Moving right along. . . at this point, I want to be certain, that everything aligns correctly. This is one area many neglect. Crooked things give a very “home made” appearance. So just to be sure… Set a neck in the pocket and take a straight edge and extend the to the tremolo cutout. Then place the loaded pickguard and a Tremolo, and see where everything falls, if all is good, let’s get ‘er done.
So now, we’re good to go, so back to the panel sander to take a few thousandths off the top and bottom to clean everything up.
Remember the Router collet being too low and burning around the Back Tremolo rout?
Now. Prior to routing the round-over, I want to sand the outside edged. Sand? Now? Yep.. I do this now because the bearing on the ½ inch radius round over bit will follow the edge, any irregularities will be reproduced in the rounded over edge, producing more sanding.
I use a spindle sander inside the horns, and a random orbit on the outside edges. That’s this time, I generally grab and/or use whatever tool is the handiest at the moment.
I’ll give the top and bottom a quick touch too.
Now, set the router bit, and check the cut, note here I am testing it on a section that will be removed when the back contour is cut.
I set the bit to cut just a few thousandths more, the “fuzz” will be removed during sanding.
When I do the round over, I do the back side inside the horns first. This because you must stop a little short of the Neck heel, and finish the round over into that section by hand. By making a habit of doing it in this fashion, I automatically think of it, thus preventing routing too far.
Once that is done, it’s simply a matter of going around the body.
ON the top side, I continue routing into the neck pocket, this produces a natural round right up to the edge of the neck pocket.
At this point the body is lookin’ pretty good…
Many won’t have access to such tools, but here you see me using a highly specialized abrasive sliding correcting tool. Developed at Lawrence-Livermore in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, I received a call one day, asking my advice, I said, “Why don’t ya stick sum sandpaper on uh little block of wood, awdduh do it. So they contracted it out to Lockheed-Martin’s Skunk Works and had a few made, cost $38,093.32 each, they sent me the one you see here. ...U buyin’ this?
Take a small block and sand the edges, you don’t want them too thin because you’ll snap ‘em off.
Now, lets attack those contours.
The Vintage Strats had much more pronounced contours than those seen on many guitars today, the Arm contour extended well below the centerline. I draw a diagonal line as a guide,
And while I’m at it I’ll mark the back indicating the back contour.
Then I mark the approximate depth of the relative cuts..
So now I have a problem, all the wood is in my way. So with the finesse of a stick of dynamite, I select an appropriate tool.
For those prone to using Starrett or Browne & Sharpe tools, I’m sure you’re wondering how I determine exactly where to cut the contours. That’s easy, I cut them in the shop, hehehe.
There was no standard, these were done by hand back then, so if it looks right, it is.
So with all the lumber in the way, I use a very aggressive grinder to rough it out, some use a band saw, but what ever method you select is fine.
I simply remove the lumber to approximately the depth I’m looking for.
One thing to note, I have seen many done where the contour is way too flat, it should have a nice round contour, on one axis, it is NOT a compound curve
Once it is about where it need to be… there are several ways to do this, the most accessible tool would be a wide, about 6 inches by whatever, piece of flat material with some coarse sandpaper glued to it.
Using this you can remove massive amounts of wood quickly.
Using the block, continue sanding until the contour looks pretty flat.
Now, mark up the area with a pencil, this will allow you to see any low areas, stopping before getting it all consistent will result in a very poor finish.
Now continue sanding with the flat block, observing the pencil marks. Continue until they are gone.
Once they are gone, finish sand with your sander of choice, to about 150 grit.
Now, I get “green” using all natural resources, I step out side and allow the sunlight to fall across the contour, the shadows will reveal any irregularities. If any are seen, resume using the flat sander until you have s smooth consistent roll.
Now, we have to round over the edge.
I mark a reference line that is consistent with where the round over done with the router, flows into the top.
I then mark a second line about ½ the distance to the edge and repeat on the outside edge.
Now using a sanding block I make the first cut keeping within the inside lines, watching to make the cut consistent around the edge. When I get close I will use a finer sand paper to give me better control on the degree of cut.
Here I am just about done.
and here it is pretty much complete.
Now, who said that? Sure it looks pretty rough at this point. But this is fine for the moment. If you like you can give it the sunlight treatment to address any gross irregularities. But I will not complete the edge round over until I am doing the finish sanding prior to sealing the lumber.
Here she is with the sunlight falling over the edge.
on to the back…
Well I reckon it’s time to wrap up the body, so let’s hit the back contour…
I marked the rough location when I was marking the top contour, again, for those looking for precision in getting this exactly right, there was no “exactly right”. It was a hand process so it was pretty much up to the shaper as he removed wood.
Using pretty much the same method as I did on the top, I use the grinder to coarsely remove the wood down to the approximate depth. If this is your first try, take a scrap of 2 X 8 pine, and cut the scalloped shape in it a few times. It’s not rocket science, it’s more of an art, and while I’m no Leonardo, a little practice can’t hurt.
I stand there and hold the grinder firm with my elbows anchored in my sides, and rotate from the waist; this makes it much easier to keep the radius consistent.
Once it’s roughed in, you can take a curved block, I made one from a piece of 2x4, glue a course grit sandpaper to it, and begin sanding away…when you get close, do the pencil thing again to give you a visual reference, change to a finer grit and continue ‘till it passes the sunlight test.
Now, this is a relatively labor intensive method, so if you have access to a good oscillating spindle sander, you can make ya one of these racks to hold the body in position.
The mistake many make on cutting this contour and the top contour, is making them compound curves, they were not. In the sunlight shot above you can see the curve is only radiused on one axis.
With the “jig” to hold the body I can move it against the spindle preserving the correct angle and keeping the floor of the contour flat.
I just continue until I have the full deep contour seen in the 50’s and 60’s.
The sunlight will tell ya when to stop…
Now, I mark the edge as I did the top to give me an indication as I remove the hard edge and roll it into the round over.
Using the convex sanding block I take the edge down to the first cut, then repeat taking it to the second cut. This illustration shows the 3 primary cuts, followed up with hand sanding to smooth it up into a continuous radius.
Here I have just about finished the roundover on the back side.
Then after a bit of touchup with a finer grade of paper I give it the sun light test to note any gross irregularities.
Some may be wondering how you get an acceptably consistent radius using a sanding block. It’s really quite easy. By moving the block down the edge it has a natural tendency to follow the previous line, cutting that line into “uncharted” wood. That, along with the sunlight’s shadow helps you know where the irregularities are lurking, so you can remove them.
Now, there are two other operations to take care of…
The last thing to remedy is where we stopped the routing before we got to the Neck pocket’s heel. Using anything round with sandpaper attached, just smooth the abrupt edges into a continuous flow into the heel.
I do one side, and then I do the other. . .
Now I will go over it with a bit of sandpaper, about 150 – 200 grit, giving it a good look in the sunlight, checking to ensure all went well and there are no looming foibles.
The body is now complete. All that remains is final sanding with 320, then the sealer, then the finish…