Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 Build Part 7

Over Veteran's Day weekend, I started working on the fret-board.  I used digital calipers to measure out the distances between frets using the online scale available on the stewmac website.  I marked them with a razor blade, then used a cheap miter-box and pull saw to make cuts for the frets.

Next, because this is still a practice guitar and the fretboard is an unappealing oak color, I used some leftover chestnut stain to darken the board.  Then, I used a forstner bit to drill the holes for the inlay dots and laid those in with superglue.  Finally, I used 400-grit sandpaper on a home-made radius block to sand down the inlays flush to the board.
Next, I finished my fretwire bender (no pictures of that unfortunately.  If I remember, I'll post some) and bent the fret wire.  After cutting them to length, I superglued them in and hammered the frets in using just a simple, flat steel hammer.

Next, I used my Dremel with a cutter attachment to grind off the ends of the frets, and used a metal file to file them flush to the sides of the fretboard.
Now, against the standard Custom 24, I decided to go with a bound fretboard, as I think it just looks better.  But, when measuring it out, I realized the height of the binding (I ordered the one that was just under the height of the Les Paul-sized binding, as I planned on using the binding for both the fretboard and the body), would not allow for nibs.  Adapt and overcome... it's a practice guitar.  So, I melted binding pieces with acetone in an old pickle jar and glued the binding to the fretboard.  This is a very sticky, slow-curing process that I thought was almost more difficult than using faster-drying glue.
The board is really messy from spillover superglue from the frets and binding mess.  Hopefully, it will clean up easily when I detail the board and dress the frets.
Now, back to the body.  One thing I realized is I REALLY need small finger planes.  The hard maple top takes FOREVER to sand down to smooth out even minor divots and scratches from chisels.  The scoop area around the bottom horn was a nightmare and took hours of hand sanding using only my fingers and sandpaper.  Finally satisfied with the initial sanding, I started to cut the binding channel.
I used a rabbeting bit with a bearing that gave a cut slightly deeper than the binding.  Clearly MacGyvered my 'overhead' jig.
Now, anote about the binding and the acetone-melted glue.  It's awfully difficult to do well.  The horns, with both the curve and change in elevation from the scoops up to the neck-joint is exceedingly difficult... not only to cut (which I had to do by hand and have several mistakes to fill) but also to glue.  The binding takes forever to cure and stretched my masking tape mess that I used to hold it in place.  I tried to use a hair dryer to get the binding flexible with little success.  Without quick-drying glue, it is simply a bear to try to bend the binding to a new shape while the opposite force pulls just-glued pieces away from the body.  I had to redo the horn area on Monday after doing the whole binding job Saturday.  The one good thing about the acetone-based glue is that it matches the binding perfectly, allowing for the use of the 'glue' to fill small gaps from mistakes.  It's too early to tell how well it will turn out, but this was the most challenging part of the build yet.

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