Resonator Guitar Kit
Resonator Guitar Kit
Assembly Instructions
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Table of Contents
Getting started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Kit parts list . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Assembling the body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Gluing the sides to the neck block and tailblock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Making the inner-body form and waist clamp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Installing the kerfed lining (“kerfing”) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Installing the top. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Sanding the back kerfing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Installing the soundwell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Installing the truss rod. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Shaping the fingerboard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Inlaying the fingerboard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Installing side dots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Fretting the fingerboard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Fitting the neck to the body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Fasten the biscuit saddle to the cone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
The straightedge test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Understanding the neck joint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
The neck heel sets the neck angle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Shaping the neck “cheeks” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Neck adjustment: side-to-side . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Neck adjustment: tilting the neck back . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Neck adjustment: tilting the neck up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Understanding neck angle geometry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Intonation check. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Final assembly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Installing the fingerboard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Installing the peghead overlay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Fitting the tuning machines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Installing the back . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Shaping the neck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Shape the F-holes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Shape and sand the body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Assembling the guitar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Find the cone’s “sweet spot” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Rough-shape the nut height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Double-check the neck alignment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Rough-in the saddle height. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
A quick action check . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Install strings and cut nut slots. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Cut the saddle notches. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Finish the nut slots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Don’t bury the strings in the nut slots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Fasten the fingerboard to the top . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Level and crown the frets. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Glue in the nut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Installing the coverplate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Final action height . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
You’re ready for finishing!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Do’s and don’ts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Sanding the body. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Filling fret ends and sanding the neck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Making hangers and masking the neck and body. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Staining . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Applying a wash coat sealer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Filling the wood grain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Sunbursting the body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Lacquer spraying schedule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Wet-sanding and rubbing out the finish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Getting started
Welcome to guitar building! You are about to build a great
resonator guitar, patterned in many respects after a late1920s wood-bodied National Triolian.
We designed this kit with the small shop builder and a modest tool budget in mind. For power tools, we used a small
laminate router and an electric hand drill. With the exception
of a few specialty guitarmaking tools, such as several nutslotting files, we used standard woodshop hand tools. These
included a chisel, rasp, half-round bastard file, small razor saw,
a sharp knife, a couple of rulers, and a long straightedge. Of
course, we used some clamps (8 cam clamps, 24 spool
clamps and 50 clothespins), but that’s all.
Please read these instructions before building your guitar. It’s
important for you to “dry run” the fitting, gluing, clamping
and finishing operations before trying them for real. Also, it’s
very important to acclimate the wood to your building environment. The ideal temperature is 70-80° Fahrenheit, with a
controlled relative humidity of 45-50%. The kit wood should
be laid out and allowed to “equalize” for one week in your
shop. Flip the wood daily to minimize excessive warping.
Depending upon your location and the season, you may
© 2003 Stewart-MacDonald
need to humidify or dehumidify your shop to maintain the
desired relative humidity. It’s a good idea to use a thermometer/hygrometer to monitor your shop’s climate (our
Digital Hygrometer is accurate and inexpensive). If you’re
unable to control the relative humidity in your shop, we discourage building the guitar during the transition from dry to
wet seasons, or vise versa. The radical change in humidity can
cause serious complications from cracks or warping.
Neck assembly and body assembly are two separate
processes. So, you can work on the neck while glue is drying
on the body, and vise versa. In fact, it’s good to have the neck
assembled before the back is glued on so that you can test
fit it to the body.
Use a flat work board approximately 24" x 36" x 3/4" for keeping the body flat during assembly. Plywood is your best bet,
and Baltic birch is an ideal choice. We used a flat basswood
drafting board.
Be safe when using tools, glues, and chemicals. Wear
eye protection and gloves when needed, and always
use proper ventilation.
page 1
Kit parts list
1
2
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
3
4
8
7
9
5
Kerfed lining (8)
Coverplate, and screws (12)
Cone
Truss rod cover, and screws (2)
Soundboard
Back
Pattern
Tailpiece
Biscuit bridge
Soundwell (2 pieces)
Strap button
Peghead overlay
Sides
Truss rod
Fingerboard, and screws (4)
Neck
Rubberband
Pearl dots (10)
Bone nut
Side dot material
Instructions
Neck block
Tailblock
Fretwire (3)
Cardboard and scrap materials .
not pictured.
12
10
11
6
21
13
22
14
15
23
16
19
18
17
20
page 2
24
Assembling the body
Gluing the sides to the neck block and tailblock
Determine the center of the neck block and tailblock and
draw centerlines in pencil on their outer faces (their gluing
surfaces) and on the tops and bottoms of the blocks.
The sides are machined with one flat edge (for gluing to the
top), and one slightly angled edge for creating the slight
taper of the back. These angled edges are not too distinguishable from the flat edges, so they are marked for you
(keep track of the marks until the top is glued on).
Place the bent sides on the flat workboard to approximate
the shape of your guitar. The top of your guitar will be facing
down (either edge of the sides can be used as top or back).
One at a time, glue the sides to the neck and tailblock. No
trimming to length is necessary; simply butt the ends tightly
together on the centerlines penciled on the blocks.
TIP: Use a glue brush
Applying glue with a brush eliminates most of the
glue squeeze-out because the brush spreads just
the right amount of glue. We use flux brushes, inexpensive hardware store items used in plumbing.
You can also spread the glue with your finger.
After the neck and tailblocks are installed and the glue has
dried, use a 9/32" bit to drill through the sides to open up the
neck block’s bolt holes. Clamp a piece of scrap wood over the
sides before drilling to minimize tear-out as the bit breaks
through the fragile side wood.
Throughout these instructions we will use clamping “cauls”to
protect the wood from clamp marks, and to apply even pressure over a glue joint. The outer (gluing) surface of the neck
block is flat, so use a flat caul when you clamp it. However,
the tailblock is radiused. The simplest clamping caul for
squeezing the sides against the radiused tailblock is a scrap
of 1/4" plywood or wall paneling as the outer curved caul,
and a scrap wood caul on the backside of the tailblock.
The neck block and tailblock have beveled corners on their
inner sides. The inner backing caul at the tailblock should be
wider than the block itself, so the clamps put pressure where
it’s needed to pull the sides into the curve (1). The 1/4" outer
caul, being longer than the block, flexes and forms the sides
to the block. A layer of wax paper between the sides and the
caul will keep them from being glued together accidentally.
During gluing, the neck block and tailblock should rest flat
on the work surface, flush with the face-down top edge of
the sides. A weighted block of wood laid across the sides will
help keep them flat on the table during gluing.
1. The simplest clamping caul for squeezing the sides against the
radiused tailblock is a scrap of 1/4" plywood or wall paneling as the
outer curved caul, and a wooden caul on the backside of the tailblock.
Making the inner-body form and waist clamp
The two pieces of heavyweight cardboard supplied with the
kit are for creating a guitarmaking form to support the body
during the early stages of building.
Using the paper pattern, cut two matching pieces in the
shape of the guitar body. Cut carefully on the lines of the pattern, leaving no extra cardboard outside the lines.
Build the cardboard form inside the guitar body. First, place
two scraps of 3/4" plywood onto the work surface inside the
guitar. This will lift the cardboard form up to make room for
the kerfed linings, which will be installed later. Lay the first
cardboard piece onto the 3/4" plywood inside the guitar
body.
page 3
Next, glue several 3/4" thick blocks of scrap wood onto the
cardboard, and then glue the second piece of cardboard
onto them. Now the two cardboard forms are fastened
together with blocks of wood between them, creating a
three-dimensional form for supporting the guitar sides (2).
Use the paper pattern to make the U-shaped “waist clamp”
from 3/4" plywood. The waist clamp holds the guitar’s waist
tight to the inner cardboard mold, maintaining a constant
shape until the back is glued on.
Use a file to smoothly round the two inner edges of the waist
clamp. Square edges wouldn’t slide over the tight curve of
the guitar sides at the waist, and they could crack the wood.
Install the waist clamp from the back side of the guitar. (Later,
after the top’s installed, you’ll switch the waist clamp to the
top side.) When sliding the waist clamp on, hold the guitar
sides tight against the cardboard form to avoid cracking the
sides. If the fit is too tight, remove small amounts from each
side of the U-shape until the waist clamp slides snugly onto
the waist, but not so tightly that it’s hard to remove.
2. The two cardboard forms are fastened together with blocks of
wood between them, creating a three-dimensional form for supporting the guitar sides.
Installing the kerfed lining (“kerfing”)
With Titebond glue, and clothespins as clamps, install the
kerfing on the top and back. The kerfing should start at the
inner edge of the neck block and run to the inner edge of the
tailblock. Leave the kerfing raised slightly, approximately
1/64", above the side’s edges, both top and back (3). This
guarantees that the kerfing will be flush with the top edge of
the sides after sanding (as described next), and makes up for
any possible misalignment during gluing. In guitar building
3. The kerfing is installed with 1/64" exposure above the side’s
edges.
page 4
it’s safest to err slightly on the high side — you can always
remove wood, but it’s hard to put it back! Let the glue dry at
least 4 hours.
