J-11 in Sapele: Part IV

Well, it’s been a while…I’ve been making slow progress but doing a poor job of photographing it. My workshop is now fully insulated and I’m working on getting it finished off.

With regards to the guitar, I did the frets a while back but forgot to take pics. I cut the slots by hand with a mitre box and a pax fret saw.



Next up I drilled holes for & installed plastic side dots. Normally I use mother of pearl dots but I don’t have any on hand.



Next up was the headplate. This was holding me back, and partly the reason I didn’t work on this for a good while. My headstock shape is very wide at the top and I couldn’t fit a matching ebony headplate for this build. I finally sucked it up and decided just to use Ziricote. It will look fine in the end (actually, it should look great – Ziricote is absolutely beautiful) and it’s a dark wood of close-ish colour so it won’t look out of place.



Of course, I didn’t have any Ziricote wide enough either. So I used a piece that was not quite wide enough, leaving a piece to be filled. I found a colour-match offcut and attached it with CA glue.



Once trimmed flush it looks perfect! After sanding it will be impossible to distinguish from the rest of the headplate.



And here it is as it currently stands…that is my original pickguard from the first prototype. It won’t fit this guitar because I altered the pickup spacing, I will have to make another one at some point.


J-11 in Sapele: Part III


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Alas, the long-overdue post for the Sapele J-11 part III. Unfortunately, although I love my new place, my shop is not insulated yet. It’s also Canada, so the shop thermometer was reading -20 to -30 Celsius for a couple of weeks and that makes it hard to get things done. Regardless, I’ve got some progress to share. In actuality I did this work before it got so damn cold, and this is the state that the project’s been sitting in since then. Once I get the shop insulated things will move along a lot faster.

To start off with, I built a new workbench. It’s a roubo style bench made completely of SPF lumber. Overall cost was less than $300 and I’m quite satisfied with how it turned out (in the photo below you can see it’s aboit 90% finished, but the ends are not squared off yet and I hadn’t trimmed the leg through-tenons yet). I know that’s not a guitar, but it’s all part of getting the new shop functional. I’ll post a build thread for the bench itself soon.


I still use these original templates that I had cut almost 6 years ago for the J-11 ūüôā They are screwed down to the body, and the electronics cavity and wire channel are routed. I have a similar acrylic templates for the fretboard and neck mortise.


After routing: voila.


The same technique is used for the headstock. Since the headstock will be covered by a plate, I screw it down rather than using double-stick tape (since the screw holes will not be visible after the headplate is on).


After doing the headstock, the template was removed and I cut the 1/4″ channel for the truss rod on my sketchy home-made router table.


I also tried out a new technique for cutting the neck tenon, and I was quite satisfied: no gaps on the first try! First time ever…feels like success. I should have always been doing this, but I simply copied the angle onto both sides of the neck so they were identical (using a square) and scored the lines deep with a sharp knife. Then I cut the mortise lines out using my Pax fret saw.


Aaaaand here she is with the fretboard on. I cut the neck plane (angled front end of the body) using one of my handplanes (p.s. Sorry Jon! It’s the plane I planned to give you, but I didn’t have my shop set up yet to finish it off completely and I couldn’t stomach the thought of sending out an imperfect plane; it’ll be in the mail one of these days soon).

Note: I’m aware the neck plane angle looks way too high here. I was only about half way finished working when I took this photo, but I don’t have a better¬† shot of the neck & body after finishing the neck plane.


A new Handplane: General Purpose Ebony Plane


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Hi All ~

I just wanted to share a handplane that I finished working on today. I find I’m making more handplanes than instruments these days (although admittedly I’m not making much of anything for a few more weeks until I have my new shop set up). This one is a general purpose ebony plane. I would say it’s a smoother since it’s intended take fairly fine cuts but it’s pretty good all around as a nice little plane to have in the shop. I will probably end up selling this one after I finish running it through the paces to make sure it’s up to snuff.

It has a very heavy O1 steel iron from Ron Hock – so far I’ve had no issues planing curly maple with it, which is usually my benchmark for the usability of a plane. Tomorrow I’ll test it on a piece of quilted/curly maple consider almost un-plane-able (which I keep as my final benchmark test) to see how it performs…



Since I had some scraps, I also made this lovely little thing to go with it – another drill bit Awl, in striped ebony. I’ve also started stamping my tools with the emblem of an anchor…I think it’s a nice touch.


La Patrie Review: Updated


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Hello again….

Just some more general information updates regarding getting the site back to it’s former glory.

I had a review up of a La Patrie Etude – but the sound samples disappeared when all of the site images were lost. So I’ve updated the page with a new recording. One more thing checked off the list of getting the site back into ship shape! You can find the video below, or also in the reviews section.

Site Updates

Hi All –

In the process of cleaning up the site and trying to restore lost images, I’ve managed to finally get a number of them back. The ones that are still missing are the J-11 build and the Handplane making Tutorial. As a result I will try to have those fixed over the next couple of days, because I¬†know that I have those ones backed up.

I’ve also removed some old materials that were no longer needed. I got rid of the Cocobolo Uke build, the OM-11 build, and some other stuff (don’t worry, it’s mostly stuff that sucked anyways!).

Finally Рthe website surpassed 40,000 Hits! Wooo!!!

That’s it for now! Cheers ~¬†Murkar

A New Era, a New Look


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So I decided to update the header image for the website – hope you all like it! I figured that a new Era called for a slightly different image, and I thought it was time for radically different look.

