I have been a member of UG for so many years now. Back when I was in high school I constantly browsed the gear building forum and remember being jealous of all the awesome guitar build threads I followed, wishing that I had the skills to do the same.

Enough nostalgia...

Last March I found myself with a lot of free time and decided that I finally wanted to start building a guitar since I had quickly acquired a lot of basic woodworking tools from doing home improvement projects. Then I found out that there is a guy on youtube that has a huge multi-hour video series that shows in an insane amount of detail how he does every little step. Armed with the tools and knowledge, I got to work.

My main guitar is a Jackson SL3 so I wanted to make something similar to that so that I could have a quality and working guitar to help me plan the build. What I love the most about my SL3 is the lack of a heel with the neck-through-body design but was intimidated by what I perceived as a more difficult technique at the time.

The body blank is made of alder which I made by laminating two pieces together.
The neck is hard maple
The fretboard is ebony

Onto the pictures because I know thats the only reason you are here.

Here's me with my big fat plank of alder.

Here's the rough sawn edge of one half of the body blank before I jointed it on my router table

Here is my router set up to thickness the planks that eventually become the body blank. The plank in the photo was just a test piece. I don't know anyone with a thickness planer so I had to get creative. I used the method outlined in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtkBZHLJyD0

To make my template for the body I traced a photo of a Caparison TAT in Illustrator and printed the line drawing to scale at Kinkos. I then used spray adhesive to adhere the printed line drawing to a thin piece of MDF. I cut that out on a band saw and then sanded it smooth. I used my thin template to make a "working" template on a thicker piece of MDF.

Here is the body blank rough cut on the bandsaw with the template attached with carpet tape. DO NOT use carpet tape for cutting with templates. The kind I got is really thick and slides around the slightest bit when routing. I used it and got pretty good results anyways. This was also the first time I had ever used templates. I now know that I should cut as close to the line as possible when band sawing. It took forever to route the body because I left so much extra material.

Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Last edited by elchico04 at Dec 19, 2013,
Here's the body all routed.

Neck before jointing

Neck after jointing
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Neck being thickness planed with the router using the same technique as before.

About to cut the scarf joint on the jig that I built for this specific purpose. I believe its 15 degrees.

Scarf joint being glued up.

Template for the headstock.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Neck ready to have a channel routed out for the truss rod.

Truss rod in place after a painless routing job.

Gluing a wing onto the headstock for the point.

Headstock rough cut on band saw. When I routed it out I had some chip out so the pointy bit on the left side is now going to be a rounded curve. Not the end of the world.

At this point I took a 3 or 4 month break due to life and lack of funds

Ebony fretboard arrived in the mail! It sat on a shelf for at least 1.5 months before I couldn't stand looking at it not getting any closer to becoming a guitar anymore.

Fretboard before jointing an edge.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Fretboard after jointing an edge. This stuff is so dense and smooth. It feels amazing just rubbing your fingers across it.

Fret slotting mitre box I purpose built for the cheapo saw I got from harbor freight. Learned how to build it from the video on this page: http://sixgunguitars.com/fret_slotting_jig.html

The fretboard was a tiny bit warped so I tried flattening it out but soon gave up. I clamped it down on the neck and I shouldn't have any problem getting a seamless glue line when the time comes.

Ebony sawdust looks kind of cool
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
I bought the cheapest fretboard from Stew-Mac to use as a template for the fret slotting jig. Here it is next to my test cuts on a piece of MDF.

Fretboard taped to the template ready for slotting

First couple slots cut.

All done!

Thats as far as I've gotten so far. For my first build, I think I'm off to a pretty good start.

Feel free to shoot my any questions, comments, or simply to tell me that I'm doing it all wrong!
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Crack? If you are talking about the ugly piece of alder in photo before thicknessing, that was just a test piece because it was my first time thicknessing wood.

I am very unfamiliar with bandsaws, good to know. I'll be sure to let my friend know that his bandsaw needs a new blade.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Oh, that. It was the edge of a very small knot. It has since been sanded out.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Nice work so far
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
I got my radius block in the mail a few days before the end of the year. With family finally gone I am ready to get back to work.

I didn't realize sanding the fretboard was going to take so much muscle. I started with 50 grit, then 100, and finished with 220.

