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#1
So this is my first guitar build... I'm terrible at writing so bear with me. I'm left-handed and i like explorers, they don't make lefty explorers so i decided to make one myself. I started "working" on this project about two years ago but that was mostly just learning and acquiring the tools i needed. I really got started about 4 months ago and currently have the neck complete (aside from finish) and the body in progress.

I figure i should make a sort of spec sheet for you guys to see what its gonna be.

Specs:
Body: Solid Honduran Mahogany 
Neck: Hard Rock Maple (with 15 degree headstock angle and scarf joint)
Fretboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22 Stainless steel jumbo frets
Inlays: None
Side Dots: White plastic
Binding: None
Pickguard: None
Truss Rod: 2-way 
Nut: Graphtech black tusq XL
Tuners: Black Hipshot 18:1 locking
Bridge: Black TonePros Metric locking Tune-O-Matic
Strap Buttons: Dunlop dual design strap-loks
Pickups: Undecided (between EMG 81/60, Gibson DIrty Fingers, or Seymour Duncan Invaders, I may also just do only a bridge pup).
Finish: Nitrocellulose Lacquer Olympic White solid color (gloss)

I think that about sums it up. I've documented the entire thing so far and I'm going to put some of the pictures with explanations here in the order i did everything soon. I'm setting up photobucket now so i can put the pictures up.


Well that's all fer' now. Peace...  
Last edited by Palpaterpintine at Mar 28, 2017,
#2
So i started with the neck, I don't have any good pictures of cutting the scarf but here is the thinning of the headstock which i did with a router.



And after. (while i was prepping for the glue-up)



And then the glue-up and clamping. Messy  



More to come. 
#3
here i was sorting out headstock ears. Again for some reason i didn't get a pic when i was cutting them.


I then glued a block for the tenon.


And did a layout where i needed the cut it and where the fretboard would be.




AH! Just realized i routed the truss rod channel as well somewhere between gluing but i didn't take a picture.   I just did it using an edge guide on my router.

More tenon layout.



And then when i glued the ears. (sorry for messy workbench)



And then clamping the top ear. Angles were strange so I got creative with the clamps.




And then the neck all glued up with the templates that i made and the un-tapered fretboard.




Well, that's all for now  
#4
I know nothing about building, but it's my understanding that neck tenons always look to me as if they were one piece that has been sculptured into the rectangular shape, not two glued pieces, I thought people want the highest amount of tight contact possible within the neck joint, to keep a good sustain. But who am I to judge, just curious that's all. Anyway, I'm excited to see how it goes. Subscribing for sure.


On a side note, according to your profile, you became a luthier at the age of 14!!  ..you're 16 now and that confident with using tools, this just can't be true HAHA. Just kidding. Keep up the good work man  
#5
Thanks man! For the tenon It was much cheaper to get a neck blank that's 7/8" thick and the tenon needs to be about 1 1/8" thick, i asked around and did some research on it. The only electric i currently own is an Epi SG and its tenon is glued just like that, iv'e had it for a few years and haven't had a problem yet, i'll just have to see how it turns out  
#6
I see. Speaking of SGs BTW, I think SG's neck joints have always been really mysterious, it's known that Gibson has radically changed the design of the tenons and heels on the SG like 1000 times throughout the years, going from short "box" tenons, to longer "shaft" -like ones. I've seen pics of vintage and modern SGs, the dramatic change is just crazy.
#7
I've seen that too, makes me wonder why. The only real change I've found for the Explorers though is that the original 58's had "long tenons", the tenons total length was about 5" and now it's like 3 1/4" and the same on the Les Pauls. I initially intended to do a long tenon but I made a little mistake so my tenon is like 3 3/4".
#8
The neck after tapering, I tapered it using the neck template and a 1/2" pattern bit on my router.



Headstock cut to shape, no template this time i just free-handed it on the bandsaw.


The whole thing from the front.


I am extremely happy with how the scarf joint worked out, very solid glue joint.


Again with the random lack of pictures, i didn't capture when i cut the tenon. Again i just free-handed on the bandsaw. This was when i was testing methods to make a template for the mortise.


