Brian May Red Special Replica Build Parts 34-36: Veneering the Body

Brian May Red Special Guitar Build Project: Body Finishing Part 2 – Veneering Techniques.

I wanted to use thin (3/128″, 0.6 mm) knife cut marquetry veneer to finish the guitar body as Brian May did. However, I found it difficult to obtain quarter cut mahogany veneer sheet in sufficient width to cover the guitar body with some overlap to allow for shrinkage and trimming. Therefore I had to take my chances with crown cut veneer and hope that I could find some with sections of quasi linear grain. I do not find cathedral type features in the veneer aesthetically appealing. I also do not find finishes with highly uniform, linear grain or obvious stripes/banding as displayed in sapele veneer appealing either. The former look too ‘perfect’ to me and neither are really representative of the original Brian May Red Special.

I bought two sheets of crown cut South American Swietenia macrophylla veneer sourced from Exotic Hardwoods (Timberline) in Essex who also supplied the spruce tonewood I used for the blockboard. I was able to review a picture of the actual veneer on line before committing to buy and see that the 2900 mm long x 360 mm wide sheets had at least one substantial region with reasonably linear grain. Buying two sheets at once was an insurance policy against errors or damage but also allowed me to use the same section from each sheet on the upper and lower of the guitar body.

I applied a veneer sheet to the test body first for practice. This went well so I moved on to applying the veneer to the upper and lower faces of the guitar body. The photographs illustrate the lower and upper veneers after trimming and the veneer trimming template which I cut using the CNC machine from 3 mm clear acrylic sheet.

Because it is not sensible or probably even possible to apply one long strip of veneer around the entire side of the guitar body, the veneer has to be applied in sections and the joins matched up to be as near invisible as possible. The only way to guarantee this is to use quarter cut veneer with very uniformly linear grain pattern. The length of these strips is limited by the width of the quarter cut veneer. Exotic Hardwoods (Timberline) offer sheets of quarter cut Swietenia macrophylla veneer 7 1/2″ (190 mm) wide. As with the crown cut veneer, I bought two sheets of this to guarantee sufficient material to pick and choose the best sections and insure against damage and human error.

I prepared for applying the veneer to the side of the final guitar body by again practicing on the rough/test body. This went very well with good adhesion and neat joins. I used a contact adhesive (Evo Stik Impact Adhesive). Following on from the practice effort, I veneered the side of the final guitar body using seven strips of 7 to 7 1/4” long to cover the approximately 49” length of the edge.

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Parts 37-39: Making the Truss Rod
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Parts 31-33: Body Assembly