Baritone Lipbucker Tele w/Strat trem: first partscaster

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by SecretSquirrel, May 16, 2019.

  1. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Here's an account of my first partscaster build, hopefully others can benefit from my mistakes, happy and unhappy accidents, and the ultimately rewarding experience I had putting this guitar together. I blame it all on TDPRI :p and give my heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped.

    In this thread from January, I figured out how I'd proceed with a partscaster baritone build, to replace my too-heavy Eastwood Sidejack baritone. Ideally I wanted a conversion neck on a tele body with a Fender-type vibrato bridge. I had a pair of gold lipstick humbuckers from Artec that I planned to use, so needed HH routes, and cosmetically the gold pickups dictated gold hardware overall.

    For the wood type, I mainly just wanted it "not too heavy," and planned a natural finish, since I generally like woodgrain if it's not ugly (and I'm not the best spray-painter). The only real rule was, I wanted it to look different, and darker, than the natural finish (Formby's 'tung oil') of the 12-string tele I made from a kit.

    That kit build, plus simple guitar tinkering over the years, making a few nuts etc., and recently installing a Strat neck and trem bridge for a friend, constituted my main experience in 'building' guitars, and this would be my first partscaster from separately purchased parts.


    So, after much good advice and getting things sorted out, I got things started by buying a GFS HH/strat-trem routed tele body, no holes drilled except neck holes (which were off, but no big deal). I have to thank Danjabellza for linking me to that deal.

    0 GFS Tele HH BODY 1.jpg

    (Front has mineral spirits to show grain.)

    0 GFS Tele HH BODY 2.jpg


    Now the thing I remember hearing about poplar, is that it takes stain unevenly. But did I listen? Of course not! :oops:

     
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  2. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    The body sat around until I had the cash to order the neck and other parts. I settled on a Warnoth conversion neck. It would take up to five weeks to arrive, so I figured I'd better get started on the body finish.

    I decided to first carve a forearm contour (skipped a belly cut):

    00 TeleBaritone 01.jpg


    00 TeleBaritone 02.jpg


    Oh, and for the pickguard/control layout design I'm working up, I'll need to enlarge the control cavity:


    00 TeleBaritone 10.jpg

    A neighbor loaned me a router, but I'd never used one and he got busy, so ended up just carving and sanding; not the prettiest job, but will work. Here you can see tung oil peeking around the sides from the initial coats on the back.
     
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  3. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    It was probably a mistake to buy "pure tung oil" for this, but there's a lot to like about tung oil.

    00 TeleBaritone 14.jpg


    I start with the back and sides only, so I could lay the body flat for rubbing and wet-sanding. I did some testing on scrap but basically just charged forward. Here's after a coat or three of the tung oil diluted 50/50 with mineral spirits:
    00 TeleBaritone 11.jpg


    I wanted the body fairly dark, and could see that with this very white poplar, it was gong to take forever — especially considering that the tung oil likes a couple of days to decently polymerize.

    Quick!—to the Home Depot!

    00 TeleBaritone 17.jpg


    A $5 can of oil-based stain seems to be the answer, and the back gets two coats wiped on. The grain on the sides really soaks it up, and go much darker. I kind of like the effect.

    To me, this below looks not too bad, for the back anyway, and I start adding thin coats of tung oil.


    00 TeleBaritone 18.jpg


    For now I leave the front alone, imagining that I'll just repeat what I did to the back and get the same result. :rolleyes:

    00 TeleBaritone 20.jpg
     
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  4. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Parts begin to arrive:

    00 TeleBaritone 03.jpg

    This batch from GFS. Notice the trem bar is not gold; I emailed and they promptly they sent a gold one. :)

    Shout-out to TRexF16 for recommending the Wilkinson bridge (WVS IIK), thanks! It's terrific, and the more I read about it the more confident I was in the selection.


    Oh, and in the previous post you can see a small piece of wood glued into the spring cavity; I was worried about the strength of the wood holding the two trem bridge inserts. Probably unnecessary, but the springs clear the wood and it gives the insert holes a solid bottom.


