Custom ESP James Hetfield Flying V Vulture Guitar Build Diary

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This is a custom guitar build of an ESP James Hetfield Vulture, which is based on the Flying V.

  • body: mahogany
  • top: bookmatched walnut with sapwood
  • neck: laminated sucupira / mahogany veneer / flamed maple / mahogany veneer / sucupira
  • fretboard: bird’s eye maple
  • scale length: 24.75″ (628.65mm)
  • headstock: 6-inline with walnut veneer
  • pickups: EMG James Hetfield set active pickups
  • bridge: tune-o-matic
  • tuners: Hipshot Grip-Lock
  • hardware colour: chrome
  • finish: not yet decided

Plenty of photos below the video…

 

MDF template of ESP Vulture

I cut out the MDF template of the ESP Vulture shape on my new CNC machine!

 

The wood for the body, mahogany back and walnut top

The wood for the body, mahogany back and walnut top

 

Ripping the walnut to create a bookmatched set

Ripping the walnut on the band saw to create a bookmatched set. The new 3/4″ blade cuts through it like butter!

 

The pieces of the walnut bookmatched set

The pieces of the walnut bookmatched set. The piece was too large for my band saw, that’s why I had to cut it into two pieces before ripping.

 

Gluing the bookmacthed walnut top with sapwood in the center

Gluing the bookmacthed walnut top with sapwood in the center

 

The pieces of the laminated neck

The pieces of the laminated neck: Sucupira / mahogany veneer / figured maple/ mahogany veneer / sucupira. Sucupira is also known as Brazilian Cherry.

 

Glue up of the neck blank

Glue up of the neck blank

 

The neck blank after planing

The neck blank after planing. I was hoping the mahogany veneer would show more….  oh well!

 

Tracing the body shape onto the walnut top

Tracing the body shape onto the walnut top

 

Cut out of the body shape

Cut out of the body shape

 

A look at the progress so far

A look at the progress so far…

 

Tracing the body shape on the mahogany board

Tracing the body shape on the mahogany board. The board is not large enough so I will cut it into two pieces and laminate it back together.

 

The two piece body cut out on the band saw

The two piece body cut out on the band saw

 

A look at the progress so far

A look at the progress so far…

 

Preparing for center lamination

Preparing for center lamination

 

Gluing the body lamination

Gluing the body lamination

 

Body lamination is complete. The center piece is sucupira

Body lamination is complete. The center piece is sucupira

 

Trimming excess before final route of body shape

Trimming excess before final route of body shape

 

Routing the body shape on the router table with the MDF template as a guide

Routing the body shape on the router table with the MDF template as a guide

 

The body, the top and the neck blank

The body, the top and the neck blank

 

The body, the top and the neck blank

The body, the top and the neck blank

 

Preparing the fretboard for binding

Preparing the fretboard for binding, mahogany and walnut

 

Shaving off the walnut with a spokeshave

Trimming off the excess walnut with a spokeshave to make it flush with the maple fretboard

 

Birdseye fretboard with binding and dot inlays

Birdseye fretboard with binding and dot inlays. I decided to try a different dot inlay pattern this time

 

Cutting the scarf joint on the bandsaw

Cutting the 13 degree scarf joint on the bandsaw

 

The scarf joint pieces

The scarf joint pieces

 

Sanding away the band saw marks on the two pieces

Sanding away the band saw marks on the two pieces

 

After the scarf joint is glued, I add extra pieces to the headstock

After the scarf joint is glued, I add extra pieces to the headstock

 

The bookmatched headstock veneer

The bookmatched headstock veneer

 

Putting an angle on the edge of the headstock veneer

Putting an angle on the edge of the headstock veneer so it sits flush with the nut

 

Placing the headstock veneer in position with a few finishing nails

Gluing headstock veneers can be tricky because it tends to slide as you apply pressure. So I place the headstock veneer in position with a few finishing nails

 

Clamping the headstock veneers

Clamping the headstock veneers: walnut on top and maple and mahogany on the back

 

Trimming the headstock according to the template

Trimming the headstock according to the template on the band saw

 

Routing the headstock according to the template

Routing the headstock according to the template on the router table

 

A look at the headstock so far

A look at the headstock so far

 

Routing the truss rod channel

Routing the truss rod channel

 

Check the access to the truss rod

Check the access to the truss rod

 

Wrapped the truss rod with teflon tape and applied a bit of silicon at the edges

In order to minimize rattle, I wrapped the truss rod with teflon tape and applied a bit of silicon at the edges (sorry for the white box, it’s camera issue)

 

Preparing the veneer and the fretboard for gluing

At the last minute, I decided to add a maple veneer between the neck and the fretboard

 

Applying glue on the neck

Applying glue on the neck

 

Clamping the neck

Clamping the neck

 

Fretboard glues onto neck

Fretboard glues onto neck

 

The heel is cut, shapes with a 2 degree angle

The heel is cut, trimmed and shapes with a 2 degree angle (see how I did it in this Youtube video, will open in a new window)

 

The heel is being glued

The heel is being glued (see how I did it in this Youtube video, will open in a new window)

 

The neck is trimmed to near-final dimension

The neck is trimmed to near-final dimension

 

Carving a new binding channel

I had an issue with a broken router bit bearing and therefore I needed to carve a new binding channel and re-do the binding!

