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Are some builds just DUDS?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by HBamps, Dec 12, 2008.

  1. HBamps

    HBamps Tele-Meister

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    I am new to the world of making / assembling guitars and am working on my first Tele build. I thought I’d just order what I thought were quality components, take my time and put everything together using the wealth of knowledge here.

    Well, I got it together and I am tweaking it up and down, attempting to get it to sound GREAT and nothing seems to be working. I mean it sounds ok but there is still much to be desired. All electronics aside, I feel that the energy transfer from the strings to the saddles, nut, neck & body are just not all on the same page. It almost feel like when I strum a chord, the body resonates and some other frequency. When I pick up my other Tele (made by Danocaster), the strummed note and the body / neck vibration is the same (the same fundamental frequency). That guitar’s parts are definitely on the same team where on my build they don’t seem to know they are connected to each other….

    My question is; Are some builds just duds? Do some necks simply not work with some bodies? I am not sure what to try next. I am considering at the following;
    - Nut
    - Saddles (currently 5/16 diameter brass)
    - Tuners
    - String furrels
    - Neck joint
    - Bridge to body joint

    Can any of you suggest anything to try to help me get this thing to jive a little better.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well, what have you got now? You kind of left that out. But yeah, you are assembling parts but you still have to know how to build a guitar. Sure you can have a dud.
     
  3. twangcaster1

    twangcaster1 Friend of Leo's

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    Duds occur, but there's still a reason for it, usually. Try making sure your neck pocket is extra snug and well-fitting, it makes a difference in resonation. Every now and again you just end up with a log that doesn't want to sing.
     
  4. Lerb21

    Lerb21 Friend of Leo's

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    I must say I had some trouble with my one and only build, but when I finally figured out the problem that guitar beat my American Tele for #1.
     
  5. HBamps

    HBamps Tele-Meister

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    The neck fit pretty well in the pocket. I wouldn't say "extra snug". It would just about hold it's own weight before I screwed it in.

    How would you make the fit snugger?
     
  6. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

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    I've built a ton of guitars over the last 30+ years. Some are better than others. Still others are super, and occasionally you get an unbelievable gem. Likewise, you can get a dud. I've never had a dud that was totally awful, but it seemed like there was no reason for it. The whole is NOT necessarily the sum of "premium" parts. However, over 30+ years, I also know how to spec wood. It ALL comes down to the wood. You can have excellent poplar and crappy swamp ash. What matters more is humidity content and straightness of grain, particularly in necks. A good, stiff neck will make a better guitar. Damp wood will suck the life out of anything. With ALL electric guitars, you must remember that, if it sounds like **** acoustically, it won't sound much better plugged in. You can polish-up the turd a bit with judicious pickup and hardware selection, but the wood is the key. Also, most guitars need to age-in somewhat before they start sounding good. So, if it is mediocre out-of-the-chute, give it some time.
     
  7. twangcaster1

    twangcaster1 Friend of Leo's

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    Well, I've known of some people(not to incriminate anyone:rolleyes:) who line the neck pocket with really fine sawdust and super glue and gradually thin it out until it's just right. Seems to work, though I've never tried it.
     
  8. mojo2001

    mojo2001 Tele-Holic

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  9. HBamps

    HBamps Tele-Meister

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    jrfrond,
    Thank you for the thoughtful response. You make alot of sense.

    I'll do that. I did notice the last brand new guitar I bought really did break in and sounds much better now than it did on day one.

    I couldn't agree more about the acoustic sound of ANY guitar. That's what I am basing all this on anyway, I am not happy with the acoustic tone / feel.

    I did my best to source "good" pieces for the neck and body.
    Musikraft neck
    HWY 1 body (based on all the comments here about them).
    If I do end up chasing it down this way, How will I know if it's the body or the neck?

    Thanks for all the responses!
     
  10. shades

    shades Tele-Afflicted

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    There are many factors in which a build/assembly of a guitar can crap out on you from electrics,hardware,set up,etc. IMO the most important factor is the wood, some woods resonate well together and some simply won't. On one of my partscasters I swapped out necks until the fourth neck was a home run.
    That's just how it is but there is a lot of learning along the way.
    Nothing wrong with that,eh?

    :cool:
     
  11. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    If you have 1-2-3-4-5 guitars all turn out pretty nice and then #6 sounds like dirt, you have possibly a bad part (even from a good company) OR you have a match made in hell, where you can take the parts and use them separately to good results. Just not together. Everybody knows a "Desmond and Imogene" (think Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) and if these two partners stay together they will kill one another. This happens in trying to marry parts together that just don't belong together as a guitar, IMO.

    If ones very first assembly sounds bleah, statistically it is more likely 1 of ones skills sets isn't far enough along yet. Statistically. Or you can be like me and just use lots and lots of parts, and use the "economies of scale" and dumb luck to your advantage.
     