    Here are the Artec pickups:

    00 TeleBaritone 05.jpg
     
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  5. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I stain the front pretty heavily and begin coats of tung oil. Someone told me about driers, to speed up setting of drying oils, so I dashed to Home Depot and got the last bottle! The instructions say "Do not use mineral spirits" so I can't thin the tung oil, which is a drag, but adding the maximum recommended drier to the tung oil does speed drying/polymerization, so I do two coats a day, with weeks still to go before the neck arrives.

    While the coats of tung oil set, I start thinking again about the pickguard. I'd traced the body onto some big art paper, and sketched a couple of pickguard shapes to consider, tracing some curves off an old Harmony pickguard I like. These I photographed and put into Photoshop for alterations. Eventually I combined two into one:


    0 GFS tele PICKGUARD 1 grey 330.jpg PLUS 0 GFS tele PICKGUARD 2 grey 330.jpg EQUALS:


    00 TeleBaritone 06.jpg


    The shape will undergo some refinements as you see below, but after weeks of looking at ideas, I deterine this will be the basic design...if only to cover up the ugly knots etc. on the body. I held up the now-stain-and-oil finished back next to some tortoise shell pickguards and decide, "tortoise!"

    I realize that, router or no router, I'm really going to want a template for this. I tighten up the left side, closer to the pickups, and add curves to the lower 'lobe' on the right, where the controls will go.


    00 TeleBaritone 21.jpg



    I send off for an 11"x17" sheet of 4-ply tortoise ($20 on eBay) and tear into it with a razor saw:


    00 TeleBaritone 22.jpg


    00 TeleBaritone 23.jpg


    00 TeleBaritone 24.jpg


    Now for my first experience with a hand router — most gratifying!


    00 TeleBaritone 25.jpg

    I'll worry about placing & cutting the pickup openings after the neck arrives and I can line things up. Cutting the openings will be tense; I don't want to have to buy and cut another blank!
     
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  6. W.L.Weller

    W.L.Weller Tele-Holic

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    Excellent choice of pickguard color. And if those humbuckers sound anything like the series position on 2-pickup Danos, they're going to sound awesome.
     
  7. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Thanks! I had the bridge pickup in the Eastwood baritone, and found a definite improvement (to my tastes) over the already good-sounding P90. I never got around to installing the neck lipbucker in that guitar, but restored the guitar to stock when I sold it, and kept both lipbuckers for just this application.


    I'll continue the story and more pics later after some I do some errands etc., and yes there is a guitar at the end!
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  8. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Back to working on the top finish, I noticed something that I'd been advised of before: wet-sanding with tung oil will tend to draw out the stain you just laid down. I sanded back and piled on the stain 'til it was quite dark, but again, following with tung oil—wipe on wipe off—lifted much of the stain back off.

    By now I'm basically thrashing around, hoping to stumble on something that doesn't look awful. The grain of the poplar when stained looks like one of those "antiquing" treatments for furniture, maybe like the side of a barn. This is okay with me, since my theory is that the tort pickguard will forgive many sins.

    Meanwhile the neck arrives! :)

    It's a regular maple/rosewood Warmoth wood combo. I'm on a budget, so the added cost for quarter-sawn maple, ebony fretboard, etc. didn't seem justified (I'm over budget as it is). The fretboard has a nice rosewood selection but I taped it up first thing so I could get right to work on the finish. After a month of experimenting with the finish, I'm *most anxious* to get this guitar together.

    Here is a crude mockup... you can see the now darker finish, with a hint of green, I assume imparted by the poplar, which (I've read) often tends to greenish tones. It's an interesting coloring but the overall blotchiness bugs me. I'm happy with the pickguard, now beveled with the router.

    00 TeleBaritone 26.jpg


    00 TeleBaritone 27.jpg

    The neck pocket fit out 'of the box' initially very, very snug, which at least is better than a lose fit. I sanded the sides of the pocket a bit for a merely snug fit.

