Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fender Stratocaster & Les Paul Prop Guitars

When I was young, I had myself a Fender Squire guitar that I would like to play, as pictured in the image below.

Despite the many pictures of me jamming, and the endless hours of me playing the guitar itself, I was not very good at it.  Very often I would put on some headphones and fake playing the guitar - which honestly I enjoyed more than playing the guitar itself.  A year ago I built a wooden Paul McCartney Bass guitar.

You can see my Bass guitar build by clicking here.  This bass guitar is great, and even has an area where my iPod can attach to it.  It doesn't actually play, but it is fun for my occasional fake jam sessions. 

Recently I bought a turntable and a lot of records.  I built a sweet stand and box to hold my turntable and records (you can see that build by clicking here).

Once or twice my girlfriend has joined me in pretending to play the guitar while listening to our records.   She uses an X-Box Guitar controller, but I think I can make something better and more fun.  I have quite a bit of scrap wood at my disposal so I'm going to make a fake Fender Strat guitar.  

My first step was to make some templates.  You can easily find the dimensions and shape on the internet.  I drew my templates in Adobe Illustrator and printed them out on several sheets of paper, which I taped together...

...and then cut out.

I brought my template in my garage and found several scrap pieces of wood to use.

One piece of wood isn't big enough, so I'll have to use a few smaller pieces.

I drew my template onto the largest piece of wood, and using glue and a glue brush I attached a smaller piece.

I then attached the 2 pieces to form one layer of the guitar body.  I clamped these pieces until the glue had set.  This will make up the top half of the guitar body.

I repeated the process with another few pieces which will make up the bottom half of the guitar body.

While the glue was drying on the body halves, I cut out the pick guard from my paper template and traced it onto some thin plywood.

I then cut out the pick guard with my jigsaw.

I spent a lot of time sanding all the edges of the pick guard with some fine sandpaper until everything was nice and smooth.

When the glue had dried on the guitar body halves, I cut out the shape with my jigsaw.

Normally I would put these pieces through the surface planer to level them out.  Unfortunately these pieces are too wide for the planer, so I had to spend a bit of time leveling it with my orbital sander.

I only concentrated on the tops and bottoms of each piece.  The sides will be dealt with once both halves are together.  

After sanding all the pieces I placed the pick guard on the top to make sure it looked right.

Next I applied a nice amount of wood glue to one half...

....and spread the glue around with a brush, making sure everything, especially all the edges had glue.

Then I clamped the 2 halves together and let dry for several hours.

When the body was dry I then took it to the tabletop belt sander to begin evening out the sides.

I also used my rotary and mouse sander to smooth out the sides...

...and a drum sander bit to get the curved sides near where the guitar neck will be.

When the sides were all even and smooth I then brought it over to the router table and used a round-over bit to begin rounding the edges.

I then cleaned up the edges with the sander.

I put the pick guard on again to make sure everything was looking correct.

Next I drew in where the neck will connect to the body.  I will eventually have to cut away some of that material.

I also drew in where the arm rests are.  This is what I'll work on next.

To create the arm rests, I used my hand held belt sander and began sanding away material.

I cleaned and smoothed the area with my mouse sander.

Looking good so far!

Next I used my router to cut out the space where the fret board connects to the guitar body.

After cutting out the material from the body I began working on the fret board and head of the guitar.  I printed out my template for the head and traced it onto a scrap piece of pine.

The fret board will be made of a piece of plywood.

To get the fret board to be wider at the base and thinner at the neck, I used my table saw with my tapering jig.

It's always a bit difficult for me to correctly set up the jig, but luckily for me I got it right on the first try.

After a little sanding, and rounding the edges of the fret board, the 2 pieces fit together nicely.

Then I took the fret board to the router table and rounded the bottom edges...

...followed by some sanding.

I then cut out the head out with my jigsaw...

...and sanded it.

To make the head and fret board fit together I cut out a lap joint from the head...

