Renkenstein's LP Build Thread

Discussion in 'Guitar Building' started by Renkenstein, Feb 10, 2014.

  1. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Prologue:

    Good day, LuthierTalk patrons! I'm pleased to announce that I'm starting my first build thread.

    After 6 months of lurking, drooling, and reading everything you guys have offered up on the forum, I finally feel comfortable enough to start my own build thread.

    I hope I'm not cursing myself. I got a LOT of traction this weekend, and I thought I'd get started on the thread. There isn't a whole lot going on that's interesting per-se, but I thought I could gather info, ask opinions, and get some direction earlier in the game instead of waiting for it later.

    My success in the shop has been limited due to rookie mistakes. I've started 2 necks and botched them both, but one is fixable, and the other can become a cigar box guitar or something. I did have a moment of success this summer when I built a nice cigar box guitar that was a gift for a friend on Father's Day. Due to these mistakes, I've decided to change gears and actually work off a known good set of plans instead of spinning my wheels trying to get my original designs to manifest themselves. Once I have success with this LP, then I will turn my attention to original builds.

    Without further ado, HERE WE GO!!! :ohno:

    The LP I'm building is going to be based off the Tom Bartlett plans, but I have no interest in it being vintage accurate. All that nonsense with the angle of the control cavity and all that....going right out the window. Don't need it.

    I'll be using a 5 piece mahogany body(I can only assume it's the African variety) because that's what I had on hand. I'll be using a maple top with subtle curl, so it's closer to a plain top than anything else. I'm planning on making a 3 piece laminated neck that will be quartersawn mahogany/maple/mahogany, and I want to use a curly maple fretboard. I've always thought LPs look BOSS with a maple fretboard, and I've always wanted one.

    For pickups, I'll either be enlisting a friend of mine who builds Scarlett Amps, or I will be using my tried and true Duncan JB/Jazz combo. I'm leaning towards the Scarlett ones though because Paul(Scarlett Amps...check em out!) is insisting that I use his pickups for a build. Not gonna argue...the guy is an electronics and tone mastermind.

    Bartlett Plans:
    This is what I'm basing my first LP build on...the Tom Bartlett '59 plans. Close to 6' wide. Crazy. Order 2 from Tom. Copies at Kinko's cost almost as much as the plans themselves, and they have to use a roller scan on images that large, which can translate into distortion over the length of the plan. Give Tom your money, not Kinko's.

    [​IMG]

    Made a template for a template for other templates:
    First template of 1/4" hardboard. I glue-sticked a copy of the Bartlett plan to make a quick template to transfer to MDF.

    [​IMG]

    Master Template:
    After transferring from the first template to the MDF, I sanded to the outer edge of the pencil line with a disk sander for the outer curves and used rasps on the inner curves like the cutaway and her waist. I then took the template down to the inner part of the original pencil line with a card scraper. I slowly sneaked up on the inside of the line, making sure to maintain a perfectly perpendicular edge, and fluid curves throughout every transition. This will be my master template for all flush-trim routing.

    [​IMG]

    Hunk o' Maple!
    This was an off-cut of curly maple I got a decent deal on. Perfect thickness for bookmatching. A little plain, and light on the figure, but I think it'll be pretty enough. I can get 2 tops out of this piece.

    [​IMG]

    X-Cut
    I like using hand saws whenever possible. I especially like cross cutting with a handsaw because my table saw is sketchy at the best of times. I also have challenged myself to cut perfectly by hand like the good old boys. I'm still working on it, but getting better every time.

    [​IMG]

    Top #1
    This is the piece I'll be using for my first LP top, but first it has to be bookmatched. It's a 7" tall cut and my bandsaw only cuts 6" high. What to do?!? I guess I'll have to use that sketchy table saw....

    [​IMG]

    Sketchy Table Saw
    So here's the target of my ire. This table saw has given me nothing but problems. I found out there's over 1mm of deflection from the front and back of the fence towards the middle, and I can never get a cut that's a perfect 90 degrees to the table top. This won't do.

    [​IMG]

    Wood fence?
    That's right. Screw that chintzy metal fence...we're gonna fix it with a good old piece of maple. I planed it perfectly flat and made sure I had a perpendicular edge. I used my Stanley #5 for this job.

    [​IMG]

    Bolt holes
    I used the existing holes in the fence and marked the spacing off on the maple. I drilled the holes and countersunk them with a spade bit to fit these bolts I took off a bed frame long ago.

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    Bolting on the maple fence
    I bolted on the maple using lock-nuts, making sure to leave it just barely snug in the middle to secure, but not flex it up against the fence.

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    Checking for 90 degrees
    Once bolted on, I checked for 90 degrees, and I think I nailed it.

    [​IMG]

    Bookmatching the top
    With the fence fixed, I did a practice cut on a construction grade pine 2x6, and felt confident I worked out the table saw's kinks. Here I go ahead and do the cut in the maple. I think I used 4 passes per side.

