all trussed up and nowhere to go

After what amounted to an undue amount of fussing about with setting the neck, I used a trick that I saw on a C.F. Martin factory tour to lock everything in. I loosely set the neck in place and slid a piece of sandpaper between the mating surface of the neck and the body (grit side out) to even out any imperfections in my chisel work (and there were sufficient imperfections to make this a good move).

I then went back in with the chisel one more time and hollowed out the interior mating surfaces just a bit so that everything pulls up nice an snug when the neck is finally installed. And just because that wasn’t enough work, I decided to change the heel cap to a white/black/white lamination to echo the purfling. I did this for two reasons. One, because I thought it would look classy. Two, because the heel was actually a bit short of the back binding and I had originally tried to fix that by adding a bit of mahogany and then the heel cap. It worked but I wasn’t thrilled. This is better.

All of that done I was finally confident to move on to truss rods and fret boards.

After much hemming and hawing, (and too much time trying to read about it on the internet) I decided to glue the rod in place. It’s a Martin double action rod and they have started doing something very helpful with these rods by wrapping them in shrink wrap. That means you can glue it in without too much worry of your glue affecting the action of the rod.

I know some people don’t glue. I know others glue simply because it stops any potential rattling. I know others who use a silicon caulk to obviate potential problems with rattling and thus solve the problem and avoid gluing at the same time. I have a tendency to over-think and over-engineer, but after a brief and helpful chat with Kieran at about his methods I decided to just roll up my sleeves and get to work.


I taped off the truss rod channel, mixed up a batch of epoxy, spread the epoxy in the channel, set the truss rod and then leveled off any epoxy above the rod and let it set. There, done. No more fussing with that.

But you can’t play a truss rod. You need to cover that ugly mess with something.

When I finally got around to installing the fret position markers I realized that even though I had all manner of inlay in mind before I started this project, the more I worked on this the more I felt a simple dot pattern was going to be “right” visually. So out came the hand drill (yes, that’s right, eggbeater style) some brad point bits and the cyanoacrylate. Laying out the spacing for me was basically a matter of copying my other Martin guitars. Gluing, on the other hand, is a messy business.

I glued the inlays in with super glue and worked rosewood powder back into the glue surrounding the inlays to fill in any gaps.

And then came the sanding. Ugh, sanding. Honestly, after taking up hand tools my life has been a lot less dusty and making all of this rosewood dust was not pleasant, but it was made a whole lot easier by this sanding beam.

The aluminum is milled to maintain the consistent 16″ radius on the fretboard. It’ll also come in handy as a caul when gluing the fretboard to the neck and leveling the frets. I have to admit that when I was buying it I thought it was a pretty good chunk of change for one tool, but it’s a great tool and I would buy it again.

Incidentally I purchased it from Guitars and Woods Luthier Supply Company in Portugal along with some other assorted tools, files, etc. This is a great company to work with, and I not only received excellent tools but also great customer service. It meant I had to think in euros for a bit, but the shipping was fast and I received every order placed with them in less than two weeks.

Anyway, I’m just as pleased with the result as I am pleased to be finished sanding, but it does mean one more step towards something that looks like a real guitar!



6 Comments Add yours

  1. This build is looking really good, Jim. Glad I could be of assistance with the truss rod.


    1. Thanks again. Honestly I was just terrified to get it all glued in only to find out that I had made a terrible mistake. I needed an opinion I could trust 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Randall says:

    Nice work. I’d like to try a guitar someday


    1. Thanks Randall! It’s certainly a journey once you get started, but it’s plenty of fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Brian Clites says:

    Jim: which James are you a son of? (I ask because the following suggestion could be really really silly if I’m in the dark… But I’ll wager the risk.)

    My favorie artist of all time swore not by Martins but by Jimmy Olson guitars. And I think Olson’s just down the road from you. Have you been to his shop / factory?


    1. I’m son of James Elvis McConnell Sr. Not a luthier, but a craftsman of sorts in the printing industry. I took on this username about a year and a half ago following his death as a sort of tribute.

      So not James Olson. And isn’t Jim Olson in Minnesota? That’s a long shot from the land of the pines and a mite chillier.

      Nope, my dad made artwork for printing presses and spent almost his entire career thinking in thousandths of an inch.


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