It’s been a while…

…but I have been busy.

I’ll try to get around to posting some pictures of the zebrano-topped super strat I built, and then some photos of a couple more projects. All the latest ones are built from scratch, by hand. They are not kits, so there should be something more interesting to post than just assembly pages. Keep checking!

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Build Diary – Part 15 – Finishing up

The day finally arrived to put the finishing touches to the guitar (well, nearly – more on that later).

I’m not good with a soldering iron, so I enlisted the help of my good friend Paul Hudson (from dragondreams.org.uk). I’m very grateful to Paul for his help on this stage of the build, otherwise the 6-way switch would have ended up being encased in a ball of solder, probably permanently attached to my living room carpet.

The first job was to get everything we needed ready. Once again this step became a “living room” build, only this time instead of my living room, it was Paul’s. You’ll see in the photo that one of his cats was on hand to supervise us.

I think he lost interest while we located the correct sized drill bit to mount the humbucker rings, though…

So, first actual job of the day was to mount the pickups. The chrome pickup rings I ordered from StewMac look fantastic, but there was a slight issue with the neck pickup. The Suhr DSV comes with very long pole pieces and unfortunately that meant it just doesn’t fit into the pickup slot without trimming the extra from the bottom. You can see the problem in these pictures.

With that little hiccup out of the way, on to the next one. The cable coming out of the neck pickup was fouling between the body and the pickup, pushing the pickup out of alignment and stopping adjustment of the pickup height. This should have been a simple fix – just remove a little more wood inside the cavity to make space for the cable. I was very happy to accept Paul’s offer to do this job with a small chisel.

It was good, but not quite enough so out came the Dremel with a dental bur to finish the job. Now things got really “interesting”. Somehow, the burr got caught up in the wood somewhere, got torn out of the Dremel and disappeared. We were very lucky not to have a high speed lump of metal embedded in either of us anywhere and as a secondary bonus the guitar survived intact as well). We still don’t have the first clue where the burr ended up. As you can probably imagine there are no photos of this stage.

OK, so the problems with the pickup mountings were not resolved, so time to screw them on. These are a few photos of me and my chins doing the final assembly.

So now, all that’s left is to connect all the electrickery. I didn’t take any photos of this stage, partly because I was in awe of Paul’s patience and dexterity but mainly because I was too busy enjoying the tirade of mumbled profanities he was coming out with. (He was convinced that the switch was “a bloody stupid idea, you’ll end up using two positions and the rest will be wasted”)

All assembled, and time to test – but there’s a problem. The tone control is acting like a volume control. It turns out that in my haste to shield the control cavity I had put the copper tape in in such a way that the contacts of the tone pot were shorting out to ground. Oops. It was a relatively easy fix to trim out a small area of the copper from under the pot and the problem went away. Phew!

And that’s it, apart from the “topping out” ceremony – mounting the strap buttons. I went for oversize buttons just like the ones on my Suhr. I went for those because in the two years I’ve had the Suhr I have never worried about the guitar falling off its strap without having to use strap locks. I recommend them.

Done. Time to play.

Can you tell I was pleased with the result?

I mentioned before that we are not quite done. I need to do a good setup on the guitar now, setting action height, intonation, rolling the fretboard edges, etc. Also, I need to replace the nut with one of the correct width and height. The one I have been using so far was a pre-cut, off-the-shelf one and it’s not quite right. It’s a tiny bit too narrow, and a tiny bit too short and has to be shimmed with 4 sheets of paper underneath to stop open strings buzzing on the low frets.

Next post – sound clips and photos of the (almost) complete guitar. I’ll also make a few notes on small issues that you might want to look out for in your build should you decide to get one of these great kits.

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The Build Diary – Part 14 – Pick me up

The waiting for the pickup rings is now over – the postman just delivered them.

My plan now is to get everything put together tomorrow and see how she sounds with all the correct electronics in place. I’m hoping that all the choices I made (pickups and components) have been the right ones – I’m sure they are, I know the pickups from my Suhr S3 and love the noises they make so there’s no real reason why this build should be any different.

With luck, there will be a photo-heavy post tomorrow, and may even have some sound clips attached (assuming I can put the guitar down long enough to set up a recorder to capture the noise)

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Not a Build Diary – The Kit List

While I wait for the last delivery to arrive, I thought I’d run through the list of parts I am using on this guitar. I’ll then mention a couple of parts I bought that aren’t suitable so you can avoid the hassles.

Guitar

  • 1 x Double Cut kit, fret wire and side dots installed.
  • 1 x Tone Pros Bridge (From PVX)
  • 1 x Tone Pros tailpiece (From PVX)
  • 1 set Planet Waves Auto Trim Locking tuners (From PVX)
  • 2 x STC 500K pots (StewMac)
  • 1 x Switchcraft output jack (I think) (StewMac)
  • 1 x FreeWay switch, 6 position toggle (StewMac)
  • 1 x Suhr SSH+ Bridge humbucker
  • 1 x Suhr DSV Neck humbucker
  • Copper Shielding Tape
  • Assorted wiring, knobs, plates, etc.

Finish

  • 1 x 8oz bottle Birchwood Casey Tru Oil
  • 1 x 3oz bottle Birchwood Casey Sealer and Filler
  • 1 x 3oz bottle Birchwood Casey gunstock wax.
  • Assorted abrasives and blocks for sanding

Stuff that didn’t work out for me.

