An xmas weeknotes

It being xmas this week there wasn’t much time spent in the workshop itself, but I did get some bits done. 

Just before xmas the replacement material to make the pick guard for The Clydesdale guitar turned up (two sheets, just in case), so I nipped into the workshop to have a go at cutting it again. Given I had all the g-code generated for the CNC router to make the pick guard I was going to just re-run it all, on the assumption that the CNC router had just glitched as was demonstrated on previous failures, but paranoia got the better of me and as a precaution I went back to the g-code for that path that failed and re-ran it on the machine with no material (running it “on air” as people like to say) just to convince myself it was a glitch (when the CNC router previously destroyed parts running the same g-code on air had just worked, strongly implying it was a glitch in the machine).

When you cut air on a CNC Router there isn’t much to look at :)

When you cut air on a CNC Router there isn’t much to look at :)

Turns out it was a good job I did this, as the machine did the same erroneous cut as before with this g-code! The g-code itself I’m convinced is valid (and others have reviewed it and said the same). In fact, when the CNC router makes the incorrect cut it is on the final layer of five (the material is 2.5mm thick and I cut it out in five passes, each just taking off 0.5mm), and it fails despite the fact that the exact same g-code is executed for each layer (I took apart the g-code file and compared the section for the failing layer with the one immediately above and it is byte-for-byte the same g-code).

I tried repeating the experiment multiple times, changing the feed speed of the CNC router, the origin offset, and even power cycling it on and off for a period of time, but this valid g-code file will fail 100% of the time.

This is both good and bad, for obvious reasons. Firstly it’s good, when something goes wrong it’s always good to be able to repeat the failure so you have a test case to show that you’ve fixed it. When in the past the machine has failed once and then never shown the error again it leaves you nervous as to when it will next strike. But the bad is that here there is no valid reason the machine should fail like this, so the machine is wrong, consistently. I suspect I can work around this, but it’s proved once and for all that the machine controller is wrong and needs replacing before I do any more expensive work on it.

Unfortunately all this meant I ran out of time to actually cut the scratch plate, so that’ll be this weeks top priority. I’ll regenerate the tool paths from Fusion and run them on air before trying to cut them on the CNC this time.

On the tool replacement front whilst the solutions I was looking at last week seem okay, I had a chat with one of the Makespace directors, and I’m mostly unconvinced any of them will work in the Makespace environment. Here we have a lot of new people come in who haven’t used kit like a CNC router before, and everything I tried just felt too flakey to be put to that purpose. Instead we’re going to investigate more embedded controllers again, such as the Masso CNC Controller.

That’s not to say people shouldn’t use Grbl and tools like Universal G-Code Sender, but just you need to understand what you’re doing with those tools more than you would with an embedded pendant solution like the one we have been using, where there is just less to go wrong, and less to reset when you get confused.

Whilst away from the shop I did sit down and try to get a couple of guitar neck designs done that I’d been meaning to do for a while: one simple and one complicated.

The first was working out how I’m going to make a neck with an angled headstock given the limited set of tools I have at my disposal. The new guitar design I’ve worked on for 2019 is based on a symmetric body design, so I really want to switch to a symmetric neck design, and I’ve gone for something that looks a little more like the Gibson/PRS style, compared to the inline headstocks I’ve been doing until now.

Screenshot 2018-12-31 at 14.01.45.png

Rather than make the neck from a single bit of wood, which would waste a lot of material, I want to make it using a single bit of wood that’s split at an angle and glued back together at the neck/headstock join, what’s called a scarf joint. In theory there’s many ways to do this, but all the obvious ones require tools I don’t currently have. For example, we have a band saw at Makespace, but it’s not that good quality wise - best for roughing up planks not getting precision cuts like I’d need for this joint. We also have a mitre saw jig, but it won’t go to as shallow an angle as I need here (10˚). 

Thus in the end I’ve come up with a slightly harebrained scheme that involves CNCing out the two parts of the neck, and then using a complicated set of jigs to glue them into position. 

Screenshot 2018-12-31 at 14.03.24.png

The positioning is key here, as there angles and shapes make it hard to align without some sort of jigs, and the obvious clamping surfaces are not straight on to the plane of the join, so there’s a risk that the two parts will slide apart once clamped, thus it all gets very complicated. I’ve sat on this problem for several months now, and I finally decided to just ask for help from a couple of more experienced wood workers I know, and they agree that my harebrained scheme probably is the best I can do with the tools at my disposal. Once The Clydesdale is done I’ll probably give this a go as a novelty. 

The other bit I did was playing with new inlay designs, just using my older neck design as a template for it. I do in part still want to replace the neck on The Blues Deluxe t-style so I can feel happy selling it on, as (as I’ve mentioned before here) the neck warped when glued and whilst at the time I managed to save it, I don’t think its up to the standard I’d expect today.

Anyway, I clearly was missing video games, as the design I came up with is a slight mashup based on game controller arrows to complement the chevrons on the strap that guitar has:

Screenshot 2018-12-31 at 14.05.46.png

I have to say, for what should have been a simple design, getting the arrow inlays to work in Fusion 360 was quite a pain. I had to specify lots of constraints so that when I copied and moved the design around the neck each time it’d stay in the right shape, and I could define a proper midpoint for positioning it between each pair of frets.

Do you want some constraints with your constraints?

Do you want some constraints with your constraints?

I’m sure there must be an easier way than what I did, but I couldn’t find one, and at least that got me there in the end. Not sure this is the final version of this look, but it’s nice not to have the same old circles for a change.

And that’s a wrap for 2018! I’ve started a year in review post, but for now let’s just say 2018 did not go the way I planned, but I learned a lot along the way. The trick will be turning that learning into momentum in 2019 and getting more guitars made, rather than just reeling from setbacks as I’ve done this last year. Good luck with whatever you’ve got planned for 2019!

A week in the shop

My aim this week was to get most of the basic bits of The Clydesdale finished, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and this the week turned into a lot of trying to work out how to swap the brain on the CNC Router before it crosses me again.

After the success of making a custom pick guard for the prototype offset build last week, my plan this week was to make the pick guard for The Clydesdale, and then I could set about mounting all the rest of the hardware, getting to a point before xmas where all the was left to do would be setup work. So on Monday I sat down at the CNC router and set it to work on pick guard for the Clydesdale. This one is slightly more complicated than the one for the prototype, due to the pickup mounts needed another diameter hole (meaning an extra tool change) and the slot for the three-way selector switch needing a smaller end mill: all in this pick guard required 6 tools rather than 4.