While in the past I’ve had pretty traditional pictures of Guitars, Paintings, etc., I went for something more modern – but combined with a traditional painting featuring a guitarist. The figure is a portrait of Monsieur Aublet, by French painter¬†Guillaume Voiriot (Circa 1782) which I obtained from the online archives of the Metropolitan Museum of art.

Here it is!


And, for your viewing pleasure, a blast from the past! I attached all of the headers that have been used for the website in the past below.









J-11 in Sapele: Part II


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I got started this morning by assembling a handplane, which I needed to carve the neck plane. I wanted to test out an idea and see if it worked, so I used some of the scrap Sapele cutoffs from the guitar body blank to make this. In case anyone else is thinking of trying it, don’t waste your time using a flattened cross pin – it’s not worth the hassle, and using this plane was murder (even with a super-sharp O1 Steel blade). I’ll be using that ebony to make one with a proper steel or brass bridge in a bit.



Laid out the positioning for the electronics, neck mortise, and neck plane.



Afterwards, I went to town on the guitar body with that Sapele plane and finished the neck plane. It’s at 4.2 degrees right now, I’ll make adjustments later to get it where I want once I decide on what to use for a bridge.



Then I began hogging out material with a forstner bit for the routes.



I also had a nice piece of perfectly quartered Sapele for the neck, so I traced the neck outline and rough cut it.


Tomorrow I’ll be starting on the fretboard and hopefully also finish up the routes so I can order electronics etc.

J-11 in Sapele


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Hi all –

It’s been a long time since I was last able to actually find the time to work on a guitar…..a¬†very long time. I’ve made a few handplanes but that’s been about it, because I can finish those in an afternoon.

Today I finally got started on a guitar I’ve been wanting to make for quite some time. I dusted off my templates and a big slab of Sapele and got to work.

I started by rough sawing the body outline on the bandsaw. I also have nice clear acrylic templates for the J-11 model that I had laser-cut from the blueprint file. They’re set up for single coils, but this guitar is going to have two humbuckers and a blend-balance knob (like the prototype I built when designing this bad boy).



My workshop was in a pretty bad state, having not worked in here for almost two years. Half of my ¬†templates are gone, there’s stuff piled everywhere, and almost all of my tools have been removed from their wall hangars and stored away. I’ll be cleaning and fixing up my shop while working on this J-11.



One tool I was happy to find was still there was my drill bit Awl (probably my favorite tool). I did a tutorial on how to make these a while back, though I’m not sure if that section of the website still works (a lot of the pictures on this site have vanished, and I’m working on fixing that as well).



The templates have countersunk holes so they can be screwed down to the body. The holes are positioned in the same spot as the pickguard holes, so I use the pickguard screws to hold the templates in place while routing. The ones that aren’t are positioned over the pickup slots so that the holes will be routed away later and there not a visible blemish on the finished product.



Next up, used the routed to trim the rough cut body flush with the template. Tomorrow I’ll start hogging material out for the electronics cavities and the neck mortise. I also rounded over the back edges with the router and a roundover bit (no pics), but I’ll leave the front edges until I have the neck plane carved (since this guitar will have an angled set neck like a les paul).



I also don’t have any handplanes, since I sold all of my previous ones or gave them away. I had this nice thick O1 steel blade from Hock Tools though (sorry for the dark picture), so I’m gonna make a small smoother tomorrow which I’ll then use to carve the neck plane. I selected a nice block of striped ebony for the plane.


More to come soon! ūüôā


Missing Pictures :(

Hi All –

I have had quite a few comments regarding missing pictures from the site. Unfortunately I used to host my picture files on another website, which has since gone down. As a result a lot of my photos which were not backed up were lost.

Over the next few days I will be trying to get them back up – at least for the ones which I had backups of, I can re-post them using WordPress. A lot of these files were unfortunately from years ago though and have been sadly lost forever.

I did not expect this blog to be so popular with the tutorials etc., but since I have had comments from a number of people now, I¬†will be re-doing my handplane building tutorial soon with new pictures (and since I’m taking the time I will try to include new things like making fancy wedges etc.), as well as making effort to recover pictures from older guitar builds etc.



Bocote Smoother

I decided it was time to make another plane today. It’s been a long time since I posted last, but unfortunately my circumstances are such that I rarely get to spend time in the shop anymore. Anyways – today I started working on a block of Bocote that I had lying around.


The biggest part is getting the blocks and sides squared and cut. People give me weird looks when they see how much time I spend checking my work with a square – but we’re not building picnic tables here. A little extra time at this point saves a lot of hassle down the road.


For the wedge, I decided to re-purpose a spare African Blackwood wedge I had left over from the mitre planes I made last year. Also, an A2 steel blade (since I unfortunately didn’t have any O1 irons lying around).



After the sides and blocks were glued together, I laid out the positions for the side pins. These were then drilled for the pins, which are 3/16″ Brass.


Once the holes are drilled, the pins are inserted and ground flush with the sides. Then the bevels are added and the whole thing thrown on the buffing wheel. The finished product also has a wooden bridge (normally a brass cupids-bow would be more appropriate, but I don’t have any spare brass lying about).

This plane required very little work once it was finished…spending a lot of time double and triple checking and making adjustments during assembly leaves you with a very accurate finished product.