guitar finishing

The Latest part 3

I’ve put together a video of applying the stain onto the back and front of the guitar and applying the logo onto the headstock via water transfer.

Yes, essentially it is watching paint dry for the first half but I’ve added some music courtesy of BearWolves to liven it up a little.

If I make more videos in the future I promise they will be more interesting.

For those interested, here you go:

 

 

The Latest part 2

This guitar was built as a gift for a close friend. It was kept a surprise, he had no idea I was even putting another guitar together and I deliberately didn’t post about it on here to keep it away from finding anything out.

It is really fun trying to design a guitar for someone else; to think about their style of playing, the music they listen to and what they might be inspired to write on it. It got me thinking that a standard T-type guitar just wouldn’t cut it. I had to dual humbucker this guitar to give it the muscles to create some hard hitting riffs. This was going to be a rock beast straight from the get go.

Step 1: route out a socket large enough for a humbucker in the bridge position. Exhibit A:

20150919_125637Not my neatest job. This blog is just as much about highlighting my mistakes and learning as it is about detailing and showcasing my projects. I hope people learn from these small mistakes that have big consequences.

I didn’t actually have the humbucker I was planning to install at the time of this routing job, which meant I didn’t have the reference point for whether the hole was big enough and whether the position was perfect. I didn’t pay attention to this and just ploughed on with the project which it turns out didn’t harm anything, it just meant that after I had dyed it, lacquered it up and finished it, I then realised I had to go back to do some more routing! A potentially messy job but I’m glad to say it didn’t actually affect anything. So the take-away message: plan this all in advance! Get all your bits, measurements and hardware jobs ready first.

Back to the project:

So I had the dual humbucker sockets ready. I sanded it down and as the body was bought pretty much complete, I just had to dye it. I knew there was only one colour for this. A badass green to match the badass tone this beast would give.

Stain 1

20150919_134416

Stain 1 – back

20150919_164535

Stain 2

20150926_130317

The colour got more and more intense with each stain. It was perfect, exactly what I wanted. Once each stain dried the colour faded quite a lot. These photos are immediately after the dye was applied. You can see some darker patches. I put this down to the basswood’s qualities but a light sanding with steel wool between the stains really helped even things out.

More to come in the next post!

 

 

The latest

My posts have been few and far between in the last few months, apologies for that!

I’ll be adding some pictures and videos of my latest project. One that, I must say, is my favourite finish so far (From one I have finished – see the previous post for an awesome custom finish Nick of Stormbeard Arts did for my old grey tele).

So, it starts with gathering all the parts!

20150911_182256

Pretty much all from ebay.

I had a vision in mind for this one, so the body needed a lot of work to match it up. I knew I wanted dual humbuckers in this so the bridge had to be routed and the body sanded before applying any hardware or finish.

It was really hard finding a humbucker sized bridge that wasn’t through-body stringing. I do not have the tools or skills yet to drill perfect holes for through-body stringing. Obviously, as the picture shows, I found one eventually.

More coming up shortly, stay tuned – it will be worth the wait!

 

 

 

The Grey Transformation

I’m very excited about this post. I’ve wanted a custom painted/artwork guitar for a while. When I was 18 I tried painting a strat copy guitar in a similar style to Eric Clapton’s SG from Cream. That was my first experience of customising a guitar. Now, it has been done properly and professionally.

A few posts before this one you will find “the Grey”. A beast of a tele that looked badass and has had on-stage experience. It was a trustworthy axe until the white one came along which, quite frankly, I preferred. They grey has a cool story behind it. Check out the 2 part post about it further down my blog.

Here it is, stripped back of all the electronics and hardware on the body.

stripped back

It was posted back to me in a box that looks like this:

1066_1768739476689776_7003238135865263784_n

I was super excited to open it. It was all I thought about while staring at the clock at work, waiting to come home and check it out.

And here is a little teaser of the final product:

DSC_6033

More to come!

 

The Grey – part 2: Assembly

In my last entry about this grey Telecaster I explained how the choice of colour was a very laid back decision – the primer/base coat was grey and we liked it. Telecasters are awesome because they are simple machines, and the colour selection process was much the same!

This will be quite a brief post, just about the assembly process. Unfortunately, last year when I was putting this guitar together, I did not document it too well. But as you will see, I need to return to it for some minor adjustments which I will document with better detail for this blog.

Anyway, here we go:

First things first…get yourself one of these:

IMG_0684

Any large toolbox will do. This is assuming, of course, that you do not already have a workshop or shed just for these projects, and need a small space to keep everything. I definitely fall into that category!

Here is an update with all the hardware (minus pickups) screwed on.

IMG_0683

The neck was another £20-30 ebay buy. It still holds up great today. Such a bargain! They do need a bit of tidying up to start with e.g. filing down some sharp fret edges, but only minor adjustments!

