making the body

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The body for this guitar is hollow, not unlike that of a Rickenbacker. As a consequence there are extra stages involved in manufacture. these are highlighted.

The body blank is cut to square, and centre lines are marked both length and width ways around all sides. These can be referenced to the full-sized drawings/photocopies to enable easy and accurate positioning of templates.

The following stages are specific to a hollow body:

Any tone chambers in the body can be routed while the timber blank is still square, as this allows accurate positioning of templates, as well as providing a large area on which to place double-sided tape. (In this case a template was made from 12mm plywood. The photocopies were spray mounted onto the ply, and the appropriate areas cut out with the bandsaw). The templates are fixed with double-sided tape, and the body clamped on to a bench or placed on a router mat. A template-following router bit is used and the cavities progressively routed out. This is a spectacularly messy job, and a dust mask is essential. If cautious, the tone chambers can be deepened over several days to allow the wood to adjust and dry out, to prevent it warping. Great care should be taken with the sides and the last cut to minimise clean-up. Any area which will be seen through the sound hole can be stained black.

The halves of the top should ideally be cut and thicknessed immediately before use to prevent warping, and stored beneath weights. For this example they were joined down the centre of the top, enabling the pick-up cavity and control runs to be cut in easily before joining. These areas are carefully marked, bandsawn and cleaned up.

The template for the sound hole is made from 10mm ply, the photocopy being enlarged to allow for the extra width of the template following ring on the laminate trimmer. The shape of the pick-up cavity is used as a datum to line the template up. This is secured using double-sided tape, and the hole cut with a 5mm cutter. Clean-up is a simple job with a file, glasspaper and steel wool.

The two halves of the top are then joined having first used de-headed pins (see attaching the fingerboard), pushing them together on a melamine tabletop to ensure accurate lining up. Three sash cramps are pre-prepared, one used on the top to prevent “pop up”.

Gluing the top onto the body is entertaining. Once again pins are knocked into diagonally opposite corners and de-headed, then the top aligned and pressed into place. Protective scrap blocks should be used and the clamps all set to size beforehand. The clamps should be positioned and tightened until glue squeeze-out is seen all the way round the edges. These can be left to harden as they will be removed when cutting the body shape. Working quickly, together with cramp overkill results is a superb, neat joint, which after sanding is virtually invisible.

From this point on construction is similar to that of a conventional solid-body.

After drying the centrelines are marked on the top of the body and the body shape marked on, or a photocopy of the body glued on. The bandsaw is used to cut out close to the line (minimise clean up where possible), leaving some extra wood around the neck mortise area to be trimmed back after routing. The sound hole and control cavities can be stuffed with tissue and masked off to keep them dust free. It is always pleasing to see the body shape in 3D for the first time!

The template for the neck mortise is cut from plywood. A centreline is marked, then the neck tenon itself is drawn around so that the mortise is the exact same size. The farther the template stretches down the length of the body the more accurate alignment will be. It can then be double-sided taped in place, the body being held on a router mat. The template following cutter is used, taking the joint down to depth in stages. After removal of the template the corners are neatened with a chisel and the neck trial fitted into its new, (hopefully) snug home!

To drill the holes for the neck screws their positions should be marked on the inside of the neck pocket, then drilled through with the pillar drill (this prevents the wood splitting which it would if drilled from the back). The neck and body are then g-clamped together, the neck alignment is tested for squareness against the centreline, and the screws wound/tapped in so that they mark their own positions on the neck. The holes in the body are drilled to the overall diameter of the screws, those in the neck being drilled to the core diameter of the screws so that they cut their own thread and pull the body into place. The neck can then be trial fitted to the body and the basic woodwork is now essentially complete.

Having mounted the neck the position of the bridge can be determined marking the scale length to the saddle of the top E on the bridge (the shortest string, requiring no compensation). Using a metre rule for this, it can also be used to trace the path of the outside strings from the nut (3mm in from each edge) to the bridge saddles to allow lateral positioning of the bridge, which will hopefully fall on or close to the centreline. Any holes for the bridge can then be marked and drilled.


Using the same technique as described above for the soundhole, templates can be made (or bought from StewMac in the case of the pickups) for the other cavities in the body. These can be fixed with double sided tape onto the body and the cavities routed with a template following cutter. Pickups can be routed to a depth of 25mm. Control cavities routed from the rear should finish approximately 5mm from the front face to allow switches/pots to be screwed in place. Holes for these should be pre-drilled before routing to avoid the thin top splitting.

The shape of the body is tidied up with the bench sander and files. A rounding-off/bullnose bit can be used to radius the edges before finish sanding.


We are now ready for fitting out and application of the chosen surface finish.