Author Archive

Two-Day Workbench – Part 1

August 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Building a workbench has long been a rite of passage for aspiring woodworkers. I won’t belabor that point, nor will I debate the pros and cons of the various bench designs and traditions. After 4 years I decided it was a good time to upgrade my work surface. After a fair amount of “research” I began to narrowing down the choices and gathering up my preferences for work-holding.

  1. The bench should not be overly expensive (lavish woods)
  2. It should be within my skill set to build
  3. I wanted a decent set of plans
  4. I wanted a Veritas Twin-Screw vise on it
  5. I choose in favor of a quick release face vise over a traditional leg vise (used in the same manner however)

After looking over so many choices I found a plan I had already purchased, the “$175 Workbench by Christopher Schwarz” published in Popular Woodworking, Feb 2001. As laid out, this bench can be constructed using 8-1″ x 8″ by 12′ Southern Yellow Pine boards. I went so  far as to purchase the SYP and all the bolt hardware. At this point however, I decided to change my direction and I purchased the video, “Build a Sturdy Workbench in Two Days with Christopher Schwarz”. I did like being able to build along with Chris (built a tool chest in the way) but I also really liked the beefy legs in this alternative design. What I didn’t like as much was the Ikea “butcher block style” top. Given that I had already purchased the SYP 1″x8″s I resolved to make a laminated SYP top à la the $175 bench and use the beefy Douglas Fir base à la the Two-Day bench. I had previously coveted vises from the Lee Valley website and it took very little self-convincing to pull the trigger on my wish list.

The Model

Current plan/model of this bench build.

Basic Dimensions

Base –  48″ long x 27 ½” wide (Doug Fir)
Top – 70″ long x 27 ½” wide (SYP).  Laminate 22 strips of 1 ¼” wide x 3 ¼” thick x 70″ long.
Legs – 6 ½” x 3 ¼”
Stretchers 3 ¼” x 3 ¼”

Constructing the Base

I began constructing the base by milling 6-4″ x 4″ Douglas Fir boards to 3 ¼” on each face. I rough cut to 1″ over final length then glued up the legs.

4"x4" Douglas Fir Laminating two pieces for the leg.

Two pieces are laminated together for each of the 4 legs. After the lamination, I ran them through the jointer and planer to square them up and then each were cut to final length.

Completed workbench legs are ready

With the components cut and legs prepared it was time to cut the joinery. This plan calls for lag bolts and half lap joints. I used my dado stack on the table saw to cut the half-laps.

Cabinetmaker's triangles to keep pieces identified. Joinery finished on the legs.

I was careful to keep my plans handy (actually a SketchUp model and video) and referred to them often because “if there is a way to screw up, I will find it!” All the stretchers face inward but still mark your pieces!

Work progressed relatively smoothly but decisions had to be made about final dimensions of my bench. The upper constraint lengthwise is about 70″. The vises I purchased are both quite large so I’m racking my brain to make sure they are actually going to fit. I decided to make my base 48″ long leaving a 22″ total overhang of the top. The face vise is a minimum of 11″ wide so it just might fit with the base centered but I reasoned I can always shift it an inch or so as required. I have yet to completely figure out installation of the twin-screw only to say that it can’t span more than 27 ½” which I decided would be my final bench width. The screws will also need, presumably to fit between the bench legs which reduces the clamping capacity from its maximum potential. Oh well, everything in life has limitations…..

Decided on 48" length for the base.

With dimensions decided, I went ahead and cut the 4 short and 2 long stretchers and added the male laps on the ends.

Dry fit of the workbench base.

Confirming the base pieces all fit, I proceeded to glue-up and lag bolt both ends.

Base end pieces assembled.

Before drilling and bolting the long stretchers, I bored some 3/4″ holes in each leg face to accept work-holding appliances.

Dog holes drilled in each leg face.

Thoughts on the Two-Day Build

Considering that I’m more than two days in to this build and I’ve just completed the base, I’d estimate this build to be closer to a Two-Week build for me to complete. I have added considerable complexity it is true. In the two-day video Chris laminated two ready-made tops and I’ll be gluing up my from milled strips. I’ll also be adding two vises and hopefully, a sliding deadman.