  • StewMac 5 way rotary switch (Actually purchased as part of a closeout deal on PRS wiring kits along with post, output jack and wiring). The issue with this is that the shaft of the switch was not long enough to be able to mount in the guitar without taking out a lot more wood from the top, which I was not comfortable about having to do.
  • StewMac Humbucker mounting rings. OK, this was my own fault. I ordered flat rings instead of the tapered flat top mounting rings. The replacements are what I am wiating on right now
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The Build Diary – Part 12a – Switching it up

I have decided to use a non-standard switch for my pickup selection. I had originally intended to use a 5 way rotary switch from StewMac but I couldn’t make it work without routing more material from an already sensitive part of the body. I eventually settled on a Freeway 6-way toggle that looks a lot like a standard 3-way one, but gives an additional set of selection options. Interestingly, I had to order the switch from StewMac, despite it being made here in the UK, about 25 miles from my home. Go figure.

**EDIT** I just found out that AxesRUs here in the UK also stock these switches now. Way simpler and quicker if you’re here in the UK. 🙂

FreeWay Switch

FreeWay Switch

Having made sure this switch would fit (it does) I went to their site for wiring diagrams. Unfortunately, all the diagrams in the document rely on 2 volume and 2 tone controls. I guess I could have opted for dual concentric controls in the PVX, but I didn’t want to do that. Instead I fired off a quick email from their contact page, and within a couple of days I was sent a diagram they worked up for me. That is just wonderful customer service, in my opinion. Thanks guys.

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The Build Diary – Part 12 – Highly strung

Yesterday I got the machine heads mounted, after eventually tracking down the correct screwdriver for the job.

Having put on the tuners, I thought I’d throw the rest of the hardware on to see how it looks/feels/plays. I wasn’t optimistic that it would sound “right” just yet, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Intonation is out (no work done on the fine tuning of that as yet) but the action wasn’t bad. The temporary nut I am using is too low so I get horrible buzz and rattle on open strings, but fretted notes all ring out really well.

It has highlighted what I knew already though. The fretboard edges are quite sharply defined. Before too much longer I need to think about rolling them over a little for a more comfortable playing experience.

(For those looking for help on the process these days, my apologies – there’s not a lot to talk about so these posts are getting quite picture-heavy. Maybe more detail when I start the wiring…)

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The Build Diary – Part 11 – Getting into the home straight

This morning I took the clamps off the guitar, and it looks pretty good. Time to motivate myself to finish the finish.

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The Build Diary – Part 10 – Commitment issues

OK, I admit it. I have been putting this off for far too long. The only really irreversible part of the build is gluing in the neck. It’s taken me a good few weeks to convince myself that there’s not too much that I can get wrong in this stage, and I’ve finally taken the plunge.

A few drizzles of glue onto the tenon – not too much, not too little – and then gently slide in the neck and all is well. I actually masked off the fretboard for an earlier oiling stage, so I made sure to string up, roughly check the intonation without gluing, and mark up a few datum points on the tape so I knew where the neck has to sit. I don’t think this was a totally necessary step – the neck when in position is actually as far in as it will go – but it makes me feel more comfortable about the gluing up.

So, once the neck is in, I protected the body with quite a lot of cork floor tiles and added a couple of clamps – one in each pickup route. Wipe the excess glue that got squeezed out off and leave the glue to set. I’m keeping an eye on the joints in case there is more glue forced out, but it is almost done now.

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The Build Diary – Part 9 – Slow progress

The build has been going slowly for the last couple of weeks. I’m working on 2 things though.

1) Getting a nice thickness of oil on the body, thin coat by thin coat, and
2) Summoning up the courage for the non-reversible step of gluing in the neck.

More updates soon, hopefully…

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The Build Diary – Part 8 – Argh!!!

Stupidity, carelessness, ineptitude, call it what you will, but I’ve just hot a snag on the build. I decided last night that in order to make sure everything was lining up right before I glue in the neck, I’d install the tailpiece and bridge. I started off by installing the tailpice collars (the parts that are inserted into the wood of the body, and have the internal threading to accept the posts.

This is where I screwed up. I somehow managed to damage one of the collars so that I could screw in the post (at least, not all the way in, and not without a LOT of effort. ) Oops!

So I did a bit of research on how to get the collar back out of the wood, and consulted a guitar repair guy I know. The answer was surprising.

Drop a screw, head-end down into the hollow of the collar, so that it rests on the wood of the body at the bottom of the hole. Then, slowly and carefully screw in the post to the collar. The pressure against the screw, and the forces acting on the threads inside the collar should start to lift the collar out.

Here’s a terrible picture to explain what I mean.

My awesome image manipulation skills coming out again.

My awesome image manipulation skills coming out again.

You know what? It works. I was nervous of pushing the screw straight out of the back of the body but there’s enough material there for that not to happen.

I only got part way out – the only screws/bolts I have are either too wide to fit down the recess, or too short to get enough pressure acting on the threads, remember I said I can only get the post part-way in? So, I plan a trip to a hardware store soon to get an appropriate size of bolt and give it another go.

I have, unfortunately, ruined the collar and post on this side so I will also need to get a replacement part ready to fit when I have recovered the confidence to have another go.

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