The picture above shows the slight problem though. You can see that the bridge plate is at a very slight angle! Now, the intonation is fine and the bridge is in an accurate enough location, but that angle presents a slight problem that I only noticed when I put the humbucker in (a single-coil-sized humbucker).

IMG_0699 IMG_0700

Very sorry for the blurry picture. I will take a better when for a final blog entry on this guitar.

You can sort of see in the pictures, though, that one of the rails on the humbucker does not sit underneath the 6th string. I think that this is the reason why the 6th string sounds a little quieter than the others. This is a problem for my rhythm work, as hard-rock style riffs often rely on the heaviness of the 6th string.

I have two options:

i. raise the bridge pickup by only tightening the screw under the 6th string. This might affect the tone of the guitar, however. Or,

ii. re-position the bridge (the solution I know is the right one). I can just fill in the screw-holes with toothpicks and wood glue, then drill new ones. This is a relatively easy procedure and the more I am typing, the more I think I will do this.

Maybe I will tackle it next weekend. Depends on the weather!

As things stand now though, the guitar does play well (aside from the ever-so-slight volume dip in the 6th string). It was my main guitar for a while last year when I was in a band. I’ve gigged with it only a couple times, but it was my main rehearsal guitar.

I will put a short video demo of this guitar when I’m done with it.

“The Grey”

I mentioned in a previous post that I ended up buying an old, beat up telecaster for £40, just for the neck. Here it is as I bought it:

IMG_0658

The neck is fine, it feels good actually. I initially had it on my homemade guitar (on my previous entries) as a replacement for the first neck I had on it which was warped. I ended up then replacing it on that guitar too (as mentioned in my previous post) and now I have it lying around my room spare, calling at me to use it for another project 😉 one day I will put it to good use!

For now, I’m going to add a brief couple entries about “The Grey”, my first telecaster. The first of many! I am now hooked on telecasters and I have this £40 beat up guitar to thank 😀 Unfortunately this project was not documented too well, so it is up to my writing to fill in the gaps of what happened.

The body needed a lot of work. It was in no where near as good a condition as the neck. But the fix was quite simple. This was early on in my guitar project days, I had finished the first look of my homemade guitar, so I new a thing or two about putting guitars together, but not about repairs. I worked with my godfather on this one and have learnt a lot which I’ve applied to other builds/projects.

Firstly, I needed to sand off the clear finish and get to the wood. Some serious scrubbing but I got there in the end.

The thin piece of wood between the neck pickup and the neck was loose. I initially thought it wasn’t important and felt like just scrapping it an leaving it without it. The pickguard would have hidden it anyway. We decided to keep it in though, as it is important that the neck wedges in the pocket tight, with good surface connection to the parameters of the pocket. So, we glued it in place. Pretty simple, and not much hassle either.

I didn’t want a natural finish, which is good because a lot of areas needed some filler to patch up the dents. I started with a grey primer, purely because that was the colour my Godfather had on him.

SAM_4704  SAM_4706

You can see my spooky reflection in the second picture there!

Anyway, the grey colour looked awesome. We decided just to keep it! It has a cool greyish-blueish colour, like a shark.

We just gave it a few coats. It really did not need too many as the baseline colour from the primer was awesome enough.

I’ll upload the assembly a little later, but I actually need to come back to this guitar and to some adjustments. I’ll explain more in my next post.

Step by Step Guitar Build 10 – Replacing the Neck and Humbucker

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that the neck I used initially was warped when I bought it and therefore it just could not intonate. I ended buying a telecaster from a local guitar shop for £40 – the guitar was in terrible condition, here’s a picture of it:

IMG_0658

I initially used this neck for this current build and used the body for another project, so it was win-win buying this thing.

However, I didn’t like the feel of the neck. It wasn’t bad, and I still have it spare for something else. I therefore replaced the neck again, and went for a maple neck I from eBay that cost me roughly £20-30.

I also took the opportunity to use the router and make a pickup socket large enough for a full sized humbucker. The Hot Rails just didn’t fit in the sound of the neck pickup – it is obviously not a bad pickup, but in the context of this guitar I wasn’t satisfied.

Here’s what it looked like at this point:

20150124_211353  20150125_183605

You can also see that I replaced the bridge. Initially I had a les-paul style bridge, but it was loose and therefore not useable as the bridge needed to sit tight.

This bridge fixed that problem nicely, as I simply had to drill screw-holes into the body and screw the bridge in. The problem is that you can see the previous bridge’s holes coming out the sides. As you can see here:

20150829_125603

You can also see from this picture, that I had to move the whammy bar back a little, as the new bridge did not fit in place with the whammy bar in it’s old position. You’ll notice I no longer have the strings going through the whammy bar. This is simply because I wanted a more robust and reliable tuning system. I can also re-string it with the whammy bar, the way I see it is I have a choice.

I installed an Irongear Hot Slag bridge pickup – It sounds great. Really cool pickup and inexpensive.

