Portland Guitar Co.

Designing and Building
Custom Handcrafted
Guitars, Ukuleles
and Accessories

Portland Guitar Co. | Portland Oregon | Contact Jay Dickinson-503.245.3276 | jay@portlandguitar.com

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Portland Guitar Pretty Good Intonation (PGPG) System

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Finished Build

Small Jumbo Model

JM 1.9.61

for Mark R.

  • Body: Maple
  • Top: Douglas Fir
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Binding Indian Rosewood
  • Fretboard: Indian Rosewood

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( 162 ) 31-July-2014

I use this template attached with double stick tape to guide the shaping of the headstock.

( 163 ) 31-July-2014

A guide wheel on the bottom of the sanding drum follows the template.

( 164 ) 31-July-2014

I use the router table to trim up the sides of the neck.

( 165 ) 31-July-2014

Looking like a neck.

( 166 ) 31-July-2014

To shape the neck I use a variety of tools. This is truly a case of gluing a bunch of wood together and then removing everything that doesn't look like a neck. The masking tape tells me where I don't want to remove any wood.

( 167 ) 31-July-2014

I invented this tool made from a matrix of contour gauges to help me measure and visualize the neck's profile.

( 168 ) 31-July-2014

I drop the tool over the neck and then I get a view of the cross section of the neck in four spots.

( 169 ) 31-July-2014

We decided to make the binding from Indian Rosewood, so it needs to be bent into the shape of the guitar. Here I have laid out the strips in the heating blanket.

( 170 ) 31-July-2014

And then I use the bending machine to bend them into shape.

( 171 ) 31-July-2014

Before cutting the binding channels I level the top using an orbital sander. I reduce the thickness of the top around the perimeter to promote its mobility.

( 172 ) 31-July-2014

Here I have set up my binding router (The Universal Bindalator). This tool gives me five degrees of freedom while holding the router parallel to the sides of the guitar.

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I can accurately control the depth and height of the channels.

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Since the top and back are domed, the platen of the router is convex so that it makes contact with the top right next to the bit.

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( 177 ) 31-July-2014

I use a few shims to center the neck in the heel channel.

( 178 ) 31-July-2014

And then I mark the width of the binding around the heel.

( 179 ) 31-July-2014

I use a small hand router to cut the channel for the heel binding.

( 180 ) 31-July-2014

The heel binding makes a snug fit.

( 181 ) 31-July-2014

A small saw is use to trim off the excess binding.

( 182 ) 31-July-2014

Now I can start installing the rest of the binding.

( 183 ) 31-July-2014

I carefully trim the binding so it stops in the middle of the tail graft.

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( 185 ) 31-July-2014

I use a bit of CA glue and accelerator to glue the binding in place. I carefully work my way around the perimeter making sure the binding and purfling fits without any gaps.

( 186 ) 31-July-2014

After all of the binding is in place I level everything with a variety of sanding tools.

( 187 ) 31-July-2014

Next up is the headstock.

( 188 ) 31-July-2014

I start by drilling pilot holes for the tuning pegs.

( 189 ) 31-July-2014

Then I drill the holes from both sides, meeting in the middle.

( 190 ) 31-July-2014

A look at the tuning machines.

( 191 ) 31-July-2014

I use my CNC tool to route the channel for the headstock inlay.

( 192 ) 31-July-2014

The business end of the CNC router.

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( 194 ) 31-July-2014

I use square gold wire to create the rose.

( 195 ) 31-July-2014

The wire is glued in place slightly proud of the surface.

( 196 ) 31-July-2014

And then it is sanded level with the surface.

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The bottom of the bridge has to match the curve of the top. This sanding block matches the top profile.

( 199 ) 31-July-2014

I fine tune the bottom of the bridge insitue.

( 200 ) 31-July-2014

The milling machine is used to route out the bridge plate channel.

( 201 ) 31-July-2014

And then I drill the holes for the bridge pins.

( 202 ) 31-July-2014

I have installed maple bridge pin frames just for the look.

( 203 ) 31-July-2014

The wings are created using the oscillating sander and an adjustable platen.

