Building a Guitar Part 3 – The Fretboard

The most critical part of a guitar is the fretboard. To make sure every fret is exactly where it belongs, I created yet another jig. I don’t remember exactly where I first saw this jig online, but there are many sites, books and videos showing how to make this. The jig is basically a very precise miter box.

A lot of people prefer to use expensive fret saws but I don’t have that kind of money to through around on something I’ll only use a couple times a year, so I went with a cheap plastic saw that cost me $8. It seems to cut perfectly straight and the replacement blades are extremely cheap.

With the fretboard slotted, I used the same neck template to cut and rout the fretboard to match the neck, then glued the two pieces together, once again using way too many clamps.

With the fretboard attached, I did a little more sanding and one more test fit.

To finish assembling the neck, I just needed to radius the fretboard and install the frets. To radius the fretboard, I 3D printed a sanding block with a 9.5″ radius and attached the sandpaper with doublesided tape. Eventually I’ll probably add some Velcro instead of the tape, but for now the tape worked.

Unfortunately I don’t have one of the fancy (and expensive) fretpresses, so I decided to make my own using a $5 clamp from menards and 3D printing the other pieces I need. I tried just using a hammer to install a couple of the frets, and it worked fine, but I definitely felt like I had more control with the clamp.

My process for inserting the frets was pretty simple; I would lay the fret wire on the slot and cut it, leaving a little overhang on both ends. I would then remove the wire, add some superglue to the slot, position the wire by hand, then use the clamp the press it into final position. I then had to repeat the process 20 more times. It was tedious, but it wasn’t awful. I then trimmed the ends of the wire and ran both sides of the neck across a belt sander to quickly remove any burrs. I still have to level and polish the frets and finish sand the rest of the neck, but for all practical purposes, the neck is ready to play, minus the nut. For this neck I’m using a bone nut and will install it last, when I’m ready to do the final guitar setup.

Building a Guitar: Part 2 – The Neck

I know that I said in my last post that I was going to use one of the pre-built necks for this guitar, but then I remembered that this guitar is going to use nylon strings. The necks I bought already have truss rods installed, which is really a good thing, but truss rods are most beneficial for steel stringed guitars and not necessary for guitars with nylon strings so I decided to make a neck for this build. But before I started on the neck, I needed to cut the neck pocket in the body.

Because of the way I designed this guitar, I was able to use a scroll saw to cut out the neck pocket close to the lines, then attach the template I 3D printed to get the final shape.

With the neck pocket routed, it was time to begin making the neck. I started the process by grabbing a piece of maple and marking a center line before aligning my template. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of the process this time, so here’s a few pictures of a neck I did out of poplar.

Like the body, I cut out the neck close to the template lines, then used the router with a pattern bit to get an exact match. I make several passes with the router, taking just a little off with each pass so I don’t risk tearing the wood. I then use a drill press to add the tuner holes based on the same template.

With the basic neck shape done, I proceeded to test fit the piece into the neck pocket on the body. The body was still in very rough shape, but the neck fit perfectly, so I was ready to continue shaping the neck.

There are many different guitar neck designs, and even more ways to shape them, so of course I chose to ignore all of the conventional ways and design my own neck shaping jig.

This jig allows me to use either a rounded or 45 degree angle router bit to shape the rear sides of the neck depending on how aggressive I want the angle to be. For this one, I went with the 45 degree bit. Then, by just flipping the entire jig over, I was able to use a router with the pattern bit set to the proper depth to remove some stock from the head.

So with the neck ready to move on to sanding and assembly, I decided to cut the control cavity into the back of the guitar, then glue the front and back pieces together using every clamp I have.

Then, when the body had adequate time to cure, I did one more test fit before beginning the neck assembly and sanding.

Building a Guitar: Part 1

A couple posts back I talked about how I got into guitar building, and in that same post I said that I would be building another guitar and documenting the process including the neck build. That was only halfway true. I had planned on the next guitar build to include a hand made neck, and I even have the neck started, but then I got an awesome deal on a couple of mostly finished necks so I decided to expedite this next build by using one of them.

