Starting a StewMac Mini Tele (T-Style) Kit

JDO

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I've been wanting one of these for a while and at $100 it was hard to pass up. I dabble a bit with ukulele and this seems like a great way to bridge a few different worlds for me... it's basically a tenor scale. I like Teles so this one goes without saying. And I've always like building/working on things.

This kit is more put together than I thought it would be so I don't think it'll be that hard. Regardless, I figured I'd start a thread because I'm sure I'm going to have a few questions along the way.

My vision...
- The headstock looks way too big for this size guitar. I'm thinking about trying something inspired by a musicman headstock to shorten it a little.

- I need to trim the pickguard to bring it inline with a tele pickguard.

- Since the guard is white, and I don't want to make one in black, I've been thinking about what colors go with white. Something like a surf green or Carolina blue seems to fit. I'm leaning towards Carolina blue. I've been working at UNC for the last 18 years so that seems fitting.

Any tips before I get started?

I have a quick question about painting. Any reason I can't just go to Lowe's and pick up a can of spray paint to get the job done? I'm not worried about it having a nitro finish. Don't get me wrong, I want it to look good when I'm finished. Just wondering if I'm missing something and there's a reason it has to be finished with "guitar specific" paint.

Thanks for the help in advance.
 

bgmacaw

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Why did you have to post this? I went to their site and noticed that the kit is $99 and I just got a $100 Visa gift card "thank you" from work. Now I'm going to want to buy one. But, can I do it without annoying my wife, especially since I'm in the middle of another build? Hmmm....

I recommend assembling the guitar before you start on the finishing process. This will give you an idea of how well everything fits and if there are any issues that need to be handled prior to the finish. If everything is good, disassemble and do the finishing.

The headstock, while not a "boat paddle" is kind of big and unfinished. Make a cardboard template of the shape(s) you want and see what you like.

On the pickguard, if you want something custom colored or different shaped, you could get a pickguard material blank to cut your own out. I've also used 1/8" birch plywood to create a custom pickguard.

On painting, you can use spray paints from Home Depot or Lowes. After all, we aren't talking about painting a $1500 Warmoth special here. I recommend applying a primer undercoat of either white or black before applying your main color. You may want to practice on some scrap wood first to get a feel for it.

You can also use a wipe on stain if you want to keep the look of the wood. I've liked the effects I've gotten from various stains to get a rustic or burnt effect.

As for protecting the finish, I've used spray polyurethane most of the time but I have done a few nitro. I prefer the poly since it's easier and safer to use.

Here are some I've done.

paintedguitars.png
 

Steve Holt

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I've been wanting one of these for a while and at $100 it was hard to pass up. I dabble a bit with ukulele and this seems like a great way to bridge a few different worlds for me... it's basically a tenor scale. I like Teles so this one goes without saying. And I've always like building/working on things.

This kit is more put together than I thought it would be so I don't think it'll be that hard. Regardless, I figured I'd start a thread because I'm sure I'm going to have a few questions along the way.

My vision...
- The headstock looks way too big for this size guitar. I'm thinking about trying something inspired by a musicman headstock to shorten it a little.

- I need to trim the pickguard to bring it inline with a tele pickguard.

- Since the guard is white, and I don't want to make one in black, I've been thinking about what colors go with white. Something like a surf green or Carolina blue seems to fit. I'm leaning towards Carolina blue. I've been working at UNC for the last 18 years so that seems fitting.

Any tips before I get started?

I have a quick question about painting. Any reason I can't just go to Lowe's and pick up a can of spray paint to get the job done? I'm not worried about it having a nitro finish. Don't get me wrong, I want it to look good when I'm finished. Just wondering if I'm missing something and there's a reason it has to be finished with "guitar specific" paint.

Thanks for the help in advance.


Very cool!

I built one of these for my son before he was born. I wanted him to be born with a guitar in his hands.

For painting, keep in mind this is an open grain mahogany, so a grain filler like zpoxy (there are threads I can link and videos you can watch on how to effectively use it) will make make the paint job more professional.

I couldn't stand the pickguard either. So I designed my own.

Here's mine.

20210130_233335.jpg
20210204_222141.jpg
20211208_190501.jpg
 

JDO

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Pittsboro, NC
Why did you have to post this? I went to their site and noticed that the kit is $99 and I just got a $100 Visa gift card "thank you" from work. Now I'm going to want to buy one. But, can I do it without annoying my wife, especially since I'm in the middle of another build? Hmmm....

I recommend assembling the guitar before you start on the finishing process. This will give you an idea of how well everything fits and if there are any issues that need to be handled prior to the finish. If everything is good, disassemble and do the finishing.

The headstock, while not a "boat paddle" is kind of big and unfinished. Make a cardboard template of the shape(s) you want and see what you like.

