Aug 7, 2016

Building a Guitar Body from Plywood, part III of III

In part III of this build, we go through removing orange peel and polishing the finish, wiring, final assembly, and adjustments!  Sound demo coming your way soon as well :)

Where we left off, the paint had to cure for a few days to harden up.  I left it for 48 hours and it was functional, but if you want a really pristine finish that's more resistant to fingerprints and oils, wait at least a week in good conditions.

Started out on the back because it's less visible and already a little messed up.  I began with 400 grit wet sandpaper and a small sanding block.  If your orange peel isn't too bad, you should probably go ahead and start at 600 or 800 grit.  Also add a drop of soap in your water to help lubricate the sanding and keep it all clean.

After some more sanding with 400 grit, most of the orange peel was out.  I didn't go quite as deep as I probably should have, I wanted to err on the side of caution in preserving the clear coat.

The same process went for the top, but with a bit more care because it's more visible.  Started with 400, then when the surface was level, moved on to 1500.

After 1500, 2000 grit paper took out the scratches... well, made them really tiny.

Once our surface is level, we get our buffing compound and elbow grease out.  It's time to put a shine on.  The compound should work as an ultra fine sandpaper and smooth it to a glossy finish.  A pad like shown works great, but an old shirt works fine as well.  I didn't have any official buffing compound but "headlight finish restorer" is essentially the same thing, as is toothpaste, interestingly.

Beautiful and shiny!  Up close, still a lot more imperfections than a factory finish would allow on even a lowly Squier or First Act, but it's done by hand by an amateur, so I'm happy enough with it.

I was eager to hammer the bushings in, but forgot a crucial step - grounding.  I had to extract one of the bushings and drill a tiny hole from the output jack hole to the bushing hole.

This small wire threaded through the hole comes in contact with the bridge pin and by proxy all of the strings, effectively grounding it.  Less noise = more gud.

Time to bust out the soldering iron.  My wiring was as simple as physically possible (pickup to output, plus ground) but was still a pain to solder because my wires were a bit shorter than ideal.  No worries, it worked out in the end.

Next is the neck and misc. hardware.  Didn't get any in progress pics of the neck but there's not a whole lot to show.  I was unsure whether to go with a glued or bolt on neck, and ended up using both for extra stability.  I didn't trust glue alone with the relatively small neck pocket, and I only used two screws, so didn't trust them alone either.  The result has been rock freaking solid so I'm thinking I needn't have worried so much either way, both wood glue and bolts are pretty damn strong.

Aside from a few little things (strap buttons, string trees), we've covered pretty much everything now!  I threw a strap on and plugged it in as soon as I had one string on.  I can't say it's the most beautiful guitar tone in the world (and certainly not very versatile, with one pickup, no volume or tone) but it actually is remarkably good sounding for a couple slabs of mystery plywood and spare parts.

I'm also undoubtedly biased because a lot of work and research went into building this, and research shows you love more that which you make (okay, I made that up, but it sure seems true).

And here we have it - the final "Les Plywood"!  I think it has a pretty unique vibe overall due to the combination of the slightly smaller-scale body with a 25.5" scale neck.  What keeps it from looking like a travel guitar is the extra thick semi hollow body, which seems to give it a nice deeper tone, and also catches feedback (the good kind) noticeably better than solidbodies.  

Add in the single pickup/no electronics minimalism and it's a pretty nifty looking little guitar.  It's far from perfect but I'm really happy with how it turned out, it came a long way from a sheet of old plywood.


  1. Nice. Looks cool. I'm thinking about making a strat out of plywood.

    1. Thanks! Good luck with your build if you decide to go ahead, it's a lot of fun.

  2. This looks amazing! I was wondering how to saw multiple layers without gluing them together (to make routing easier maybe?) I'm gonna have to steal your technique! Building a Mattocaster soon!

    Also, quite enigmatic electronic choice.

    1. Thank you! You could saw the layers separately if you just print out 5 templates (or however many depending on thickness), if they're all cut following identical templates, the small differences around the edges can just be sanded after combining them (presumably still using glue then). Good luck on your build!

  3. what happened to the sound samples??


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