Walnut Telehawk build

July 3rd, 2012, 01:26 PM
This is my second and latest guitar build. My first guitar was a Warmoth-parts Strat. Beyond a fat 1"-to-1" neck, a couple push-push pots for some series and out-of-phase combinations, and some killer Microcoils from Wilde Pickups, it's a fairly typical Strat.

The Body
After losing a bid on one of Brian Gipperich's semi-hollow Telehawk bodies on eBay, he sent me a curtusey e-mail letting me know that I could always contact him to have something built to my specs. I decided to inquire what tops he had, and in the return e-mail one of the Walnut blanks jumped out at me. Knowing that a Walnut/Mahogany combination would be well suited to oiling - really the only finish option I could accomodate in terms of both resources and time - I jumped on it.

It took me a while to decide exactly what I wanted the body to be. I decided that while I still wanted semi-hollow for the weight and resonance, I skipped the soundholes as I didn't want any of the beautiful Walnut removed. I also decided that I wanted something at least a little different from a standard Tele or dual-humbucker pickup configuration. In the end, I went with a "fat" tele setup; I knew I wanted it to have the Tele-style bridge pickup, but the neck route would allow for almost unlimited versatility if I wanted to switch things up later (humbucker, hum-sized P90, Tele neck pickup with a pickguard, blank pickguard for an Esquire, etc.).

The Neck
With the body on order, I hunted on Warmoth for a neck. Having been so pleased with the fat neck on the Strat, I once again made sure to narrow it down to the thick necks. I eventually settled on a beautiful looking all-Rosewood neck with some excellent coloring and striping. I went with stainless steel frets and a Graphtech nut.

The Pickups
Bill Lawrence's philosophy towards guitar pickup design lead me back to Wilde. I decided to try the L298-TL. I liked the description of it; some P90 beefiness, but still with some of that Tele twang. For the neck, I wanted something more P90-ish. I decided to go with the 3.6H version of the L610. This combination turned out to be similar to that another Wilde afficianado was using (L298TL & 2.4H 610), who found great success with the combination. Having heard clips of them in his Maple-necked Tele (Ash, Alder, I don't know), I'm curious to see how they'll respond in a Walnut/Mahogancy, Rosewood-necked semi-hollow.

In terms of wiring, the 3-way toggle switch will be used to provide a typical neck/neck+bridge/bridge setup along with master volume/tone. Having several push-pull pots lying around, I'll use at least one if not for both. I haven't fully decided what I'll do, but some present thoughts are:
1) switch between regular tone control and BL's Q-Filter (which I also grabbed)
2) Tone (and maybe Volume) bypass
3) "Half-out-of-phase" (OOP with a series capacitor)
4) Series/Parrel (though considering these are already pretty strong pickups, this might be fairly silly)

At the moment, I figuring it'll likely be #1, and maybe #2 as well if I'm feeling ambitious.

The Hardware
Armed with Bill's knowledge of the effect of Tele bridge material on bridge pickups (eddy currents, ferromagnetism), I decided to stick with a brass bridge from Warmoth to ensure the pickups stayed noise-free. As a hardtail guitar, I didn't feel it necessary to go insane on tuners and choose Warmoth's vintage style Gotohs. I chose an Electrosocket jack having heard good things about their quality. I went with a Gibson-style toggle switch and barrel-style amber knobs; we'll see what I think of that decision once it's altogether

As it currently stands, the neck and all the guts are on-hand, and the oil finish has been applied. I also have the tuning machines installed, and I'm just getting the string ferrules installed before I put the neck on and ensure proper bridge placement.

I haven't taken a picture of the finished body yet - or the neck, for that matter; all I have at the moment is a shot took a while ago of the mineral spirits-wiped body after it arrived.

July 4th, 2012, 11:15 AM
Very cool, good luck!

I have a 1-piece Walnut tele body from Brian G at Tomahawk guitars, just waiting for me to finish amassing my parts and to get the courage up to build it into a guitar. Brian was very good to deal with, hope I can do justice to the body he sent me!

Elias Graves
July 5th, 2012, 09:23 AM
That a slick looking top on there. Nice find.

July 5th, 2012, 09:26 AM
Very, very, nice!

July 6th, 2012, 11:46 PM
Ugghh... hit an ugly snag. I went to fit the Warmoth neck onto the body this evening, only to find that the holes in the neck pocket are too close to the rear of the neck pocket, almost by 1/8" or so. I'm going to try taking the neck off my Tele thinline and see if it lines up, but I don't have a good feeling. I could take some wood off the rear of the neck pocket, but I'm a little nervous I won't be able to compensate for the shortening of the scale length with the bridge. Damn.

July 7th, 2012, 12:59 AM
You could always just patch the holes in the neck and redrill them to match the body. It's a very simple procedure.

