Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Most Unsmoothest Cut

I took advantage of the beautiful Chicago weather today and roughed out the body for the baritone. First I made a template from poster board which I had around the house for some long ago abandoned art project:

I did this by tracing the cutaway half of my ASAT and carefully scoring a center line w/ a pen and my carpenter's square, folding it in half and cutting it out. I've been doing this stuff since preschool and never was really good at it but I took my time and used the square so it came out pretty true. I then used my square again to get aligned on the mahogany [impossible to spell!] and I traced it w/ a Bic engineering pencil.

The line doesn't come out too well in the picture but it's easy enough to see in person. In the next week I'm going to use the poster board stencil to trace a proper template to use w/ my router. It would probably have made sense to make the template before anything else but, what can I say, I'm a rebel. I took the blank outside and clamped it to my Workmate:

The cheaper alligator-clip style clamps actually worked better than the other ones. I ended up using five of those and only using the other ones where I had too. I was worried the Workmate wouldn't be sturdy enough but it held up great though some moments I did have to put my foot on it to keep it from toppling. I need to be more careful about placement and I think I will be fine.

The cutting went surprisingly easily. The Bosch blades were really great and cut quite smoothly. If this had been less thick wood and had I only needed to cut straight lines, there would be very little work to me done to get the wood ready for finish. I only had two problems.

Exhibit 1: Trying to cut too close to the line and not making enough relief cuts.

This is along the bottom of the guitar. I think I will just proceed as planned and maybe plane off a little of the bottom (and I doubt I will even have to do that once it's sanded).

Exhibit 2: Trying to turn the blade like a retard.

It's bent as if it were malleable and ductile material placed under high stress due to misuse. I'm just glad I had three of them. The next one I was more careful w/, which not only worked better but was safer.

It came out pretty well in the end:

Obviously a rough cut but I got rid of most of the excess wood. (I kept the scraps to test out finishes.) The horns were tough so I was cautious and left some extra wood there. Overall, I call the day a success and think I really earned this:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Baritone Body

My first project is a new body for my baritone guitar. There's really nothing special about it that will make it a baritone body as the neck, which I got from Warmoth, is designed to fit into a regular 25-1/2" scale length guitar and turn it into a 28-5/8" baritone. Currently, I have attached to a body from a Fender Standard Telecaster, which are very fine guitars that Fender makes in their Mexican factory (on left, next to my Tribute ASAT for scale length comparison):

It is a very fine sounding and playing guitar indeed and very different from a standard guitar detuned to the same pitch. The tone is more woody and the low-end is solid and piano-like, sort of a cross between a tele and a P-bass. I'd prefer slightly higher output pickups but other than that there's really no problem. However, I need a neck for my body and really don't want the guitars stacking up too high around here so this body goes in favor of my new one once it's build. I look forward to you bidding on the eBay auction.

Now, I really like the tele body style and I think it fits the twangy tone of the baritone perfectly but I wanted to do something a little different. I'm calling it a double-cut tele and rather than describe it I did a quick mock-up of the shape w/ GIMP:

I will probably shorten the horns a bit from this but this is what I'm starting w/. Also, I didn't bother to change the pickup routs but two p90s are going into this one and the bridge will be changed to one similar to what's used on a hardtail strat. I haven't quite decided on the control layout but I am doing something unusual in that regard. I'm going to set it up somewhat like a Les Paul w/ two volumes and two tones per pickup but I'm adding another toggle switch and another jack which, when engaged, will tie each pickup to it's own jack. This will allow me to plug the neck pickup into one amp and the bridge pickup into another. Or, I will plug them both into an A/B/Y switcher and then I can switch pickups w/ a footswitch. This is the way I will actually use it most times. I hate having to hit the pickup switch in the middle of the song.

