June 14th, 2012, 01:02 PM
As I patiently await a bag full of money to fall from the sky which ain't happenin', I've been dying to do something with an old "Mega" strat style body for something to do.. The neck was badly warped and the truss rod was non adjustable with a piece of spring steel welded to the adjusting nut and the bottom anchor nut so it was basically trash. The thing cost me 50 bucks and I was hoping to give it to her grandchildren for rocksmith but it was beyond playability in the end. I thought about turning it into a Tele style but that just doesn't seem the way so as I was having my morning coffee wondering what to do I decided to take the plunge and grabbed a neck blank that I made a while ago and wasn't really pleased with. I milled off the protruding skunk stripe and although it is pretty ugly. it is flat and true now top and bottom so I am going to try and fit it to a strat body after I put frets on it and shape it and stuff. while at the same time exposing the wood on the strat. So there is where I started today. This may be a disaster and it just might result in a very playable guitar if I can score some decent pickups and get you guys to suggest some alternate wiring schemes for the strat 5 position switch. I'll be hoping for something playable at best. Not something pretty, that's for sure. So here we go.
Here are some pics of where I started this morning:
The destroyed neck sitting in place loose:
The bridge that never could intonate properly due to the warped neck and it being too close to the nut. I'll start the fretting higher on the replacement neck I am building from an almost scrapper:
The nasty neck route where someone had perhaps tried to lower it for string height all crooked.
Here's the neck after I got mad a drove it apart. The wood holding the nut in was already cracked and glued before and I actually used a knitting needle for a while to make it play even a bit LOL:
And the bottom of the neck where I discovered the truth about it just cuz:
So I milled off the protruding skunk stripe of another neck I had worked at building and decided to try and save rather than trash it:
The top of the neck with the truss rod installed:
The moment my brain said "try it, you might like it" LOL
Stripped down the body and took pics for quick reassembly:
Routing the neck pocket flat which is already too deep in places:
The sides of the pocket are ok so I used a bearing bit to take down the bottom running it on the sides and using my crappy template to give the router some support:
I put the body in my homemade planer box and started routing it down. I was hoping these marks would go away but they just got worse. Oh well the wood is not going to look the best anyway but a playable beater that only you and I will see is the only goal I have on this one and to do it as fast as possible. Hopefully in under a week just because it is getting hot in the shed these days and it won't be for sale on the open market or anything.:
I had to knock at least 1/8" off the top to bring it down to match the neck route realizing I could shim it but I'd rather not. Of course I may have to yet:
The back looks better than the front unfortunately:
I use carpet tape on the bottom of a rubber pad and on the guitar body to keep it from moving when routing. My wife volunteered her finger nails for removing the tape. Nice move and much appreciated:
So here we are around 1pm and I'm off to town for some "circa 1952" furniture stripper to get the rest of the black off. I'll probably paint some on and let it sit and either call it a day or start radiussing the neck blank.
The original pickups on this body sounded the worst I have ever heard. So shrill that it hurts my ears. I like mellow sounds personally and I am thinking maybe Alnico II pros but I know relatively nothing other than I like those on my Home built Tele a lot and they cost enough for groceries for a month. I am open and hoping for suggestions on cost effective Mellow but not muddy pickups and /or wiring possibilities. If I could just change pickups and not rewire the pots and switch, that would be very cool. I haven't even researched what position does what on a strat style yet so clue me in will ya? Later....
June 14th, 2012, 08:24 PM
It bubbled up pretty good while I was out doing yard work so I brushed it off and let another light coat of furniture finish remover before I packed it in for the day.
I think it has potential but one never knows until it's over eh.
June 14th, 2012, 08:38 PM
this is cool T thanks for posting looking forward to the next update
June 15th, 2012, 06:00 AM
Thanks. I'm kind of stoked about it. Since it is virtually free rather than trashing it, it suits my budget too. I'll keep it going. I should be able to get the body down to pure wood today such as it is and was hoping to start radiussing the neck but I have company coming so we'll see. In the end I am going to have to replace the pickups that must be from the cheapest piece of garbage known to man. I don't even think they are the stock mega ones. The springs that go between the pickups and the screws under the pickguard Were all stuck sideways to the sides of the pickups. I think the seller must have swapped out some P90's or something and then sold it quick. All he said when he handed it out the door was he couldn't get it to intonate which is understandable. Anything will be an improvement. Since it will be thinner than normal and more scalloped at the heel than a Tele or a stock strat it should be nice to work up near high end of the fretboard. One more coffee and it's off to the work shed before it gets too hot. I should be able to get 3 or 4 hours in today. I have my mp3 player hooked to an amp in there. I can't work without tunes. Looking on the used stuff sites for cheap but quality pickups for it but in truth I can't even afford that right now. Big financial goal that must be reached by August. This pretty much can't help but turn out pretty cool now. Positive vibes eh?
