Carving the heel and preparing the Jazzmaster for finish

Into the final furlong now and there are just a few jobs left before the Danish oil goes on. To start the day I remove the neck clamps and check the joint.

For the neck heel carve I roughly mark where I’m aiming for.

With a spindle sander in my hand-held drill I start removing wood…

…until it is about the shape I want. I then finish by hand.

That’s the last of the woodworking finished. I drill the pilot holes for the hardware. The only complicated part is getting the bridge positioned correctly. As previously, I use a piece of cotton running from the bridge to the headstock and back again.

Drill the holes for the bridge.

While I’ve got the bridge unpacked I take a few minutes to run the base across a piece of 400 grit paper, to make sure it makes full contact with the body top once it is screwed down.

I mark up the legde of the control cavity and drill the 6mm holes for the neodymium magnets, and fasten them in place with CA glue. I glue magnets in position on the cover too, making sure the magnets are the right way round, so they don’t repel.

Check the alignment and fit.

All that remains is to sand and sand and sand. Working my way up through the grades to 320 grit, and then give the body a wipe with a damp rag to raise the grain.

And here are the first coats of Danish oil going on, using the approach I’ve written about previously.

One last thing, a couple of days ago Gtr1ab asked how I laid out the controls on the template. Below is a picture of the marked up template. If I was building an exact Jazzmaster replica I would have just transferred the positions from the paper plan, but I’m adding my own touches. I wanted the volume knob to be exactly level with the bridge saddles so using a square I extended the line down the body. I placed the centre of the volume approx half way between the bridge and the body edge.

I then drew a line, at a slightly descending angle, towards the tail end of the body. There was no science or measurement to this I just picked an angle that I found pleasing to the eye. I placed the other two controls and the jack socket along this line. When laying out controls previously I had measured equal distance between the hole centres but, because components have a different radius they end up looking mis-spaced. I measured each component and then made sure the gap between the edges of each was consistent. Again there was no science to this I just chose a distance that looked pleasing to the eye – in this case a 30mm gap.

Routing the Jazzmaster for the Gretsch Filtertron pickups

The Gretsch Filtertron pickups from Shanghai Guitars arrived in the post this morning so I have been able to crack on with the next stage of the build.

I had not realised that the baseplate of the neck Filtertron stuck out wider than the pickup itself. Because I want to have this in a tight rout, this needed modification. A few careful strokes with a hacksaw and that was easily sorted.

Next, to make the pickup routing template, I ripped some mdf to 35mm wide, the same width as the pickup and then taped them down, round a pickup, to the piece of MDF that will become the final template. NB: I checked the pickups were identically sized first because that is not always the case.

A run round with the top bearing cutter and I have the template…

…which matches the pickup perfectly.

I marked up their positions on the body, hogged out wood with a brad pointed drill bit, attached the template and routed to around 10mm deep.

Then removed the template and routed the final depth down to 19mm.

I check the fit, with bridge and neck in position.

Next job is to drill the runs for the pickup cables, and not forgetting a hole from the control cavity to just under the bridge, so that I can ground it. Here I drill through from the neck pickup cavity into the bridge pickup cavity. So much easier doing this before you’ve glued the neck in place, as I found out when I built my first guitar.

Final job for the day, with rapidly approaching storm clouds and a fierce wind picking up, was to sand the neck heel and neck pocket with 60 grit, give them a good clean and coat of Titebond Original, and clamp up the neck.

Suddenly it is starting to look like a guitar.

The next job will be to carve the heel to shape, drill pilot holes for all of the components, mount the control cover magnets, and sand it ready for finish.

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.

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.

Cutting the Jazzmaster neck pocket and binding channel

Overnight I drafted the decal and this morning printed out a copy, cut it to shape and checked for size and position.

For making the neck template I largely base my approach on that documented by Jack Wells over on TDPRI, but because that approach demands a table router, I’ve adapted it for working with a plunge router.

I rip some 18mm MDF into a 50mm strip and cut it into two long and one short pieces.

I stick one down on the MDF that will become the template, and push the neck up tight against it.

As tightly as possible I stick down the second piece. With pencil I mark a line on the inside edge of each piece – so that I can accurately mark the centre-line later on.

I mark the end of the heel and then tap the neck into the two pieces to get them as snug as possible – without dislodging the two taped down battens. I mark the new position of the neck heel. I measure a further 7-8mm in and stick down the small piece. This ensures a nice snug fit once the pocket is cut.