Tenon cut, fretboard tapered, test fitting it on the neck. See the little mistake i made?


Thar she be, the blunder to top all blunders... The truss rod is sticking out about 3/16" where it should not be... I've got a few solutions thought of though, no worries.


So far so good. More to come.
#9
So now i was setting up to glue the fretboard and i decided to use pins to keep it from slipping while clamped. The little brass dot just above the truss rod, kinda hard to see but it's there. I just took a thumbtack and cut the point off about 2-ish mm long and then very carefully tapped it into the neck.


And another one on the opposite end/side. (again real hard to see, sorry.)


And just before gluing.


And then the clamping setup. I couldn't get any pictures whilst gluing because it was tedious, the pins worked like a charm however, no slipping! 
I think it may be important to note that i glued the fretboard on with hide glue, i used Titebond Original for everything else though.





And then I let it dry for 24 hours and unclamped it, more lack of pictures, I did the side dots. I just freehanded them with a small hand drill (it shows haha) and then super-glued them in.







Well, that's all for now, next is the neck carving.
#10
Now carving the neck.

First half rough carved. (I used a shinto saw rasp for most of the carving, worked perfectly!)


After a bit of refinement. I drew lines to help me carve, basically i drew the center line and then a line on either side to follow the taper of the neck. I put the lines 1/4" out from either side of the center line at the first fret and i think it was 7/32" at the twelfth.


Rough carve done on the first facet on both sides.


Another pic, trying to show the curve of the neck.


Then i went ahead and did the last 2 facets and shaped the heel, lightly sanded it and bam.





Well i think that's all for now, i will post the fretting/fretwork later today.
#11
I know you're worried (concerned) about the control cavity for the Explorer.
It's really up to you. There's no sense making an exact copy if you don't want it that way. Why not figure out what controls you want and do that. Base the cavity shape on the coverplate you buy or make.
I know the '84 had a volume and a tone knob with a 3 way switch. 
Harmony: Stratocaster
Alvarez: F-200
Schecter: Omen 6
Fender: BXR-60
Dean: Metalman Z Bass (Betty)
Egnator: Tweaker 15
Pearl: Maximum
ESP/LTD: EXP-300
Custom: Harley Quinn Bass
Custom: TK-421 Explorer
A steadily growing supply of pedals
#12
ryanbwags I want the 84' cavity because i might put emgs and it would have space for the battery and board, I also like the look of it. I have solved the problem though, Iv'e made a template myself, with the cover plate and control layout. And the 84's apparently had I'm guessing 2 vol 1 tone and a switch,or maybe 2 tones and 1 volume. Either way there's 3 pots and a switch, I'll either just drill for 1 vol 1 tone and a switch or do the layout of one of the epi's that have 1 vol and 1 tone. I'm gonna edit the original post, I'll probably also put the template up for other people to use. But thanks for the advice man  
#13
Cool. I can't wait to see it.
Harmony: Stratocaster
Alvarez: F-200
Schecter: Omen 6
Fender: BXR-60
Dean: Metalman Z Bass (Betty)
Egnator: Tweaker 15
Pearl: Maximum
ESP/LTD: EXP-300
Custom: Harley Quinn Bass
Custom: TK-421 Explorer
A steadily growing supply of pedals
#14
 
Alright, now the fretwork. As  I mentioned in the original post I did stainless steel jumbo frets. They were a major pain to work but hopefully it will pay off with them lasting a long time.

First two frets in, I just used a cheap fret hammer and a tiny bit of super-glue to make sure they stay put.


I undercut the tangs on all the frets, had to use a small mill file to get them flush though.




And here you can see the gaps where i undercut the tangs.


And of course I'm missing more pictures, I finished out all the frets, beveled edges, filed flush, leveled, crowned, dressed the ends, and polished them.


It's hard to see, but the gaps where i undercut the fret tangs i filled with rosewood dust and superglue. Sanded them flush and voila






Well that's the neck pretty much done, I will probably get the making of the body (or at least what iv'e currently got done) up tomorrow.
#15
Alright, now what i have on the body so far.

