Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My first custom guitar?

All this modding has to lead up to making something of my own. Or at least partly my own. After all if I do that I won't have to sand what feels like inches of hard finish off before I can put a finish of my own on.

Some time ago I bought these two flying V Bubinga tops from the guy who runs Eve Guitars as they were having a clearout.

I'm thinking of something unambitious for a first project and just making a body to fit an existing neck. I've already got the BC Rich Virgin I stole the Speedloader for the RS10V from and it has comparatively little resale value despite having a very decent bolt on 24-fret neck with ebony fingerboard. Buying a similar neck separately would undoubtedly be more expensive unless you go for one of the bazillion cheapo strat/tele necks on eBay.

The Widow headstock is not a favourite of mine, but it is pretty damn large and I reckon it could be reshaped while still leaving space for some machine heads if you're careful. Being from a Speedloader guitar it's not currently drilled for any so you've got free reign.

Looking at it I can 'see' an exaggerated triangular V style headstock inside the current outline. With it cut down to this you could then probably face it with a piece of Bubinga veneer to vaguely match the top and carefully refinish the sides of the headstock to avoid having to redo the whole neck.

I'm also thinking I could use the body to make a 'bridge to neck template' from some of the window pane sized pieces of acrylic I have. So I'd end up with one template that includes the neck pocket, bridge and pickup routes one on strip ensuring they end up perfectly spaced and aligned.

This would be pretty inflexible and only suit this one combo of neck and bridge but means I could have a couple of goes at this on scrap wood, probably some old worktop, before trying the actual body.

I've got loads of hardware, pickups and so on kicking around so all I really need is a 40mm thick body blank big enough to make a flying V from.

Don't hold your breathe though I've got a lot of sanding to do first.


Still not sanding.

When you start modifying guitars like this it's not just the gross problems like the stud position that catch you out it's also things like the shape of the tremolo route.

In the first photo you can see that the treble side of the bridge lines up perfectly with the edge but the bass side has loads of space. This isn't because I've put the bridge in the wrong place but because the bridge isn't symmetrical down the centre line of the guitar and the route is.

The route needs extending further 'south' so the baseplate doesn't hit the body and then deepening so I get more upward range on the tremolo.

My only attempt to do this kind of thing by eye with the RR2V went badly until I started to use a template and move it around. Clearing up the mess left me with a weird 'bathtub' route.

For the RS10V I want to try and keep it tidy and looking more like something a conventional guitar would have, but I have only got an asymmetric router template that is exactly the right shape and size for a Floyd Rose Original.

Flipping the template over, then moving it back slightly and doing so again looked like it would give me just what I need. Having tried this out on paper and done some measurements it checks out OK.

I've got a huge sheet of clear acrylic thick enough to make a new template using this method but I think I'm just going to cut it out of some old wood instead as I can't see me using this template more than once.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still avoiding sanding

I've been tackling the RS10V today instead of the sanding.

First up I had to see what size hole I needed to drill for the bushes, they seemed a bit big for a 9.5mm but might be loose in a 10mm one. So I did a couple of test holes in a piece of scrap wood.

It turned out the 10mm hole was a fairly snug fit, so I drilled out the holes I'd marked previously.

With this done I loosely assembled it, using a clamp to hold the nut on so I could check that the studs were in the right place and the strings looked right. They're both rather close to the edge of the fretboard as the RS10V probably has a narrower neck than the donor BC Rich, but it looks OK to me.

So I went ahead and screwed the nut to the neck, roughly fitted a pickup so I could test the guitar and stuck the strings on.

Starting from an unknown position the Speedloader is a bit of a pain to set up. Mostly because the little grub hex screws in the saddles that are used for gross tuning are really fiddly to use.

Balancing these, the spring tension and the tremolo rest position took a fair old while, but in the end it's nicely sorted and close to intonated without having to move the saddles. Which shows I must have got the bridge in the right position.

I had to adjust the truss rod a couple of times as it had zero relief and buzzed badly at the lower frets, which is part of the reason this took so long.

Now I've done this I'm going to have to strip it down again to deepen and shift back the tremolo route. There's almost no upward movement on the tremolo as it hits the body. I'll leave this until another day as I'll give the neck a few days to 'settle'.

I also want to route a little off the nut shelf, the nut is currently excessively high. Thankfully I've already made myself a jig for this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snake oil or not?

When I modified the mahogany strat I definitely was aiming for a 'hot rodded' one.

One of the things I dislike about strats is when the tremolo isn't very stable in use. I get you can't hang off it like a locking one, but I want to be able to use it a little. However tuning wasn't that stable, despite the quite decent 'modern' Wilkinson tremolo I fitted.

It already had decent locking machine heads but with the string trees currently fitted the strings were going through quite a steep angle from the nut. I sort of figured this is half the problem. I was considering spacing them out from the face of the headstock with some washers but managed to pick up some GraphTech Tusq string trees cheaply that are not only slightly taller but supposedly made of magic lubricating stuff.

Having fitted these it certainly keeps tune better when you use the tremolo, is that because of the gentler angle, the smooth contoured slots in the trees or the magic lubricating stuff they're made of?

I may tread this very well worn road some more and fit a GraphTech nut as well. The current nut is dirty and chipped anyway, even though it's 100% usable.

Ideally I'd also like to fit the 2-point tremolo I bought, which I'll revisit at some point.

Can you tell I'm putting off sanding.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Buy in haste, repent at leisure

So, I saw an Indie Extreme Plus for sale that somebody had refinished. I figured it couldn't be that bad.

I was wrong.

Given the refinish is godawful and it was put back together with about the cheapiest nastiest Chinese components you can buy, some of which don't fit properly and zero attention to detail I've massively overpaid.

The seller did say it had a few rough edges but wrote "I reckon I have made a good fist of the painting" and no they haven't.

They have destroyed the delicate carving in the top, I was half expecting this though. Some sections haven't had all the finish removed and others are oversanded so that there are small dips in it. They've barely bothered removing finish from the sides and back, just enough to mess it up and mean it all needs sanding off now.

Then they've got the paint all over the place including the neck.

I could see the sides would need redoing from their photos but the mess they've made of the top and the overspray on the neck really wasn't clear.

It looks like some half-arsed teenager's project that they got bored of. I should have negged them but couldn't face the recriminations and neg back.

Worst of all I have lined myself up for a load more sanding, voluntarily. What was I thinking?

I suspect this will languish a long time untouched.