On the pickguard, if you want something custom colored or different shaped, you could get a pickguard material blank to cut your own out. I've also used 1/8" birch plywood to create a custom pickguard.

On painting, you can use spray paints from Home Depot or Lowes. After all, we aren't talking about painting a $1500 Warmoth special here. I recommend applying a primer undercoat of either white or black before applying your main color. You may want to practice on some scrap wood first to get a feel for it.

You can also use a wipe on stain if you want to keep the look of the wood. I've liked the effects I've gotten from various stains to get a rustic or burnt effect.

As for protecting the finish, I've used spray polyurethane most of the time but I have done a few nitro. I prefer the poly since it's easier and safer to use.

Here are some I've done.

View attachment 999834
You're welcome. I'm sure your wife will be fine with the purchase. Since it's on sale, you actually saved $100. I've never understood that reasoning, but I've heard it out of many a women's mouth after they buy something on sale.

Thanks for all the other advice. This kit comes basically assembled already so I can see that everything fits together. It's basically finishing work, soldering the pups to the pots and drilling holes for the pickguard.

I thought about a stain, but I'm leaning so heavily towards Carolina blue. Now if I could find a stain locally that would let the grains come through and look Carolina blue-ish... I could be very persuaded.

Very nice work. Thanks for the inspiration.

Very cool!

I built one of these for my son before he was born. I wanted him to be born with a guitar in his hands.

For painting, keep in mind this is an open grain mahogany, so a grain filler like zpoxy (there are threads I can link and videos you can watch on how to effectively use it) will make make the paint job more professional.

I couldn't stand the pickguard either. So I designed my own.
First, thanks for the help/advice. If it's not too much trouble I will gladly take a look at any videos you post to help me out.

Second, cute kid. You and your wife did good work.

Maybe it's the angle, your headstock doesn't look too big. I'm still going to try a musicman style to shorten it a little though. Really like the look of the blackface knobs. Nice touch.
 

Steve Holt

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Location
Kansas
You're welcome. I'm sure your wife will be fine with the purchase. Since it's on sale, you actually saved $100. I've never understood that reasoning, but I've heard it out of many a women's mouth after they buy something on sale.

Thanks for all the other advice. This kit comes basically assembled already so I can see that everything fits together. It's basically finishing work, soldering the pups to the pots and drilling holes for the pickguard.

I thought about a stain, but I'm leaning so heavily towards Carolina blue. Now if I could find a stain locally that would let the grains come through and look Carolina blue-ish... I could be very persuaded.

Very nice work. Thanks for the inspiration.


First, thanks for the help/advice. If it's not too much trouble I will gladly take a look at any videos you post to help me out.

Second, cute kid. You and your wife did good work.

Maybe it's the angle, your headstock doesn't look too big. I'm still going to try a musicman style to shorten it a little though. Really like the look of the blackface knobs. Nice touch.


ZPoxy is great. I used ti hate the stuff and swore I'd never use it again, but I wasn't using it correctly and putting way too much on. @Freeman Keller has a thread somewhere that he shares pretty regularly on Zpoxy as well.

Follow the steps in the video and don't put too much on and it'll be great!
 
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Freeman Keller

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I have a quick question about painting. Any reason I can't just go to Lowe's and pick up a can of spray paint to get the job done? I'm not worried about it having a nitro finish. Don't get me wrong, I want it to look good when I'm finished. Just wondering if I'm missing something and there's a reason it has to be finished with "guitar specific" paint.

Thanks for the help in advance.

ZPoxy is great. I used ti hate the stuff and swore I'd never use it again, but I wasn't using it correctly and putting way too much on. @Freeman Keller has a thread somewhere that he shares pretty regularly on Zpoxy as well.

Follow the steps in the video and don't put too much on and it'll be great!

A quick look at the SM page says that the body is mahogany (great choice, by the way). Mahogany is a porous wood with lots of little open pores all the way thru it (different that grain lines). To get a smooth finish on mahogany you need to fill the pores with something before you start putting your actual finish on. There are all kinds of things that people use, I've tried several and settled on a finishing resin called Zpoxy.

The second part of the picture is what to put on for the actual finish. There are almost as many choices as there are guitar finishers. I build traditionally inspired guitars and I use traditional finish, almost always nitrocellulose lacquer. Nitro has a lot going for it but it also has a couple of potential problems - it is toxic, explosive and must be sprayed. Rattle cans work well and are available from sources like StewMac.

The other finishes that are popular nowdays are all the wipe on things. They range from oils to modified oils to shellacs and varnishes to various poly produces. Results can vary as much with the type of product and the application. I have tried a couple of these and came right back to nitro.

The cardinal rule for any question involving finishing is to practice and experiment on scraps of your own wood. Since you didn't cut the guitar out you won't have any scraps but mahogany is available at most fine wood stores.