( 204 ) 31-July-2014

I first sand one wing and then flip the bridge over and sand the other wing. I take a little bit away with each pass until the wings are about 60 mil thick at the end. This tool makes sure the wings are symmetrical

( 205 ) 31-July-2014


( 206 ) 31-July-2014

The front of the bridge gets beveled back at about 5 degrees.

( 207 ) 31-July-2014

Here you can see I have shaped the end of the set screws that the neck contacts into hemispheres. This will ensure a defined contact surface and promote a smooth neck motion as it is adjusted.

( 208 ) 31-July-2014

I drill two holes where the set screws contact the back side of the heel.

( 209 ) 31-July-2014

And then install brass contact plugs.

( 210 ) 31-July-2014

I sand them smooth to finish up. These plugs provide a firm contact surface for the set screws. The set screws dig into the plugs just a little and prevent the neck from sliding out of position.

( 211 ) 31-July-2014

I used the disk sander to trim up the end of the fretboard.

( 212 ) 31-July-2014

I use a straight edge and a feel gauge to adjust the truss rod until the neck is as straight as I can make it.

( 213 ) 31-July-2014

And then I use a very straight sanding rail to level the tops of the frets.

( 214 ) 31-July-2014

Since the tops of the frets have been flattened, I use a contoured sanding stick to crown the frets.

( 215 ) 31-July-2014

Here I am installing the fret markers on the edge of the fretboard.

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( 217 ) 31-July-2014

I use a modified needle file to dress the end of the frets.

( 218 ) 31-July-2014

I create a little hemispheres on the fret ends. This makes for a comfortable feel and an attractive look.

( 219 ) 31-July-2014

The Tilt Action Neck adjustment hole is in the front of the heel. I use a 1/4 -20 wood insert in the hole where I will install a removable strap pin.

( 220 ) 31-July-2014

The hex tool used to adjust the angle of the neck fits easily into the hole.

( 221 ) 31-July-2014

The heel cap needs to be trimmed so it is parallel to the back.

( 222 ) 31-July-2014

I use this special sanding tool that slides along the back to sand the heel at the proper angle.

( 223 ) 31-July-2014

The sanding surface is offset from the sliding surface.

( 224 ) 31-July-2014

I use a spacer between the back of the guitar and the tool to set the right height.

( 225 ) 31-July-2014

A heel cap will be glued to the end of the heel.

( 226 ) 31-July-2014

The plane of the back and the plane of the heel cap are the same.

( 227 ) 31-July-2014

There is a small gap between the bottom edge of the heel cap and the binding on the bottom of the guitar. This gap is necessary for the neck to be adjustable.

( 228 ) 31-July-2014

Now I am ready to start the finishing process. I set up my paint booth tent with a recirculating filter to reduce the dust and the over spray.

( 229 ) 31-July-2014

I mount the guitar body on this fixture to help in the spay process.

( 230 ) 31-July-2014

I put a small balloon in the sound hole to keep the spray out.

( 231 ) 31-July-2014

As I apply the lacquer I periodically sand the surface level. The process involves sanding down the high spots and filling in the low spots until the whole surface is smooth.

( 232 ) 31-July-2014

Once the finish has cured, I temporarily mount the bridge with a long throat C-clamp.

( 233 ) 31-July-2014

I carefully score the perimeter with a sharp knife and then remove the finish where the bridge will go. To ensure a strong bond the bridge needs to make wood to wood contact.

( 234 ) 31-July-2014


( 235 ) 31-July-2014

Now I can glue the bridge in place.

( 236 ) 31-July-2014

While the bridge is setting up I install the tuning machines.

( 237 ) 31-July-2014

And then the next morning I string up the guitar for the first time.

( 238 ) 31-July-2014

A view of the bone nut.

( 239 ) 31-July-2014

Drilling a hole for the strap pin.

( 240 ) 31-July-2014


( 241 ) 31-July-2014

I create a strap button for the heel of the neck by mounting a button on a 1/4-20 threaded rod.

( 242 ) 31-July-2014


( 243 ) 31-July-2014

The strap button goes into the Tilt Action Neck adjustment access hole.

( 244 ) 31-July-2014


( 401 ) 31-July-2014

Mark R. getting a first look at his guitar.

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( 405 ) 31-July-2014

Beautiful music just waiting to get out.

( 406 ) 31-July-2014