    However, as mentioned, the neck holes in the body were not square, so I filled them (with poplar dowel I had on hand) and re-drilled, placing the holes using two methods gleaned from (naturally) the pages of TDPRI:

    First, the cut-off drywall screws method, the cut ends of the screws smoothed with a dremel so they thread easily into the neck threads just a tad:


    00 TeleBaritone 28.jpg


    Press down carefully into the pocket and the holes are 'pretty well' accurately placed.


    Second method, make a paper & pencil tracing of the neck heel and holes, cut it out with scissors and place into the pocket:


    00 TeleBaritone 29.jpg

    Despite using these two methods, I still managed to get one of the holes too far in. I simply elongated the hole in the right direction, so I have on oblong-shaped hole in the neck pocket. No one knows but us...shhh.

    If the body looks lighter-toned in the last two shots, it's because I scrubbed the whole top with #0000 steel wool. The thick tung oil handn't fully hardened and came up pretty easily, and so did a lot of the stain, the more I rubbed. By scrubbing the darkest area more, I was able to even out the light/dark tones quite bit, and made the whole top a sort of 'honey mocha' color (my invention, apparently). The stain still gives it an aged look, and I'm fine with it as it looks good to my eye with the pickguard.

    I left the sides alone, they're still very dark from heavy stain application and many tung oil coats. This is resulting in a 3-tone body: light colored top, very dark sides—I'm really liking that contrast—and a dark back. The sides look streaky, like bad brushwork or something, an effect of the poplar's varying affinities to stain. Maybe I just got used to it, but I can easily live with it. If nothing else, it'll be unique. :cool::confused:


    00 TeleBaritone 36.jpg


    00 TeleBaritone 37.jpg


    Around this time I start to seriously consider getting a can of black paint and making it a burst. I study videos and read up, but ultimately decide against it.

    I'm starting to dig it... intentionally going for a weathered look (which is what I see in this top finish) was not my aim, but I'm starting to see it as "how could it be any other way?" :)

    Got a heckuva deal on Reverb for 48 gold pickguard screws... this pickguard has 12 screws! Plus six for the matching back cover, and I somehow lost the screws for the jack plate so will use two of the p/g screws.

    Can't wait to get this done and peel off the protective plastic! :D
     
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  9. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Having the neck now squarely screwed onto the body, I need to make the nut and install the tuners—which have arrived in the mail!—so I can align the bridge and so on.

    I'll cut the nut first, as I'll want to add more coats of tung oil to the neck before installing the tuners. I ordered the neck with no nut, since I plan to make my own from my little stash of mammoth ivory. A 0.010" razor saw blade roughs out the blank:


    00 TeleBaritone 31.jpg




    00 TeleBaritone 32.jpg



    00 TeleBaritone 33.jpg


    I'm totally winging it on the nut string spacing. I've done this before, but not for baritone strings! I make some calculations based on string diameter and just go for it. The first result is hilariously bad, with 2nd and 3rd strings bunched together, and a vast gap between 5th and 6th. :eek::oops::lol:

    I had the foresight to make it tall enough to sand down a mistake, which I did. The second attempt at slot spacing was deemed (by me) to be "good enough." (It's still imperfect but I can always claim it's my "custom baritone spacing.") Looks like I didn't get closeup pics of the finished nut, but the slots are just right imo.

    I used welding tip cleaner files to file the slots. I'm still trying to avoid buying real nut files, and having done a few nuts now with the welding tip files, I'm okay with them; you have to go slow, making it harder to cut too deep, and once you get the hang of using them they're not bad, and all sized liked guitar strings. I use forceps as handles, here's an old pic:


    0 Mammoth NUT A - 15.jpg
     
  10. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Forgot to mention, I used the half-pencil method of marking fret height on the face of the nut.

    Also, just for the heck of it here's an A/B comparison of the top finish with no pickguard and with pickguard:

    00 TeleBaritone 35.jpg
     
  11. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Once the finish on the neck is sufficient, time to install the Wilkinson vintage style "E-Z LOK" tuners that came in from Stratosphere (I generally shop around for the lowest price).


