Finishing the Jazzmaster fret markers

The Milliput Black epoxy putty arrived in the post this morning.

It comes with two cylindrical lumps of “stuff”, one black and one grey. I broke a thumbnail sized piece off each and kneaded them together for about 3-4 minutes.

I then rolled it into balls and squidged them into each of the fret markers on the face and side of the neck.

After about 2 hours the putty has started to set and I scrape most of the excess off. After another 2 hours it is ready to file and sand.

I’m very happy with the appearance although if you look at the close-up you can see where the putty has managed to get into the small marks/flaws in the fretboard. When I next do this I will mask round the markers to minimise the clean up work.

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Jazzmaster fretboard markers and control cavity

The plan was to drill out the black plastic fretboard markers and replace them with some black pearl ones (pictured).

As soon as I drilled these out I could see this wasn’t going to work – the holes were 5mm deep and the little inlays were only 1mm thick. Time for a change of tack. I’m going to make markers from brass tube filled with a black epoxy putty called “Milliput” instead. The putty is on order but in the meantime I got started with fitting the sections of brass tube.

I drilled a 5.5mm deep hole in a piece of MDF and using a hacksaw cut the 6mm tube into small pieces.

I had also bought some 2.5mm brass tube too so that I could make matching side dots. I drilled out the old ones.

With a dab of superglue in each hole I pressed in the brass tubes.

After allowing it to dry I filed the tubes flush with the neck.

Once that was done I tackled the control cavity. I had marked the locations on the MDF template. I attached this to the body and with a 2mm drill, made a hole right through template and body.

I used a 19mm spade bit to cut the countersink for the knobs, and a 10mm bit for the selector switch.

Once those were marked I could tackle the control cavity from the back. I had made a cover a couple of days ago.

Using the techniques I discussed in detail previously I made a template for the cavity “ledge” and routed that.

I made a smaller template and then routed out the inner cavity.

To finish I check the cavity is deep enough to allow the components to reach through to the front.

And that is all the work I can do until the pickups arrive. Once I’ve got those in hand I’ll be able to rout their cavities, drill the cable runs, and then glue in the neck. Once the neck is in I can shape the heel and I’ll be on to sanding and finish.

Voodoo Tele: Big leap forward

I’ve made excellent progress today.

Late yesterday I fixed the fretboard to the neck. First I popped in a couple of panel pins and snipped the heads off. This gives me something to locate the fretboard against, to stop it slipping when glued up and the pressure of the clamps is applied.

After greasing the truss rod ends and apply a thin bead of silicone (aka caulk) into the channel, I masked off the truss rod channel, applied the araldite epoxy, removed the masking tape and then fitted the fretboard and clamped it up. The masking tape is to ensure that the epoxy doesn’t squeeze over into the truss rod channel.

And here’s how it came out.

Next I used this small diamond file to clean up the fret ends.

Then I was on to gluing the maple cap sides together.

And while the cap glue joint dried I shaped the neck. First going “old school” with a spokeshave, then rasps, finishing with 40 grit sandpaper. It is difficult to tell from these pictures but I’ve gone for a fairly conservative “C” profile, but with a hint of assymetric “V” shape on the treble side.

Once I was happy with the rough shaping of the neck I glued it into the body.

And then re-routed the body chamber shapes into the neck tenon.

And this is what I was left with at the end of a hard day’s work.

Almost as pleasing as this was getting the parts for the old bandsaw and getting that working again.

And then, to cap off the day, I got confirmation from a kind and talented Baltimore artist, called Jilly Yoffe, that I can use one of her “Dia de Los Muertos” pictures as a headstock logo. Wahay! Result!

Voodoo Tele: Fretting the neck

First job today was to redo a couple of yesterday’s side dots that I wasn’t happy with, and then it was on to fretting the neck.

First I made a simple fretwire bender. I used the new router’s circular cut jig to trim the end of a piece of 12mm MDF to an 8.25″ radius. My fretboard radius is 10″ so I need the wire bent to a slightly tighter curve.

I then cut a slot across the top with a junior hacksaw and, hey presto, fret bender.

Once bent I tapped in the two ends…

…trimmed it to length…

…and then finished seating the fret with three or four firm strikes with my copper hammer.

After that I clamped each edge of the frets and wicked in some CA glue to hold the fret ends.

I saw this technique posted in a thread over at TDPRI, showing how PRS do their frets. If it is good enough for Carlos, then it is good enough for me.

Voodoo Telecaster: Cutting the fretboard and installing the dots

We’ve had heavy rain on and off for the last couple of days so not too much progress, but in the the breaks between downpours I managed to drag all the tools out and get the ebony fretboard cut close to shape. I first clamped it up to the neck, and marked the underside with pencil. I transferred the marks to the top side and then ran it through the bandsaw, keeping 1-2mm outside the line.

I had thought about mounting it onto the neck and using the flush cut trimmer in the router but, because of my inexperience with ebony, and the fact that I have no scrap pieces for practice, I chickened out and took the prudent approach – cut it close and then sand it down.

Last job before the fretboard gets epoxied on to the neck was to install the marker dots. I had been scavenging around for a couple of days looking for interesting materials that I could use. The favourite was going to be a yellow cocktail stirrer until I found a scrap of 2mm diameter copper.

I drilled the 2mm holes at the relevant locations, put in a dab of thin superglue (aka CA glue), and pushed the copper rod in, snipping off excess with my wire cutters.

It took a matter of minutes to remove excess material with a diamond file. Job done.

Tomorrow I hope to installing the truss rod and glue the fretboard to the neck. After that I’ll finish shaping the neck to the final dimensions, before heading into the the new scary world of fretting.

And if you ever happen to be using power tools, please don’t forget to take a minute to put the safety gear on. I managed to find a chunk of the router’s exploded bearing housing about 40 feet away from where I was working. Imagine this hitting an unprotected body part…