whammy bar

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:


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:

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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:


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.

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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:


Close up of the body:


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


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 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.

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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:


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.

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.


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.


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.