All was going well until it was doing the final pass on the outer contour when the machine decided once again it really didn’t like my design and it would be much better if it just cut the side off :(


I’m not a superstitious person, but I’m finding it hard not to agree with my friend Graeme that this machine knows when I’m working on this customer’s guitar: it’ll be okay when I do the prototype test pieces and then I sit down to work on The Clydesdale and then it decided to play up. The real pain here is that I didn’t have any more cream PVC material to cut another one, and it being the week before Christmas getting replacement was very slow. Although I immediately ordered replacement material, it didn’t arrive until Friday by which time I was getting ready to wrap up for xmas along with juggling some last minute contract work. Obviously this was hugely disappointing.

What do I think went wrong here? My current theory is that the controller being cheap means it’s struggling with floating point numbers occasionally. The g-code language used to describe what the CNC-router should do is full of floating point numbers, and computers always struggle with floating point numbers a little, as they can’t represent them perfectly. For example, you can sometimes get a computer to add 1.0 and 1.0 and it’ll give you 2.00000000001. A friend took a look at my g-code and observed on the g-code for my pick guard had the curved edges represented as a lot of very small lines rather than as a series of larger curves. If you have bug numbers than floating point inaccuracies in computers don’t matter much, but if you have lots of small numbers then these inaccuracies can start to cause real trouble, and it could just be bad luck that the controller (which we know isn’t built to the highest standards) just got its maths wrong at that point. 

I do have more material now, and I will try and get the pick guard cut again when I get back from xmas obligations, so I might yet get this guitar built before the year is out, but it’s going to be tight!

After all the other failures we had slowly been planing to replace the controller on the CNC router at Makespace. I hadn’t rushed this as my assumption was it was the more complex designs I do that were causing it to fail, but given the pick guard here was a relatively simple design I decided to refocus my week (given I was no longer fitting hardware to The Clydesdale) on moving that upgrade process forward.

Adrian, one of the Makespace directors, had built a test rig that let us try out new controllers and related software; in the summer we’d spent a day taking the CNC router apart and putting it back together only to find the replacement controller we had at that point didn’t work, so a test rig like this make finding a new controller much easier.


Adrian’s done a fantastic job with this rig: it features three axis motors and motor controllers, a bunch of physical switches for the various triggers that would be on the actual machine, and a display to show how fast the spindle would be driven. To top it all, he’s mounted it nicely up and labelled it all - a top job.

My task then is to figure out the software side of this. On the board currently is an Arduino running the popular hobbyist controller software Grbl. But Grbl only does half the controller job: it expects to be fed by some other g-code reading tool on a PC or similar device and then it will take commands from that and send them to the motor controllers etc. I tried a lot of bits of software, but the ones showing most promise are Universal G-Code Sender, and Easel by Instructables.

When assessing the software I wear two hats. Firstly, as a guitar builder I’m looking to see whether the software can cope with the complex designs that am generating these days with complex curved surfaces etc. Secondly, as someone who trains people on the CNC Router at Makespace I’m looking for a tool that is easy to get started with and will easily do the simple 2D shape cuts that most new members actually want to make. My research makes me think I can’t solve those two use cases with one bit of software, which is why now I’m looking at two different solutions. 

Easel is quite a nice bit of easy to use software if all you want to do is cut out some simple 2D shapes. It has a nice visualiser of what you’re going to cut, and when you go to machine it has a wizard that takes you step by step through getting everything ready. The only issue I’ve had this week is that although it acknowledges the z-probe on our test rig it doesn’t seem to want to use it, so I need to find a way to get that to work.

Screenshot 2018-12-24 at 12.26.51.png

Universal G-Code Sender has a much more complicated UI and relies on you knowing a lot more, but at the same time you can then do a lot more with the tool.

Screenshot 2018-12-19 at 18.42.00.png

Neither tool is perfect - and for all its faults the current controller we have for the CNC router has a robustness about it that I feel is missing from both these software solutions. If anyone has any recommendations for tools in this space they love please do let me know (Grbl based or otherwise).

That said, I’m getting to the point where I want to try these tools on the actual machine, but there’s still a couple of things I need to get comfortable before we tear the CNC Router apart again.

In unexciting workshop tasks I fixed my headphones in preparation for carrying on my guitar practice when we visit the in-laws for xmas week. As often is the case the wire had broken internally where it entered one of the ear pieces, but thankfully it has a 2 m cable on it, so I just cut it off and soldered a new connection on an unbroken bit of wire. 

Then, to try and give it better chance of surviving I replaced the old strain gauges with bits of orange Sugru; at least now I’ll be able to spot which headphones are mine in the workshop :)

The final act of luthiery before xmas was going to the pub with a couple of other local Luthiers: Matt from Fidelity Guitars and Jamie from Swannell Guitars. It was a nice evening and a reminder that I spent too much time head down in the workshop and not chatting to others to help keep me motivated. Something to work on in 2019!

A busy week in the shop

This week was fairly busy in the shop as I try wrap up two guitars, and had another one come back in briefly for a repair that turned into an upgrade.

The Clydesdale offset build has properly entered its assembly phase. This week I did the cavity EMF insulation, made a prototype pick guard, and finally fitted the neck to the body,.

All the guitars I build have their internal cavities lined with copper tape to provide protection from radio noise for the pickups and wiring. The end result looks stunning, but is never actually seen by the user, as it’s all hidden away inside - a hidden inner beauty. This stage took slightly longer than I expected due to running out of tape halfway through, but thanks to Amazon Prime was completed a day later.


Cavities lined, I then did a quick mockup of the pick guard in cardboard to ensure all the sizing was correct for both placement on the body and that the holes for the pickups are correct.


As I mentioned last week, I’ve not had much luck in the past making custom pick guards on the CNC router, but for this guitar what I have in mind really needs to be done that way, so before I made the one for The Clydesdale I wanted to try cutting another one as an experiment first for a different technique, which I’ll explain below.

Finally, I also mounted the neck to the body this week, taking what has been two parts for so long and making them into one. To simplify the CNC process at the start of a build I don’t cut the neck on both sides using the CNC router, just from the front, which means I have to make the holes for the neck screws by hand. It’s not a major imposition (people have to do this all the time when they buy a new neck for their guitar), but given I do use an initial CNC roughing pass this sees a bit silly, and something I’ll rectify in future builds to save time. Anyway, it took me an hour or so to make sure these were lined up perfectly and straight (at this point the fretboard is rounded remember, so ensuring everything lines up isn’t just a matter of whacking the neck on the drill press and going for it). 


This picture makes me very happy though. The end starts to be in sight!

