With the Ash blank shaped, it’s time to prepare the figured top. I made a “top cap” template including holes for the sound hole and electronics pockets. Two of these were cut: one in MDF and another in acrylic. I wanted a clear version to allow me to see the grain pattern I was selecting for the finished top.
The book-matched cuts of birdseye Maple included a really nice bark inclusion. When initially laying out the top, I’d joined the edges such that the inclusion spots would appear just behind the bridge. I thought this would look amazing filled with colored or even phosphorescent epoxy. I played with this for some time but the tradeoff was there are few “eyes” in this section of wood. If I chose to use the inclusions, most of the birdseye figuring would either be underneath the pickguard or not on the top at all.
When I joined to top along the opposite edges, the center and lower bout featured significant figure, including both birdseye and curl. After agonizing over this for some time, I decided against using the inclusion and sticking with the birdseye. I made sure to leave as much material around the bark inclusion for possible use in a future project.
The top piece was jointed, glued, and thicknessed. I’d originally considered thinning this piece down to between 1/8″ and 3/16″, similar to my very thin Epiphone Wildkat top. The photos I could find online of the surfcaster however, seem to show a fairly chunky top. This was most evident at the sound hole where the binding looked about as tall as the binding on the sides. I briefly considered trying to resaw the top further and then adding a thicker patch under the sound hole, but ultimately settled on a solid 1/4″ cap.
A template was used to mark and then rough out the top and mark for the sound hole. I template routed the sound hole as much as I could and used a hand saw to remove the rest. Some cleanup with a small file and it was ready for binding.
The binding is a white pearloid plastic matching the pattern of the pickguard. It’s roughly 1/16″ thick and 5/16″ tall. This was attached with some Stewmac Bind-ALL and held in place with paper binding tape. A couple small gaps were filled with sawdust, but it came out looking really great.
Before turning to the neck, I decided to cut the rabbet for the binding. Instead of buying an expensive specialty bit from Stewmac, I grabbed a Whiteside flush trim bit and a spare bearing, 1/8″ smaller, to create a 1/16″ rabetting bit. This cut quite nicely, though I decided to hold off on actually binding the body until after cutting the neck pocket. And to help ensure a tight fit, I don’t want to cut the neck pocket without first building the neck.