Monday, January 31, 2011

The Latest eGuitar Plans Newsletter is Available

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Super Easy Series of Electric Guitar Plans

I'm working on a new idea for a series of plans that will simplify the guitar construction process by utilizing a Stratocaster style replacement neck. The idea is based on the reality that many potential builders want to make their own electric guitar, don't have the skills or specialized tools necessary to make their own neck and fretboard.

What I have in mind is to offer two cool looking body shapes; a single cut and a double cut. After you decide on the shape, you'll select either a hardtail bridge, a standard tremolo or a Floyd Rose® tremolo configuration. Finally, you'll choose either two humbuckers, three single coils or two P90s to satisfy the pickup arrangement for your guitar.

After you finish making the body, all you'll have to do is purchase a Stratocaster style replacement neck, bolt it on, add your components and you'll be ready to ROCK! With so many Strat style replacement necks on the market, including unfinished paddle headstock models, there should be no reason why you can't build the guitar of your dreams with nothing more exotic than a jigsaw and a router.

Below is a screen shot of the two body shapes I plan on offering. Please let me know what you think as your opinions are what inspires me!

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Alive!

What started out as a block of Alder has turned magically into a custom Stratocaster copy. This project is a special request for a design similar to the Tom Delonge Strat, but with some slight alterations. For example, the routing is a bit different in that less wood has been removed. I also carved out less wood on the belly relief and the armrest to keep the body nice and fat. A fat body = fat tone. Later on she'll be wrapped up in some surf green lacquer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Electric Guitar Designs Are Better Than One

Okay, as you know, I'm working on the Highline Single Cut guitar build right now. But, I have an idea to add a double cut version as well. Here are some screenshots of both plans in rough form. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Highline Legato Electric Guitar Is Now Available

I've posted the just completed Legato electric guitar on the Highline web site along with the material and component specifications. If you would like to purchase this guitar (or any of my other builds), it is available for sale. On the other hand, if you'd like a guitar customized to your tastes, let me know your ideas and I'll get you a quote.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Another Legato Electric Guitar Is Finished

This one will be available on Highline Handmade Electric Guitars and Pickups in the next day or so. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos of the finished guitar. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Look Ma, No Spray Gun!

I am psyched! Check out the finish on the Highline Single Cut:

What's cool about it is I didn't use a spray gun, airbrush or spray can to get the effect. I did it all by hand. If you want to learn how I did it, you'll have to sign up for my newsletter and wait until February 1st when the next issue comes out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Staining the Highline Single Cut Electric Guitar

For the Highline Single Cut, I decided to stain the back and neck while only wiping on boiled linseed oil on the top. After the stain and oil dry, I'll probably spray on a top coat of gloss lacquer. I plan to offer some staining tips in the February 2011 issue of my FREE newsletter. If you sign up by typing your email address into the box on the right side of this page before February 1st, you'll get your copy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tools You'll Need For Building An Electric Guitar

I thought it might be helpful to list the tools you'll need for building and electric guitar. I've divided the list into three categories, which are Must Have, Should Have and Nice to Have. I've tried to list every tool I use, however, I may have missed a few. Check it out and let me know if I forgot any:

Must have tools:
  1. Jig saw
  2. Rasp file
  3. Fine tooth file
  4. Deadblow hammer
  5. Fret saw
  6. Miter box
  7. Socket wrench with SAE and metric sockets
  8. Tape measure
  9. Sandpaper
  10. Radius sanding block
  11. Drill
  12. Drill bits
  13. Clamps
  14. Wood glue
  15. Super glue
  16. Screw drivers
  17. Long straightedge
  18. Feeler gauges
  19. Router
  20. 1/2" x 1/2" pattern bit
  21. 1/4" straight bit
  22. Soldering iron
  23. Electronic solder
  24. Flux
  25. Clean rags
  26. Mechanical pencil
  27. Safety goggles
  28. Respirator mask
  29. Hearing protection
  30. First aid kit
  31. Hobby knife
  32. Wire cutters
  33. Tweezers

Should have:
  1. Belt sander
  2. Random orbital sander
  3. Drill press
  4. 1" x 2" sanding drum
  5. Set of nut files
  6. Fret crowning file
  7. Helping hands alligator clamps
  8. Preval Sprayer
  9. Wagner Safety Planer
  10. Fretboard clamps
  11. Shop vacuum
  12. Fret press
  13. Fret bender
  14. Fret edge beveling tool
  15. Rotary hobby tool
  16. Portable clamping workbench
  17. Clamp lamp
  18. Digital calipers
  19. Multi tester

Nice to have:
  1. Band saw
  2. Table saw
  3. 6" jointer
  4. 4" x 36" bench top belt sander
  5. Oscillating spindle sander
  6. Dust extraction system
  7. HVLP spray system
  8. Spray booth
  9. Buffing station
  10. Large workbench

Monday, January 10, 2011

Word From The Shop

This past weekend was another busy one here at Highline Handmade Electric Guitars. It started with the procurement of some very nice figured Maple. I scored a 8" wide, 1" thick, 112" long board loaded with intense flame figure from end-to-end and all the way through. I cut the board down to five 20" long boards, which I will re-saw into bookmatched drop tops. I also have a 12" piece that I'll use for headstock caps. I guess I'll be making at least 5 guitars this year for sure.

