Walnut body build

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Rich Rice, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    This thread is intended to give a little insight into the construction of a semi hollow electric guitar body. It is my hope that it will inspire some of you to try to build your own, and heighten awareness of the art of lutherie. There will be many detailed pictures, and I hope you enjoy it. This instrument is not for sale.

    I found a rough walnut plank that I really liked, and bought a 3 foot section of it. After a bit of block sanding on the face, it looked like this:


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    It had really cool end grain, too.

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    I cut it roughly in half, and squared up the edges on a jointer. I had not planned on doing this thread at that point, thus have no pictures of that operation.

    Once I had determined the orientation of the two halves (for the prettiest grain pattern), I glued and clamped the two pieces together and left them to dry overnight.

    The following day, I removed the clamps and inspected the new "blank". So far, so good...

    [​IMG]




    This is where it sits right now, I will post more as things move along.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. gkoelling

    gkoelling Member

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    This is going to be very interesting!

    I understand making it a semi-hollow. Isn't walnut fairly heavy?

    Tele-style?

    Have you decided on hardware, finish, neck, etc.?

    Thanks for sharing. I'm sure it'll take longer having to stop for pics regularly.
     
  3. kizzt

    kizzt Member

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    One of my all-time wishlist items is a walnut topped 335 - i bet this axe will sound sweet!
    To echo gkoelling's sentiments, which shape?
    Also, what is the mark on the bottom-most slab?
     
  4. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    I'll do my best to answer your questions, many of them will be answered as the build continues. Please bear in mind that these are my methods, and everything is done differently by different folks.

    This will be a T style, more hollow than a Thinline. It is to be used mainly for jazz, a dark, lively, mellow sound is the goal.

    Walnut is pretty heavy, but there won't be that much of it left by the time I'm finished with it.

    The hardware has been chosen, along with neck specifications, pickups, electronics. The neck will be solid Pao Ferro, Top wood has not yet been selected.

    The mark on the bottom slab is shadow from the rough lumber. This will disappear during my preliminary dimensioning of the blank, to follow immediately.
     
  5. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    First, I measure out from the center seam to both edges, at both ends of the seam, and draw pencil lines. This is not really necessary, but it helps me keep everything straight in my mind... ;)

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    If you look closely, you will notice that the line is not parallel to the edge of the wood. That bugs me. So I shave it with a table saw, following the line by eye.

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    It doesn't have to be perfect, but I like things to look straight when I'm working.. Helps my mindset to keep this stuff straight and square. The main thing is to trim both edges to keep the center seam in the center.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    The next cut was easier, as the board was pretty close to the right width on this side. I left a little extra, as I can trim more off- but it's really hard to put some back...

    [​IMG]

    Then a trip over to the jointer, to true up my rough edges, and trim the slab back to square. This just takes a little bit off, and requires a few passes through the blades until everything looks good...

    Here's the side that I did by hand, before the jointer.

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    Here's the other side, after the jointer. See how flat the edge got? It's square to the smoother face, too.


    [​IMG]

    Once the edges were close to square, it was time for a trip over to the thickness planer. I put the smoother side down, and made several passes through this machine- lowering the blade slightly each time- until the rough surface had been planed flat and clean.

    [​IMG]

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    Boy, I love this machine! I used to use a belt sander!
     
  7. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    I ran both sides of the wood through the planer until it was smooth, and a consistent thickness. Then to a better lit place to inspect what the wood really looks like, and determine which grain pattern I like best for the back of the body..

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once I decided which side would be the back, I marked a center line on the seam (I can barely see where it is) and lined up my template on the blank, paying close attention to the center line.

    [​IMG]

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    Then traced a pencil line around the perimeter of the template. I also marked the bridge pickup and neck pickup position, for a reference point later. Right now, I want the shape of the outside of the body, so I can cut it on the band saw.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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  9. Sam Evans

    Sam Evans Compliance Officer Gold Supporting Member

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    I luvs me some walnuts. Nice planer too.
     
  10. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    Well, thanks for the compliments. I'd like to thank Brian and Scott for allowing the thread. I hope everybody enjoys it. The Gear Page is a valuable resource to all of us, and I hope I'm giving something back by doing this thread. Back to work...

    I cut relief cuts in the two cutaway areas first, as the blade will bind (possibly break) if I try to cut too tight of a curve. I did this with a sabre saw for many years, and it works fine. The band saw is easier, though, and more accurate.