With the pattern following bit I cut about 10mm deep into the MDF and then remove the battens. Before I’ve cut right through I want to mark the centre-line. Rather than pencil – when I’m working on template material, I prefer to use my Stanley knife to mark lines which is much more accurate and less prone to smudging.

And then I check the fit against the neck. What I’m aiming for is snug enough to hold itself to the neck, but not so tight that you have trouble getting the neck in and out.

Now I’m happy with the neck pocket I mark on the body exactly where the neck heel should lie. I can then use the centre-line and this mark to mount the neck pocket template to the body.

Then it is a simple matter of routing the pocket to depth (17mm in this case) and then checking the fit.

Last job for the day was to cut the binding channel in the body and headstock. I removed the bearing from my 12mm laminate trimmer and replaced it with a 9mm bearing from another cutter. This will cut a channel 1.5mm deep. I set the depth and tested on numerous pieces of scrap until I was totally happy. Then it was a simple matter of running it round the top edge of the body.

The headstock was more problematic because the narrowness means that it is difficult to keep the router’s baseplate flat against the surface. With care and patience I was able to complete the cut, but I didn’t go too close to the ends, preferring to finish these with a chisel.

There are only a woodworking jobs left now. I need to drill the hole for the jack socket, rout the control cavity and make a cover, rout for the pickups and drill the wire runs. I’ll glue the binding and trim the ends before gluing the neck into place. All that will then remain is carving the heel and sanding it ready for finish.

Preparing the Jazzmaster neck

Today I got all the parts ordered.

I managed to find some 7mm x 1.5mm black plastic binding at

The strap buttons, 500k pots, an on/on/on toggle switch, and two knurled chome knobs with a black pearl top inlay, from

Lastly I called up Joel at Shanghai Guitars and ordered the pair of chrome Filtertrons. Joel is a top bloke and we spoke for about 45 mins – covering subjects as diverse as Airline/Eastwood guitars, the geography of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, how weird Canadians are (in a good way) and the guitar shops of Frankfurt.

The proper work has continued. Today it has been all about the neck. First I drilled the headstock holes out to 9mm. This picture shows the rather nice curl on the maple that was hidden under the black lacquer.

I used a Stanley knife to cut grooves into a piece of 9mm dowel. This is because it is a fairly tight fit into the holes in the headstock and I want to make sure the glue doesn’t all get squeezed out. I trimmed them into six lengths and chamfered one end.

I tapped them in with a soft-faced mallet.

After allowing them to dry I trimmed the excess and sanded them flush.

Using the table saw I cut two thin strips of sapele veneer from one of the body offcuts. I cleaned up the centre edges with a Stanley knife, stuck them together with Sellotape…

…and then glued and clamped them to the headstock.

After the clamps came off I trimmed the headstock to shape on the bandsaw and sanded the edges smooth.

The next job was to drill the new holes for the tuners. I marked up the headstock and drilled a 2mm pilot hole for each right through. Then, from the front, I drilled an 8mm hole 6mm deep for the tuner ferrule. From the back I drilled a 6mm hole right through for the tuner post.

I mounted the tuners to test the position. Here it is from the back…

…and from the front.

Here are the neck and body together, showing the matching body and headstock.

Minibass: Carving the neck and stringing it up

Carving the neck, first with a rasp…

…and then with a spokeshave.

Last night I strung it up (E and G strings) and adjusted the bridge until the intonation was correct. Here are the marks.

I glued the bridge into position and then glued up and clamped in the neck too.

With the spindle sander in the drill I shaped the heel and upper reaches of the neck.

I used the radiused sanding block to shape the top edge of the bridge saddle and nut. First I covered the edge with pencil and then sanded until it was gone.

Then I strung it up to check everything aligned correctly, marked the position of the strings on the nut and saddle and filed the slots for them.

The last piece of woodworking required is to cut the control cavity and cover. I’ve been investigating ways of using a single template to cut both, to guarantee that they match exactly. I finally tracked down the approach, which involves using the 5mm cutter, a 17mm collar and a 27mm collar. I had everything except the 27mm collar so while I’m waiting for that to arrive there’s not much else to do. I’ll write up the details of how I propose to use the two collars and one cutter when I get the chance.