I mentioned last week that I had finally set up the bridge for the Prototype Offset guitar such that it would stay in tune when you used the vibrato unit. This made me happy, but I decided I wasn’t that pleased with the pick guard I’d made for it previously. Earlier in the year my attempt to made a pick guard on the CNC router had gone a bit wrong: the PVC material they’re typically made from did not sit flat (but to being quite flexible) and thus my attempt to make countersunk holes for the mount screws was a disaster. As an alternative at the time I just made one out of a duo-tone acrylic I had using the laser cutter, but now I looked at the finished guitar it just looked not up to the standard of everything else. 


Thus, I decided now was time to try again, applying all the learning I’ve had on the CNC router since. The problem I faced is that if you make an angled cut on the CNC router, if the material isn’t perfectly flat then you’ll get different amounts of material removed depending on the height of the top of the material from the bed, so I need everything to be as flat as humanly possible before I start cutting.

The first thing I did before doing anything with the pick guard was to level the sacrificial bed on the CNC Router itself to make that perfectly flat again. It needed doing anyway (if you recall I last did it back in late July), and this was a motivator for me to finally get around to it. This time was much quicker, having upgraded the CNC router recently to take 1/2” shank bits we now have a 2” diameter facing off tool, rather than the 1” one I used before.

Once the bed was levelled I took my PVC material and attempted to make sure it was perfectly flat on the bed. Just screwing it in at the corners isn’t enough for a material this flexible, so I took two approaches to this. Firstly, I covered the underside of the PVC with double sided sticky tape, and stuck it to the bed, which gave me overall confidence that things would be flat. However, I didn’t quite trust the double sided tape to hold up to the CNC router’s tug alone, and so the second part of my strategy was I drilled the holes for the screws that would hold the pick guard on the guitar before I did any other cuts, and then I used those to screw the material to the CNC router bed just as I would on the guitar! These screws follow the chamfered edge and gave me as good a guarantee as I can get that this bit of the material will remain flat, and the screws themselves are small enough they’ll be clear of the cutters by a safe margin. As an added bonus, this also meant I didn’t need to use tabs when cutting the material out either, meaning no manual sanding tabs off after cutting.

Plan down, I assembled the bits I needed for the job, can went to work: a 2mm bit for the mount holes for the guard itself, 3.5mm drill bit for the pickup mounts, a 2.5 mm end mill for the contours, and a 30˚ V-cutter to chamfer the edges.


Here you can see the results of the first pass, the material is now properly anchored down by the same screws I’ll use to attach the guard to the guitar.


And the end result was this:


Note the bits inside the pickup holes haven’t come loose despite not being held with tabs: it turned out the double sided tape was quite effective, and the free bits did stay in place. I then had to take the guard off the bed, remove the protective film from the top which was now frayed at the edges, clear up the edges a little and peal off the tape (and wash off the remaining residue. Then it was a little work to swap the old pick guard for the new one, and the guitar now looks so much better!


I’m really pleased with how this has turned out, and also with the fact I’ve got custom pick guards licked after several failed attempts. This coming week I’ll attempt to repeat this success for The Clydesdale.

This guitar here though is now just waiting final setup before I list it for sale. If you fancy a hand built offset guitar, fitted with top quality components (House of Tone pickups, a Mastery Bridge, fitted hard case, etc.) , this get in touch. It’ll be going up on Reverb shortly I expect, priced at £1500 plus postage. 

The very first guitar I built for myself still sees regular usage (indeed last week went to Rotterdam with me), and I was sad to note that the volume pot was starting to fail this week: mostly it’d be fine, but occasionally you’d whack the volume to max and it’d cut out until you rolled it back off and up again. Thankfully it’s a simple enough fix to replace the pot, and was finally the excuse I needed to give this guitar a coil split option on its humbucker.


As I’ve probably mentioned before, a humbucker pickup (the silver rectangle just under the neck in the guitar above) is actually made from two pickup coils, rather than just one as you might expect (and is common for a lot of pickups). The idea is that the two pickup coils are wound in opposite directions, so that radio interference picked up on one is picked up as a negative on the other and when you combine the signal from the two it cancels out (and thus it eliminates the “hum” you get on single coil pickups, thus the name hum-bucker).

In addition to the noise being cancelled out, because you have two coils working together you get a stronger output from a humbucker compared to a regular pickup, which is good if you want heavy rock tones, but there are times when you’d like something less juicy from your guitar. One way to achieve that is to put in a coil split, where you electrically cut out one of the coils in a humbucker and just use it as a single pickup. You risk getting the hum back then (you can see why I do the copper lining above now), but you’ll get a second tone out of your one pickup; and the more tones you can get out of a single instrument the more versatile it is, which in my book is a good thing.

To achieve a coil split you generally need your humbucker pickup to have an extra pair of wires coming out of it already to support this, and the Gibson 490R pickup in my blue tele did indeed have wiring to support this. Thus, all I needed to do was add a switch to let me toggle that extra coil on or off. What’s this got to do with the volume control you ask? Well, the conventional way to add this switch is to have a volume knob that will pull out to switch the second coil out, and push in to return it to its rightful place - so now that I needed to replace the volume control it was time to make this change! I already had the right push/pull switching pot in stock, so all I had to do was remove the old one and install the new one.


You can see here the previous wiring, and the new pot beside it with the extra solder lugs on the bottom of it to let me do the switching. My soldering must be getting better, as doing the swap was a lot quicker than I remember it was putting this guitar together back in mid 2016 when I just got started. I’m really pleased with the results: the new tone on this guitar is still clearly related to the humbucker sound, but if I want to play something a bit more nuanced then I can, but I can still run it as originally intended when I want to crank up the noise. A simple mod that gives you a bunch of flexibility. 

If you’re in the Cambridge area and would like a mod like this for your guitar, do get in touch!

On the topic of circuits, it’s frustrated me that I don’t have a proper way to record existing circuits I’ve made for documentation purposes (like those in the guitar or in the amp I made) or a way to record new circuits that I come up with, so I finally sat down for a little bit and started trying to learn Autodesk Eagle. It’s early days, but I’m starting to get my head around it, despite it’s quite archaic interface. I used to work for Intel a long time ago, and back then hardware design tools always seemed to lag substantially behind other domains in terms of usability: it seems nothing much has changed in the decade and a bit that has passed since then.

Finally a little word of caution if, like me, you find yourself taking your Apple laptop into the workshop. I noticed that my laptop wasn’t charging properly at times, and that the magsafe power adapter wasn’t sitting in it’s socket quite right. I finally had a look at the socket, and it turns out it had picked up a bunch of iron shavings that had stuck to the magsafe port!