The template with the blank. (dimensions were 18x24x1/2")



A little hard to see but here's the tracing. I traced around the template and then traced around it again with a washer on the pencil. This gave me the inside line (final dimension) and the outside line. The outside line is just for me to cut to on the bandsaw, then the extra left on there gets routed away.



And here is the body after I rough cut it on the bandsaw, this was while i was attaching the template. I attached it by putting regular masking tape in the same spots on both the template and the body, then i put double-stick carpet tape between it. this gave a very strong hold but left no residue.



And it's stuck.




Now the routing. I used a 1/2" pattern bit with a bottom bearing and a set of bench cookies to hold it in place. (and made a mess



Various shots of the whole process.









And after the routing side by side with the template.


It turned out pretty good  








And here i got some of the hardware. As  I mentioned earlier Strap-loks and a metric TonePros Bridge.


That is all for now. I will put up some pictures of the tuners later, I have to take some and upload them first. Next I'll probably show the making of the cavity template but here's a pic of it in the early stages  



Last edited by Palpaterpintine at Mar 29, 2017,
#16
Sorry for not posting for a few days, had stuff to do. Iv'e also made loads more progress. And mistakes haha

So Iv'e got the neck pocket routed and i made some mistakes here, it all has worked out but i figure I should point them out because they might help someone.

I decided to try a method I saw on youtube for routing it, essentially it's using a block of the height of the bridge + a few mm for wiggle room - the height of the fretboard and frets at the joint. Then this block is place at the nominal bridge position and a plane or sanding beam can be rested on it and used to sand the angle needed into the body. (roughly 2.8 degrees in my case.) It worked pretty well actually but there were a few things  I didn't account for and it made the whole process much more tedious.

Here's my block.


I used stick-backed 80 grit sandpaper and an aluminum sanding beam (on the left).


Here's when i was just starting, you can see where the lines are gone is where it's sanding the angle.


And after completion, it's hard to see the area in the picture. I just redrew my center line and roughly where the pocket should be.


I did not realize how much the sanding would take of (about 3/8" at the edge) it still worked but i had to change my tenon a bit. I will not do it this way next time.
I also did not see how the angle would affect the actual routing i had to cut the sides of my template very thin.


However, at the end it all worked out ok. The neck pocket was about 2mm off to the side from where it should be but it cut cleanly and was a very tight fit.




I then glued in the neck, i used these to big clamps torqued down for all they'd suffer.


Then I let it dry/cure for 48 hours and unclamped.




At the end its only off by about .5 of a mm and has a hairline gap on one part, for my first time though, I'm pretty happy with that.




Well, that's all for now. I will be drilling the bridge post holes and routing cavities very soon. Also, iv'e decided to go with only a bridge pickup for this one, likely an invader.
#17
Alright, so Iv'e acquired all of the hardware and parts aside from the pickup itself (I'm still stuck between the dirty fingers and invader).


The tuners. And fender washers  this feels wrong.

 
And the various electric parts and hardware. Plus a humbucker cavity template, I was gonna make my own but it was like 5 freedom bucks from stew-mac so why not.


Anyways, this is just a quick update, I'm working on either getting a drill press or borrowing one to drill bridge bushing holes and whatnot.
However, I have been doing loads of work on the cavity templates and a few other template related things. I'm going to finish the last part of the cavity templates tonight and will post pictures either tonight or tomorrow.
#18
So, now all the template work so far. 

I duplicated the stew-mac template in 1/2" MDF so i could have a sturdier version.




Now the cavity template.

I took two copies of the final drawing i came up with and used spray adhesive to attach them to some 1/4" MDF.


Then i cut out around them both roughly on the bandsaw.


I then cut along the body line very carefully. This gives me 2 sides that line up on the guitar's body perfectly.




I drilled a small hole in the first one and ran a coping saw through.


Then I went to town sawing  


And after.


Then i cut the other part the same way and made the template for the plate itself, and cleaned them up with my hipster spindle-sander (sandpaper wrapped around a dowel)  

End result.






Then i duplicated them in 1/2" MDF with my router.


