Planing the ebony fretboard

I started planing the fingerboard to thickness last night using my new mujingfang jack plane. What a fantastic tool. After putting it through 3 grades of waterstone the blade was razor sharp and went through the ebony like butter.
   
 

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Bridge attached and base coats of shellac applied

I have now attached the bridge using a Spanish method I saw John Ray using on his blog. I radiused the bottom of the bridge slightly to fit the very slight dome in the top.

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The fit is good, some tiny gaps at the bottom due to a tad uneven clamping pressure. Overall it went well.

I’ve also been applying 2-3 base coats of de-waxed french polish to the top and back, to protect them a bit while I work on the fingerboard. It’s got many coats of oil to go but the french polish has transformed the look of the guitar. I’ve been applying it with lint free cloth in straight lines, then rubbing back with ultra fine steel wool when dry. It applies very thinly but after 2 coats it has a nice satin look and is very smooth to the touch.

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Next thing to do is thickness the pre-slotted fingerboard to about 6mm. It is currently 9mm. I think this is going to be sweaty work as it is ebony. I have tapered the sides to fit the neck. Once that’s on I can smarten up the heel and carve the neck.

I have also drilled the barrel slots but I got a bit of tearout which I’m pretty angry at myself for. I need to fill a couple of small tear holes with glue mixed with cedrela dust. On the plus side the Stewmac jig worked very well, although very expensive.

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Binding and purfling complete

All the binding and purfling is installed and scraped flush. Unfortunately as I was glueing the left top binding, it split near the join at the bottom of the guitar. I managed to save it with CA glue (it was far too late to take it all off, the top of the binding was already setting). However, it left quite a bit of roughness and dried glue to scrape off the bottom. The end result is very very thin binding on the bottom, gradually getting thicker toward the waist and top. It has really annoyed me, but nobody else seems to notice until I point it out.

Lesson learned for next time, cut binding channels with less overhang. In hindsight I’ve realised that was unnecessary really.

A couple of pictures. Apart from the mistakes I know about, I think it looks really nice for a first guitar. Tru oil, ultra fine steel wool, polishing pads and fine wet and dry sandpaper being delivered soon. Until then I’ll be finishing off the next carving and working out how to get the fretboard on.

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One binding strip installed on the back

Last night I installed one of my binding strips to the back of the guitar. A couple of errors to start with. Where the binding meets at the top, just below the heel cap, I filed the channel a bit too wide. Under the heel cap there will be a small gap where the binding fits in underneath. I am going to fill these with some glue and dust mixed together, hoping it doesn’t look too bad once finished. Another mistake was getting carried away with scraping the bindings flush with the sides, not scraping perfectly flat and leaving the binding way thicker in some areas than others. As I don’t have a purfling installed on the back, the outlines aren’t as clear so this isn’t obvious at first glance. The binding blends almost perfectly into the back itself as they are both rosewood. A rather plain look, but I quite like it. A lesson for next time.

As far as the glue up goes, I used the same rope technique as I used for the purfling on the top. It worked fine, and I ended up with far fewer gaps than I expected. By far the hardest bit was chiselling channel out of the waist, getting a smooth curve even with the help of a gramil was difficult for me.

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Top purfling installed

This weekend I finished cutting the top binding and purfling channels and glued in the purfling. I noticed by initial technique of cutting (purfling width -1) + (binding width -1) wasn’t going to work, as the purfling would be overhanging into the binding channel by 1mm, and scraping it flush would remove the black outer border of the purling. I extended the channel by 1mm to ensure a snug fit with the purfling.

The purfling was pretty flexible and was easily bent on the bending iron. I used string to clamp the purfling in place while it dried.

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Once it was dry I used a cabinet scraper to bring it flush with the top. I made the mistake of not scraping toward the edge at first, which ended up smudging the inner black border of the purfling over the top in places. This took a bit of time to clean up, but worked out just fine. The black specks on the top are just marks on my camera lens.

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Happy with the end result. Time for the other side, same procedure.

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The last few strands of loose purfling on the waist will come off during sanding. I’m planning to do the top and bottomt bindings at the weekend, then onto the fingerboard.

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The back is glued on – time to cut the purfling and binding channels.

A few weeks ago I glued the back onto the guitar. It was a bit of a rush brushing on the glue, putting the back in place then winding down the spool cramp wingnuts in time before the glue started setting, but it turned out fine in the end. I had to add a couple of cramps into the mix to get full coverage, so next time I’ll probably put some more spool cramps in the slots of the solera rather than just the holes.

I took a quick snap before glueing, forgot to take one afterwards.

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A quick picture of how everything looks put together. Quite nice I think!

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I got a Schneider Gramil tool from LMI to cut my purfling and binding channels. I honed the blade and set it to 4mm width for (binding + purfling width) -1mm, and 2mm depth for purfling depth -1mm. I left 1mm overhang on both measurements to make up for scraping the binding and purfling after they are fitted.

Here’s a quick picture of me starting to chisel out the purfling channel. I’ll probably finish it off this weekend. I am slightly more nervous about chiselling the rosewood as I don’t find it anywhere near as easy to work.

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Dry fitting the back and making spool cramps

Small update. This weekend I’ve been dry fitting the back and trimming it all to size. I trimmed the excess of the back using a dremel and a sanding end. Lazy but it worked well with a couple of layers of masking tape on the sides for protection just in case. I’ve almost finished making all the spool cramps required for cramping it. I’ve just used m6 threaded rod, big washers, wingnuts, nylon lock nuts and pieces of cut dowel. Once I’ve got some paper and written a simple label it’ll be ready for glueing imminently.

I have rosewood +boxwood binding, and some black/white purfling. The binding looks lovely next to the guitar but I’m not convinced the purfling suits. I need to get myself a binding channel scoring tool before it gets used anyway.

Picture of half the cramps in place.

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