Getting them out of their wasn’t easy, as it turns out the magnet in the magsafe port is really quite strong, but once I fished them out the laptop worked a lot better :)

A week in Rotterdam

It was a very short week in the shop this week, as I was mostly in Rotterdam on semi-vacation, but I had two workshop-days in which to get things done, so I tried to make the most of them.

First up, I wrapped up the oiling of The Clydesdale offset. Last week I lamented about how the oiling of the fretboard had gone a bit Pete Tong, enough that I had to just sand it back and start again. Thankfully this time the oiling went better, though only because I kept a watchful eye on it. It was indeed the case that having pedantically wiped off any excess after doing a coat of oil on the fretboard, if I came back ten minutes later I found some oil had seeped out of the fret edge and the deeper grain lines in the wood, and I had to do another round of mopping up excess. After this second pass it seemed okay thankfully.


This let me get both the body and the neck finished before I went away, of this will have been curing in the mean time, so now I can go back and start the assembly this week. Before leaving for Rotterdam I ordered all the remaining parts for the guitar, so they should all have arrived by the start of the week. The only fabrication I need to do now is the cutting to the scratch plate, which I’ll touch on later in these notes.

Given The Clydesdale was at a slow stage where I can’t do much to it, I finally turned my attention back to The Prototype Offset. This guitar was “finished” a little while ago, but I had problems setting up the floating vibrato on it, I just couldn’t get it to stay in tune, and as such I felt I couldn’t ship it. I really should have dealt with this a while back, but with The Clydesdale being behind I wanted to focus on that first, and am only now getting around to it. There are unfortunately only so many hours in the day, and I can’t devote them all to guitars as I’d like.


I sat down for an afternoon with the guitar, armed with some spare strings, some spare bridge springs (some tighter and some loser), and some vaseline to let me make sure everything was moving properly, and I tried to work out what was what. The first thing to eliminate was whether there was an internal interference that was causing the bridge to get stuck or struggle. The problem with the dynamic vibrato design found on the Fender Mustang (similarly the one on the Jaguar and Jazzmasters) is that you can’t see what’s going on inside once mounted (c.f, the unit on a Strat where you could see what’s going on easily). To get around this I constructed a bridge mount made in MDF that was the same thickness as the cavity I’d made in this guitar, which let me check if there was any contact as I operated the vibrato.


This told me quickly that this wasn’t the case: despite being close to the sides, they don’t touch at all, and nothing protruded out the bottom either, which was a relief as it meant I didn’t have to take a router to the guitar to remove some more wood.

But then the question is what was I doing wrong? The short version of a long story, which I will blog as a separate tutorial, is that two things needed correcting. Firstly, I’d not realised that for this vibrato design to work correctly I needed the posts that sit between the strings and the springs to be perpendicular to the body surface when everything is at rest and in tune. Once I realised this, it was much easier to see the impact of tweaks to things like the height of the string mount point on these posts and similarly for the springs, as you could use the angle of the posts as an indicator as how well or badly it was set up.

The all highlighted the second issue, which was that the springs I had were too tight for the strings I was using (11s), and when in tune the bridge was far from it’s optimal position. Thus I swapped the springs for a lighter pair, and switched the strings back to a slightly lighter gauge, and now the guitar is much happier. It’s still not perfect, but definitely stays closer to in-tune after you use the vibrato. Here’s a little vid of me playing the guitar (admittedly not with vibrato, as I was just having fun here and I don’t really know any songs that use the vibrato).

It’s been quite an educational experience working through this, and I’m amazed that floating bridges are as popular as they are given how balanced they need to be. Expect a proper write-up with pictures in the near future.

The one thing I did realise coming back to this guitar after a couple of months away is that I’m not happy with the scratch plate, which was laser cut from acrylic due to the failed attempt at making it in PVC (as documented here). I’ve decided to have another go at making PVC scratch plates on the CNC router, both for this and for The Clydesdale. My plan to overcome the wrapping that PVC naturally does is to use double sided sticky tape (and lots of it) to tape the PVC flat (in addition to screwing it down to stop side motion when being cut). Hopefully this will produce a better result than last time.

After getting more quotes for the metal part for the pedalboard I pulled the trigger on getting a prototype commissioned. In the end I had two quotes at roughly the same price, but I went with the supplier who was more local and would do powder coating as an option, but with a higher lead time. I think right now I just want to optimise for somewhere I can easily go talk to the people if things don’t work out as I hope: this being my first attempt to get metal fabricated I’m sure something will go wrong as I’ve not designed it right or communicated it correctly. 

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I suspect I’ll get the first prototype back in January, which is quite exciting.

For most of this week my other half was attending a conference in Rotterdam, and having never been to that part of the world I tagged along. Given I’d be at a loose end for much of the time, and the weather forecast was poor, I took advantage of the fact we were travelling on the Eurostar rather than flying and took my guitar with me, so I could keep up my regular practice routine in the AirBNB each day.


I was using Garageband on my Mac via an iRig adapter to let me get sound without annoying the neighbours, and it was fun to try and actually record some songs along to a virtual drummer - mostly a reminder that I don’t do that often and as such my timing needs a lot of work :) But that’s inspired me to do more of that, and ideally do so with my mic’d up amp and pedal board.

A week in the shop

At the end of last week I’d finished levelling and polishing the frets on The Clydesdale offset, leaving me to “just” etch the headstock and then oil the neck.

For the headstock rather than just have the normal Electric Flapjack logo, this guitar is also having its name etched their. When the customer ordered this guitar I’d told him I’d be happy to laser etch something custom on the headstock (or body), and when he decided to name the guitar “The Clydesdale” it seemed a natural addition to the headstock (the name stems from the customer’s hometown of Glasgow being on the River Clyde, and the Clydesdale is a type of horse, fitting for a guitar derived from a Fender Mustang).

I sent the customer some mock ups of how it might look with various combinations, and he came back with a rough idea of what he wanted along these lines:

clydesdale headstock.png

Nothing too complicated, but it had the one downside that it doesn’t leave much room for a string tree. But rather than change the customer’s contribution, I simply made a tweak to move the Electric Flapjack logo around to match the name text which frees up some space around the nut end of the headstock for a string tree. Having done that I then sent a rendering of what that might look like back to the customer for approval: once the etching is done that’s it, so I just wanted to be sure he was happy with how it would all look.


He was indeed happy with this, so then I went and did the scary bit and set about etching the design into the headstock. I also had the neck from the recovery offset that needed a logo adding to it’s headstock, so I decided to do the same angled Electric Flapjack logo on that one, which gave me an excuse to double check alignment before doing it on the customer’s neck.