Here is the Zpoxy thread that Steve mentioned, there are several mahogany guitars shown

 

Beebe

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Working on two right now for the kids.

Here's a finishing schedule for a can of spray paint on a fun project guitar using stuff around the house:

1. Sand with 240 grit paper on a sanding block.

Edit: 1b. Forgot to put Water Pop the wood here followed by sanding.

2. To seal the wood, paint on super thinned out old oil varnish or deck sealer or oil paint. Whatever is in your garage that will waterproof the wood. Maybe some nail polish dissolved in remover. Let cure.

3. Fill the pores with a mix of facial mud mask, water, and a bit of wood glue. Sand. Repeat. Sand. Seal.

4. Spray primer. Sand repeat, sand.

5. Check for any visible pores, or little dents. If so, alternate priming and sanding until surface is flat and looks ready to polish.

6. Spray several very light color coats. They should be so light that you only start to get coverage on the third or fourth coat. Once it's opaque, stop. And let cure.

7. Polish with a rag and turtle wax, automotive polish, paste wax, or whatever wood wax you have.

The trick is getting the surface super flat before spraying color.

If you want it to look great with a darker color and zero prep work (other than maybe a little sanding). Foam brush on strong watercolor paint let soak in for a few minutes and then wipe off with a lint free rag, just like a stain. Then apply one coat of a hard wax oil, BLO, Tung oil, or clear coat of choice. This can also work with light colors, but you would want to bleach the wood first with an AB wood bleach.
 
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1bad914

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I used high build primer on my first painted mahogany body. I used to paint cars, so high build made sense. Spray on a couple of heavy coats of high build, sand it flat. If if not happy with the flatness, spray another coat on. Sand that up to 400 wet. Shake and rattle can your color of choice.

Now I use zpoxy.
 

JDO

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Ok. Reading, researching and thinking. I have a few quick questions.

First, is this the Z Poxy I'm looking for (if I go this route)? I'm shopping amazon because I have points built up.

As I understand it, the z poxy would be my grain filler so I don't need to by wood (or grain) filler if I go that route. Is that correct?

As I've said, I plan on rattle canning the body. I was thinking about finishing the neck with an oil rather than painting it. If I use z poxy on the neck can I still oil it or should it be painted? Is an oil finish on a mahogany neck a bad idea? Should I plan to paint it?

My kids are both in their teens and really good artists. They draw some amazing stuff on their iPads. We got to talking and they want to contribute some art to the open space on the front of the guitar. I'm thinking they can draw something on their iPad and we print it with some waterslide paper. I'm assuming I would then just finish the guitar off with a few coats of clear to protect their art. Anything I'm missing here? Anything special that needs to be done to give us the best chance of success?

Lastly, I've said I want to make a music man inspired headstock. Any advice for lining up the tuners so they don't look like a 3rd grader did the drilling? I was hoping I could find a template online to use as a starting point but I was unsuccessful.

Thanks y'all for your help so far. Once I actually get to doing things with this kit I'll start taking some pictures.
 

gb Custom Shop

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Ok. Reading, researching and thinking. I have a few quick questions.

First, is this the Z Poxy I'm looking for (if I go this route)? I'm shopping amazon because I have points built up.

As I understand it, the z poxy would be my grain filler so I don't need to by wood (or grain) filler if I go that route. Is that correct?

As I've said, I plan on rattle canning the body. I was thinking about finishing the neck with an oil rather than painting it. If I use z poxy on the neck can I still oil it or should it be painted? Is an oil finish on a mahogany neck a bad idea? Should I plan to paint it?

My kids are both in their teens and really good artists. They draw some amazing stuff on their iPads. We got to talking and they want to contribute some art to the open space on the front of the guitar. I'm thinking they can draw something on their iPad and we print it with some waterslide paper. I'm assuming I would then just finish the guitar off with a few coats of clear to protect their art. Anything I'm missing here? Anything special that needs to be done to give us the best chance of success?

Lastly, I've said I want to make a music man inspired headstock. Any advice for lining up the tuners so they don't look like a 3rd grader did the drilling? I was hoping I could find a template online to use as a starting point but I was unsuccessful.

Thanks y'all for your help so far. Once I actually get to doing things with this kit I'll start taking some pictures.
Yes, that is the correct Z-poxy. Also, you are correct in thinking the Z-poxy would be your grain filler, so you won't require another product for that task.

For your neck, it's totally fine to just use an oil finish on the bare mahogany, and probably an easier process too. You can choose to grain fill it, if that's what you want, in which case you can use Z-poxy for that as well. If going the latter route, it would be a good idea to sand back the Z-poxy to the bare wood, and then apply a coat of shellac, then proceed with the oil finish. The shellac will help solve your adhesion issues between the different finishes.

I'm not sure which oil finish you'll use exactly, but I'm a big fan of hardwax oil finishes (Osmo Polyx in satin is my go to).

