Lil ’58 Pro Build Update
Work on the Lil ’58 Pro has been progressing of late so I thought i’d take the chance to show how the build has developed since the gluing up of the body blank.
Rough cutting the Lil 58 body shape on the bandsaw.
With the Lil 58 body blank glued up last time, the serious machining starts. Initially the body is rough cut on the bandsaw. The body is then cut to its final shape and the pickup cavities etc are machined with the router. This guitar will bound in ivoroid so a binding channel is also cut using the router and a bearing guided rebate cutter. When I no longer need the top surface of the body for a reference the carving begins.
The top is carved in stages, initially its roughed out with a purpose self-built computer controlled router before being fine carved and finished with thumb planes, a disc sander and scrapers. The initial carve is smoothed out and a recurve (sweep up to the edge of the body) carved with the disc sander and thumb plane. This gives a more natural sweep to the finished surface.
Carving a recurve with a disc sander for a more organic feel and look.
With the carving near completion the binding is prepared for installation. The binding is cut by the supplier using a saw and the edges are often a little rough. I smooth the bottom edge out with a block and some abrasive paper. It may seem pointless to some but it really does leave a cleaner edge if the timber receiving the binding is going to be left natural.
Using a block and abrasive to smooth the bottom edge of the binding.
To get the binding round the tight curves of the horn I warm the ivoroid with a hair dryer, not too hot though as its pretty flamable! I tape the binding round an mdf pattern and warm it to get the initial curves in the right place.
Using a body pattern and hair dryer to set the initial bend in the ivoroid.
When the binding fits the body closely it is glued in place. Binding tape is used to secure the ivoroid as I work my way around the body. Its then set aside to dry before being scraped.
Gluing the binding around the Lil 58 body.
With the binding in place the final carve, scraping and sanding begins. The horns on the Lil 58 are quite tight so these are carved using thumb planes of various sizes, the smallest being about 1/2″ long! The binding acts a level/depth gauge to work to as the carve is sculpted.
Using a thumb plane to sculpt the top horn carve.
The top is then sanded from a reasonably coarse 100 grit through to 240. The coarse grit helps to soften the transition between curves and give the carve its final form. The horn and waiste areas are hand sanded but the larger tail area is sanded using a random orbital. Notice the channel for the pickup wires that was routed before the body halves were glued.
Using the orbital sander to blend curves and smooth the finish carve.
The final areas to be carved are around the neck joint area, these will be finished when the neck is married to the body.
To allow the fitting of controls through the carved top the control cavity base is stepped. This leaves enough thickness in the top for strength but enough thinness for the fitting of the pots and switches, typically 4-5mm is enough.
The stepped control cavity of the Lil 58 carved top.
The rib or belly carve on the back is quite gentle on the carved top as the body edge is a bit thinner than on a standard Lil 58, here it is being finished off with a cabinet scraper.
Final scraping of the rib or belly carve on the back of the Lil 58 body.
This leaves the body pretty well complete until the neck is fitted, then final carving and finishing off can take place.
The completed Lil 58 top carving.
Next time I will be making and fitting the neck.