As ever, each bit of wood is different, and the strength of the laser cutters over time will vary, when I cut the neck I made sure to save the offcuts for this moment. Using these offcuts lets me calibrate the design and check how it’ll look before committing (measure, measure, cut!). One thing I realised on my test cuts was that the logo didn’t quite look right when rendered at an angle relative to the laser bed, but looked nicer when the laser cutter’s natural motion aligned with the text. Normally I’d just lay the neck so it matched the direction of the cutter, but given the results seemed slightly less good when text is drawn at an angle, I simply rotated everything around and put the neck on the bed at an angle instead.


Once I was happy with both these things, there was a nervous few minutes, and voila, one nicely etched headstock.


The etching of the headstock marked the end of physical production for The Clydesdale (modulo drill holes for later assembly). The body had already had its coats of crimson stain the week before, so it was starting to look like a guitar ready for finishing.


As I discovered when making the prototype offset, which also had a wenge neck, wenge works best when finished more like maple (oiled for coating) compared to rosewood (oiled for absorption): if you apply a fingerboard oil as you would with rosewood you lose all the two tone colour of the wenge.

The process for oiling is simple enough: apply a coat all over each part, then you go back after a few minutes and wipe off any excess that the wood hasn’t sucked in, leave it to dry a day, and then give it a quick rub down with a high grit sandpaper (I’m using 2000 grit for this) to get a nice smooth finish before applying again. 

The maple neck has blown me away now that oil has been applied. Before oiling it was nice, but a fairly flat looking bit of wood; after oiling the wood came to life with a lot of depth depending on how the light plays in it. I posted a video to instagram (which I can’t embed here, but you can go see it here), but for comparison compare the headstock here to the photo above.


It has so much more definition now, and the light reflection move beautifully as you move around the neck relative to the light source.

Whilst I was bowled over by the maple, once again the wenge provide to be my nemesis. The first couple of coats went on okay, but the third coat seemed to dry with blotches on it, despite my wiping away the excess. It did look like some had seeped out from under the frets, or it could have come out of the natural figuring in the wood. Whatever the cause, it wasn’t a finish I found acceptable. Thus, my Sunday was lost to sanding down the entire fretboard again (between the now installed frets) to get it back to an even state all over, followed by working my way back up through the sandpaper grits to get a smooth finish once more, re-polishing the frets as they’d been inevitably scuffed during the sanding process, and then finally another coat of oil applied to the fretboard. 


This time I was very fastidious about removing excess oil, and checking back after a short while to remove any that had seeped out from behind the frets (which it had done again, but this time I caught it). The first wenge fretboard wasn’t so much trouble, so I’m not sure why this one has played up so, but it is just adding to my general acceptance that wenge is a better wood than I am a woodworker, and for now I need to find alternatives for future builds.

I’m going to be taking a short trip to Rotterdam this week (my other half is at a conference there, and having never been before I’m going to tag along), so my aim is to get the oil finished before then so it can have a week to cure before I move on to assembly.

Last week I talked a bit about my pedalboard design, and how I was looking for quotes for fabrication of the metal parts. I’ve had one quote back, one request for more detailed drawings (which I generated and sent - I knew that O-Grade in Technical Drawing would come in handy one day…), and one not respond. The quote I had back was acceptable, but that place doesn’t do painting/powder coating, so I’m just trying to get one more quote from somewhere that does before I pull the trigger.

In the mean time I laser cut a plywood mock up of the top surface to check that my modelling of the pedals in CAD matched reality:


Turns out 3mm ply is quite flexible when you put pedals on it like this, so not an ideal test material, but it was enough to convince me that my tweaked design makes cable routing much easier than on my current board.

Final bit for the week was I learned how to turn wood on a lathe, which was interesting (and fun). Wood turning is much more free form than metal turning was (at least on the kit that Makespace has), being more hands on material, so it’s clearly a skill to be mastered. But if anyone needs plectrum bowls, let me know: I’m sure that’ll be the hot product for 2019 ;)

A week in the shop

I was under the weather for quite a bit of last week, so not a huge amount of progress to report on the guitar build front. The Clydesdale offset continues to move forward slowly: I’ve now finished the fretwork, and the next step is laser etching the logo oiling it. Fretwork is definitely something I need to find a way to improve on: although I felt the early stages went well, getting the frets buffed out was quite a lot slower than I expected. But it is there now:


For all the effort and my desire to avoid wenge for a few builds, it is looking lovely. Headstock etching, final sanding, and then oiling are the next stages.

After upgrading the CNC router last week I made a quick collet holder, as the old one no longer worked due to the new collet size. It was quite a quick job in Fusion 360 to design: it actually is pretty close to what I teach when I do my introduction to Fusion training course. Not long after I had the parts cut out on the CNC router and glued up, and the following day it was up and in use:


It’s little jobs like this that I really love about having all the tools in Makespace: you have an idea of something that’ll make your life easier, and a day later there it is in use. There’s a lot of focus in hack spaces on the esoteric things you can make, but I find this every day problem solving much more interesting.

On a related topic of making things that scratch a particular itch, I’ve been looking a little at sheet metal fabrication this week. With my new pedal setup I realised that although I have quite a nice pedal board, the way it does cable routing wasn’t quite right given some of the bigger pedals are larger than what the board was designed for, and perhaps I could design one that was better suited for my needs. The pedal board I have is made from a bit of folded metal with some nice wooden end-caps: the wooden end-caps I can easily make, but sheet metal is not something I’ve played with much before, and I felt it’s been a while since I pushed myself design ways, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Fusion 360 has a mode for sheet metal folding, which I had played with before a year ago when I tried modelling the pre-built chassis I bought for the amp I made. This time though I wanted to design something that didn’t quest exist yet, which was more fun, and I need to actually get it made rather than just worry about something already made, which is a different kettle of fish, as I have to think about construction practicality as well.

My initial mockup of the metal part for my new pedal board looks a little like this:

Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 22.50.56.png

The main change between the pedalboard I have and the design I have here is just a tweak to how the cable slots are cut. I actually modelled it with rough replicas of my particular set of pedals in Fusion 360, so I know that they’ll fit perfectly. Beyond that it’s mostly what you’d expect to see in terms of a raised sloped surface with space underneath for cables and a power brick. In the back I found a socket and switch unit that’ll take a standard kettle lead which I can then forward to the Walrus Audio power supply I have that’ll sit under the board, making it easy to plug and unplug and turn on and off.

