GFS Parts-Lester, A Cautionary Tale

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by R. Stratenstein, May 22, 2016.

  1. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I was approached by a friend, Robert, who has become a fan of Joe Walsh. He wanted a classic Les Paul to try and emulate some of Joe's early sounds. Having just finished the almost eternal Spice Cabinet project, I thought this would be an easy slide back into guitar-building. Kind of a lite warm-up.

    Robert had done his homework, and settled on a GFS body and neck. The body is piano black, that's what he wanted. Both the neck and body are advertised as mahogany, the neck looks like very light mahogany, but the body, where wood shows, looks much too light to me to be mahogany, but it has a pretty good finish and white binding, all for $100. I told Robert we could wind our own pickups and use premium electronics on it, which he jumped on.

    Robert has no shop, so he cam over to my place to work on it. I set him to work sanding the lumpy finish off in the neck cavity, set up the drill press to enlarge and slightly deepen the bridge and tailpiece stud holes, and line the control and switch cavities with shielding foil. I had given him a list of stuff to order from Stew-Mac, but he had already gotten the bridge and tailpiece from GFS.

    Here's Robert working on the foil.

    [​IMG]

    Meanwhile, I set up the new Great White Pickup Winder, and got the beeswax melting for a gala day of pickup winding.

    Robert wanted to do as much as he could to assemble his Parts-Lester, so when I got the winder set up, he switched to that.

    [​IMG]

    If it's brownish-black "hair" is it still a clown wig? Well, anyway, a couple of wigs later, Robert was ready to throw in the towel. Robert said he wanted vintage all the way, so I had him order the plain enamel wire, so it's not Ronald McDonald orange, it's this color. Really looks more like hair. Kinda creepy, actually.

    So Mr. Expert, that would be me, took over on the winder. I got one wound perfectly, 5000 and a couple extra turns, 4.07K ohms, essentially perfect DC resistance. Then I wound a clown wig. Seems that stuff is more brittle than the Formvar insulation, so I had a rare mid-wind break, and this stuff wouldn't solder together like Formvar, so off it came. Again, I think because of the brittleness, and the fact that it's better to lightly sand off the enamel than try to melt it off with soldering, I ruined another one, broke off the start end while trying to solder on the lead wire. Dang!

    But finally got 4 nicely-wound coils, right number of turns, good tension, and very good DC resistance right at 4K ohms on all 4.

    [​IMG]

    I was feeling pretty good about the thing just about now, little knowing that the gods were not amused by my hubris, and had already planted seeds of misery that I had not yet seen. . . . . .

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My come-uppance is clearly visible in the photo above, see if you can spot it.

    I decided to pot the coils before the pickup is assembled, because humbuckers are just so structurally complex, wax oozes outta them for ages, and they're harder to clean up, so I did the coils alone. I cleaned the stripped wire ends with a little acetone on a paper towel, to get the wax off, and they worked well, I think I will use this method from now on when I pot humbuckers.

    Meanwhile, we drilled for the bridge ground wire. Can't believe I remember to do it, but I did !

    I let Robert ream out the peghead holes and drill for the tuner machine screws and he put on the Grover Roto-Matics. What nice machines they are!~ By that time Robert was about ready to wet his pants with anticipation, so we lined everything up for sure with clamps, the bridge, and tailpiece, then drilled for the neck. The body is a bolt-on neck, I guess I should have mentioned earlier.

    The neck was a really good, tight fit, and after sanding the neck cavity bottom flat, it fit very well.

    I assembled one of the pickups for alignment purposes, and just stuck it in the hole, to make sure we'd have the leeway to position it right under the strings, and no problems.


