Building a Steel String Guitar

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#241  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 22, 2016 5:30 pm

Those radius ones are lovely. (Well, they all are)
The problem with fantasies is you can't really insist that everyone else believes in yours, the other problem with fantasies is that most believers of fantasies eventually get around to doing exactly that.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#242  Postby John Platko » Feb 22, 2016 9:56 pm

Onyx8 wrote:Those radius ones are lovely. (Well, they all are)


People take this kind of thing to extremes.



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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#243  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 23, 2016 1:29 am

Lovely. And lol
The problem with fantasies is you can't really insist that everyone else believes in yours, the other problem with fantasies is that most believers of fantasies eventually get around to doing exactly that.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#244  Postby John Platko » Feb 24, 2016 2:32 pm

Rough carving the neck - the heel

Next I get the heel of the neck close to it's final shape. I attach the neck to the guitar and mark the bottom of the heel at the center seem. This helps keep things square during the carving process.

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I use a template and mark the profile of the heel where it meets the body.

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I use a very sharp chisel and cut almost to the line.

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A bunch of wood chips later.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#245  Postby John Platko » Feb 27, 2016 3:50 pm

Rough carving the neck

Then I make a center line mark on the back of the neck. If the neck has been thicknessed to its final dimension, like this one, than you should carve up to the line but not remove it.

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Here are some tools that I use for carving the curve in the neck. A microplane is great for figured wood, it removes wood fast enough but not so fast that you're likely to make a big mistake. A rasp is great, it's my favorite shaping tool, you could carve the whole neck with a couple of rasps and it's a great way to do it. A spokeshave is traditional, it's a good way to start but it's not necessary if you have a good rasp or microplane. I don't use a drawknife mostly because that isn't how I was taught to do it and I never felt the need to get one. A drawknife would make faster work of the initial carving and if you're carving a lot of necks it would make sense to start with one, but it also can make a big mistake just as quick.

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Here's the jig I use to hold the neck while I carve.

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A spokeshave in action

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A microplane in action.

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It's a good idea to mark where the tuners will sit on the bottom of the headstock so that you're sure to leave a flat space for them. I also mark the contour of the headstock that I want. I use a simple arch.

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I like to use a violin knife for detailed carving around the neck.

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And I use a scraper from time to time to smooth things out and see where I am.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#246  Postby John Platko » Mar 03, 2016 5:36 pm

Rough carving the neck - side profile of the heel


After the bulk of the neck is roughed out, I mark the side profile of the heel.

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At this point you can take it to the bandsaw and make a rough side profile cut. Make straight radial cuts around the perimeter so the blade can cut a space for itself as it goes and then cut outside the line.

I'm just going to use some hand tools to cut away the bulk. I rounded microplane is good for this. You can also use chisels, gauges, and/or a rasp.

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This is good enough heel transition for now.

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And the rough carving is done.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#247  Postby John Platko » Mar 08, 2016 12:38 am

Refining the neck

After the a rough carving of the entire neck has been completed it's time to see where things stand and refine the carving. It's a good idea to shine light on the neck at different angles and look for irregular shadows. Check the lines, with your eyes, a straight edge on the back of the neck, and best of all, your hands.

I made some simple arch templates that help me gauge the roundness of the neck. Necks don't have to be round though, you may like more of a V, or something flatter than round. The shape doesn't have to be the same all the way up the neck. Perhaps you prefer a V at the nut, moving to something round in the middle and then flatter towards the heel - which is what I'm doing here. Also, if you're using a V shape then it doesn't have to be centered down the back of the neck, you may prefer it skewed a bit.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind where the truss rod is and leave at least .125” of wood there.

Here are the radius templates that I use to check neck profiles. With these I can tell if I'm carving a V, a round, or a flat area and adjust accordingly.

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I refine the heel area checking for symmetry and smoothness.

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At this point I'll often switch to scrapers to help refine certain areas.

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Sandpaper on a block can help smooth the neck. I use it with a rolling motion.

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Also a strip of sandpaper used in a shoe shine motion helps rounds the neck. Keep in mind that using sandpaper across the grain like this puts deep scratches in the wood, therefore leave enough wood so you can later clear the scratches later.

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Shoe shine the heel to smooth it too. Sanding with the grain clears the scratches.