When folded out the sheet metal looks like this, which is what I’ll have to get someone to cut out and fold for me:

Screenshot 2018-11-26 at 22.52.06.png

It’s really quite nice how Fusion lets you design in this way, making quite a complex task relatively simple for someone inexperienced in metalwork like myself. It has a stock set of bend radiuses etc for different metals, but it’ll be interesting to see how different fabricators will deal with my design.

I’ve sent it off to three different manufacturers for quotes, noting in the request what I thought might be problem areas with the design for fabrication just to enable them to complain if I’ve done something silly sooner rather than after I’ve spent a lot of money on getting it made. It’ll be interesting to see both how much it’ll cost to make and whether this easy to generate design actually cuts the mustard when given to a professional metal work person.

Music Memos

A friend recently pointed me to an iOS app that Apple make but don’t seem to sing about much, but has really changed the way I practice guitar, and seems to be a great potential song writing tool too: Music Memos.


The app starts from a simple premise: it lets you record little bits of music as you play, just as you would with a voice memo app. That in itself is useful enough when practicing - it’s always good to listen back to yourself and hear what you sounded like not what you think you sounded like - but once you have recorded your little clip, it does all kinds of useful other bits. It’ll do an automatic transcription of what you played, putting it on a bar based view with the chords for each bit annotated over the track

You can also add a backing band to your recording, adding various drummer styles and an automatic bassist (which I don’t think is even available in GarageBand, Apple’s normal go to software for amateur musicians). The range of drummers isn’t as comprehensive as say GarageBand’s, but it’s enough to let you get an idea fleshed out quickly without making the UI overly complicated. It also will sync my recordings via iCloud so I can listen to them later on my iPad, or open them up in GarageBand directly if I then want to take the moment of inspiration further, or I can post them to SoundCloud etc. to share them with people.

But for all its features, one of the best things is that for the most part the UI when you’re playing is uncluttered and simple letting you concentrate on playing guitar, not the app.


The main UI just has one button to let you start and stop recording, and there’s even an automatic mode that I assume will track when you start and stop, but I’ve not yet played with that (when practicing I don’t need it to automatically record my scales :). At a lot of guitar apps I’ve tried have very cumbersome user interfaces and when I’m playing guitar I don’t want to be thinking about the app, it’s enough for my brain to cope with trying to play new things my guitar teacher has set me.

The number of times I practice and think “oh, I wish I ‘d recorded that” is reasonably high, so having an app I can just have to one side and turn on quickly to capture something fills a niche nicely. I’ve also taken to using it at my lessons: I have a terrible memory for rhythm patterns and timing, and so I’ll get a new riff or sequence down whilst at my lesson, but the next day looking at the sheet music have no idea how it was meant to flow. With Music Memos I now just record that riff at my lesson before we move on, so for the rest of the week I have that reference to hand.

If you’re a guitarist with an iPhone I really recommend you give it go, and a big thanks to Jason for pointing me to it!

A week in the shop

This week marks the one year anniversary of my keeping week notes! I was hoping to do something special to mark the occasion, but I’m feeling under the weather right now, so I’ll defer that to another day, and just do a quick (haha) brain dump of the past week. Hopefully more interesting notes will resume when my brain feels less like cotton wool :)

At the end of last week I started staining the body of The Clydesdale offset, and this week I finished it, and now it awaits oiling, which I’ll do at the same time as the neck.


The above is after 3 or 4 coats of stain, and as ever the ash has done a lovely job of soaking up the stain more darkly along the grain, giving it a nice striped effect.

One thing I finally changed on this guitar was how I applied the the stain to make it easier to apply without spending lots of time buffing out stripes from where I’d applied it. When I first watched tutorial videos on applying stain the advice was, with the guitar body facing you so the neck pocket is at the top, start in the middle and work left and right to the edges. The start in the middle bit makes sense, as it stops you creating dribbles down the side which you might do if you apply the stain edge to edge. The left and right bit was meant to make any lines created as you work up the body less obvious, but that wasn’t working for me, I’d end up with bits I’d have to work to buff out, and I wondered what I was doing wrong. It was only now I realise that on the tutorial I watched they had a flame maple cap with wood grain going in that direction, which hides any brush direction marks, and for the ash body I’m using to get the same benefit I need to brush up and down. Basically you need to just follow the grain as you apply the stain.

It’s funny how because there was one obvious truth in the lesson I accepted the rest as gospel without thinking whether it applied to what I was doing. It’s always worth asking why! 

I continued the fretwork on the neck for The Clydesdale, getting mostly done but I ran out of 240 grit sandpaper, so it got paused until the nice Amazon delivery person arrives at Makespace with some more.


I definitely can feel I’m starting to improve on this process in terms of technique, I just hope at some point I start improving in terms of time it takes me to do a fret job, as it still takes me a couple of days. Part of the problem is managing my attention span - I know that after an hour on any given task my attention starts to wander and it’s best to stop there otherwise I’ll do a shoddy job and need to redo that bit later. Hopefully as my technique improves it’ll become more mechanical.

I spent some time helping improve things at Makespace. Makespace got a little more room earlier this year, which has finally been fitted out for power etc., and thus we have now moved all the metal work machines into the new space, meaning the existing workshop is now dedicated to woodwork. The plan is to make more working space (i.e., bigger workbenches), but it also let us move the CNC Router into a better place, and as a major user of that bit of kit I volunteered to help move it.


In addition to moving it, with the help of one of the directors, we fitted a new spindle motor to it, which takes us from having a maximum router bit shank size of 1/4” to 1/2”. It doesn’t make a huge difference to a lot of jobs, but it does mean that for facing off material I can go from a 1” bit to a 2” bit, which will halve the time it takes me to face off material, which is particularly useful given Makespace doesn’t yet have a thicknesser, and doing multiple facing off passes is a way I often work around this.

The final bit of Makespace admin was I’m now a trainer on the CNC Router, so I’ve started bringing more people into the fold. This is good, as CNC Routing is a nice way to make a lot of things, but at the same time I’m trying to back it up with more training and general tutelage  on the hand held plunge router we have, as I think a lot of people could be using that rather than the more visually obvious CNC machine. This is also to make me learn more about that tool, as I’m convinced I could be building more things quicker if I got used to not relying on the CNC Router for everything.

The second Fusion 360 show and tell night I’ve organised at Makespace was quite a success also, we got over 20 people attending, and 3 great talks and lots of discussion.