Apply adhesive-backed 80-grit sandpaper (or non-stick sandpaper and double-stick tape) to an area of the workboard as
shown in the picture (4). Don’t cover the entire board, just a
large enough area so that the kerfing and sides contact the
4. Apply adhesive-backed 80-grit sandpaper (or non-stick sandpaper and double-stick tape) to an area of the workboard.
sandpaper as you move the side assembly, face down, in
small circles to level the kerfed lining. Mark the gluing surfaces of the sides, kerfing, neck block, and tailblock all the
way around with a pencil. Check your sanding progress
often; when the sandpaper begins to remove the pencil
marks around the entire top, the kerfed lining will be level
with the sides.
TIP: Weighting the rim
Try using a weighted board placed across the top
side of the rim for uniform downward pressure (5).
5. Try using a weighted board placed across the top side
of the rim for uniform downward pressure.
Installing the top
Choose the best-looking surface of the guitar top as the outside surface. There are two small centering holes at each end
of the guitar top. Center a long straightedge on these holes,
and lightly pencil an erasable centerline on the top.
Next, glue on the top. THE most important thing you must
do is to line up the front (machined) edge of the top with the
sides at the neck block. The top and sides must be flush
there. This alignment locates the soundwell and determines
accurate intonation. There should not be ANY top overhang
in this area!
With the waist clamp still installed from the rear, line up the
top’s centerline with the centerlines you drew on the neck
and tailblocks. Start clamping in the waist area, within several inches of either side of the waist clamp, using spool clamps
to gently hold the top in place (6). Clamp the tailblock, using
two cam clamps or bar clamps and a caul to spread the
clamp pressure. Next, clamp the neck block. Use an accurate
square to be sure that the neck block is square to the top as
you clamp. Use the same type of clamps and caul that you
used on the tailblock. Follow with spool clamps spaced
evenly around the sides. With spool clamps close on either
side of the waist clamp, you should have good glue squeezeout at the waist. Leave the waist clamp in place, and let the
glue dry at least 5 hours.
Remove the waist clamp temporarily to make room for a
router. With the top glued on, notice that the sides have
gained great stability, even with the waist clamp removed.
6. Start clamping in the waist area, for several inches to either side
of the waist clamp, using spool clamps to gently hold the top in
place.
Use a flush-cutting ball-bearing router bit to remove the top
overhang in the waist clamp area (any slight burnish marks
left by the ball-bearing will sand off easily). Later, after the
back is glued on, you’ll remove the rest of the top overhang.
For now, the top overhang will match the back overhang,
making it easier to align the spool clamps.
TIP: Spool clamps
Spool clamps can be made using 8" all thread rods,
wing nuts, drilled wooden spools and cork or
leather lining pads. They’re also available in our
catalog.
page 5
Sanding the back kerfing
Since you need to remove the cardboard inner form before
you can install the soundwell, sand the back kerfing now
while the body is still relatively rigid.
Re-install the waist clamp from the top side. Place the guitar
on the sandpaper workboard with the back side down. Sand
the back kerfing flush just as you did the top, until the sandpaper just “kisses” the penciled edge of the sides.
Installing the soundwell
Remove the waist clamp and cut the cardboard inner mold
into quarters and remove it.
To assemble the soundwell spacer ring, glue the 3/16" ring to
the 3/4" ring to create one thick ring. After spreading glue on
one surface, align the two rings concentrically, and tap in
several small finishing nails to keep the rings aligned as you
clamp them. Pull the nails out when the glue is dry. Next glue
this thick spacer ring concentrically to the larger soundwell
bottom ring (again, the nails help with alignment).
Saw and chisel a 3/4" wide by 3/4" deep notch in the spacer
to allow access later for bolting on the neck. Don’t cut entirely through the spacer to the soundwell bottom ring. (7)
Align the soundwell concentrically with the 9-1/2" hole in
the top, and with the sawed notch facing the neck block.
With Titebond glue and plenty of clamps, glue it to the top.
Use scrap wood cauls to protect the top from the clamps (8).
Make a “dry run” of this clamping setup, inspect it carefully,
and pencil around the spacer on the underside of the top —
refer to the pencil line as you do the actual gluing.
7. Don’t cut entirely through the spacer to the soundwell bottom
ring.
8. With Titebond glue and plenty of clamps, glue the soundwell to
the top..
Installing the truss rod
The truss rod is installed so that it adjusts at the peghead end
of the neck. This makes it easy to adjust the truss rod under
string tension.
page 6
Roll the rods simultaneously between your thumb and fingers to adjust them, until the thread in the upper half of the
brass lug (the rod without the adjusting nut welded to it) is
flush with the face of the lug, and not protruding excessively.
9. Align the back edge of the adjusting nut with the break line of
the peghead angle.
10. The filler strip will support the bone string nut, which will be
installed later.
Align the back edge of the adjusting nut with the break line
of the peghead angle. (9). This locates the front edge of the
truss rod’s brass lug just under the end of the fretboard. A flat
area of approximately 7/32" will remain between the end of
the fretboard and the break angle of the peghead — this is
where the bone string nut will be installed.
The adjusting nut is slightly wider than the slot machined
into the neck. Chisel a slight clearance in the slot walls until
the adjusting nut fits to the bottom of the channel.
Install the rod with the adjusting nut facing down. Glue in a
piece of the supplied filler strip over the adjusting nut (10)
and the exposed truss rod threads, between the brass lug
and the rear of the adjusting nut. The filler strip will support
the bone string nut, which will be installed later. Of course,
keep glue off the truss rod threads. When the glue is dry, chisel the filler strip flush with the surface of the neck. Glue a filler
strip at the opposite end of the rod too, to fill the remaining
empty channel, and trim it flush (11).
11. Glue a filler strip at the opposite end of the rod too, to fill the
remaining empty channel. Trim it flush.
Shaping the fingerboard
The fingerboard has 24 fret slots, more than are needed for a
resonator guitar. Trim off the fingerboard at the 20th fret slot.
Trim the fingerboard profile close to the pencil lines using a
band saw, coping saw, or a hand plane.
Draw a pencil line across the back of the fingerboard to mark
the location of the 12th fret slot. The end of the neck’s fingerboard gluing surface, at the top of the heel, will line up
with this mark when the fingerboard is glued on. Align the
heel with the mark, center the neck on the fingerboard, and
draw the profile of the neck onto the fingerboard (12).
Extend the lines using a straightedge and white or yellowlead pencil.
The edges of the fingerboard must be smoothed after
they’re trimmed. On your flat work surface, rest the fingerboard, backside down, on a spacer block approximately 1/4"
thick and as long and wide as the fingerboard. Slide the fingerboard slightly off the edge of the spacer block so that one
long edge overhangs.
page 7
With a long flat sanding block, sand the overhanging fretboard edge lengthwise to remove any trimming marks. We
used a carpenter’s level with 100-grit sandpaper double-stick
taped to its thin edge. Clamped and sanded in this fashion,
the fretboard will not only be straight end-to-end, but the
edge will be sanded at 90° to the work surface. (13). Reverse
the procedure for the other edge of the fingerboard.
12. Draw the profile of the neck’s taper onto the fingerboard using
Clamped and sanded in this fashion, the fretboard will not
only be straight end-to-end, but the edge will be sanded at
90°.
a white pencil.
13. Clamped and sanded in this fashion, the fretboard will not only
be straight end-to-end, but the edge will be sanded at 90°.
Inlaying the fingerboard
Traditionally, single dot inlays are installed behind frets 5, 7, 9,
12, 15, 17, and 19. Frets 15 and 19 get two inlays each. These
will cover the four mounting screws that hold the fingerboard to the top. You won’t inlay frets 15 and 19 until later,
after the guitar is finished.
Lightly draw a centerline down the fingerboard in pencil. Use
an awl to mark for drilling along this centerline, measuring
halfway between the appropriate frets.
Drill 1/4" holes for each inlay, using a brad-point drill bit. Go
slightly deeper than the thickness of the dots. Be extremely
careful to keep the drill bit from “hogging” into the wood and
accidentally drilling completely through the fingerboard
(practice on scrap)!
As mentioned, frets 15 and 19 are drilled for double inlays.
They’re spaced 1-3/8" apart (11/16" to each side of the centerline), and should be centered between the frets.
14. Create chamfers within the four 1/4" holes using a 7/32" twist
drill.
page 8
Within the four 1/4" holes, just barely start a secondary hole
with a 7/32" twist drill (not a brad-point). These secondary
holes bevel the bottom of the 1/4" holes to form the right
shape for the fingerboard mounting screws. These holes are
difficult to drill without overdoing it, so practice on scrap!
This chamfering is very delicate; the slightest turn of the drill
bit will produce the desired shape.
Next, drill 1/8" holes through these chamfered holes at frets
15 and 19, for the four mounting screws to pass through the
fingerboard during final assembly after finishing.
Put on your protective safety glasses! Then, one at a time,
place a drop of medium-viscosity superglue in each drilled
hole and set the dot inlay in place. By using a piece of clear
acrylic as a caul (lightly waxed with paste-wax), you can
apply pressure without sticking to the superglue, and still be
able to see when the inlay is flush. Remember not to inlay at
frets 15 and 19! You may need to tap gently on the caul with
a hammer to seat the dot inlays. Don’t overdo the superglue,
and you won’t have a messy fretboard to clean up. Flush the
inlays to the fingerboard using a smooth mill file and a sanding block. Sand equally from end to end so you don’t change
the flat surface of the fretboard.
Installing side dots
A 1/16"-diameter plastic dowel is included with your kit for
making side dot fret position markers along the bass edge of
the fingerboard (for right-handed players, that is). Install
them now at frets 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, and 19. The 12th fret often
gets two dots, spaced evenly between the 11th and 12th
frets, but some makers use only one. Often, side dots are not
used past the 12th fret — the choice is yours.
