Month: September 2015

Step by Step Guitar Build 6 – input socket and drilling tunnels for wires

I knew from the start that I didn’t want a pickguard on this guitar. This meant that I couldn’t just route out tunnels using the router on the surface of the guitar and the cover it with a pickguard, like some Teles, SGs and Strats do.

What I wanted was to have the wires pass through tunnels from between the pickup cavities and into the electronics pocket.

I picked up a great tip online to do this:

  • Using an electric/handheld drill, find a long drill piece, not too wide though, and drill from the neck pocket going the direction of the pickups. This should great a tunnel connected each of the pickup cavities for the wires to pass through, and the hole in the neck pocket will be covered by the neck.
  • Then drill a hole from the electrics cavity at the back going towards the bridge pickup. This requires a bit of skill to accurately get the angle you need to drill in. Just take your time with it until you are confident you have mapped out exactly where to drill.

SAM_4328  SAM_4326

You can see how scruffy the electronics cavity is! One day I’ll come back to it to even it all out.

For the input/jack socket, I also used the drill. This time I used a different bit, one which is designed just drill a hole with a specific radius. It looks a bit like a long pole with a pointed spade at the top (worst description ever, I know).

Anyway, here’s the result:

SAM_4323

The four screw holes were simply marked with a pencil and then drilled. This was pretty easy. This also needs connected to the electrics socket, so from the electric socket find the right angle and drill a tunnel across.

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Step by Step Guitar Build 5 – Attaching the Neck

IMG_0274  IMG_0520

You can see just how impractical the neck joint was in the first picture. When I was first designing this, it completely slipped my mind that I wouldn’t be able to access the higher frets because of how bulky it was.

For this step I had to decide how far up the neck the outer walls of the neck socket would go. I ended up shortening it until only the 17th fret on the top and 19th fret on the lower bit so I can reach those high notes.

To do this, I first shortened the length of the whole pocket with a jigsaw.

I then got rid of the sides of the neck pocket and narrowed the base of the neck pocket in one go by using the jigsaw to cut in along the neck pocket (you can see that the base of the neck pocket is only as wide as the neck is. I had marked how far up I wanted the sides to go, and then used the jigsaw to shape the ends. You can see that the sides of the neck pocket curve in and are rounded off.

IMG_0519  IMG_0521

I was then ready to bolt on the neck. Now, the neck I bought from the guitar luthier in Denmark Street (who sold me a faulty neck and lied to me, saying there was nothing wrong with it) had the holes pre-drilled into the neck for where the screw go, but they weren’t lined up. I now know that this can easily be fixed – just fill the holes with toothpicks covered in wood glue, let it dry, then sand off to flatten the surface. This way the holes get filled and you can drill in new ones.

I didn’t know that at the time, so I just left it and this was the result:

IMG_0524  IMG_0527

I was happy with it though. It did the job and I like the look of the individual screws rather than having a neck-plate. The neck lined up perfectly too, as you can see in the photo below.

IMG_0525

Step by Step Guitar Build 4 – Tailpiece / whammy bar and electronics socket

So, after the failure of the Les Paul style bridge piece I decided to improvise and found a cheap whammy bar that just screws into the body to use as a tailpiece. Much easier option and looks pretty badass too.

SAM_3606

And there you have it. Really taking shape at this point! Not much to say about the process really. Just make sure it lines up. Use a piece of thread to guide through the holes, over the bridge and lined up with the neck.

So, next I tackled the electronics pocket.

IMG_0505

You can see that I carved out an electronics pocket similar to that of a Les Paul with a strat-esque wiring system. I simply used a router for this, and for the outer bit, where the cover slots into, just adjust the depth of the router and go over it. I did it in reverse. It is probably a better idea to route the whole area just the depth of the pickup cover, and then go deeper for the actual cavity.

This was quite a hard step. Not the routing ,that wasn’t too bad though my job is really scruffy. The capacitors for the volume and tone controls were to go through the guitar, and the switch as well. The potentiometers was a simple job, just using an electric drill. The switch required some craftsmanship which I confess was above my abilities at the time. So I got some help from my brother-in-law who knew a thing or two about DIY projects. In the photo above you can see the straight hole for the switch to go through. My bro-in-law had a great idea how to get this done:

  1. drill two small holes (the width you want the selector-switch-hole to be) to mark the start and finish of the hole, and then another in the middle.
  2. Using a wood chisel, gently carve out the space between the small drill-holes made.

I owe that step to him!

I’d love to hear if anyone has any other suggestions for this job.

Step by Step Guitar Build 3 – routing and pickup selection

This entry is where I ran into my first problem with the guitar. So I hope this is helpful to show people what to avoid doing.

I was going to go for a les paul style bridge and tailpiece. For those that don’t know, both of these bits of hardware need to have a piece hammered into a hole in the guitar (once the hole for it has been drilled out) for the bridge/tailpiece to then mount on. The piece was roughly 1cm wide, same as my router, so that’s what was used.