Again, this is another thing I’ve organised mostly as way for me to learn more by creating a forum for people to share the great stuff they’ve been building, and the fact that lots of other Makespace members learn more is a wonderful coincidence :)

I did some trial coats of using grain filler on some off cut ash, something I’ve never used before. The plain is to grain fill the body for the recovery offset I’m building and then paint it rather than stain and oil it as I’d normally do. The main lesson here is that the filler I have works, but it’s way too pungent to use in the Makespace workshop due to lack of adequate ventilation there. I suspect I’ll need to find a way to do it outside of Makespace and then a well ventilated place for it to dry.

No pictures for this as given how pungent it was I didn’t want to delay getting it done to take pictures :) But basically the filler I’m using comes as a goo which I applied using a bunch of credit card shaped blanks I bought to scrape it into the grain. I then left it 24 hours to dry and sanded it back and you can see it’s filled the grain nicely.

In some fun guitar playing I got myself a cheap tremolo pedal, the Mooer Trelicopter.  I ended up with this by being tempted to try and make a Leslie Speaker Cabinet at some point, to looking at digital pedals that do the same thing, and realising I didn’t know what I’d do with such a sound, and then deciding the closest thing I could find that was cheap and used by people who’s tone I liked was the Trelicopter pedal. It’s been fun having something else on my board that adds a little movement to the sound I make (along side the reverb pedal I have). I mostly play at home alone, so effects like this fill out your sound and give it more texture. To try and demonstrate this I did a quick video of layering different effects to get a sound when playing Gimmie Shelter by the Stones:

I’d held off getting a tremolo pedal for a while as I didn’t have a specific use for it, but it’s definitely a fun pedal to have to hand for the odd specific song like this and in general as a texture thing, so I happily recommend the Trelicopter if you want to give it a go and see where inspiration takes you.

It’s been interesting also rebuilding my board, as I’m definitely at the stage where I have enough pedals that even with them all off, the fact that my signal is going through all these pedals is changing the sound of my guitar, and I have to compensate for that in how I set my amp up and in the tone control the reverb pedal which is effectively always on. I can see now why people move to switcher based systems which take pedals out the signal path when not in use.

It also reminded me again how unhappy I am with the design of the pedal board I have, which is very nice, but just doesn’t let me route cables in a way that seems to make sense with the pedals I have. At some point I need to design my own :)

A week in the shop

At the end of last week I’d installed the frets into the neck for The Clydesdale offset guitar, but I wasn’t happy with how one of them as sat. In the end I decided the best option was to remove that fret and put in a fresh one; not a decision to be taken lightly, but it was definitely better than fighting with the existing fret further and risking chewing up the fret slot. Having gone through the delicate operation of removing said fret (an operation made considerably easier because it wasn’t sat right anyway, which meant I could readily get purchase to remove it), I replaced it with a new fret that started with a much closer over-radius (as covered last week), and it’s now sat home perfect. 


This coming week I’ll start the fun of levelling, rounding, and polishing the frets.

Overall, although the wenge looks nice, I think in future I’ll see if I can find another wood to work with for dark fretboards. Wenge looks lovely, but whilst I’m still finding my feet as a luthier the difficulty of it means I’m trying to tackle too many variables and it’s slowing me down quite a bit in terms of learning. I think it’s better to learn one thing at a time and keep iterating rather than working on multiple things on a single project. So wenge again in the future certainly, but I suspect I’ll try other rosewood alternatives next time around, even if they don’t look quite as special.

One of the nice bits of a guitar building is when you transition from fabrication to finishing: although you still have a good few weeks to to, it signals you’re on the home straight. With the next getting close to being ready I turned back to the body for The Clydesdale which has hung to one side in Makespace for a while, and I spent a good few hours getting it sanded to the point where I could stain it.


Natural wood finishes on guitars are probably more effort than is logically justifiable compared to painting. Not that painting doesn’t have its own set of complications, just that the effort to appreciation for natural finishes is more questionable :) Wood is a soft natural material, so it’s easily scratched or dented, and additionally it will sometimes naturally contain imperfections you can’t do much about. If you paint the guitar body then you can mask a lot of this which won’t impact the performance of the instrument but would be considered visually unappealing. For a natural finish you need to not just sand the wood smooth to touch, you need to get rid of any slight blemish you see, as staining and oilling tends to cause these imperfections to be accentuated. Thus I easily spent over four hours on sanding the body for this guitar to first get rid of any machine marks, then going up through the grits to get a smoother and smoother finish until it was flawless.


There’s a saying in my workshop (admittedly only by me, but I do say it often enough): higher grits of sandpaper only exist to show you what you missed two grit levels down. You’ll happily review the body after completing it with 600 grit sand paper, but by the time you get up to 1000 or 1500 you’ll find scratches that weren’t there that are visible now, appearing apparently out of nowhere. For example, you can just see tiny scratches here on the lip of the horn that were not visible before reaching higher grits:


At this point you need to go back down several grits and work your way back up for that area, and then other ones will appear as you get up to 2000 grit. All of which is a long winded way of saying that if you have a guitar with a natural finish appreciate that it takes a disproportionately longer time to get right than painting :) Still, by the end of Sunday I got the body to the point where I could start applying the coats of stain.

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Generally I apply 5 to 6 coats of stain, once a day, to get a consistent rich colour, and then the same process is repeated with finishing oil until it has a nice protective shine. It’s a two week phase where you touch the guitar once a day for ten minutes, but the end results are lovely.

We do lots of training in Makespace (the community workshop where I do most my guitar building) on how to operate tools and equipment, but we don’t do much in the way of broader why would you want to use this tool in the first place. Myself and other workshop regulars are trying to change this, and we’ve put in place a couple of things to try and make it easier for people to learn the broader context for how things are made: it’s no good teaching people to operate equipment if they don’t know they need to use that equipment in the first place or what is possible with the tools we have.

The first of these is a monthly(ish) Show & Tell evening themed around Fusion 360. I’ve been running a Fusion 360 course for a while now at Makespace, and I’ve been having conversations with individuals where they’ll explain to me how they made something and I end up learning something I didn’t know (and this is why I do the teaching in the first place - teaching definitely pays back in spades as others go on to do cool things with their newfound knowledge). But it seems inefficient that I have to speak to everyone I’ve taught individually to get this information, and then it only ends up with me learning and not everyone: thus the Show & Tell evening. Each month we have three people talk for 20 minutes about a thing they’ve made and now they designed it. The thing doesn’t need to be tricky - 3D design and manufacture is a complex topic, so even seeing how seemingly trivial things have been made usually turns up a few gems that half the room won’t have seen before. Feedback from our first one was positive, and I certainly have learned from it things I’ve since put into practice as I design my guitars for 2019, and I look forward to the second one this week coming.