...and the fret board.  Normally this would make the 2 pieces connect well - however I made a mistake and cut out the wrong side of the fret board.

After a little improvisation, I got the 2 pieces to work...

...and glued/clamped them together.

Next I added some wood filler to parts of the body, mostly to the seams where separate pieces of wood met.

I realized that eventually I'll need a new guitar stand for this guitar, so I borrowed my old one and traced the shape onto a scrap piece of plywood and cut it out with the jigsaw.

You can see my entry for making guitar stands by clicking here.

I added hinges, hooks and a chain and the stand is more-or-less complete.

When the glue had dried on the fret board, I removed the clamps and added wood filler to clean up the gaps between the board and the head.

While that dried I sanded the dried wood filler on the body.

Next I drilled 4 holes with counter sinks on the back of the body.

Then I screwed the fret board to the body.

I only attached it with screws so that later I can take it apart and paint the body & stain the fret board.

I then grabbed the pick guard and used my dremel to correctly shape the edge that touches the fret board.

Next I added screw holes with counter sinks to the fret board...

...and attached it to the body.

Then I added some more filler to parts of the fret board and guitar stand and let everything dry for a while.

I was going to make all the various pieces of the guitar - like tuner and volume knobs - out of wood, but decided instead to 3D print them.  This meant designing the pieces in 3D...

...and then printing them out.

Printing took a long time, so I started making some of the pickups out of wood and glued them on.

It was at this point I decided to make another guitar, this time a Les Paul.

I found a great website that had scaled blue prints of this guitar.  You can visit that site by clicking here.  

I printed the blue prints and taped them together like before.

I then cut it out to use as templates.

Then I traced my templates onto pieces of wood that I picked up.

I worked on the Les Paul guitar slowly, as most of my attention was pointed to the Fender Strat.  So we'll get back to the Les Paul once the strat is done.  A day later all my 3D printing was done and sanded.

I created tuning knobs, the bridge and the output jack for the body.

For the head I created machine heads and buttons.

I disassembled the whole guitar and applied the pieces with some Gorilla glue for woods & plastics.

The 3D printed machine heads and buttons won't be attached at this point, but I did drill holes for the buttons to fit in.

While the glue dried I applied a little more wood filler to all the wood pieces to cover up one or two spots that needed it.  The guitar stand received the most filler, to cover up the sides that showed all the layered plywood.

Once the glue and filler dried I sanded once more.  During sanding I had a suspicion that the fret board and head were too long, so I compared it with the blue prints I printed up for the Les Paul.

My fret board was indeed too long, so I trimmed it.

I then drilled pocket holes into the head...

...and attached it to the fret board with pocket screws.

I then filled the pocket holes with glue & plugs.

When the glue had dried I sanded the plugs smooth...

...and added some filler.

While the filler dried I cleaned and prepped the body, pick guard and some of the 3D printed pieces for priming.

The first coats were with filler primer.

I let each coat dry, and in between I sanded smooth the filler on the fret board / head.

When the first coat of primer was dry I sanded everything with fine sandpaper and then cleaned it up...

...then applied the second coats, a dark gray primer.

While that dried I decided to stain the guitar stand...

...spray paint the machine heads/buttons with silver spray paint...

...and stain the fret board with a cherry stain.

After the last coats of primer were dry, I sanded, cleaned and then applied some glossy black paint to the body...

...and white paint to the pick guard.

I also applied a second coat of silver to the machine heads/buttons and then let everything dry overnight.

The next morning I flipped over the body and gave it black paint.

While that dried I added clear coat to the guitar stand.

For the frets I decided to simply paint them in with a silver paint marker, using masking tape to get straight lines.

I also glued in the machine buttons...

...and the machine heads.

I branded the head with my logo in silver.

Then I gave the fret board and head some satin clear coat.

Once the stand was dry, I reassembled it and it was done!

