Workshop Catch-Up: Delfinen

1 Feb 2024

Tags: binding, delfinen, drills

Hello again. It’s been a little while since the last update: I stopped doing them as I felt that the posts were getting a bit repetitive, with things just not going well in the workshop, and I didn’t want to keep writing up the same frustrations each week. Whilst I do think it’s important to share both the good and the bad from the workshop (to show you what works and what doesn’t), listening to me work through all the things going wrong every week gets both boring to read and isn’t fun to write up, so I paused for a while, and now I’ve made enough progress this last few weeks I figured it’s time to get back to writing things up.

A work in progress guitar sits on the workbench: it has a orange stained swamp-ash body with pockets cut for humbucker sized pickups, it has a maple neck, with a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets. The body shape is a slightly pointy offset style.

Rather than try catch up everything all at once, I’ll do a post per guitar build over the next few weeks, until we’re all mostly caught up. I’ll start off with Delfinen this week!

Staining and binding

The staining of Delfinen went badly last year, mostly due to the interaction between the glue on the binding, and but when we last saw this guitar I’d pretty much tidied that up, and so I was able to finally get on with the rest of the guitar.

A photo of an offset guitar body on a workbench surrounded by sanding pads and PPE. The body is orange standed swamp-ash with white plastic binding around the top edge, and in the neck pocket is a wood baton screwed in place.

The next problem was that the binding around the inside of the top horns of the guitar had started to pull away from the body:

A close up on the previous photo, showing how just where the top line of the guitar curves down and up again from the neck pocket you can see the binding has come away from that corner for a length of about an inch or so.

It was more evident on the left hand side show here, but the same had happened on the right-hand side also. And by the following week both sides were worse still:

Another photo of the top left of the face of the guitar, and now you can see the binding all along that top edge has come away from the body.

Here I had broke the last little bit of glue between the binding and the body near the neck pocket, but I suspect I should have done that sooner and less would have peeled away on the left hand side there. I don’t know if it was just the really cold weather in the run up to xmas that caused this (the workshop isn’t heated, so I suspect will have got close to zero at times over night), or that it reacted somehow with the finishing oil I applied to the body, but clearly the plastic binding has shrunk over time, which is what caused it to pull away from the body. This was more obvious when I tried to press it back into place, and you can see there is just not as much plastic as there used to be:

A close up photo of my finger pressing the binding back into place on the guitar body, and you can see that the binding no longer is long enough to go all the way to the neck-pocket, instead stopping a millimetre or so before.

Before fixing it I opted to finish oiling the body, as I reasoned that this would make it easier to clean up any excess glue from the fixing procedure. Once that was done and dried it was out with some low-viscosity/high-wicking super-glue and I left it over the holiday period to dry:

A photo of the guitar body on the workbench, with either side of the neck-pocket there being masking tape strips running from the sides and on top the face of the guitar. Next to the guitar its a small bottle of super-glue and a roll of masking tape.

When I came back to it two weeks later it had thankfully stuck in place:

A photo of the guitar body again in the same position as last time, only now the tape has gone and you can see the binding is once again bonded to the guitar body.

Thankfully there was only a small amount of glue that had escape out, and that scraped off easily thanks to the body already being oiled and my being careful as I went. Paired up with its neck, it’s starting to feel like we’re getting somewhere with this build:

A photo of a workbench, atop of which is the orange stained body with its in-place binding, next to which sits the associated maple and rosewood neck, and next to which is a mug of tea.

But looking at that picture you might spot I’m not quite “hole-complete” on this build yet: there’s no holes for the pickup selector switch or the volume and tone controls!

Careful drilling time!

I know from past experience that it’s hard work out where holes on the front of the guitar and holes on the back of the guitar line up. I’ll confess that, whilst not bad, the volume and tone pot on the verkstaden build are not quite where I meant them to be, as I drilled them from the electronics cavity on the rear, which was slightly higher up the body than I realised. Not the end of the world, but it annoys me that it isn’t exactly as I had it in my CAD model.

So this time, I laser-cut some guide templates to ensure I got things exactly where I wanted them when I drilled through:

A photo of the orange stained guitar body, only this time it is face down showing the pockets cut into the back where the electronics go. In the larger pocket you can see an acrylic template sits at the bottom showing where to drill two holes, but in the smaller pocket the template sits at the top more like a lid, as it doesn't quite fit the hole.

Alas the one for the pickup select cavity wasn’t a perfect fit - I suspect between the laser-cutter kerf (the material lost to cutting) being not being as much as I assumed, and the hole not being perfectly true, and so I had to do a little fettling to get the guide in place:

A photo of the same scene as before, but now there is a chisel, a rasp, a pair of tweezers, and a sanding disk sat next to the body.

