D.I.Y. Jazzmaster

This Jazzmaster is my very first body build from scratch. In the past, I have pieced together a Les Paul from various parts online, but have never before created an entire body. The 25.5" scale neck was purchased from a luthier online because I don't have the confidence yet to build my own. The various electronics and pickguard were also purchased online. So here is how the build played out...


I bought a fairly inexpensive Alder body blank off ebay from some guy who sells nothing but guitar wood. It's important not to use wood found in Home Dept or Lowe's, because the wood needs to be properly dried out before using. Wood at hardware stores has way too much moisture, unless you want to air dry it for 5 years. The dimenstion of this blank is 2" x 13-3/4" x 20". There is a slight defect on one end, but I just cut around that.


I printed out a Jazzmaster template at 1:1 scale, of course, and taped it to the blank. The back of the template has graphite rubbings so when I trace over it, the guitar outline will appear on the wood. Crude, yes, and not entirely precise, but close enough.


Here's the outline applied to the wood. Notice the knot at the top right which I am cutting around.


Using my neighbor's jigsaw, a portable work bench, and clamps, I cut the outline of the guitar. I tried to leave about 1/8" or so outside the line in case I mess up. As it turns out, the blade would bend when I tried to cut a round corner, so some of the sides are not perfectly straight, but I can live with it. The biggest error happened where the waist contour is going to be cut out anyway, so it's all good.


Here's the entire body cut out. I cut too much at the neck pocket and had to glue the wood back in place. See if you can spot the repair.


Now I need to shape the arm rest contour. I drew a rough outline of where I wanted the contour to be. I then used one of these wood files I found at Home Depot to start the cut. I soon decided it was causing too much vibration on the table and taking too long.


I got rid of the file and used my reciprocating saw instead to cut out the arm rest. It worked much faster and gave me a cleaner cut.


As you can see, the arm rest is not perfect, but that's where all the sanding and wood filler comes in later to smooth it out.


Now I grab my sander and go to town on the sides. I start with a fairly coarse grit and then work by way to more smooth grit later on after all the routing.


I bought this 2HP Craftsman router on sale at Sears and some half-off router bits to go with it. The router cut through the wood like butter. I didn't have a template to follow with, so I just used the pencil outline on the wood for guidance. This is where skill comes in, for I didn't mess up at all routing the neck pocket! Oh yeah, I should say I used the neck as measurement to cut out the neck pocket instead of relying on the Jazzmaster schematic. The neck I bought is a Stratocaster copy, and was not the same depth as the schematic. You can see the neck in the background.


The body blank I bought was 2" thick whereas the Jazzmaster body should be 1-3/4" thick. Oops, I messed up there, but not to worry. I built a router planer based on plans I found online and was able to shave 1/4" off the back using wood as guides. This was my first time building such a rig and I was surprised it actually worked!


I cut out the waist contour much like I did the arm rest, with a reciprocating saw. Again, it's going to be rough at first, but with the proper sanding, and a little wood filler, it will eventually smooth out.


I drilled the pilot holes for the cavities with a 1/4" drill bit. This will make it easier on the router bit to cut through the wood.


All the cavities have been routed out, and some of the pilot holes went too deep. But we can fix this later with wood filler, and it will all be hidden by the pickguard anyway. Notice the cavities are not perfectly straight because I didn't have a template on top as a guide. I just eyeballed it. But again the pickguard will cover this. I tested to make sure the pickups, tailpiece, and electronics will fit the cavities, so we're good to go.


One evening I patched up the pilot holes and various errors with wood filler. This will all be sanded down and hopefully not too noticeable in the final body.


My dog Perkins is helping me apply copper shielding tape to the back of the pickguard. This will help reduce interference.


The copper shielding tape as been applied and trimmed.


After much sanding to smooth out all my errors, I am ready to apply the paint primer. Here is the last time we will see the bare wood.


I hung the body by a coat hanger wire on a piece of wood outside, allowing enough clearance sto the fence doesn't get sprayed on. Here I applied a few coats of primer.


I sanded the primed body with 1000 grit sandpaper until it was very smooth. Then I hung the body back up and started painting it with Lake Placid Blue from Reranch.com. Here's what it looked like after the first coat. I noticed I didn't get the body as smooth as it should be, for I still see small pits in the wood. I'm hoping the paint will fill these in.


After a few more coats of paint, most of the pits have been filled in, but the body is still very pitted when you look at it closely. That's okay, it's not the end of the world, but lesson learned for the next build!


Now I apply the nitro clear coat I also purchased from Reranch.com. I think I applied about 10 thin coats total.


Here is the completed body before I polished it. Notice the small pits espcially near the tailpiece. Still all-in-all not a bad body for a first time build with crude tools.


Here are the electronics after the final soldering, from a schematic I found off SeymourDuncan.com. The pickups are Lindy Fralin, hand-wound. They are both slightly hotter than normal, but that's just the way I like 'em!


Here's the body after polishing with 3M rubbing compound. The guitar actually came out smoother than this picture shows. I didn't want a mirror-like finish anyway so I didn't go crazy with the nitro and polish. I painted the cavities with copper paint instead of using copper tape because I read that the tape could come off and short out the electronics. Makes sense to me. The foam for the pickups is rubber foam I bought online and crudely cut with scissors. Again, no one is going to see this so it only has to be functional, not aesthetically pleasing.


Here's a close up of the ground wire to the bridge which will touch the copper tape on the pickguard which will have the electronics grounded to it. Notice I changed the ground wire channel from going into the pickup cavity to going into the volume/tone cavity for ease of use.


I lined up the neck first by stringing up the high and low E strings and then making sure they fell correctly over the pickups. Usually I'd clamp the neck in place to drill the screws in the back, but this time the neck just had to be pushed up all the way against the body. I held it in place with my hands and sunk the screws with a drill.


Looks nice and clean, don't it?


Here's an angle from the tailpiece just to show how everything lines up pretty darn straight.


Still looks good from the headstock!


More to come!

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