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Relief Carved Guitar

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This is my biggest project to date, an electric guitar body relief carved with Maori designs. This started off as a practice piece, but was moving along so well I decided to piece together the rest of the components and build a working guitar. Now if I only knew how to play...


There were a lot of "firsts" in the project, first time inlaying in wood, first time finishing wood, first time building a musical instrument, etc, etc. It took me about 3 solid weeks to finish the body and another couple of weeks to build the thing to make noise. This project gave me a new appreciation for people that work with wood on a regular basis and take the time to really sand and finish a piece. This will be an indoor piece so I used a spray-on polyurethane for the clear coats. I was waffling between varnish, but I've heard that the FL humidity can pose a problem and cause hazing. I hope I wasn't told wrong. I took it to a guitar shop so their luthier could work his magic and get it to sound like a guitar, he liked it.











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Good job on the carving and making the guitar. Now I have a question. You took it to a guitar shop, did they install the electrical components? Did you use a kit or make the parts yourself? I've been toying with the idea of building a guitar for myself and carving it. I haven't played in 40 years.


I am really interested in how you went about building the guitar. Did you have a book to show you how, come on fess up.

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Nelson and Don, thanks for the replies.


Don, this was not a kit. The body is a basswood Yamaha Pacifica Stratocaster style, dating back to the mid-90's. It was a real pain to remove the original finish and sand down to get rid of a few major scratches. It had been in the hands of a few others, and had a few unusual routed out areas to the say the least. The neck is a new one, rosewood fret board over maple, which I think is pretty standard. I got this via eBay, as I did the body. Being a Yamaha and not a Fender meant that there was a lot of work required to resurrect the body into a playable guitar. A common and standard Fender fretboard did not fit, so there was a lot of shaping to get it to fit the Yamaha body. The neck wasn't a perfect fit either, but I was lucky in that a standard neck was a tad large, so it was easier to remove material than add material to make a tight joint.


The electronics were new, which I inserted myself, but since I'm not a player, I had no idea what was a good set-up and what was a great set-up. Also, since this was a Yamaha, the most common of electronics did not fit into the body without additional routing and clearance work. In the end I opted for rather inexpensive, generic components. My goal was to make a functional piece of art, and if someone wanted to take it off the wall and jam out for the weekend they could. If they wanted to make this a regular jiggin' guitar for a world tour or local house band, then they would have to replace the electronics to bring it up to that level of play.


If I had to do it all over again, I think the Saga kits is what I would consider next. From what I have heard, the fit and finish is good, and the electronics are fair. With a kit you don't have to worry about removing an existing finish, or finding a surprise under that finish when it's gone (like repairs or lamination). The Saga kits are made to fit together and sound good without a lot of hassle. Of course I don't listen to myself, and have a new Fender Affinity Telecaster waiting in the wings for when I am ready to tackle that, maybe a Fall project due to the humidity here in Florida.

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