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How hard is it for an average idiot (like me) to build a partscaster?

Discussion in 'Other T-Types and Partscasters' started by SurfaceNoises, Feb 10, 2021.

  1. Vanzant

    Vanzant Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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  2. Vasik_NJ

    Vasik_NJ TDPRI Member

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    This one was my first assembled from Warmoth parts:

    W1.jpg

    DSC_0742_sm.jpg
     
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  3. GuitarsBuicks

    GuitarsBuicks Tele-Holic

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    The nice thing about partscasters are that you don't feel bad when you decide to modify them because you did the work initially. You can change the pickups, the neck, the guard, the wiring, etc. You aren't changing a $3000 guitar, you are changing a former table, floor joist, or door from one style of guitar to another. Heck, you can even cut the thing up and put a G-bender made from old silverwear and a socket wrench if you want.
     
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  4. CarsAndGuitarsYT

    CarsAndGuitarsYT TDPRI Member

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    I was in the same boat as you, I didn't know how to solder, but I learned and it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. I'm still learning to intonate. But a partscaster is a good learning opportunity for these things. Good luck!
     
  5. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Nearly all of my electric guitars are partscasters. The first one I built before all my soldering equipment had been unboxed from moving...so I chose a harness from Obsidian https://obsidianwire.com/ (no solder required). I bought a MIM body and neck from Stratosphere https://stratosphereparts.com/ which simply screwed together, no problem. I bought a loaded pickguard from somebody (I forget). Really, all you do is screw everything together and you have a guitar.

    The Fender bodies and necks I've bought from Stratosphere have needed nothing. No paint, no fretwork, no fiddling. Ok, I adjusted the truss rods to suit me...but that's it.

    Yah, you need to do a full set-up. I already had those skills. You can learn them.

    DIY is different from partscaster in my mind. However, you can mix it up. I built an Esquire body but the neck is Fender factory. I don't care what you want to call it, it was fun and it plays/sounds great.
     
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  6. robfatland

    robfatland TDPRI Member

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    I started doing this recently; some notes from my project which started with ergo and turned the corner to parts. The TLDR is I'm having a lot of fun which makes it easy to write this very long post!

    - started with butterscotch Squier Classic Vibe so $400 was my initial bet
    - Discovered (YouTube) that 1500-grit sandpaper satins up the somewhat sticky neck: Easy, great mod!
    - First serious mod was body shape (YouTube examples): Worked great, exposed some bare wood!
    - ...so I decided to chip off *all* of the body finish. With a razor blade. And then sanding...
    - The result is bare wood -- pine i think -- and i had no desire to re-coat/re-paint this
    - So I put on some Danish oil and now I have accomplished two things

    1. With pretty minimal effort: a lighter, ergonomic, natural wood guitar body and a more playable neck
    2. "Wait a second!" I think to myself... "This is a project guitar!! What else can I do???"

    Sometimes my high e string would get stuck on rough fret ends. StewMac sold me a $15 fret file; and as always: See YouTube for which file and how to de-burr.

    I took out all the electronics when I was doing the body cosmetic stuff so I had a mental model of what is in there. And I liked the idea of reversing the control plate and swapping in a four-position switch. This was an interesting challenge and let me digress on soldering for a moment: I have a good soldering station (not just an iron you plug into the wall) and I've got modest soldering skills from past projects. I echo the thought here that practice helps; and a station helps. Some electronic components will fry under too much heat (diodes for example) so speaking as an impatient person: This is the place to slow down and be super careful; and maybe invest in tools.

    How did my mod turn out? I broke the tone knob! So disassemble, realized the new switch terminals were impinging on the bottom of the cavity which was painted black with (semi-)conductive paint. So I inserted an e-tape shim to isolate the switch terminals: Ta da my tone knob came back to life. And while I was in there I installed an electrosocket. Which proved to be kinda tricky, the order of the steps. Pilot holes for the screws really key.

    Summary so far: Modest modifications, one at a time, and limited down time for the guitar; with a couple of challenges overcome. I had the thought "I should do this for fun and sell one-offs on Reverb!" Is that even legal? I dunno. But it is an amusing thought.

    Where next? I have not yet tried adjusting the truss rod. The Squier came in pretty well set up but might be improved. About all that is left for tone, parts-wise is swapping in other pickups (I'd need some convincing... what's the bump?) and a six-pack of bridge saddles.

    Final point I see the instrument as everything between fingers and ears so this "project" has also included the pedal board and amp journey.
     
  7. GuitarsBuicks

    GuitarsBuicks Tele-Holic

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  8. Blockhart329

    Blockhart329 TDPRI Member

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    When soldering, use only small diameter resin core electrical solder. Tin the individual parts first. Heat the parts, not the solder, then touch the solder to the parts until it flows into/onto the parts. Get a good mechanical connection first wherever possible. With a little practice, you can getting really good joints.
     
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  9. Slimster22

    Slimster22 TDPRI Member

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    Build a tele, ask lots of questions along the way. Buy a neck and buy a body for the first one. Most people with some skill can build one. The knowledge alone is worth it. I build one every once in a while just to keep my skills up. Great way to learn how to do pretty much all of your own basic tech work.
     
  10. Frankentar

    Frankentar TDPRI Member

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    It’s not hard. But you might learn more — with fewer risks — with this approach:

    I would recommend that you start by buying a cheap used guitar from Craigslist, eBay or your local want-ads. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $50-75. Consider this a learning tool and mess around fearlessly with everything on it. (Note: There are how-to videos on YouTube for every aspect of your project!)