June 15th, 2012, 05:05 PM
I started day 2 cutting some sandpaper to 1/3 size from full sheets on my handy dany hacksawblade cutter.:
The I sanded until I got a heat blister on my thumb and my tendonitis screamed in pain:
The tried to colour match the mismatched wood:
First I hit the light strip with some dark walnut stain:
The colour matched pretty good:
The I hit it with some varathane. I had to brush it on and I am so bad at that but the first coat is on here:
I sanded a bit and applied the second coat. Now it's off to the garden while that coat dries a little and then the third and final coat. It's not going to be pretty but here's hoping it will be functional. I had hoped to just tung oil it but the mismatched woods and stain incompatibility with tung oil ruined that plane. Oh well. Pushing onward. One coat in aboiut an hour and that's it for the outside work. Neck shaping tomorrow. Anyone want to push a thousand strokes of the neck across my radius caul? Oh well tomorrow is another day. Time to play a bit then eat and chill for a bit and likely pass out. This is hard on the old guy. LOL. Cheers!
June 15th, 2012, 09:41 PM
Since nobody else has bothered to, I'd like to extend a shout-out to you for your Ridgid router. That looks to be a poplar body, which isn't a bad way to go. Good luck with the Varathane. I have sworn off of it after too many bad experiences, and I'd never use it on a guitar (again). I used it on a neck once and never liked the neck much until I stripped it off and reshot it with nitro.
June 16th, 2012, 02:56 PM
Hi Drew. Poplar maybe. It almost looks like one section of poplar and two of ash or something. No matter. A piece of crap is a piece of crap. Removing the black didn't give me as good as I hoped for but it was far better than expected. The original plan of a beater could be turning into a real player if things go as well as they ended up today. I hear you on the varathane and as happens to be the case I came in to post my dismay with it. I went to sand it this morning and ended up wioth a peeled section.
Hours later and I was down to 600 grit again:
Then I restained it with just a Red Mahogony stain since it was still nice and graned and colour matched ok from my other previous work. The I hit it with Min Wax Tung oil which I absolutely love to work with on my neck and bodies and will be my first and only choice from now:
Two coats and some light buffing and I'm where I want to be again. 24 hrs between coats of tung oil from now on for maybe 2 more coats but I am very pleased with the resultsso far. I used tung oil on my Tele build body and neck and the feel of it is soooo nice. I've sprayed cars and bikes with laquers of all sorts but I'm getting lazy in my old age and besides I can always re do tung oil any time I change strings and such so it's cool for me not to mention I had some in stock. Not to mention my spray gun is toast after the last time I used it and got so mad at it sputtering due to age and lack of maintenance that it is done. Cheap Devilbliss replica anyway which WAS a good spray gun 25 yrs ago. It mixed with the stain a bit on the first coat but that just allowed me to move the colour match around some:
So it's on to radiusing the neck and maybe cut slots Monday I guess since tomorrow is booked up too. I'll probably go on from that to shape it and make it fit the pocket and see if I have to shim the end out to get my scale right since the stock kneck on this thing was longer than normal and even as such it took more than the adjustment on the bridge to get it to come in. It'll be worth the extra effort. My MIM Tele had the end of the neck shimmed from the factory so I don't feel guilty if need be. My arm is a bit too sore for many strokes of the neck today. Time to chill and play guitar a bit. Cheers!
June 16th, 2012, 10:14 PM
The tung oil finish is going to look and feel a lot better than the Varathane. Put enough coats on to get a nice glow to it and enjoy the heck out of it!
