Pencil tele

Well, the cocobolo bass is nearing completion and so it's time to start on the next project! I haven't actually decided exactly what to do with this one, because I'm also due to make a bass for my daughter. If she likes this, it might be used for that, or otherwise it'll just be another practice build for me (unless anybody says they want to buy it!).

And yes, this is me jumping onto a slightly tired and creaking bandwagon, but this build was actually pencilled in (hah! not even sorry about that one!) some time ago, and my girlfriend bought me the pencils for my birthday several months ago, so the intention was there long before the pencil guitar recently appeared on social media. Anyway, this one is going to be different - and better, of course!

Eschewing extensive expositions, here instead are a few photos of what I've done this morning. I'm making a mould out of the offcuts from another guitar, and these have really determined that it's going to be a tele shape independently of my volition (they just happened to be the best set of offcuts that were lying around). The pencils were chopped up using my band saw in a slightly alarming procedure, but it worked and I still have most of my fingers, so that's okay.
Mould 1.jpg Mould 2.jpg Mould 3.jpg Pencils 1.jpg Pencils 2.jpg Pencils 3.jpg Pencils 4.jpg Pencils 5.jpg

The pencil pieces are about 10 mm long, which is fine for a drop top. I hope that I will have enough pieces for the entire top and the headstock - I made a rough estimate of the number of pieces that each pencil should be chopped into and came to 12, so I cut them into 15 pieces to allow a margin for error. When the main bits of the frame have finished gluing onto the base board, I will also glue in a couple of pieces for the lower cutaway and the neck pocket, to avoid wasting pencil pieces in large areas that will be cut out.

More updates soon....I will probably do a bit more on this today but I doubt we will get as far as pouring in the resin. I don't have any other specific pieces or ideas earmarked for this build, but those will fall into place soon - it's probably just going to be a regular sapele body and a fairly normal neck. I might go looking for decent tele hardware to buy for it - none of those horrible ashtray bridges, of course!
And the more-or-less complete mould. I plan to line this with thin plastic of some sort, in the hope that it won't stick to the mould and I will be able to reuse it in the future. I added in the blocks for the neck pocket and the lower cutaway to avoid wasting pencil pieces. The whole thing is slightly oversized to allow for trimming the edges.

Mould 4.jpg

I need to do some thinking and planning next, before we put the pencils in and pour the resin. I might need to put a cap over the whole thing while it dries, to avoid the pencils floating up and getting out of alignment. We also need to decide how we are going to arrange the pencils - they are different colours, so we could put them in randomly, in stripes or other patterns, or even make a kind of picture. I shall try to delegate that task to my gf, who likes doing jigsaw puzzles (she's currently doing one with about 10,000 pieces which has been occupying our dining table for several months).

bad alice

Easily distracted and...OHLOOKAGUITAR!!!
This is going to be AWESOME!

It took me a while to click on this thread as my brain kept adding the word “dick” after it read pencil.
*rubs chin*
Maybe that could be a build for another time?
I left a couple of weeks for the punnery to die down, but here's a little progress report. Firstly, the top itself has not progressed very fast. I lined the mould with polythene, whereby I hope to be able to lift it all out without breaking the mould, so that I can potentially reuse it (although it's not a disaster if I can't, since I don't know if I'd want to make another pencil guitar). My gf has partly filled the mould with the pencil pieces, but we ran out and had to order a couple of new boxes. I've cut those up, and they are waiting to be put in place. I don't know when she will do that - there's no hurry anyway, as I have plenty of other things to get on with in the meantime.

Although I'm still working on the bass, I'm doing the finish on that (had to sand off and restart the back which has caused a delay but it's a good learning experience), and so that leaves me some working time while things are drying. Hence I decided to start making the body. I don't have a lot of body woods lying around at the moment (something to be remedied when I go to England for my course), but I have some sapele and I decided to make a 2-piece body blank and then use my tele template to shape that up. Here's the result of that.

Body 1.jpg

"Woss that stuff on top of the body, mate?" I hear you cry. Well, I feel that the sapele butting against the black of the wood of the pencils will not be a pleasant combination, and so I had the idea of adding a narrow stripe between the two. I had a fairly decent offcut from the maple fretboard of the white lace tele, and I cut that up into four lengths which should be plenty to go around the perimeter of the body. The router bit was then used to do this:
Body 2.jpg

If I'd had a larger piece of maple, I would probably have routed off more so that I could glue the maple on with fewer joins, but this should be ok - I did the same thing (with ebony) on the 12-string. So I'm currently busy shaping individual pieces of maple and gluing them around the edge, basically doing one on each side every evening this week. Here's where I am now.
Body 5.jpg

You can see that I had a bit of a router cock-up on the body. That will be partly hidden by the strap button, but I will figure out some way of hiding it or making it into a feature - I might cut out a strip and inlay another piece of maple or something like that.

The strip will be thinner than it looks now, because the pieces protrude above the body so that I will be able to cut them down. I think this is going to look quite smart.

This build will go slowly over the next few weeks, until I'm back from my Ambler course, but then hopefully it will go quicker because the bass will be done and I can focus on this one. Once the top is made and this strip is finished, the rest of the build should be fairly straightforward, although I'm still thinking of the final parts of the design.
Another couple of weeks have passed and things are moving on. My girlfriend filled the mould with the chopped-up pencils, and then we filled that with resin.
Top resin setting.jpg

I managed to dig it out without breaking the mould, which is good since it means I can potentially use it again (if I ever want to do that again). It's quite flexible and a bit fragile, and in fact the lower horn came away but I don't think this is too much of a problem since its not structurally important, and it can be glued together when it's all glued onto the body.
Top resin set.jpg

Last weekend, I decided to throw together a neck, trying to go with the overall colour scheme by having a dark wood (wenge) on the sides.
Neck 1.jpg

The woods in the middle are bubinga and purpleheart, which I've used a lot in my builds. I've also glued wings on the side of the headstock, using offcuts of wenge, but I haven't got any farther with the neck since then.