This build is the first for the RG5-SC model. The RG5 indicated the overall body style and the SC stands for “Special Cut”. While the overall body shape is the same as the initial RG5 model, this one will be a solid body design instead of the standard semi-hollow design and it will have large weight-saving cutouts.

To begin building the guitar I needed a template. Our local UPS store can print full scale copies, so I saved the file to a flash drive and had them print it out. I could have tiled the file, printed it from my home printer and pieced it together as I’ve done in the past, but the $1.50 cost of having them print it was worth it to save me a little time and effort.

I glued the full size print to 1/2″ MDF board and cut it out with my scroll-saw. Since the outside edge is identical to the standard RG5 design, I cut that edge a little wider, then attached my existing RG5 template to it and used a router with a template bit to give me an exact match. Then, with the template done, I started gluing up my body blanks.

A lot of purists hate the idea of using lumber from the “big-box” stores for building guitars. I understand exactly why the are against it, but our local Menards has select grade Mastercraft lumber that has been surfaced on four sides. By using this, and inspecting it before I buy, I’ve not had any problems. I chose a nice piece of 1″x8″x6′ Poplar, cut it into four 18″ pieces and then glued two sets of two pieces, making sure to use more clamps than necessary:

I like to let the body blanks setup for at least 24 hours, then I use the template to mark the cut lines and use a combination of scroll saw and band saw to rough cut the body shape, making sure to cut just outside the lines. When the rough cuts are done, I then screw the template to the body blanks and use the router with template bit to finish getting the final shape. The template will be right-side-up for the bottom piece and up-side-down for the top to keep the screw holes from being visible after final assembly.

Now that the body is taking shape, the next step will be cutting the neck pocket.

Projects

I’ve always had multiple projects going on at once, but lately it seems that my mental to-do list just keeps growing. Between the household projects, my writing, 3D printing, guitar building, etc…, it seems like I’ll never get done with all of them. My wife is big on creating lists, so as much as I hate them, I decided to put together a list of all the projects I’m either currently working on or plan to start in the near future. A lot of the projects are household projects but some of the projects are personal projects (like adding a rasberry Pi/ Octopi to my 3D printer), some are for my online shop, some are for my writing (like finish the four books I’m currently working on) and some are for family and/or friends, but all of them can currently be done if I make them a priority. Additionally, each of them is an actual projects and not just a routine task I have to do often (such as mow the yard, cook dinner or do the dishes). So once I compiled the list in excel and had everything documented like that, I realized why I haven’t been writing much. As of yesterday morning I had 74 projects on the list.

At first, seeing the entire list laid out was a bit intimidating, but then I realized that very few of the projects had a specific deadline. Stuff for my son’s wedding has to be made before the wedding, and the pool landscaping would be nice to have done before we close up the pool for the winter, but otherwise the timing is up to me. And, while some of the projects are large, many of them will only require a couple hours or possibly even less. So with the list made, I now just need to determine my priorities.

I’ve already knocked out a couple projects, and prioritized some writing time, so I think the list will definitely help keep me moving forward on all of the projects, just don’t tell my wife she was right about making a list.

Joe’s Back!

When I first started writing I had no idea what I would do with my book once it was done. It was right about the time that Amazon introduced the Kindle and brought independent publishing to the masses, but self-publishing was also very unproven. I looked into traditional publishing and independent publishing, and one of the most vocal supporters of indie authors, one of the people who convinced me to go the indie route, was Joe Konrath ( http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ ).

If you don’t know Joe, you can read his short bio here: http://jakonrath.com/bio.php , but it really doesn’t do justice to who this man really is. Besides being a “pioneer in self-publishing”, he was also one of the first (and arguably best) to share his knowledge with anyone / everyone for free. He tried new things, blogged about his experiences, and shared exactly what worked and/or didn’t work for him as a traditionally published writer and as an indie-author. Once I found his blog, I was hooked.

