Building bridges

I finally finished the lacquering on three guitars.  Now they need to cure before I can wet sand them.  I’ve been doing some odds and ends while I’m waiting.  Just a little guitar stuff, like the bridges.

I roughed out the bridge blanks a couple weeks ago.  To slot for the saddle I decided to make a fixture that held them at an angle.  The router sits in the fixture with very little play.  The length of cut is set by the stops on the end.  To hold the bridge in place I made a couple wedges.  Yes thats right folks… dual wedge action!

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Then I measured the nut and 19th fret on each guitar and laid them out on paper (they were pretty close) to make sure my string spacing was ok.  Since I had three, I made a drilling template.  Of course I used plexiglass, which seems to be my favorite.  For precision, I like to scribe things, and plexi scribes really well.  I laid out a center line and scribed distance from the rear of the bridge to the pin centers.  I used a drafting divider to scribe pin centers.  I used these from both outside strings to make sure they matched.  Then I lightly punched the centers and drilled with a brad point bit.

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To align the template, putting the scribe lines down, I matched the template and bridge center lines (this is why I like see through plexi) and made the rear flush, then clamped each end and drilled.

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To shape the wings, I contemplated using a small 1” belt sander I have, but I figured by the time I rigged something up to keep the bridges square, I could be finished.  So I just did them with a rasp and scraper.  It was quiet, no dust flying, and enjoyable.  Also got one of those gunstock vises.  It was really helpful for these.

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I was actually surprised how close I got three of them doing it essentially by eye, but I did gang them together to scrape and sand them even closer.

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I don’t have a countersink for wood, but I sharpened up my metal countersink with a file, then countersunk all the bridge pin holes.

I fit the saddles in place and the ends were marked with a drafting french curve so the saddle looked decent transitioning into the curvature of the bridge wings.

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Then I shaped the ends on a small sanding drum chucked in my drill press.

I sanded the bridges down to 1500 grit.  No finish on the rosewood.  The rest of the saddle shaping and polishing will come later during set up.

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I love the white (and semi dusty) window sill for pictures.  Too bad I can’t photograph anything much bigger than the bridges in there.

Now I wait for the finish to cure for a few more days.  This coming weekend should be two weeks, so I think I should be able to start wet sanding.

 

Some catching up to do here

I guess I’ve progressed a bit and neglected to post.

All three guitars were fretted, sanded, pore filled where needed, and coated with shellac prior to finishing.

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I bought an HVLP gun.  My finish is KTM9 waterborne lacquer.  Cleaned up the basement and added some plastic sheeting to make my spray booth bigger.  Then gave it a shot.  first time using a spray gun.

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5 coats of a 50% lacquer 50% alcohol mix.  Then I had to drop fill these nasty little divots.

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Took longer than expected.  Some trial and error on spraying, then how much to drop fill.  I was hoping to finish before I left town for two weeks, but that didn’t happen.  I should be sanding and doing more (and the last) coats the first guitar soon.  Then followed by the next two.  Then on to bridges while the finish cures for two weeks before I can wet sand.

Here is where I left them before I left town a couple weeks ago.

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I never worry, but I have started to fret.

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Started fretting the guitars.  I have two done so far.  These were my first bound fretboards so I had to clip the tang off the fret to go over the binding.  I made a little device based on one I had seen, with some modifications.  I call it the Detanginator.  Worked really well to grind off the tang and dress the bottom.

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All the guitars have been oiled and sealed with shellac.

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One more to fret.  Then to build, locate and mask off the bridges.  Then I should be close to spraying lacquer.  That should be interesting as a first.

 

Working my way towards a finish

 

 

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Masked off the two flamed maple guitars for stain.  Opposite color schemes for these.

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Used a homemade walnut stain I made last fall.  Dark back and sides on one, dark bindings on the other.

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Added a couple coats of boiled linseed oil/turpentine mix to help accent the figure, careful to mask off the top and neck.

I have the neck on the third guitar, but I’m not happy with how it seated.  I may remove it and reset it.  I guess I’ll get a bit of experience steaming apart a neck joint.  Hope to get that done soon and the neck back on with a nicer fit.

Then on to shellac sealing, fretting, bridge making and the lacquer finish.

Hey, first steel string… mit neck!

I’ve been slowly shaping necks.  Got the first one to where I think its a good shape.  I have a hard time telling on neck shape as I’m not much of a guitar player… hell, I don’t even own a real steel string guitar.

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Sanded both the body and the neck, crossed my fingers and glued it on.  Overall I’m fairly happy.

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There are a few things I’d like to improve as I progress.  Of course, I noticed spots that needed more sanding as soon as I looked at it in a different light.

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While the hot hide glue was heated up, I glued the fretboard on the third neck.  The second guitar is pretty close to being ready for assembly too.  Just a bit more sanding on both pieces.

I’m going to stain parts of both of the flamed maple guitars.  Hope to start that soon.  I have a few steps before I can seal with shellac.  Then the frets, then the finish.

Neck shaping

Made a neck carving fixture. Got the idea from another luthier online.
It’s nice because you can clamp it horizontal to work on the fretboard edges.

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Then it clamps vertical in the vise and keeps it high enough to use a spokeshave.

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Got one neck pretty close. Need to drill the tuners and final sand before I put it on the guitar.

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Then two more necks to catch up on.

Necks and fingerboards

Made a prototype adjustable radius sanding block. Had to figure out how to radius these fretboards.

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 It worked well.  Sanded the fretboards down to 120.  I made a second block at the same time.  A bit more low profile.  I put 220 paper on there for use when everything is on the guitar.

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I have the headstocks thinned down and the veneers on all three.  They are all in semi different stages of preliminary carving.  The heel is the only thing that really needs to be pretty close at this point, just so the neck can be fit once more before the fretboard is attached.  Final carving won’t get done until the fingerboards are on.

I need to figure out what to do for the side markers.  Once they’re done, a fretboard can go on at least one of the necks.  The rest to follow shortly after.

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I just couldn’t resist laying one of the fingerboards on as I was checking the neck fit.  Seeing that makes me excited.  Also makes me thing of how much sanding i need to do, which always seems to wait till absolutely last minute.  It also makes me think about the damn finishing work!

Oh well.