Brad’s Wolfgang

Brad has been patiently waiting for me to get to this project.

He purchased a guitar-sized slab of highly figured Queensland Maple some time ago and brought it to me with the intention of having me make a Wolfgang style guitar made entirely out of the beaut looking timber, neck and all.

The problem at the time was that we had just sold the Buninyong house and workshop and the project had to be shelved until such time as we had bought another house and I had established a new workshop…

And now that that’s happened, it’s time to get on with it…

The wood is a really good piece of the same timber that Maton make their necks out of- only really highly figured. There are a couple of areas to be avoided, though.

The larger resin hole, or whatever it is, must be avoided and the smaller mark is going to be placed at the neck pocket as it doesn’t go through the slab.

So after some careful marking out, I can start bandsawing for the body, leaving sufficient for the neck.

On cutting out the basic body blank…

…all looks to be good.

At the top left hand corner, there was a large crack that didn’t take too much to allow a large-ish piece to break off…

…and what is giving the slab of wood it’s handsome figuring can clearly be seen. My old woodwork teacher would have called this “cranky grain”, meaning that the grain of the wood didn’t run in a straight line, but rather waved back and forth. Machining wood with this sort of grain structure calls for special techniques, the least of which are very sharp blades…

But fortunately, the headstock shape can be drawn around this cracked section…

My scale ruler tells me that the Wolfgang scale is 25.4 inches- the same as a Strat’s- so the neck can be drawn out allowing for the split, keeping the grain as straight as possible.

The neck is the place to start Brad’s project- I’ll make the neck first and make the body to suit, rather than the other way around. Making the neck fit the body isn’t the way to go…

Now, another consideration is the placement of the truss rod adjuster.

I’ve never been a fan of the Wolfgang adjustment system because an allen key or similar has to be placed into a series of holes between the strings into the adjuster nut and I think that’s just awkward…

After checking with Brad, he too, shares my view and we’ve decided to put the adjustment at the headstock.

So- the neck is marked out on the remaining piece of Queensland maple…

…but before the neck can be cut out though, the truss rod channel must be cut.

Because every guitar is different, I’ve always made the truss rod to suit the project. In this case, even though this guitar is Strat scale length, it’s not a Strat truss rod that’s required.

All – well nearly all – truss rods are similar. I use 5mm mild steel rod and a curved truss rod channel. Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to acquire a good quantity of  ”centres” stamped out by a local washer manufacturer and drilled to suit, they make an ideal thrust washer for my truss rods. The nuts are the same as Gibson uses.

A 5.5mm hole is drilled in the washer blank and a flat is ground that helps hold the washer in the machine vice.

The washer sits in the truss rod pocket so that the rod is at the bottom of the channel.

The appropriate thread is cut at the end of the truss rod…

…and the completed rod is then nearly ready for installation.

But, before I can install the truss rod, the face of the headstock has to be cut and the outline of the headstock redrawn.

The face is sanded and the nut position re-drawn.

At this point, the neck shape and profile is also bandsawn and sanded.

Before gluing, the truss rod is wrapped with masking tape.

The filler strip is sanded to match the curve of the truss rod…

…and glued in on top of the truss rod.

When the glue has dried, the filler strip is sanded flush and the nut is put into position and the screw holes drilled.

Now it’s time to address the fretboard, which in this case is going to be made from the Tiger Myrtle that Brad has also sourced.

The fretboard has had its fret slots cut and cut to shape, and the locating pins tapped into the neck blank, in readiness for gluing down.

And, as I’ve said many times before- you can’t have too many clamps…

Ok- the glue has had sufficient drying time and I can unclamp the neck and fretboard and sand the fretboard flush with the edges of the neck…

On checking Brad’s Wolfgang, I ‘ve determined that the fretboard radius is 14″.

And therefore, the new fretboard has to match that.

Radiusing the fretboard has to be done by hand and I keep checking until everything is right.

With the fretboard at the correct radius, I’ll put in the fretboard markers, like on the original.

Now it’s time to fret the neck…The fretwire- about 1.5 metres of it- is bent to the appropriate shape and cut to size.

Each fret is glued and hammered into place and the glue squeeze-out is wiped away with damp paper towel.

