Richards RJ Special #37-070215 - build log
Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3

This guitar is to designed designed from scratch from rough sawn boards from my tonewood racks. The body shape is based on several well known guitars and the design will result in a very smart looking guitar. As is my habit, a stripped back approach has been taken. I dont believe in wasting money on showing off complex workshop skills. Less is more rather than art for arts sake.

I've chosen Lollar Imperials which from all accounts are one of the stand out PAF style pickups around. I have used many pickups wound by Mick Brielerly in my builds and the Lollars were chosen by reputation as a comparison to Mick's impressive work. The boards have arrived as has the freshly cut template set. All the hardware is in and the pickups should arrive in the coming weeks. Now it is time to take the project from digital space into the real world.

The boards and boxes containg various bits sit waiting there turn on the shelf
After building the guitar in my head and sending of the resulting drawings to my cutter John he sent back this beautifully cut set of templates which will save me many hours of work. One little oops - i forgot to round off the corners of the control cavity cover. A few minutes work to round them over to a 6.35mm radius or i might even get John to cut another.
The Queensland maple board after initial cutting. The first board will be swung back with the front edge butting up to the second board which always makes a nice pattern of the converging grain structure on the butt of the guitar. This one will be obscured by a dark burst though. It doesnt matter then which way I join them up but i did this way as it looks bonzer during the building phase. People coming through the workshop are always interested in a quick look at the latest "star of the workshop".

Finally a look at the top. i have roughly traced the template where it will ultimately be placed when I cut out the basic shape. There is a small wet spot up in the right hand quadrant that gives an idea of how red this will be when clear goes on. I don't reckon it will take much transtint stain to get the cherry colour we are after. Thanks to Tim for for his careful selection of these beautifull pieces of timber. The top is a delight and taps out a very sweet tone. The Q maple has a rich timbre which will work nicely with the top. I am expecting an even tonal response whith this combination. Coupled with the Lollars it will be a winning combination.

Tomorow I will begin machining the boards and the project will at last be underway.

More drawing work. At this point the sections need to be finalised so the chambers can be accurately cut. Above is shown the a side elevation of the job cut through the center line- neck tenon and pick up routs can be seen as well as the carve profile.

The bandsaw, thickness sander and dust collector received a good overhaul prior to beginning this job. I need everything in tip top shape as it will make the job go quickly and smoothly. I don't have the luxury of calling in a tech. All the workshop maintenence as far as possible is done by me.
Through the thickness sander to get the surfaces straight and parallel
Docking the boards on the table saw - I want the boards all the same length and width. To accurately do this a fair deal of work is required machining the sides and edges parallel. Last of all the glue edges need to be done on the jointer to ensure a good surface mate.
The maple is a little oversize so a slice is taken off.
Stage one complete. Now committed with the position of the body in the wood. Time to glue everything up.

The last series of pix are from my smart phone and i dont like the quality too much. Going back to the trusty old minolta.
The core blank glued and drying.
Finally the top is glued and set aside to dry. Clamps come off in 12 or so hours and work can commence on cutting the chambers. Still more pix to come but I've run out of time to get them organised tonight.

A significant part of any build is the prep of the timbers. It needs to be done with care and precision. Like the foundations of a building, if not done right all sorts of problems will appear further down the track.
Time to start the body proper by marking out the cutting chambers. Decisions are made as to which will be the "show faces and glue faces.
Once that is decided register marks are made on the top and bottom plates so work can proceed on both and when they are joined everything lines up perfectly
Bottom plate.
You can see the plates mirror each other.
Chips begin to fly as the cutter hogs out most of the waste
The first coarse cuuter finished with. Looks devasting, always does, but after the router it will be all neat and perfect.

Ready for routing. I will go ahead with this one and rout the top plate second. A few different techniques are required and setup is a bit different. I have cut the control rout right through this time. Usually i will cut it once the blank is glued abd It is alway a pain doing it like that. While I have the drill and router set up I'll go ahead and rout it through. I won't have to plot where it is hidden inside the blank. I have cut them and been a mil or so out and it looks ugly.

I will get to the wiring chanel later. It's wrong anyway unless i run a piece of flexible hose through the cavity into the control cavity adding weight where if i cut another chanel from the rhyhtm pickup rout straight to the bridge rout it will subtratc weight and save the time hunting the hose and glueing it in. - I just decided which way to go. no plastic hose and i will go the old fashiond way.

Next I'll fire up the router and clean it all up nice and neat. Then we'll have a go at the top plate. Meanwhile it wont be long and the neck will be started. I need to cut the mortoise and tenon joint before I cut the bridge holes. Different technique than with a screw on neck. Ther you cut for the bridge and line up the neck. Set neck is best to cut the neck joint and line up the bridge to the neck.