Now, since this is a tele body, I'm going to make this fairly tele-like (except for a different bridge). I'm going with Irongear telecaster pickups, and will use a front-loading control cavity. However, here there was an opportunity to do something a little bit different, and in keeping with the theme of the guitar. Purpleheart and maple make a nice combination...
Control cover 1.jpg

...and finally, the control cover on the pencil top, which I have sanded nearly flat with my belt sander (which made a heck of a mess!).
Control cover 2.jpg

The greyish colour essentially comes from sanding the resin down, and that should clean up when the guitar receives its finish. The white pattern at the top right is supposed to be a Westie head, and hopefully that will be more obvious later on.

Next week, I'm going on my course with John Ambler so there won't be much progress for a few weeks, but I'll pick this up again upon my return. Plenty still to do so this probably won't get finished until May or June, but it's proving interesting!
It's been four weeks since the last update, mainly because of my Ambler course and associated travel and shenanigans. If you will permit a small diversion, though, I will post a couple of pictures of other things that were done this week. The course finally persuaded me to invest in a drum sander - this is, hopefully, the last major piece of equipment that I need to buy for guitar building. I thought about where it was to live, and decided that it should have its own little table, made low enough and with castors to live under my main workbench, and only come out when needed. So I bought a piece of quite nice plywood from the offcuts box of my local DIY shop, together with four little wheels, and concocted this.

It even got a finish, because I had a tin of something called hard wax oil that I'd bought as another option for guitar finishes but never used, and I thought this was a good opportunity to try it out. It seems to be reasonably good.

Now, the space under my workbench was already occupied by a few bits and pieces, so I also decided that it was time to build myself a second workbench. I had one spare piece of wall left in my garage - I couldn't build something very deep, but the goal was really just to put a couple of tools on there - mainly my drill press and my little jointer. Previously, that space was occupied by a few spare bits of wood and some odd bits of rubbish that were waiting to be taken to the dump, so I decided to leave space for all of those under the bench, making some little supports to put the wood tidily just under the worktop. I also decided to make this workbench 6" (15cm) higher than the other one, so that I have two different working heights that can be useful when I want to work close up to something detailed, and I already found this good when I used the drill press today.

Since this is only 40cm deep, it doesn't need to be hugely strong and I just bought a regular shelf for the worktop and put the extra baton along the front to give that a bit of extra support. The back legs are screwed firmly to the wall, and it seems to be just the job. I've placed a load of wood on the shelf supports (deliberately left open so that the wood can aerate). You might notice the tube running down the wall to the left of the bench. That's actually a power cable running to a socket that's on the other side of that wall (which is our hallway), and I'm planning to add a pair of sockets coming off that cable. I'm still debating whether to do that myself or whether to get an electrician in to do it. It's a simple job and I'm sure that I can do it, but I'm not a qualified electrician.

I made the workbench yesterday, and so today I decided to do a little bit of work on the pencil tele, which hasn't seen any action for a few weeks. The body was pretty heavy, and the top is also rather heavy since resin is heavier than wood. Moreover, the pencils have leads in them, so they will be really heavy too. Hence I decided that the body needed some weight relief, so I used the drill press - on its new home - and also tried my new palm router for the first time, and did this:

You might think that's quite extreme weight relief....well, it is a bit, and it's rather complex but the reasoning is that the pencil/resin top is quite bendy, and I don't want to leave large areas unsupported by the body below. Hence I went for lots of small holes rather than a few large ones. Apparently, this also helps to prevent feedback, although John Ambler also told me that filling weight relief cavities with foam or sponge before gluing the top on is also quite effective.

Easter and some other holidays are coming up very soon, so I expect that I'll be back in my workshop and hopefully will at last finish the cocobolo bass, and make some good progress on this one in the near future. TBH this one is a bit of a non-serious build, so I'm quite looking forward to getting stuck into the next one after that, and using some of the tips that I got on my recent course to try to make that one a really top notch guitar. Watch this space, but don't hold your breath! :D
I have a 5-day break over Easter from last Thursday to Monday, and among other things I've been working on this guitar. Yesterday and today I've been getting the top glued onto the body, using some more resin and getting the broken corner back in place. The first picture below shows the body and top, with the resin already spread over the top to glue it on. This brings back the look that I will hopefully get on the top once it's been finished and received a final clear coat of resin, which it will receive after all of the shaping and sanding.

I have also worked on the neck - it's been cut down to the proper width, and I've prepared the truss rod channel and shaped the headstock. My next task is to select the fretboard that I will use, and then tomorrow (Sunday) I plan to start working on that, getting it cut to size and probably doing the preliminary cutting of the fret slots before gluing it onto the neck. After that, I will have to carve the neck and rout out the neck pocket, and then we'll be getting close to it looking like a guitar, although there will still be plenty of work left.

I took pictures of nine different fretboard options, but the three below are my current favourites.

I'm still debating whether to make a veneer out of the remaining pieces of the pencils for the headstock, but at the moment I'm leaning towards leaving it as is. Of course, you have to imagine the neck in the right position (further out from the body), the fretboard cut to the proper width and the top more black and glossy, like in the first picture.

Any thoughts on these options?