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Thread: Guitar building

  1. #1
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    Default Guitar building

    I had a big long first post mostly typed up when my phone decided that was silly and lost it all so I'll keep this a little brief and explain more as i update.

    I've got the guitar building bug. I plan to do my first full scratch build soon but for now I'm building a fanned fret neck for one of my Guitars. Each fret will be angled aside from the ninth so it'll hopefully be more comfortable to play. Here's the progress pics so far as i just started.



    Here's the fret board i plan to use. It's plain maple but the grain patterns going on are insanely nice. You can see a bit of it here. It'll look even better when it's oiled and waxed at the end so the grain really pops. Assuming i don't screw up the whole thing of course.


    This is the neck blank I'm going to use. Also maple with some birdseye figuring in it. Not the most amazing board ever but looks nice enough for use on my own guitar. If it were something i was going to sell I'd want something with more figuring.


    Here's the template i made up for the fret layout. After i triple check the measurements I'll cut it out to lay it all out on the board. I screwed up and made it slightly too short but i can lay out the last few frets on the board now that i have my process worked out. Each fret is marked accurately to within half a millimeter. Not sure you could get more accurate without doing it by machine.

    That's it for now. I'd like to start getting the fret board slotted and maybe start to sand it tomorrow. Still waiting on some hardware but i can get that part finished for now at least.
    Last edited by Slothy; 03-11-2016 at 10:21 PM.

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     Master of the Fork Cid's Knight Freya's Avatar
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    ooooooo i'm interested in seeing your process!

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    Taking care of business Cid's Knight Bubba's Avatar
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    This has me very, very excited. I'd love to do a project like this with James when he's old enough. Give us regular updates!

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    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    There will definitely be regular updates. No worries there. There are only two parts I think will be very difficult (aside from making sure the depth of the fret slots is good and they're right where they need to be. I'll be measuring a million times and cutting once): making sure the neck heel is the right size for the pocket in the body and cutting the truss rod channel. I'm planning to get a router to make both a lot easier but I'll do a lot of test cuts first to practice. Might even buy some more wood to practice on. I've already got a four foot maple board to practice construction techniques on, but you can never have too much practice.

    Even if they're not bang on it's not the end of the world. It's a bolt on neck so I can shim it and you can help fix the truss rod in the slot by siliconing it in, but I would prefer to be able to get it perfectly. This is actually what I want to do for a living so money allowing I'm going to hold myself to some insanely high standards as I go.

    And I completely support doing this with your son someday if he's interested Bubba. Maybe make him a nice 3/4 scale guitar when he's still a youngin'. If my girlfriend weren't so damn set on learning on her full size acoustic I'd actually make her a 3/4 electric. Not because she's a girl or anything though, she's just 5'1" and has tiny hands. I can barely stretch for some things right now (I'm still very much a beginner guitar player) and my hands are huge by comparison. Not sure how she'll manage as she improves. Mind you, my issues with my left wrist don't help. Hence why I'm making a fanned fret. They're supposed to be easier on the wrist and those days where my wrist is really acting up I'll have something I can play comfortably.

    PS: apologies to any non-guitar players who are confused by any of this terminology. I'll be explaining it all and the anatomy of a guitar neck as I go so don't think you'll be lost every time I make progress.

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    Actual cannibal Pheesh's Avatar
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    This is pretty cool. I'll be interested in seeing how it turns out. Maple is probably the most comfortable wood to play on, even if it's never been my favourite to look at. So will the neck be one piece without any top for the fretboard?

    I don't know too much about guitar making so this might be a dumb question, but on that sketch of the neck why are their only 19 frets, are you wanting to make it a smaller scale than usual? Also, the frets don't seem to get as small as I would expect way up at the base of the neck. Usually after about the 12 fret I'm used to seeing the frets get pretty small, but it could just be the angle of that picture making it seem like there's not too much difference between the 1 and the 18.

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    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    I'm doing the neck and fretboard as two pieces. Les Paul style as opposed to typical Fender maple neck style. It's just going to be a lot easier than trying to make the filler strip for the back of the neck with the tools I have at hand.

    And yeah, I think I mentioned somewhere that I made the sketch too small so I only made it to fret 19 on there. I'm going to do 21 minimum. 22 if there's enough room on the fretboard I have while angling these things. And I'm going to check my measurements a few more times tomorrow just to be on the safe side, but I think part of the reason the lower frets look pretty big is a combination of factors. The angle makes everything look a bit strange, and it's thin pencil marks on bristol board right now as opposed to actual frets which would be wider and close that gap a bit. There's also not much there for size reference making the whole thing look huge in the picture. Up close and personal it looks closer to normal.

