This weekend I started actual work on The AV, my first attempt at building a guitar. I figured highly detailed designs of guitars would be all over the interweb tubing, but it turns out very few people want to share them. I did manage to find a few measurements from various places & started cobbling together a more accurate body.
The plans I found were a mishmash between the original ‘58 body style and the ‘85 reissue. In Robb’s world, this is known as “close enough”. Eventually, I got it all down to the final look, including my headstock design.
I need to measure the neck a bit as I’m running for a scale length of 25.5”. I’m basing the neck of off La Pistola since it’s the best neck I’ve ever played and it’s mine, so I can measure until the cows come home. In the Illustrator file, the neck is not 100% perfectly placed, so I have to do a bit more tweaking (it’s probably off by 1/100th of an inch, but that’s enough to screw things up).
But drawings alone don’t make guitars, making guitars makes guitars, so I started working on some MDF prototypes so I can practice building & get the “bugs” out of the system before I start carving into expensive wood.
The first thing I started working on was the headstock. I wanted to make sure I had the skills necessary to make a very accurate template.
First I printed out the headstock to scale & glued it down to a piece of MDF. Then I took it to the bandsaw to make a very rough cut, followed by a lot of sanding to get the curves nice & smooth. Then I drilled out the tuning peg holes to an exact size of whatever Forstner bit happened to be in the drill press. This was a test, I just wanted holes.
It looks like I may have accidentally succeeded. I was even able to make a copy from a scrap of hard maple I had sitting around!
After that success, I started on the body. Same thing except I couldn’t fit the entire body on 1 sheet of paper, so I printed a bunch with grid lines and glued them onto a board of MDF, carefully aligning each piece (when it comes time to do the real template, I’ll have an architectural print done at Staples).
it’s not bad. It’s also not perfect. The neck curves are uneven and the tips, while very nicely rounded, are not the same size. Hard to tell from a distance, but it’s those little things that can really set a guitar apart. But this is why I practice.
I’ve already learned a ton. One, the carpet tape I use to hold things down sucks. It’s too thick & squishy for accuracy. It holds 2 pieces of wood together just fine, but they move ever so slightly when under any pressure. They make thinner tape that I can get at Wal-Mart that’s better suited for this type of work.
Two, I need shaped sanding blocks like a fish needs water. The inner portion of the V is so perfect that I’m shocked it came out of my hands. I did it by wrapping 150 grit around a can of spray adhesive & going to town. I’m in the process of getting an oscillating sander that should help a bit with these kinds of things, but still, I can make sanding blocks of all kinds of shapes and will need to if I want any sort of accuracy. Grabbing a sheet of paper by hand doesn’t do the trick.
Three, the prototyping thing is a great idea. In fact, I’m going to grab a bunch of poplar which is a hardwood in name only, and build the entire guitar, neck & body, a few times to get the hang of it. Poplar is $4 a board foot, so screwing that up is cheap. Plus, like anything in life, practice helps immensely.
Still a long way to go, but it should be a fun journey. Feel free, if you’re a Book Face kind of person, to join the group I set up to document the build. I’ll try to put it on the blog as well!