    [​IMG]


    So finally, it was time to drill and install the neck. I have to admit we made a mistake here. He had read somewhere on the internet, that this combo of GFS neck and body needed shimming of the neck heel, to basically lengthen the scale, or it would not intonate. I measured a couple of times, and it looked good to me, but Robert insisted, and there was a discrepancy between the nut-12th and 12th to saddles I couldn't figure out, so we cut some shims and pushed the neck out a bit, and drilled it. Sometimes it's hard to just sit down and think something out when somebody's breathing down your neck, if you know what I mean, and I later resolved the issue--cuz this was built to a true 24.75 scale, not the Les Paul scale. Anyhow, Robert was VERY happy with it, as you can see here:

    [​IMG]

    It had gotten pretty late in the day, we'd gotten a late start, and Robert had to go. I told him I'd finish assembling the other pickup, and do a little wiring, and maybe we could get it finished up next weekend. He was good with that, and left the guitar with me.

    Bad decision, Robert!
     
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  2. Barncaster

    Barncaster Doctor of Teleocity

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    That Black Beauty is looking sweet!
    Great job men! So what to call a clown wig when it's brown? Probably a brown wig.....

    Joe Walsh is my hero!!! This James Gang is always a favorite around here. By the way, the LP that was to become Jimmy Page's #1 was gifted to him by Joe Walsh. Buds!
     
  3. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    PART THE SECOND
    IN WHICH LIFE AS I KNOW IT TRIED TO COME TO AN END.

    OR "WHOOPS, DID i DO THAT?"

    OK, so I see Robert off, and thought I'd get a bit more done before calling it quits. So I finished final assembly on the one pickup I'd dummied up, and lined up the parts for the other one. I had specifically told Robert to buy the Stew Mac kits, because they have really good instructions for a first-time winder, and he wanted to roll his own (at least at first, he did), so that's what I had him do.

    Well, I got the two coils, nicely wound and potted, pushed the slugs into the one coil, and, hey, wait a minute, this one's for slugs, too! If you have not wound or disassembled a humbucker before, they have two slightly different coil bobbins, one has holes sized for slugs, and the other sized for the adjustment screws, which are much smaller holes. They are not interchangeable. But apparently somebody at StewMac made a mistake, and put two slug bobbins in one kit. I, of course, wound the coil without even noticing. Damn, no finishing the pickup today.

    So I started wiring up the cavities and the switch. Robert, at my instruction, had ordered the short-shaft pots, which fit well so long as the lock washer was not put on. But I thought I needed to cinch them up good and tight, so using a socket, and only my hand, I tightened them up. Only to discover that one of them had rotated into the side of the cavity, and broken off the damn lug. Jeesh! Strike two. Out with the pot, unsoldered it, need to order new one.

    [​IMG]


    OK, just a few minutes before dinner, I can probably get the switch, which I had already wired up, put into place and cinched down.

    Now Robert had left quite a few wrinkles in the foil, it was his first attempt, and I don't fault him for that, but to get the pots' threaded sleeves to stick out far enough, I had to tap on the backs of them, to help flatten the foil creases a bit, and make them poke through a bit more.

    The Switchcraft jack I had had Robert order had a very short threaded sleeve, and to get the poker chip and the washer, as well as the nut, I needed to tap it like I did the pots. With the back of a screwdriver handle, quite gently.

    Apparently not gently enough. OH, NOOOOOO!! Mr. Bill!

    Now I done done it!

    [​IMG]


    I never heard it crunch or anything, I never felt it bust through, but there it is, cracked finish, wood underneath, the whole shootin match. Holy Mother of Pearl.

    I taped up around it, searching my memory for some of WWDED wisdon. (What would Dan Earlewine Do?), and ahs, yes, the old CA glue trick. patch it right up, scrape with a razor blade, buff it out, and nobody will be the wiser. Nope. Ain't gonna happen, the crack was displaced, one layer of finish had lapped over another, and wouldn't push back down.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Screwed. Blued. Tattooed. S.O.L.

    What to do? Obviously strip the finish (poly, it's gonna be bad), sand the thing down, fix the busted area some way, then re-paint it. Easy-Peasy. Yeah, right, like I'm gonna shoot a piano-black Elpee and get my first one perfectly right my first try.