    00 TeleBaritone 38.jpg

    The tuner ferrules went in easily, no pic, sorry. Here I use a 6" engineering ruler to line them up (the ruler was my Dad's, I believe he had it since his Purdue days in the '50s; I use it all the time):


    00 TeleBaritone 39.jpg


    I 'drilled' the screw holes by hand, using the little screwdriver that came with an ink cartridge refill kit. It's sharp, and the perfect diameter:


    00 TeleBaritone 40.jpg


    Ta-da!...

    00 TeleBaritone 41.jpg


    However, one of the screws was defective, notice the steel replacement. I'll contact the vendor, hopefully they can send me a single.
     
  12. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I like B-to-B baritone tuning, and on the Eastwood Sidejack I used the .014 to .068 D'Addario EXL157 'medium baritone' set; they agreed with me so I'll stick with that gauge on this one.

    I got the EZ-LOK type—which has two string holes in each post, a normal hole and one lower—partly hoping that the lower hole for the higher strings would obviate the need for string trees. This turned out to be true! as long as I make sure the string doesn't wind up the post; I hold the high B and F# down while winding so it comes low off the post.

    For baritone guitar, one issue with these (and presumably other) tuners is the string holes will only accept up to about .054 or so. To enlarge the low "B" holes, the welding tip cleaning files come in handy again:


    00 TeleBaritone 42.jpg
     
  13. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    The low B tuner string hole is successfully enlarged to accept my honkin' .068 string. :)

    Now I really have to think ahead; there are no pre-drilled holes or decent center line. I need to place those bridge insert holes, and I want to do it once. So I'll mainly use the strings & neck to center the bridge and place the inserts.

    I temporarily wedged the bridge in the route so I could string through to the tuners and tighten them straight (not necessarily to pitch, just for alignment). I put a (approx.) 1/8" shim between the trem block and the front wood, just to set the block back a 'teence' so it floats nice.

    I marked a line 28 5/16" from the nut, pretty much at center of the wood between the bridge and the rear pickup cavity. I adjusted bridge placement laterally for string alignment over the frets and pickups, and used the bridge to mark the first hole, on the bass side. The design of the bridge allows less precise lateral placement of the treble side insert, it's a length of straight blade rather than a curve.

    Drilling these holes and inserting the posts was the scariest part of this project for me. Everything was ready but I kept putting it off all day, despite my determination to get it done...outside interruptions didn't help. By evening I felt collected enough to do it right, and fitted my old Harbor Fright drill press with a good 3/8" bit and took the body out for drilling.

    One thing I hadn't checked, was the reach of my drill press head. As it turns out, it's not far enough to reach trem insert on a tele body. :rolleyes::cry::(

    (I then remembered this fact about my drill press and my friend's Strat.)

    I chucked the bit into my ancient 'Chicago Industrial' hand drill, slid on tubing as a depth stop —

    00 TeleBaritone 43.jpg

    — laid the body flat on the floor, took a deep breath, and drilled two reasonably straight holes by hand. :rolleyes:

    The most worrying thing was the possibility of cracking the wood, but the inserts went in very snugly with no issues.

    00 TeleBaritone 44.jpg



    00 TeleBaritone 45.jpg

    Note aluminum foil glued to control cavity surfaces. I added a little ground screw to connect the foil to ground.
     
  14. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    At last: I popped in the bridge, hooked up three springs (for now) in back and strung her up. The saddles barely reach the 28 5/8" scale length mark but it intonates fine—whew! Acoustic sound is solid, trem works as expected. Needs a truss rod tweak, too much relief to start, but the bridge height adjustment is easy and I get a measure of playability right away. I though I might need a neck shim, but nope, it's just about right.

    "A Guitar is Born" but it's not an electric guitar yet.

    My tech Wizard friend, who suggested the wiring scheme, helped me choose pots and switch on the Jameco site... that is, he chose the parts and I paid for them. We had decided that a 250K linear-taper pot (one volume control) made the most sense for these lipstick humbuckers. This, so far, turned out to be correct, though we might also try a 100K pot, which I have on hand. Lipsticks are almost always very clean and clear, and generally quite bright, even in humbucker configuration, so a 100K pot might not be as muddy as we'd expect with most other HB pickups

    I loosened the strings and "installed" the pickups with stickum-putty stuff, for testing. Since there's about 1/4" of forward/backward room to play with in the pickup cavities, Mr. Wizard insisted that we should try the pickups all the way forward, and all the way rearward. He wired up the volume control on a cardboard template card I made, and left me to experiment. I didn't find much difference, none really in the bridge pickup, and maybe a slightly fuller sound in the 'rearward' spot in the neck cavity (closer to the bridge).

