Sapele, Maple & Cocobolo


The body is a single piece of Figured Sapele. The neck is Flamed Maple with a Figured Sapele insert opposite the tuners. The fretboard is Cocobolo, polished to a gloss but unfinished. Mother of Pearl dots and a white TUSQ nut complete the neck. The back of the neck is a matte finish.

The guitar was sprayed with Instrument Stringed Gloss Lacquer and given 10 full coats. Then it sat to cure for 3+ weeks before being flattened and polished.


This is a closeup of the Pearloid Pickguard. The Knobs are Brass with Tortoise inserts. Neck pickup is a Fender 50s. Middle pickup is a Fender 60s and Bridge pickup a Seymour Duncan SSL-5.

The 5-way Switchcraft switch is tapped with a Neck-On mini toggle. This guitar's electronics are based on David Gilmour's Black Strat.

Tremolo and locking tuning machines are made by Fender.

The body is made from a single slab of figured sapele. Sapele is an African hardwood that usually is found in stright grain. Figured species are very rare. This piece came from a slab 60" x 17" x 1.75"
Mineral spirits were applied to bring out the figured grain.
Another shot of the figure, again enhanced with mineral spirits. Underneath are the forms used to create the final shape.
The Fender blueprint for making a Stratocaster body.
The template form (left) for shaping the top is laid over the Fender blueprint. The template on the right is for routing out the tremolo pocket on the back.
The starter template (left) is used to make the working template (middle) which is used to rout out the body.
Double sided turner's tape is applied to the template creating a strong bond to the body.
Body and template are now bonded and ready for the router table.
Shaping begins by taking incremental cuts. Even the 1/16" that is being removed requires a lot of power.
You can see how much wood is being removed in this cut. The light wood on bottom is the template, the cleaner cut wood in the middle is what the router just cut.
Second cut.
Final cut is made with a compression router bit. Still a more to go on the horn and around.
Final cut complete.
The body is now ready to rout out for the electronics and tremolo.
Electronics template bonded with turner's tape and ready for the router.
Body has been routed out for the electronics and the edge has been rounded. Neck template checks the neck pocket for a snug fit.
A Fender tremolo is used. Holes need to be drilled to accept the threaded inserts for the trem.
Check for fit before hammering in the threaded inserts.
Trem springs and mounting plate lined up for installation.
Preparing for lacquer spraying.
  The body goes to the spray booth for the first few coats of Behlen Stringed Instrument Lacquer.  
The back side in the spray booth.
Ten (10) coats of lacquer is followed by three weeks of curing. The lacquer is then sanded through ten progressively finer grits of wet sanding ending at 12,000 grit. It is then buffed out.

Copper tape is applied to the enitre interior of the pickup and switch cavities to reduce feedback and hum.
The body (before sanding and buffing) and the figured maple neck and cocobolo fretboard. A Hot Rod Dual truss rod is installed (in red). Spoke wheel allows for adjustment without removing strings or neck.
After the fretboard is glued on and trimmed on the bandsaw, it's time to do the final trimming on the router.
The shaping of the neck begins. This neck will duplicate the standard Stratocaster neck profiles.
  At the first fret - 1.704" in width and .825" in thickness.  
  A section of the figured maple headstock is cut away to accommodate a piece of figured sapele from the body.  
The sapele insert glued in place. A little mineral spirits added to enhance the grain. On to the fretting...
The fret tangs are trimmed back so they won't show at the sides of the neck.
Fret dots are genuine Mother of Pearl.
Tools of the trade...
Once all the fret tangs are trimmed, it's time to press them in place.
Frets are leveled and reshaped.
The flip side...
Time to apply the lacquer.
  The maple on the neck gets ten (10) coats of Behlen Stringed Instrument Lacquer followed by fine sanding and buffing. The end cuts of the fret slots are filled in with cocobolo dust. Fret ends are dressed.  
  A long look at the finished neck. The figure of the maple neck runs ninety degrees to the grain and appears to have some depth, also called Chatoyance.  
  The body and neck take a photo shoot. The "RAD AXE" logo is protected by 10 coats of lacquer.  
  Even the fretboard gets the polishing treatment. Notice the reflection from the magazine.
  Time for wiring the electronics.
  Using the primary tempate as a wire guide, the process of soldering the potentiometers and pickups to the 5-way switch. A mini-toggle switch was added as a "neck on" switch for the neck pickup. The wiring is based on David Gilmour's Black Strat.  
  After removing the template, the final soldering of the pickguard is completed.  
  The mini-switch for the neck pickup is located between the 5-way switch and the top potentiometer knob .
The knobs are solid brass with Abalone Shell inserts.
This is the Black Strat. If you look between the 5-way switch and the pot knob you can see the mini switch. The mini switch controls the neck pickup, simple ON-OFF that overrides the 5-way, which adds another option.

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