Getting down close to depth.
Ok bottom plate complete. Figured out the wiring channel. A better method than wrangling poly brake hose into the slots. next build i might make the channel curve instead of close to a right angle. The leads can get snagged up at the turn. I can get needle nose pliers in there to pull it through and the channel is a13mm squaer so plenty of wiggle room.
Time for the top plate to be done. Lay out the template carefully and screw it down.
just a little out of the top. I am after a certain tone and the depth of the cut here narrows things a bit in my favour.
A little hard to pick out but it is a mirror image.
Time for brutality. Get the two pieces lined up pretty good and clamp them nice and tight.
The introduction to the bandsaw. The work I did on my saw a few weeks ago paid off big time. It sliced through this lot in double quick time. Can't see them too good but there is a couple of #6 30mm screws holding those pieces in line.
Cut the 6mm holes and made the the three hardwood register pins which will hold the two plates in line when I hit them with glue first thing in the morning. Once the glue has gone off in 10 to 12 hours I'll be cutting the body shape.

This is a slightly different approach and will give excellent access to the guitars edges when clamping after the application of glue. I am thinking of going one step different again and machine the top plate to shape before glueup. This method will allow the use of shorter router bits cutter a much lower profile rather than cutting the whole depth of the guitar in one go. Once I glue the top to the bottom plate i will have the top as a guide for the router bit. There are a couple of cons to the idea. I will know in the morning wether this is the way to go.

Opted for one new method only and left the top raw cut. The sides ahd lifted a little making the centre of the board the lowest point. Perfect as this applies natural pressurr at the center line where clamps cant reach. Got the glue on and the odd clamp or two to make sure the joint is good.

Once the clamps come off i can close cut the blank to the line and machine the body shape, pickup routs and bridge mount holes. Before doing so a good look over the drawings to ensure the measuring is right is a good idea.

The guitar is about to be born. Out of the clamps and the register pins are sliced off flush with the surface.
ready for the template to be fixed to the front. I'll cut the picup routs and the bridge holes at the same time.
Roughed in the pickup routs.
An hour later it's over. Most of the main elements are already there. Although you can't see it she looks a little battered bloody like all new born things. Before cutting the jack port, the string bushings and the rebate for the control plate I'll tidy the whole job up, especially the edges. Once thats done it will be time to either do the body carve or set it aside until we have a neck to cut the socket to,

Time to finialise the neck drawings and get the templates cut.

Most of this weeks effort toward #37 has been in the CAD area finalising the drawings for the neck. The neck will be of three hard rock maple laminations cut to a template generated from the CAD drawing. It is envisiged that register pins will be used in the tenon and headstock to ensure everything lines up and help cut down waste. The fingerboard will be cut from the same piece of timber to ensure a similar colour and grain display.

The represenatation above is a section through the center line, The truss rod and adjustment slots are still to be drawn in. A decision is still to be made about the depth of the the tenon.

Monday night - public holiday - but not for me - neck drawing almost complete, Should get the cutting files away tomorrow lunch time. Decided to decrease the headstock angle slightly for a softer feel on the strings and a little more resistance to breakage.

The whole neck has been dropped into the body by a few mil - today was mostly about measuring and lining everything up so when the strings finally go on we'll be right on the money with string height etc with hopefully very little adjusting required prior to glueing the neck in. Once thats done you are pretty much stuck with what you have designed. Worth a lot to ensure it is right before any wood is cut much less glued in. It is a lot of work to get it undone - work I don't intend to do.

Ideally i like to build the parallel to the fingerboard plane neck style as it is very resisitant to breaking. The snakehead three tuners a side style is not widely liked by guitarists. It also introduces the need for two roller string trees. So we'll go the median route. With the addition of a small volute under the nut the neck will be quite strong enough.

The scarf headstock style is another method of building a neck and again conservative guitarists derisively call this "the Asian cut" even though it is four times stronger than the beloved gibson MOC.


The final neck design. Need to add in some machining tolerances and wiggle room for the fingerboard and it is ready to be cut. From this design to the finished neck will require some hands on finessing especially the volute area and the the heel. I wont bother designing the heel especially as exactly how that will look will become apparent. The idea initially was to have a slanted heel on the body as in the Maton bb1200. In our design we have extended the body into a nice curve and the neck heel will fit to that.

The theoretical action is set at 050" at the 12th fret and the saddle is set at a point allowing a small amount of forward movement and a larger amount backwards. The laws of fingerboard geometry will allow the action to be slightly lower. This way of setting up will allow a much higher action if it is ever required

I envisige the neck to body join to be quite similar to the above
Bit more detail on the neck drawings. Pretty much ready now to do the cutting files. Two templates to be done, a section through the centre and the plan view including the trussrod slot. I have in the past used a more ad hoc approach to building and measured things on the go with a basic plan in my head. I have found with the last few builds the more detailed and exacting the drawings are the resulting templates save a lot of measuring and thinking tiime in the workshop.
Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3