Richards RJ Special #47-260216- build log

This build is a laminated neck through short-scale with twin Brierley B90s and some fancy switching options which will be explained later. The wings will echo the shape of an LP but the main thrust is Fender with a hard-tail strat bridge and the neck parallel to the top of the guitar unlike the angled style used by Gibson to accommodate the tall TOM bridges. A tele style control plate is planned but using a rotary selector instead of the usual blade switch.

The timbers used in this build, as far as I know, have not been used together before in an electric guitar. The main spar is to be of Korina, which is more correctly called Limba. Korina is a trade name used by Gibson Guitars for white Limba sourced in Africa. I'll use Korina in the log and spec as it is more recognisable to guitar players, Indian Rosewood fingerboard and Australian Blackwood for the body or "wings" as they are known in a neck through.


The selection of timbers is done and the introductory pictures show the boards and components assembled ready to begin the project.

Arrived from India a few weeks ago and left sitting around in the workshop to see how they acclimate. All good and nary a movement or crack anywhere. So much better than the high price shyte I bought from a well known guitar supply house in America recently. I have found an excellent source of quality rosewood blanks. Samples shown are tight grained and quarter sawn. I'll choose the best for this job.
This one was chosen for evenness of colour, tightness of grain and which is almost dead vertical to the face which adds stiffness and stability. A beautiful piece of wood
The laminated thru neck will be cut from this section of Korina. perfect in every way for this job.
The section of Blackwood chosen for the wings on the RHS of the white cupboard
Template set

The various parts assembled minus the pickups which are away being modified to enable the switching work. The output from the B90's is in metal braid shielded wire which cannot be used with the switching options specced, The pickup chassis earth needs to be separated from the negative feed from the coil in both pickups. If this is not done and reverse phase is selected, both chassis and cover become hot and any stray finger touching will cause a very loud and unpleasant hum. I'll run the chassis straight to ground and the negative will go direct to the the switch.

The finger board will be radiused and slotted first and the next job is machining up the timbers ready for constructing the main spar.

First to be cut are the wings. The finished thickness of the guitar will be determined by the machined thickness here. Nominally 45mm. Nice grain display on what will be the butt of the instrument.
Still around 3-4 mm to come off.

The sections for the neck laminate are cut and machined ready for glue up. I am using a very stiff dense 5mm section of African mahogany as a central core. The Korina is nothing more than a white mahogany. Everything about it is exactly the same except the colour. Even get the tongue tingle from the sawdust. I personally believe Gibson found Limba in Africa at prices that made it a very attractive buy as opposed to their usual supplies from South America.

Through marketing and 21st century interwebz mojo it becomes the new holy grail tone-wood. Don't get me wrong it is beautiful timber and surprise surprise it is an absolute cracker to work with showing all the wonderful working properties of the finest Honduran mahogany. Tap tone indicates that it is a great guitar wood or tone-wood as we call it.


End of stage one. All boards are rough machined close to final dimensions and the neck blank or centre spar as I call it is glued up ready for final dimensioning and truing up. I have plenty of width and a spare 10mm in depth. Not a lot but should be more than sufficient to get it where I need it to be.

There is a very complex switching network specified for this guitar and I am thinking on cunning ways to achieve the outcome from this point. Pickup switching will be from a 5 stage rotary switch which needs converting from the 5 way blade switch schematic presented with the job brief. To further complicate matters the vintage style Brierley B90 pickups need to modified so the coil negative is separated from the casing earth so that phase switching is possible. No good switching phase and have the pickup case hot as it will cause nasty loud noises. The case earth will run directly to ground enabling positive or negative out to be hot.

To add yet mor complexity to our circuit there will be a bass and a treble cut available on a dual gang tone pot. The bass cut is an interesting addition to tone control. It will allow very tight and bright tones while the treble cut will allow warm thick tones. Think of the rhythm guitar in the old Motown hits of the 60's where bright slicing rhythm stabs perforated the lush backing on many of those recordings. All treble on the amp and a 60's tele on the back pickup was how it was done. With this little refinement similar tones will be available by rolling on the bass cut. This circuit will take things about as far as you can go with a pair of single coil pickups.

modified pickups
Pickups have been modded. Originally they had wire woven around the hot core wire which served as negative and earthing the casing. We needed to separate negative from the case earth so now we have earth plus a positive and negative feed.
the fingerboard
The fingerboard has been radiused, slotted and the MOP dots installed. A light sand with fine paper and it will be ready to glue down.
blank machined
The blank has been machined and is now ready to be turned into a neck.
marking out the blank
Marking out the major points in preparation for cutting the truss rod slot. The nut shelf is evident here in the foreground with the truss rod in position.
template for cutting the TR adjuster slot
truss rod slot is cut
Truss rod slot is cut together with the adjustment access slot. Truss rod in the hole. :)
headstrock face roughed in
Quickly lopped of the the waste exposing what will become the headstock face. A blackwood plate will be glued to this face. Next job will be to trim off the excess and true it up.
Cleaned up the headstock face with one of the trusty planes and the trussrod is in place with a fillet of maple protecting the rod from glue seep.
The fillet of maple is trimmed flush with the surface that the fingerboard will shortly be glued to.
The wings are dimensioned, jointed and the shape is roughed out on the bandsaw.

Finally the wings are routed very close to final shape, Blackwood is a notoriously difficult timber to work as it is very high in silica content. It blunts tools quickly, burns easily if a cutter is left in any spot for more than 1/2 a second and is quite brittle. I got out of this job with a couple of missed spots and a router grab in the bottom bout return that I should have also missed. Luckily the chipouts will be lost once the bottom cutaway is shaped and I get a bit of a roundover going on. Very nice piece of wood though being nice and light with a lovely bright tap tone.

The high silica content of blackwood is one of the major contributing factors to its suitability for instrument building. Polishes beautifully, glues well and is a very musical wood, Not always highly favoured by the wood worker especially if there is a ready supply of the hallowed mahogany :)

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