    You can do things that you would never try on a valuable guitar. Worst case: you really screw it up — but even then, you’ve learned some valuable lessons. Best case: you wind up with a really cool instrument that sounds good and is fun to play. Either way, you’ll probably feel empowered by the experience and be ready for more.

    Even the rattiest neck can probably be tweaked to play well. Try adjusting the truss rod. Learn to measure string height. Roll the edges of the fingerboard and smooth the fret edges. Level the frets and crown them. You don’t need fancy tools for this, though you may decide that a sanding bar or a crowning file might be a good purchase. Work on the nut to get the strings nice and low. (Use Dan Erlewine’s super glue and baking soda trick to repair any place you file down too much!)

    Bad tuners? Replace them with better (but still cheap) ones. And since this is a practice tool, feel free to sand or file down the back of the neck to get a thickness and a contour that works for you.

    Buy a soldering iron and some solder.

    Swap-out the tone capacitors (look Ma, I’m soldering!) for caps with a different value to hear what that sounds like.

    If the guitar has scratchy pots, squirt ‘em with contact cleaner. Still scratchy, replace them. Bad jack? Ditto.

    Maybe try some different bridge saddles (pay attention to the string spacing) or even a different bridge! Pay attention to the string radius.

    Learn to set the intonation at the bridge.

    If it’s a tremolo bridge, try a heavier block (brass, steel or ___?) and listen for the change. Adjust the spring tensions — or block it altogether.

    Then... try some different pickups. There are many decent-quality cheap pickups to be found online. Do some research. Think about what kind of change you want to hear. Buy one/two/three pickups and install them. Shield the control cavity with aluminum foil or copper tape (and ground the shielding!) Is the guitar quieter as a result?

    There are also lots of different wiring mods on the interweb, many of which don’t even require new parts, just re-arranging the circuits. Find one of these wiring diagrams, make the changes and listen to the results.

    In the end, I predict that you will have learned a lot about how an electric guitar works. You’ll know more about playability and tone — and what does and doesn’t matter to you. You’ll probably be ready to invest in some quality parts to confidently build an instrument from the ground up.
     
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  11. Jazzerstang

    Jazzerstang Tele-Afflicted

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    It took me a little while and several hands on attempts, but I think I’ve got it down.

    E2F7ACEF-76A0-43DD-9FA1-639B5E37142C.jpeg
     
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  12. Tele Plucker

    Tele Plucker Tele-Meister

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    The first thing to do is scour the web for ideas and assistance. I built 2 parts casters after much research and I found plenty of people, even luthiers on line more than happy to help.

    There are ways to make your build easier if you want and can afford it.

    Soldering isn’t that big a deal if you watch some videos and practice a little.

    Purchase a body all cut and holes drilled, except for the bridge and ready to finish, or pre-finished. In most cases, the more you do yourself the less it should cost.

    You can easily get a control set already complete , just mount it ti the hardware. Get a neck that has the frets installed, and the nut, unless you want it done to your specs by a luthier.

    The one thing I would highly suggest, is after completely assembling your guitar, have a luthier do the finals setup.

    I could go on but I won’t at this point. Good luck.
     
  13. Brad_1

    Brad_1 TDPRI Member

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    Bullets have a thinner body, and smaller tuner holes in head stock. A really good guitar to mod is the Monoprice Indio Tele. Fender tuners will drop right in.
     
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  14. Rooster-p

    Rooster-p TDPRI Member

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    Built this over night and it plays like a dream. The hardest part is the nut but it's not rocket science. You need to practice filing and soldering a bit. A little touch up on this one and it's good to go. Neck was made in Canada and has SS medium frets. Custom shop 69 pu's, locking tuners, string through body hardtail. Built it just the way I like it, that's the best part. 1613166693654283860176848416040.jpg
     
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  15. KW1977

    KW1977 Tele-Meister

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    I think anyone can honestly. If you’re skittish about wiring or proper setup there’s always a good tech(I hope). Additionally, you can easily order entirely prewired electronics.
     
  16. Mojohand40

    Mojohand40 Tele-Afflicted

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    I'll reiterate what others have said; start by buying a cheap (cheaper) guitar; then rebuild it/set it up/work it to make it better. Then maybe repeat with a second one, then start your parts-caster.

    I started that way; first with a flea market strat that I re-wired for a single pup kinda' thing, replacing all the electronics, tuners then nuts...then later redid a few lap steels, then built a lap steel, then redone a tele (new electronics, tuners, bridge etc.); then another ...THEN..built a parts caster Stratocaster....it came out amazing. Truly the best strat I ever played. I love it.

    Lots of good advice in this thread, including prewired controls etc.

    The main thing is learning how to do your own setups on any guitars you have now: buy some feeler gauges, calipers a good tuner, some decent allen wrenches and set them up. Fix any fret sprout, etc. Replace the tuners and nuts, etc. ...

    After that; set your budget (it'll be more than you think) and start your build. You can definitely do it!
    Tons of great info online. Lot's of great advice here on the forum.

    When you are done you will swear that it's the best guitar you've ever played.
     
  17. GreatDaneRock

    GreatDaneRock Tele-Holic

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    Your wifey rocks! What a great and different build! How's she coming along learning the Theremin?
     
  18. flatfive

    flatfive Friend of Leo's

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    I did lots of setups, modifications, and upgrades before building anything. It surprises me a little when I see someone build a guitar and then not know how to set it up.
     
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  19. Morpeli

    Morpeli TDPRI Member

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    It’s super easy and if you are not comfortable soldering - use an Obsidian wiring kit.
     
  20. Fenderdad1950

    Fenderdad1950 Tele-Afflicted

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    If you buy a Warmoth neck and body, factory fit is there, no issues what so ever. Soldering would be the only challenge.
     
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