Stuck in another lockdown I embarked on building a guitar. To be completely clear, I didn't build this one from scratch - I bought an unfinished neck from one supplier, an unfinished body from another and then picked up all of the hardware from a selection of different places. While I made a few mistakes along the way, I'm really pleased with how it came out - and it plays like a dream.
What went well?
Overall, the things that went best are:
- The playability and action on the strings. The final setup is great to play and everything is in line and in tune.
- The veneer on the headstock was much easier than expected, and came out really nice.
- The wood staining and finishing was very satisfying and not nearly as scary as I expected (I used Crimson Guitars water based stains with Birchwood Casey grain filler and Tru Oil).
- Removing dents in the raw body using steam (a wet cloth and an iron) worked really well. It was a pretty cheap body from ebay and had some scuffs - most of which (although not all) could easily be rectified this way.
- The sound holes do work! Unplugged the guitar is still pretty loud, and while they were a bit of a pain to sand and colour - they're totally worth it.
- The through-body string setup (which was one of the only places that I've gone a bit off piste) was fiddly to set up (and I should have clamped something more against the back to prevent blow out), but came out almost exactly as planned.
What went less well?
All that being said, I definitely learnt a few things:
- In setting up the neck rake angle, I didn't take into account the height of the bridge posts or bridge mounts (you can see on the picture above that the bridge is almost flush with the body). I assumed I could adjust in either direction using the bridge screws and so I didn't need to be millimeter precise - not realising I wasn't aiming for the middle of the adjustment range, but one end. This took a lot of work to get around, eventually requiring the lowest profile bridge I could find and taking a dremel tool to the bridge adjustment screws to remove the knurled ring and allow the bridge to lie as low as possible.
- I set up the electronics so that I could run with single coils, parallel coils or serial coils on each of the pickups (see the little toggle switches below). This added both complexity to the wiring loom and also complexity to the cavity because of the short mounting length of those small switches. Now that it's all wired up and plays - there is a difference - but I'm not sure it's a level of tone control that I actually need or would use. Nice as a science experiment but if I do another one of these, then sticking to a standard humbucker wiring would be fine.
- Fine wood details are sometimes quite delicate, case in point being a section of the headstock where I accidently flattened a corner by pressing on it. Wood is pretty resilient, but only in bulk - you still need to protect small features.
Very glad I did this - and I'm really pleased with the result. It's also a lot of a work and I have a ton of respect for professional guitar builders. Will I do it again? Not in a rush - I don't need another guitar... or... maybe....? 😁