June 16th, 2012, 11:00 PM
For sure. It's easy to recoat at string changes too so they just keep getting better. I'll give it another coat in the morning if I get up early enough. My wife wants to leave for her fathers lakeside camp by 9:30. *Sigh* So much for much work tomorrow. I totally understan the nitro theory since I recently gave up drums but if one knows how to properly tune then nitro is far better tonally than a glued on plastic drum wrap. So anyway, I got ambitious and did a little neck work after supper starting with this:
The same pic of the neck sitting there I guess but you know what I mean. Back and forth through 4 grits up to 320 back and forth for a couple hours. I'll hit it with a gentle 400 grit and finish with 600 after I shape and fit it to the body:
Nicely radiussed perfectly if I do say so:
Absolutely perfectly flat throughout the fretboard. I'm getting excited about the possibly playability of this in the end:
I had time to stick the neck to the fret ruler that has notches right on it to follow the fretting jig. My first build proved that this is a perfect way to go thanks to Stewart Macdonald. I wish they had of made it just a tad wider though as one has to keep the headstock bulges a bit thinner than I'd like or you can't get to the nut slots. All you have to watch is to get the centre the same distance from one edge top and bottom of the neck and make sure you have clearance for the slots:
I really crowded the nut end since the neck pocket in the body is so deep. I'd rather not shim the end of the heel back if I don't need to. My MIM had a 1/4" clock stuck on the body to shim it back from the factory but the pickguard is made for that other neck so here's hoping. This neck will be body specific or is it the body is going to be neck specific? Oh well for a beater here's hoping. The thing is one never knows for sure till it's done.: Crowding the nut big time:
My last neck ended up with a relief of .003" Fender specs are .010 -.012". I hope this one plays as well but I want it to end up a bit thinner than the last but not too much as I like it thick. This Bubinga doesn't bend easy. If I had the cash I would buy the remaining $500 chunk at 6 feet by 3 feet just for necks. I'll probably switch to mahogany after my next tele build since I'll be out of that wood by then and it is a lot cheaper than bubinga but I already know beyond a doubt that a tung oiled Bubinga neck is pure heaven. The tung oil makes me so happy I am now eyeing My epi special model and thinking of building a tele/strat neck for it (mahogony maybe and increasing the scale in the process and baring the wood. I don't know what it is but it's heavy stuff. I'm saving the Bubinga for another Tele though hollowed out like a thinline perhaps with a Black Walnut front or back. I'm still learning but I'm addicted to this guitar building stuff now. A costly hobby at times....I wish I had more tools. A 16" planer, a 16" bandsaw and a ROSS would be a groove but it's not gonna happen. I'm just a poor man who suddenly got addicted to guitars.
I still need advice on pickups. I gave a couple strat style guitars to the wife's grandkids that sounded pretty good but this one sounded terrible. If I can afford it someday, I will probably go for a set of AD alnico Pro II's since I DO love that sound but if there is something cheap and used that sounds great I'll grab it but I don't know what to look for. SUggestions are welcome, remembering that I'll probably have to go used unless a miracle sends me enough cash for the Seymour Duncans I want. I'd buy P90's if I could find used ones cheap since everyone talks about them but my guitar knowledge is very limited and stuck in this basement in the bush.
June 16th, 2012, 11:16 PM
Oops forgot a pic. For what it's worth. I spaced up the protruding end of the fret ruler to match the depth of the bottom of the fretting jig since they tend to tip right about the 6th fret to the nut. I glued the spacer right to my bench. Works perfectly now. Live and learn eh.:
June 19th, 2012, 07:41 AM
SO day 4 (or is it 5) sees me finishing off the nut slot and then carrying on down the board:
A trial fit of the nut after slotting the neck to about .060" depth. I'll fine tune it after the shaping process:
I drilled and glued in dots top and side:
A quick run on the radius block trued everything back up in seconds:
I removed all unnessary hardware and even sawed the metal block in half to reduce unnessary weightfor the whammy bar which I don't want or need on this one. A risky move perhaps:
I solidified the bridge by placing a piece of hard wire under the tapered section to make a secure bridge essentially mounted solid to the wood. I may add a block as well and even drill a couple more holes in the bridge but it's very solid so time will tell on that one. One may not want to attempt this on anything worth anything, that's for sure. It's not a good pic but the wire runs across the front. I tichtened it down and then gave the bridge a shot with hammer and punch between every mounting screw to imbed the wire into the body permanently:
A quick check on the scale length tells me that no shimming lengthwise will be necessary. I'm glad I moved the nut as high as possible allowing 22 frets and a perfect scale length. If anything I may have to shave a bit off the end of the neck which is fine but it looks great so far. There should be no string guides cranked to the back of the bridge on this revamp:
June 19th, 2012, 07:49 AM
I taped off the board with a couple layers of painters tape to ensure no damage while I shape the back of the neck. Here's hoping the skunk stripe survives this:
So after a bit more play time and one more coffee, it'll be out to the woodshed to see what kind of damage I can do to the back of the neck. Maybe a bit more shopping for pickups. I was looking at loaded black pickguards yesterday. Can someone please tell me what a super strat setup is all about and what the three switches do?