Clamp the fretboard on edge, mark the centers of each hole
with an awl, and carefully drill the holes with a sharp 1/16"
drill bit. Drill square to the fingerboard edge at all times.
Nip short lengths from the plastic inlay dowel and superglue
them into the drilled holes — they should extend slightly
above the surface. When dry, file and sand the dots smooth.
TIP: Re-sand the fingerboard edges
Clamp the fingerboard back on the spacer block
used earlier for truing the edge of the fingerboard,
and re-sand the edges lightly with the carpenter’s
level and 220-grit sandpaper.
Fretting the fingerboard
A scrap piece of slotted fretboard has been included with
your kit, as well as enough fretwire to practice fretting on this
piece. Measure out the frets you will actually use on your fretboard, and use the leftover fretwire to test your skills on
scrap.
Drill 19 holes in a block of scrap wood to keep the frets in
order as you cut them to length. Using flush-cutting fret nippers, cut the pre-radiused fretwire to length, allowing an
overhang of 1/8" on each side of the fingerboard.
Clamp the fretboard flat to a solid surface. We fretted on a
flat, 1-1/4" thick chunk of marble. A piece of plywood resting
on a cement floor would work well, too. Set the fretwire on
the slot; since it’s curved, only the ends will enter the slot.
With your finger, balance the wire to keep it from tipping and
prying up a chunk of wood as you tap the two ends into the
fret slot with a hammer (15). When the two fret ends are
embedded in the fret slot, the fret is unlikely to tip as you
hammer it home.
15. Keep the wire from tipping and prying up a chunk of wood as
you tap the two ends into the fret slot with a hammer.
Keep the wire from tipping and prying up a chunk of wood
as you tap the two ends into the fret slot with a hammer.
page 9
Hammer back and forth across the fretboard in short, sharp
blows. Use the face of the hammer, not an edge, and try not
to hit the fretboard on either side of a fret. The fret tang, with
its diamond-shaped barbs, embeds itself into the fingerboard as the fret straightens end-to-end from the hammer
blows. (16)
16. The fret tang, with its diamond-shaped barbs, embeds itself
into the fingerboard as the fret straightens.
See that the frets are seated by prying on an overhanging
end with your fingernail. Loose frets can be firmed up with
superglue run into one end of the fret slot. Keep the fretboard tilted at an angle to keep the glue from getting onto
the fretboard. Or, you can tape off the fretboard on each side
of a slot and run a bead of Titebond into the slot before hammering in the fret. If you use Titebond, let the frets dry
overnight before nipping and filing their ends.
Just like Leo Fender did for 50 years, we opted to tap the frets
over sideways slightly (perhaps 1/32") — this really seats the
frets since the barbs move sideways and seat into the wood.
Clamp the fretboard tight to a solid surface, and tap with a
punch and hammer. (17)
When the frets are firm and the glue is dry, nip them almost
flush with the fingerboard edge. Do not nip right up to the
edge, or the nippers will pull into the fingerboard and possibly unseat a fret end.
17. Just like Leo Fender did for 50 years, we opted to tap the frets
over sideways slightly.
Use a smooth mill file to flush the fret ends to the edge of the
fingerboard. Then use the same file, held at an angle, to file
the fret end bevels (18). Choose a bevel that suits you —
perhaps between 45° and 60°. Stop when the file hits the
wood.
Blunt the top edges of the fingerboard on the bass and treble sides with a single-edge razor blade. Later, when you
glue on the fingerboard using a rubber band clamp, there
will be no sharp edge to break the rubber band.
The fingerboard is now ready to be glued to the neck. First,
however, check the fit of the neck to the body before gluing
on the fingerboard.
18. Use a smooth mill file, held at an angle, to bevel the fret ends.
page 10
Fitting the neck to the body
Before gluing on the fingerboard, you must slightly undercut
the “cheeks” (the backside of the neck heel), where they meet
the sides. This is because the sides and neck block area have
approximately a 12" radius that is more curved than the neck
heel. Viewed from the side, the neck’s heel is machined to the
correct angle for a good neck set-to-saddle angle, but
viewed from above, it is not machined to the 12" radius. The
final neck fit must be made by hand, using a sharp chisel. It is
not hard to do. Chisel carefully near the two neck bolts —
don’t push your chisel toward the bolts! Remove the last bit
of wood around the bolts using a throw away item such as
an X-acto blade (or sharpen an old screw driver blade, and
hack away).
19.
Pencil a 12" radius on the neck from tip to tip of the cheeks,
and also a line 1/8" wide down each cheek and across the
bottom of the heel (19). This “land” — from the pencil line
outward to the edge if the cheeks — should remain
untouched. However the area in between the pencil lines
must be chiseled away (20). Your goal is a snug fit between
the land of the cheeks, and the sides.
If you keep the body square during assembly, and never
touch the outer edges of the cheeks, then the neck-fit — and
proper angle of the neck to the body — should be correct.
You can check to see if the neck angle is correct even before
installing the fretboard. If you need to chisel or file to make
an adjustment of the cheeks, it’s easier to do without the fingerboard extension in the way. (Also, as described on page
15, if more than a tiny bit of wood is removed during neck fitting, the intonation could be changed. If the fingerboard is
not installed yet, you can adjust for that before gluing it on).
Bolt the neck onto the body for a trial run. First “dry clamp”the
fingerboard into position on the neck (we used two rubbertipped spring clamps), and clamp the fretboard flush to the
top as you tighten the two hex nuts from inside.
20. The area in between the pencil lines must be chiseled away.
It’s good to practice bolting on the neck like this while you
can see the bolts, so the job will be easier when the back is
on. You’ll need a long-handled 7/16" socket driver.
page 11
Don’t use a socket wrench with a right angle drive to tighten
the nuts onto the neck bolts — you could get too much
torque and possibly crack the heel, or pull a bolt out of the
heel!
Instead, make your own nut driver as we did. We made a
long-handled nut driver from a deep-well, square-drive 7/16"
socket, and a #3 Phillips screwdriver that fit the 1/4" drive perfectly (21). Use tape to hold the socket onto the screwdriver
shaft. The amount of pressure you can apply with your
thumb and fingers is probably plenty.
21. We made a long-handled nut driver from a deep-well, squaredrive 7/16" socket, and a #3 Phillips screwdriver that fit the 1/4"
drive perfectly.
Fasten the biscuit saddle to the cone
To check that the neck angle is correct you’ll need to have
the cone and biscuit/saddle in the soundwell. Use the supplied small screw and washer to fasten the biscuit to the
cone. First, be sure to thread the hole in the biscuit with the
screw before actually connecting the cone to the biscuit.
Mark a small circle around the screw hole in the underside of
the cone; this will help you be certain that the screw and
washer are centered on the hole as you tighten the cone to
the biscuit (22).
Gently tighten the biscuit until snug. (You should still be able
to turn the biscuit on the cone at this point.)
22. Mark a small circle around the screw hole on the underside of
the cone.
The straightedge test
With the neck bolted to the body, and the cone resting in the
soundwell, rest a long straightedge on the frets and project
the straightedge to the saddle. If the bottom of the straightedge meets the saddle approximately 7/32" to 1/8" up from
the biscuit your neck angle is correct.
page 12
Understanding the neck joint
The following information is excerpted from the instructions
included with our Acoustic Guitar Kit. We revised the text for
use in our Blues Resomaster kit. This may be more information than you’re likely to need, but if you happen to get into
neck alignment problems, the principles outlined here will
come in handy. Use this information to adjust the angle of
the neck in any direction.
The neck heel sets the neck angle
Ideally, the top and sides of your guitar are square to each
other: meeting at a 90°angle, especially at the neck block.
When they are square, a minimum of hand fitting is needed
to get the proper neck set (the angle of the neck/body joint).
However, it’s not uncommon to find that some adjustment is
needed in setting the neck. The neck angle is controlled by
the shape of the neck heel as it contacts the sides of the
body. Removing wood from the top or bottom of the neck
heel tips the neck forward or back. Removing wood from
either the bass or treble side changes the neck’s angle in relation to the center of the bridge.
Shaping the neck “cheeks”
The two roughly triangular surfaces on either side of the neck
mounting bolts are called the “cheeks” of the neck heel. The
top edge of the cheeks is the pivot point between the neck
and body. This controls the neck angle as viewed from the
side. These cheeks are flat, but the guitar sides they contact
are curved: the guitar has a 12" radius at the neck block. Most
of the handwork in fitting a neck is cutting away the inner
part of these cheeks to fit this radius. Only the outer edges of
the heel make contact with the body, and these edges set
the neck angle.
The contact area of the heel is an area about 1/8" to 3/16"
wide around the outer edges of the bass side, treble side, and
bottom of the cheeks. Mark this area on the heel with a pencil. Using a sharp chisel, remove wood from the remaining
inner area up to the tenon.
After undercutting the cheeks this way, you should have a
neck fit that is very close. Still, you may need to remove a little wood from the outer contact edges to adjust the neck
alignment. Removing wood from the upper part of the neck
cheek edges will raise the neck; removing wood from the
bottom will lower it. Taking wood from either side will move
the neck in that direction.
It’s important to note that removing wood from the upper
part of the neck cheek edges will not only raise the neck, but
will also move the neck toward the bridge slightly. If the 12th
fret moves toward the bridge the intonation will be sharp:
this is the reason for checking the neck’s fit before installing
the fingerboard.