    [​IMG]

    Almost there...
    A 10" table saw only has a 3" cut height, so that left me with an inch to deal with. You can see here that I finally got 90 degrees on the table saw. The 2 cuts lined up perfectly.

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    More elbow grease
    I got out the hand saw to finish off the bookmatch cut.

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    ...more elbow grease
    Still cutting...this job is TOUGH. I was sweating like a dancing mule at this point.

    [​IMG]

    Paydirt
    Here's the bookmatched top.

    [​IMG]

    Drum thickness sander
    My pop and I built this over a weekend. I wanted something that I could run body blanks, tops, and neck stringers through to get a consistent thickness. The drum sander was the answer.

    [​IMG]

    Thicknessing the mahogany
    Here's my 5 piece body blank. I had bought a bunch of 2.5-3" pieces of mahogany. Most were rift sawn, so I chopped them up and made a body blank. I jointed each piece with my #5 plane and glued 1 piece at a time to minimize any slipping or mistakes.

    [​IMG]

    Thicknessing the mahogany...cont
    Here you can see the glue seams fade away. The #5 did a stellar job at getting clean glue joints. I took the thickness down to just a hair over 1.75".

    [​IMG]

    Cleaning up the maple
    I took the top down to a 3/4" thickness. Using Bruce Bennett's wisdom, everything I removed from one side, I turned the piece over and duplicated on the other side. I worked this at about a 32nd of an inch at a time down to the 3/4" nominal thickness. The target will be a 5/8" top.

    [​IMG]

    Settle down, boys...
    Here I've kinda sticker-stacked the top pieces. They're resting here to adjust from the thickness sanding. One piece developed a tiny bit of a cup, so I was careful to remove very little at a time on the drum sander. I didn't want the pressure of the sander deflecting the cupped maple and making matters worse. Over the course of the weekend, the cup corrected itself and I'll proceed with final thicknessing next weekend before moving on to join the top.

    [​IMG]

    Not yet...
    Here I tried to prepare the join for the top, but the maple was still settling, and I opted to wait it out. I just wanted another hand plane shot in there, to be honest. You can also see the rough cut mahogany body there on the bench.

    [​IMG]

    ...and that's it for now. Nothing too terribly exciting yet. After uploading all these pics and putting this together, I'm glad I opted to get started early on this thread. This is a LOT of work. Mad props to everyone who has contributed a build thread.
     
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  2. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    My mom has that same table saw, I used it quite a bit when I lived in Dallas. Basically junk, but it worked somewhat :lol:
     
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  3. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    It's been rough going on that thing, that's for sure! I basically have to make a jig for every cut, it seems. It's served its purpose, which is about 6 months and a few household projects. I've got my eye on the Ridgid.

    I just realized that I left the photos in full res. This causing a problem for anyone viewing this thread?
     
  4. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    Works fine here.

    Have a Ridgid at my co-op, one of the other guys brought it in. It's pretty decent, though nothing compared to an older heavy duty Delta my day job has.
     
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  5. jkes01

    jkes01 Active Member

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    Dude, great start :yesway: That thickness sander looks like it works fantastic. Subscribed! BTW, same table saw I have. I have a nub to prove it :cool:

    -John
     
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  6. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Adam
    I always used an old Craftsman with a cast iron top when I had access to my dad's shop. Burly rip fence, and all that. I can't even figure out a way to make a zero clearance insert on this saw. That's most of the reason why I made a drum sander, I couldn't rip consistent stringers on that thing.

    jkes01
    A nub?!?! What did it take from ya?
     
  7. Knarbens

    Knarbens Well-Known Member

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    In my understanding a LP is a fairly difficult guitar. There are easier options for a first build and I always take my hat off to people who are walking this road.
    Great you're giving it your own touches though! Originals > Replicas (the > stands for a thousand times cooler ;) )
    Good luck!
     
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  8. jkes01

    jkes01 Active Member

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    Just the very tip of my thumb. I was really lucky it was only a flesh wound. It could have turned out much worse.
     
  9. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    And I applaud you for always going with your own designs. I think you really knocked one out of the park with the guitar in your avatar photo. You captured the perfect blend of individuality and classic design.

    My intention in going with the 'Paul was to work off a known good set of plans, and adjust it to fit me. I'm going to incorporate some features that I would want in a 'Paul, like a maple board, and a 25.5" scale length. I might get crafty with the neck joint and shape it to be a bit more comfortable, because I come more from the Yngwie school of guitar playing more than the Page/Slash side of things.
     
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  10. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Whew! Glad to hear that was just a nick! Already in my 6 months of having a shop, I've had some near misses. One involved a router that I left plugged in while changing a bit. The thing kicked on when I was holding it with the bit towards my chest. I cringe every time I think of it, and I take the proper precautions now....ie, UNPLUG THE DAMN THANG.

