How did you get started modding,building, etc.

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by BenG76, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. mjr428

    mjr428 Tele-Meister

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    I bought my first american made strat in '97 or '98 for about $1000. I liked it (and wish I still had it) but traded it in for an SRV signature strat about a year later which was great. In 2000, I left for Australia for about 9 months and sold just about everything I owned. When I came back, I figured I would build my own custom strat so I could have one exactly how I wanted it. That's when I came across this inexpensive strat copy from a company called Tradition. It had a full size alder body with a finish I liked, so I bought it for about $120 with the intention of replacing everything on it. I bought a neck for it not long after from the discount bin at Warmoth and put it in the closet until I could get enough money for all the other parts and for the luthier to put it all together and set it up for me. A funny thing happened though... That $120 strat copy wasn't half bad and I quickly learned that you don't have to spend $1000+ to have a decent guitar. Life happened and I got married and started a family. I never did save up enough money for the rest of those parts and quite frankly, I wasn't ever going to be able to justify spending $200+ to have someone else put a neck on, dress the frets and do a set up... So about 10 years later I pulled that neck out and hit the interwebs and found an article on how to set up your own strat. It was helpful and I went to harbor freight and bought some tools to do the set up myself. In the process I came across those Fletcher videos on a complete strat build and I watched them straight through. It didn't seem so difficult or mysterious after that and those videos planted a seed. Of course all guitar building research ends up here and I found the most help and useful information on this forum. That was about 4 years ago and I've built 2 complete guitars, 1 kit and 3 bodies using existing necks since. I'm cheap and don't like spending money, so I've used scrap wood on most of them with the exception of the guitar I made for my wife. Oh, and I still have that tradition strat. It's still my favourite guitar and the only thing that is original is the body, neck plate and jack plate. I even refinished the body.

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  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I got hands on tools as a kid in various summer learnin' jobs like cabinet shop, post & beam carpentry, and small engine repair.
    But at home it was chicken coop fixin' with used rusty nails that I had to straighten before using.

    Got my first acoustic guitar in 1980 and had to straighten that too!
    Picked up a '65 Mustang shortly thereafter and didn't like the trem at all, or the funny shaped little body, so I carved an oak body and built a whole 'nother guitar with just the neck from the Mustang.
    Not a lot of parts were available then and not much mod/ repair info either.
    I bought the Irving Sloane guitar repair book, bought new Dimarzio Super Distortion HBs, and fabbed up other parts from road sign aluminum.
    By the Sloane method I made and modded guitar repair tools, since none were available, and never measured anything because there really wasn't numerical measuring involved in the Sloane book.

    When I discovered that I really didn't like the sound of HBs, I bought one of the new Duncan vintage Strat pickups and didn't like that much either.

    A problem I had was I didn't understand the role of the amp well enough, so I kept changing pickups trying to get I guess a basic Hendrix Strat sound from a BF Bandmaster.

    On this journey I started asking guitar shops if they had any old dead pickups, because I'd figured out that they usually just had a break in the winding and could be fixed.
    Shop guys would laugh at me and sometimes give me old pickups or other parts for free, because nobody fixed pickups, and anybody modding guitars wanted huge blocks of brass, not the stock junk that was starting to get replaced in the brass age.

    So after more than ten years of adding as many pickups, switches, treble bleeds, tone control knobs and switches etc as I could cram into every shape guitar possible, I built a parts Esquire, though I didn't even know what an Esquire was at the time.
    One bridge pickup seems to remain my favorite!

    Along the way quite a few other players liked my guitars and wanted me to work on theirs, so I developed a good rep among friends as a tech.
    Broken guitars were cheap then, as were used parts and partscasters.
    Refretting necks got me better playing guitars than what I was finding on the racks, partly because I came to prefer the tallest possible frets, even scalloping a fingerboard, which proved the law of diminishing returns, for me at least.
    I'd had and played a couple of sitars, but it didn't translate to guitar to enough of a degree that extra jumbo frets could be improved on by removing wood.

    Eventually I worked as a tech in Brooklyn's Main Drag Music, where I'd meet & greet in the morning and see the customer that evening when they picked up their guitar.
    This time honing in on the individual players needs as more important than any ideal setup theory was a cool process where there was a shared learning, because I got to see a broader range of technical needs than my own, which fit well with learning more about the concept of leveling frets, which IME is far from making them level.
    I forget where I learned the theories of unlevel fretwork, must have read about it but not in the old Sloane book.
    I dogged lots of luthiers and techs in their shops, but few were really helpful, I guess they had work to do and didn't have the time to teach customers, but a few offered tipa along the way. I remember getting yelled at by Matt Umanov while buying fretwire because I was using his calipers to measure the tang width. He was willing the sell me the fretwire, but no questions!