SAM_3036

The problem was that these were now too wide for the bridge mounting pieces to sit into. Therefore the bridge would be loose. Now, the pressure of the strings does hold it down, but it means inaccurate intonation and therefore not playable guitar.

Solutions:

  1. First, with the suggestion from my Godfather, the mounting pieces were wrapped in masking tape to widen them, and covered in some glue, then placed in. That solved the looseness problem, but they were then practically cemented slightly out of place which added another problem for intonation.
  2. Second solution….find another bridge. That’s what I went for in the end and this is what I advise anyone else to do if this is their first build. Find a bridge that is just screwed into the guitar. This way, you only need to drill in a few screw-holes which is much easier a task.

Pickup selection:

I went with a Strat style pickup configuration. This was because all my other working guitars at the time were humbuckers, and I was (and still am) a huge fan of Robin Trower who is famously loyal to Strats.

SAM_3039

In this photo you can see how much planning I did for lining up the pickups. Use a ruler, draw out lines to guide the placement of the pickups as above. This massively helped the routing as well.

You can also see that the surface of the guitar gets really scratched in the process. Don’t worry, the sanding will come later!

Step by Step Guitar Building 2 – routing out the neck pocket

This step tested my routing skills. Having never routed anything before, this had to be done accurately so the neck slots in snug so I took my sweet time with it.

I placed the neck on my guitar body, lined it up where I wanted it and drew the outline as a guide for my routing.

Unfortunately there aren’t any photos of the actual process but just remember to take your time so you don’t rush around the parameter of the neck socket. Remember, it has to be a snug fit and the neck should be touching the body on all sides of the neck pocket.

Consider how deep you want the neck pocket to be i.e. how high the strings are going to be above the body and adjust the router accordingly so it doesn’t go any deeper.

Here’s the end result:

IMG_0273 IMG_0274 IMG_0275 IMG_0270

I was pretty chuffed at this stage. First time routing and got it looking ok. You can actually see in the bottom left photo that the neck isn’t lined up perfectly. It is at a very slight angle, but this does not affect it all, it is just aesthetic and I think I got away with it this time as it is pretty close!

You can see that the neck pocket goes up quite long and goes high up the neck. I later corrected this and you’ll see an update on that in a later blog entry.

Step by Step guitar building 1 – designing the body

Hi,

This is the first entry detailing the step by step process I took for building my own guitar. In this entry I am going to detail how I designed and carved out my own guitar body from a wood plank.

This is intended to not just show my process, but hopefully help nad inspire others to do the same! Now, this was my first attempt at putting together a guitar, and over the years I have actually had to keep going back to it and change hardware and electronics – even the neck a couple times! So what I am saying is not every step worked out perfect, but I will detail how I corrected it afterwards as well so that you can get a good idea about the whole journey this guitar has taken. It plays great now but I will get to that eventually – with video evidence too. For now…step 1!

  1. The wood: I acquired the piece of wood from a carpenter I knew. He did not know what type of wood it is, and to this day I haven’t a clue. It’s hardwood and it was the right dimensions so that’s all that mattered.
  2. The design:  I pencilled in my design onto the wood using other guitars as a size-reference, then ended up making it larger and wider than my other guitars to make the most of all the wood.
  3. Cutting it to shape:
SAM_3013
As you can see, I pencilled out the design and used a Jigsaw to cut it out. The cut-aways were quite tricky but the Jigsaw was able to manage it as you can see below:
SAM_3028
I got the neck from a guitar luthier in a basement in Denmark Street in London. The guy completely lied to me, telling me there was nothing wrong with it and sold it for £20. I later found out that the neck was actually quite warped and wouldn’t adjust with the trussrod at all. More on that in another post.
SAM_3029
I’ve kept this outer template to use for future projects as a template as I want to make a series of these guitar shapes.
SAM_3031

So here we have it, my first attempt at carving out a body.

What I would do differently:

  • I would be more patient and sand down the sides so they are nice and smoothly rounded off. Some of the edges are a little angular. This doesn’t bother me at all, but I would try and make the effort next time I cut a body out from scratch.

Welcome to my Blog

Hi Everyone

Welcome to my blog. I will be updating this with pictures, explanations and step by step guides of my latest Guitar Projects

I’ve been playing guitar now for 10 years. It has really become my passion. Not just playing, but learning the ins-and-outs of the electric guitar – everything from the electrics to re-finishing paint jobs, and from carving out new guitar shapes from planks to putting together DIY kits.

I made the step from playing guitar to customising my own when I was 17/18. I bought a start copy with the intention of painting it. I was heavily into Cream at the time and Eric Clapton’s SG was my dream guitar, so I bought this strat knowing full well I would sand off the (really nice) sunburst and get my paint brushes out.

From then on I have become a bit more ambitious with my projects still learning along the way.  I am sure more experienced guitar builders will spot a lot of mistakes, and I’d be interested to hear of any tips you may have!

Enjoy the blog!