Welcome to part two of the Trees to Telecaster guitar build. To give a quick recap of the previous episode in this series, the first phase of this project was harvesting the raw materials for this guitar directly from nature. The black walnut, white oak, cherry, and maple that this guitar is made from came from storm-damaged and dead standing trees which I helped cut down and then milled into workable slabs with my Granberg chainsaw mill. After the wood was good and dry, I proceeded to cut it into workable sections, and after experimenting with a variety of build designs, I eventually decided to make the guitar from a combination of all four woods.
To pick up where we left off from part one, for the back of the guitar I used larger sections of wood as you can see in the picture below, with a big chunk of black walnut in the middle. Walnut is very hard, and I wanted that to be the backbone of the guitar, as this is where the neck would be attached. For the top of the guitar, I cut small, cross-cut sections of wood that would really showcase the beautiful wood grain and glued them all together in two halves. But first, I glued the larger sections of wood together for the back of the guitar.
After it was all glued together, I leveled out the back section with my power planer and router sled. By the way, if you’d like to learn how to build and use a router sled, check out this video.
After getting the back section as level as I could with the routing sled, I then worked it over on a sanding table. This is a great technique that I learned from my good buddy John Pecoraro. What it is is a piece of granite countertop which you can attach several sheets of sandpaper to with painters tape and adhesive spray, so you have a very large, hard, perfectly flat level surface to sand on, which works fantastic for sanding large pieces of wood such as a guitar body in order to get them as flat and level as possible.
When the back section was all leveled and sanded, it was time to work on the top section. Again, I glued the wood strips together for the top in two halves which made it easier to work. So I sanded each half nice and flat with my sanding table and then glued the top and bottom sections together with lots of clamps and some heavy weights to make sure nothing would slip or slide around while drying.
Next it was time to cut out the body. I traced out the shape using a template I purchased, cut it out roughly with a bandsaw, and then leveled it with a large planning bit on a routing table. This is another task that you could use a router sled for, but I decided to use my dad’s old Shopsmith machine for this task instead.
This is where things went terribly wrong! After I cut out the guitar body, I realized that I cut it out as a left-handed guitar, and since I’m right-handed, it was a disastrous mistake! After calming down from an insane fit of rage and frustration, I decided to simply modify the design and make this a double-cutaway telecaster, which I kind of like better anyway, so it all worked out fine in the end.
After sanding the body down a little more on the sanding table, it was then time for the most critical, exacting step of all: routing the neck pocket. The neck pocket has to be a perfect fit and routed to exactly 16mm deep. If anything goes seriously wrong with this procedure, you might as well chuck the whole thing in the fire pit and start over. So, before I did this step, I asked for some Divine intervention and said a little prayer and also asked good ol’ St. Joseph the carpenter to pray for me as well. The Lord must have heard my prayer because it all went perfectly! So with that major step out of the way, it was now time to rout out the rest of the body.
With all of the routing work, I first used a forstner bit to remove as much wood from the cavity areas as I could, and then used my router to carefully finish and shape each section. After the routing, I had a few areas to repair, due to getting in a hurry, so I make some wood filler with wood glue and the sawdust of each species of wood that I used and filled in the spots that I messed up.
Next, it was time to smooth out and shape the body, which I did with the old Shopsmith once again, using the disk and drum sander attachments. I then used the drill press for drilling the holes for the neck and hardware, as well as for the input jack, which was another never-wracking procedure!
After that, I sanded the body down with the sanding table, as well as by hand, working my down to 220 grit paper in order to get the body ready for finishing and final assembly, which is where we will pick up in the next episode. Check out the video below to see more.