    I use push sticks with that table saw as much as possible. I've even started using push sticks with my drum sander because that thing doesn't bite, but it'll remove a layer of skin at a time until there's nothing left. There isn't enough pain to detect the damage being done.
     
  11. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Preparing the Top Joint:
    I took the top down to 3/4" thickness, and decided to prepare the joint. The #5 was cutting so well after a quick sharpening session on the diamond plates and a strop with the buffing wheel and jeweler's rouge, that preparing this join was effortless. I also waxed the sole of the plane with candle maker's wax(kinky!), so I had to hang on for dear life.

    [​IMG]This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 2048x1536.[​IMG]

    Top Joint:
    Looking at the joint from top-down, I can see the smallest of gaps, but absolutely nothing shows through it when held up to a light. I may take another pass, I may leave it as is. Thoughts?

    [​IMG]This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 1536x2048.[​IMG]

    These are my phone's pics. I didn't have the lady's Canon in the shop.

    So this I did really quick last night before the toddler went to bed. I honestly think I can do better on that joint, but if I'm being obsessive, feel free to let me know.

    I want to mention that this drum sander design is fantastic. Both pieces of this top were ran through separately, and both are 3/4" within a tolerance of 0.005". I never thought it would be that accurate.

    Another thing, I finally found a great sharpening method for planes and chisels that won't break the bank. I bought the diamond plates at Harbor Freight and the little buffing wheel that comes with jeweler's rouge. I'll step through the 3 grits of the diamond plates using a honing guide and mild soapy water for lubricant, then I'll polish that edge on the buffing wheel. All in all, it takes probably 15 minutes to get a razor's edge on the plane iron. If I have to cut a whole new bevel on the iron, it can obviously take a little longer. The diamond plates were $10, the buffing wheel $8, and the honing guide $15. Anyone looking to get away from the sandpaper method should give this option a shot, as it is much more sustainable.

    I've read where LP tops have gone as thick as 3/4", and that's the current dimensions of this top right now. Should I go with a thicker cap and call the 3/4" good? Should I take it down another 1/8"?

    What say you?
     
  12. poro78

    poro78 Well-Known Member

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    How many beers you get with $15?
    (Get rid of that honing guide and hone your free hand sharpening skills - and you'll have another addiction. ;))

    Anyway, things are looking mighty fine! :yesway:
     
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  13. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Hahahaha!!! I knew I'd get flak for that honing guide from you, Barnaby, or Lefty!

    I started out doing it by hand, but I noticed that I was developing erratic/curved bevels. The honing guide is a learning tool, as far as I'm considered. I don't intend to use it forever. If I keep getting these results, however...it may stick around.
     
  14. pulaifax

    pulaifax Member

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    great start -with your woodworking skills you will be fine, good luck
     
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  15. Heretic

    Heretic Well-Known Member

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    The honing guide is the way to go if consistency is what you are after.
     
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  16. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    No reason to ditch the honing guide.
     
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  17. poro78

    poro78 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I was just teasing him. :D

    It seems that I can't use honing guide, I now get much better results free handed. That's kind of weird. :scratch:
     
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  18. Jim_E

    Jim_E Active Member

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    Bought my first honing guide in 1978, still have it and still use it... it produces repeatable results and that's why I like it.
     
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  19. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    ...but every woodworker dreams of being able to get that perfect bevel using nothing but their bare hands, right?

    After the joint I got last night on the top, I don't think the honing guide will be going anywhere. It was the best my #5 has ever performed.
     
  20. Renkenstein

    Renkenstein Well-Known Member

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    Top Joint version 2.0
    I decided to take another pass at the top to try to close the miniscule gap, and I'm glad I did. I was going to wait and build a shooting board to make sure I had a perfect 90 degree, but I was able to get it with the #5 plane alone. I had recently sharpened, and I removed mere microns at a time. I was getting very fine shavings that were like spiderwebs, as I fine tuned the joint. I'd compare the join, flip the pieces over and check the underside of the join, and adjust accordingly.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Preparing for Glue Up
    Since my workbench has an MDF top over 2x6's, it offers a very flat surface. I raised my plane-stop up on the end, put a flat piece of maple(leftover from the table saw fence), and that will be what I'll clamp to.

    [​IMG]

    Clamping!
    I used Titebond, 3 F clamps, and a strip of artificial granite to get everything in place.

    [​IMG]

    Clamping version 2.0
    I replaced the strip with the big slab of granite I use for leveling planes. It's the perfect size to slip between the F clamps and the maple top. Between the MDF on the bottom and the granite on top, I think I'll have a good join to go home to tonight.

    [​IMG]

    Headstock Template
    Here you can see how I've been making my templates. I attach the paper copy to the MDF using adhesive spray, then hand cut around the outside of the line with a razor knife. Then off to the band saw. Cutting the paper template in this fashion minimizes the fuzzy edges you get when sanding to the lines. This template will get the same scraper treatment as the body template.

    [​IMG]
     
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