The Building of Number 19
Another RB Special with a couple of changes. This one will be slightly smaller with a mahogany core but retain the figured Myrtle top. This time I will use a pair of Mick Brierley's stunning PAFS. It will also sport a mahogany neck with a well figured headstock overlay.

Below: First the basics. My last slab of the extra light mahogany is pulled out of the stack and measured up for cutting.
Below: Sliced into two equal lengths its time to poke it through the buzzer and see what we have. Hoping for no cracks
Below: Buzzed and thickness sanded the the two blanks are looking pretty good. I have machined the edges carefully for glueup. There were some surface cracks but by the time I got them down to finished thickness the cracks had been machined out. Next step is glue and clamps. it never hurts to have a spare blank and often I will process both up to certain point then move forward with one only to completion.
Ended up with two very good blanks and selected the one that would best suit #19 -
Next job is to cut the template while the blank glue goes off for a few days. Produced a scale drawing and sliced it up so I can paste it onto a piece of 12mm MDF
Glued down the drawing, cut the outline on the bandsaw and tidied it up with drum sanding machines. Final clean up and refinement done by hand sanding.

#19 won't have an F hole but I am planning another which will be heavily chambered and have the F hole.
A copy is needed to work from so i will do that now while the router is set up. I never work from the original template because if any thing goes wrong I don't have to go through laying out and cutting a new one. The original is alway kept as a pattern and only used to cut a new template
Rough cut and screwed to the pattern
Trimmed perfectly with the upcut spiral cutter


Meanwhile I have jointed the edges of the top and glued them together. You can see it peeping out from under the heavy piece of U section which is holding it flat.
Now it's time for glue up and everything needs to be organised before glue hits wood. Glueing down a fair sized chink of pretty pricey wood and I want to ensure it goes on right. Once glued down,you can't get it off easily. In fact if it goes on wrong your are pretty much stuck with it.

First step - set up the top so it is in line with the join in the core. you can see i have drilled some holes and fitted some pine dowel plugs. When the top hits the core and there is wet glue everywhere it will be a cinch to get it lined up. When pressure is applied it won't go scooting anywhere on its cushion of slippery glue.
Step 2 get everything you will need close by - heaps of clamps
Glue and a roller to apply it, most important a cup of tea
The boards
then the fun bit the glue is spread and the boards put together - needs to be done within a couple of minutes becaues as soon as the glue hits the dry wood it starts to go off. You can see a little glue dripping around the edges
Then a few clamps are put on to press the top to the core and ensure a good bond. Not too many ok just enough so its firm
Below: The top is out from the glueup jig, trimmed and looking great
Below: Closeup of the top. You can see the outline of what will be the guitar. That ripple will look spectacular on the finished guitar
In the meantime i had cut a couple more tops.
My trusty resaw jig. Other woodies have a bit of a giggle about my mini resaw setup but it works good enough for me.
I selected the best top out of the two I cut and made another blank so now we have two to choose from. Dennis will choose the one he likes and the other will be earmarked for one of my development projects

Blank 1 and blank 2 in that order are shown below
Ok it was decided that the top [#1] blank would be the one so it was prepared and cut out on the bandsaw
template screwed on and the rough edges machined off.
Template off to reveal the first image of this guitar. There is a small dark mark pretty much right where the output jack will go.
First look at the neck. The headstock needs shaping.
The back of the neck behind the nut has to have that awful lump carved out.
First job is to cut the front of the neck down and create the the platform for the nut
Then I get stuck into shaping the neck back profile. Being mahogany it cuts like butter.
Cut and refine until I get looking and feeling just right. Being mahogany having the volute behnd the the nut is pretty much mandatory as this type of neck has a tendency to easily break if dropped. The volute gives extra strength. The wings glued to the edge of the headstock and the laminations also help. On top of all that there is a plate albeit a thin one i have glued to the front. If Gibson did all these things the famous gibson headstock break would not be an issue.
There's the plate glued on. Does't look much but when cleaned up it will show some nice curl and be a great match for the body
The headstock template giving us an idea of how it will look.
I actually mark it out on the rear of the headstock as it will be much easier to cut it out with the headstock laying flat. I havent finally decided exactly where I will lay the headstock just yet. I may move it back a little to line up more with the wings already there. Definitely keep the sweep as on the template but a little shorter.

Got it positioned and attached the template. I have taken off most of the waste on the spindle sander. Just tidy it up with the router.
Cut the tuner holes and try on a pair of the Grover locking tuners to see the fit and all is good. Decided to cut back the volute as there is plenty of meat in the neck so it will be plenty strong enough.
spend a quiet hour rubbing it all down till the wood starts to shine. At this point it is ready for the first coat of finish
You can see the beautiful soft sheen come up after a couple coats of sealing oil. The figure in the myrtle face plate looks pretty nice

After spending way more time on the neck than I budgeted for it hangs in the drying cupboard waiting to have the frets touched up. First job though will be to cut the neck pocket, locate and cut the bridge post and pickup cavities.

The body is overweight [like me] and I need to get it down as much as possible to the target weight of 3.7kg. Initial projection showed a finished wieght of 4.54kg. I cut the back down by nearly 5mm to standard American electric guitar thickness of 1.3/4", Hogged out the control cavity and roughed out this pretty radical rear profile. Looks pretty good to my eyes and feels nice to the body.

After the weight reduction we are now down to 3.97kg [projected] with the pickup cavities, neck pocket and edge roundovers to go. Won't get much reduction here but might just manage to get down to 100 or so grams of the target weight.

