Starting Out With The Electric Guitar

Step by step instructions on how to make a solid body guitar on the CNC using parts from a cheap Epiphone Les Paul.

For this build I’m going to take an inexpensive Epiphone Les Paul and gut it for the electronics and the neck.

The first thing I’m going to do is sand off all the paint from the neck and modify the headstock.

Now I’ll mill up my lumber for the body. I’m using eight quarter ash that will need to be glued up for width.

After the glue dries I’ll plane it down to 1 5/8 inch thick. When CNCing wood this thick it needs to be rock solid secure so I’m going to screw my blank right to my waste board. I’ll cut out one pocket at a time starting with the neck. You’ll want to do some test cuts in scrap wood to be sure your neck fits in very snug.

Next I’ll move on to my pickup pockets and the cavity for the electronics.

And then finally carve the outer shape.

To save time I’m only carving about a quarter of the way through and then I’ll finish it up on the bandsaw and router table. Following the grooves left by the CNC I’ll rough cut the outer shape on the bandsaw. And then finish everything up with a flush trim bit installed in my router table.

Next I’ll round over the top and bottom face with a 1/4” round over bit.

Now I’ll mark where to remove the material for the arm contour.

I’m using an angle grinder and the Arbortech Turbo Plane blade.


I’ll then clean it up with a belt sander.

I’ll repeat the process for the belly cut on the back side.

For the neck I’m using, it requires it to be set at a slight angle so I’ll cut out a wedge on the bandsaw, sand it down and glue it in the neck pocket. I’m using a 3-ply pick guard material that has a black decorative core.

And the last thing I need to cut is the headstock laminate. I’ll etch my logo into the top to reveal the gold under layer. With some quick set epoxy I’ll glue and clamp the laminate on the headstock. Once it dries I’ll sand it flush and transfer the tuning peg holes.

Using some nails I’ll transfer the screw holes on the neck to the body by applying pressure and marking the indentations. And then drill them out over on the drill press and assemble the neck.

Next I’ll mark the lines where the bridge and tailpiece need to go. Distance from the nut to the bridge depends on the scale length and frets of your neck. I chose to buy a higher quality bridge than the one that was on the Ephiphone.

For the tailpiece i’ll keep it center aligned with the neck, drill the holes and pound in the threaded inserts.

For the bridge I’ll string up the high E and low E strings and use that as a guide to find the sweet spot. I then then visually see by wiggling it back and forth where I want the placement. Mark my holes with an ice pick, drill and pound in the treaded inserts.

And the final bit of work for the body is to drill a hole for the instrument cable jack. All the electronics will be attached to the underside of my pick guard so I’ll need to drill holes for the knobs and the pickup switch. The only modification I needed to do to the electronics was extend the length of one wire and this was easily done with a solder sleeve available in the Inventables store. Just slip the wires into the sleeve and use a heat gun. No soldering iron needed.

Last thing to do is attach everything to the pick guard, drill the pilot holes and screw it down.

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