Ok. Let's see what today brings. Out I go after some surfing and playing some tunes on my Tele, rasp and router in hand...
June 21st, 2012, 07:20 AM
Good morning *whew*. I got to bed at 3 since when I got home from town I decided to get back into it so after a reasonable time spent practcing (OI need practice trust me).
I put a radius on some fretting material using Stew Macs radius crank tool and then placed some frets into the neck lightly tapping the ends into the grooves:
Then out to the shed to press them home using their fret pressing caul on my drill press which worked perfectly:
Then I nipped the ends off using their fret cutters which work real well at getting them close to the board. Then I put 2 drops of superglue into the fret end slots, most of which had a bit of room for it to flow down in. Then I clamped them in the radius block and ran around the yard trimming grass and then eating supper:
I couldn't resist taping off the fretboard and running it on the metal stew mac 18" radiussed sanding block with 320 grit. As soon as I started to do that I knew I had a winner of a fret job since it only took about 20 gentle strokes to get past the sharpie marker lines I had put on the fret tops meaning they were all perfectly even. I them remarked the fret tops for crowning:
I used the very cool crowning file from stew mac and got the lines down to a sliver. I then proceeded from the 13th fret to the heel end with 4 extra strokes on the 13th fret, 5 on the 14th, 6 on the 15th, 7 on the 16th and so on nice and gentle. This creates a nice fallaway for the relief I expected to get to ensure no buzzing as I move my fingers up the neck to the heel when playing. Just a little theory that worked great in the past. Time will tell. I rounded the fret ends a bit and headed out to the shed where I dripped a drop of super glue *Gel* onto the fret end slots which is thicker and seals the ends nicely so the future tongue won't get at them and swell them:
It was getting late so I told my better half to go to bed but I was bound to carry on after the anticipation of that neck working out and the unknowns at this point were killing me. I started by applying some more tongue oil to the body and then I hit the neck with 2 coats of tongue oil. The heat was intense in that shed having been a hot day and the humidity was way up and it was taking forever to dry so I decided to start soldering the ground wire for the bridge and even the jack. I pondered which wire went where on the jack and though I had it figured out but I came in and checked wiring diagrams, TDPRI and referred to my picture of it and then rechecked and then rechecked and you know what? I came to the conclusion the the jack had been the only part changed by the previous owner and the springs for the pickups must have come from the factory stuck to the sides the way they had been. Someone had wired the jack backwards with the ground to where the hot wire should have been and visa versa. Now I was really getting excited. This thing may not sound all that bad and it may even play well.
I had long ago stopped taking pictures flitting around at light speed. I had to rout the pickguard after I installed it takiing about 1/8" off the heel area using a bearing tipped router bit and my trim router to follow the rout.
I went ahead and installed the neck and took it into the house with the neck barely still sticky. I strung it up in anticipation of I didn't know what. I set the string heights at the bridge as close as I could for the time being and put my little clip on tuner on the neck and proceeded to see if it would even intonate. Better than my wildest dreams it intonated well with room to spare at both ends of the adjusters. I plugged it into my amp and with headphones only as she was well asleep by this time. Low and behold I had sound which wasn't too bad. 1t was after 3 am so I decided I would cut the nut slots down this morning. I woke up at 6am which is late for me but understandable and immediately *ping* I have a guitar to mess with so here I am sipping the last of my first cup of coffee looking at this:
The white pickguard looks pretty good on it too:
To say I am pleased is an understatement. This thing deserves a nice slice of bubinga instead of those washers and probably even some pickups when the priority of funding gets there. I'm off to cut nut slots and try this thing out. Breakfast? bahhh who needs food at a time like this: ;-)
June 21st, 2012, 07:23 AM
Time to retune, reintonate, check relief and plug it in. I'll mess with nut slots more slowly over time but right now with this my only nut in stock is close enough to try it out before I have to go to town (wifey's orders).
