Sunday, May 25, 2014

Making an Acoustic Telecaster Guitar from a 2x4!

When it came time to decide on a project for the 2014 Summers Woodworking 2x4 Contest, I knew immediately what I wanted to try to make, a guitar! I remember reading that if you want to get into guitar building, use inexpensive materials to learn and make mistakes on before trying to use the good stuff.

I copied a set of templates from a friend a few years ago but never used them. If you would like to try to build a guitar, templates are available on the web and you can even find specs for common guitars. Just Google it!

When selecting a 2x4, I looked for one that was straight with very few defects, or at least defects that I could work around. I found one that was very straight and had a clear section that was perfect for the neck. 

The 2x4 contest rules allowed for only one 8-foot 2x4 to be used. I knew it would be tough to get a guitar out of a 2x4 without running out of wood, so I had to plan my cuts carefully and conserve as much scrap as possible. I was able to complete the guitar with a small amount of scrap left in my scrap bucket.

It's easy to get bogged down in the specs and details when building a guitar, so I decided to work on a high level and stick to just enough of the basics to make it work. After all, it is just a 2x4! Aspects such as neck tension, truss rods, fingerboard action, durability, comfort, intonation, and tone took a back seat to getting the project completed by the contest deadline.

Overall the process was pretty straight-forward as far as the woodworking goes. Careful measurements and lining everything up parallel and perpendicular was important. Part of the challenge was making parts such as the nut and bridge out of wood, as these parts usually contain plastic or bone materials.

Here is my video of the 2x4 guitar build.  Editing the video to be under the 10-minute limit was almost as challenging as building the guitar.  Good luck to all who entered.  Thank you to the sponsors for providing the prizes.  And thanks to Brian at Summers Woodworking for hosting the contest!

Here is a list of the supplies used on this build: 8-foot 2x4, Wood Glue, Epoxy, Screws, 3" Cotter Pins, Paint, Lacquer, CB Gitty Tuning Pegs, Nylon Guitar Strings, Templates, and Specs on the Internet (Google It!).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's 2x4 Contest Season Again!

Once again, I find myself knee deep into a 2x4 project and facing a deadline for the 2x4 competition hosted by Summers Woodworking.  This will be my fourth time entering a 2x4 competition.  It's 2x4 Contest Season again!

A 2x4 project is such a fun challenge to face in the workshop.  You must adapt to being limited to just one 8-foot 2x4 (which is actually only 1.5” x 3.5”) unless your project is small.  You have to plan your cuts well and maximize your lumber so that you have enough material to finish the project.  This does not allow much room for error, so it’s a good idea to pick out the best 2x4 you can find, then measure twice (or even three times) before you cut.  The challenge to me is to not just make something out of a 2x4, but to make the finished project look like there’s no way it could have started from a 2x4.

Whether you are a hand tool person, power tool person, or both, it helps to have a variety of tools you can use to slice up the 2x4 any way you wish.  When I design a project for a 2x4 contest, I purposely try to design it so that there are no pieces that maintain the original 1.5” x 3.5” dimensions.  This helps to disguise the fact that you started with a 2x4.  To do this, you will most likely need to rip and resaw the board.  

Ripping is commonplace in the shop, but resawing can be intimidating and deserves respect as far as safety is concerned.  To resaw on the table saw, I raise the blade to about 1/4 of the height of the board and cut from both sides, flipping the board end-over-end.  Then I raise the blade to 1/2 height, and cut from both sides which separates the board.  It's a good idea to leave a thin piece of wood attached in the middle for safety and then break them apart.  A solid fence and a good push stick are required to keep control of the board!

For my current 2x4 project, I needed to resaw a chunk of 2x4 into 5 thin boards using my bandsaw.  The bandsaw has a smaller kerf and removes less material than the table saw.  I was surprised at how well my old Craftsman bandsaw did, but I had to go slow.  I used a 3 tpi blade to help reduce drift and burning.  Larger gullets between the teeth help remove sawdust from the cut.  This does require some sanding or a pass through a planer to remove the saw marks.

I think creativity and workmanship are the two most important ingredients in a woodworking contest and they go hand in hand.  I believe it takes some level of both to create a good contest entry, especially for a 2x4 contest.  It’s not easy to make something out of a 2x4 that doesn’t look like it started with a 2x4, but that’s all part of the fun in the first place.  

Also, it can’t hurt to spend time on the presentation of your project.  Whether the contest requires a photo, video, article, or other type of submission, a little extra effort here can make a difference.  Good luck to everyone who will be entering a 2x4 contest this season!  I can’t wait to show you what I've come up with this year!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Team Building Skis

I volunteered to make two pairs of Team Building Skis for a school field day event.  These can also be used for children's parties, scouting games, and company teamwork activities.  Below is a list of the supplies along with instructions.  The total cost for two pairs of skis was about $35.00.  That's a small price to pay, considering you get to enjoy watching people try to work together to "ski" across a field!

Here is a list of the supplies you will need:
  • 4 8-foot 2x6 boards
  • 100 feet of 3/8" polypropylene rope
  • Electrical Tape
Follow these instructions:
  1. From one end of each board, make a mark every 18".
  2. Mark the center of the board at each 18" increment.
  3. Drill 1" holes about 1/2" deep, then drill the rest of the hole with 3/8" bit.
  4. Cut rope into 4-ft lengths using electrical tape to keep rope from fraying.
  5. Feed rope through the holes and tie a knot on the bottom side that will recess into the 1" hole.
  6. Tie handles on the top side of the rope if desired.
  7. Hop on and start skiing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Picture Frame with Wooden Signatures

For Mother's Day, I made my wife a picture frame that features our kids' signatures cut out of wood.  The frame is made from Western Red Cedar and the signatures are cut from Eastern Cedar.

I asked each of my kids to sign their name really large on a sheet of paper.  To help keep them the same scale, I drew some guidelines for them on the paper.  I cut around the signatures using my Craftsman 13" scroll saw and somehow I managed to avoid breaking them.

To finish off the picture frame, I cut a piece of plexiglass using a straight edge and a utility knife.  The picture and backing board are secured in place with glazing push points.  I also attached a picture frame hanger so it can be hung on a wall.  

I think it's pretty neat to have our kids' signatures cut out of wood.  This gift can be customized for many different occasions.  The most difficult part of this project was getting my kids outside to take the picture!