    Trial and error are a fine taskmaster...
     
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  3. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Friends played when in my late teens, had a little electronic background so ended up doing sound. Found a unused Yamaha bass neck, made a body for it with a jig saw and a B*stard file. Fast forward many years, guy I was working with was retiring and he wanted a practice amp. Tried throwing one together for him out of scrap from work, did not sound good enough so he never did get it. I did not know enough of how amps worked so I thought why not make a few to figure them out? Bought a Tele to put through it and started learning basic chords. While looking up an old Gibson amp on YouTube saw a link to a cigar box guitar. took a listen because I never heard one before. Little kid with three strings wailing away. 'Heck, I can build one of those!'

    Gone downhill ever since. Made a fully chambered guitar with a tailpiece and floating bridge. Sounded better than I expected acoustically, decided to make an acoustic guitar. Made one out of scrap wood, turned out well. Been mainly making almost finished acoustics since. Life would have been much simpler if when he said he was looking for a practice guitar I would have just said, 'That's nice.' Or if I never saw the cigar box link. Or this forum.
     
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  4. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    My second electric guitar was a Gibson Melody Maker I got for $15 at a yard sale. It was bright red, beat up, and one of the tuning keys was busted off and missing. It had this horrible whammy bar, basically a bent piece of metal that rocked back and forth like a rocking chair. I stripped the paint, refinished it with clear spray paint. I learned about neck dive, by installing a set of Grover tuners that weighed more than the rest of the guitar put together. Got rid of the whammy and put in a Leo Quann Badass bridge. A Dimarzio Super Distortion Plus pickup replaced the original.

    Of course, now, I really wish I had kept it. I ended up trading it in toward my first Tele.

    It was similar to this one:

    gmm.jpg
     
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  5. RolandG

    RolandG Tele-Meister

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    It was the summer of ‘69. Yes, really. I wanted an electric guitar. At the time a second hand Telecaster was over £100. I did have a £15 F-hole acoustic. Someone gave me a pair of cheap single coils. I made a scratch plate, fitted the pickups, and then added volume and tone knobs. That carried me through university and beyond, Over the years I repaired and modified various instruments. Fast forward to five years ago when I had the time, money, and workshop to start making guitars from scratch.
     
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  6. CraigB

    CraigB Tele-Afflicted

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    It started for me looking at the Sears catalog and dreaming of owning a Silvertone guitar and amp. Probably only six years old. Finally in about '76 when I was 13, I saved up $100 and bought my first electric, a crappy import LP. Never happy with the playability, I tinkered around with the bridge and managed to get the saddles adjusted "straight". I couldn't understand why that made things worse. Dad took me to a local guitar store, and the guy there got it set up for me to play decent, but still, it sounded awful and would not stay in tune. My parents saw I was serious about playing, which led to guitar lessons. My teacher shared an office building where my parents had their business and they became friends. He finally convinced Dad that I really needed a better guitar if I was going to progress. That was an awesome day, I got a setneck Ibanez with two humbuckers and a Rickenbacker solid state amp. Played that all through high school. When I decided to go to college, I sold the guitar and amp to pay for tuition. After a couple of years of no guitar in my life, my wife-to-be saw I was struggling with not having anything to play and she surprised me at Christmas with a new Aria Pro Cardinal. That guitar saw many gigs and many mods over the years. It now belongs to my youngest son. I still play it from time to time when he has it out of the case.

    Then fast forward to the late '80's, early '90's, I had to have a tube amp. I owned several of the usual affordable suspects, a Crate Vintage 30, Peavey Classic 30, a Marshall JTM30, which caught on fire in my living room, and finally settled on a Blues Jr. Still, I was never really happy, so like most of us, I traded, saved, bought, and even tried a Line 6 for awhile. This was around the time that the whole boutique tube amp thing was getting big. Knowing I'd never be able to shell out the dough for one of those and stay happily married, I think about 2001, I stumbled upon the AX84 website and decided to try building their P1 single-ended amp. I took the advice of those on their forum and started with building pedals, and with a few of those under my belt successfully built a P1. Been building, modding and repairing tube amps ever since.

