Home > Lutherie > Custom Strat Style Build – Part 2 The Body

Custom Strat Style Build – Part 2 The Body

Templates Arrive

As previously mentioned, I was going to afford myself the benefit of accurate, laser-cut templates for this project. When they finally arrived I couldn’t have been happier. Step one was to make copies of the originals out of 1/2″ MDF which I would then use for the build. This gave me the opportunity to improve my routing skills on a forgiving material, MDF. MDF is soft and has no grain direction. I began by tracing out the template outer (body) shape on to a piece of MDF. This was cut close to the line on the bandsaw then taking to the router table to be cut flush. So far so good. The original was stacked upon the blank and the pickup/control cavities were trace upon the blank. Waste material was hogged out with the largest Forstner bit that would safely fit the area.


Making a template copy from the original.

After further refining the wasted areas with a chisel, the stack was then ready to be carefully routed flush at router table.


The Router

Leading up to and including part of this build, I have had a love-hate relationship with my router. Being honest, it has mostly been a fear-hate relationship. It’s not that I haven’t used the router or had any successes with it, more like I’m never really sure how the cut is going to react. I have tried to systematically improve. I use the “right-hand rule” to determine which way the bit will be spinning, purchase quality bits and use the router table whenever practical. Two important concepts have plagued me. First taking too much off in a pass i.e. cutting too deeply. You might get away with a heavy cut is the grain direction and The Force is with you but Woe Unto You when you end a bit of end grain! Which leads directly in to my second biggest problem, end grain tear out. For this, one trick works quite well when dealing with a rectangular piece and that is to route the end grain ends first. Following up with the long grain routes will effectively remove any small bits of tear out from the end grain pass. This works well but it won’t cover up tear out from a botched heavy first cut. So why all the discussion about router usage? Well because one of the first things to happened to me on this build was to blow out a 1/2″ chunk of black limba while routing the upper bout just before the upper horn. Bummer dude…..

The Fix

The fix was to debride the wound and to find a grain match from the original off cut. Glue it in, sand it flush and hope you did an OK job.  Had it been a small tear-out I would have simple altered the shape of the body and called it good. This mistake required a repair.

Routing blowout repair on strat body.

Other than this terrible mistake, the body route came out satisfactory. I left the area between the horns and the neck which I cleaned up on the oscillating spindle sander.


Routing Cavities

I was determined to do a better job routing the cavities than I had managed on my previous build. The templates were going to really make the difference this time. Using double-stick tape and a hand-held router, I made shallow passes until reaching the proper depth as indicated on my plans. The control area is routed more deeply so I fabricated a “plug” to isolate the pickup area and proceeded.

Cavity and neck pocket routes.

I was pleased with the result! Small victories and knowledge gained.

Edge Roundover, Arm Bevel and Tummy Cut

Next I used my largest round0ver bit on the front and back faces of the body. I stopped the roundover on both sides of the neck pocket and this was blended together using the spindle and by hand sanding.

Mostly completed body.

The tummy cut and the arm bevel areas where penciled in based on information I took off my MIM Strat. I mostly used the oscillating spindle sander to make the cuts.

Testing the Neck Fit

The neck pocket was snug but with minimal sanding on the sides of the neck I was able to get a tight fit. I haven’t yet drilled the holes for the neck plate screws and before I do I’ll want to make sure the neck is straight and the neck angle is going to be workable. After I’m happy with the neck fit, I’ll be able to lay out and drill for the Hipshot Hardtail bridge placement.

Test fitting the neck.

It’s starting to look like a guitar.

Next, I’ll need to fret the fingerboard, “There be monsters there…”.


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