I think in pounds for guitars and to me a very lightweight tele body will go around 4lbs with the hardware on about 6lbs, Many tele bodies are around 5lb and usually around 7 to 8lbs finished. This body is 5lb but the hardware and neck weighs a bit more so it will be 8 3/4lbs roughly.

After a break over easter and some time off for the flu it is back to #19
Time to bind the body,
Below binding chase cut.
Upper and lower bouts binding in place.
Cutaway done.
Side view
Binding goes on before cutting the neck pocket, Tricky job as I need to cut this pocket on a roughly 2 deg angle. So as usual I cut a pocket template taking care to lay it out pretty carefully and line the whole thing up good with a laser. [which you can't see in the pic]
All done ready to cut
Cut some of the waste out with a forstner bit
therer she is ready for the crucial neck pocket rout which is the guts of the whole guitar really. Need to get the angle right setting up the template on the body so the string hits the bridge saddle at the right hieght and the whole thing lines up good down the centre line
Back to the neck for a minute while I got it out. Sign and give it a serial number 19-300312
The number goes like this: Guitar build number [in this case 19] with a dash followed by the date the neck got its second coat of finish.ddmmyy
Sometimes it is the day the neck pocket was cut.

Next job on the neck is to level crown and polish the frets, There will be a couple of ultra thin coats of finish applied to ensure we have a good vapour barrier.

I call this type of finsh the "Noskin finish" as it looks and feels like there is no finish at all. It looks and feels like polished wood. There is however an excellent vapour barrier but no thin layer of plastic goop to chip or wear off.
While I am at it I need to do a Little more work on the heel. It needs to be shortened around 30 mm. You can see the progression from markout to application of finish. Needs a bit of care to stay on the center line, keep things even on both sides and not go under the existing profile.
  To look at it you would not know it had, just a few minutes earlier, been covered in rasp marks and whiskers.

back to the body momentarily for a good tidy up and sand to 240 grit. The profiles got most of the attention as well as getting the binding flushed down pretty good on top and all round.the edges.

Next on the body will be the neck pocket, the bridge posts and finally the pickup routs, control cavity cover rout and various other holes for wiring etc
After an hour or two of measuring and drawing up the neck to body angle geometry I have a working drawing of the neck pocket. The template will need to sit on runners cut at the correct angle which is in this case 1.25 degrees. the runners will need to be fitted to the template lining up exactly to the front edge of the pocket. Three should be sufficient to make it stable.

Once the pocket is cut the bridge posts will need to be located. This also is a crucial part of the build. Unlike the nock pocket where accuracy is the key, there is a fair deal of adjustment in the Gotoh 510UB bridge. The most important part is to get it lined up to the centre line of the body and neck. Fortunately i have a template already cut which I have used in the past so all I need to do is get it at the right position to maximise the range of available adjustment.

Below: the gotoh 510UB in matte chrome - the one for this job is in full chrome
Setting up the neck pocket angle on the routing jig
Clamp it down tight dead on the centre line
Done - just need to square up the corners.
Try the neck in the pocket and all is good - it lines up nice down the body centre line right up to the centre at the nut.
Get the bridge post holes cut and the bridge is all set up exactly right at the treble E side. It angles back a little to accomodate the bass E which needs a little more length. Damn cold in the shed here today and you can see one of the security guys hogging the heater in the bottom right of the pic.
Got the pickup cavities cut plus the wiring ports are all in as well. Only a few more jobs and it will be time for finish sanding..

Finally I can get an accurate idea of the finished weight of this guitar. Weighing in at 4.5lbs it will be a pretty average wieght guitar. Once I add in the weight of the neck and other parts and fittings we will be around the 8.5lb or 3.86 kg

Moving straight along the body has been sanded and polished to within an inch of its life and I have run the first lot of "no skin finish over it.

You can see the first shot picking up the reflection of light as it is quite well polished. Applying the finish makes the ripple in the top really come up nice. There is no shine from the finish, it is coming off the wood itself

You can really see the 3D effect of the grain in this shot. Tiger stripes, flame or curl it is called.
Been a long haul but here she is after the initial setup
The intonation and nut have been setup and it plays well. The tone can be pretty aggressive when let off the lead but also has a warm and mellow side to its personality. Beautifull jazzy tones on the neck and a real balls to wall heavy rock / blues on the bridge. Feels nice to the body and I will use the new profiles I designed for this job again

Even though it looks pretty much finished there is still a surprising amount of work to be done. The pickguard template needs to be made and the guard cut. The truss rod access hole cover also needs fitting plus the usual tweaking of the setup as it all settles in.

It first came under string tension this arvo and it does take a day or two for everything to equalise.
Final workshop pics - general check of setup in a couple of days is all that is left to be done
The pickups are by Mick Brierley, an adelaide winder who makes the best pickups I ever seen. These are Micks' take on the origianl P.A.F.humbuckers designed by Seth Lover in 1955 while he was working as an engineer for Gibson Guitars. These particular ones sound fabulous in this guitar.

The final weight of the guitar is 8lb on the dot or 3.6kg, 260 grams under our target weight. Not bad for a solid mahogany guitar of this size with a very dense hardwood top.

The first shot is mainly of the headstock. Apols for the duff pic. thats my thumb in shot :{
So thats a fairly complete log of number 19 - if you have followed the whole thing through thanks for taking the time.

Stay tuned for number 20 coming soon. I call it "The Banshee" The body and neck are built. The neck carve is still to be done and the cavities cut in the body. It will be a small body guitar with one pickup, an SD Screamin Demon set up Esquire style. This guitar will be pretty much a smutty rock n roll machine to be played only between consenting adults.