But with some careful tweaking of both the body and the template I got there in the end:

A close up photo of the smaller pocket on the back of the guitar showing the acrylic template is now sat neatly at the bottom.

I guess the main thing to note is that reality regularly doesn’t quite match your CAD model regardless :)

Once this was done, I marked up the holes, and drilled some initial pilot holes from the back:

A photo of the front of the guitar, where if you look very closely you can just about see three small 2mm-ish holes have been drilled corresponding to where we saw the acrylic templates fit on the back.

Then to get them up to proper size I used one of these stepped cutters for the first time:

A close up photo of a stepped drill bit - at one end is the part that sits in the drill chuck, and then the rest of it is like a stepped cone with a drill groove in it. In the groove you can read numbers for each step, telling you the diameter in millimetres.

The tip is 4mm, and then each step is one millimetre wider, and so when making holes for pots and switches where you know the particular diameter you can just select the right step to drill down to. I was worried that it’d be juddery as we you went through the levels, particularly as the top on this is about the same depth as each step, but it was very smooth to use. I just had to drill put my pilot holes to 4mm first to ensure I lined things up right with this bit, and mark up the depth I wanted with tape.

A photo of the guitar body sat on the pillar drill, with the conical drill bit mounted in the chuck, poised above one of the 2mm-ish holes

And then we had a nice precise hole:

A photo of the same shot as the last photo, only now the 2mm hole is much wider, and there is wood dust all around it.

Well, I say precise, as the shaft on the pots I’m using are not exactly a round number of millimeters, so I then used a reamer (another first for me) to widen it up:

A side on photo of the guitar body, showing a T shaped tool sticking into one of the newly drilled holes. The crossbar on the T is a handle, and the descending part has a sharp edge running down it so it scrapes the wood as you turn the handle.

And “jobs a good ‘un”, as they say:

A photo of that same phone in the guitar, but now the stop end of a potentiometer can be seen sticking up through the hole. In reference to the next section, here you can also see that the supposedly white plastic binding along the side is splattered in places with orange dye.

Cleaning up the binding

As you may note in the last picture, that nice white binding isn’t looking so nice and white, as wood stain slipped under the masking tape I’d used to protect it. Whilst the masking tape will have saved me some work here, I still need to clean up the binding, and thus followed a few hours with some scrapers, masking tape, and a few cups of tea.

A photo of the side of the guitar body, where you can see the binding on the top edge, next to which is a strip of masking tape over the orange wood. Next to it on the bench are two metal wood scrapers.

It was slow progress, but the results were very satisfying afterwards. The binding now really pops against the orange and makes the body much more visualising interesting.

An after shot of the guitar body, showing a clean white line now exists between the face of the guitar and the side of the body, both of which are stained a dark orange.

The job alas isn’t done yet though: I still need to do the top edge, where I didn’t have the luxury of applying any tape:

A macro photo of the binding again. The binding as seen from the side of the guitar is about 5mm deep and clean white, but the top face has about 1mm of binding visible, and that still has orange stains on it.

Clearing this edge I’ll need to be super careful, as it’s much harder to put guide tape on to protect the body as I did on the side. One trick I’ve seen used here is to put a razor blade into a stick so that only a millimetre or so sticks out, protecting you from going to much across the body, but that assumes that the binding is of a fixed thickness, which it won’t be due to the original scraping to get it flush with the body and the scraping I’ve just done to clean the sides.

More often than not you’ll see binding used with painted bodies, and that paint buys you some leeway: I’ve seen some builders not actually clear the front face at all, just leaving the side, or if they do scrap the top, they can just scape what they thing is the minimal amount they know they can all the way around, so they can use the razor blade track without working about the thickness varying.

I’ll have to see how this goes: I suspect I’ll need to not do this just after drinking my regular coffee shot :)

Foiled again

The last bit I did was to foil line the cavities, which is always a fun part, as it’s fairly mindless, low risk of messing things up, and has a big visual impact (even if noone ever really sees the result in the end).

A shot of the orange stained guitar body in the workbench, and now the two pockets in the face for the pickups to go into are lined with copper foil tape. Next to the body is a lot of small bits of white backing paper showing it took a lot of tape to add to this guitar.

I actually did this earlier than I needed to (normally it’s one of the very last things I do), as later that week I was being interviewed for a TV spot, and I figured it’d look good on camera :) More on that when it comes out!

Wrapping up

But for now that’s us all caught up on Delfinen - I have 3D-printed the bridge, but I have failed to laser-cut the pickup covers as the makerspace I use has got a new laser-cutter and I need to work out how to use it first: whilst the new cutter is definitely a step up from the old one, the software driving it seemed to make a mess of my design files I’d exported from Fusion (that worked fine on the old software). So I have some debugging ahead of me there.