Categories: Woodworking Tags:

Shopmade Cutting Gauge

July 10, 2017 Leave a comment

The current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine featured the article “Shopmade Cutting Gauge” by Bob Van Dyke. I decided to try my hand at building one.

For the fence, I had my choice of black limba or mahogany, both left over cutoffs from previous electric guitar builds.  After cutting the block to the appropriate length and width I jointed the faces. Thickness was around 1 3/4″ so I made no adjustments even though suggested thickness was 1 5/8″.  Two holes were drilled, the first was on the face to house the beam and a second smaller hole from the side for accept a threaded insert. The insert accepts a thumbscrew used for locking the beam.

Shopmade cutting gauge fence prep.

Next two 1/2″ strips of brass plate were inlayed on the face. The brass strips were cut from a sheet. First the sheet was scored with an Exacto knife then cut with a Jig Saw and metal-cutting blade. The edges were trued using sand paper on a flat surface. Using flat bar stock would have been simpler but I used what I had on hand. Individually placing each bar on the face, I scored the wood before taking the fence to router table. Using a 12″ straight bit, I cut the recess for each bar. The bars were slightly wider than the 1/2″ bit so I used a chisel to pare to the line and fit each piece.  The bars were then glued in place using 5 minute epoxy.

Brass inlay was expoied to the fence face.

The strips were initially held in place using binding tape then clamped in a vise to set up. A special caul was made using two thin strips of wood attached to block with double stick tape. I considered using hot glue but the  tape was faster.

Once the epoxy had set I continued work on the face by cutting a mortise to accept the 1/4″ pressure plate. I used a hand screw to steady the piece first drilling a 1/4″ hole, then squaring the edges by chisel.

Cutting the mortise for the pressure plate.

The plan called for a brass bar but once again, I didn’t feel like ordering a special part. Instead I used an ebony scrap, from a finger board. It was already 1/4″ thick so cut it to length and shaped it with chisel and sandpaper.

Fitting the ebony retaining key to the mortise.

I decided the beam would be made from a flame maple scrap but to use it, I was going to have to make a dowel from flat stock and I was going to have to do it without a lathe. This was by far the most time-consuming part of the build. I made a cradle and added sandpaper which helped to round the flat stock. Once it was roughly round, I used a round scraper just the right diameter to continue shaping. The scraper cut well removing a fair amount of wood easily but unfortunately, it was all too easy to make long deep scratches on an adjacent surface. A lathe would have been the proper tool for making a spindle.

The article suggested purchasing and modifying a Hock Tools marking knife for the cutter but I decided to make one from an old Jig Saw blade. I realize this is like comparing apples to oranges but I wanted to give it a try anyway. The jig saw blade cutter will work, I just need to figure out how to sharpen it.

The final task was to make the mortise for the blade and shape a wedge. I used hard maple for the wedge which came from, you guessed it, a hard maple finger board scrap.

Black limba and maple marking gauge.

As with all projects, some parts went together very well and others proved more challenging. I am very happy with the way the fence came together both in form and in function. The maple beam was challenging to shape and didn’t come out perfectly although the fit is good enough to be quite serviceable. Cutting the mortise to accept the blade and wedge didn’t come out the way I wanted and is sloppy. Que será, será, just keep making!

Thank-you for stopping by the shop

Categories: Woodworking Tags:

Wooden Block Plane

I’ve really been digging the Pinterest pins which have been popping up from Wood Archivist Magazine. When I ran across plans for this block plane I decided I was going to give it a go.

Wooden Block Plane from Wood Archivist

I was hoping I had enough mahogany script from my neck blank but I really did a number on the mid-section after cutting out two Gibson style one piece necks from it. I ended up using a flat piece of mahogany (for a stacked neck) and a hard maple fingerboard blank I had on hand.

First laminated the 1/4″ maple (sole) to the mahogany (body) blank. A bit of weight was used instead of clamps.

Next I followed the plan to cut the body pieces at the specified angles. I little bit of interpretation was necessary but in general the dimensions were good.

The left over piece of blank was used to resaw the two sides using the bandsaw. I thinned the sides to the correct thickness using my planer. Each piece had one jointed face so this was fairly simple to do.

With all the major components cut, I could turn attention to the hardware. Essentially all of the hardware for the front knob and blade were ordered through Lee Valley.


