Vintage Telecaster-Style Guitar Build

I love woodworking, and I love playing/buying guitars. Playing them is free, but buying them is not, so I decided (like many other people have) to build one the way I wanted it. A few months back I was working on a bar made of old growth Douglas Fir, and had just enough quarter-sawn offcuts left to make a beautiful vintage style telecaster. 

First was getting the layout before gluing up the boards. They were only 5ish inches wide so I needed 3 of them. I used a Stanley No. 6 to flatten one face, then ran all three boards through a thickness planer to get them basically uniform. Then joint one edge with the No. 6 again, and the table saw for its parallel edge. After the milling and glue up, we have our body blank...look at that quarter sawn goodness!

After a little more flattening we are ready for our template: I use an MDF template and 1/2" pattern bit, being sure not to take too big a bite. After a few passes and using the forstner bit to hog out some extra waste we have this.... she ain't pretty, but she is on her way.

 The wood had a notch cut out for a lap joint when I started, so I placed it where the neck pickup would go, and am using it to my advantage so I will have room whether I use a standard tele single coil pickup, p90, or humbucker. All of it will be covered by the pick guard as long as I use a standard tele or 72 tele pick guard.

The wood had a notch cut out for a lap joint when I started, so I placed it where the neck pickup would go, and am using it to my advantage so I will have room whether I use a standard tele single coil pickup, p90, or humbucker. All of it will be covered by the pick guard as long as I use a standard tele or 72 tele pick guard.

After getting about halfway through the thickness of the slab (which is about 1/16th over 1.75") I switch pattern bits. When referencing the template, I use a bit with the bearing above the cutting head. Now, I switch to a pattern bit where the bearing is below the cutter head so I can remove the rest of the material without cutting into the lines I've established. 

After some sanding, I go on to rout the neck pocket. Sorry for lack of photos here, but you essentially square up the neck pocket pattern along your center line and use the same 1/2" pattern bit.  It's crucial that you don't have any tear out here and that you get it exactly to 5/8" depth or you will have a really rough go at setting up the action. 

 I use a piece of masking tape to make a tighter fit and leave me room for sanding.

I use a piece of masking tape to make a tighter fit and leave me room for sanding.

Next, I decide to make it a double bound tele. I didn't take any photos of the routing process, but since the ivory binding I ordered was 1/16th thick, I use a pattern bit where the diameter of the bearing is 1/8" less than the diameter of the cutting head. In this case, I slip a 3/8" bearing under a 1/2" cutter head. The net result after going around the perimeter of the body, is a channel that is 1/16" wide. Here, you super glue the binding in to that channel and let it dry. After, I clean up everything with 220 grit sand paper:

Then, lots and lots of sanding. There is a little super glue residue that needs to be dealt with, and since I am going to do a traditional hand-rubbed sunburst, where you add dyes directly to the wood, I need to get it all off. Acetone works well, but since it will also dissolve the plastic binding, be careful. 

Next, draw a straight line and mark out my ferrules. This is nerve racking cause I want to use vintage style ferrules, which are .375" all the way down. Here is a great link for understanding ferrule styles from Callaham guitars (whose ferrules I always use) Using the Callaham style, there is just a tiny sliver of wood between each ferrule, so be super careful with your marks and use a sharp forstner bit.

Next, I drill for the output jack. I prefer the electrosocket style, which requires a straight 7/8" hole right into the control cavity. I place a piece of masking tape over the flat spot, find my center, and drill a hole in it. Nothing too technical, just make sure your bits are sharp enough and clamp your workpiece down tightly. 

After this, the only other holes to drill are the 4 holes for the bridge plate. But those are already marked out and started. I will wait until I'm actually adding the screws to finish pre-drilling the holes. Some bridges use metric screws and with pine, I want to make sure the screws fit as tightly as possible. So, all that's left now is prep for finishing. Here, is where you can either rush into finish and regret it. Or take your time, spend hours sanding, and don't think about finish until your surface is 100% ready. Sand up to at least 320, with a FLAT sanding block on the front and back. Never sand over the edge. And when it gets to the contoured edges, replace the sanding block with a section of 1" dowel. Don't use your hand to sand as your fingers tips will naturally add extra pressure causing all sorts of random depressions. The purpose of sanding is to get it flatter than flat, so don't use something so amorphously shaped as a hand to get that job done. 

After sanded, vacuumed, and cleaned with spirits, it's time to start on the burst. I'm using brown and yellow Transtint dyes suspended in denatured alcohol. It's really a feel thing, and once everything is how you want it, you stop moving the dye around. 

After the dye dries over night, I apply a single coat of tung oil varnish. Since the dyes are water/alcohol soluble, and I plan to build coats of lacquer, I need something to keep the dye from being re-dissolved and running together. Once the varnish is good and dry, I scrape the binding of any dye. It doesn't soak in to the binding, so a simple razor blade does nicely. 

thumb_IMG_5386_1024.jpg

Then on to the french polish... I've never done this before, but I watched a few videos and figured it was easy enough. If it goes poorly I can always wetsand and try again...I think.

 What you see here is a thin layer of dissolved lacquer rubbed on with oil to keep the pad from sticking as the lacquer dries in place. The swirly bits are oil that rise to the surface and get wiped off at the end. It's a fun process, but really stressful for the first time. I kept thinking..."why didn't I just spray it"

What you see here is a thin layer of dissolved lacquer rubbed on with oil to keep the pad from sticking as the lacquer dries in place. The swirly bits are oil that rise to the surface and get wiped off at the end. It's a fun process, but really stressful for the first time. I kept thinking..."why didn't I just spray it"

video Block
Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more

Walnut/Maple Dining Room Table

This was a design for Matt in Chicago. Built from both reclaimed and new materials- all solid walnut and maple. Finished with Waterlox. Final dimensions are: 72"x32"x31"

Ross Family Barn


The table l built for Anthony Ross is one of my favorite stories to date. He called me from his hometown, almost 3 hours away, and asked if I’d be willing to build him a table. This was totally normal. It happens all the time. But then he said,  “Actually, I need three tables.” I grew more intrigued. As we talked style, he went on to say, “I’ve got the wood already”…again, more intrigued!

Long story short, he had an old barn on his property (photo below) that was in process of being torn down, and he wanted to build a dining table for he and his wife, as well as a coffee table for each of their two sons. Needless to say, I’m a sucker for family heirloom type stuff, so this was a project that needed to be shared. I think it's so cool that though the barn is gone, he will have beautiful furniture that gets used and gathered around for years. In fact, 8 months later, his brother in law brought me more of the same wood for yet another dining table. Have a look at that process:

Cherry Slab Table

This was an interesting project. My landlord gave me this old cherry slab that was in pitiful shape- it had been "cut"...hacked up...with a chainsaw and just been stored in his basement for almost 20 years. Nevertheless, I felt like it had some potential. But with it's unevenness and unique shape, I knew it was going to be a strange piece. So here are a few photos of the process. 

Stock Used: Cherry Slab (found in a basement), Walnut (from an old farm south of Louisville), and Yellow Pine (from a broken bed frame in Shelby Park)