Saturday, 10 November 2012

Firebird.....part 1

Hi Folks
I've had some time recently to make progress with my Firebird build. I'd gotten it to the stage where I had the body shaped and the neck joint cut and the neck roughed out with the truss rod fitted. It didn't take much work to glue in the neck, sort out a wenge fingerboard and do some routing for the control cavity.
Some changes from the original Gibson design (actually, the Firebird was designed by Ray Dietrich, a famous car designer of the time). I have put the jack socket on the end of the body like a Les Paul rather than on the top front of the guitar. The SG has a similar layout and I hated it on the SG, so on the end it goes.  The guitar also has a glued in neck instead of neck through like the original. There are just as many Firebirds with broken headstocks as Les Pauls, so it obviously isn't a stronger method of construction!
Tuners/machineheads. The early guitars featured banjo style tuners, the later non-reverse and budget version used regular tuners. I've gone for regular tuners as the only banjo style ones I can find are the delicious but expensive Steinberg ones.

So the next step is frets followed by routing out for pickups (going for mini humbuckers) then I can string her up and see how she sounds. Finish is going to be a solid colour - I fancy vintage white but metallic red is also on the books. Or gold....... ;)


Friday, 14 September 2012

Another Strat....

Hi Folks
Yes, another big gap in Blogging :(
Been busy though - completed the 70's Strat respray and have built another Strat.
This one is inspired by Claptons' "Blackie" and has a maple neck and a one piece body of some African timber I picked up from my local timber merchant. Somewhere between Ash and Alder in grain and colour and with a lovely tap tone to it.
I've done a little more "relic-ing" on this one than I usually do and I'm rather pleased with it. Nitro Cellulose is definitely the thing to use if you wish to age your guitar quickly as the newer super lacquer are just too tough ;)


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Old Strat

HI Folks
Work has been taking up my time too much recently, so guitar builds have been taking a back seat. Saying that....
A friend has a 1976 Strat that he loves playing but hates looking at. It has has the neck planed flat and a refret which has made the guitar playable, but the fingerboard looks horribly new on such an old guitar. I really want to remedy that! Also the paint. Now, we all know old guitars look awesome, better than Relics, yeah? Not this one. Think POS :)
In the '70's Fender went over to Poly as a finish. It's not so much a lacquer as a thick layer of epoxy - no joke! It does not age nicely. And this guitar looks like someone has tried to repair it in areas with varnish at some point. My friend wondered if I could spray a black sunburst around the edges (the guitar has a natural finish). After much discussion and soul searching over "ruining" the guitar and its resale value it was decided that a refinish was wanted.
So I'm currently scraping poly off the body - not a nice job. But it has to be done, you definitely are not sanding it off ;)
More soon,

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Eddie Van Halen

With the release of the new Van Halen album I've been going back through the back catalogue of VH stuff - I was a huge fan when I started learning guitar and he was a huge influence. In recent years I had given up on them as too many years have passed. I mourned and moved on.
Thankfully the new album is awesome - if they can stay together throughout this tour without any serious ego disagreements then the future may indeed be rosy.
So I'm making a Musicman EVH as a kind of tribute.....
I've glued the book matched maple top to the body and started on the birds-eye maple neck. She's gonna be good....... ;)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Strat Piccys

So I waited as long as I could before wet sanding the Strat. I had doubts about the lacquer - had I put on enough coats to allow me to level sand her without cutting through? I started wet sanding with 1500 grit Micromesh (awesome stuff, by the way!). I managed to remove pretty much all the low spots without removing coloured lacquer so decided to leave adding more lacquer. I lightly buffed out the finish to a satin sheen and started to assemble the components - it all went together pretty smoothly (which left me somewhat surprised, if pleased).
I need to do a final fret dress (the fourth fret is slightly high) and then she's good to go!


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Fire Away!

The Strat is sat there drying out (and I'm trying no to pick the thing up every five minutes and gawp at it!). So I took another look at the Firebird - time to put the neck on. A quick re-think on the neck joint was in order - I was going to go for the usual Gibson long tenon thing but decided to go for the PRS full-width neck style. Took me ten minutes to stick some MDF guides around the actual neck to lay it out and then drill out the waste and plug in the router. And it left a lovely tight joint!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


So with the lacquer sprayed it's the part I hate most - waiting for it to cure! Thankfully there are things to get on with. Frets for one....