I don’t have a lathe so I improvised and shaped the mahogany using a mandrel on my drill press. Not perfect but passable at least. The boss for the blade was rough cut and shaped using the actually blade as a guide. Threaded brass inserts were used to hold the blade and the front knob. These were epoxied in place for strength.

Shaping the front of the plane body was a multi-step process, drill a hole, cut off the top, cut a recess then laminate a maple inlay, then shape.

Plans called for the use of a core box  bit to route finger recesses but having none, I used a gouge and sandpaper to form them.  I cut the brass side pieces on the bandsaw then cleaned up the edges using self adhesive sandpaper on the table saw. Epoxy was used to fix the brass inlays.

I used this same paper to flatten the sole and sides. The sides aren’t perfectly square to the sole but the plane seems serviceable none-the-less. I did make sure the sole was dead flat.

I added some mahogany dye, then being impatient finished it with Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO). Finally I used  0000 steel wool and paste wax to complete the build.

The plane works better than expected and I have already used it on two additional projects. I think I’ll build some more planes in the future!

Thanks for looking……

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

Les Paul Special – Build Gallery

 The mahogany body was split, reduced in thickness using the planer, then rejoined.The mahogany body blank was split, reduced in thickness using the planer, then rejoined. This to accommodate the thickness of the maple cap. A working copy of the body template sits attop the jointed maple top and mahogany body blank below.A working copy of the body template sits atop the jointed maple top and mahogany body blank below. Before cutting the mahogany to shape, a forstner bit was used to drill holes for weight reduction.Before cutting the mahogany to shape, a Forstner bit was used to drill holes for weight reduction.
 Routing was completed for the control cavity. The back of the body is shown with a recess for the control cavity cover and four protusions for screw locations.Routing was completed for the control cavity. The back of the body is shown with a recess for the control cavity cover and 4 protrusions for screw locations.  Routing the recess to connect the two pickup cavities with the control cavity. The route will be under the maple cap.Routing the recess to connect the two pickup cavities with the control cavity. The recess will be covered by the maple cap.  Maple cap was cut close to the line on the bandsaw then routed flush with the body template on the router table. Maple cap was cut close to the line on the bandsaw then routed flush with the body template on the router table.
 The lower portion was also cut closely on the bandsaw and routed flush to the template on the router table. Such operations are deceptively simple yet frought with potential disasters. Read up before attempting.The lower portion was also cut closely on the bandsaw and routed flush to the template on the router table. Such operations are deceptively simple yet fraught with potential disasters. Read up before attempting.  Glue up of the maple cap to the body.Glue up of the maple cap to the body.  Routing the pickup cavities. You can see the bridge pickup route has a flaw (top right of center) where the router bit bearing missed the template. If it seems wrong, stop cutting immediately.Routing the pickup cavities. You can see the bridge pickup route has a flaw (top right of center) where the router bit bearing missed the template. If it seems wrong, stop cutting immediately.
 Maple control cavity covers, fit by hand. I didn't like the first one so I made a second which came out pretty much the same as the first. A template would have made things more precise.Maple control cavity covers, fit by hand. I didn’t like the first one so I made a second which came out pretty much the same as the first. A template would have made things more precise.  Cutting out two necks from the mahogany neck blank. I ended up making my own neck profile template, oh my!Cutting out two necks from the mahogany neck blank. I ended up making my own neck profile template, oh my!  Working to level two Gibson style mahogany necks then add headstock wings. Top right, are two shop-made flame maple headstock veneers to match the body.Working to level two Gibson style mahogany necks then add headstock wings. Top right, are two shop-made flame maple headstock veneers to match the body.
Binding the Indian Rosewood fingerboard. Cutting out figured mother of pearl "crown" fret markers. I did it only breaking 16 of the tiny fretsaw blades.

Binding the Indian Rosewood fingerboard. Cutting out figured mother of pearl “crown” fret markers. I did it only breaking 16 of the tiny fret saw blades.

