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Body Wings

Here are two pieces of Honduras mahogany with bubinga strips glued to them and matched to the edge. These will be the body wings, with the bubinga strips in contact with the neck. The wings are much thicker than they need to be, and have to be planed down to about half their thickness. Yes, I feel guilty about wasting this beautiful wood. I purchased the mahogany from Exotic Woods Co., and they sell body blanks in standard sizes. The extra thickness afforded me flexibility in designing the guitar. I find it helpful to have as many of the materials on hand as possible because they help guide the design.

The picture on the left shows a block of pine being glued to each end of the body wings. This will prevent snipe from ruining the mahogany and bubinga boards. Snipe occurs when you send a board through a planer. The planer has two rollers and a cutting cylindrical blade between the rollers. The board is grabbed by the first roller, and is usually pitched up into the machine a bit. By the time the board is grabbed by the second roller, it is now flat, and held down by both rollers. On exit, the board once again is pitched up into the machine because only one roller is holding it. The result is that the first and last sections of the board have deeper cuts than the middle section. The conventional solution is to buy board longer than you need so that the sniped areas can be avoided. However, the mahogany and bubinga boards are very close to the final lenght that I want them. The pine blocks will suffer the snipe and allow the body wings to be planed evenly. They also provide useful clamping areas when routing out the body shape.

After the boards have been planed, the two large flat faces of each board are parallel, but the long edges are no longer perfectly perpendicular to them. To illustrate how this might occur, picture a wheel of cheese. Cut out a triangular wedge of cheese, then chop the rounded bottom and pointed tip flat so that these chops are parallel. Now send this piece into the planer. In order to start planing this piece, you have to adjust the height of the planer opening so that it isn't so high that no wood is removed, and isn't so low that the cheese can't enter the planer. After several passes through the planer, you have a flat piece of cheese with edges that aren't perpendicular to the large flat surfaces. This is an extreme example, but the same process results in untrue surfaces when planing boards that aren't perfectly square to begin with. The picture on the left shows how I made these edges perpendicular. I used an edge from a piece of MDF to guide the router, and cut a very thin region of bubinga so that the edge is now perpendicular. The picture on the right shows how useful the pine blocks are for clamping. The MDF bodywing template is carpet taped in place, ready for routing out the body wing.

Several passes were made with the router. You can see how important it is to get the edges of the template perfect. The router bit follows the edge virtually perfectly, and any imperfections in the template are reproduced in the wood.

The upper body wing is finally freed from the board. This is the fun part, when you get to see the results of all of your careful work and planning.

A channel was routed out in the side of the bubinga strip of the bottom body wing. This channel will be revealed when the pickup holes are routed, and will provide a convenient route for the pickup wires to travel to the electronics cavity. Without this channel, drill holes must be made to connect the pickups to the electronics. Drilling is far more difficult due to the fact that you're blindly drilling at an angle toward the electronics cavity, and you have to use a 12" long aircraft bit which will wobble unless you have a top-of-the-line hand drill. The cavity was plotted in pencil, then laid out with a chisel and mallet. The rout was made using a straight-edge guide.

The body wings were glued. Small brads were hammered into strategic parts of the neck, then snipped off with a wire cutter. This produced a very sharp barb that holds the body wing during glueing. Without the brads, gluing the body wings would be nearly impossible because the glue makes them very slippery. Waste pieces from routing out the body wings are very usefull for applying even pressure when gluing up.