R. Stratenstein
July 7th, 2012, 09:15 AM
You could always just patch the holes in the neck and redrill them to match the body. It's a very simple procedure.

All other things being equal, this is a slam-dunk. Especially if only 2 holes are involved.

July 7th, 2012, 11:53 AM
You could always just patch the holes in the neck and redrill them to match the body. It's a very simple procedure.

Hmmm... it's a possibility. I don't like the idea of altering a perfect neck to match an imperfect body, especially when I don't know if other alignments on the body are already out of wack having found this one. I think I'll have to take some measurements first. Disappointing; I felt comfortable buying a body from Brian given the fact that no one had ever complained about this sort of thing with his work.

July 10th, 2012, 01:20 PM
Well, I finally had a chance to bust out my vernier calipers and take a look at the neck pocket last night. As I suspected, the neck holes - while perfectly spaced - are 1/8" too close to the bridge end of the pocket. The distances from the edge of the neck pocket to the bridge pickup cavity and string holes, however, are correct as per standard Tele dimensions, so it looks like the neck pocket holes are the only thing that are wrong.

So, that leaves me with a few options:

1) fill the holes in the Warmoth neck and re-drill to match the body. While likely the easiest option, I'm not going to go wrecking a perfectly compliant neck as then it becomes unusable with anything else if things go south.

2) take some wood out of the neck pocket so that the holes will line up. As it moves the entire neck closer to the bridge, it's a huge risk that I won't be able to compensate with the bridge placement and saddles, and it's much harder to get back from that modification.

3) fill the holes in the body. Whiles it's more difficult than re-drilling the neck, in the end, I end up with a neck pocket that will accept any compliant neck I see fit.

For the sake of doing things right, I'm going to knuckle down and do option #3. I still haven't decided how I'm going to get the new holes measured. I've seen some suggest putting nails in the neck holes and then pressing it to the body; I've seen others suggest using tracing paper. Given the 0.001" accuracy of my digital calipers, I may even just pencil it out in the pocket.

August 1st, 2012, 08:43 AM
Well, I finally re-drilled the body holes and the neck fits perfectly. Did a dry fit of the bridge with the bridge pickup installed and everything lined up beautifully. I couldn't have been happier.

But if that were the end of my trials, this would be too easy, right? Despite drilling the appropriate sized hole - and drilling/screwing into a test piece of wood so as to avoid surprises - I managed to break the head off the first bridge mounting screw. Trying to take this in stride, but I'm beginning to suspect I wasn't meant to build guitars.

On the plus side, I figure I'll love this guitar more than any other by the time I'm done, as it will impart the feeling of having battled a 50-foot tall mutant rhinoceros and am now riding it across the land in glorious victory. :smile:

Having failed to get it out using vice grips or drill chuck (neither method I'd probably recommend to anyone after having tried them), I'm going to go pick up an appropriately sized screw extractor if I can find one, as well as some metal tubing for the hollow-bit-drill-and-plug method as a last resort. Guess I need to pick up a new screw as well; I should have measured it before I left the house this morning. Darn.

Anyway, attached is a pic of my botched screw attempt, as well as a pic demonstrating that I've at least managed to do something right. Hopefully it won't be as long before I can show off some positive progress.

August 1st, 2012, 08:53 AM
It's lookin good, good luck with the screw

August 1st, 2012, 09:12 AM
It looks like the screw is sticking out enough to get it with Vise-Grips. What was the problem with that?

Whenever you do get it out, one tip you will see here quite a bit is putting wax on the threads when you install screws. Good luck with it.

Nice looking guitar by the way.

August 1st, 2012, 09:14 AM
Thats a really nice looking piece of walnut.

August 1st, 2012, 09:19 AM
I really like that body style/ wood combo. Beautiful.

August 1st, 2012, 09:34 AM
It looks like the screw is sticking out enough to get it with Vise-Grips. What was the problem with that?

Whenever you do get it out, one tip you will see here quite a bit is putting wax on the threads when you install screws.

Vise-Grips didn't budge it; all I managed to do was grind the thread away. I had some wax on the threads, but perhaps not enough, or perhaps it just wouldn't have made a difference regardless. In any case, I'll get it sort out somehow.

August 1st, 2012, 10:16 AM
Chalk it up to learning experience, and continue-on!

August 1st, 2012, 10:24 AM
A broken screw like that is a pain. I had it happen to me once and I could not get it out. So what I ended up doing is cutting it down flush with the body and cutting the head off of another screw with a hacksaw and super gluing it onto the bridge. So it looked just like the other screws once the bridge was in place. The other three screws still hold the bridge just fine. I have not had any trouble with it rattling or making extraneous noises somehow. It's the first bridge screw from the top in this picture.

I know it's not optimal, but there was no way I could think of to get that sucker out without making a bigger mess.