Next I took the dried body and began painting the plug input and the bridge with silver enamel paint.  In retrospect I should have painted these before gluing them onto the body.  It would have been easier.

Then I gave the body and newly painted parts some glossy clear coat.

When all was dry I screwed on the pick guard...

...then the fret board.

And construction complete!

This thing turned out quite awesomely.

From a distance you can't tell that it's not real.

The last step was to attach the strap buttons.  For this I'm going to use actual buttons,..

...which along with straps I ordered online.  Once they arrive I'll attach them.

...but for now I put the fender aside and I started work on the Les Paul.

This time I did things a little differently than with the Fender.  I started by cutting out the bodies....

...and the fret board/head - which were one solid piece of wood.

Instead of routing out the space for the fret board in the body, I cut it out before assembly.

I also assembled each half of the body using pocket holes...

...and screws with glue.

I drilled the pocket holes so that when the 2 halves are assembled...

...the holes won't show.

But before I attach the 2 halves, I sanded to make sure it was as flat as possible.

Then glue was added and the 2 halves were clamped together.

While the body dried, I began sanding the fret board and head.

When I finished sanding, I brought it over to the router and rounded the edges of the head, and bottom of the fret board.

When the body was dry I sanded all the edges.

Then I brought it over to the router and curved the edges.

Next I clamped it to my work table and used my handheld belt sander to begin sloping all the edges.  This will make the middle of the body a bit higher than the edges.

Once the rough sanding was done, I smoothed it out with some finer sandpaper on my orbital sander.

Then I raised the bit on my router and routed new edges.

And then softened the edges again with my sander.

Now it was time to attach the fret board.

I drilled holes in the back with countersinks...

...and then screwed the fret board to the body.  So far it's looking good.

Next I decided to make the pick guard, and for this I found a sheet of plastic I had from my days when I would vacuum form things.  I cut out the pick guard template and traced it onto the plastic.

Then, using a very sharp X-acto blade, cut it out.

I drilled holes and screwed it to the body.

The next step was to add filler, which required me to disassemble the whole thing.  There wasn't too much to fill at this point, mostly the edges where the 2 halves of the body met.

When the filler dried I sanded the whole thing.

Both the body and the fret board were sanded with 120 grit sandpaper, then 220 grit to get it smooth.

Then I cleaned up both pieces and prepped for staining.

To get the faded look of a Les Paul, I first stained the body with a light cherry stain.

The fret board was stained a darker Jacobean stain.

Then I applied the Jacobean stain around the edges of the body and quickly blended the stain, leaving the middle untouched.

It took a while to get the results I wanted, but it was well worth it.  After the stain dried on both pieces, I applied a light coat of satin clear coat.

When all was dry, I assembled everything.

Looking good so far!

Next I brought it inside and took it apart again.  You'll notice in the background are some 3D printed pieces for this guitar.  I began printing these as soon as I started making this guitar.

Once all the 3D pieces were printed I painted them with silver spray paint.

While that dried I began painting the sides and the head with black acrylic.

When the paint was dry I added silver trim.

I also added the frets and my logo once more.  Unfortunately I was a bit too eager a bit too early in the morning when I painted in the frets.  They are divided evenly rather than getting closer the further down the fret board they go.  This was a careless mistake, but it still looks good...and it's not a real guitar anyway.

Next I assembled the body and fret board and cleaned it up.

Then I applied many layers of glossy clear coat.

Once the clear coat dried I glued on all the 3D printed pieces.

Once the glue dried I was done!

Like the Fender, this guitar came out awesomely!

This guitar also took about half the time it took to make the Fender.

My Les Paul has more rounded edges than an actual Les Paul guitar, but at a first glance you can tell what kind of guitar it is

Now all these 2 guitars need is the straps.

Finally the straps and buttons arrived, so I drilled holes and screwed in the buttons.

Then attached the straps.

And I'm done!

These things turned out awesomely!

Now I have a few prop guitars to jam out to music with!
Thanks for reading!

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