Body Blank

Here’s a little insight into how I build and prepare a body blank for my electric guitars.

This particular build is from New Zealand Black Beech and a strip of Puriri.

The Black Beech board was about 1000 x 180 x 50mm. I spent half an hour cutting one edge square on the table saw, then flattening out a minor bow, and both edges on the jointer. Getting both sides flat and even is easy with a thicknesses. Then it was a matter of cross cutting it into two even boards.
The three blocks of wood all need to be planed, jointed, and thicknessed to the same height. The flat right angles will hopefully ensure that the three sections will adhere strongly to each other.

You’d think that such large, hefty chunks of wood would need some sort of special wood glue. Nope. Selleys Exterior PVA does the trick. And only enough to spread evenly across the surface of the entire join.
You could quite easily use your finger to spread the glue out, but given the amount of joins I do, I’ve simply glued two bits of scrap MDF on top of each other. The small bit on top provides a bit of a handle, while the larger bit flexes enough to spread the glue evenly. And afterwards, I put it down, and any left over glue on it is soaked into the MDF and provides a glazed layer of plastic that only helps spread the next layer of glue. Bonus!

This is how the body blank will end up looking. Obviously the body shape will be drawn onto it and cut out with a bandsaw or jigsaw. But for now, I take a mental snapshot of what it will look like. I love the contrast that these two woods provide, as well as the grain of the Beech. Simply stunning.

I’ve made up a bit of a jig that goes into my Black & Decker Workmate bench that doubles as a table clamp. The jig provides a solid force along the length of the body blank that provides even pressure to the join. This ensures it glues, even, and doesn’t slide around in the early stages of drying.

Here you can see the three pieces of wood are squeezed together, with their joining edges completely flat. Only the jig is warping under the pressure of the clamping forces. I am looking at upgrading the jig so that the mounting points onto the workbench fit through the bench holes. At this stage, it’s solely relying on two bolts that go through, but obviously have some play in the oversized holes, allowing for the jig to flex a little more than I’d prefer.
As PVA glue acts as a lubricant before it dries solid, it’s relatively important to ensure that the joins don’t move about while it is drying. With all the pressure coming from the sides, there is a chance that the boards will squeeze the middle strip upwards and out. A simple bit of wood clamped over the top of the joins keeps the boards from popping upwards. Hopefully it doesn’t glue to the body blank with any overflow!

Leave it to dry for 24 hours, and it’s ready to start cutting out tomorrow when I get home from work.
Best to do body blanks during the week, so that the 24 hour drying time doesn’t chew up your weekend and click here to find more tools!

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.22.43 PM

Background Images – Center 33%

So for as long as I can remember, I’ve been using “background-position: center center” to center the background images that are stretched to cover the full background.
These images will often be cropped, as they don’t always fit the set size.

But lately, I’ve been noticing that this doesn’t always work out for the best.
Here’s an example.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.22.43 PM

The above is a header for a blog post on It has been positioned “center center”, and does a relatively good job. However, the image is somewhat cropped, and almost misses the mark in terms of the focus of the image.


Robert_Rimgård_2012bWhy does it lose focus?
Well, because as a photographer, it is very rare that you would use centre lines to frame your photos. They come out unbalanced and simply look ‘wrong’. Generally, photographers stick to the rule of thirds. This is widely documented around the web and world wide. Beginning photographers have it drilled into them. It’s not to say that rules aren’t meant to be broken, but that to turn an average photo into a great one, a simple shift to thirds may be all it takes. Things like people, eyes especially, or points of focus should fit into any of the intersecting lines that the thirds make.

Center 33%

With this in mind, by using center center, we are ignoring these photographic ‘rules’ and applying our own, completely missing the focal point of the photo that we decided was good enough to put on our website in the first place.

There won’t be 100% chance of getting it right with every background photo. Especially if you are using it as a given fixed template of a ‘featured image’ for blog posts, as is the case in

However, by using ‘background-position: center 33%, we use the top third line, which is the one most often used for focal points regarding objects or people, which let’s face it, is 90% of your chosen images unless you’re running a landscaping blog!

Here’s the same example using center 33%.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.19.35 PM

What a difference that makes! Suddenly, because the photographer has used the top third line, and we’ve now targeted it by using center 33%, the whole image makes the website work (least of all because of the lady now chewing on a white person doing a somersault!)

Here are both images next to each other.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.22.43 PM

background-position: center center


Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.19.35 PM

background-position: center 33%

It’s pretty clear to me which cropped view works best!


D.I.Y Disc Sander

In the past, I have written these kinds of projects up in a how to. Others make a YouTube video to show how they made it.

However, by the time I thought about it, I’d already mostly finished it, and the moment to take “how-to” photos was gone. So here are the (mostly) finished product photos.

The Disc Sander

I highly recommend watching this video, as it pretty much provides the basis for the disc sander I’ve made. There are a few adjustments I’ve made, and I’ve worked out my own measurements based on the MDF I had and the second hand drill I’m using as the motor.