Well, that's all for now. It may be a little while before I post again because i have to sort out my drill-press problem.
#19
The first time I drilled holes for a tune-o-matic style bridge was the scariest thing I ever did. I measured and re-measured 6 times at least. I knew I only had one shot to get it right. It worked out, though.
Harmony: Stratocaster
Alvarez: F-200
Schecter: Omen 6
Fender: BXR-60
Dean: Metalman Z Bass (Betty)
Egnator: Tweaker 15
Pearl: Maximum
ESP/LTD: EXP-300
Custom: Harley Quinn Bass
Custom: TK-421 Explorer
A steadily growing supply of pedals
#20
ryanbwags I'm worried as well, Iv'e measured probably 10 times with 3 different rulers just to make sure. I have a question though, do you know if i need to move the measurement back at all to account for the neck angle? I hadn't thought about it till i saw it in another thread, someone on that thread said that the difference the angle made was insignificant but i want to be sure.
Last edited by Palpaterpintine at Apr 10, 2017,
#21
Palpaterpintine I don't think it will be significant enough to worry. 
Harmony: Stratocaster
Alvarez: F-200
Schecter: Omen 6
Fender: BXR-60
Dean: Metalman Z Bass (Betty)
Egnator: Tweaker 15
Pearl: Maximum
ESP/LTD: EXP-300
Custom: Harley Quinn Bass
Custom: TK-421 Explorer
A steadily growing supply of pedals
#24
Quote by Palpaterpintine
ryanbwags I'm worried as well, Iv'e measured probably 10 times with 3 different rulers just to make sure. I have a question though, do you know if i need to move the measurement back at all to account for the neck angle? I hadn't thought about it till i saw it in another thread, someone on that thread said that the difference the angle made was insignificant but i want to be sure.

With the neck in the pocket, place a long straight edge running along the top of the frets from the nut face. Use another, shorter ruler perpendicular to the body top and move it to meet the long straight edge at 24.75" (or whatever your scale length is). Mark this as your bridge position, being sure to angle back on the bass side for a ToM; I can't remember the exact angle, but Google is your friend. Technically the bridge post holes will be slightly closer to the nut to compensate for the neck angle, but everything should be spot-on with the bridge raised to position. If you DON'T do it like that, a ToM should still have enough travel in the saddles to intonate fine.

PS. What radius have you used for your fingerboard? It looks very flat.
#25
-MintSauce- Ah, thanks for that tip! I hadn't thought to use a second ruler like that. Its just a standard Gibson scale, supposedly 24.75 but its like 24 9/16"and ends up at 24.75 after compensating the bridge. I had heard that rather than angling the ToM it was easier to just placel the bass side bushing back between 1/16" and 1/8" further than the treble, Iv'e also heard the angle method was an angle of about 3 degrees. Is the angle better than the other way?  And it's a 12" radius, I think the pictures may just make it look flat. 
#26
Quote by Palpaterpintine
-MintSauce- Ah, thanks for that tip! I hadn't thought to use a second ruler like that. Its just a standard Gibson scale, supposedly 24.75 but its like 24 9/16"and ends up at 24.75 after compensating the bridge. I had heard that rather than angling the ToM it was easier to just placel the bass side bushing back between 1/16" and 1/8" further than the treble, Iv'e also heard the angle method was an angle of about 3 degrees. Is the angle better than the other way?  And it's a 12" radius, I think the pictures may just make it look flat. 

It doesn't really matter which way you do it, as long as the posts are in the desired location. Don't be afraid to make a drilling template and practice a thousand times on scrap/MDF until you're happy with the outcome. This hobby is just as much about template prep and prototyping as it is about woodwork!

PS.
PPS. Vector graphics software like Inkscape can be VERY useful for plotting out drilling patterns, as long as you then print to scale.
#27
-MintSauce- Coincidentally, Inkscape is what i used to work out my cavity templates, it is really useful. I am definitely going to drill test holes in scrap to check the bridge post spacing, for some reason the bridge had no info on the packaging as to the post spacing and i couldn't find it online. My worst nightmare would be drilling the holes in the body and then having the posts not line up to attach the bridge. Iv'e measured multiple times with calipers and it looks about 74 mm for the post spacing.