    What to do? What to do?
     
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  4. Muzikp

    Muzikp Friend of Leo's

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    Do you know what kind of finish material they used? Send it over, i've gotten good at this sort of repair.
     
  5. Muzikp

    Muzikp Friend of Leo's

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    oh, you said poly.
     
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  6. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    PART THE THIRD,
    IN WHICH I REDEEM MYSELF, KIND OF.


    So, the new bobbin I needed and the replacement pot were only a call to Stew Mac away. They were so damn good with the replacement bobbin, I felt compelled to post a little thread about it a week or so ago. Couldn't have been better.


    The fix for the broken LP body was a little more extreme. Thank God GFS had at least one more just like it in stock.

    [​IMG]

    So here's the solution. No you ain't seeing double, well actually, yes you are. One of them is the new one I had GFS rush ship to me, the other is now my proud baby, waiting for a fix of her slightly cracked switch hole area. I have kind of wanted to build an Elpee, but now I guess I'll have one and not have to build it, just get parts.

    This brings me to a funny story about our Brainy, he had emailed me to ask about something, or maybe I emailed him, anyway I took the opportunity to tell him what I had done. As always, he was supportive, and even found a way to make me laugh about it a little:

    "I feel your pain. One mistake ruining a whole body! Are you just going to keep it secret and replace the body? (Out of guitar context, this sounds suspicious)."

    Actually, that's exactly what I've done, so far. Robert, if you read this, yeah, you got a new body. It's actually a little better finished, and the hole around the switch is thicker and more robust.

    Anyway, thankfully, it becomes anticlimactic from here on. I had to redo the tape, The new pot and bobbin came in, so I rewound the bobbin (no brown wigs this time--thanks Rob!) It turned out well, too. It was like the fates had extracted all the misery they need to outta me, and were letting me have a break.

    Only bad thing is that one of the replacement switch solder lugs (I had to use one of mine, with a longer threaded shank) stuck out a bit too far and contacted the shielding foil, grounding out the whole thing when that pickup position was selected. A little bending and spot of black tape just for good measure, and right as rain. Few shots of the completion:

    [​IMG]
    Note smaller holes in one of the bobbins for screws.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Rat's nest. Like all my wiring jobs. But it works! Only nod to non-vintage is orange drops. Farads is farads. Besides, I don't have any PIO's.

    [​IMG]
    Don't know why they ship a black guitar with white cavity covers, but they do.

    [​IMG]

    I wasn't sure I trusted the foil with conductive adhesive, but every where I tested, I got perfect continuity.

    [​IMG]
    Have to say it looks pretty good for a $100 body.

    Final beauty shot:

    [​IMG]

    Amazingly, it was pretty well set up just the way it was assembled. The neck had a slight relief, which the strings didn't seem to pull any higher, and when the bridge was adjusted, it had a pretty good action. Intonation was almost perfect, I left notching the saddles to Robert, and told him we could get together after he gets to know it better, and we can set it up just right for him.

    It sounded pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I did not get a chance to record anything, I wanted to get it to Robert, cuz he'd been so patient while I finished the Spice Chest. Maybe I'll get a clip or two if he brings it over to finesse the setup.
     
  7. Muzikp

    Muzikp Friend of Leo's

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    Ahhh, you were still telling the story :)
     
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  8. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Thanks, Rob. Brown wig it is!

    Robert has been very big on Joe Walsh and is very pleased he's gotten his life turned around so amazingly. Maybe it's those Bach girls helped. He married Ringo's wife's
    [

    (Catherine Bach, the actress) sister, so Joe is now Ringo's brother in law.

    I bought Analog Man, and I really like most of the tracks on it.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2016
  9. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    LOL, I'm done now, James. But certainly would be extremely happy to hear any ideas for fixing that stupid thing. If I have to strip the finish, and I think I will, I'm not sure what color I'm going back with, maybe DPP to match Jupiter's ES 335!