Neck adjustment: side-to-side
The first area that may need to have a small amount of wood
removed is the treble or bass cheek. Wood removed here
controls the side-to-side alignment of the neck to the centerline. If the neck is misaligned side-to-side, one of the two
outside strings will be too close to the edge of the fretboard.
The removal of a tiny amount of wood is all it takes to make
an adjustment here. Remove this bit of wood uniformly
across the contact area on one cheek to tip the neck in the
proper direction (this won’t change the neck angle when
viewed from the side of the body). To check the alignment,
use a long straightedge laid against both the treble and bass
sides of the fretboard and extending to the centerline of the
top at the tailblock end: the straightedge should measure
the same distance from the centerline on either side.
You may not need to make an adjustment at this stage. If the
neck is off-center by only 1/32" or less, don’t try to correct it.
Remember that a tiny bit of wood removal makes a big difference in the neck ’s relationship to the centerline!
page 13
Neck adjustment: tilting the neck back
Removing wood from the bottom of the heel on both the
treble and bass sides equally will tip the neck back (23). This
is the most common adjustment. Remove the wood in a
wedge shape, which tapers to zero at the top edge of the
cheeks.
Use the formula in “Understanding neck angle geometry” to
determine how much wood to remove. With a sharp pencil
23.
and a straightedge, mark the area to be chiseled away in a
straight line from the bottom of the heel to the zero point at
the top. Continue this line across the heel cap and up the
opposite side. These lines may be tricky to draw, because
they must taper away to nothing — to the zero point at the
top of the heel.
With a sharp chisel, remove about half of the measured
amount of wood. Don’t overdo it: set the neck into the body
and check the fit. You’ll finish the shaping with sandpaper —
preferably 100-grit emery cloth (cloth-backed sandpaper).
Loosen the neck joint and slide a strip of this sandpaper or
emery cloth between the heel cheek and the body, with the
abrasive side facing the cheek. Slide the strip almost — but
not quite — to the top edge of the heel (this top edge
should be left intact). Hold the heel against the guitar body
and pull the strip out toward you. This removes a little bit of
wood while conforming to the shape of the guitar body.
Shake the sawdust off the sanding strip and repeat the procedure on the opposite cheek. Sand equally from side to
side. If you need to remove a lot of wood, make two or three
passes before changing to the other cheek. The fit will
change rapidly, so check your progress frequently.
A small ledge of unsanded wood will remain on the bottom
of the heel between the sanded cheeks. Either “pull-sand” it
with the strip, or use a sharp chisel to remove it.
Neck adjustment: tilting the neck up
Wood is seldom removed from the top of the heel, but if the
neck block was mistakenly tipped forward when glued in
place, the neck may be “overset” too far away from the body.
In this case, the straightedge laid on the fretboard will extend
above the bridge. Removing wood from the top of the heel
on both the treble and bass sides equally will bring the neck
up so the straightedge comes down to the top of the bridge
(pictured).
Use the formula in “Understanding neck angle geometry” to
determine how much wood to remove. With a sharp pencil
and a straightedge, mark the area to be chiseled or sanded
away in a straight line from the top of the heel to the zero
point at the bottom. Repeat this line on the opposite side.
Understanding neck angle geometry
Here’s the way to determine how much wood must be
removed from the heel for the correct neck angle at the
bridge. Always remove wood gradually and check your
progress frequently. A little adjustment goes a long way! Our
example measurements below are based on the scale length
of this guitar: 25 inches.
page 14
The measurement we want is — the amount of wood to
remove from the heel to change the neck angle so that a
straightedge laid on the frets will be flush with the top of the
bridge. (24) Must install the cone and biscuit bridge here
first.
24.
A = How far the straightedge falls below the top of the
bridge. In this example: 1/8" (.125").
B = The height from the bottom of the fretboard to the bottom of the heel. In this example: 2-21/32" (2.656").
C = The distance from the neck/body joint to the saddle. In
this example, that’s at the 12th fret, and C = 12-1/2" (12.5").
X = A x B (÷) C
In this case, those numbers are .125" x 2.656" ÷ 11.375" =
.029". So in our example X = .027" which is almost 1/32". This
is the amount to remove at the bottom of the heel.
Intonation check
When you build a standard acoustic guitar the bridge is
glued on last, so you can move it to position the saddle for
good intonation. Resonator guitars are different because the
saddle position is determined by the fixed location of the
cone resting in the soundwell. The cone, and saddle with it,
can be moved forward or back about 1/16" within the
soundwell, but that’s it. You can guarantee good intonation,
however, by careful placement of the fingerboard.
If you removed wood from the top of the cheeks when you
fit the neck, you altered the intonation to some degree. In
this case, when the neck fit passes inspection, leave the neck
bolted into the body to check the lengthwise placement of
the fingerboard, specifically the location of the 12th (octave)
fret in relation to the saddle. This relationship makes for good
or bad intonation.
Since you haven’t glued the fingerboard on yet, you can slide
it forward or backward a little, to control the distance
between the 12th fret and the saddle. You also have a little
adjustment at the saddle, since the cone will slide forward or
back about 1/16".
should be approximately 3/16" of flat area left between the
end of the fingerboard and the break angle of the peghead.
This is where the bone nut will rest, and it may be as large as
1/4" or as small as 1/8" if the fingerboard is moved forward or
backward for intonation adjustment.
To get accurate intonation, the distance from the 12th fret to
the saddle should be approximately 1/8" longer than the distance from the 12th fret to the nut. Since your guitar’s scale
length is 25", the distance from the 12th fret and the nut is
12-1/2". Add 1/8" to get the desired distance from the 12th
fret to the saddle: 12-5/8".
This extra 1/8" is called “compensation,” and makes up for the
slightly longer string length caused by the strings as they rise
to the saddle, and for the fact that strings tend to go sharp
when they are pressed down to the fret. If you located the
saddle at the uncompensated distance from the 12th fret,
the intonation would be sharp.
If you slide the fingerboard, the flat area where the string nut
is located will become wider or narrower, and you’ll need to
fit the nut accordingly. Also, the fingerboard edges may no
longer be perfectly flush with the sides of the neck. Simply
shape the edges of the fingerboard and neck to match, using
a file and sandpaper.
Center the cone in the soundwell. Locate the 12th fret by
loosening the spring clamps and sliding the fingerboard forward or backward until the 12th fret measures the
compensated 12-5/8" distance from the center of the saddle.
When the 12th fret is where you want it, and with the spring
clamps holding the fingerboard on, place a piece of masking
tape on the neck surface at the nut end of the fingerboard.
Use this tape as an index to butt the fingerboard against
when you glue it on.
If minimal wood was removed at the cheeks, locate the fingerboard so that the 12th fret lines up with the point where
the neck cheeks join the body. At the peghead end there
When all the neck-fitting and fingerboard-locating tasks are
complete, unbolt the neck from the body and glue on the
fingerboard.
page 15
Final assembly
Installing the fingerboard
Clamp the peghead to your workbench with the neck hanging out over the floor. Butt the nut end of the fingerboard up
to the tape that you placed on the neck’s gluing surface earlier as an index.
There should be a flat area approximately 3/16" to 7/32" wide
left between the end of the fingerboard and the break angle
of the peghead. This is where the bone nut will rest (25).
Install the fingerboard with Titebond glue. To get just the
right glue coverage, spread it with a flux brush. Work the glue
up to the edge of the truss rod channel, and then draw it
away from the edge with the brush to keep glue squeezeout away from the channel.
25. The bone nut will rest on the flat area approximately 3/16" to
7/32" wide left between the end of the fingerboard and the break
angle of the peghead.
Place the fingerboard onto the neck surface and center the
12th fret slot directly over the edge of the neck heel. Hold the
fingerboard in place temporarily with a spring clamp (26) as
you start to wrap with the rubber bands supplied with your
kit. Tie the rubber band at the peghead and wrap from endto-end and back again. Get plenty of wraps on the heel. You
may find that one rubber band is all that’s needed for the job.
You can a shift the fingerboard slightly from side-to-side as
you wrap, but usually the board will center itself nicely.
26. Hold the fingerboard in place temporarily with a spring clamp
as you start to wrap with the rubber bands supplied with your kit.
Installing the peghead overlay
When the fingerboard’s dry, remove the rubber band clamp.
The bone nut blank should be smooth-surfaced, square-bottomed, and of uniform thickness. If it needs smoothing or
thicknessing, sand it with 100- and 220-grit sandpaper, double-stick taped to a flat surface.
Place the nut blank on the flat ledge which remains between
the end of the fingerboard and the break angle of the peghead. File or sand a 14° angle on one end of the peghead
overlay so that it butts flush to the back edge of the nut (27).
Once the overlay is glued on, the space between the overlay
and the fingerboard will be a perfectly-sized channel for the
nut.
page 16
27. File or sand a 14° angle on one end of the overlay so that it fits
flush to the nut.
Dry-clamp the overlay in place. With a pencil, mark a point 19/16" from the back edge of the nut, centered on the
peghead’s width. Drill a 1/4" hole at that point. This is the
access hole for the truss rod.
Remove the clamps from the overlay. Hold the overlay in one
hand and elongate the hole by slowly tilting the overlay
against a running drill bit (28). You may want to practice this
on a piece of scrap (plenty of excess overlay will be trimmed
away, so practice on that). You’ll end up with an elongated
access hole for the 1/8" Allen wrench that adjusts the peghead.
