The first Abbey Road hollow-body guitar

After a few weeks’ work sorting out production methods, the first 330/Casino style hollow-body electric -the Richards Abbey Road- is now nearing completion and the construction has been a real learning process.

The small changes that I’ve made to the Abbey Road are that, unlike the original 330, the neck will join the body at the 19th fret rather than at the 15th.

I initially envisaged only a single volume and single tone control and a jackplate at the lower treble side bout rather than on the top like the original, but other than the jack plate, I’ve opted instead for the traditional control layout.

The guitar will have no additional bracing other than the quite strong pressed laminated top, in the interests of minimising the overall weight, but it will have a “sound post” under the bridge.

The sound post comes from traditional violin construction- it effectively joins the front and back plates of the instrument  and while it doesn’t entirely stop feed back that plagues hollow-bodied guitars, it does minimise it and creates a “musical” feedback that’s a lot of fun to play around with.

The pickups are Brierley B90s and my usual Grover 18:1 ratio machine heads will be used. The bridge is the same as I’ve used on the Radiomaster series which has screwdriver height adjustment rather than just Gibson and Epiphone’s knurled adjuster.

The fretboard is Macassar ebony with dot markers, either ivory plastic or pearl.

Anyway, the process goes like this…

The top and back are symmetrical, so two plates are pressed up.

The neck timber- plantation grown mahogany- is machined and glued up at the same time.

The sides are also stripped to 35mm wide…

and reduced to a bit less than 2mm, making the ply much more flexible.

The ply is heated and shaped in my bending device and then two 2mm strips are glued together in the mould.

Again, this process is repeated and the two halves are cut to length and the head and tail blocks glued in place.

The linings are glued in…

…and then the top is glued down.

When dry, the top edges are trimmed and placed back in the mould to cut the f-holes.

And then the back-with the label in place- can be glued down, completing the construction of the body.

There’s no bracing in this guitar, but there will be a sound post installed after the pickup routs are done.

So inside looks like this…

The weight of the 5mm body body is a mere 1300 grams, compared to the 1675g of the first 6mm thick body.

The neck is constructed in the normal fashion but I’ve decided to slightly “Shorten” the Radiomaster headstock- my friend David suggested this…

One complication, though, is the mortice and tenon that’s used on the 330-335 style guitars…

Because the Abbey Road guitar has its neck joining the body at the 19th fret, the neck tenon needs to be as accurate as possible, both in alignment and fit.

I also want to keep as much thickness as possible to the extension into the pickup cavity to maximise gluing area.

It’s looking promising so far…

Before gluing in the neck, the pickup cavities are routed.

A temporary placement of tailpiece, bridge and spare pickups along with fretboard indicates that all is indeed looking very promising.

Now after a short spell in hospital- totally out of the blue- and a couple of weeks away from the workshop, here we go again…

After checking alignment and the correct bridge height, the neck is glued into position and allowed to dry overnight.

After making a couple of tapered pieces to go either side of the neck “tongue”, the neck is again levelled and the fretboard can now be glued on.

2016!!!…

Lots of repair work has hindered progress somewhat and then it was Christmas and New Year.

However, the neck has been shaped, the relevant holes drilled and the whole guitar fine-sanded and now I’m up to the painting stage.

This guitar has already found a home and Errol wants a sunburst finish and I’m in full agreement.

However, the ply that I’ve used is proving problematic in that the pores in luan are notoriously difficult to fill…

Yesterday, I started on the colour and I was pleased with the outcome. But this morning, the finish was pock-marked with the tell-tale signs of unfilled grain.

The pores of the luan are clearly visible in this pic but I thought that my filling technique that is suitable for mahogany would be ok here. No…

The only solution to the problem is sand off the colour and apply more sanding sealer and more sanding before trying again.

After a lot of sanding- I’m back to this…

The darker areas on the sunburst can be left and the grain pores can be filled over the colour…

And even after two applications of sanding sealer and two applications of grain filler, the pores are still evident!

Anyway, after the weekend, the surface is ready to be coloured anew…

…and it’s looking much more promising.

The guitar will hang for a few days, depending on the weather, and then I can rub back and buff the finish.

After rubbing back and polishing, the Abbey Road is assembled and strung up with 10-46 strings and with still a couple of minor tasks before completion, the first Abbey Road is playable and I couldn’t wait to put the guitar in my friend Adrian’s hands…

The consensus seems to be that the Abbey Road indeed does just as I was hoping for and plugged into my Vox AC15, it just sounds like 1963! You just can’t help playing Beatle songs…

I’ve also added the Abbey Road to the list of guitars that can be made with me in my workshop under the BYO concept and one of the first was made by my Year 9 aged grandson James.

The outcome, I have to say, is absolutely wonderful- and we had a great time doing it!