  12. psychotelepathic

    psychotelepathic Tele-Holic

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    Yes, you can build duds. In fact, it's much more difficult to get a truly inspired build in one shot. You will go through some trial and error. Here are my principles:

    • I will NEVER use a body less than 4.5 lbs. The subject of weight is as popular here as it is at a fashion show. Sure a light body CAN sound good, but you won't be building enough for the law of averages to play out. Cutting the threshold at 4.5 lbs means I rarely end up with a dud body.
    • I will NEVER order a neck from anyone but USACG or Warmoth. I have experienced far too many inconsistencies from the other parts suppliers. Life's too short to spend 5 hours working on a neck that is only $40 cheaper.
    • Pickups make a difference, but if it's a turd nothing can save it. After sinking tons into pickup changes, I have realized the difference is rather marginal in terms of resurrecting a bad build.
    • A heavier bridge can make up for a thin sounding build. I have used the Fender modern bridge on a number of my builds to add sustain and bass, when the body sounds rather thin with vintage bridges. i don't like the way they look, but tone is more important to me.
    • When in doubt, part it out. If you just can't figure out what's killing the tone on a build, start over. I usually try a different bridge or swap necks, but don't throw good money after bad. When it's a turd, 7 times outta 10 it's a dead body that can't be saved.

    Hope this helps! As always, your mileage will vary and opinions are like arseholes...everybody knows one. :)
     
  13. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Would you mind telling us a little more about how you spec wood?


    This sounds like a good theory, and I used to subscribe to it myself. Then I played a 335. They sound like ass unplugged. They plink. They sound like plastic toys. Actually, most plywood archtops do, even full-thickness ones.

    But plug them suckers in... totally different animal.
     
  14. Robin Nahum

    Robin Nahum Friend of Leo's

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    You've intonated it, right?

    What bridge are you using?

    What pickups?

    What type and gauge of strings?
     
  15. jrfrond

    jrfrond Tele-Holic

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    With wood, you start with the neck. Nice, tight, straight grain is essential. This is a rough indicator of how stiff the neck will be. Necks that have consistently or patchy wavy-grain areas tend to flex more, and are more prone to warps and twists. Body wood needs straight longitudinal grain. For instance, if you look at a Tele body sideway, the grain should travel relatively straight from the neck pocket to the strap button. This is more important than actual weight. Unless you are cutting parts yourself, the best thing you can do is to stick with good suppliers and notate these specs in your order. The better suppliers will pick boards for you. They will also make sure the wood is dry.
     
  16. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Sometimes it just doesn't come together. I have been working on a particular guitar for about a year and a half. I started building it according to the buyers specs... which I wasn't real happy with but it's his guitar. Once it was done he played with it for a couple months but never really bonded with it. We discussed some options and it went back to the shop with me. After several attempts at changes neither one of us has fallen in love with it. We have a lot of time and money invested in it and although it looks nice its a bit of a red herring.
     
  17. viking

    viking Friend of Leo's

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    I think its just a matter of keep trying....Lots of things will make a difference , often things that are overlooked. String break angle over the nut and saddles , at the saddles a shim under the neck can make a difference. Fret tops must be properly crowned , if the crown on each fret is too wide , it will kill vibrations/sustain-sparkle whatever.
    Really , a good level and crown job will make a world of a difference on most guitars. A tiny bit of lower action can be the thing that will make the guitar really good to play....Unless you are one of the " higher action -vintage-radius-big - strings only " guys...Well , most of us are not , are we ?
    Once you get the mechanical vibe of the guitar right , you can start working on the electric side of things , what kind of pu´s , and the height of them , or just play the d*mn thing , it will grow on you , unless its really bad !
    A lot of people have played some of the big stars favourite guitars , and they were often awfull and awkward to play ....! Remember , when you read reviews of something , people are in the " honeymoon" period....Take pu´s as an example , a pu that will do something specific will very often be lacking in other areas , and most of them are , believe me....Guys just plug their modified guitar in , check that its different , and write a glowing report on the net within 24 hours.....No-one should be allowed to write anything un-less the things have been tried out for at least a couple of months....All IMO , off course !
     
  18. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I like to hear fans of the 4 pound 5 ounce and up bodies speak out. I have a few including a 5 pound 2 ounce 1 piece clear finish ash I'm working on now and they are amongst my favorites. I agree that the likelihood of a dud on a lighter weight body is very much higher. Anything below 3 pounds 12 ounces in a solid body is a high stakes gamble; the rewards can be high but you better not get frustrated easy and deep pockets is important.

    And I'm persuaded by eryque's position as well. I think different guitar bodies have different trajectories of performance just like auto tires do. Some are great for gas mileage toddling to work each day, some great in mud and snow, and some are great at 100 mph on wet highways.

    Some guitars sound very convincing, not plugged in and stay decent as the amp is turned up to 2 or 3. But this other guitar that sounds (?) turned off, sounds the best of the fleet with the amp maxed out. Consider what the intended use of the guitar is before you judge it in any absolute sense.
     
  19. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    A bad nut can trouble just about any build. Hard to believe such a small part can have such a big effect on tone, tuning and playability.
     
  20. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Wow! I could have written that exact post! Word for word!

    I would like to add however that, after 28 years of guitar building, the acoustic qualities of an electric guitar are completely meaningless when the guitar is plugged in to amp. I have built and played guitars with great acoustic volume only to find that they sound like dogmeat through an amp. And of course, I own some guitars that have a big unplugged sound and also sound great through the amp, but personally, I have found no rhym or reason to this.

    Over the years I have accumulated a collection of parts from guitars that didn't quite cut it. These parts are tried on other guitars or get sold. It's a lot of fun but I would never invest in building a guitar if it were to be my only guitar and I needed it to be great for gigging and such.

    Sometimes you hit a home run, other times it stays on the bench. Have fun with it whatever you do!
     
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