My first inlay work and I finally got a really nice recess cut on the third marker. Turns out they all looked pretty good after using some wood dust and superglue filler around the edges.My first inlay work and I finally got a really nice recess cut on the third marker. Turns out they all looked pretty good after using some wood dust and superglue filler around the edges. I very quickly discovered why it isn't a good idea to use quck setting epoxy for inlay work. I managed to break the 21st fret marker into three pieces trying to get it to fit before the epoxy set.I quickly discovered why it isn’t a good idea to use quick-setting epoxy for inlay work. I managed to break the 21st fret marker into three pieces trying to get it to fit before the epoxy set. This is the replacement glue up.

Custom Strat Style Build – Part 4 Assembly


The traditional finish for solid body electric guitars has always been nitrocellulose lacquer. Although there are advantages to applying lacquer there are also many disadvantages for hobby and small shop builders. Lacquer is highly flammable and toxic to breath. It also requires a rather toxic lacquer thinner for clean-up. With so many modern finishes available today I have side-stepped the problem and opted to use a water-based poly. Much less toxic to breath and clean-up is easy with tap water. Like lacquer, water-based poly dries extremely quickly so you can get “build” relatively quickly. For the neck I used, Tru-Oil with the exception of the headstock where I also applied water-based poly. I did this to add a bit more protection for the headstock veneer.

   Headstock Veneer


Although the heavy lifting had been completed on this build there were still a few details that needed my attention. The pickup and control cavities were lined with conductive copper tape in the manner of my last build, the Telecaster style guitar. It is almost guaranteed that you will slice your finger at least once during this process as the tape is made of metal and the edges can be like a razor. This usually happens as you attempt to smooth out the bubbles. With care, cuts can be minimized.

Using my cavity routing template I began by tracing and cutting out pieces for the bottom of the cavities. Next I lined the walls. I cut a length of tape slight wider than the cavity depth so that I had a bit of overlap with the bottom piece and small lip on the top. The latter would provide connectivity with the shielded pickguard providing full isolation. It is desirable to a) make it neat with b) using as little tape as necessary but it is really hard to do it wrong. The main consideration is make sure all the shielding is overlapped so that it is all electrically connected. I used my meter to measure conductivity throughout the process.

There are also two additional isolated areas for consideration, the jack cavity and the bridge.

The foil in the jack cavity will be grounded when the jack/jack plate are contacting the lip of the cavity shielding.

Connecting the isolated metal bridge is another story. First, a connecting tunnel had to be “blindly” drilled between the bridge area and the control cavity. I purchased an extended-length (~18″) 1/8″ drill bit for this purpose. You can’t exactly drill horizontally between cavities but the extra long bit allows you to lay the bit down closure to the body without the drill getting in the way. To protect the body I cut a 4″ length of 1/4″ pvc pipe and inserted the bit through it to help control the bit angle an provide a barrier between the spinning bit and the body. Once I had finalized the location, I selected an area underneath the bridge where a wire could make good contact when screwed to the body. I drilled from this location toward the control cavity in as horizontal a path as possible and I still came through towards the bottom of the cavity. This part of the build really frightens me. On the Tele build, I drilled through the back of the body and I wasn’t happy about that.

With the hole drilled, I ran a piece of braided wire (any wire would do) through the 1/8″ tunnel and tacked it on both ends with solder to the copper shielding.  I tried to make sure the braid was affixed in an out-of-the-way location so it didn’t interfere with the pickguard and jack wiring.

Fretting & Nut Shaping

Before I could play my new instrument I had some things to sort out. I had to fabricate a nut. I started with a pre-shaped nut and sanded the sides to fit. String notches had been started and I used my slotting files to deepen them.

Something's Missing

People routinely tell you that you can make many of your own luthier tools and jigs and this is absolutely true…. but….. You might sometimes find that the tool you have fabricated isn’t quite right. If you couple this with inexperience you can sometimes run in to trouble. This happened to me fretting my instrument. I’m not experienced to begin with and I have had a number of problems getting it right. First off my fret slotting table saw sled wasn’t allowing me to get my fret slots deep enough which meant they were too shallow after I had put the radius on the fretboard. Deepening them by hand turned out to be time-consuming and potentially dangerous if the saw slipped out of the kerf. I have now addressed this for future builds but this neck was already assembled.