    Went through the similar sort of thing with guitars. About 2009, I bought a swamp ash tele body from USACG, finished it and put a MIM tele neck on it. Still have that guitar. Then like the AX84 site, stumbled upon this forum around 2012 I think it was and read a bunch of build threads and decided to try making a bolt neck and body. Currently on build #15, still got the training wheels on and learning as much as possible from all the wonderful people on this forum. Would like to eventually try a bass, archtop jazzbox and acoustic, maybe even winding some pickups someday!
     
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  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Totally forgot my tube amp repair and modding!
    Probably for the best...
    I started replacing whichever parts caught fire or obviously exploded (blew up my BF Bandmaster pretty quickly running it and an OD250 with all knobs on 10), and really oughtta be dead by now, as I started before Aspen Pittman taught me everything I know about amps! (funny right?)
    Then Gerald Weber with a little help from Ken Fischer.
    I still feel more comfortable with the physical world and find tube amp electronics theory escapes me. Burnt parts though, I can replace those and live to tell about it!

    Sad really, because I value amps more than guitars.
     
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  8. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    Oh yeah, amps. With the Melody Maker came a Skylark, like this one, but all beat to heck. Wasn't long before I built a head cabinet from plywood, got my hands on a bigger speaker, and made myself a mini-stack.

    skylark.jpg


    That was my amp, until I got a used silverface DR, which I also modded the hell out of. At one point I had it rigged up with a 100 Watt wirewound 10 ohm resistor, as the speaker load from amp, from which I tapped off some signal through a pot which fed an on-board 120W solid state amplifier. Through an EVM12L, it was INSANELY loud. I even wired in a string of red and yellow LEDs under the chassis, to another tap on the output, which made it look like the tubes were gonna blow when you hit a power chord. I'm lucky I didn't burn the house down.

    Once that was out of my system, I re-built it back to stock; it's still my number 1 amp.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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  9. mistermikev

    mistermikev Tele-Holic

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    my start came when my dad bought me a famous acoustic... I painted flames on it (I know, c'mon I was 15). then I got my first decent guitar - a yamaha se350... sanded the neck down cause the paint bothered me.
    worked as a guitar tech at a music store, built several partscasters and years later started getting into scratch builds.
    I'm sure my story is no dif than others, and I think that is the important part: it doesn't matter how you start just do something and learn. then do something else and learn more.
     
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  10. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

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    Stumbled across Melvyn Hiscock's 'Build Your Own Electric Guitar' in a used bookstore @ 1987....didn't even play guitar for probably another 6-7 years. Made an aborted attempt at a Tele at the time while living in an apartment but a few years later after starting to play decided I needed a steel body National and couldn't swing the $$s...so I built one. It's all been downhill ever since. :lol:
     
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  11. DrASATele

    DrASATele Poster Extraordinaire

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    7 years ago I found out I was going to be a Dad. Then I found out it was a boy. I have to share my love of the guitar with him. Contacted my Uncle who is a self taught cabinet maker of 30 years and asked him to teach me to use the tools. He eventually built 2 basses and 2 guitars for his grand kids and a special uke/lute thing for his daughter. I built a 3/4 size guitar for my son and started 2 full size ones that I hope he and I will finish together. I've also done 6 different ones for various charities and I have another 6 for various friends. Not to mention the 2 for my self and the other 7 or 8 "ideas" that are 1/2 started/finished.
    It's been a great 7 years.
    Get a decent router, a lot and I mean a lot of work is done with this tool. I went from 1 thrift store cheapie to good Porter Cable and Craftsman along with 2 more routers Skil and Bosch my uncle just gave me. Now I have them set up for specific jobs and it's nice.

    Good luck and have fun!!!!!
     
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  12. mistermikev

    mistermikev Tele-Holic

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    I hear ya... it's like that time I got into saltwater coral fish tanks... and $6000 later... somehow I managed to find another money pit! At least you have something to show for it (other than pictures) after you build a guitar! (at least that's what I tell my wife please do not tell her otherwise!)

    right on... I love my porter cables. I won't buy any other router. When I worked as a cab maker - at several dif shops... all of them used porter cable because you almost can't kill them. I say almost because one time I had a 1.5" x 2" router bit come loose in a 1.5hp pc router... I couldn't hold on to it and dropped it - ran over and killed the power. That was hairy and it still ran after that... but needed new bearings.
     
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