Mark the peghead shape on the overlay. Trim away most of
the excess, to within 1/8" all around the peghead. Use cauls
on the face and rear of the peghead, and glue on the overlay
(you may want to cut a “V” shape into the caul for the rear of
the peghead, to clear the diamond shape on the neck). Keep
the overlay pressed tightly against the nut during alignment.
When the glue’s dry, clamp the peghead firmly, face down,
on a scrap of plywood. Use a 7/16" bit to drill holes against
each end of the tuning machine channels (the channel will
keep the drill bit lined up), and then drill several holes in
between these holes in the remainder of each channel to
eliminate as much of the wood as possible.
Saw, chisel, and file away the chaff left by drilling, until the
channel walls are smooth. Then carve and file ramps at the
nut end of each channel, so the strings don’t rub the wood
on their way to the tuning posts. The shape of the ramps is
up to you, but they extend approximately 1" to 1-1/8" from
the back side of the nut (29).
Carve and file away the overhanging peghead overlay, and
then sand the peghead face and sides smooth with 150-grit
Fre-Cut® sandpaper.
28. Hold the overlay in one hand and elongate the hole by slowly
29. Carve and file ramps at the nut end of each channel so the
tilting the overlay against the running drill bit.
strings don’t rub wood on their way to the tuning posts.
Fitting the tuning machines
The tuner holes are pre-drilled with a distance between the
tuning post centers of 1-3/8". This is a common measurement, and a variety of tuners will fit this hole spacing.
Set your tuners in the peghead, and use an awl or other
sharp tool to mark the mounting screw holes. Remove the
tuners, and drill the holes with a 1/16" bit. Mark the drill bit
with a piece of masking tape as a depth stop.
You may need to cut off the end of the tuner mounting
screws if they’re too long for the thin outer walls of the slotted peghead. First use the untrimmed screws to “tap” the
thread for each hole, and then cut their ends off and install
the tuners temporarily, so you can fit the neck to the body.
page 17
Installing the back
At this point you should have retained squareness between
the top and sides, especially at the neck block. Squareness at
the top and sides there, and the slight angle of the neck’s
heel, will give you the right action later (30). If you are out of
square now, it can’t be by much, but make a note of it, and
adjust for that when you glue on the back by pushing or
pulling the neck block and sides into square.
With the waist clamp installed from the top side, install the
back as you did the top (holding it in place at the waist and
sides, gluing the tailblock first, and gluing the neck block
last). This is your final opportunity to square the neck block to
the top, if it needs it, as mentioned above.
When the glue has dried, use the flush-cutting router bit to
trim the back overhang as you did the top.
30. Squareness at the top and sides there, and the slight angle of
the neck’s heel, will give you the right action later.
Shaping the neck
The round shape of the neck blends into the flat sides of the
peghead very simply. This photo (31) shows a much-used
1929 National Triolian (at the rear in the photo). Notice the
the plain yet elegant design of the transition from neck to
peghead. The flat side of the peghead rounds simply into the
neck shape without sharp edges. Note that the top edges of
the peghead are quite rounded also.
Pencil-in the area of wood that needs to be removed and use
a rasp for the rough-shaping. Follow that with a smoother file
and sandpaper to blend into the back of the neck.
The neck has been machined to the basic shape, but left
oversize for custom shaping. Any sharp edges left by the
machining process will be removed as you shape the neck to
suit your tastes. We chose to eliminate the “diamond” on the
rear of the peghead, and did so with a chisel, a half-round
bastard file, and sandpaper until the rear of the peghead
looked as if the diamond had never been there.
A great way to bring the neck to shape quickly and accurately is to “strap sand” — like shining shoes — using a length
of 2" wide 80- to 100-grit sandpaper with a strong backing.
Use emery cloth, Mylar-backed sandpaper, or even regular
sandpaper with a reinforcing backing double-stick taped to
it. This sanding technique (32) follows the machined shape
of the neck, and if you work smoothly from end-to-end, you
31. A much-used 1929 National Triolian (at the back in this photo)
32. Mylar-backed sandpaper “strap sands” the round shape into the
shows the smooth neck-to-peghead transition.
neck.
page 18
can round the neck perfectly. Don’t stop in any one place,
and check your progress often.
Use a half-round bastard file to shape the heel, and then cut
your “strap sander” to a narrower width and “shoe shine” the
heel to shape. When the neck has taken a round shape,
hand-sand with a flexible rubber sanding pad and finer grit
sandpapers to remove the harsher 80-grit marks. Be sure that
when you shape or sand the heel you don’t alter the 1/8"
“land” that controls the neck angle!
Use the same half-round bastard file and sandpaper to shape
the rear of the peghead and smooth the area near the nut
where the neck contour meets the peghead.
Shape the F-holes
Before the final sanding, notch the F-holes in the traditional
style. Find the center of the long part of the ‘F’ (2-5/16"), and
mark it. Then, mark 1/8" fore and aft of the center mark (33).
Lay a straightedge across these marks, and pencil an angled
33. Mark 1/8" fore and aft of the center mark to layout the F-hole
line. Use a thin triangle file and a knife to cut angled notches
(34). Before and during the notch shaping operation, swab
some superglue on the edges of the plywood to harden it
and keep it from chipping.
34. Use a thin triangle file and knife to cut angled notches.
notches.
Shape and sand the body
Use a rubber backing pad, or a padded block with open-coat
Fre-Cut® sandpaper. The sides, which are solid wood, should
be sanded first with 150-grit sandpaper, to remove any marks
left by the flush-cut ball-bearing router bit. Also use 150-grit
paper to blunt the hard corners and slightly round them.
Then sand the entire body with 220-grit Fre-Cut®. Don’t use a
sandpaper coarser than 220-grit on the top and back. The
plywood is smooth, and needs only a light sanding.
Double-check that any portion of the top or back overhanging the sides at the neck block has been sanded flush with
the sides, so the neck heel will make full contact when you
bolt it on. This will guarantee correct neck-to-body angle,
which results in the proper bridge saddle height under the
coverplate. Also, use a flat block and sandpaper to be sure
the sides are as flat as possible at the neck joint.
page 19
Assembling the guitar
You should assemble the guitar, set it up completely before
applying a finish, and then dismantle it for finishing.
Install the tuners in the peghead, and attach the neck to the
body. This time, since the back is on and you can’t see or
touch anything, use a small piece of masking tape to hold
the neck bolt hex nuts into the 7/16" socket to keep them
from falling out. Remember not to over tighten the neck
mounting bolts! Also, don’t install the four screws that hold
the fretboard extension to the body until later!
Install the tailpiece on the centerline of the sides at the tailblock. A screw and strap button hold it on.
Find the cone’s “sweet spot”
Place the cone in the soundwell and tap on the outer bottom edges where the cone seats. Rotate the cone in the well
and tap until you find the sweet spot, or area where the cone
rocks the least and seems to seat firmly all around. Then put
a little downward pressure on the cone by pressing on the
biscuit, and double-check the fit. Rocking is not preferred,
but you’ll always have a little; the slight pressure will tell you
if the cone is seating well. With a dark marker, mark an arrow
Rough-shape the nut height
Round the backside (the peghead side) of the nut with a file,
and shape it to a roughed-in height that’s tall enough to
accommodate filing and fitting later. Set the nut in the nut
slot with a little overhang on each side. The top of the nut
blank should measure a bit more than 1/8" above the
fingerboard.
page 20
on the cone that points to the peghead/ then you can relocate the cone in this sweet spot in the future. Rotate the
biscuit until the saddle is perpendicular to the arrow on the
cone, and then remove the cone and tighten the biscuit
snugly to it. Tighten the biscuit only until it stops moving on
the cone, to avoid dimpling the cone. The biscuit should be
tight and perpendicular to the strings when the cone is facing forward on center.
Double-check the neck alignment
At this stage, install the two outside strings to check that the
neck is well aligned to the tailpiece and to determine the
approximate string height at the nut and saddle.
Use medium gauge bronze strings. Install the two outside
bass and treble strings in the tailpiece, run them over the
saddle, and to their respective tuning keys. Tighten them
enough so that they aren’t slack (but not to pitch) and will
hold their position when spread apart at the nut and saddle.
Center the two strings 2-3/16" apart on the saddle (35) and
cut slight temporary notches for them.
Space the E-strings approximately 1-17/64" apart at the nut,
put pencil marks on each side of the strings, and cut starter
nut slots (36). The two outside strings will now hold in place
at both the nut and saddle when the strings are brought to
a higher tension.
35. Center the two strings 2-3/16" apart on center at the saddle
and cut slight starter notches for them.
The cone has a little more than 1/16" of movement for
adjustment within the well, both side-to-side and front-toback. The front-to-back adjustment is important for
intonation, and the side-to-side movement allows for slight
alignment of the saddle to the neck and tailpiece.
The cone should be centered in the soundwell when the two
outside strings are spaced correctly at the nut and the saddle. If the cone sits slightly more toward one side than
another, 1/32" or less, that isn’t a great problem.
With the two outside strings lightly tensioned, if the saddle is
slightly off center with the neck and tailpiece — pulling too
far toward the bass or treble side — you have several options
for minor alignment:
36. Space the E-strings approximately 1-17/64" apart at the nut,
make pencil marks, and cut starter nut slots.
