Strat/Tele hybrid completed with 30 mins to spare

In the space of 167.5 hours I have been able to transform this…

…and this…

…into this.

I’m not overly enamoured with the white pickguard and hardware but I’m going to leave it on for a week or two and see if it grows on me. I do really think that a black/white/black pickguard with black pickup covers, knobs and tips will suit the natural finish of the sapele much better.

Of course the pickups are still as crap as when they came out of the Tanglewood so I’ll be shopping for some replacements.

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Results of the first day of applying Danish Oil to Strat/Tele

After the first day of applying the Danish oil it is starting to build a nice depth, and has really started to bring out the beauty of the sapele.

I’m delighted with the results so far and I’m really pleased to be still on target for getting some strings on by close of play Tuesday.

Strat/Tele: Carving the heel and applying the finish

It feels like I’m into the finishing straight now (pun intended). This morning I removed the clamps from the neck and set to with the rasps to carve the heel shape.

Once I’m happy with the shape I start the hard work of sanding to remove any gouge marks and then working up through the grades to 220 grit paper. Here she is ready for the next stage.

Now I raise the grain. I lightly dampen the body and allow it to dry, this distorts the ends of the ripped and torn wood fibres, making them stand up. The body actually feels furry. I remove these burrs with a very light sanding, wipe down with a damp rag and allow to dry.

And now we’re ready for the Danish oil to go on. To make sure the first coats penetrate as deeply as possible, I put the guitar in a warm room for an hour or two, and then place the can of Danish oil in a tub of hot water – hot enough that I could just about hold my hand in there for 5-10 secs. Working quickly I apply a liberal coating of the oil to the guitar, going back over any areas where it soaks in, until the surface of the guitar is glossy. I then take a lint free rag and wipe away any excess. I give that an hour to dry and soak in and then repeat the process.

Here it is after the first coat.

After the second heavy coat, I then switch to applying lighter coats every two hours. I’ll leave it overnight and then tomorrow morning the first application will be done using 600 grit wet & dry paper. This smooths out and remaining imperfections. Again it’ll get light coats at 2 hour intervals through the day. I’ll leave it to dry over Monday night and through until late afternoon on Tuesday. At this point it should be ready for putting the hardware on and stringing it up.

Getting the Strat/Tele ready for finish

I had lots of small tasks left to do today, to get everything ready for the Danish oil to go on tomorrow.

First off I slathered the neck in Nitromors paint remover, to get rid of the old finish.

While that was working I set about drilling pilot holes for all of the components and then sanding the body working up through the grades from 120 to 220. I then cleaned off the neck, allowed it to dry and sanded that smooth.

As on several of my previous builds this one is going to get a set/glued neck joint. I know it is far from traditional for a Fender-style guitar, but I really like being able to carve the heel into something more comfortable.

I apply the glue and lightly clamp it. Because this is a one time deal I pay particular attention to getting the alignment exact. I was too busy to take pictures but the approach I use is to attach the bridge and run cotton threads over the nut and down to the low and high E saddles to check everything lines up. Whilst the neck is lightly clamped I can make final adjustment and then, once I am happy, clamp it down tight.

Once the guitar neck is set aside I finish up on a couple of final jobs I wanted to do. As I was falling asleep last night I had the idea that perhaps I should stain the sapele, so I sanded down an offcut and applied test patches of aniline dyes. I quickly decided that I didn’t like any of them, so this one is going to remain a natural colour. One of my future projects is going to be an SG style guitar and I think that the orange on the left will go well with the gold hardware I have lined up for it.

I then tidied up the pickguard which I had roughly trimmed on the bandsaw yesterday. A combination of a cabinet scraper and 400 grit paper on a sanding block soon had the edge smooth and bevelled.

The first job tomorrow will be to carve the neck heel and then give it a final sanding all over before the first few coats of Danish Oil.

More work on the Strat/Tele body

I’m delighted with the progress made today. I started out by transferring the pickup, control and bridge routs from the old body to a piece of MDF, using the bottom bearing router bit.

I had hoped to use the neck rout shape from the old body but, if you look at the picture above, it was badly misshapen so I decided to do my own. I clamped the neck to a piece of MDF, and then replicated the shape of the neck heel using scraps of MDF. What I’m doing here is making a temporary template to accurately cut a final template.

I flipped it over, ran round it with the bottom bearing router bit and then tested the fit against the neck heel.

I switched to the top bearing router bit and cut out the neck pocket to the same depth as the old body.

I stuck the pickup, control and bridge rout template to the sapele blank and clamped it to my bench.

I routed this to 17mm deep and then removed the template.

The cavity for the controls needs to be a little deeper so a stuck down a straight edge for the back of the router plate to run against and then carried on (still with the top-bearing bit).

Thankfully my router and bit can just go to 30mm deep which exactly what is required.

The bridge rout needs to go right through the body so I drilled a 10mm hole right through, switched to the bottom bearing bit, flipped the body over and finished from the other side.

The rout for the vibrato springs, was transferred from the old body using the same approach I described above. I was able to align the template using the centre-line and the hole through from the front.

I used a 1/2″ roundover bit to give both front and back a Strat-esque body edge. Early Telecasters has a 1/8″ roundover which softened to 1/4″ in later years.

Then it was time to break out the rasps and break into a sweat, carving the forearm bevel, and belly cut.

A quick pass with 40 grit paper to remove the worst of the gouges left by the rasp and I’m ready to pop in the hardware to see how it is looking. You’ll notice that I’ve roughly trimmed the pickguard to a new shape (the Strat and Tele have different bottom horn shapes) and also I’ve slightly remodelled the shape of the headstock.

And that’s it for today. The forecast tells me we’re going to have fine weather tomorrow so I’m hoping to get the body and neck prepped ready for finishing, the pickguard edge finished and the neck joint glued up. That’ll allow me to start applying the finish on Sunday, which is great because it looks like it is going to be raining all day.

Routing the Strat/Tele’s body shape

I managed to get a fair bit done today before the rain showers arrived. First I needed to carry on planing the body to the correct thickness. I was starting out at 49mm and wanted to get that down to just under 40mm. This is the minimum thickness required to clear the Strat style bridge block. The sapele I’ve got is particularly dense so I’m looking to relieve as much weight as possible. Here is my planing rig and a picture of the body after a couple of quick “swipes”.

After two passes on each side of the blank I’m down to 39.5mm

I lightly sanded the surface of the blank to make sure it was smooth and clean enough to take the double sided tape I use to attach the template.

Using the top-bearing router bit, I follow the template round, removing no more than a couple of millimeters of material on each pass. It is tedious but is a lot easier than trying to sand-out or cover up any tear-outs.

For the final cut I flip the body over and use a bottom bearing router bit.

And here’s what is starting to look like a Telecaster body.

Note the different colour stripe, caused by the bottom-bearing router bit rotating in the opposite direction. I really like this effect but unfortunately it won’t survive the final sanding.

I’ve got the Tanglewood dismantled, so the next job is to use the old body to make myself templates for the neck pocket and bridge rout. I know that these are exactly right (in terms of the distances between them) so I’m aiming to transfer them directly to MDF and thence onto the sapele blank.