This 1990 Japanese-made Ibanez RG550, originally metallic red, was badly damaged in a bizarre plumbing incident. What better subject for a complete transformation? Huw Price rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
Obviously our join had to run up the centre line of the guitar, but we have options regarding which areas of grain to use. You can cut the body shape out of a piece of paper and place it over the veneer to help visualise the end result, then draw around the cutout to mark the shape of the body (Pic 6). Now cut out the body shape with a craft knife, leaving 5mm around the edge for safety. This allows you to get your clamps close to the edge of the body, and cuts down on trimming later.
When gluing veneers it’s important to spread the pressure across the entire surface, so I cut two clamping cauls out of scrap plywood, just a bit larger than the body. This makes clamping much easier and protects the body from the clamps. For the top chamfer, we cut the veneer diagonally across the starting point of the chamfer curve then held it down with gaffer tape (masking tape isn’t grippy enough for the job). Using gaffer tape is a bit risky, but luckily no grain was lifted (Pic 7).
For gluing the veneer, we decided not to use Titebond, which hasn’t always been too successful for us on this kind of job in the past, but Humbrol Cascamite – actually urea formaldehyde glue, just like the stuff Gibson used to attach maple tops on Les Paul bodies in the ’50s. This comes in powder form which is mixed with water, and unlike Titebond, it doesn’t go off too quickly.
STAGE 4 – TRIMMING THE VENEER
A pro luthier might use a router to trim the edges of the veneer, but in our workshop articles we like to use non-specialist tools. It’ll take you a while to carefully trim the body edges and the pickup and bridge routs using a craft knife, but it’s quite possible. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fresh blades, and watch those fingers! Next, use a sanding block to true up the sides and round over the edges of the body and the routs.
To reinstate the holes for the knobs and switch, place the body face-down on a piece of plywood and drill through the centre of each hole with your thinnest drill bit. Use the original holes in the control cavity to guide you, then flip the body over and use these pilot holes for larger bradawl bits. I was able to drill the switch screw holes to size straight off, but had to use a reamer to widen the holes for the pot shafts to the correct diameter. For the switch slot I drilled undersized holes all the way along its length then cut out the wood between the holes with a craft knife, then used a small file to true up the edges of the slot (Pic 8).