Personally I kind of like a non-grain filled neck, and I hate painted necks, so I'd go with an oil finish, but that's just me

As for your waterslide art, there's a lot of good threads on here for applying waterslide decals. That's how I learned. You'll want a couple coats of clear on the body before you apply, then bury it in clear. That's a general synopsis but there's more detailed procedures on other threads. While I've only ever done this for a headstock logo, some others may have other/better suggestions for transferring art to the body.

For an EBMM headstock, the below link should help you out. You can print it out at full scale, and place it on your headstock to mark where you need to drill.
www.electricherald.com/music-man-axis-templates/amp/
 

Fretting out

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Very cool!

I built one of these for my son before he was born. I wanted him to be born with a guitar in his hands.

For painting, keep in mind this is an open grain mahogany, so a grain filler like zpoxy (there are threads I can link and videos you can watch on how to effectively use it) will make make the paint job more professional.

I couldn't stand the pickguard either. So I designed my own.

Here's mine.

View attachment 999857 View attachment 999899 View attachment 999900
I see you’re setting him up for volume swells with the reverse control plate
 

JDO

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Yes, that is the correct Z-poxy. Also, you are correct in thinking the Z-poxy would be your grain filler, so you won't require another product for that task.

For your neck, it's totally fine to just use an oil finish on the bare mahogany, and probably an easier process too. You can choose to grain fill it, if that's what you want, in which case you can use Z-poxy for that as well. If going the latter route, it would be a good idea to sand back the Z-poxy to the bare wood, and then apply a coat of shellac, then proceed with the oil finish. The shellac will help solve your adhesion issues between the different finishes.

I'm not sure which oil finish you'll use exactly, but I'm a big fan of hardwax oil finishes (Osmo Polyx in satin is my go to).

Personally I kind of like a non-grain filled neck, and I hate painted necks, so I'd go with an oil finish, but that's just me

As for your waterslide art, there's a lot of good threads on here for applying waterslide decals. That's how I learned. You'll want a couple coats of clear on the body before you apply, then bury it in clear. That's a general synopsis but there's more detailed procedures on other threads. While I've only ever done this for a headstock logo, some others may have other/better suggestions for transferring art to the body.

For an EBMM headstock, the below link should help you out. You can print it out at full scale, and place it on your headstock to mark where you need to drill.
www.electricherald.com/music-man-axis-templates/amp/
So an oiled neck doesn't need to have the grain filled. Good to know.

I'll look into the ins and outs of the waterslide. I thought I would apply before clear. Thanks for that information.

Thanks for the link to the music man template. If I can figure out how to just print the headstock I'll be in business. Much closer than I was before. Thank you.
 

Steve Holt

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So an oiled neck doesn't need to have the grain filled. Good to know.

I'll look into the ins and outs of the waterslide. I thought I would apply before clear. Thanks for that information.

Thanks for the link to the music man template. If I can figure out how to just print the headstock I'll be in business. Much closer than I was before. Thank you.

Yeah I learned this the hard way. Don't apply your decal directly to the bare wood and then clear over it. The area under the decal will look dry while the rest of the wood will have the wet glossy look you're going for.

You want what's underneath the decal to match what you're spraying on.
 

Peegoo

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Before you finish the neck, spend some time filing the fret ends (they're a bit sharp) and then polish 'em. It's an hour well spent.

I built one of these Stooge mac kits a while back. I cut and profiled the headstock to a Tele shape and made a Tele-like pickguard from a piece of white pearl MOTO. I also added a custom touch by recessing the neck plate into the body, and used baby blue Rustoleum acrylic enamel; it came out great.

Baby-Tele-Montage.jpg
 

JDO

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Before you finish the neck, spend some time filing the fret ends (they're a bit sharp) and then polish 'em. It's an hour well spent.

I built one of these Stooge mac kits a while back. I cut and profiled the headstock to a Tele shape and made a Tele-like pickguard from a piece of white pearl MOTO. I also added a custom touch by recessing the neck plate into the body, and used baby blue Rustoleum acrylic enamel; it came out great.

Baby-Tele-Montage.jpg
So close to the vision I have. That looks amazing. What did you do to the neck?
 

Peegoo

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What did you do to the neck?

I cut and shaped the headstock to match the profile and back carve of that '63 Tele's (in the pic above) headstock. If you look closely at a Fender Tele headstock, you'll see the rear carve is a series of smooth radii; there are no hard edges or shadow lines...that's what I wanted. I dressed the frets, sealed the mahogany, and shot color on the headstock face, applied my decal, and then shot clear acylic over it.

I do not apply any masking tape to a rosewood or ebony fretboard when I shoot finish because I shoot the back of the neck with the frets facing down. This prevents finish from getting on the fretboard and always results in a nice smooth transition in the finish along the fretboard's edge.
 




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