You will need:

  • 18mm MDF (could use thinner MDF if you like. I just had 18mm on hand.)
  • Drill with at least 8mm chuck
  • Bearing (8mm)
  • Bolt (M8, 70mm)
  • Hinges (x2)
  • PVA Glue
  • Screws

Front View


I haven’t put the sandpaper on yet but you get the idea. Eventually I might even make an extension table to sit around the workpiece rest, to help stable larger works such as guitar body blanks and the like.

The disc sits at 90 degrees to the rest, though I’m sure with a simple adjustment that various sanding angles could be made.

Back View


For now, I’ve just added in a temporary wall at the back for the drill to rest on. Eventually I want this piece to both be a mount point for the drill, as well as, a possible handle. I haven’t quite worked this bit out though, as it needs to fold flat, otherwise it gets in the way when the disc sander is packed up.

Packing Away


One of the cool things from the YouTube video mentioned earlier was how he got it to all fold away.

I wanted to take this a step further and also store the drill in the box, as this drill is a spare one I have.

Packed Up


And there we have it. All nicely packed away and in its own box.

There are still some finishing touches to make. It needs a latch on the workpiece rest to swing around and catch so that it stays closed. It also needs something done with the drill rest (as stated), to make it fold flat, or provide a handle or something.

For the most part however, this is pretty close to being finished and useable! Pretty impressed for an afternoon’s work.


Haven Guitars – Electric Guitar – Starling

So over the last 3 months I’ve been slowly working away building my very first guitar. I mean – how hard can it be, right? After completing my mandolin (see How to Build a Mandolin) I figured a solid body electric guitar can’t be too hard. Of course, I started searching on Youtube for some guides before I got started, found the whole new post here. Fletcher Handcrafted Guitars was by far in the way the best series of tutorials out there. I then went about trying to source wood. I was surprised at how unhelpful millsgu, mouldings and finishers, and joineries were in helping to find some native New Zealand timbers, but only in small quantities. All up I think I needed about 2 metres of 120×25 Matai to build this, with some bits and pieces of Rimu added in to give it some flare. The rest of the parts were ordered in bits and pieces to help spread out the cost of the guitar, and along with some must-have tools, began to complete this project. I have learned heaps along the way, and am much more confident in trying to build more in the future. I have already begun my second guitar, which will be a Rimu Telecaster with a chambered body.



















Sound Check

Here is the first sound check of the guitar. The quality is a little rubbish due to only videoing with my iPhone, but it gives you an idea.    


Stand on your own two phantom feet

Two weeks after her 41st birthday, Sue Cook’s life changed for ever.

She was on a pheasant shoot when she was injured in a freak accident.

A woman standing near her failed to unload the unused cartridges in her gun.

As she put it away, both barrels went off.

‘I looked down and stared at my left wellington boot. I couldn’t see blood, but it appeared to be on fire,’ says Sue, now 45, a marketing specialist in Stamford, Lincolnshire.
Sue had her leg amputated.

Four years on, she is struggling to cope — and not just because she has lost a leg.

For though it isn’t there, the missing leg causes Sue constant pain.

‘It is excruciating,’ she says. ‘I have a constant burning sensation down through my leg and foot, even though neither of them is there any more.

“Phantom limb pain is now understood to be a consequence of how the nervous system adapts to damaged nerves and the loss of a limb, and affects around 59 per cent of amputees. However, it is still poorly understood and difficult to manage.”

Phantom Limb Syndrome has been well documented and publicised and those that are still fully-limbed can understand how amputees could still imagine that their limb would still be there. But understanding is not experiencing, and I can’t begin to pretend I know what it’s like to have to go through it.

However, as I was walking through my home suburb this morning, it got me thinking of a way that others might be able understand the darkness those of us with depression go through.

Early in my battle I was told by a so-called friend that I needed the hard word and that I should learn to stand on my own two feet, rather than rely on them to always be there for me. Such comments essentially lead to the destruction of the friendship, which certainly hasn’t helped with my illness at all.

But it got me thinking about standing on my own two feet. Earlier this week, my wife showed me an article from Conquer Worry.
In it, the writer describes what depression is like for them, and it is reasonably accurate for me too.

They write:
“For me, this is Depression. This is how it has felt for me. It’s as if I could see the possibility of living a happy life, and all I had to do was break the surface of that water. But I didn’t. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, because I don’t think that I tried. And people judged me, and blamed me for not trying. It wasn’t that I couldn’t break the surface of that water; it was that I couldn’t even try.

It took all of my strength (in fact it took more strength than I thought I had) just to get up every day, go to school, go to work, and crawl back in to bed. It was a living hell, a nightmare. And they were right, I wasn’t trying. But they didn’t understand that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I wanted to, I really did. I just couldn’t.”