My next goof was using the fret leveling beam where I was too aggressive in my attempt to get everything level. I did my best and even polished up all the frets but at the end of the I wasn’t happy with the job. Reluctantly, I decided to pull the frets and start over. I purchased a fret puller and guard and this definitely helped but ultimately I did have some chip out. Would have been better to not have to have done this but at the same time, it allowed me to learn something new. If you have never experienced it, you can’t really learn about it.

Drill Press w/ Fret Press Caul

My re-fret was more successful than the first and I also did a better job crowning the frets with a new tool, the Z-file. I have been polishing frets to a nice shine using a Dremel with a buffing wheel and green polishing compound.

Refret Complete


Until you actually undertake a project like this, you really can’t appreciate the immense number of details that have to be overcome. Along the way I have had to repair a chunk in the body, make a headstock veneer to fix the headstock being planed too thin, then repair the veneer which I subsequently damaged, snug up a loose tuning machine hole, deepen fret slots by hand, re-fret the fingerboard, repair the tear out from removing the first frets,  level a high fret, fix a couple poor solder joints and the list goes on. Thank goodness, everything went WELL!

In the end, I love the process. I’ve learned a great deal, my skills have improved and I look forward to making fewer and hopefully different mistakes on my future builds!

Custom Strat

Custom Strat Style Build – Part 3 The Pickups

March 1, 2017 Leave a comment

DIY Pickup Winder

One of the limitations which I have learned of myself is that I have limited mechanical skills. My dilemma, I want to try my hand at hand winding my own pickups but I don’t want to spend $300 for what I would consider to be a so-so winder. I was tempted to purchase the $500 winder which looks to be quite nice but I couldn’t quite convince myself that I should spend that much money on it. What to do? I’ve actually spent a couple of years now looking at the plethora of DIY winders but couldn’t quite come up with my own plan….. until now. As is the case with many problems, Harbor Freight is the answer! lol.

I came across this image on Google and that was it, this was the “plan” I was going to attempt.


Of course I would make this idea “my own” by using parts I had on hand. Although I purchased the Harbor Freight router speed controller, I found it to be useless for this and any other application I could imagine. The controller goes from off to full on with almost no change in the dial. I used a dimmer switch which, although not perfect, worked much, much better. I had already built this module long ago to control the speed of my 1/2″ drill when I hook it to my grain mill for home-brewing. You can see this part below in the upper left of the photo. Now that I have tested this concept, I am considering wiring the motor directly to a dedicated dimmer which (you guessed it) I happen to have on-hand.

DIY winder rudiments.

In lieu of an optical sensor, I choose to use a hall effect (magnetic) sensor for the counter module. I purchased this digital counter on Amazon and I tell you, it rocks! Best $11 I’ve spent recently.


The motor began life as a Harbor Freight 5″ bench grinder which set me back $35. I’m not sure if I had a coupon but 20% off coupons are ubiquitous for HF. I stripped off the grinding wheels and covers exposing the 1/2″ threaded drive shaft on both sides. The left side is reverse threaded so don’t lose the supplied bolt.

For the winding guides, I again used what I had on hand, a Harbor Freight magnetic mount. The stop collars where also purchased (you guessed it) at Harbor Freight. I purchased two packs to get two of size I needed but the other collars will be used on other project. Clearly you don’t need the magnetic mount to make a guide but I already had it and  I liked the idea that I didn’t have to a) build a support and b) it would be completely adjustable. The latter was a big plus because I was making up the plans as I went and having never wound a pickup before, I had no experience telling me how far away or how tall the guides should be. With this design, it didn’t matter I can move it anywhere I put the steel plate. To wind on the left side, I unlock the magnet mount and rotate it 180°. The trickiest part is re-adjusting the stop collar guides which would be necessary anyway depending on the type of pickup bobbin currently being wound.

To assemble the platen, I used 1/2″ plywood and the arbor plates that came with grinder. It worked out that I could use one piece (inward) as a shim. The mating piece would be reversed and held in place with the arbor nut. In this configuration very little of the drive shaft was left exposed beyond the nut. I carefully carved out a recess in the platen for the nut which would be used to drive the platen. The platen is held in place with four small neodymium magnets embedded and epoxied in place. The same setup was made for left and right posts however the left side also houses larger magnet along the rim to activate the counter each revolution. The opposing nut was an attempt to balance the weight. I was unable to weigh them but I’m guessing the magnet weighs more than the nut. Use of magnets to hold the plates on makes it simple to remove them when loading bobbins. I ended up with a 1/2″ hole in the center of each plate (don’t have to but I used a 1/2″ dowel to hold the roughed out disk and trued it up by rotating it against a sanding disc.) Instead of approximating the center of the platen each time I mount a bobbin, I made a bobbin mount out of 1/8″ ply and glued a very then piece of 1/2″ dowel to the bottom. To attach it I put double-sided tape on the bottom and align the dowel into the center hole. It isn’t “machine tight” but it does take most of the guess-work out of finding the center.

