Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Guitar Build Underway

This is how I carve a top. I start by drawing a line where the carve will begin.

Next, I use a Safety Planer to plane down the first step about an eighth of an inch.

Then, I draw a line to mark the edge of the next step.

After planing each step down about an eighth of an inch, I'm ready to blend them together.

I use a rasp and a lot of elbow grease to blend the steps.

Finally, I use a palm sander with some 60 grit paper to smooth out the surface.
Later on, I'll sand it further with 80 to 400 grit.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Applying Finish To The Envirocaster Part 5; The Neck

Okay, so I said I like my necks au natural. However, as so often happens during the course of one of my builds, I changed my mind. Pure tung oil does a great job of popping Birdseye Maple, but once it dries, some of the effect is lost. When it's wet, it shimmers, but after the oil dries, the shimmer is gone. I could wipe on layer after layer, however, that can take days. In the end, I decided to spray on several coats of glossy water-based lacquer to bring back the shimmer. I also coated the control cavity cover as well as both P90 pickups. Check it out:

Now comes the fun part; waiting for the topcoats to cure. If I was using nitro, I'd have to wait about a month, but with the water-based lacquer, I'll only have to let the parts sit for 7 days. In the meantime, maybe I'll start the next build. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Applying Finish To The Envirocaster Part 4; The Neck

Like most guitarists, I am very picky about how the necks of my guitars feel in my fretting hand. I don't like glossy necks as my hand tends to stick when it gets sweaty. The feel I prefer is as if there was no finish at all. Unfortunately, if I were to leave the neck au natural, the wood eventually would suffer from the effects of exposure. 

At the same time, I want to bring out the beauty of the wood I used for both the neck and fretboard. The question is; How do I do this and protect the neck without harming the environment? The answer: tung oil.

Now there are those who might argue that tung oil is hardly eco-friendly since after all, it is an oil. But in truth, it is an oil that comes from pressing a nut from a tung tree. These trees are grown specifically for the purpose, so it's not like they are endangered. Furthermore, if you wipe on the oil rather than spray it on, you won't have to worry about filling the air with over spray.

Before you run out and buy yourself some tung oil, it's important to understand that there are two varieties; pure tung oil and polymerized tung oil. Most common and easiest to find is polymerized tung oil. It is basically pure tung oil with chemical additives that promote faster drying and different levels of sheen. I prefer pure tung oil as it seems to dry just as fast as the polymerized variety. However, if I want a glossy sheen, I'll wipe on a few thick coats of Formby's gloss after the pure tung oil has dried as day or two.

The method I used for the Envirocaster's neck was to wipe on three coats of pure tung oil a couple of hors apart. Then I let it dry over night. Next I wiped on two fairly heavy coats of Formby's gloss about 12 hours apart and let it dry for 12 more hours. Then, I wiped down the back of the neck with 0000 steel wool to get a luxuriously smooth and satiny feel.

In part 5, I will discuss polishing the Envirocaster's water-based lacquer topcoat. However, the body will need to sit and cure for about a week before the next steps can be taken. Until then, I have an idea for a binding jig I may build. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Applying Finish To The Envirocaster Part 3

I the last update, I showed how I spray a burst with my Iwata airbrush.
To apply the water-based topcoat, I usually use an HVLP sprayer, but
it has always seemed like overkill for something as small as a guitar
body. For the Envirocaster, I am using a Badger Crescendo 175T with
a large needle. This will allow me to apply just the right amount of
lacquer with greater precision.

In keeping with the environmental theme, I used Hydrocoat
Resisthane Plus, which is a water-based, pre-cat lacquer. It goes on
smooth and dries rock-hard. Plus, there is absolutely no odor. Best of all, it's safe for the environment and clean-up can be done in a sink.
You can't say that about nitrocellulose lacquer!
In part 4, I'll show you how I finished the neck with pure tung oil. It's not water-based of course, but it's still better than using nitro. Stay tuned!

The Highline Acheron Is Finished...

...and available for purchase on eBay. Click here to bid. Check out the photos I shot this morning:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Finishing The Envirocaster Part 2

I use an Iwata dual-action, gravity-fed airbrush to spray color on my
guitars. In this case, I used thinned water-based acrylic enamel I
picked up from a local craft store. Since it's water-based, there's
no toxic odor and you don't have to use dangerous solvents to
clean up with. I'll never use nitrocellulose again!

I'm digging the color. After I finish spraying the back, I'll spray a
coat of clear water-based lacquer to seal the color.
Then, I'll start the topcoat process
In part 3, I show you how I get a nice glossy topcoat that is more durable than nitrocellulose. And, it's easy on the lungs and environment. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guitar Build Update: Finishing The Envirocaster Part 1

After sanding the body to 220 grit, I filled the grain with some neutral
Timber Mate mixed with water.

