(Another) LP Junior DC build

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I thought there can never be too many Les Paul DC Junior build threads, so here's another one! This may take a while as I've got some boring house projects to get done at the same time, but this should be a nice distraction.

So far, I've built a guitar from scratch at Crimson Guitars, and 2 bodies at home since using bought necks. This will be my first attempt at a scratch build without any help (wish me luck!). I'm planning on making this pretty close to vintage, my main divergence will be using a dual-action truss rod both because this is what we used at Crimson, and it reduces the amount that needs to be cut away at the headstock, giving a little more strength.

Previous builds:







Step one was obtaining some plans - all the ones I could find to buy seemed to be not quite right for some reason, but then I stumbled on these (LINK) which are ridiculously comprehensive. I was planning to buy templates online but the only comprehensive set I could find were going to cost me over £100 to get them from the USA. So, I had the plans printed at 1:1 scale at my local print shop, and proceeded to make templates from 9mm MDF.

I like to use a combination of a short router bit for the first cuts, then a longer one, so 9mm templates work well for me, and don't require as much sanding as thicker MDF. I've struggled with making templates before using a jigsaw, files and hand sanding but it was a breeze for this build using a combo of my cheapo Aldi router table (for the straight bits), a new band saw and a spindle sander. Having decent tools meant this only took a day and the edges are lovely and square.



So, I'm now waiting on lots of goodies to arrive, so I can start building proper.

Goodies in transit:
  • African mahogany body blank
  • African mahogany 1-piece neck blank
  • Indian rosewood slotted fingerboard (I'm not brave enough to slot myself yet)
  • Oil City Firewatch P90
  • Faber 'tone bar' bridge
  • 3-on a plate Kluson tuners
  • Dual action truss rod
Next update when the wood arrives from Guitars and Woods in Portugal.
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Comments

  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    edited June 30
    Great - will definitely be following your build. 

    Yes, a bandsaw and spindle sander make template making a breeze as I have also recently come to realise. 

    Really loving that 2nd pic - bit Starla like which is no bad thing IMHO.   Really nice looking guitar. 

    EDIT - I think its a good choice to go with the Faber compensated bridge.  I used Faber non-comp on both my Juniors for a more  traditional approach and tbh the intonation still drives me a bit nuts as I am a stickler for tuning. I'm planning to swap them both for compensated fabers or PRS bars. 
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Thanks Pete,

    I've already checked out your build thread, good to learn from how others have approached things. Hopefully I can come somewhere near the standard of your builds!
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19751
    I’m guessing that this ...

    davros said:



    ... was your Crimson build?

    Interesting shape.  I’ve long liked the Crimson semi-hollow LP-ish design.

    Looks like the course has properly inspired you to do more too - which makes it an excellent course to my mind!  
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Yes, that was the Crimson build, although it wasn't one of their shapes. I'd planned it all out and made templates before going, which saved me a bit of time and allowed me to make it a bit more complex than the standard builds.

    The course was great, but I was pretty happy with using the tools etc. beforehand. The main thing for me was building the neck. Hopefully I can translate what i did on the course without having a massive planer/thicknesser!
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19751
    edited June 30
    If your blanks are ready-to-go, then you shouldn't need a planer/thicknesser.  I only use mine when I'm prepping wood from raw planks, or (the thicknesser) when I'm messing around making extra bits, like today - usually because I've mucked something up

    [edit]
    davros said:
    I'd planned it all out and made templates before going, 
    Very nice!!!  Don't often see a new shape that works so well.
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    Nice design - makes my efforts seem shabby.    

    You can also get by without thicknesser / planers by making a router sled and hand finishing with planes or sanding if you have any machining marks left after routing.   Carefully set up, you can get very accurate thicknessing done this way.  1/4" fretboards from thicker rough stock are pretty straightforward to do. 
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19751
    I use one of these surfacing bits ...



    ... it's very effective.

    Wealden tools.
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    I made a router sled to thin down the body blank of my last build, 2 identical aluminium spirit levels for the sides and some aluminum L section for the slidey bit. Worked ok, but using a normal 1/2 inch router bit it was slow and needed quite a bit of sanding. Will check out the wealden bit, it looks very handy!
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 19751
    It's an excellent bit.

    It's accurate and will take 0.5mm off the face of a piece if needed, with ease.  I used it today to flatten a piece that was slightly twisted (so it rocked when I put it through the thicknesser and came out just as twisted, just thinner!).  Created one perfectly flat face by packing underneath the twist, flipped it over and flattened the other face.  Job done.

