Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Semi-Hollow Tabletop Guitar Build Progress

If you watch my Instagram or Facebook feed, you have seen most of these photos, already. But, I want to go into a bit more detail about the build, and gather the photos into one place. So, here we go...

Awhile back, I saw a guitar on the Antebellum Instruments blog, and decided that I had to have one like it. So, I built my own version.

 I used my old Truetone parlor slide guitar's body as a template, traced it onto the top of a vintage end table I had bought at the thrift store, and cut out with my jigsaw. Once it was sanded, I treated it with Cherry-tint Danish Oil, installed a P-90 at an angle to match the manufacturer's stamp on the underside of the top (which I used as the top of the guitar because I liked the stamp and the row of staples), and installed a neck I had bought for a project, which never got built, last year. The tailpiece is from a junk Harmony, and the bridge came from the same defunct project as the neck. The tuners were just in my general guitar parts bin; part of a batch I bought when I first started building cigar box guitars.

When it was done, I had used up some of my surplus parts, and I ended up with a guitar which sounds surprisingly good as an acoustic. It's great for sitting in the porch swing and playing, or for working up new songs. Plugged in, it sounds like an amplified acoustic, on the clean channel, and gets nicely raunchy if you add a bit of gain to the amp signal.

Having "gone to school" on that build, I wanted to refine my technique by building another, similar, guitar. But, I didn't want another of the same version, so I decided to build a semi-hollow version using as many surplus parts as possible, and buying the fewest parts necessary.

I did end up buying a bridge and tailpiece, just because the ones I had lying about didn't suit me. Those two items cost me about $12.50, together, so it didn't add a lot of cost to the built, but I think they added a lot of value.

For this version, I used an old Epiphone Les Paul Junior single-cutaway body as my template, traced onto another thrift store table. I flipped it to produce what is, essentially, the body size and shape of an early-60s double-cut Melody Maker, like Joan Jett famously plays.

I then traced a second outline about a half-inch inside the original outline. Once I had cut the shape out, I cut along the inner line to produce the sides of the guitar.

The end result gave me sides I could glue the top and back to, without having to use purfling. My goal was to keep it simple, as if it was built by a Mississippi farmhand, in the barn. Professional luthiery was not my goal.

Once I had the sides cut out, I sanded the finish off of the wood, so that the TiteBond wood glue would penetrate. Then, I cut the top and back panels from some furniture-grade 1/8" plywood I had bought 3 or 4 years ago, using a cardboard template of the same shape as the side piece, but slightly larger, so that it would overlap.

I glued the back on, clamped it up, and set it aside for a few days to let the glue cure.

The next time I had a chance to work on it, 5 days later, I took the remains of the tabletop and cut the center block for the semi-hollow construction out of that piece. Once the finish was sanded off, it gave me a center block the same thickness as the sides, making it a simple proposition to glue the top on.

Once the glue was on, I clamped the edges, and weighted the center to facilitate the bond between the center block and the top and back panels. A few days later, I pulled the clamps and began working the edges of the plywood back to be flush with the sides.

After some experimenting, I found that the wood rasp was the easiest and most effective tool to use for cutting back the edges. After about an hour, I had the rough shape and I was ready to start sanding.

Just as I had done with the solid version, I sanded everything with a pretty coarse sandpaper (80 grit), to leave a certain "rustic" look to the wood.

In the meantime, I removed the paint from the neck of the same Epiphone LP Jr. whose body had served as a template for the semi-hollow.

Once the paint was off of the neck, I got out the Dark Walnut Danish Oil and applied it to the body.

I will be staining the back of the neck after I finish sanding the back of the headstock.

I stained the front of the headstock, just to see how it was going to look with the body. I am very pleased with the look. Danish Oil lends the guitar a weathered, somewhat "vintage" look which will improve as the guitar is played. The Danish Oil will wear down in places where a player comes into contact with it, and that will lend a bit of character to the guitar.

I had to put  little wood putty on the back of the headstock. Once it has cured so that I can sand, I will stain the back of the neck, and start assembly. I am still contemplating how to cover the wiring and mount the Volume pot and output jack.

Who knows...? I might have the guitar finished, this weekend. Then again, it might be another couple of weeks, depending on how much free time I end up with.

Once this one is complete, I have to figure out which one I like the best, semi-hollow or solid, and sell the other. I have too many guitars as it it. I can't keep everything I build. Plus, I like to pass them along and see what other people accomplish with them.



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