One of the fun parts of a project like this is being made to think about things I just never noticed in the past. For example, why does a Fender Stratocaster have a large faceplate, when the Gibson Les Paul does not? Answer: the Strat has a one piece body, so the only way to get the electronics inside is to rout out the face, which leaves a hole that must be covered. The Strat also has a cavity in the back for tremolo springs.
To allow for a beautiful wooden top requires a two piece body (not counting the two pieces that make up each piece of the two pieces!). As I covered in a previous post, we’re making a mahogany body (the back) and a curly maple top.
So, this past Thursday we spent most of our time on routing cavities into the backs of our guitars for electronics. The front side of the back, which will be covered with the maple top, has two large cavities and a channel for the selector switch. The back side of the back also has a cavity to allow for the control knobs.
After being glued up last week, the two piece mahogany backs needed to be prepared and brought to proper thickness (1 3/4″). As always, we began by jointing one side, which is a “you can’t do this at home” operation. My jointer at home can handle stock 4″ wide, but our bodies are 14″ or so. Not to worry: Ted’s industrial strength jointer handles 16″ stock!
Next, we brought the back to approximately the right thickness on the planer. Most planers for home use are 13″, I think, so this operation requires a shop as well. Ted’s planer is 20″. After planing, we brought the piece to just the right thickness with a huge belt sander that operates just like a planer. This machine is impressive.
At this point, we drilled “registration holes” to which we will affix templates for the routing and perhaps other things. Instead of using the router to remove all the stock, we used a Forstner bit to remove most of the stock, then finished the job with an inverted router. This is where I made my first blunder: When using a router, the direction you push the stock is critical. It turns out I was supposed to rotate the piece counter-clockwise when the router is inverted and cutting an inside edge (see this helpful Woodcraft article). I rotated the wrong way, causing the bit to “jump,” and somehow the bit removed stock outside the template (it probably moved). Ted is pretty sure the back plate will cover the goof. We shall see.
Finally, we planed off the burn marks from our maple tops, and then bookmatched them for the best look. Can’t wait to see these babies finished!
- Prepare the mahogany back in the usual way. Face jointing requires a 16″ jointer. Planing requires a 20″ planer.
- Placement of registration holes is critical.
- On an inverted router, rotate the piece counter-clockwise on an inside cut! Read the Woodcraft article before proceeding—don’t goof this up!