Thing is, I was having wiring problems. I’m still developing my wiring and sodlreing skills, but decided to make this guitar as simple as possible. I disconnected the middle pickup (which I never used anyway) but left it in to complete the look of the guitar (otherwise there would be another big hole in the guitar body!). Therefore, the guitar only has two working pickups, bridge and neck (and they sound great together). I replaced the 5-way switch with a 3-way, and disconnected one of the tone knobs. This guitar is basically a H-S pickup configuration, with one tone and one volume knob. Just like a telecaster, nice and simple. The benefit of this new bridge is that it is easy to earth the guitar with it, I just have a cable going from top of volume knob to underneath the bridge.

20150830_220900  20150829_152338  20150128_003817

There you have it, my homemade guitar.

I am undecided if I actually want to finish it off. I actually love that it is full of scratches, holes and disconnected electronics, and it sounds great as it is. Very easy to play, intonates well, has cool cleans and great tones with gain.

If I did want to finish it I would fill in the holes from the old bridge so that they are not visible. Maybe smoothen out the edges, though I actually like the rough-homemade look this has so I probably wouldn’t do that on this build.

I’ve learned so much from this build. It is a constant project as the better I get at putting guitars together, the more I go back to this one to update and upgrade it! I hope it never stops 🙂

There is a lot that I could have done differently, but this has been trial and error and sometimes learning the hard way is best!

Since this guitar (and also while it as going through its many upgrades) I have been working on others projects, and I have plans to make more guitars with the same body shape as this guitar to make a series of them. Watch this space.

Step by Step Guitar Build 9 – Assembly

After several coats of wood stain, and some light Satin Poly finish sprayed on, I was ready for the assembly.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos documenting the assembly and wiring process. You wouldn’t want to see what my wiring looked like anyway – it was my first time doing it and I couldn’t earth it properly. The earth cable from the bridge to the volume pot was just not connecting well.

This problem got fixed a few months after by wrapping it around one of the whammy bar/tailpiece screws. This worked much better.

Anyway, here is the guitar’s first look:

SAM_4341

Close up of the body:

SAM_4342

Very happy with how it turned out. The colour turned out nice and the grain comes through pretty well considering it was my first time doing this. The only problem was that the bridge pickup didn’t work, and that’s because some of the coils ripped. This was no big deal for me though (other than financial) because at that time I never really used the bridge pickup, I only used the neck pickup.

This guitar’s journey did not end here though.

I took this to an audition for a band which went really well. The tone was cool and I had fun playing it. But the intonation was off so I took it to the guitar store and they pointed out that the neck has warped beyond repair. The man that sold it to me said there was nothing wrong with it (I’ve mentioned this in a few posts now, I’m still bitter about it :p), but it was only £20 so I should have been more suspicious. I also had to think about that bridge pickup that didn’t work. Even though I preferred (And still do, really) the neck pickup, I still wanted a working bridge just for some diversity in the sound so I installed this:

A Seymour Duncan Hot Rails

SAM_4667

I actually was not satisfied with this pickup. It didn’t fit the neck well at all. It needed different amp settings to the neck to get the tone I wanted which is just not practical during a live show or even just jamming/rehearsing. It had to go. That is for another blog post though.

Step by Step Guitar Build 8 – staining

I’m not sure how many coats I put overall, I stopped documenting it unfortunately, possibly because this was the most frustrating part of the build. It’s so awesome to see the guitar come to life with colour, but the staining process (including sanding previous coat down) is really quick, and then you’ve got to wait. In my case it meant wait until the next evening after work. It was really testing my patience!

Here’s a gradient of the first few coats. It was my first attempt with it so it was quite blotchy.

1st and 2nd coats

IMG_0576 IMG_0579

4th coat

IMG_0585

1st coat and 2nd coats (Still wet)

SAM_4329  SAM_4333

Step by Step Guitar Build 7 – First Stain

So the body is pretty much done. All the holes drilled, routed and ready for staining!

I initially bought two different wood stain colours – red mahogany and a lighter, more yellowy one. I was planning on doing a sunburst, but decided against it and stuck with just the red Mahogany.

I didn’t apply any grain filler or anything onto the wood first, I just sanded it down. Standard procedure here: start with something like 240, then 320 grit. Don’t be in a hurry, take your time sanding out all the little scratches.

Another thing: always wear gloves! Try and avoid finger prints and oily stains where your fingers have touched the wood. They will show up later

Once you’re done sanding and happy with it, depending on the wood your are ready for stain. Some, more porous woods, require some grain filler first. I didn’t know what wood I was using, how porous it was, and even if I did I didn’t even know I would have had to use some filler. So I just went straight in with the stain.

First coat on the back and front:

SAM_4329 IMG_0576

Apply the stain using a cloth and go along the grain.

The difference is colour is just because of the lighting. I did the back and sides first, then once that dried flipped it over and did the front. It is a bit blotchy and nowhere near the colour I wanted, but it is only coat 1…. still needs more sanding and staining and sanding and standing and so on.