When all frets are done, the neck is left over night for the glue to harden before I cut off the excess wire…

Right. Now I can cut off the overhanging fretwire and trim flush with the edges of the fretboard.

And now it’s time for some checking, to make sure everything is on track.

All is looking good, but Brad wants the new guitar to feel the same as the old one…

Width at the 22nd fret- 56.8mm…

…and on the new neck- 56.7. Near enough.

And at the nut?

Well, the nut that Brad’s given me is a fraction wider. The old nut width is 41.75mm.

But the new one? Well, the nut is a fraction wider at 42.5. Three quarters of a millimetre. I think that’s going to be ok as well.

But does the new neck actually fit old body?

Yes, it certainly does.

Now, after a week of repair work, time to continue…

I’ve established the centreline on the body blank and the neck and using my alignment pattern, I can draw out the neck pocket.

For a one-off project like this, I cut the neck pocket by hand…

…and cut it to the required depth in stages.

The neck sits quite low into the Wolfgang and I need to replicate that on the Brad-gang…

When all is ok…

…I can cut out the body shape.

It’s starting to look like a guitar…

With the shape more or less as it should be, I might just sort out the neck before progressing further.

The place to start the neck shaping is to make sure that the neck thickness matches the Wolfgang dimensions.

I have determined that the Wolfgang neck is the same profile as a Strat, and therefore I can use my Strat profile gauges to replicate the Wolfgang shape.

Looking promising. And the figured Queensland maple is going to look good.

Tomorrow, I’ll do the headstock carve.

Time to attach the neck. I’ve taken a template from the Peavey Wolfgang screw spacing and I’ll apply that to the new guitar.

The ferrules need a 15mm cavity and I’ve only got a 16mm spade bit…A bit of resizing and the ferrules fit just right.

The locking bridge is next…

…and the spring cavity.

After the recess rout for the bridge is done, we will have ample clearance for the trem to have downward movement…

…and up-pull and it’s intended that the bridge will sit flat, low in the body and the routing caters for just that.

A minor hiccup is that the springs are going to sit higher than the back and back plate, like this…

The solution to this is simple-a groove in the inertia block to allow the springs to sit just a bit higher into the block…

Brad’s been out to have a look at how things are going, and all seems to be good so far.

Now, after a bit more building work on the workshop- I’ve now at last got a sprayroom and dust extraction- I’ll continue on…

The routing for the EMGs is next and I’ve decided that new routing jigs are appropriate…

When they’re done, the pickups routs are carried out.

The radius on the back is done, matching to the original radius…

Then, the control cavity is done- firstly it is roughed out using a Forstner bit…

and then routed to the outline with a large bit.

Now for the binding. I bought in some extra wide binding because of the carving to be done on the top. And the extra wide binding provides addition complication when gluing on. But first, the binding channel is cut…

The binding is glued into the channel using lots of binding tape…

…but because of the width, I’m always going to have areas that don’t co-operate and require additional clamping…

…especially in tight bends. In the lower cutaway, I’ve had to purpose make a caul that matches the curve, to ensure a tight fit.

Right- shaping…Because of the highly figured nature of the Queensland maple, the shaping is all done using a small angle grinder-yes I know- and then successive grades of sandpaper on my air palm sander.

And with the shaping of the top completed, Brad’s guitar is now ready for a trial assembly.

Everything looks as though it should fit so on to sanding sealer and clear top coat for the body…

…and oiling with tung oil for the neck.

The fretboard has to feel comfortable and along with finishing and polishing the frets, the edges are scraped with a scalpel to give that “lived-in” feel.

With the guitar polished and the neck and body assembled, it’s time to address the installation of the pickups.

There is a lot of wires and connectors to fit into only a limited space…

Fortunately, it all fitted! And with strings installed, the guitar is hanging in the workshop waiting for Brad to come and cast an eye- and play a bit- on the pretty much finished Bradgang…

Brad’s taken the guitar away to inspect it at his leisure for any details that need rectification- for example, it frets out on the top string and that’s not as it should be. That will have to be fixed. And there is a small scratch on the edge near the volume knob that’s got to be fixed as well. And it needs a truss rod cover…

Brad returned the guitar this morning to have those small things rectified and it’s allowed me to take a couple of photos of the finished guitar.

Not bad. Not bad at all…