    Messy though ...
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  • RabsRabs Frets: 1970
    edited June 30 tFB Trader
    When I did my very first build, years ago now (2013 I think) I did it online (on the Gibson forum) and shared it with the whole world and recorded some of my progress.  I also only had the most basic of tools and I wanted to thin  a headstock veneer.. This is how I did it back then anyway.. It worked if not the most elegant way

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVUhHWab1h0
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    Wealden also do a 1" surface trim bit with curved edges to leave a very clean surface. It's excellent. 
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  • MattNovakMattNovak Frets: 615
    I love the shapes of the originals, they look really well made too. Best of British with the Junior build, looking forward to plenty of pics  
    www.theflyingacesband.com
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Unfortunately, the Bosch router I bought recently doesn't have a 1/2 inch collet, and neither does the one in my table router so the large diameter one above won't work, but looks like they have a smaller 1/4 inch one, so might give that a try
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 4248
    I use the 1/4” shaft Wealden flattening bit.
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    Wealden 1/4' shaft surface trim 1" bit - works a treat.      their code T2410

    https://www.wealdentool.com/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_Surface_Trim__3_Wing_250.html

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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Awesome, just need it to come back into stock now!!!
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    My wood has arrived!

    Kudos to Guitars and Woods in Portugal, it arrived quickly, well packaged and looks to be great quality, lightweight African mahogany. Prices aren't bad too.

    ...and so the build begins!


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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    Looks like nice stuff.  What finish are you planning ? 
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    edited July 5
    The body is almost done (I'll get some pics up shortly), but I made a booboo drilling from the pickup cavity to the control cavity. A combination of starting the hole too low, and using a 6mm instead of 5mm bit. Very lucky it didnt break through the top but would like some advice on how to fix it so i can redrill it properly.



    I was thinking of getting some 6mm mahogany/sapele dowel, hammering it in with some glue, then re-routing both ends, any better options?
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  • MattNovakMattNovak Frets: 615
    Glue a length of dowel into the hole, trim flush and redrill? 
    www.theflyingacesband.com
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    @PeteC Lucklily I was planning to finish it TV yellow nitro, so that should hide most errors!
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Progress update:

    Making the body was pretty straightforward, cutting out on my new bandsaw and using my aldi router table to cut to the template - I use a short 10mm template bit to start, then a 25mm template bit, finishing with a bottom bearing bit on the other side. Cavities were also pretty straightforward using a handheld router. I'm aiming for a '58 style roundover of 3/16" or 5mmish but i only have a 1/4" roundover bit, so backed it off a little and finessed with sanding.



    For the neck, so far I've cut the headstock angle, using a bandsaw, tidying up with a block plane and flattening with my trusty 120grit sandpaper spray glued to some quartz tile we ripped off the fireplace.
    The blank is not quite wide enough for the headstock, and one side isn't totally flat, so planning to go semi-Gibson and add just one wing. It'll be TV yellow, so I think unnoticable that it's not symmetrical.

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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    ...now waiting for the truss rod and 6mm router bit to arrive before continuing with the next. My truss rod package arrived from Northwest guitars, but judging by the small hole in the cardboard packaging and bag, it escaped en-route. So, there's a probably a random truss rod floating round a royal mail centre somewhere.
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    Bad luck ! 
    Good decision to go with the compensated bridge   I just swapped over a non comp for the Faber compensated and it’s made a real improvement to tuning and intonation.  Looks pretty good too.  
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    The wife picked up some 6mm hardwood dowel from hobbycraft, so the boob is fixed, just need to wait for the glue to dry and re-rout the cavity ledge and redrill the hole properly.

    Good call on the bridge, PeteC, that's exactly the same one I have.
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  • PeteCPeteC Frets: 179
    So please with it that I am going to buy another for the Idigbo junior.   It also cured the Tendency to sitar a bit in the e and b which I had put down to dodgy nut slots.   I like the vintage plain bar but I like using add chords with open g and b strings and it was driving me nuts having to retune for different keys.   
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  • sawyersawyer Frets: 575
    Love a Junior build! Looking good and your previous builds look fantastic. Bookmarked 
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    I've been pretty poor at updating this thread, but have been taking a few photos along the way, so here's a megaupdate.

    I had a bit of a wait at this point for the truss rod to arrive - the first package arrived with nothing inside, so had to wait for a replacement to be shipped. In the meantime I ordered a 6mm bit for the truss rod on the basis that the truss rod was 6mm wide. Turns out i should have get a 1/4 inch bit as it was a little over 6mm, but a couple of very close passes gave me the right width slot. The truss rod end was a little oversize, so i bought a really ball-nose cutter from e-bay to enlarge the recess without taking too much wood away. Turns out it was blunt, so didn't do the tidiest job, but that will all be hidden.


    Next I used a bandsaw to cut the back profile, using the blank on it's side. This gave me the approximate heel profile, neck carve thickness and headstock thickness. I included a volute because other than vintage accuracy I don't see any good reason not to with a 1-piece neck and 17 degree headstock angle.

    Then I cut the sides and headstock approximately to shape on the bandsaw. The blank wan't quite wide enough for the full headstock, so I planned to add just 1 'ear'. I used an offcut from the neck and glued that on at this stage, using the already flat faces from the blank to get a good joint.

    After the glue was dry, I re-cut the headstock shape and brought down the thickness with a block plane.