I also did quite a bit of work on the Highline Single Cut. In this photo, I've glued and clamped on the headstock cap, which was made from the same piece of spalted Maple as the body cap. I used 11 clamps!

Friday, January 7, 2011

How I Carve An Electric Guitar Top

There are a lot of ways you can carve the top of an electric guitar. Some luthiers like to use CNC routers to generate the shape while others like to use duplicating machines to do the work. These methods make sense for commercial operations, but what's the best technique for the builder who plans on building one guitar? I make a lot of guitars, but the method I use is perfect for the low volume builder. Here are some photos of how I do it:

I use a Safety Planer in my drill press to plane gradual steps in the top. First I draw lines to mark each step. The position of the lines is eyeballed according to how I want to shape the curves. Since the highest part of the curve in at the center of the body, it'll be left the full thickness of the top. Each step drops slightly with the last one at or near the edge depending on how I want the curve shaped. The guitar pictured here will have a shape similar to a Les Paul, so the edge will be about an inch and a half wide all the way around except at the waist where it'll be narrower. Each step is about 1/16" lower than the previous one. If I have a top that is 1/2" thick, and I have 6 steps down from the center section, the top will end up with a thickness of about 3/16" at the edge.

Since I have to work from the center out, I have to plane from the edge all the way in toward the edge of each step. This destroys my lines, so I have to redraw them before I plane the next step. For that reason, it's a good idea to draw out the lines on a separate sheet of paper and transfer them to the body for each pass of the planer.

The edges of the steps won't look as nice as if they'd been cut with a CNC router, but it doesn't matter since the steps will be blended together.

Once the planing is finished, I'll start blending the steps together.

I've tried belt sanders, drum sanders and random orbital sanders, but the best way to blend the steps together is to use some simple hand tools.

After the steps have been blended, I'll go over the top with some 80 grit sandpaper and fine-tune the surface.

I still have some detail shaping to do, but you get the idea. And that's how I carve an electric guitar top.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 66 Steps To Building An Electric Guitar

While building the Highline Single Cut electric guitar, I put together a list of steps to keep me organized. One of the many things I've learned while building electric guitars is order reigns supreme. For example, if I carve the top before routing the control cavity into the back of the body, I have a hard time keeping it steady. The body has to be clamped upside down in order to do the routing and if the top has already been carved out, it wants to wobble around. Another example in the neck pocket. It has to be routed after the neck is finished so that the tenon can be used to set up the template.

Anyway, here's the schedule I am following:

The neck:
1. Cut and glue the heel block
2. Cut the headstock angle
3. Plane the fretboard mating surface
4. Rout the truss rod slot
5. Cut the tenon shape
6. Sand the headstock angles to match
7. Glue on the headstock angle
8. Trim the headstock's thickness to 9/16"
9. Cut the neck's thickness from the headstock to the heel
10. Glue on the headstock ears
11. Sand or plane the top of the headstock flat
12. Sand or plane the mating surface of the headstock cap flat
13. Glue on the headstock cap
14. Cut the side taper and headstock shape
15. Shape the contour
16. Sand the contour and the headstock edges smooth to 220 grit
17. Plane the fretboard's mating surface
18. Cut the fret slots
19. Radius the fretboard
20. Deepen the fret slots
21. Cut the fretboard's taper
22. Install the truss rod.
23. Glue the fretboard to the neck
24. Install the fret wire
25. Bevel the fret wire edges
26. Drill the tuner holes

The body:
27. Plane the mating surfaces of the body halves square and level
28. Glue the body halves together
29. Plane and sand the top of the blank level
30. Plane and sand the mating surface of the cap level
31. Glue on the cap
32. Cut the body's shape
33. Sand the edges smooth to 150 grit
34. Rout the control cavity
35. Carve the top if desired
36. Rout the pickup pockets
37. Rout the neck pocket
38. Drill the wiring tunnels
39. Drill the bridge and tail piece mounting holes
40. Drill the jack hole
41. Round over the edges
42. Sand the body to 220 grit

The finish:
43. Make sure the surfaces are error free and sanded to 220 grit
44. Tint the wood with water based dye or stain
45. Fill the grain on any open grained wood used
46. Lightly sand with 220 grit to remove any raised grain
47. Seal the wood with water based sealer
48. Apply 12 coats of water based lacquer
49. Allow the finish to cure for 150 hours
50. Wet sand with 800, 1,500 and 2,000 grit 
51. Pre-polish with Menzerna yellow compound
52. Buff with Menzerna tan compound
53. Clean out the holes for the tuners and the bridge/tailpiece

The final assembly:
54. Wind the pickups
55. Solder the control connections outside of the body
56. Install the controls, pickups and finish soldering the connections
57. Install the tuners
58. Install the bridge ground wire
59. Install the bridge and tail piece
60. Level and dress the frets
61. Make the nut
62. Install the strings
63. Adjust the truss rod
64. Adjust the action at the bridge and nut
65. Adjust the intonation
66. Final inspection and testing

If anything changes during construction, I'll be sure to update the list.