• Loosen the neck mounting bolts and force the neck in the
proper direction to bring the strings in line when the cone is
centered.
• Further enlarge the two holes in the neck block to move the
neck a bit further. The neck block holes have been drilled
1/32" oversize to allow for slight adjustment, but can be
enlarged a little if necessary.
• Move the tailpiece slightly to either side if that will bring the
cone, strings, and tailpiece into alignment.
To move the tailpiece, first pencil a locating mark on the top
or side outlining the shape of the tailpiece. Remove the
screw and endpin from the tailpiece (the slight string pressure will keep it snug, but you will need to hold the tailpiece
against the body), and slide the tailpiece to one side or
another. It’s doubtful that you would ever need to move the
tailpiece more than 1/16", which is almost undetectable. Plug
the tailpiece screw hole with a small glued dowel, and then
drill a new hole.
None of the above minor adjustments should be necessary if
all the neck-fitting procedures described earlier are performed accurately.
page 21
Rough in the saddle height
With the two outside strings still in place at low tension,
repeat the process you did earlier during the initial neck
alignment. Rest a long accurate straightedge on the frets,
starting near the nut and extending to the bottom edge of
the saddle. If the loose fretboard extension over the body
gets in the way of the straightedge, tape it to the top. The
bottom of the straightedge should meet the face of the saddle somewhere between .100" and .176" (7/64" to 11/64")
above the top of the biscuit, and will often measure around
1/8". With a sharp tool, mark this point on the saddle. Place a
piece of tape next to the mark so that you can use a pen or
pencil to make several more marks.
Make a second mark 1/4" above the first mark. This will be the
approximate height of the strings in the bottom of the
notches that they rest in, and is approximately 3/8" from the
top of the biscuit (37). Make a third mark 1/16" above the
second mark. This is the approximate top of the final saddle,
and allows for a string notch that’s deep enough to keep the
string from popping off the saddle when plucked.
37. The 1/4" mark is the approximate location of the bottom of the
strings when the action is correct.
Remove the biscuit and saw off the top of the saddle down
to the top mark. Then recut your starter notches.
A quick action check
With starter notches cut at both the nut and saddle, you can
now lower the strings at each end, by degree, until you reach
the correct action height.
First, eliminate the string height at the nut as a factor so you
can deal only with the saddle height. Install a capo at the first
fret and tighten it just enough to pull the strings down to a
virtually correct string clearance at the first fret. Clearance
between the bottom of the strings and the top of the first
fret should be 1/32" at the treble E-string, and 3/64" at the
bass E-string. This is a relatively stiff action at the nut, but it
will be lowered after the saddle is close to the correct height.
With the capo still on, measure the clearance between the
bottom of the two outside strings and the top of the 12th
fret. Our clearance measured almost 3/16", which was
approximately 1/16" more than we wanted. We were looking
for 1/8", or even a little less — but not until all the strings
were on, tuned to pitch, and the guitar had settled in for at
least a week. For this reason we settled on a slightly higher
12th fret measurement of 5/32" at this stage. To reach that
mark, the strings needed to be lowered 1/32".
page 22
To lower the strings 1/32" at the 12th fret, you must remove
twice that amount, or 1/16" in our case, at the saddle. Our
saddle measured 7/16". We needed to lower the bottom of
the strings 1/16" into the saddle. We didn’t lower the top of
the saddle. It must remain approximately 1/16" higher than
the string bottom to provide a deep notch to hold the strings
in place.
We can’t repeat enough that the reason for not lowering the
strings the full distance at this stage is because all the strings
are not installed and tuned to pitch, and the cone will compress after a week or so. Err on the high side, and reach your
final depth in several stages: a rough-in stage now with two
strings installed, then two more stages with all the strings
installed.
At the nut end, remove the capo and lower the outside
strings to a proper action after measuring the clearance
between the bottom of the strings and the top of the first
fret. We ended up with a clearance of .014" under the high
treble string, and .025" under the low bass string.
Install strings and cut nut slots
Install the remaining strings and repeat the above
nut/capo/saddle operation. Rough-in the strings at the nut
so that they hold their place under tension. A good starting
point for string spacing at the nut and saddle is to divide the
space between the centers of the two outside strings by 5,
and pencil that measurement four times across the top of
the nut. These four lines are the rough locations of the four
middle strings.
Make slight starter cuts on these marks, to hold the strings in
place temporarily. From this point you can move the string
slots from side to side, as you move them downward, by
using razor saws and nut files held at an angle or on their
sides, until you get a spacing that looks right to you. We prefer to spread the wound strings a little further from each
other to make up for their thicker diameter, and to move the
unwound strings a little closer together. The end product is a
proportional spacing that takes into account the diameters
of the strings, and has a uniform look. Don’t lower the strings
to their final depths yet.
Cut the saddle notches
Tune the guitar to pitch, and put the capo back on to simulate a realistic action at the first fret. Go to the saddle and
space the strings as you did at the nut. Lower all the strings
at the saddle to match the depth of the two outside strings.
Since the guitar is tuned to pitch, you’ll need to de-tune each
string to lift it free while you work.
A small sharp triangle file is good for cutting the correct
notch in the saddle. We prefer to finish the job with a sharp
knife.
Lower the strings at the saddle until they all measure 5/32"
over the 12th fret, and shape the saddle slots as shown in the
photos. (You can lower the strings more, or leave them higher, if you choose.) Notice that the string contacts the saddle
at the rear edge, leaving a distinct V-groove dropping away
from the string in front of the contact point (38). This moves
the intonation point toward the back edge, unimpeded by
more saddle than is necessary to hold the string in place. This
is a trademark setup for this style of guitar.
TIP: Removing paint from the saddle
The black paint on the biscuit and saddle seemed to
rob some brightness from our guitar, so we used
paint stripper to remove the paint from the saddle
and biscuit. The tone seemed to improve afterwards, and we didn’t mind the vintage look. With
the paint removed, it was also easier to cut clean
notches in the saddle. When the guitar was complete, we colored the bare wood with black marker
pen and sprayed one thin coat of aerosol lacquer on
the biscuit.
38. Notice that the string contacts the saddle at the rear edge,
leaving a distinct V-groove dropping away from the string in front
of the contact point.
page 23
Finish the nut slots
When the saddle slots are cut, with 5/32" clearance at the
12th fret under all the strings, remove the capo and lower the
nut slots to a comfortable action. File the slot depths for a
clearance of .025" under the 6th (low) string, and .014" under
the 1st (treble) string. The rest of the string clearances should
graduate between these two across the width of the nut. You
may want to lower the strings a bit more than this after a settling-in period.
With the strings holding the nut centered in its slot, use a
sharp pencil to mark the overhang on each end of the nut for
trimming. Remove the strings, remove the nut, and file off
the excess. Round the top ends of the nut, and then sand the
nut smooth to remove file marks. The ends of the nut should
be flush with the fingerboard and neck on the bass and treble sides. Replace the nut, but don’t glue it in yet (you’ll need
to remove it during fret leveling). Replace the strings, tune
the guitar to pitch, and double-check the nut slot depths.
Don’t bury the strings in the nut slots
When approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of each string’s diameter
rests in the slot, the depths are correct.
Fasten the fingerboard to the top
With the guitar settled in and tuned to pitch, drill holes for
the four screws that fasten the fingerboard to the top. Use a
5/64" drill bit for these screws — it will center easily on the
four 1/8" clearance holes that you drilled through the fingerboard earlier. Install the four fingerboard mounting screws,
but don’t install the dot inlays over the screws. You’ll disassemble the guitar for finishing soon.
Level and crown the frets
Remove the strings and give the frets a slight leveling and
crowning. With masking tape and heavy paper, tape off the
top around the fretboard to protect it from your fret leveling
tools. With the peghead resting on the tabletop for gentle
support, adjust the neck perfectly straight, until a straightedge rests on all the frets. The straightedge won’t rest on the
fingerboard extension over the body, which will fall away
slightly.
Use masking tape at each side of the frets to protect the fretboard from sanding. Before taping off the fretboard,
however, use a razor knife to blunt the sharp edge of the fretboard that wasn’t hit earlier when you beveled the fret ends
(39).
39. Use a razor knife to knock off the sharp edge of the fretboard
that wasn’t hit earlier when you beveled the fret ends.
page 24
TIP: Protecting the maple fingerboard
We wiped two thin coats of shellac on the fretboard
as a sealer for protection during fret leveling, and to
protect it during handling before the final finish is
sprayed. Masking tape along each edge of the fretboard keeps the shellac off the mahogany neck
(shellac would seal the mahogany and prevent it
from “taking” the stain). Let the shellac dry two
hours between coats, and allow it to dry overnight
before taping off the fretboard. You can get away
without this sealing step, but just be clean and careful if you do!
Next, use draftsman’s masking tape to mask off the maple
between the frets. Cut the tape to fit when you reach the
upper frets, which are closer together. Be thorough with your
taping, because metal filings can discolor maple!
40. We used a carpenter’s level and 320-grit sandpaper to level the
frets.
Use 320-grit sandpaper, double-stick taped to the narrow
edge of a long flat surface (we used a carpenter’s level). Hold
the neck at the center to support it as you sand (40). You’ll
need to lightly sand the fingerboard extension separately
with a smaller sanding block, since it falls away from the level
plane of the main fingerboard.
