manzanita bush (not my pic)
This is a pretty typical manzanita bush for reference. It is one of the most dense woods that can be found in California's forests. This bush is probably close to 40 years old. The wood does not grow very straight, so finding enough usable pieces to do anything with is an adventure in itself.
Because of it's high density, Manzanita has a strong tendency to begin cracking horribly only a couple days after being cut. To combat this, we did a series of test boards in a variety of thicknesses to see how thick we could go without the cracking becoming an issue. All the boards were around 17" long and 2" tall. All the board wider than around 1.25" cracked too much to be usable.
We also painted the ends of the boards to to prevent warping, and kept the board clamped while drying.
Dried boards, cleaned up on the joiner, and run through the planer.
We glued up all the boards and just barely had enough to fit the Les Paul body shape. I had this custom template laser cut by Pololu.com
A little double-stick tape, and took the excess wood off with the bandsaw. All ready for the router.
Router Table Jig
Built this thing to help with the top carving. It just acts like a very skinny fence to get in the tight turns.
This is what the body looked like after running through the carving machine. I wasn't really sure how to start the cuts in some spots, so there was a little weirdness there.
I don't have any pictures of the process after this, but basically I just rasped and sanded the crap out of the body until all the cuts were smoothed out and it looked how I wanted it to.
Drilling for the bridge.
Almost ready to go.
Finished with Tru-oil. I love the satin-y look of oil finishes. I'm using a set of Instrumental Pickups Comet Dusters, they have a sort of hot vintage PAF sound, and covers he makes are absolutely gorgeous.
Still need some matching knobs. I'm using a push-pull pot for pickup selection, to avoid having to use a selector switch. This allows for pretty minimal wood removal for electronics.