Sunday, April 29, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - more fret work

More fret work photos:
I taped off the fretboard before leveling, and polishing the frets. Here you can see one of the professional tools that I used for polishing the frets - a beauticians buffing block. (What? Beauticians are professionals.) 

This is my first fretboard that I've leveled the frets on. I'm eager to finish this up, just so I can see how I did. I'm sure I've got a great deal more to learn about fret work. Just hoping this is a good start.

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - Frets

I have just a little over two weeks left on this challenge, and I still need to get started on the finishing and clear coating. This weekend I'm making a very important step in that direction - Fret work. After posting a question on the Telecaster forum, I've decided to seat and level the frets before applying a finish to the neck. Yes, I thought the other way around seemed more practical, but it turns out that it isn't. So this weekend I'm doing fret work.

First I bent the frets using my home-made fret bender (not as pretty as the $90 fret bender from Stew-Mac, but constructed for less than $10.) I over bent the frets to about a 12 inch radius instead of a 14 inch. Hammering will flatten the frets out, so the little extra bend is to make up for that hammering.

Then, I cut my frets to size (surprised that the guitar supply companies haven't created a handy-dandy fret organized with holes for each fret priced at $49.99 yet.) and prepped for hammering.

Followed by hammering the frets into place.

I lost a good bit of time yesterday due to a headache, but returned to fret work in the evening (no photos yet). I cut off the excess fret-wire from the sides of the neck. Filed the edges down and filed them to a 30° angle. I taped off the fretboard, leveled it with 320 grit on and sanding block, then started cleaning and polishing the frets.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - three days of work

Sanded the body through 220 grit. I still need to clean up the sides around the neck contours. The body is almost ready for finishing. 

Back to working on the neck. First I marked off the contours for the shaping of the back of the neck.

Cut off about 1/8" of excess wood.

Started the basic shaping of the profile at both the base of the neck and behind the 1st fret, used mainly the shredder and heavy rasp to take off most of the wood and get to a really rough shape. Followed that with a fine rasp. I tried using the scrapper at one point, but I quickly discovered that the figuring of the wood didn't care for this method. It was a little too jagged.

After I got the neck to the profile I wanted, I moved on to 120, 220 and finally 320 grit sand paper. The neck is now ready for finishing.

I cut the slot for the nut, just behind the zero fret.

I cut the slot for the 4-way pickup selector and drilled the hole for the 2-cap tone switch.

Used the Dremel with a 1.6mm grout cutter bit to cut my straight line. I had to practice on scrap wood a couple of times just to get use to using it.

Then I drilled the holes for the bolt on neck.

After bolting on the neck, it was time to position the bridge and the vibrato. I used a string attached to both E-strings and an old nut that I won't be using on this build to help line up the strings over the fretboard.

After getting the bridge and vibrato attached I couldn't resist attaching the E-strings, just to check the over-all height. 

I will need to do some adjustments after I install the frets and the nut. I'm a little concerned about the string height. It seems a little high with the thumb rollers at their lowest point and a little low with out them. But that shouldn't be a big deal in the end.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - Routing neck pocket and pickup cavities

Yesterday I started work on the neck pocket. First I built a jig. Carefully lining up the neck withthe center line and then fastening two boards to either side. I cut a special board to fit at the base of the neck and drove a screw into the body of the guitar where the front pickup will be.

I made several passes with the plane parallel to the body. However, I still needed to route for the (what I thought should be) 3°- 4° angle. I place two smaller boards on either side of the neck pocket with a half inch board about 7 inches back. This gave me just under 4°. After I checked this with the bridge. I discovered that 4° was too much of angle. I then moved the half inch board back to about 14 inches, and re-routed the pocket. This gave me a 2° angle. Which turned out much better. (Although the neck is sitting about a 1/16 of an inch lower than I would have liked it - but I can live with that.) Once the nut is in I should be able to adjust the string height lower than in the photo below.

A note about geometry - had my high school geometry teacher back in 1984 used guitar building to teach us, I might have paid closer attention. The equation used to find the distance the half inch board need to be at was TanA = a/b. A=2°, a=.5inches, solve for b. I know the equation on the graph paper is for a 1.5° angle. I decided against going that far.

After I finally got the neck to the right height, I moved on to the pickups. First I routed the front pickup using a home made template. For the bridge pickup I needed to attache the neck and measure the distance of the saddle of the bridge from the zero fret, 25inches.

After routing the neck pocket and pickup cavities, I cut the body shape. Then I started sanding the sides. Here is the side view. I'm liking the mahogany veneer.

I then drilled the 7/8 of an inch hole for the output jack.

A note about the GFS Xtrem Vibrato - it's not a direct mount. The saddles sit about a 1/4 inch to close to the neck. In order to compensate for this I moved the neck about 1/8 of an inch out of the body and the bridge about 1/8 of an inch back. Also, the GFS website recommends angling the neck 2.5° - 3°. Actually 1.5° - 2° is probably better. I originally tried a 4°, because I thought the bridge would be identical to the locking roller bridge from Stew Mac. There is a difference in string height that I had not expected. Since this is a new build this wasn't much of an issue. As a replacement bridge this would likely require some modification to work.

Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - cutting the shape

The top and the back glued up much better than I expected. I was surprised by how tight the seems turned out. So tonight I cut the blank to the shape of the Tele, with the exception of the top. I've decided to wait until I've routed the neck pocket. It seems like it will be easier to line the neck up that way.

The thin mahogany veneer has turned out just as I had hoped. It was difficult to deal with when gluing it to the edged of each piece. I was worried that I would end up with gaps.

Before I can route the neck I need to line up the position of the bridge. I'll measure this again before I do any routing. The scale is 25 inches and if I've measured the neck properly, I'll have 7 1/8 of an inch from the heel to the saddle of the high e-string. I'll go over this in my head again and again before I pick up the router in Wednesday morning. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - cat's eye sound hole and gluing the top

This weekend, I worked on the cat's eye sound hole (decided against the traditional f-hole), routed the top thinner for the electronics cavity and glued the curly maple top to the maple back.

To cut the sound hole, I started by using various sized drill bits. I then moved onto a coping saw for a rough cut. And followed that with a file and sand-paper to smooth out the edges.

The top is 3/8" thick. In order for the electronics to fit properly, I needed to route the top thinner. I will be using a single concentric volume and tone pot, however I haven't decided on the switch configuration yet. I'm leaning towards a four-way as well as two capacitor tone switch. We'll see what I can pull off.

Before gluing the top to the back, I thought it might be a good idea to add a signature visible through the sound hole.

I also thought it might be fun to put a note inside the top front cavity. Since there is no opening this not will hopefully never be read by anyone again. 

I also decided to add an homage to Woody Guthrie, written backwards under the sound hole. Now if anyone uses a dentist's mirror to inspect this chamber they will see this instrument's intended purpose.

I glued the top onto the back, and let it sit over night.

I added the obligatory extra weights to help with the gluing process.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 TDPRI Tele Build Challenge - routing interior cavities

I started routing the interior cavities of the Tele today. First I created some Swiss Cheese, using three different drill bits on the drill press. I drilled dozens of holes to remove as much wood as possible.

Here's the finished Swiss Cheese.
After finishing the drilling and creating a great deal sawdust, I started freehand routing the interior. I did use a straight edge on the interior lines.

Next up, I'll route channels for the wiring between the pickups, and start working on the top - cutting an f-hole and drilling the holes for switches and pots.