June 21st, 2012, 10:50 AM
After my little trip to town and breakfast I set about trying the guitar out and I was more than pleasantly surprised. Considering what it was and what it is and what I am I thought I'd record it right off the wall as I checked out the fretboard bottom to top so I thought I'd share this $50 guitar results. Check it out if you like. I made my goal of getting it done in a week too which is cool. The guitarist (me) flubbed a bit but I could blame nothing about playability on the guitar that's for sure:
June 21st, 2012, 01:02 PM
Nice work. Looks way better.
June 21st, 2012, 04:51 PM
Thanks Joe. I'll put another coat on the body soon when I take the strings off to stick on a Bubinga spacer for the back of the headstock and get rid of those stainless spacer washers. I played it all day long and it is definitely worth a spacer and some pickups someday. I played my homebuilt T style after with the SD Alnico Pro II's and I'm sold on them looking forward to swapping them out. I almost wish I hadn't put quite so much tongue oil on the neck though. I'll get it back down to a bit more "raw" in the process as I prefer that feeling to this. Mind you it was still a bit sticky. I played it indoors and out and the birds in the yard approve. LOL. I was thankful for the total weight in around 6 lbs too. I had to do a lot of fancy dancing to make everything fit the thin body even cutting 1/4" off the pickup height screws. I'll address the pickup routes when I get some pickups for it which could be a few months yet but I'm looking foirward to it. I need to clean the frets a bit now toosince the tung oil wasn't totally cured and got a bit sticky after a while on the fretsd, the strings and my fingers but man I DID have me some fun today. It only gets better from here. The nut needs the slots lowered a bit more yet as well which always scares me. Relief came out to .003" measured with a capo on the first fret and pressing down on past the last fret with no buzzing or anything which I don't need to say is awesome!! Now maybe I can sleep tonight. The suspense is always hard on me. LOL. *whew*
June 21st, 2012, 09:59 PM
That's a nice-looking POS you have there, T! Good work!
June 22nd, 2012, 05:26 AM
June 22nd, 2012, 10:08 PM
Very cool Strat build story.
The knotty pine paneling reminds me of a room my grandad built for my uncle many years ago.
June 22nd, 2012, 11:42 PM
Looks and sounds great!
June 23rd, 2012, 04:34 AM
As my father used to say, "You done good, boy".
June 23rd, 2012, 08:33 AM
Very cool Strat build story.
The knotty pine paneling reminds me of a room my grandad built for my uncle many years ago.
Thanks. I Love the natural woods. I leave pine everywhere I go. Nothing like the smell of fresh cut pine for this Northern boy. Walking through a pine forest with the cushy feel of a blanket of pine needles under my feet and that wonderful smell is one of life's greatest pleasures to me. That is when the bugs go away in the fall *swat* darn things.
June 23rd, 2012, 08:34 AM
Looks and sounds great!
Thanks. It'll sound better when I can afford some pickups too now that I feel it's worth it. It's down a few cogs on the where my money has to go priority list right now.
June 23rd, 2012, 08:35 AM
As my father used to say, "You done good, boy".
Thanks Big Dawg. Means alot.
June 23rd, 2012, 08:41 AM
Now since I need to do something more and it has to be totally free as in not one extra penny spent. I am eyeing an Epiphone Special Model this morning that I traded a bass drum mike for so watch for it. I am about to completely murder it. Neck twisted, nut was filed right to the wood and the tone pot was loose and twisted in circles until it was shorted out. The lad who bought my drums brought it in with him and asked me if I wanted to buy it. I plugged it in and said Noway do I want that piece of (*&%^(&^%. He said do you have any more Bass Mikes? Since I had 2 I traded and then parkd the thing. Seems like heavy wood. *eyeing my furniture stripper*. I am wondering if a pork rib could be made into a nut. That does it. Decision made. Ribs for supper. LOL. This is going to be nasty. I am about to break all the rules. LOL. Oh man. I threw out some deer antlers a guy gave me a while ago. Darn. I'd bet that would be awesome.
June 24th, 2012, 08:45 AM
Good luck with the rib bone, but I have a feeling it might be too porous. The antlers would have probably made a great nut.