 

New binding added

New binding added… not yet trimmed, obviously 🙂

 

Fretboard with binding and in the process of adding a 12 degree radius

Fretboard with binding and in the process of adding a 12 degree radius

 

Fret radius

Fretboard radius

 

Starting to carve the back of the neck

Starting to carve the back of the neck

 

Making progress

Making progress…

 

Making more progress

Making more progress…

 

Neck carving completed

Neck carving completed

 

Neck carving completed

Neck carving completed… with some water wiped on…

 

Routing channels for the wires

Routing channels for the wires (sorry about the white box, the file was corrupt)

 

Applying glue

Applying glue…

 

Spreading the glue on both surfaces

Spreading the glue on both surfaces

 

Clamping the the top and body using my home-made clamps

Clamping the the top and body using my home-made clamps (see how I made these clamps)

 

While the glue was drying, I made a wooden ring from the walnut neck shavings

While the glue was drying, I made a wooden ring from the walnut neck shavings

 

The walnut, which was slightly oversized is trimed using a trim router and a bit with a ball bearing.

The walnut, which was slightly oversized is trimmed using a trim router and a bit with a ball bearing. The mahogany body was used as a template.

 

Drawing the location of the pickups

Drawing the location of the pickups

 

Drilling out the majority of the wood with a Forstener bit on the drill press

Drilling out the majority of the wood with a Forstener bit on the drill press

 

After routing the pickup cavities

After routing the pickup cavities

 

The neck and body with hardware mock-up

The neck and body with hardware mock-up

 

Another look at the neck and body

Another look at the neck and body

 

Aligning the neck to the body using a laser

Aligning the neck to the body using a laser

 

Aligning the neck to the body using a laser

A closer look at the neck alignment

 

A template created using some straight pieces of wood

The neck pocket template is made with straight pieces of wood and some tape is added to create a tiny shim to make the pocket slightly smaller in order to get a tight fit.

 

Removing the bulk of the wood in the neck pocket

Removing the bulk of the wood in the neck pocket with a Forstener bit on the drill press

 

Most of the wood is removed from the neck pocket

Most of the wood is removed from the neck pocket

 

Removing the remaining wood with a router

Removing the remaining wood with a router and a template following bit

 

The neck pocket is carved out

The neck pocket is carved out, it goes half way through the pickup cavity

 

Fitting the neck in the pocket

Fitting the neck in the pocket, it’s a perfect tight fit

 

A look at the neck in the pocket

A look at the neck in the pocket

 

A look the back of the neck pocket

A look the back of the neck pocket

 

Preparing to cut the heel

Preparing to cut the heel

 

Cutting the heel to fit properly in the neck pickup cavity

Cutting the heel to fit properly in the neck pickup cavity

 

The neck heel fitting in the neck pickup cavity

The neck heel fitting in the neck pickup cavity

 

Masking to mark the carve area

Masking to mark the carve area

 

Starting to carve the top of the body

Starting to carve the top of the body

 

Carving nearly done

Carving nearly done…

 

Preparing to carve between the V

Preparing to carve between the V

 

Carving nearly done

Carving nearly done…

 

Drilling away most of the wood for the electronics compartment

Drilling away most of the wood for the electronics compartment

 

Routing the electronics compartment cavity

Routing the electronics compartment cavity

 

Checking the electronics in the cavity

Checking the electronics in the cavity

 

The electronics compartment cavity is complete

The electronics compartment cavity is complete

 

Rounding over the edges on the back

Rounding over the edges on the back. I will round over the front edges by hand later.

 

Recessed output jack cavity carved

Recessed output jack cavity carved

 

Carving the electronics cavity cover on the cnc

Carving the electronics cavity cover on the cnc

 

Fitting the cover

Fitting the cover

 

Status update

Status update back view

 

Status update

Status update front view

 

Oiling the fretboard

Oiling the fretboard, Dora likes it!

 

Pressing the frets

Pressing the frets

 

Frets are in

Frets are in

 

Spreading a thin layer of glue on both faces of the neck joint

Spreading a thin layer of glue on both faces of the neck joint

 

Clamping the neck while the glue dries

Clamping the neck while the glue dries

 

Once the neck is glued in, I calculate and drill the holes for bridge posts

Once the neck is glued in, I calculate and drill the holes for bridge posts

 

Preparing the headstock inlay

Preparing the headstock inlay

 

Adding a round over on the front of the body

Adding a round over on the front of the body

 

The headstock inlay in done

The headstock inlay in done

 

After much sanding, the finishing process has begun.

After much sanding, the finishing process has begun. I’m applying an oil finish. This is after one coat.

 

Once the oil is cured, I apply a coat of wax and buff it

Once the oil is cured, I apply a coat of wax and buff it

 

Start installing some of the hardware

Start installing some of the hardware

 

Testing the string spacing

Testing the string spacing

 

Vanity Photos

About araz

I'm an ex research scientist, now building electric guitars :)

4 thoughts on “Custom ESP James Hetfield Flying V Vulture Guitar Build Diary

  1. Love it man. I was wondering if you have any references for where I can obtain the Vulture body and headstock template files. I’ve been searching for this for a while with no luck.

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