Drill Baby, Drill!
It's time again for the latest update on the guitar build! In the last entry I fit the necks to the body - in this entry, I'll turn my attention fully to the bodies. In particular, I'm going to focus my attention on the various holes that need drilling on the body and the challenges they posed me (you wouldn't think drilling a hole would pose much of a challenge, would you?).
First, there are several holes drill at odd angles between the pickup and control cavities - none of these really presented a problem, the only requirement being I had two extra-long drill bits - one from a standard long set I bought a while back and an extra long brad point bit from another set I purchased, each from Amazon. I can recommend the former set - the standard set I bought is an outstanding set of bits. The brad point set - eh, not so much. Dull to the point of useless, they will need sharpening to salvage. I did use the bit to start the hole, though - a brad point will stay where you put it, where a standard bit will want to wander when you are drilling at an angle. In any case, I got the holes drilled where they were supposed to go without any major problems.
Then I went to drill the through-holes in the Tele style bodies (the Strat style bodies don't have these holes - the strings are all held in the tremolo bridge assembly, where these Tele style bodies all feed the strings into the guitar through the back). After hoisting the bodies up onto my small benchtop drill press, I was greeted with this view:
My drill press wasn't deep enough to reach them. Ugh. These are through holes as I mentioned, and they need to be straight - if they aren't it will show up on the other side big time - 6 adjacent holes drilled all kitty-wompas to each other, even if you get it right on the front - on the back of the guitar if they aren't all parallel and straight with each other still would be unprofessional and frankly, embarrassing.
After thinking on it for a night or two, I came up with this little hole-locating jig:
It's a pair of aluminum bars screwed to a scrap of the cutouts from one of the bodies, which I then took back to the drill press and drilled an 1/8" hole (the size of the finished hole) both through the bar on one side (with another piece of scrap to work as a spacer) and also into a new base I installed the drill press (attached so it won't move) as shown in "A" in the image below.
In part "B" of the image, I put a small 1/2" long piece of 1/8" drill rod into the freshly drilled hole, then turned the whole affair over and the in "C" below placed that pin into the hole in the drill press base and drilled the corresponding hole into the other side of the jig.
I could have drilled through in one fell swoop, I suppose - but 1/8" bits can flex a bit, and I figured there would be less chance of that if I did it this way.
Next I started the holes for the strings from the top side of the guitar, with a piece of tape on the bit to show me when I was just a bit over half way through. I find I can drill a more plumb hole when I use an old fashioned hand drill - in this case, my old Millers Falls drill:
Then I took my jig and placed that short piece of drill rod (which I rounded off on the grinder so it wouldn't scratch) into the hole on one of the aluminum bars, then placed that rod into each of the six holes I just made on the face of the guitar, marking out the location of each corresponding holes location using the hole on the other bar on the jig as I went:
Once I had all six marked out, I used an awl to mark the hole center, then used the old drill to again drill just over half-way through the guitar body, this time from the back. Happily - the holes drilled in from the back all lined up with the holes from the front:
Even if they had been off a little that would have been OK, so long as they met up and I could feed a string though - and they all looked right on the back and matched up with the holes on bridge on the front.
I should have followed my own advice - for the second guitar I just grabbed my deWalt power drill to do the holes and ended up with this:
Exactly what I was trying to avoid. I could still see daylight through all the holes - so all was not lost, but I would need to straighten those holes up. Luckily there are some ferrules that will be installed on the back, so I did need to enlarge the holes on the back for the ferrules - which would give me an opportunity to do just that. However, if you've ever tried to do that you know the drill bit will want to follow the original hole and scuttle your efforts.
To fight the bit's tendency to follow the original hole, another small jig was in order. I measured the exact distance between the two outside most holes, then using a CAD program plotted out a guide with the correct spacing for all six holes, using those two outer holes as the guide. Using spray adhesive, I mounted that guide to a 1" thick piece of beech (good and hard wood). Using the drill press, I then drilled the two outermost holes with a 1/8" bit to match the existing holes, then drilled the remaining 4 between with a 5/16" drill bit (the size required for the ferrule).
I then place a pair of short 1/8" drill rods into those two outermost holes and then placed the jig into place with the rods holding the jig in place in the body of the guitar. With a depth guide and a brad point bit (which acts more like a forstner bit, and won't try to center itself on the existing hole) I drilled the holes for the ferrules in the four middle holes.
For the outer two holes, I used a standard drill bit which followed the original hole - since they were the guides I used for the others, they were obviously in the correct location. In the end, the holes all came out nice and even:
The picture doesn't do it justice - there was a tiny little bit of tearout from the brad point bits that the ferrule will cover that make it look a little off, though it's not.
While I am on drilling, I wanted to get all the holes in the body drilled before finishing, so if I mess up, it's easier to fix than if I had a finish on it. First up was the 7/8" hole for the input jack:
Next was the holes to mount the bridge - note that I learned my lesson and am using the gimlets like I should:
I didn't want to stop there - I also mounted the pickguard and strap buttons:
Next up is "Filling" - it might normally be the shaping of the body or installing binding, but there's a couple of boo-boos I made along the way on a couple of the bodies that need fixing first and want to show how I did that.
Post Script and further recommendations:
Gimlets are getting hard to find anymore. Here's one source:
That set is from Amazon and is dirt cheap for a set of 4 - this is the full set of 7 that I have, available from Lee Valley:
If you can find a decent vintage set, those are usually the best - but a good quality set can be very tough to find.
Gimlets are an absolute essential part of any decent woodworker's tool kit.
EXTRA LONG BRAD POINT DRILL BITS:
In addition to the bits mentioned in the article above, there is also a set of 8 extra long brad point bits available from WoodCraft that are much better than the ones I mentioned (and much more money also, unfortunately). Brad point bits are the bomb when it comes to woodworking, and extra long ones are rare. DO NOT GET THE ONES FROM AMAZON. They are not good.
EXTRA LENGTH STANDARD DRILL BITS
These standard bits are a good deal - they are good quality and SHARP!
There should be standard drill bits in extra long lengths available at most decent local hardware stores.