You see, now that I look back on it, I found (and still find) the comments from my friend to “stand up on my own two feet” insulting. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t try. I couldn’t do it. Not on my own.

It got me thinking of what I used to say about my situation. You wouldn’t ask a man with a broken leg to walk without some help.
Taking this one step further, you wouldn’t ask a man with no legs to stand up and walk (while in recovery). It’s not that he doesn’t want to. It’s simply that he couldn’t. He might even feel like his legs are still there, but regardless, he can’t bring himself to walk. Even though his mind might create the sensations of having legs, it doesn’t change the physical limitations because of his situation.

In some ways what I’m going through is the reverse of this. My legs are fine, as is my body. Physically I feel in as good a shape as I have been in the last 10 years. But I almost have a phantom mind. I may want to be better. My body is completely better. But no matter how much I want to, I wasn’t trying. Because I couldn’t. I can’t. And while my body gets up every day, and gets ready for work and school, and takes me through my day, my mind doesn’t want to and doesn’t try. It can’t, and so it won’t. Everything else tells me my mind is there; but it’s not. It’s phantom.

For now.

Related Reading

WW1 surgeons could do little for amputees’ pain

The amputees in agony from limbs no longer there

When Depression Feels Like Drowning


Teaching 1-to-1 Devices

In 2014, our school purchased 10 Chromebooks for our sales class that quickly became a fantastic resource in my classroom for teaching the importance of honing in on abandoned carts ( With some of our ‘difficult-to-teach’ pupils suddenly engaged, motivated, and inspired by these, it became clear that the next step was only moments away.
In 2015, my Year 3-4 class is going digital. Not in a matrix kind of way, but that every student will have access to a Chromebook at any one time.
This is indeed exciting, and I am very keen to document the process, as well as looking at the educational benefits of it so that we can ascertain whether this is something we want to roll out for the entire school.
I have already begun making certain plans around digital literacy, and making certain that these devices aren’t just used as substitutes, but will assist the students and me as the teacher to make new links between technology and learning.


Dead to Me

“You’re dead to me.”
A saying we use to dismiss someone when you’re annoyed, angry or pissed at someone at a level that you never want to see them again.
The hardest thing is having to say this about someone who you like, someone who means something to you, someone who you still consider a friend, someone who is a loved one.
This completely removes the ‘good-riddance’ aspect of the saying, and replaces it with the kinds of feelings experienced when loved ones pass away. Grief. Agony. Pain. Sorrow. Anguish. Sadness. Depression. Emptiness.
All normal and acceptable for someone who is no longer with us.
Inconceivable, and inconsolable when you know this friend – this loved one, is still alive and well; just not for you.


Guitar Body Sizes

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking into building my first solid body electric guitar. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, preparation is the key. Now I am at the stage where I’m looking to purchase some native timbers in order to make some guitars with a New Zealand flavour and quality.
My first guitar I intend to be a Rimu one, as it has beautiful qualities.
However, I am forever forgetting the sizes of wood that I need for the build. I have the neck sorted, with needing about 700mm lengths (90x700x25). These get laminated together with a piece of hardwood in between them. However; the body keeps slipping my mind, and so I pulled together all the images of different guitar measurements and compiled them into one easy reference chart.
Hopefully you find it as useful as I do.
EDIT: Apologies for the earlier heading “Guitar TONEWOOD Sizes”. As I was incredibly naive when I made this, I was ignorant to the meaning of tonewood when talking guitars, and in particular, electric guitars.


Spicy Sauce: Dragon’s Breath

Dragon’s Breath lives up to it’s menacing name, but only if by Dragon they mean little old lady, and by breath they mean a gentle wheeze. Maybe that’s a bit unfair; but its not your most spicy hot sauce. Having a little added extra into the burger, with a bit of mayonnaise this goes down a treat. It certainly doesn’t leave your tongue singed with burning embers, but certain gives a bit of a kick and a tingle. This is your typical asian spicy sauce with a little tang in its tail. The overall taste reminds me a little more of sweet and sour sauce, but instead of sweet, its more spice. Not a bad one.

Spicy Sauce Dragons Breath


Spicy Sauce: Thai Riffic

Thai Riffic is the second sauce I tried from my World Traveller Hot Sauce pack. It is potentially the lamest named sauce from the pack.
If I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy this spicy sauce, purely because of the smell. It’s your typical rice vinegar and chilli smell, mixed in with a wet humid tang of a vietnamese summer.
Other than that, there isn’t much to this hot sauce. In fact, the smell gave a bigger punch than the spice. Whilst there is enough for it to be noticed on your plate, it certainly doesn’t put a dent in your ego by causing sweaty eyes in front of your mates. This is one that you can quite easily share with your friends who have an aversion to anything considered mild and above. The tang from this spicy sauce sizzles on your tongue, but that’s where it lasts, fizzing out when you swallow. There is little transfer to your throat, and certainly isn’t any after taste or reflux on this one.

Spicy Sauce ThaiRiffic