I like new hand tools, and with the fairly new resurgence, some are made to a very high level of quality. That being said, I also enjoy finding old tools that still have a lot of life left in them.
I recently bought a cool small panel saw, from friends and colleagues Lynn & Tracy Dowd who own and run Dowd’s Tools. The saw is an old Cross Cut Disston #12, and based upon the etch on the blade, it is from the late 1870s – 1880s (this is per information on Disstonian Institute’s site: http://www.disstonianinstitute.com/).
|Handle on old Disston #12, with missing medallion and screw.|
The plate is dead straight and complements my big rip version of the same saw. While removing the handle, on the my new addition, I noticed something on the saw plate that I’d never seen before, nor recalled reading. The saw plate has an “X” stamped into it, in the area protected by the handle.
|Characters on the Small #12’s saw plate.|
After researching online, and finding nothing, I decided I’d pull the handle from my other #12. Sure enough, it has the same “X”, in the covered area of the saw plate.
|Character on Large #12’s saw plate.|
|Small #12 saw plate on top of Large #12 saw plate.|
I guess it could mean it is extra fine, or something like that, but I’d love to know the real reason it adorns these #12 saws, both of which are pre-1900.
Anyone out there have any knowledge of this attribute, and why Disston evidently used it? Anyone??
As discussed in the first part of this build, we have both the mahogany body and the maple cap, both shaped close to the template line. The next step is to shape the mahogany body, before removing the material in two areas. One for the pickup selector, and the other where the volume/tone controls will reside.
|Template screwed down to the mahogany body.|
|Shaped body with control cavity and pickup selector location evacuated, and path routed between the two.|
After the drilling and routing is completed, I prepare to glue the maple cap to the mahogany body. The first thing I do, is to mark a center line on both pieces. This will help make sure the pieces line up as intended. I then mark out where the pickups will go, and since that area will be routed away, I’ll utilize this knowledge to help hold things together when gluing the pieces together. Drill a hole in each of the pickup openings, or you can even add one in the area that will be excavated for the neck joint. Each hole is drilled on the previously made center line, for alignment. Now get a bunch of clamps together, and prep each one so it’s open a bit wider than will be needed. Time to get the glue. For this project I used Tite-bond (regular), which is plenty strong enough, and is easy to use. I spread a light coating on both internal surfaces, trying to stay away from the routed channel enough, so I would retain the open area for the wiring. I left the two screws in the maple top, protruding just enough so I could easily tell when they engaged the holes in the mahogany. I screwed them both down snug, then applied all of the clamps I’d setup. I decided to leave the clamps in place for 24 hours, even though it probably wasn’t truly necessary.
|Lots of clamps and one of the two screws visable.|
It’s now time to shape the maple cap portion of the body, using the previously shaped mahogany body as the “template” and a couple of bearing-clad router bits. The two router bits I used for the shaping of the body, are both pattern bits, which places the cutting edges and the bearing in the same plane. The first router bit has the bearing between the shank and the cutter.
|Pattern router bit used with bearing against hardboard template.|
The second bit is similar, but has the bearing out on the end away from the router.
|Pattern router bit used with bearing against surface left by first router bit.|
Since we have already shaped the mahogany portion of the body, we will only use the second router bit for shaping the maple cap. The bearing on the bit, will register against the mahogany body, and trim the maple to the exact same shape as the mahogany. If by chance you left more than about 1/16″ of excess maple outside of the line, during the band saw trim, take a couple of light passes with the router. Just work your way in until the bearing is riding on the mahogany. It won’t take very long, and remember, it’s not a race. Before putting up the router, grab a round over bit with perhaps a 3/8″ radius, and ease those sharp edges, on the rear of the guitar body.
For the neck, I cut a piece of the 8/4 mahogany, which was almost the right size to allow the angled-back headstock. I cut some wood off of this piece, and the angle of the cut allowed me to rotate it around, gluing it back together to accommodate the headstock angle.
|Headstock shape is just showing in the right hand section of this picture.|
|A different view of the rough neck blank.|
So, anyone ever wanted to play guitar? Sure, it seems like almost everyone wanted to be a Rock Star at some point in their life. How about building a guitar? Are those cricket chirps I’m hearing?? Well, I’m here to tell you that it does require some precision, but it’s something that many woodworkers can do.
There are different levels to building a guitar. Some will buy a kit, that already has a body pre-shaped with the grooves for wiring and the mortise for the neck, and a neck pre-shaped with frets installed. On the other end of the spectrum, some will purchase rough wood and do all of the work themselves.
I’m in the second category, starting with rough wood and a minimally dimensioned drawing. I’ve played guitar since I was about 13 and always thought about building an electric guitar, but hated the thought that my woodworking skills might let me down. A friend of mine, wooden plane maker extraordinaire Phil Edwards (Philly Planes), finally gave me the push I needed to just build a guitar. The guitar I decided to build is based off of a Gibson Les Paul, similar to one I owned back in the late 70’s. This will be a multi-part article, so I hope you will follow along for the duration.
I started out with some 8/4 rough Mahogany and some 4/4 Curly Maple. Many Les Paul guitars have a body made from these two woods. The Mahogany gives it a warmth and richness, while the maple top gives a more pronounced treble response.
There are a number of places to purchase fully dimensioned drawings of different guitars, so it makes it a bit easier than needing to extrapolate from a known size. The Stewart-MacDonald site is well known and has a good set of plans listed here:
For any who also read my articles on Highland Hardware’s blog, you may know I listed completing this guitar by March, as one of my resolutions this year. Even though I committed to this time-line, I plan to stay as focused as possible, so I don’t rush and create an error.
One of the first things I did on this build, was to find the length and width of the guitar body, and the neck. This allowed me to cut pieces from the rough wood, so I was only working sections of wood that would directly become my guitar. I cut off lengths of Mahogany and Maple, worked them flat and square, and then glued pieces together. There are times you’ll find some big wide old boards, but it’s not critical to go that route. The wood I bought was wide enough that I only needed to glue up two pieces, side-by-side, to handle the width needed.
Next I made a hardboard template, the same size and shape as the body of the guitar. This made for easy tracing, before cutting out on my band saw. I made sure to stay just outside of the lines, since I would clean up to the final shape, with my router. Using this template, along with my router and two pattern bits, it was easy to end up with a guitar body that exactly followed the original pattern.
I attached the template directly to the wood, with screws, making sure they were in an area that would later be routed away. Also, if you plan to use your router in this manner, make sure the screw heads are either flush, or slightly below the surface of your template.
The next section of this build will deal with some internal routing, glue up and maybe getting started on the neck.
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