In the August issue, we introduced you to Ceil Thompson, a high-school intern in my shop who’s building a guitar from scratch for her senior project. She finished the neck and body, and now, after squeezing time in-between her other summer job, she’s close to finished.
1) With the body together and close to final sanding, Ceil made a pickguard from quartersawn sycamore with a beautiful lacewood-like grain (the wood is from a 220-year-old sycamore tree that was downed to make way for my shop). She started by making a routing template from laminated hardboard.
2) After choosing a piece, she laid self-stick Mylar on the body, then traced the routed areas and two holes for the bridge as a map for taping down the control plates to their mounting holes.
3) Using a band saw, she gave the pickguard a rough oversize shape, leaving room for the template and router to create perfect edges.
4) With the pickguard on its way, Ceil installed StewMac’s #152 medium width frets (which measure .092″ wide by .048″ tall) using the Jaws fret press up to the body, then switched to a fret hammer for the remainder.
5) Excited with her progress, Ceil mounted the tuners and Mastery bridge/tailpiece so she could strum the guitar. Pleased with the way it played, she removed the parts and did final wood prep for finishing.
6) Once prep was done, she masked the neck and body, which will be different colors.
7) With the neck masked, she filled the pores with a green paste filler. After letting the filler dry for a couple days, she mixed a green alcohol-based stain and wiped it on the body.
8) With the fretboard and edges of the peghead still masked, she stained the peghead overlay black and sealed it with a coat of rattle-can clear lacquer.
9) The peghead overlay is from the same swamp ash as the body; even stained and lacquered, you can see the grain of the wood.
10) After filling the mahogany grain with brown paste filler, she put the body in a garbage bag, masked off the neck joint, fretboard, and fretboard edges, then sprayed an alcohol-based brown walnut stain on the neck, being careful not to get any on the bocote fretboard.
11) After removing the masking tape except for the fretboard and its edges, Ceil began spraying lacquer. Over several days, she did eight coats, with level sanding after the first four.
12) The guitar is looking awesome. Next time, we’ll show you the finished instrument, how she adjusted the action, and started playing it in her band, The Counterfeit Painters.
Dan Erlewine has been repairing guitars for more than 50 years. He is the author of three books, dozens of magazine articles, and has produced instructional videotapes and DVDs on guitar repair. From 1986 through his retirement in late 2019, Erlewine was part of the R&D team for Stewart-MacDonald’s Guitar Shop Supply; today he remains involved with the company, offering advice to the department and shooting video for the company’s website and social media. This column has appeared in VG since March, 2004. You can contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in VG’s November 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.