The second event was I did a sort of advance tutorial on how to use a hand router, taught both by myself having used templates etc. with guitars, and with another member who’s got a lot of experience in building furniture and the like (which also meant I got to learn things as we did the session). The aim was to go beyond how to operate the hand router, but show off what you can do with it beyond just round over edges on things. We talked about templates and jigs, how to make different styles of cut etc. It seemed to go quite well, and I was pleased we got quite a broad audience, going beyond the obvious wood working crowd in Makespace. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these people go on to make things in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have in future.

I definitely think that this broader set of learning in Makespace is something, along with the assistance of others, we can do more of to try and open up the workshop beyond just a small niche of regular tasks people currently use it for. 

A brief interlude in the shop

I managed a couple of days in the workshop this last week, as pressure on contracting work let up briefly, however having just limited time in the workshop is highlighting that just getting a day in the workshop doesn’t mean I get a day to work the workshop, and I need to better manage my time whilst there. I do most of my guitar building in Makespace, which is a community workshop, and in general that community aspect is a wonderful thing. But being in that community means I have certain responsibilities and commitments to help the workshop run smoothly, and whilst none of these are particularly onerous, they do break up the day in a way that makes it hard to do long jobs if I’m not careful. For example, this Friday I went in and I had one client meeting to squeeze in for half an hour in the morning and a training session on workshop kit to run in the afternoon for a couple of hours, this fragmented the day enough that I didn’t get time to do the fretwork I’d intended to do that day, which means things spill into next week or consume my weekend.

In computing there’s a term called “context switch overhead”, which means that you can’t just swap from doing task A to task B without some level of wasted time as you pack away task A and get started for task B, which is just as important to humans as it is for computers. Even just someone coming and asking you a question when you’re concentrating can cause you to have to do two context switches and spoil your flow, which is why in the community workshop we have a orange lanyard system as a way that politely says “do not disturb”. Whilst I like to try and help people at Makespace as much as I can, I suspect at times I should learn to pick up that orange lanyard.

Most of my time in the workshop has been on the next for The Clydesdale, the first of my commissioned offsets I’m building. The last time I was in the workshop I managed to get the neck carved and sanded, but I wasn’t quite happy with the feel in my hand, so I took a second pass at it and now it feels just as I want. The birds eye maple is also coming up pretty nice: at times I think I prefer a simpler look to maple, but this one I’m really pleased with now.


With the neck carve done I did a final pass on the fretboard to sand it smooth and ensure all the slots were to the correct level ready for the frets to go on.


Fretting is appropriately named, given it is one of the more stressful parts of a build, at least for a new builder like me. This is my sixth fret job so far, and I’ve not yet found my routine. It’s in part here where doing guitars at low volumes is not good, as by the time the next one comes around you have to relearn all that you did last time. I actually did my 5th fret job a couple of months ago on the neck for the recovery offset, but that feels like an age ago. Perhaps I should just make a batch of necks at some point in the near future just to do it repeatedly and build up some sort of muscle memory for the process.

Frets in a guitar, much to most people’s surprise comes as a length of wire, which you cut into short strips. The cross section of the wire has a sort of mushroom shape: there’s the bit you normally see on top of the fretboard, called the crown, which has a half circle shape, and then a bit sticking down, called the tang, which will go into the slot on the fretboard. The tang has some teeth on it to help it grip in the slot. Here’s a random picture of some fretwire from the people I buy mine from to help make it more clear:


Depending on the width of your slot vs the width of the tang you may or may not need to use glue to help the fret stay home. My aim is to avoid using glue if I can, as using glue will make life harder for the person who in future years needs to replace the frets as they wear down. But it’s not a hard rule: when working with wood you can’t be sure of how it’s going to behave and as such hard rules need to be more flexible, so if necessary I will use a little glue to make sure the frets stay home, but only if required.

Before you cut the fret wire into strips, you want to put a slight over-radius on it. Your fretboard itself isn’t flat, the ones I make have a 9.5” radius on them for instance, and to make it easier for the frets to be hammered in without jumping out you want to give your fret wire a radius that is slightly tighter than the board. If you have it with a bigger radius then as you hit it in at one end then the other end will see-saw out and it’ll be much harder to get home. If you over radius it slightly you can get the two sides home before securing the middle of the fret, which makes things easier (note easier, not easy :). To put the radius onto the fret wire you need one of these fret bending tools:


The main thing that I struggled with this time was I over bent the fret wire when I did the previous fret job. All my fretboards at the moment are the same 9.5” radius, so to save time and storage space, I did the radiusing of the fret wire in a single go. I didn’t struggle with that fret job much, but there the fretboard was made of maple rather than wenge, and maple is a much easier wood to work with. I’m really growing to dislike wenge as a wood to work with, due to the fact thet the density of the two colours in it are very different, so you have some very hard bits of wood and very soft bits of wood mixed in. When cutting the fret slots this can cause your saw to jump out the slot if you’re not careful (which risks scratching the fretboard surface), and here when putting the frets in you have bits which accept the fret readily and bits that don’t want to take it at all.

As I mentioned, when I did the maple fretboard last time, the fact I’d made the fret over-radiused by quite a bit didn’t matter too much, as the wood made the fret insertion relatively easy anyway. But here where the darker bits of wenge are much less forgiving it was taking much more work to get the frets home anyway, and the fact I put in more curve to defeat than I needed just compounded the issue. In the end I just threw out the already radiuses fretwire and got a new batch (which luckily I had to hand) and made it only just more than the fretboard radius.


Here you can see that it’s just in at both sides and only just out of the slot in the middle. Before I had a millimetre or so of daylight there. 

Once I’d made the switch, things progressed more smoothly, though I’d not say easy, but certainly easier, and after about three hours I had all the frets home:


One other tip I’d pass on here - this time I trimmed the edges as I went along rather than doing them all at the end, and that is worth doing. If you do them all at the end it’s hard to get your cutters in on the more closely spaced frets, and it also makes it easier to do the final tapping home of the frets on teh edge without risk of hitting the extruded bit and bending it.

I still unfortunately haven’t finished here. One of the frets in the middle where the wood is softer on the left side isn’t home right - down to the fact it was one of the overly radiused set and the soft wood isn’t gripping it, so I’m going to remove that fret and put in a new one, and potentially add glue to secure it properly.

Like I say, you can see why it’s called fret work.

The other thing I did was prep the recovery offset’s body for the first coat of grain filler, sanding it up to 400 grit all over. I ran out of time to actually apply any filler last week, but hopefully I’ll get time in the near future to do that. I should actually start doing the stain on The Clydesdale too, which is going to be a dark deep red similar to The Red Rocker tele I made last year.