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Your hands are very sensitive to bumps and irregularities and should be the final judge of when then neck is ready for you to move on.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#248  Postby John Platko » Mar 18, 2016 2:54 pm

I just got back from a bit of vacation. Time to continue this build thread.

Preliminary dovetail fitting

At this point I seat the dovetail and check for general fit. I'll get it very close to the final fit but I'll check it again after the finish sanding with a bit more care to the final neck angle. I”ll apply finish on the guitar body and neck before I glue the neck on the body so the final dovetail fit happens then. The neck angle can be fine tuned at that point but it should be very close now.

I clamp the neck in a coupe of cauls which hold it while I adjust the dovetail.

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A very sharp chisel is used to carefully shave the dovetail until it seats evenly. Check that the fingerboard is centered also. After shaving a bit I check the fit until with a bit of clamp pressure it fits snugly.

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A strip of sandpaper can be used to help mate the heel to the body.

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Add some tape to the back of the sandpaper to make it a bit stiffer and prevent tearing.

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Put the sandpaper between the heel and the body. Keep firm pressure on the joint. Pull the paper out with a bit of downward pressure so you don't round the heel. I haven't sized the bottom of the heel yet so it doesn't matter now but it's good practice for later.

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The solera set the neck angle into the top and now the fingerboard sits nicely on the top first try. This is not as easy to do as I'm making it look here. Take the time to understand the geometry before you start building. I also put a straight edge on the fingerboard and make sure the strings will sit a reasonable distance off the deck of the soundboard at the bridge.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#249  Postby laklak » Mar 18, 2016 5:33 pm

Glad to see the next installment, hope you had a nice vacation.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#250  Postby John Platko » Mar 20, 2016 3:24 pm

laklak wrote:Glad to see the next installment, hope you had a nice vacation.


It was good - a little more rain than I would have liked but still good.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#251  Postby John Platko » Mar 20, 2016 3:32 pm

Adjusting the length of the heel


At this point I adjust the length of the heel in preparation for applying the heel cap.
The heel cap is a bit of decoration and it also helps protect against bumps.

Up to this point the bottom of the heel has been left long, now I cut it down to the right size for the guitar.

Clamp the neck in place and mark close to where you want the heel to end, leaving a little bit extra that will be chiseled off later.

I want the heel – cap seam to be below the start of the binding. I'm not going to add purfling lines to the heel cap to match the body purfling because it's difficult to exactly match the lines, and still be able to adjust for proper neck angle.

Mark the end of the heel, keeping in mind the angle you want the heel to have relative to the plane of the guitar back.

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I cut most of the excess heel off while the neck is still on the body so I can better see how the final heel will look.

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The last bit of the heel is cut with the neck off the body.

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Now with the neck attached again I use a very sharp chisel to make the final adjustments on the heel bottom.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#252  Postby Onyx8 » Mar 20, 2016 4:27 pm

Can I have a closer look at that chisel?
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#253  Postby John Platko » Mar 22, 2016 3:49 pm

Onyx8 wrote:Can I have a closer look at that chisel?


Sure.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#254  Postby Onyx8 » Mar 22, 2016 4:26 pm

Lovely. Cheers.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#255  Postby Alan B » Mar 22, 2016 10:10 pm

Is it Japanese?
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#256  Postby John Platko » Mar 23, 2016 3:34 pm

Alan B wrote:Is it Japanese?


Yes. I believe the mark identifies it as being made here.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#257  Postby Alan B » Mar 23, 2016 4:16 pm

I couldn't quite make out the mark. I was rather taken with the Samuri sword- like patterning.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#258  Postby John Platko » Mar 23, 2016 4:47 pm

Alan B wrote:I couldn't quite make out the mark. I was rather taken with the Samuri sword- like patterning.


Yes, some of these chisels are amazing. Here's one being made the hard way.

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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#259  Postby Onyx8 » Mar 23, 2016 7:27 pm

The pattern comes from pattern welding in the forge. Commonly but incorrectly referred to as 'Damascus'.
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Re: Building a Steel String Guitar

#260  Postby John Platko » Mar 23, 2016 9:07 pm

Onyx8 wrote:The pattern comes from pattern welding in the forge. Commonly but incorrectly referred to as 'Damascus'.


They call it Mokume.
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