Oak Core


There are two groups of builders, one who just wants a guitar that looks like the real thing and sounds like the real thing, the other group are those who want to build it as accurately possible inside and out.

Over the years, new information comes to light, or more images come out of hiding on the world wide web, however the Red Special book available at all good book shops online and offline, allowed some additional images and x-rays to be seen for the very first time. Of course one has been available for a long time which can be seen at the top of our research page, which showed some of the hidden building methods used on the guitar.

On this page, I shall be looking at the top oak mainly but will also be looking at both the top and bottom layer of oak.

When I built my second replica, I had information which had never been tried before but I had interpreted it incorrectly, which left the guitar with issues so I returned to a square oak core top which was more reliable and stable. On my very last build I felt I had it about right... until the book came out and I started looking again at the construction of the top oak and also the tremolo.

In 2005 having had some information from a high spec replica and seeing the first images of penny washers, and also from the x-rays, it appeared there was more to this oak core, some more images emerged on the web, showing a drawing which I cleaned up, this showed a semi circle of oak, this I misunderstood at the time, but now it's a bit clearer. the semi circle of oak is in the bottom layer of oak cut out, we think this is either to re-locate or be able to reposition the bolt retainer. This semi circle of oak has a small surface are, and could possibly move around like my first attempt, on top of that is the top layer of oak, this holds the knife edge and on the underside channels for the bolts and bolt retainer are cut.


The block-board top layer has a opening for the top oak which is 3/4" or 19mm thick which back in the 1960's would be fine as block-board used to come in 3/4" or 19mm thick, however today block- board comes in sheets of 18mm thick, you can get round this if you want to make your own board or more sensibly stick to 18mm thickness throughout.

Back when the guitar was built this was probably the easier and straight forward way of fitting the oak by creating a cut out section to simply drop in the oak core.

On my own replica, I have gone a slightly different route again, where my top oak is hidden under the ply of the block-board, which may not be correct but it does mean more surface area to apply glue to meaning more strength, and hopefully if there is any movement then it will be held tightly in place, again this is my own variation on the method of construction, plus allows me a flatter surface to apply veneer on to.

After some discussion with a well known builder Julian Hemingway, to confirm the drawings and the theory, the semi circle of oak you can see on the drawing above, is believed to be a possible repair due to a slightly different tremolo system being tried before, meaning Brian and his father had to cut this section out on the bottom piece of oak and possibly repair the area with by inserting the semi circle of oak. This piece is thought to be 1/4" or 6.35mm thick.


Thanks to Greg Fryer's website showing some of the restoration work on the Red Special we can also see other items inserted in to the top oak. The Bridge thought to of been directly screwed in to the Oak but not so, there are 6x, 6BA hank rivet nuts were glued in place with Araldite epoxy resin, with the thin cupped edge facing upwards. The same hank rivet nuts were used (with thin cup edge facing downwards) in the long neck tongue/heel as connectors for the first set of handmade pickups that Brian designed and wound.


So what about the penny washers?

On the original sketch pictured above you will of noticed there are none on there, It is quite possible to assume that there were possible issue which I found on mine so some addition fixing points were required to stabilize and also clamp all the oak layers together.

This was brought up on our forum recently, that looking at the x-rays in the book, you can see under the penny washer there is a nut, and there are 2x CSK, Slot machine screws we think in today's measurements M5 or back then 3/16"and approx 35mm in length, enough to go through all layers of oak from the front of the knife edge plate to the penny washer and the nut, so there for clamping the whole lot together, making it stronger to put up with the forces of the tremolo and its springs. You can see a revised cross section which I have drawn to show how it all fits together.


Note: If the semi circle was a repair, really if you're planning to build a replica it doesn't hold a particular secret and I would recommend keeping the bottom oak un touched, and fit the top oak as per normal. I would however fit the penny washer anchor system as I feel this would safe guard against any issues or failures due to the forces of the springs and movement of the tremolo.

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