I brushed two coats of the soupy mixture over the entire body
and allowed two hours of dry time between coats.

After the Timber Mate had been allowed to fully dry, I sanded off the
excess with 220 grit paper.

Next, I vacuumed off the dust and brushed on a couple of coats of
water-based lacquer thinned 1:1 with water. This layer of lacquer will
seal the surface and prepare it for the next step.
In part 2 of the finishing process, I will lightly sand the body with 220 grit and apply a brown burst around the edge. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guitar Build Update: The Envirocaster's Pickups

I finished a set of P90s for the Envirocaster. The bobbins and 
baseplate are Birdseye Maple left over from making the neck. 
Each pickup has 8,000 turns of 43 AWG wire, which produces 
just over 9k Ohms of DC resistance. Originally, I had planned 
on potting the pickups with water-based lacquer brushed on 
the coils every 1,000 turns, but I decided to leave them alone. 
If they squeal, I can always go back and pot them later. The 
magnets used in each pup are Alnico V. 
Can't wait to hear them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Winding Pickups For The Envirocaster

This guitar is going to feature a truly unique set of pickups. Based on the good-old P90 design, I made them almost completely from scratch. The bobbins and baseplate are Maple left over from the neck and fretboard. Of course the wire and magnets are made from traditional materials (copper and Alnico), but there isn't much I can do about that. I know that copper wire and Alnico magnets are probably not very eco-friendly to make, but as a total percentage of the guitar's composition, they represent only a small portion.

Speaking of the neck, dig the Birdseye!

Just a couple of coats of pure tung oil to seal and pop the eyes.

The first bobbin is done. Instead of potting in wax, I have opted for
a different method that uses brushed on water-based lacquer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guitar Build Update: The Envirocaster

In keeping with the Envirocaster's eco-friendly theme, I'm
making a set of P90 pickup bobbins out of scrap Birdseye Maple.
Even the baseplate will be Birdseye Maple.

This is a cool shot of the bobbins being glued and clamped together.

Cranking on the Envirocaster

The Swamp Ash body has been sanded with 60 grit. The rounded edge was formed with a 1/2" round over bit in my router. Next, I'll sand the body to 150 grit and hold there until after routing the pockets and cavities. Then, I'll take it to 400 grit. The Birdseye Maple neck is under a lot of pressure as the fretboard is glued and clamped into place.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guitar Build Update: The Highline Acheron Nears Completion

All that's left is final assembly and set-up.
Then, It'll go up for auction on eBay.
I'll be sure to post a link.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Make Way For The Envirocaster!

What the heck is the Envirocaster, you ask?

Birdseye Maple for the neck and fretboards and Swamp Ash for the body.

The necks are cut and ready to shape.

I even used American Black Walnut for the marker dots.

Back in August, the Gibson guitar factory in Nashville, Tennessee was raided by the US Justice Department who confiscated some of the wood they used. The USJD claims the use of this wood violates certain international laws. I'm not going to get into who is right or wrong in this case, but I can say it has had a scary affect on luthiers everywhere.

As a result of this action, I've decided to build a guitar using woods, which are not protected by any trade or environmental laws. To do this, I'll have to forgo my usual choice of imported wood. Most of the woods I have used in the past aren't subject to these laws, but that could change in a heartbeat.

For this reason, I have elected to go with woods that are responsibly grown and cultivated for our use. To be more specific, I will be using Swamp Ash for the body and Birdseye Maple for the neck. These woods are grown specifically for harvest and their use has little impact on the environment. Some species of imported wood, on the other hand, are clear cut from the world's rain forests, which is illegal. A guitar made from such wood can be seized, not only by the US government, but by others as well. It just goes to show that you have to do your homework before firing up the band saw.

A note about Swamp Ash: There really isn't a species known as Swamp Ash. In truth, there are many species of Ash in the Fraxinus family. Most of them produce a wood which is hard and heavy. Occasionally, Ash trees will yield boards that are substantially lighter than the norm. Why this happens is subject to debate, but it seems to happen more often with trees that grow in a wet environment, hence the name Swamp Ash. Many people claim that Swamp Ash comes from the Louisiana Bayou, but in reality, it can come from any Ash tree found growing in a wetland. Ash has a wonderful tone and resonance, however, if you try to build a solid body guitar from just any slab, the weight might break your back. The other day, I picked up a Telecaster made from ordinary Ash and it had to weigh at least 12 pounds!