Well after a few tests and a couple weeks of work I was able to complete my first custom guitar over the weekend.
For this attempt, I glued up a blank of cherry and bubinga (my first was going to be a solid walnut blank, but due to a mis-measure on my part that blank will not become a guitar and I had to pick up a new 1/4" spiral bit after hitting a hold down screw ).
I purchased the neck, I found that for telecaster necks the main difference in quality come in the level of finish to the frets and the quality of the nut. I got this neck new for about $40 and spent some time leveling and re crowning the frets and replaced the cheap plastic nut with a TUSQ nut.
The body cut pretty well, there was some chatter to clean up in the bubinga layer. The pockets all cut clean and to the precise size I needed. Everything was cut with a 1/4" downcut spiral bit. I use the DW611 and was able to cut this out in about 30 minutes (next time with such a hard wood I will slow down a bit to help reduce some chatter). I could only get about 1.5" of cut depth with my bit so when cutting out the body I finished the last 1/4" with my bandsaw and flushed it up with the router.
All of the remainder of the shaping was done by hand, with rasps, files and sandpaper. This was the most enjoyable part for me. I incorporated a belly cut and arm contour which you would typically see on a stratocaster style guitar. In the end it turned out great and sounds great too. This was a good test of both the precision of the X-Carve and my own precision. Drilling through holes for the strings and doing the final bridge location were all steps that forced me to slow down and work with extreme care.
How did you come up with the File for the Body? Do you mind sharing with others? I am sure many individuals will be much appreciative if you share the file. Hopefully I will be able to get back into my shop soon, so that I can start using my Xcarve again.
Thank you for sharing
Id classify myself as a novice guitar player, but to my ear it sounds as good as most of my other guitars. It plays nice, the work put into leveling the frets has allowed a nice low action without any buzzing. The only issue I still need to work on is the height of the string at the first fret, its a bit high so I need to make some slot depth adjustments to the nut.
Overall, I am impressed with how it came together.
The full thickness of the body is 1 3/4". Each species of wood is roughly half the thickness, and my width was enough to have a join in the center of the body. So, the blank is really made of 4 pieces.
I started by laminating together each half of Bubinga and Cherry into blanks that were to thickness and about 1/2 the width. I did this so I could get good clamping across the pieces. Next I jointed the 2 half and glued them together like you would any panel type glue up.
Worked well for me, and having multiple joints didn’t seem to negatively affect the resonance or sustain of the finished guitar.
I have a V-Carve file I created, along with a PDF and DWG Plan I found on the forums of www.tdpri.com.
Also, if you haven’t already its worth checking out http://www.guitarbuilding.org/ especially if you use V-Carve. They have a package (free) that you can download from there that has 7-8 vcarve bodies and necks which can be made with their plans or would be good starting points for making your own design.
I am having trouble getting the files to attach here, Ill try again later. Or PM me your email address and we will try that.
One comment I want to add. (This is not directed at anyone specific, just from what I have personally experienced)
A typical CNC can not make a guitar, it can make guitar shaped objects, but not guitars. It is not like we can place a pile of wood and hardware in one side and the machine spits out a finished guitar on the other. To build a guitar it takes more skill than just cutting out pieces of wood into shapes. The wood has to be glued together to build the blanks and the assembly and setup are entirely done by hand. Not to mention the finish. The finish itself can make or break a guitar. If the finish looks awful most will see it as an inferior instrument. I consider my instruments only 50% done by the time they are ready for Finish. The Finish is by far the most difficult part to get perfect and the most difficult aspect of the build. (I use nitrocellulose lacquer)
I state this bc I am a guitar builder. I am tired of individuals putting down small batch custom guitars such as the one posted here (not saying anyone is, just stating a point), just bc it was cut-out on a CNC. Many individuals will consider the guitar as CNC made and not Hand made, which is FAR from true. There is A LOT of Handwork that goes into an instrument such as this, so I still consider this to be a HAND-MADE instrument, And So should everyone else. Just think about the hardware that goes onto any instrument, this hardware is most likely machine made and not handmade. By looking at that statement, then all instruments, that use hardware, are CNC made.
What I have found is that many guitar builders who do not know how to operate a CNC, will be the first ones to insult an instrument bc it was cut out on a CNC. I feel these comments and prejudice are only bc they are Jealous that they do not have the capabilities to learn how to operate the CNC themselves. It all goes back to Fear what you don’t know or understand.
If you have not experienced it already, then Do Not let anyone get away with giving you a hard time just bc you cut the basic shapes out with a CNC. The CNC did not build this guitar, it only cut out guitar shaped objects. Assembling, Setting up, and Finishing the guitar are all handmade jobs. So take pride In knowing that this IS a HandMade instrument. It was built and assembled by hand using available tools to cut out the basic shapes.
There is a lot of Stigmata In The Guitar world when it comes to CNC work, that should not be there.
Great Job on this Handmade Instrument.
I will jump off my soapbox now. Keep up the great work.
I agree Michael - The CNC portion of this project was the first 10-15%. I could have accomplished the same by buying or making a template, roughing it out on a bandsaw (or a fret saw for that matter) and then using a series of router processes to end up with the same basic guitar body blank.
Sharing the project on here I had no fear about the CNC aspects, in fact I would assume the latter people asking about how we could do more on the CNC such as carving the belly cut and arm reliefs. I have seen the attitude you are referring to crop up on more guitar focused forums which have an old guard that prefers their old methods.
At the end of the day the CNC is a tool, just as is a table saw, handsaw or pencil and paper. That is what I love about it, it gains efficiency in my process wherever I want it and allows me to decide where and when to leverage it vs another tool.
I am looking forward to seeing how you can use it in your process, and if I can help with any of that I am more than willing.
The last few months have been difficult dealing with a family health issue.
I hope that I can get back into my shop soon and start making guitar shaped objects again very soon. My machine has been sitting idle since right after New Years.
As soon as I do, I have plenty of info to share. If you have guitar questions in general feel free to contact me as well. I have a lot of info that I can share. I prefer to build acoustic guitars but also enjoy electrics. So your sharing has been an inspiration. My CAD skills are improving as well. Soon I will be making a lot of sawdust.