Fretboard after 50 grit

Here's my sanding setup. I clamped two 2x4s down to a flat board with my sanding block sandwiched in between and doubled stick taped the fretboard down.

Profile of the radius.

Close up of the fretboard after radiusing (is that a word?)

Fretboard with neck.

I may need to cut my fret slots deeper. Should I wait and see after the sides get trimmed once the fretboard is on the neck?

The other thing I am wondering now is the distance between the nut and the first fret. My board is trimmed to the exact length of a Stew-Mac slotted fretboard. Do I just put the nut exactly where the headstock is angled and butt the fretboard right up against it?
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Has it been long enough since my last post?
I think so. I'm kind of ashamed at how slowly I am building this guitar especially since my one-year anniversary is coming up next month.

Things got a little sidetracked after radiusing the fretboard because my sanding block is only 8 inches or so long. I tried to convince myself that I didn't need a proper caul to glue the fretboard on the neck but with the glue bottle in hand I decided to do things the right way.

I ended up sanding the radius into a long 2x4 and then using that to make a long clamping caul. To anyone who ever has to do this, use a router to roughly cut the radius into your caul. It will save your arms the work and also a lot of time.

Pics or it didn't happen, right?

Neck with fretboard about to be glued on

Everything clamped up. Not sure why I didn't clamp it to the table. That would have been much easier...

Fretboard glued on and trimmed flush with neck

Close up the result

It's really satisfying seeing all the pieces of wood perfectly glued together

After finally getting this step done, I immediately loathed the fact that I was probably going to have to buy more tools to carve the neck but then I found out that I actually have a pretty decent set of rasps I didn't know about, large and small, so hopefully I'll start hacking away at the neck sometime this week.

I think some of the fret slots are a little too shallow so I'll have to figure out how to safely saw them deeper. I'm thinking I should probably do that before I carve the neck.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
stuck'd. im really looking forward to watching this build.

BC Rich Warlock
Dean 88
ME682-In Progress
Carvin SX300
Clayton 1.0mm picks
Planet Waves cables.
Looks great so far man. I hate watching threads like this because I have been looking at the same body and neck pieces waiting for them to miraculously put themselves together. Can't wait to see more of your build, looking great so far.
Gibson LP traditional and DC standard, SG standard, MIA Standard Strat, Schecter Banshee 7
EVH 5153, Orange TV50H 2-2x12's
Line 6 M13
Nice looking forward to seeing it done
You hit 'em and they get back up
I hit 'em and they stay down
- Frank Castle
I've made a little bit of progress. Here's an update.

After a bit of work with a file.

If I were to do it all again, I would have set up some sort of jig to hold the neck at an angle so I could have just routed away the majority of the neck before using the files. I toyed with the idea of using a chamfer bit but thought it was too risky and stuck to the files.

Neck after drilling holes for the side position markers.

Side dot's being installed. A small drop of super glue is all you need.

Here's most of the side dots trimmed flush.

The flush cut saw I bought for sawing the fret slots made this a breeze.

Next step is to finish filing the neck. Shouldn't be too much work since the bulk of the material has been removed.
After that, fretting? I'm not looking forward to that step. Fretting = buying more tools. Does anyone have any suggestions on what tools I absolutely need for fretting?
The two kits I came across are almost a $100 price difference. Thoughts?
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Man this is boss. Im happy for you and I can't wait for you to get it finished and actually play the damn thing! Looks like you're doing a good job, but I know nothing about building :P. I'll watch this thread. Any plans for the finish?
The LMII kit is probably a good shout, but I'm not sure if I'd buy it myself. With a new fret job, you can get away with using a long radius block for initial leveling IMHO, so you wouldn't miss the Stewmac leveling file.

I'd recommend that you get a pressing caul though, instead of using a hammer. You can also get nippers from most hardware stores, then grind the face to get a closer cut. That would save you a lot of money, but you don't really need them for an unbound board - just saw your wire to length, then file the overhang and dress it. Nippers are more useful for removing the tang for binding, and can twist the wire if you try to cut through the whole lot. Also, look into getting a file and holder for trimming your fret ends flush, then beveling them.


