Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fretboard inlay layout

A few days ago, sitting in a plane with my laptop, I got a chance to work on designing the fingerboard inlay. This is what I ended up with after about an hour in GIMP:

The lines are representing two muon tracks running out from the interaction point and bending in the detector's magnetic field. A personal touch is an electromagnetic cascade produced by one of the muons at the 12th fret. Dealing with such cascades is one of the things I've been doing for a long time in CMS.

The drawing is a little bit cheated, since cascades like this usually happen to very high energy muons and the ones plotted are low energy. How do I know? Its because of the bending. The higher the energy, the smaller the bending. The really high-energy ones that I work with look basically straight. But straight lines would look boring so I decided to slip in this little scientific inaccuracy, in favor of aesthetics.

Ok, so now that I've explained myself, I need to figure out how to make such inlay.. hmm...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Changed my mind about the frets

In parallel to this little project I've decided to actually take up building a guitar from scratch (i.e. bare wood). The idea for that one is to build a solidbody nylon string guitar with piezo pickups. I was making a testpiece to get myself familiar with the basic woodworking tools and skills required, and at some point I strung it up before putting frets in to see if everything is fine:

I played that for a little while... and realized that playing fretless in the 5th position is so much fun there is no way I'm putting those frets into the CMS guitar. I'll keep frets 1-4 just to stand a chance of playing open chords in tune but from the 5th fret up its fun time!

So I'm back to gluing padauk veneer into the fingerobard...

Friday, May 18, 2012


Another special touch I've planned for this guitar is electronics. Not guitar electronics - for the pickup wiring I'll stick to standard things. I want to add some actual detector elements to the guitar to follow the general theme. What I have in the photo below is a pixel detector prototype. 

Believe or not - this is not just a plain piece of silicone of about 1mm x 1mm. It is in fact a state-of-the-art detector prototype in which the tine surface is divided into about four thousand independent readout "pixels" designed to detect particle tracks in a high energy collision experiment.

I'm planning to somehow embed one or more of these in the guitar volume knob, as decoration. Stay tuned for my first foray into the world of resin casting.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fretslot filling - action!

Time for the real thing. Here's the fingerboard and some padauk veneer:

I've cut the needed number of strips roughly to size, paying special attention to get at least the bottom side flat, as the fret slots have flat bottom. Then I've glued them in one by one with super glue:

After about an hour I've trimmed the excess wood with a flush-cut saw:

Following up with some quick sanding, I ended up with this:

Now before I start putting the radius on the fingerboard (I'll be going with 16' radius) I'm thinking of doing some sort of inlay.. maybe a muon track curving along its way down the frets, with an extra cascade of particles from catastrophic energy loss around fret #12.. I'll try to design something.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fretslot filling - test

Making a slotted fretboard into a fretless has the feature that I can fill the fret slots with something of a different color than the rest of the wood and use them as fret position markers. This would be useful for this guitarist, who never played a fretless before. :-)

I initially wanted to use some maple veneer scraps that I had laying around (flame maple, but for this - who cares? :-) ) but then I though - maybe this will be too bright? I had also some padauk veneer, which has this nice reddish-orange color, that would not stand out as much and also should nicely match the red body.

The best way to see what it will look like is the usual small-scale test. I took one of the ebony cut-offs, put some superglue in four slots and inserted two pieces of each veneer:

After waiting about an hour for the superglue to set I trimmed the edges with pliers, quickly sanded the whole thing flat with P100 followed by P240 sandpaper, cleaned up with mineral spirits and gave a coat of Rustins danish oil to give it a little bit of the "finished look". Here's the result:

I like the way it turned out, comparing the two I think I'll be staying with the padouk.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trimming the fingerboard to size

Time to see how the Dremel mini-saw does with the ebony fingerboard blank. Here's the amateur setup for guiding the saw along the cut line (actually a little outside the line, to leave room for error):

It turned out that the saw is just big enough to slice through the whole depth of this board.

A quick test fit with the neck:

The new fingerboard is a bit too wide - I'll trim it down as I work on the inlays and shape the flat face. Shaping will involve taking ~1mm of wood in the region up to the 8th fret, since this will be the fretted part. As I want it to be the same height as the fretless one when the frets are installed, I'll need to lower it before putting the frets in. This will probably tricky, I'll find out soon.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gluing the pieces on

Time to start attaching the puzzle pieces to the body. I mixed some epoxy glue and started putting them one. Here goes the first round:

I managed to cram a line of them between the neck pocket and the neck pickup cavity, although I had to trim them a bit. I put a few more pieces on and left them pressed down for the night. In the morning I found the guitar looking like this:

After three or four such sessions I had all the pieces on the body.

As you can see I'm not trimming the pieces that are close to the edges. This is intentional. I want to maintain the puzzle "look" and keep the jagged edges.

At this point I'm done with the body for now - what remains to be done is covering it with clearcoat. This is going to be a bit complex, I need to find a spray gun and I'll probably be trying to use the facilities in the CERN Auto Club. But since I have other small projects going on in parallel, where I will also be clearcoating the bodies so I want to wait and do all of them at the same time. I anyway have quite some work to be done on the neck and fingerboard so I'll shift to that.