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Prepping Rough Planks for Solid Bodies

Prepping Rough Planks for Solid Bodies

by John Calkin

Published online by Guild of American Luthiers, October 2021


There are plenty of places online where we can purchase prepped electric guitar body blanks. But who can refuse free wood when it is offered? Several rough planks of 2"×9"×12' poplar came to me out of the blue. They had been painted on two sides, but so what? They had spent years in a dry barn. I cut them down to 6' to fit them in my little pickup truck, hauled them home, and stored them in my mower shed for two more years.

All photos by John Calkin

I have been working on electric ukuleles, mandolins, and mini guitars, and that is where the poplar is destined to be used.

The first step was to cut a plank into 15" lengths using a sled on the table saw. Though it looks like the plank will be run against the fence, there will be plenty of clearance after the cut is set up.

Two pieces sat evenly on the saw deck so I proceeded to run them through the drum sander, first the humped side and then the cupped side.

One edge was sanded flat (but not perfectly) on the 6"×48" belt sander in order to run it evenly against the table saw fence while the other side was trimmed clean and perpendicular to the faces. In this photo, the second edge is about to be trimmed.

That's as far as I will take them for now. They are shy of the 1 3/4" thickness used for most Fender electrics but plenty thick enough for smaller solidbodies. When the time comes, the shorter length will be sliced up to widen the longer piece as necessary, making the bit still covered in red paint irrelevant.

Once joined the blank may be thinned even more to accept a top of figured wood, but that lies in the future. The three blanks off the board that rocked too much on a flat surface would still rock after thickness sanding, so they will get a slightly different treatment later. ◆