    Plus the scale length is fairly long. 27.8 inches on the bass side and the standard Fender 25.5 inches on the treble side. Like I said, I'll be checking my measurements multiple times just to be safe though. I made a few mistakes while laying this out at first that I had to go back and correct and I'm a big believer in the mythbusters motto that failure is always an option so I don't count errors as being out of the realm of possibility until I've verified my measurements plenty of times. Measure twice and cut once is for professionals. We amateurs measure at least five or six times.

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    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    So I actually did make an error in the way I was measuring on my template that didn't occur to me until this morning. Not sure if it resulted in an error in the overall placement of the frets, but I figured if I was going to have to do the work of redoing it all again to be on the safe side I'd just lay everything out right on the fret board.



    So there we have the fretboard all nice and laid out on the kitchen table. I will say that laying out a multiscale like this is a pain in the ass to do by hand. Someday I'd like to have a small CNC machine to do this trout for me. Fewer headaches and less stress over wondering if you're going to smurf it all up.



    That out of the way I took it downstairs to my workshop (bedroom). Clamped it to this shelving unit I have for storing tools and things in and proceeded to carefully score the wood with the utility knife here before starting the cuts with my fretting saw. Not to be confused with a fret saw that is an actual completely different tool that has nothing to do with cutting fret slots for guitars.



    And here I have the fret slots started on the board. I'm waiting on the fret wire I ordered for this to arrive so I didn't go deeper than necessary to get the slots started. I'll cut them to their final depth once the wire is in hand. This is yet another part made harder by going with a fanned fret neck. I had to be very careful to start these slots straight. On a traditional neck you could use a miter box made for slotting fret boards since it's just a straight cut across the board rather than angled. This had to be free handed which I've never really done before. Taking it slow is your friend here, and I very carefully used the saw to cut into the scoring marks I made with the knife. All told the layout took me probably an hour and the cuts took me maybe 20 minutes. Those were some of the most stressful 20 minutes I've had in a while.

    There are a couple of spots where the saw started at kind of a bad angle as I got the hang of things and I had to correct. Luckily the will be sanded down to give it the proper curve I desire and none of those mistakes were too deep so they should come right out in the end. I'd like to sit down and trim the sides of the board so it's a little larger than its final size later (it'll get sanded down the rest of the way once it's on the neck so their edges will be flush). If I get the chance I'll try to start laying out the neck shape on the blank tomorrow, but I'll be at my girlfriends most of the day so we'll see if I get to it.

    For the times I don't have much to update though because I've had little time or I'm waiting on parts, etc. I have been fixing up a guitar for a friend for a while now so I may throw in some pics and updates on that as I finish it up here.
    Last edited by Slothy; 03-12-2016 at 06:44 PM.

  8. #8

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    YES! Awesome project. I don't think I've ever seen an angled fretboard! I must've been living underneath a rock :0

  9. #9
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    Fanned fret Guitars are becoming more popular in the last couple of years from what i can tell, but they're still pretty niche. Ibanez is the only major manufacturer that comes to mind that produces any right now, but they don't do any 6 string versions. Supposedly they intonate better but the main reason i want to try one is because they're supposed to be more ergonomic and easier on the wrist. We'll see in the end i suppose. Wrist case scenario i still have two standard Guitars and have gained a bunch of experience.

    It's late tonight so i didn't get a ton of stuff done but I've started laying out the template I'll use to rough cut the shape of the neck. Tomorrow I'll take exact measurements of the neck pocket on the guitar body and work on exactly where it will be positioned. It's worth taking my time here since i need a thought fit and that neck needs to be dead straight.


  10. #10
    Actual cannibal Pheesh's Avatar
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    What radius will you be going for on your neck?

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    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    I was planning on 16" I think. I want more of a shredding style thin neck out of this. Plus I have a telecaster and an epiphone les paul already so I've got 9.5" and 12" radii already. Might as well add something different.

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    Actual cannibal Pheesh's Avatar
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    Sounds good. Should be an extremely player friendly guitar. And even though the neck and fretboard are in two pieces you are doing both in maple, correct?

  13. #13
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    I am indeed. One of the nice things about living in eastern North America is quality maple is easy to come by at low prices.

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    Taking care of business Cid's Knight Bubba's Avatar
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    I watched a video of someone making a guitar on Youtube yesterday and damn does it look complicated.

  15. #15
    Slothstronaut Slothy's Avatar
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    There are definitely a lot of steps. And if you're doing it often you'll end up making some complicated jigs to streamline things.

    But i don't think it's out of the realm of an amateur builder to accomplish. It just requires a lot of planning, patience and care. I've actually seen at least one guy build a les paul with nothing but hand tools. There were no complicated jigs to speak of and not a power tool in sight. One of the more impressive things I've ever seen. Not sure I'd have the ability to tackle a set neck like that with hand tools just yet.

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