Unfortunately, Joe stopped blogging about a year and a half ago. For the first several months I checked back often, hoping that he would have a new post for me to read. That didn’t happen. As time passed, I checked back less frequently, until I pretty much forgot about his blog. There are still a few writer-centric websites I check out from time-to-time, and thankfully one of them (http://www.thepassivevoice.com/ ) alerted me to that fact that after way too long, Joe’s Back!

I’m a little late to the party, so I haven’t had a chance to read all 4 of his new posts, but based off the one I have read, this is the same old Joe so I can’t wait to read all his updates. The post I read ( http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2019/06/trying-something-new-and-different.html ) is very open and honest about what he’s doing as an author, as expected. But what I found most intriguing is that he, an established author with millions of sales, had his latest books rejected by each of the major traditional publishers his agent approached. He listed several possible reasons for the rejections, but regardless of the reason, it did make me start to reconsider the traditional approach for My Life As Death.

I don’t know what the future will hold, but for now I’m going to stick with my plan on submitting to a traditional publisher, though when the book is done I might run a poll to see what you readers think. In the mean time, you can get the first of Joe’s two new books for free at AmazonKoboand Nook.



Savage Race 2019

A few years ago my brother signed several of us up for our first obstacle course race. At that point I’d never heard of the Savage Race, and barely knew anything about obstacle course races, but in addition to writing, designing and making things, I like to workout and run, so we gave it a try.

The first year we took it easy, basically walking the whole course and completing most of the obstacles. Even though we weren’t competitive, we had such a great time that we kept going back vowing, to get better. This year was our 5th year participating, and though most of us didn’t prepare like we’d wanted to, we all did well and more importantly, we had a blast.

Next year, like every year, I plan on being better prepared. Unlike years past, though, I should have more time to do so. My previous job responsibilities and household projects really limited my free time in the past but freelancing allows me greater control of my schedule. I’ve also completed most of the large projects around the house, so I am quite optimistic about my ability to prepare. I will be taking this week off from training to recover as much as possible (and to take a short vacation with my wife to celebrate our 22nd anniversary) but then I plan on jumping right back into a workout / running routine.

Being 40 years old, I am pretty realistic about my training goals, and I can guarantee I won’t be gracing the cover of any fitness magazines, but I will get healthier, a little more fit, and if all goes well, I will be finishing the Savage Race next year in under 2 hours.

Guitar Building

A few years back, I was involved in a little accident with a shear at the design studio in which I was working. It wasn’t anything too bad, but I lost the very tip of an index finger. It was very sensitive as it was healing up, and I quickly realized that it would be a while before I could play my acoustic guitar again. I was poor, but had a good amount of woodworking tools, so I started looking into what it would take to build myself an electric guitar. ( For those non-guitarists out there, electric guitar strings don’t require nearly the same force to play, so I thought this might be a solution.)

I also started looking into using nylon strings, because they are a bit softer then the metal strings that electric guitars use. I then started looking into what it would take to make an electric guitar with nylon strings. Now for those who don’t know, electric guitars use magnetic pickups to “pickup” the vibrations of the metal strings, so nylon strings won’t work with standard electric guitar pickups. That’s when I discovered piezo pickups.

I spent a couple years in R&D working with inkjet printheads that use piezo technology to I understand a bit about them, but print heads work completely opposite of piezo pickups, so I had a bit to learn, but I decided to give it a try anyways. I’m glad I did.

RG1

My first guitar design (RG1) turned out a little smaller, lighter, and not as unique as I was hoping for, but it was playable. As I was working on it, I got the chance to build a couple other guitars as display pieces, so I got a couple other chances to “practice” building guitars that would probably never be played. And with the first couple out of the way, I refined my design, applied the lessons I’d learned from them, and came out with my next design.

The first RG5 was my 4th complete build, and it turned out exactly as I hoped. The guitar looks great, feels great, plays great, and sounds great. I was so happy with it, in fact, that I built one for my dad with a different sound hole design, and helped my brother build one with yet another sound hole design (you can see all three below).

I used pre-built necks for each of the models I’ve previously built, and have all the supplies I need to build another guitar, so over the summer I will be building another one, including the neck, and documenting the process on this blog. And who knows, I might even look into what it would take to do a giveaway when it’s all done.