Next step was to machine a
dado (slot) around the blank’s
perimeter using dado blades on
my table saw. This was necessary
because I wanted to inlay white
ash around the body for an artistic
touch. The light colored ash
contrasts nicely with the dark
Sapele. I did the same thing with
the ash trim for a coffee table I
built. (It always gets comments
from the people who see it.) Of
course, this is an optional step you
don’t have to do if you build a
guitar like this.
I mitered the ash corners to
45 degrees and fit the ash into the
dado. In Photo 3, I’m gluing the
ash onto the Sapele body. After
the glue dried, I trimmed up the
body edges on the table saw so
the ash was flush with the Sapele.
■ PHOTO 3. Gluing the ash inlaid strip around the body.
You might be asking yourself at this point if I had
plans I was working from to build this guitar. The answer
would be no. I did, however, know the most important
piece of information about the guitar I was building and
that was its scale length (which is a function of the Fender
style neck I chose to use).
Scale length is the distance from the nut of the guitar
(above the first fret) to its bridge. In my case, that was
It is absolutely critical that the distance from the nut
to the 12th fret be exactly equal to the distance from the
12th fret to the bridge of the guitar. If not, the guitar will
have bad intonation which — in severe cases — can make
the guitar unplayable.
Luckily, the bridge I selected was adjustable which
made getting the scale length correct much easier.
The guitar dimensions evolved as follows. First, I laid out and machined the neck cavity so
I could insert the neck into the body. Next, I measured 12. 75” from the 12th fret and drew a
line for where the bridge would be located. I placed the tailpiece 1.5” behind the bridge line
and the bridge pickup position 1.5” in front of the bridge. Finally, the neck pickup was
positioned as close as possible to the end of the neck.
Placement of the control cavity, strap buttons, and output jack are not critical, so I placed
them where I thought they looked and would work best.
I built custom templates for my router for the neck cavity and for the pickup cavities
(pre-made templates can be purchased from stewmac.com). I used a flush cutting router bit
with the bearing on the shaft towards the router.
The bearing rides on the template to make correctly shaped cavities. This was kind of a
pain because you cannot cut the full depth of the cavities in a single pass. So, I had to elevate
the template on spacers, make a cutting pass, lower the template a little, make another pass,
then remove the spacers under the template and make a final pass.
I machined cavities for the neck, both pickups, and for the guitar’s control panel. My
guitar will have simple controls like a Fender Telecaster guitar: a three-position pickup selector
switch, and a volume and tone control.
Craig lives in the
Colorado and can
be contacted at
When not messing
around with music,
wood working or
beer brewing, he
plays in a rock and
roll band and does
a solo musical act