A bit random but i had a look at some of your builds (fricken nice stuff dude!), how do you do the volute like that? Black magic? Is there some secret? I really wanted to do a volute like that on this neck but I couldn't figure out how.

Sorry for asking so many questions eh  Thanks for all the help man!
#28
that looks great! good job! thanks for posting all of pics.

I will leave the wood working for the pros, i will stick to building pedals and an occasional amp.

top notch work Palpaterpintine!
WTLT 2014 GG&A

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#30
Quote by Palpaterpintine
-MintSauce- Coincidentally, Inkscape is what i used to work out my cavity templates, it is really useful. I am definitely going to drill test holes in scrap to check the bridge post spacing, for some reason the bridge had no info on the packaging as to the post spacing and i couldn't find it online. My worst nightmare would be drilling the holes in the body and then having the posts not line up to attach the bridge. Iv'e measured multiple times with calipers and it looks about 74 mm for the post spacing.

A bit random but i had a look at some of your builds (fricken nice stuff dude!), how do you do the volute like that? Black magic? Is there some secret? I really wanted to do a volute like that on this neck but I couldn't figure out how.

Sorry for asking so many questions eh  Thanks for all the help man!

You might find this page helpful: http://axetec.co.uk/guitar_parts_uk_040.htm. Most of the bridges are mass produced in China/Korea/Indonesia; you should be able to indentify them by the posts, bridge width, and presence/absence of retaining wire. 73.5mm or 74mm should be alright.

Looking back at my old stuff makes me want to throw up. I tried a few methods, but I found it easiest to use a medium cabinet rasp on the neck-side curves and a sanding drum in the headstock side for blending. The rasp naturally creates a nice curve up to the peak, and the sanding drum does the same on the other side. Once you've roughed it out, use a cabinet scraper to gently smooth and blend the curves.

How are your fretwork and set-up skills? It's worth investing in a decent set of tools to level, crown and dress your frets, and to cut your nut sluts.
#32
-MintSauce-  That page is helpful, thanks! Iv'e done a lot of careful measuring and compared to things online I'm almost certain that the bridge spacing is 74 mm and the tailpiece is 81.5 mm. Would a drill-press sanding drum work? Also is there a particular brand of rasp you would recommend? 

  As far as fretwork skills... I'm not sure about my "skill"   But I've got the frets on this neck done well as far as i can tell. All level, properly crowned, flush with the sides, ends dressed, and beveled. I got the appropriate tools for all those tasks but i used a leveling file instead of a sanding beam, Iv'e acquired a beam now and will use it rather than the file in the future because the file makes it harder to evenly level it.

   I'm not sure about "nut sluts" , for the nut i just use a pre-shaped Graph-Tech one. They are pre-slotted and usually just sanding a tiny bit off the bottom will bring it to the correct height, sometimes, a few strings action at the nut is still a bit high and i just use welding tip cleaners to adjust that.  

Anyways, thanks again for all the help dude! 
#33
Quote by Palpaterpintine
-MintSauce-  That page is helpful, thanks! Iv'e done a lot of careful measuring and compared to things online I'm almost certain that the bridge spacing is 74 mm and the tailpiece is 81.5 mm. Would a drill-press sanding drum work? Also is there a particular brand of rasp you would recommend? 

  As far as fretwork skills... I'm not sure about my "skill"   But I've got the frets on this neck done well as far as i can tell. All level, properly crowned, flush with the sides, ends dressed, and beveled. I got the appropriate tools for all those tasks but i used a leveling file instead of a sanding beam, Iv'e acquired a beam now and will use it rather than the file in the future because the file makes it harder to evenly level it.

   I'm not sure about "nut sluts" , for the nut i just use a pre-shaped Graph-Tech one. They are pre-slotted and usually just sanding a tiny bit off the bottom will bring it to the correct height, sometimes, a few strings action at the nut is still a bit high and i just use welding tip cleaners to adjust that.  

Anyways, thanks again for all the help dude! 

