening.

After carefully shaving off excess wood, I end up with a nice fit. I'll still need sand the edges smooth and drill the holes for the screws.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Red Special

Very productive day, three pickup cavities, and the output jack have been routed, holes for the bridge post have been drilled. I've started reconsidering using a single concentric volume and tone pot. I may instead opt for the traditional separate pots.

The second photo is to help me see what this will look like once completed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Neck Pain Relief

So after simplifying the routing jig, I discovered solution to my inability to route a clean straight line. In this jig, I clamp the neck into place and use a guide on only one side. It took about 5 or six passes to route to the proper depth of about 9mm. This new neck blank is made of curly maple and will likely be a replacement for the Firebird neck that I have been working on. In the background is the Red Special I have been working on.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pain in the Neck

So, I'm having trouble routing the truss rod channels on my necks. The issue is that I am having problem routing a straight and clean channel. In my latest attempts I have switched from using the router braced in place on a table to using a jig that keeps the router straight. The jig is an improvement, but just not clean enough yet. Since I am making several passes, the neck blanks have a tendency to slip slightly. I will probably move onto a different version of his same type of jig.

The Red Special Latest Update

I've made a great deal of progress in the last week on my Red Special. The neck pocket has been routed, the abalone dots have been inlayed, the face and back of the body have been sanded to 120 grit, the neck now has a rough profile and has been sanded to 120 grit.