When the sandpaper has dulled all the fret tops, use a fret
crowning file to round the fret tops. Or, if the fret leveling is
minor (since you did such a good fret job), simply round the
frets with 320-grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of stiff
foam rubber. Round a gentle edge on the foam rubber with
a coarse file. Wrap successive grits of sandpaper over the
rounded edge of the rubber and sweep the sandpaper evenly, back and forth, the length of the neck. Use uniform
pressure. The rubber will round the fret tops from both sides
as you sweep across them (41). Use Fre-Cut® sandpapers in
400, 600, and 800-grits. Then switch to micro finishing paper
and use 1000-grit. This will give a great look and feel to the
frets. You will end up with round fret tops that are nicely polished. Vacuum off any fret dust, then glue in the nut blank.
41. Work the sandpaper lengthwise along the fingerboard with
uniform pressure.
Hold the sander on edge to shape the fret ends and smooth
the edges of the fretboard.
Glue in the nut
Place a few tiny drops of Titebond glue on the bottom and
fingerboard side of the nut, and set the nut in its slot. Center
it so the ends are flush with the fingerboard. Put on the two
outside strings and tune them up a little. String pressure will
hold the nut in place. Let the glue dry one half hour or more.
When the glue is dry, tape off around the nut to protect the
fingerboard and peghead face. Use a file and sandpaper to
remove excess material from the top of the nut, if there is any,
and to give it a final smoothing and shaping.
The neck is ready to be removed, final sanded, and finished.
page 25
Installing the coverplate
Install the coverplate. There isn’t a lot of extra wood for the
coverplate mounting screws (often the original Triolians had
holes drilled right on the edge of the soundwell — into thin
air!). Take time to locate the coverplate carefully and concentrically. Measure 5/16" out from the edge of the soundwell
rim on the centerline, and at right angles to it, and place a
piece of masking tape at each point (42).
Locate the coverplate with the “single diamond” mounting
screw hole on the centerline and toward the neck (43), and
with the “double diamonds” toward the tailblock. Pick up the
centerline between the double diamonds to center the coverplate at the tailblock.
The 5/16" measurement is larger than the coverplate diameter, and will leave a gap of 1/16" between the coverplate and
the 4 pieces of tape. Center the coverplate over the
soundwell until the gaps are equal at all four points, and
mark the location of the mounting screw holes.
Drill the coverplate mounting screw holes with a 1/16" bit,
and install the coverplate and screws.
42. Measure 5/16" out from the edge of the soundwell rim on the
43. Locate the coverplate with the “single diamond” mounting
centerline, and at right angles to it, and place a piece of masking
tape at each point.
screw hole on the centerline and toward the neck.
Final action height
Re-install the strings and tune the guitar to pitch. The coverplate should clear the strings and the top of the saddle, with
no chance for contact or buzzing, and the saddle should be
centered in the coverplate’s width.
page 26
When we reached our final action of 1/8" at the 12th fret, the
top of the saddle was a little over 11/32" tall, and the bottom
of the string slots were approximately 9/32" from the top of
the biscuit. This is a normal final string height at the saddle
for a biscuit-style resonator guitar. These measurements left
room for going even lower in the months to come as the guitar settled in.
You’re ready for finishing!
It’s time to disassemble the guitar and apply the finish. This
section describes how to create a traditional sunburst,
although you might want to consider the “Polychrome” finish
described in the tip on this page. Whichever finish you
choose, be sure to put some type of protective finish on the
maple fingerboard. You can simply wipe on Master-gel finish,
or you can spray the fingerboard with several coats of aerosol
lacquer (clear gloss). Spray right over the frets, and file the
lacquer off them once the finish has cured.
TIP: 1920s polychrome finish
Late-1920s Triolians had a “polychrome” finish,
which was a popular look used on many items of
the era. The effect is a mix of colors sprayed in softedged spots over a solid background color. If you’ve
seen a polychrome finish and want to create one,
use solid pigmented colors. Start with a white
primer then spray an overall yellowish (ochre) color
coat. Add a glossy clear lacquer topcoat.
Create the shading, sunbursting, and spot spraying
with blue, purple, red, and pink pigmented lacquer
to highlight areas. On the 1920s originals, the highlights were random, sprayed almost as if the finisher
was teasing the guitar with the paint. Swatches of
alternating color were sprayed like fret markers at
the appropriate frets, and then the black “inlay dots”
were sprayed on using a stencil.
As you get ready for finishing, it’s a good time to final-shape
the nut, too: file off the overhang, round the corners and the
back side, and use at least 400-grit Fre-Cut® to smooth it.
Place a couple drops of glue in the nut slot and glue the nut
in place. The neck finish will cover the ends of the nut for a
professional look.
more difficult to fill the grain, sand, and buff around the
neck/body joint. Also, lacquer tends to build up in that area,
and unsightly air bubbles may become trapped there.
The quality of your finish work is certainly important to the
appearance of your guitar. A thin “non-professional” finish
won’t necessarily harm the sound of your guitar, however. If
the following instructions seem beyond your skills (they’re
probably not), or if they seem to be more work than you’d
like, you can simply apply a low-gloss wipe-on finish by hand,
consisting of a couple of coats of waterbase lacquer or freshly-mixed shellac. This will seal the wood and protect it from
the elements, and you’ll be playing your new guitar a lot
sooner.
TIP: Quick way to remove strings
You may find yourself removing and re-installing
the coverplate and strings often during setup. To
save time, you can slacken the strings until just taut,
hold the tailpiece against the body, and remove the
tailpiece mounting screw. Then lift the tailpiece free
and thread it — with strings intact — through the
coverplate hand rest.
The following instructions, for spraying an aerosol nitrocellulose lacquer finish, are pretty close to foolproof and don’t
involve an investment in shop spraying equipment.
There’s a lot of finishing information in our book, Guitar
Finishing Step-By-Step, and many customers are glad they
studied the book before finishing their first guitar. In brief
though, here are some pointers and a finishing schedule to
follow.
If you finish the neck and body separately, you’ll do a better
job of sanding and buffing. When the neck’s attached, it’s
page 27
Dos and don’ts
Do practice on scrap wood until your finishing technique has
been perfected. If you’d like your guitar to look as good as it
sounds, don’t rush!
Do use a backing block or pad when sanding the guitar
body. It helps maintain a level surface. On round surfaces, use
a flexible rubber backing pad, a thick piece of felt or leather,
or fold the sandpaper three or four times to give it firmness
with flexibility.
Don’t apply more than three coats of lacquer per day. Spray
an initial light misting or “tack” coat, followed several minutes
later by a heavier wet coat. The tack coat gives the wet coat
better adherence and lessens the chance of a run or sag in
the finish.
Do let the finish cure for 10-14 days or longer prior to final
sanding and buffing.
Do have thinner around for cleanup. Aerosol lacquers require
no thinner, of course, but it’s nice to have thinner on hand. If
you decide to use spray equipment, always thin nitrocellulose lacquers with nitrocellulose thinner only.
Do wipe the aerosol tip often. Aerosol lacquers have a tendency to spit if the tip gets clogged. Also, you can clean the
tip by turning the can upside down and spraying until the
spray stream stops. It’s recommended that you do this each
time you are done spraying in order to keep the tip clean.
Do buy a can of aerosol blush eraser for lifting the bluish
haze that can occur when moisture is trapped in the lacquer
finish. Blushing can result from humid conditions, or if the
coat is sprayed too heavily.
Do let the surface dry for 24 hours if you get a run in the finish. Then level-sand the problem area. If you touch wet
lacquer, you’ll leave a deep impression which will be much
more difficult to fix.
Sanding the body
All the wood surfaces should be fine sanded up to 220-grit.
Use Fre-Cut® paper on a wooden block lined with thin
leather or felt (or use a rubber sanding block). Start by sanding the body. For the solid wood sides, as mentioned earlier,
the sandpaper should be no coarser than 150-grit, and you
should switch quickly to 220-grit. (For the plywood top and
back, use 220-grit sandpaper only). Sand in the direction of
the grain, not across it. After the first 220-grit sanding, dampen the entire surface lightly with a water-dampened (not
soaked!) cloth to raise the grain. Let it dry, and sand again
with 220-grit. Blow off and vacuum the wood dust.
Filling fret ends and sanding the neck
Before sanding the neck, “drop-fill” the small slot spaces
under the fret ends. Use fine rosewood sawdust in either
Titebond or superglue. We used a toothpick to apply the
glue/sawdust mixture. After drying, the small mounds of
glue were sanded flush. If you don’t fill the ends of the fret
slots, holes will remain which the lacquer finish won’t fill.
The neck needs extra sanding and grain-raising in the end
grain areas of the heel, and the “ears” and the end of the peg-
page 28
head. Sand up to 320-grit, dampening to raise the grain. Do
this several times, so the end grain pores will absorb stain
more uniformly for a better appearance.
Finish the wood preparation by wiping the neck and body
with a rag, dampened (not soaked) with naphtha, to
degrease all the surfaces to be finished. Handle the unfinished wood parts with clean gloves from now on.
Making hangers and masking the neck and body
To fasten a spraying handle to a bolt-on neck, drill two holes
in a scrap wood handle to match the bolt spacing (44). Tape
over the exposed nuts to protect them from lacquer. Or, as an
alternative, simply hold the neck at the center, spray the peghead, the heel, and a good portion of the neck up to where
you are holding it. Loop an S-shaped wire hanger through a
tuner hole and hang the neck for spraying the center area.