Fret pressing caul,
Fret crowning file,
Bevel file,
Lots of wet and dry paper

(Maybe nippers, )
Plans for the finish? Right now I'm planning on doing a glossy black finish to the body and neck plus gold hardware.

The neck is a little thicker than my jackson and gibson guitars. It also has a rounder radius than any of my other guitars (12.5" I believe). I also put medium fretwire on instead of jumbo which these types of guitars usually have.

Since my last update I have finished carving out the majority of the neck to its final thickness. I didn't do too much to the heel since I want it to be a smooth transition once it's glued in. I didn't get any pictures of this so use your imagination. Words of advice: Buy the $5 rasp to speed this process instead of being cheap like me and using a file for the whole thing.

I rounded the edges of the fretboard with 400/600 grit sandpaper and sanded the face of the fretboard to a glass-like finish with 600 grit sandpaper. Then I used a triangular file to slightly bevel the fret slots. Finally, I ended up having to resaw all of the fret slots since they weren't deep enough. After all that the neck was ready to be stained.

Neck before staining

Neck with stain

Neck after staining. The camera makes it look lighter than it really is. The streaks in the fretboard pretty much disappeared and the random spots in the wood are less apparent after staining.

Frets cut and ready to be installed

I didn't feel like spending money on a fret tang nipper but still wanted the hidden tang look so I improvised. I used a dremel and the cut off disks to remove about a 1/4" of the tang on both sides of each fret. Took me about 30 mins.

Frets partially installed

I am starting to realize how many specialized tools there are for building guitars and that you don't really need most of them unless you are doing it professionally. I ended up using a regular ol' hammer and a block of wood to hammer in the frets. 1 whack on the left side, 1 whack on the right side, and 1 whack on the middle. I don't know why I stressed out so much about installing frets. It was really easy.
I put a couple drops of super glue into the sides of the fret slots and then filled them with saw dust that I had collected from earlier.

Frets after filing flush and beveling

The files I saw on various sites online were pretty pricy. I got a 10-piece file set from home depot for $10. I cut the tang and end off of a 6" mill file and used some gorilla glue to glue the file to a piece of plywood. A few minutes of work and I had pretty much the same file the websites sell. I approximated the bevel angle by eye and went to town. No special tools needed for the bevel.

Neck after fretting

One problem I noticed after I finished filing was that the super glue leaked out of the fret slot and onto the fretboard on 3 frets. Any tips on the best way to remedy this problem?
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
If your neck is thicker than a gibson, then that is MASSIVE. I think most of that comes from your fretboard.. that fretboard is way too thick. It should be around 3/16" on the sides after radiusing. That also makes you carve more off the back leaving less wood between the truss rod cavity.

Your best bet to clean up that super glue is to scrap it with a razor.
Last edited by Explorerbuilder at Apr 28, 2014,
I guess I should mention that my gibson is an Explorer. The neck is quite thin compared to a Les Paul. That said, my fretboard is pretty thick.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12
Its been a little while...

Since my last update I have leveled the frets but I still need to re-crown them.

I'm glad that I finally got the past how I was going to attach the neck to the body. It was definitely the part I was most nervous and confused about.

First, I ended up sawing the extra part of the neck off and had planned to glue the neck into a fender strat style neck pocket. After doing my test pockets on a scrap I could never get it to fit perfectly and was always left with ugly little gaps even when I got a tight fit. Unhappy with the results I decided to do a mortise and tenon joint like a gibson guitar.

I couldn't think of a good way to saw out the three sides of the tenon so I got busy with some chisels and a flush cut saw. This part took forever... Right around the time I was about to finish chiseling I realized I should have just used the router table to remove the bulk and used a chisel to knock out the rounded corners. Live and learn.

After some careful sanding I was able to get a nice tight fit into my mortise. Now I just need to do some clean up work on the corners of the tenon to get it perfectly flush with the body. I have a small gap on one side the thickness of a credit card.

I already made a humbucker template so now I just have to wait for all of the hardware to arrive later this week before I do my final body routing. I also ordered a crowning file so there is that to do as well.

I am planning on planing the body thickness down a little bit.

I think I am past the hardest part of making this guitar but we'll see.
Gibson Explorer
Jackson Soloist SL3
Orange Tiny Terror
Mesa 2x12