Platen detail

I used a squarish scrap board and decided to cover it with 1/8″ white board for better visibility of the magnet wire.

Click image below to watch the first test of the newly assembled device.

DIY pickup winder

Watch a short video, it spins

Three Single Coil Pickups

My first single coil bobbins

After watching as many pickup winding videos as I could stand,  I started by following the Stewmac directions for assembling the bobbins. These kits come with staggered height  pole pieces so I had to be very careful during insertion. I also had to whip together spacers and pole piece insertion/hammering tool both of which were extremely simple to make. Of course, never having used the tools, I had to remake each of them once I knew their exact purpose. Again this was easy and I took my time with the first steps.

On D-Day Saturday I spent a fair amount of time figuring out where I was going to place the spool of wire. I reasoned that most wire breaks would be caused by poor placement and consequent unnecessary tension on the wire feed. The directions pointed out that the wire should spool off the top of the spool from about 24-36″ from the winder. I found a location to clamp a length of 3/4″ dowel angled (pointed) directly at the winder/bobbin. I took my time with this and my greatest fear was stupidly walking through the wire while mounting the bobbin. Because of this I didn’t load the spool onto the dowel until the wire had been thread on to the bobbin and bobbin had been mount and I was ready to wind. Only then did I “arm” the spool.

One down and two to go.

Given these are my first pickups, I had to rely on the recommendations of other with respect on specifications. I used Alinco 5 pole pieces for the neck and Alnico 2 in the middle and bridge pickups. This solely based on the Stewmac pickup kit product pages. The Stewmac document that comes with the Schatten pickup winder provides stats on vintage and modern numbers of turns on Strat pickups all of which were south of 8,000. I decided on 7,700 for the neck, 7,800 for the middle and 7,900 for the bridge. None of these would be considered “hot” pickups but then again, I have no reason to wind hot pickups for my guitar. I play in my bedroom on a Mustang I amp. No stadium metal for me.

The neck and bridge pickups would be wound clockwise with South polarity and the middle would be wound counterclockwise with North polarity for hum canceling in the 2 and 4 switch positions. I was very fortunate to wind all three pickups with the correct number of winds (for my target) without any breaks. I was quite pleased with this first run at it!


No special equipment here. I heated water on the stove and suspended a quart canning jar of  paraffin wax in it. Once the water was close to boiling and the wax started melting, I turned the burner down. Further on I turned the stove off once all the wax was liquefied. The three pickups were submerged for 15 minutes and then one by one retrieved and the outside carefully wiped free of melting wax.

img_1559 img_1561

I was a little concerned the pickups were crowded but I couldn’t think of any ill effects that resulted. If concerned the pickups could have been potted one at a time or a larger jar and more wax thrown at the problem.

Wiring the Pickguard

I love this part. Actually I loved the wiring and soldering of connections part but before I did that I decided to shield the entire pickguard with copper shielding tape. I’m not absolutely convinced that this was necessary or even wise but I just couldn’t make myself proceed without doing it. So I did and I sliced my thumb in the process. But that is typical for any day I spend in the shop!

Pickguard shielded

I found several examples of a tidy job using Google images and then used the Stewmac supplied document as the actually guide to connections. Once I was satisfied that I had done a really professional job, I attempted to fit it to my body only to discover that I had to rearrange the wires to get them to seat/fit properly. Tip: I used the cavity routing template to visualize the space and see which wires needed to be rerouted. I like my first plan but that had to be modified to work in “the real world”.

Loaded pickguard

All that is left to do is to wire in the jack and test.

Can you feel the excitement growing?

Custom Strat Style Build – Part 2 The Body

March 1, 2017 Leave a comment

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…”.