    [​IMG]

    More relief cuts here. The cutaway is pretty easy, more care is required in the tight little return curve at the bass side of the pocket.

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    Once those tight spots are cut, the rest is very straightforward, just stay a little outside the pencil lines. It goes pretty fast.

    [​IMG]

    Finished the rough cutting, and back into the light to make sure everything is still good. So far, s'ok!

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    Here's the side that will show. I like it. A little 3-D stuff going on in there, but it's subtle. Elegant. ;)

    [​IMG]

    I flipped it back over, and fitted the template back on top, again using the center lines and the pencil marks. Looks good.



    [​IMG]

    I want this to have a deeper tone, and wish to maximize the acoustic properties of the instrument. I'm going to leave the body as deep as I can, in order to get a broader mid/mellower acoustic tone from the body. Every little bit helps, and a whole bunch of small details add up to a better result. The body is currently a strong 1-7/8" thick, and I'll be adding a top to that.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Mike Dresch

    Mike Dresch Member

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    I think you'll like the combo of walnut body and rosewood neck (or in your case Pau Ferro). I built one almost identical to it about a month ago. I used Indian Rosewood instead of Pau Ferro and put a spalted maple top on it as it was a soft wood and I was looking for warmer tones. Turned out very stunning. I've got a 12' long board of walnut that just rings like a bell when you tap it. I'm really surprised more builders don't use walnut more often. Great stuff.
     
  13. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    I like walnut too. I did another body out of it a couple of years ago, and it was very cool.

    OK.. I attached the template to the body with a couple of drywall screws

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    I always recess the screw heads in the templates, so the router base can float over them unencumbered.

    A template following router bit allows the bit to cut the body wood flush with the template. This is the first pass, with a hand held router. I like to load up the shaft of the bit with a few bearings when I can, to add to the stability of the cut and in case a bearing fails. They do fail.

    [​IMG]

    Just easing the router around the body.. Don't want to take too big of a bite. Always paying attention to the direction of rotation, and the feel of how it is biting into the work. If it gets forced, the body can be ruined- if it jumps, maybe a trip to the hospital. If you do this, wear eye protection and be careful.

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    The first pass is pretty critical, as I use the body itself as a template for the second pass.
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    I switched over to the router table, as it gives me a better grip on the body. Gotta mentally switch gears here, as the direction of rotation is different. I'd hate to tear out any wood at this stage.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    This is a great thread and lots of fun to watch.:AOK

    Looking forward to the next installment!

    Btw, beautiful piece of Walnut. Very subtle and classy...
     
  15. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    That router generates plenty of shavings and dust.. sheesh...

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    [​IMG]

    But once the piece is dusted off, it's a thing of beauty.. ;)

    I figured I'd rout the bridge pickup as long as the template was attached

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    And then followed with the neck pickup, even though this build will get a humbucker in the neck. The neck rout will give me a point of reference when I am designing the insides of the guitar, and also will act as a guide for neck pickup placement.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    Almost seems like a shame to carve up such a beautiful hunk of wood, eh!?

    [​IMG]

    Well, this is the back, and this will still show, so I guess I'll press on... ;)

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    Remember way in the beginning I was talking about paying attention to the end grain? This is why...

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    [​IMG]

    OK.. I had better get back to work.. More to come. :)
     
  17. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    LOL.. Yeah, I got a big mouth.. :rolleyes:

    Well, I have the plan now.. I marked up the body where it needs to be hollow with cross marks. Won't be much wood left after I get done with it. Of course, that's not all bad. Right now this body weighs in at 7lb., 11oz. :eek:

    [​IMG]

    Reverse engineering the final design here, I know what I want to end up with.

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    Bridge and pickup locations- need to know where those darn things go ;)

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    Now you know why I did the pickup routing when I did. Hard to go wrong when you have something physical in your hands. Cuts down on the mathematics..

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  18. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    Damn!

    Why go through all that work?

    Much easier to just push the button on the CNC machine.;):D

    Awesome progress reports. Dig em'.:AOK
     
  19. Rich Rice

    Rich Rice Member

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    Thanks! I'm CNC challenged. Never used one, wouldn't know where to start. This is freedom, man! :BEER Dream it, build it.

    I need to go clean up the shop, quite a mess out there. I'll post more as I can. Thanks for coming along!
     
  20. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    CNC for a flat top? Nah. But, you could retire that router table for one of these. I can crank out a tele body in about 20 seconds with it (after a few minutes at the band saw).

    [​IMG]
     

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