    00 TeleBaritone 46.jpg

    Tone pot is 500K audio taper; it's not hooked up yet and I'm not sure I need it. I'm more interested in split coil combinations; he gave me a nice 6-position rotary switch...LOL too many choices there! I ordered a three-position switch and may use that for coil split

    The third pot was a brilliant suggestion from Mr. Wizard — a blend pot.

    00 TeleBaritone 48.jpg

    The hole for the switch will go plugged for now. I'll play the guitar awhile with just volume and blend, and see what else I want. Single coils in series is something I want to try, like the classic Danelectro 2-pickup middle position wiring. I'm curious to hear the difference between that and humbucker mode.
     
  15. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Now I can cut the pickup openings in the pickguard. For this I fashioned a template:


    00 TeleBaritone 47.jpg

    I basically just placed it by eye and traced onto masking tape with pencil. A visit to the back porch drill press removed most of the material, and finished up with my neighbor's router. I just used the pickup assembly to mark the eight pickup mounting holes, and drilled with the dremel. I need to move an inner wire out of the way of a bridge pickup screw, but otherwise it's a close fit, looks good if you squint. ;)
     
  16. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I put everything together, with some electronics left undecided; the volume and blend pots are connected. We got some different capacitors to try, but so far, I'm not sure I need a tone control (treble cut) on this. But, will try them, the pot is there so why not. Ordered a pair of gold strap buttons. Mr. Wizard suggested the knobs and provided them. I have a large knob collection but nothing was clicking.

    General thoughts: I like the way the finish turned out, but must say it was almost entirely accidental. If I ever use a poplar body again, I'll just paint it a solid color (or opaque burst). I did learn a lot.

    I do love the smaller body (than the Eastwood) and always wanted a tele with a baritone neck. I'd still like to try one with a regular tele pickup arrangement (particularly the bridge, of course).

    It sounds great, I think there's something about this bridge that sounds a little bigger and better than the Eastwood. I'll try to get a recoding soon. String tension seems a little less, bending is easier. I know the string spacing is closer; I don't mind much either way but my preference is a narrow neck/spacing.

    All that's left is pictures of the result. It's 'different' looking but it's grown on me. Good balance, and just 7.5 lbs compared to the Eastwood at 9 lbs.



    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 01.jpg


    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 02.jpg

    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 03.jpg



    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 04.jpg



    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 05.jpg



    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 06.jpg
     
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  17. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    00 baritone tele ASSY wSBs - 08.jpg


    Some shots before the strap buttons were installed:


    The back is much darker and different overall from the top:


    0 baritone tele ASSY - 06.jpg



    0 baritone tele ASSY - 07.jpg



    0 baritone tele ASSY - 15.jpg



    0 baritone tele ASSY - 16.jpg
     
  18. preactor

    preactor Tele-Holic

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    Beautiful guitar. Excellent documentation on how you did all the mods.
     
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  19. DD8194

    DD8194 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the post. I’m looking at a similar conversion, minus the finishing.
     
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  20. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Using the EZ-Lok tuners with two string holes (one lower on the post), I've had no problems without string trees. Overall I'm very happy with this guitar, it's the baritone I really wanted.

    I've since added a pickup switching arrangement with a 5-position rotary switch. Very glad I did this, the humbuckers are fine but the single coil mode is extremely useful. My tech buddy designed the wiring, including a circuit that makes the humbuckers single coil (sort of?) without the hum. The tone (and output) of this setting is between HB and SC.

    There is no tone control! I omitted it after realizing that between the blend pot and the p/u switching, the tonal varieties are more than sufficient. After using the blend knob while, I can't imagine not having it on this beast.
     
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