You can also rest the neck fretboard-down on a riser block
and spray it in the horizontal position. Use the two holes in
the neck block to bolt a handle onto the guitar body (45).
44. A scrap wood spraying handle for a bolt-on neck.
Apply masking tape to cover the areas that won’t be stained
or finished: the fretboard playing surface, the sides of the
fretboard (to be unmasked after staining), the nut, the neck
joint surfaces on the neck and body, the underside of the
fretboard extension, and the interior of the body. To seal the
body interior, stuff paper into the two small sound holes until
it closes these openings. Make a cardboard disc the same
diameter as the soundwell opening (approximately 10-5/8")
and press it into the opening. The cardboard should be large
enough to stay in place by itself.
45. Use the two holes in the neck block to bolt a handle onto the
guitar body.
Staining
Wear plastic gloves when handling stains. The mahogany
neck (and the rosewood peghead overlay, if you wish) should
be stained. We recommend our ColorTone liquid stains in an
equal mix of tobacco brown and red mahogany. Add 25
drops of each color to each ounce of water to produce a
warm dark stain. For a lighter, redder color, you can use just
the red mahogany at 50 drops per ounce of water. Test these
stains on sanded scrap mahogany first.
TIP: Filler instead of stain
You can also use waterbase paste filler to color the
bare mahogany while filling the pores, and skip the
stain entirely. Test this on scrap mahogany and see
if you like the somewhat lighter appearance.
One or two ounces of mixed stain is plenty for a neck. Pour
the stain into a shallow bowl. Wet a soft clean cloth with stain
and apply it in long uniform strokes in the direction of the
wood grain. It shouldn’t take more than a minute to stain the
neck. Stain the peghead veneer, too: it’s easier than trying to
mask it.
Let the stain dry for half a day. Then unmask the sides of the
fretboard. The fretboard’s playing surface, neck joint areas,
the nut, and the underside of the fretboard extension should
remain masked.
page 29
Applying a wash coat sealer
Remember to wear clean cotton gloves whenever you touch
the wood. Lacquer is highly flammable, so always work in a
dry, well-ventilated area, away from open flames or sparks. Be
sure to wear an appropriate respirator while spraying.
Spray one uniform “wash coat” of clear lacquer on the neck.
A wash coat is a very light coat, so it won’t cause runs. The
wash coat seals the stain or the natural color in the wood,
and keeps the upcoming coat of paste filler from producing
a smudged look. Sealed in this fashion, only the open pores
of the wood accept the filler. Let the wash coat dry overnight.
Filling the wood grain
We recommend our ColorTone waterbase brown paste filler
for filling and leveling the open grain pores of the rosewood
peghead overlay and the mahogany neck. Because it dries
fast, you won’t be able to fill all the neck’s surfaces at once, so
work in stages. Practice on scrap pieces before starting on
the guitar. The wet filler should be packed into the pores with
a rubber squeegee held at a 45° angle across the grain (an
old credit card makes a great squeegee). Within minutes the
filler will start to harden and look hazy. Wipe off the excess,
working across the grain, with a clean lint-free cloth. At any
time during the grain-filling process, you can use a rag lightly dampened with water to soften any filler that’s hardening
too quickly. When the wood pores have been filled and
wiped level, a bit of blotchy, hazy residue will probably
remain on the surface. Let the wood dry overnight. Light
sanding with 320-grit Fre-Cut® may be required to remove
any remaining buildup of filler on the wood surface. Try to
avoid sanding through the wash coat into the stained
mahogany. If you do sand through an area, wipe a little stain
on it and wipe off the excess.
Sunbursting the body
On this style of instrument, it’s traditional to sunburst or stain
the light wood body to a dark brown color. To accomplish
this, first spray a base coat of lacquer for the color to lie on.
The body has been damp-sanded but still has an irregular
surface due to the wood grain and its hard and soft nature,
and grain pores. The maple sides, and the birch top and back
of the body are “closed grain” woods. They require no filler,
but they still need leveling to get that glossy guitar look.
Spray three coats of aerosol lacquer on the entire masked
body, allowing 45 minutes between coats, and let it dry
overnight.
When dry, sand with 320-grit Fre-Cut® sandpaper to achieve
a level, uniformly dull look over the entire body. With only
three coats you may not be able to do this. Watch your sanding, and if you are sanding through to bare wood, stop and
spray another three coats just like above. Try to level sand
again when dry. At this point you should be able to sand
most of the shiny spots dull. If there are just a few deep ones
that won’t cooperate, use a brush to drop-fill them with
some lacquer rather than spraying the whole body again.
Now is when the quality of your wood preparation will really
start to show.
page 30
Level those spots you drop-filled, and get ready to mix colors.
You can use the same ColorTone liquid stains to mix into
clear lacquer for coloring the body. For the light center of the
sunburst, use Vintage Amber. Make up two ounces of vintage
amber shading lacquer by adding 50 to 100 drops of concentrated stain to two ounces of thinned clear gloss lacquer
(a little thinner might be needed here to get a sprayable mixture). Test the strength of the mixture on scrap to determine
if you have reached the color intensity you want. You have
the option of spraying a couple of coats of the shader to
build the color coat in several passes, rather than mixing a
stain that might be too dark.
Put the shader into a Preval sprayer. Spray the amber color in
the center of the top and back, and on the sides where the
upper and lower shoulders reach their maximum width.
Based on your color, and on how much you spray, a second
or third coat might be necessary. It’s not necessary, or even
recommended, to spray the entire body with the yellow. Just
spray the center of the burst, and fade out as you reach the
point where the color changes. Next, mix the Tobacco Brown
as you did the Vintage Amber. You’ll probably need 3 or 4
ounces of this color, since there is more area to cover with
the dark brown. Put this mix into your Preval sprayer, and
spray the outer edges of the sunburst. You can leave a nar-
row band for Red Mahogany, or skip it and blend the
Tobacco Brown right into the Amber. We recommend the
red mahogany for its pleasing look. If you choose to do it, mix
two ounces of this color as above, and blend or shade it
between the dark brown and the amber. Practice on scrap,
and your first attempt will be more successful.
After overnight drying, carefully scrape off the color to reveal
the plastic binding beneath (the sunburst has covered the
binding as well as the wood). Use an X-acto blade, singleedge razor blade, or utility knife blade as a scraper. Hold the
scraper between your thumb and fingers with a short section of the blade exposed. With your thumb, finger, or
knuckle controlling the depth, you can keep from scraping
deeper than the binding and into the colored wood. Too
much scraping will create a deep ledge that the following
finish will not be able to fill.
Now go on to the lacquer spraying schedule below.
Lacquer spraying schedule
Day One: Spray three wet (not runny) clear coats on the neck
and body, an hour between coats, and let them dry
overnight.
Don’t try to sand out all the shiny spots yet. This sanding will
release solvent from the finish and help it to cure. Let the finish dry for two more days.
Day Two: Lightly “scuff-sand” the neck with 320-grit Fre-Cut®
paper to knock off the high spots in the finish (on flat areas,
be sure to use a backing pad on the sandpaper). Sand just
enough to “open” the finish; don’t try to sand out every shiny
spot or sunken area in the lacquer. Clean off the sanding
residue. Now spray the neck with three uniform coats of clear
lacquer, one hour between coats. You now have six coats on
the neck and three coats on the body. Let the guitar dry
overnight.
Day Six: Once again, spray three wet clear coats, one hour
apart, on the neck. Spray two wet clear coats, one hour apart,
on the body. Let the finish dry overnight.
Day Three: Lightly scuff-sand the finish with 320-grit paper
again, and clean off the residue. You can be slightly more
aggressive in flattening the sprayed surface now, but be
careful on the curves of the neck, and on any of the edges of
the neck and body (it’s easy to sand through the edges).
Day Eight: Lightly scuff-sand the finish with 600-grit Fre-Cut®
sandpaper, to help the solvent escape. The neck and body
should now be left in a warm dry location for two weeks to
let the finish harden and shrink.
Day Seven: Scuff-sand the finish with 320-grit again. This time
most of the shiny spots will disappear, leaving a uniformly
dull look. Spray three more clear coats on the neck, one hour
apart. Spray two more coats, one hour apart, on the body.
Allow overnight drying.
Wet-sanding and rubbing out the finish
Dry-sand the neck and body to a flat, dull sheen with 800-grit
Fre-Cut® sandpaper. Clean the residue off the sandpaper
often by rubbing it against a scrap of carpet. Any “orangepeel” texture (caused by lacquer shrinkage as the solvents
cure out of the finish) should be removed, but don’t oversand. When all the little shiny low spots in the lacquer have
been removed, you’re ready to go to the next step.
Wet-sand with 1200-grit micro-finishing paper and water to
bring the finish to a smooth satin surface that’s ready for final
polishing. Excess water and residue should be wiped off the
finish often with a clean dry soft cloth as you work. Rinse the
sandpaper in soapy water often, to remove hard specks that
can scratch the finish. (Note: Soak the micro-finishing paper
in water overnight before use. It will scratch less and last
longer.)
Using soft cloths, or an electric hand drill with foam polishing
pads (a separate pad for each compound), rub out the fine
wet-sanding scratches to a final gloss with medium and fine
polishing compounds. You can follow this with swirl remover
if desired. Clean off the residue left by the polishes, remove
the remaining masking tape from the neck, and remove the
soundhole masking materials.
When your guitar is finished, well-cured, and rubbed-out,
reassemble it, string it up, tune it up and play it. Good job!
page 31
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