Yep, of course it will! I've heard great things about Liogier rasps, but I've never been able to justify the money. Cheap(er) rasp will do the job just as well; the compromise is on sanding and blending time once you're done. Cabinet rasps are great though, because the radius is a little larger than a regular half-round.

Any issues with your fretwork will be immediately obvious when you string up. High frets, flat crowns and minor scratching are pretty common. You'd be amazed by how tiny finishing scratches from high grit wet & dry stand out against the strings; polish, polish, polish. Sully has a great video about fret levelling, particularly the practice of working an angle into frets 13 to 24.

PS. "Nut sluts"! What a typo.
#34
Ah, well thanks for the tips about the cabinet rasps! I'll definitely have to get one. I did this neck using a Japanese saw rasp, cabinet scrapers, and an old half round file. I figured that i should find a good half-round rasp before my next build because the curves at the heel/headstock took forever . I hope these frets are alright, I've checked with a straight-edge and they all seem level. I also did create some fall-away on the 13th-22nd frets.

Thank you for all the help man!
#35
Alright well I'm back working on it, drill press problem solved! I've obtained the most crap-tacular drill press that imperial credits of the realm can buy.

Drilled the holes for tuners. (Obviously this drill press is so precise, one of them's off a bit   perhaps the problem was between the drivers seat and the steering wheel though.


Pickup cavity.




Then i drilled bridge/tailpiece post holes, and the holes for the pots.


Then the control cavity, which if anyone wants the template for I made a digital copy. Maybe I'll make a post so nobody will have to go through what i did to get it . (I haven't routed the lip for the cover plate yet.)




Then i drilled the holes for pickup wire/bridge ground. I slipped with the bit and took a little corn flake out of the body. Tis' but a flesh wound, I'll fill it later.




Well that's all for now. I'm gonna try to roughly put it together tomorrow and see it it'll play, if that goes well I'll have some photos up. Maybe make a video and do a sound test eh?
#36
Well I've got it put together roughly to test it out.


Got the bridge, tuners, and a pickup in. Strung it up and she lives! I just put in an emg 81  I have for testing because it's solderless and i can remove it easily.

And the best part- It plays! Almost perfectly too! The action was already almost perfect with very little adjustment, the neck relief was exactly where i like it to be, and the intonation is only slightly out and the saddles are still in their stock positions! And it gets better, even though the action is a little bit low (about  a 64th less than I prefer) not a single fret buzzes! Not one! I checked all of it, plays smoothly up and down the neck no sharp ends and none of the notes choke out on any string. I am over the moon right now . The only bad thing (which I expected) is the nut is far too high, you could land a plane between the strings and the first fret   I'm gonna leave it for now though, the guitar is gonna get finished and I will do fine adjustment after that.



And of course I have some highly scientific masking tape to hold the pickup ring on haha. I'm still waiting on the screws for it.


Here's some various picks of it.












Well that's all for now i guess, I'm going to decide what I will do for the finish and then take the whole thing apart, do a roundover, final sand, and put a finish on it. I'm kinda stuck between the my plan to do olympic white or just doing it black, anyone got an opinion on that?

peace
#37
Awesome progress! White will always get my vote. Do you have a grain filler/sealer planned?

The decent playability at this stage is a great sign. Be prepared to reassess the frets once you lower the nut; don't be put off if you discover new fret buzz with the action set low at the nut AND bridge. A high nut can be very forgiving on fretwork, hence why they're usually cut mid-high in factories/stores.

PS. Are you already planning your next project(s)? 
#40
-MintSauce- Thanks! My plan for finishing is gonna be grain fill > sanding sealer > maybe a primer (not sure if I really need to) > color coat > clear coat.
And of course I've already worked out the wet-sanding/buffing process.

I have already sorta planned my next project, It's really gonna be very similar to this one, whilst trying to avoid making the same mistakes again. But if both work out I really wanna try to do an ML or something like a Jackson king/ Rhoads V. 

My plan for this build all along has been sorta a learning experience, I figure there's no better way to learn than to just give it a shot. So I'm gonna do pretty much the same build again and try to get it perfect (or at least better). 

P.S. sorry on the late reply, my computer went belly up, had to reset it. I managed to save all of my files though so all is well.
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