I usually hammer in the frets but that always does a little damage to them. I saw a home made fret press made from a welding clamp on a forum and thought that might be worth making. A few quid later for a cheapo Ebay clamp and an hours work cutting, drilling and making wooden jaws and voila! My own press for less than a tenner.

It worked magnificently - I really was quite impressed with what a nice job it did and there was no damage to the frets - this baby is going to take very little fret work! If anyone is interested in how I made my press let me know and I'll put up the photo's.

I also started making templates for a Musicman EVH - that'll be coming along after the Firebird :)


Sunday, 4 March 2012


So I couldn't wait to get spraying - my first go at a three colour Fender sunburst, and I'm fairly happy with it. In the morning I'll have a fresh look and maybe get the airbrush out to touch up the black - then some clear coats.
The neck is almost finished. Four coats of TruOil give a lovely finish, but you can still see every pore - wonderful!


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Strat - Neck

All the necks I have built so far have been Gibson style necks - Fender did things slightly different so I was looking forward (and slightly nerv o us) to making this neck, especially with the wonderful piece of maple I had.
Fender made one and two piece necks - the two piece had a separate fingerboard but the one piece needed a lot more jigs to make. I chickened out and went for the two piece...

I have come up with a good way to make radiused sanding blocks so made an 18 inch one for this neck - it came in very handy when gluing on the fingerboard as a caul, too!
The rear shot shows the departure from the norm - I'm using an angled neck plate which gives a handy boost to upper fret access. I was doubtful it would really make a difference but it really feels good with no loss of clamping pressure.

I have some Tru Oil coming in the post today so will start applying this to the neck later. Really looking forward to using this as it gets recommended a lot.


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Fire, Fire....

The Strat is coming along nicely - I'll be posting an update soon. I spent a while playing a Masterbuilt relic strat today at Guitar Mania in Poole - a lovely guitar (that looked like it had had the crap beaten out of it!) That certainly put the buzz into me for finishing my Strat - I'm heading out to the workshop right after this :)

A quick picture of my Firebird build - I have the body shaped and sanded and the neck has the truss rod fitted. I've been working out the neck angle (2 degrees) so I can get started on joining the neck to the body soon. Here are the components dumped together for a photo.



Saturday, 25 February 2012


Hi Folks
If you've been following the recent Gibson debacle over Rosewood you'll knot that in 2012 it's getting harder and harder to find (and use) the classic tonewoods that are in used in guitars. We all dream of finding a cheap stash of Brazilian Rosewood but it probably isn't going to happen. And if you build a lot of guitars what options are available?
People are increasingly concerned about the impact their choice of wood has on the environment. While I won't veer off onto that subject I can see that now is a good time to be experimenting with new species of wood - tomorrows Brazilian Rosewood could be sat unloved at your local timber seller. I've just returned from a trip to my local timber yard - this is the second time I have noticed boards of timber of species I've never heard off. I've bought planks of each one to try out and, while talking to the salesman, he told me they are ordering in quite a few new timbers in the near future.
So maybe today is a good time to branch out and try something different - who knows what you may find?


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Strat part 1

So - the Strat....
I've had a few Strats over the years, none of which have sounded and felt as good as a silver series Squier I bought new back in '91. Lovely guitar, nicely gigged into submission. I've had some beautiful Strats that I regret selling because a Strat is so darn beautiful that I want one in each and every finish. But back to reality.....
I've been trying various pickups in my Squier trying to regain the sound I had with a set of SD Alnico II's back in the day. After trying a few sets I ended up a cheapo set of Axerus own brand "Alamo" pickups, and very nice they are too. The spare sets were going to go back on the Bay then I thought "hey, let's make a Strat and use up the spare parts!".
So here we are - poplar body with 6mm thick curly maple drop top bent over the top (thanks to my vacuum bag!). Curly maple neck and board, hard tail, classic pickup and wiring. I slotted the fingerboard last night and need to make a radius sanding block to match the radius I want (9.5") then I can get the neck finished. And hopefully the guitar should fall together pretty quickly - that maple looks so good I can't keep my hands off it!


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Bass lives...

Hi Folks
I started this project in July last year and have been too busy to complete it. I really could do with now as I have some demo's to record so a couple of weeks of determined work has got her up and running.
I'm really pleased with the sound, quite modern sounding to my ears, with lots of variety available between the two pickups. I need to give her a little more fretwork to sort out a buzz on the g string but she's quite usable!
Next on the agenda is the Strat. Poplar body with curly maple drop top, curly maple neck. I've fitted the neck to the body this week so it actually looks like a guitar. More later this week.....