August 1st, 2012, 12:19 PM
So what I ended up doing is cutting it down flush with the body and cutting the head off of another screw with a hacksaw and super gluing it onto the bridge. So it looked just like the other screws once the bridge was in place. The other three screws still hold the bridge just fine.

The thought had crossed my mind of just grounding it flat and just relying on the other three screws; as you say, they'll hold the bridge just fine. I'm not sure I'd even care about the aesthetics of gluing the head to the bridge, as once the saddles are on you're barely going to notice any way (and I don't give a darn about affecting it's 'value', as after the work I'm putting into this guitar it's not going anywhere... ever). Hmm, food for thought...

By the way, awesome Tele Jr. you have there.

R. Stratenstein
August 1st, 2012, 09:16 PM
Try heating it up with a soldering iron and having another go with Vice-Grips with new sharp jaws tightened painfully tight. Put a small hole in the center of a couple of shirt cardboards and use them to shield your guitar top. Also slight taps around the sides of the stub may loosen it. EZ Out (screw extractor) is a waste of time in this circumstance and with a little more work you can avoid the use of a plug cutter.

August 2nd, 2012, 02:14 AM
I say putting the screw in a stationary vice and REALLY clamping it, then turning the body. It might sound risky, but I think that's the best bet.

August 2nd, 2012, 08:37 AM
I also broke a screw in my northern ash guitar body. I learned a great way to get broken screws out. Get a tiny brass tube that has an inside diameter just about the size of the broken screws shaft. Use a hacksaw blade and cut small teeth into the circular end of the tube. Chuck the tube up in your hand drill and you now have a mini hole saw the exact size of the offending screw. Once you get it out, you just have to fill the hole with the correct size dowel and re-drill.

Here is a link to where Jack Wells explains the procedure with excellent pictures.


August 3rd, 2012, 09:13 AM
Well, I lucked out. I decided I'd give the vise grips one more try, and I must have managed to find a sweet spot because I was able to back it out. After opening up the holes slightly to ensure it wouldn't happen again, the bridge is mounted and the guitar is strung up. Neck and bridge alignment look perfect, and intonation is pretty darn good considering I just eyeballed the saddles when putting them back on.

Tonight I'll hopefully get the neck pickup and output jack installed, and with any luck by the end of the weekend have it fully up and running with the controls.

August 3rd, 2012, 09:31 AM
By the way, one thing I want to say (wish I could edit an old post but I can't) is that my earlier comments about the neck holes in the body may have come off as disparaging Brian G.'s work and Tomahawk bodies. The Telehawk body is fantastic, and despite some inconvenience in fixing the holes - which I am sure was an atypical accident and not indicative of Brian's craftsmanship - I do not regret buying this body for a second. Should Brian ever return to making guitar bodies, I would not hesitate in recommending his work.

Keyser Soze
August 3rd, 2012, 12:49 PM
Last I heard Brian had suspended his business. He had an unfortunate incident with a power tool, took time off to recover, came back, but then ceased operations shortly thereafter.

August 3rd, 2012, 02:48 PM
Yeah, the power tool incident was shortly before I started looking at his stuff I think. Before he shut down he mentioned that he was starting a new job and was suspending operation until he got a better sense of his time commitments. I'm guessing the new job either keeps him far busier than before or during his hiatus he found his interest in the craft was waning.

August 3rd, 2012, 02:52 PM
I kind of wonder what kind of power tool incident. Does that make me a horrible person?

I tried to do a little digging on the name, but the only hits I got on "Brian Gipperich" seem to be of a guy in Michigan who seems to have been arrested for robbery about a month and a half ago.


Keyser Soze
August 4th, 2012, 10:31 AM
Amputation from a table saw IIRC.

August 5th, 2012, 09:06 AM
Keep Us Updated! It seems its gonna be a looker!

August 13th, 2012, 08:41 AM
Finally done! It's been a long, drawn-out assembly, but very worth it. My worries that I'd somehow managed to misalign the neck/bridge/pickups/etc. has been put to rest; everything seems to gel beautifully. The guitar balances beautifully, and the semi-hollow body keeps it from being a back-breaker.

The Wilde pickups are fantastic. The L298TL in the bridge has plenty of P90-ish beef, yet can still manage to twang like a great Tele pickup. The L610 3.6H in the neck is strong and warm, yet still has some great upper end. The tone bypass switch on the volume pot may be a little over the top for some, but so far it's been putting a smile on my face. The Q-Filter - attached to the tone pot and accessed via the push/pull - wonderfully does what it claims to do: provide a full sweep from full, strong high-inductance output to smooth, sweet low inductance output. I can go from beefy P90 to vintage Tele and all points in between.

Hopefully I'll get to making some sound clips soon, but for now... pictures (sorry for the quality; the lighting isn't the hottest).

Glen Smith
August 13th, 2012, 01:42 PM
I would like to see some pics under better lighting, please.