    I don't have any pictures of the next part, but I attached the neck template and used a table router to bring that to the correct shape, fretboard side down on the table to get a good vertical surface. The neck to headstock curves were shaped using the neck template (like Gibson do). I then attached a headstock template and *very carefully* to avoid tearout shaped the headstock with the headstock face down on the table router.
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Next to the fretboard. This is an Indian rosewood pre-slotted fretboard at 24.625" scale from Guitars and woods. It was a little thick, so I first stuck it down to a flat table, with 2 strips of 9mm thick MDF stuck either side, and used a router to thickness it down to just over 6mm. This will save a lot of sanding with the radius block later.

    I found the fret slots were not quite square with either side of the fretboard, so marked a centerline perpendicular with the fret slots.

    Next, I drilled positioned the fretboard on the neck and drilled 2 2mm holes for registration pins to locate the fretboard when gluing. One in the 1st fret, one around the 17th fret. I use some short pieces of side dot inlay plastic as pins. They're accurate dimensionally, and easy to cut if they stick up into the fret slot, although I made them short enough to not.

    Popped in the truss rod with a couple of tiny blobs of silicone at each end. There was nothing to stop the fretboard sliding up toward the headstock-end, so this held it in place and should prevent any rattle.

    Then, I could glue on the fretboard using a couple of cauls and as many clamps as I could find.


    When dry, I used a bandsaw to trim down the edges of the fretboard, then used the table router with an end-bearing bit to trim down flush with the neck.

    Next onto carving the neck. I took the profiles for the 1st and 17th frets, and drew on:
    • Vertical lines at the sides
    • Horizontal line at the bottom
    • 2 45-degree lines to intersect the side of the profile using my trusty school set square
    From this, I got measurements for the distance of the 45-degree facets from the neck/fretboard join (6mm in this case) and the width of the flat bottom facet (27mm in this case). The measurements for the 17th fret were different and if you had an asymmetric profile, they wouldn't be equal on both sides.


    Onto the neck, I marked the 1st and 17th fret thickness on both sides of the neck and joined them with straight lines. I used a saw rasp to carve the back of the neck to the correct thickness.

    Then I translated the measurements for the 45-degree facets to the neck at the 1st and 17th frets and joined them with straight lines. Again using the saw rasp, I carved in these 2 facets to give the approximate neck profile. Some people then bisect the 45 degree facets with 4 22.5 degree facets. I didn't bother - from here I rounded off all the corners until the profile was smooth and matched the plans. Plenty of tidying with some long 120 grit sandpaper strips shoe-shine style followed.

    The picture below shows my 'carving station'. Just clamped a piece of 2x4 to the workbench, and clamped the neck to that. It makes accessing both sides of the neck really easy.



    The neck and heel transitions were then carved carefully using a combination of an Iwasaki round carving file, a regular half-round file and 12-grit sandpaper.
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  • davrosdavros Frets: 99
    Next, I used a 12" radius block to sand the fretboard radius - first with 120 grit, then 240, then 320. This is slow and boring - took a good hour and a good reason for thicknessing the board first!

    Next, I drilled the fretboard dots and glued them in with superglue. Same with the side-dots. I levelled them down with a chainsaw sharpening file https://www.sam-turner.co.uk/products/stihl-flat-file-for-reworking-depth-gauge-150mm?fo_c=603&fo_k=ce4f7d88b146b203248224a4bef5d293&fo_s=gplauk&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9NXv94b86gIVzOvtCh1lbwfiEAQYBSABEgIzXfD_BwE which I superglued to some scrap wood to give something to hold.

    Next, I cut and hammered in the frets (Jescar FW45100, supposedly what Gibson use in the Custom Shop). Used the chainsaw file to tidy and bevel the ends, then wicked in a little superglue at the ends to keep them from lifting in the future and fill the bottom of the slots at the edge of the fretboard.

    Using a block plane, I flattened the neck heel (with approx 3 degree angle cut in), leaving a couple of mm to refine the neck angle.

    Next to aligning the neck and routing the pocket. I use a couple of pieces of right angle aluminium along the sides of the neck, and move the neck around until its in the right position and the aluminium is equidistant from the centreline.


    Once it's all good, I clamp the neck down and stick 2 straight pieces of MDF to the body tight to the sides of the neck, and another one tight to the end. This is my neck pocket template, and always ensures a really good fit. I route the pocket with a hand router and then test-fit the neck.


    Now, I place the bridge in it's approximate position, on a little bit of scrap pickguard material and use a long straightedge to see how the neck angle looks. Using some trial and error and a block plane, I carve the neck heel so the neck where the fretboard ends is flush with the body, and the strings are the correct height over the bridge. I also checked that there is sufficient clearance over the dogear pickup as that's not height adjustable.

    Once I'm happy, the neck is glued, clamped and left for 24-hours.

    This leaves a small amount of the neck sticking up out of the body. Adding some 9mm MDF, I just used a router to skim it down level.


    And we're here:

    I even impressed myself at how clean a joint this is!
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