    I'm thinking once it's stripped, if I can get the wood fibers pushed back into place, I'll flood them with a couple rounds of CA, but if you know of a better way, I'm all ears. Right now it's very loose and mushy, when you flip the switch, the whole thing kind of moves, not just the handle.
     
  10. Muzikp

    Muzikp Friend of Leo's

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    I would cut a circle of wood to put inside the switch cavity, it would be as close to same size as the cavity as possible. Glue that in as a backer, drill the new recess for the switch and a hole. Flip it over and tape off an area of the top around the switch and do a spot repair. Since it's black you can sand the rough out, fix the area with whatever you feel comfortable with (I like doing those repairs with epoxy) and spray the area with black and feather it in. It's not that hard really.

    This guitar was cracked and pulled apart in all the shiny areas. I'm filling the cracks with clear epoxy here and then I shot a coat of clear over the whole back.

    [​IMG]

    On yours I would just shoot black in the area you need fixed and then clear the whole top, it'll all blend better that way.

    With black it's not a huge deal to sand it out in any particular way. Like this repair I had a translucent finish to deal with and I feathered the sanding job to help blend the repair in with the original.

    [​IMG]

    Here's how I sanded it back, purposely making an uneven sand line.

    [​IMG]

    Taped it off like so.

    [​IMG]

    Sprayed the new color coat and clear coat.

    [​IMG]

    And Bob's your uncle.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Thanks, James! Is there any special prep I need to do to spray lacquer over poly?

    That is beautiful work, BTW!
     
  12. adirondak5

    adirondak5 Wood Hoarder Extraordinaire

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    Wow Rick , sometimes it seems Murphy's Law abounds or no good deed goes unpunished applies . Looks to me like you handled it the way it had to be handled and did a fine job at that , and now you also have your own ElPee , funny how things workout :)
     
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  13. I_build_my_own

    I_build_my_own Friend of Leo's

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    Oh Rick, I feel the pain you must have gone through. Now u have a LP to finish - it is a win-win!!!
     
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  14. Barncaster

    Barncaster Doctor of Teleocity

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    Hey Rick,
    I vote you screw a metal plate to the front and call it a Frankenpaul. There is a dirty little secret here concerning the Gibson style Switchcraft switches. They make a special deep collar screw that you can find on-line that allows the use with a poker chip. I did an SG build recently and when I saw the thickness of the wood in the switch area and the thickness of the poker chip I knew the stock screw collar wouldn't work. It's always several trips to the hardware store isn't it?
    Rob
     
  15. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I wonder how long it would have taken me to get my nose out of the crack* and realize I could just buy another body....



    *that's for you, beeb!
     
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  16. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Just noticed in part two I said "short Switchcraft Jack threads"--of course I shoulda said SWITCH. It was the switch hole I broke, not the Jack hole. Dope.
     
  17. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Oh, the fun he would have had with that!

    Good thing for me it was a GFS body, and not some custom built one-of-a-kind treasure. It was painful enough to have to cough up the un budgeted C-note.
     
  18. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Oh, yeah, couple of moments of that dumbfounded disbelief before the panic set in. Having already broken one of the pots, and boobed up by not noticing the wrong bobbin, I was already well behind the 8-ball. Now this epic fail. In retrospect, I actually got off fairly easily. And a perfect excuse for SWMBO to be building another guitar.

    Yes, maybe the guitar gods took a look at me and said "this idiot is not up to building an ElPee, we must prevent this calamity." And this is how they worked it out.

    Rob, it's funny you mention that, as one of the thoughts that raced through my frantic brain was wondering if anybody made an oversized poker chip just for this kind of thing! When I get around to building this thing, a long-shank switch will the one thing I'm sure I won't screw up ordering.
     
  19. Barncaster

    Barncaster Doctor of Teleocity

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    Found some pictures:
    [​IMG]
    Not
    [​IMG]
     
  20. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    That would have made the diff. Thanks!
     
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