For wood, I decided on mahogany (a word which is nearly impossible to spell correctly; try it):

I leave it on the couch next to me so I have company to watch the White Sox games w/--pleasant enough to be around but yells at the TV very infrequently so I believe it to be a female block of wood. Originally, I had wanted walnut because I really like the way it looks and wanted a brighter, crisper tone but I couldn't find any. After seeing a beautiful natural refinish on a mahogany Les Paul online, I decided I would go w/ that over the alder or swamp ash you normally see teles built of. When I'm done, this should be a much warmer sounding guitar than my current baritone.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Let's see if I can actually pull this off.

I live in a moderate sized single bedroom apartment in Chicago. My goal in life is to begin building guitars in this place. So far, all I have done is amassed some tools and done some research.

Big Pile of Tools:

This is where my nearly obsessive compulsive organization urge becomes apparent. I know and I'm not ashamed.

What I have so far:
  • Black and Decker Workman--This is the little bench. I just carried it home from Home Depot today. (Did I mention I was doing all this without the aid of a personally owned and operated automobile?) Let me tell you, it's only moderately heavy at the store but it's heavy as a motherfuck once you've carried it a mile on your shoulder. Putting it together was great fun too. I'm probably gonna take it apart tomorrow and put it back together just for the hell of it.
  • Free Drill--Black and Decker also. I got it for free w/ the Workman. (Take that, capitalism!) I have drill I paid for too but, you know, fuck paying for things.
  • Cheap-Ass Dremel Tool--I got this sucker to polish frets, which I think it will do just fine. It's not really Dremel but made by Chicago Electric so I know it was built in my hometown, Chicago, China. I got it for ten bucks from Harbor Freight, my favorite purveyors of cheap and shitty tools. All I've used it for so far is to tear the crap out of a hunk of Styrofoam which was fun as hell so as far as I'm concerned, it kicks major ass.
  • Ratchet Set--This one was made in Pittsburgh, China. I used it to put the Workman together rather than the bizarre and twisted wrenching devices included and that's probably the last I will see of it for a while.
  • Random Orbital Sander--This kind is the best for some reason. Ask anyone. Another score from Harbor Freight, also made in Chicago, China.
  • Straight Edge--Well, it's actually a straight-level tool but straight enough for me, especially after a few beers. I also have a carpenter's square when I need to see if larger things are straight. Yeah... You guys can take that and run w/ it if you want.
  • Skil Jigsaw--I left in the little case for the picture because I don't like you lookin' at it. It has scrolling action if I need it and I will once I make the templates. I got this originally because I wanted to get a metal-cutting blade for it and use it to remove a U-lock that had a key broken off in it. I can't begin to tell you how well that worked. Anyway, I got some nice Bosch blades for it and it will serve a purpose now.
  • Clamps, clamps, clamps--I've been told I need a lot of these so I am amassing a collection. Luthiers often collect at large conventions in order to train clamps, that's how much they like them. I like the ones that look like giant alligator clips best because they're cheapest. Let's hope the work. I got others just in case.
  • Assorted Safety Gear--I am too old to worry about looking like a dork. I wear my helmet when I ride and when I use power tools, I suit up like Robocop. Them shits are dangerous.
Not shown:
  • I got a really expensive fret-working set from Stewart Macdonald which came w/ a semi-worthwhile book on fretting. I use three things out of it but I can crown and level my own frets now so that's OK. Next time, I will just get what I need and throw the rest of my money in the garbage.
  • Soldering Iron--I love soldering! I'd do it all day if I could. I have changed pickups in my guitars just because I was bored on more than one occasion.
What I need:
  • Router--Probably gonna get this Hitachi one I've been seing on eBay for cheap (though refurbished). I need this to make the electronic cavaties and for the neck pocket. Once I build necks, it will be use to rout the channel for the truss rod amongst other things, I think. I haven't gotten that far ahead yet.
  • Finishing supplies--I'm not even gonna think about this.
  • Good Old Fashioned American Know-How--I don't know shit. My goal, at least to start, is to keep at least eighty percent of my fingers.
  • Probably a lot of other stuff but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So that's that for tools. I will tell you some more about my first project, the baritone guitar body, once I get a chance.