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Tue Jul 18, 2017 10:42 pm
I've decided to put together a guitar. I've never done anything like it before, and this is about as far as I've gotten in my decision tree so far. I'm a long-time guitarist, but I don't have much technical know-how. What are important things to know? Pitfalls to avoid? I'm not asking for a step-by-step, but if anyone feels they have wisdom to impart, I'm eager to hear it.
I do have one specific question too. What do I need to be looking for in terms of neck and body compatibility? Or, in other words, what are the important dimensions for determining what necks will fit which bodies?
Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:40 am
Build a Tele. The used parts market is very well stocked. (Especially on The Gear Page's classified ads.) It's a great, first, partscaster build project - nice and simple. And also Teles are just great in general.
Filing nuts is hard for most. Doing fretwork is hard for most. Doing the wiring is challenging for some. The learning experience is excellent. I've done a bunch of workshops with the guys at Nazareth Guitar Institute in Nazareth, PA and have learned a TON of stuff. They are excellent. (And I think they have an electric workshop going on this weekend actually....)https://www.americanarchtop.com/pages/electric-guitar
There are a bunch of good builders here and on other forums. Post pics and questions and people will help you out!
Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:11 am
I'll back building a Tele. There's tons of plans available online, minimal parts, no major body contours (which are a challenging part) and Fender necks are very standardized. Depending on your skill level you can just print out a template from plans online and start there or you can buy a template for pretty cheap. Go on youtube and look up luthier how-to videos and just watch a whole similar body build over and over. I build a P bass, which is pretty similar in terms of construction and I ended up redoing a lot of things as I went. I have a lot of experience in woodworking my whole life though and I had a commercial shop at my disposal. Still, if you do it just to do it, you'll learn something. I would try to use found material or cheap material if you can, since your first build is pretty much practice anyway.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:35 am
bennroe, Are you hoping to put together a guitar from parts, or do you want to build a guitar from scratch? (i.e. Do all of the woodworking to carve a body and a neck, etc.?)
Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:27 am
Sorry, I should have specified. I want to assemble one from parts. I'd love to build one from scratch too some day, but first I need to figure out the basics. Thanks for the recommendations! I was hoping to put together a unique hodgepodge of parts, but you guys think I'm likely to be happier with the results if I work with known quantities and don't experiment too much my first go-around?
Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:49 am
Oh, if it's just assembling parts, not as complicated. What are you looking to get out of the build? Is it a guitar at a lower than retail price? A custom build that you can't get stock? Just the experience of building something? If it's the latter, there are a ton of kits that you can customize slightly online (usually pickup and hardware choice, body finish maybe, etc.). If it's a price thing, not a good goal to have with building guitars really, most of the time. Do you want to paint it? You could go on any number of websites and get licenses bodies and necks that will match up by brand type or you can go the kit route.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:16 am
I want a unique guitar that I can feel personally connected to, and I want to understand the inner workings of guitars in general. I don't have unlimited funds, but I'm okay taking the project slowly, and reduced cost certainly isn't a motivating factor. I typically have taste that far exceeds my reasonable budget, and I'm already eyeing EGC necks since I've been reading about them on here. I'm not sure if there are still any T-60 necks available, but I'm used to playing an SG and I'm worried that a T-60 might be too thin anyway, so I was going to wait and see what the next batch is. I figured that would give me some time to get my head around how modular necks and bodies are, so I don't wind up with a neck that won't fit any body I like.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:23 am
Oh, and I don't have any strong feelings about a finish for the body right now, though I kind of like the idea of primarily just staining the wood. I'd like to get some colour on there probably, but I'm reasonably open to ideas about style at the moment.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 11:39 am
Minwax stains (or for a little more, Stew Mac stains) and tung oil is a great first finish and fairly forgiving. You don't need to worry about grain filler or sanding dealer with tung oil. As long as you're ok with a finish that lets you feel the grain rather than being glass-smooth.
Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:31 pm
The main thing you need to be concerned with is scale length. If you have a 25.5" scale body (standard fender) with a 24.75" scale neck (gibson), then the intonation will never be right and it will never be in tune-no matter how much you adjust the bridge/nut/whatever. This scale length is determined by the distance from the bridge to the nut of the neck-so if the bridge is off, then a 25.5" scale body with a 25.5" scale neck wont intonate either.
There are a few places that sell conversion necks, which allow you to put a gibson-scale neck on a 25.5" scale fender body.
The next thing you need to consider is that the heel is correct (the end of the neck opposing the headstock). Strats are rounded, teles are square, because of this you can put a strat neck on a tele, but not the other way around.
Sticking with fender and fender-style replacement parts is going to be the easiest way to successfully assemble a functional guitar because they were designed as such; when part X goes bad, it can easily be replaced with the same part, rather than repaired for a greater cost. If you want a shorter scale, get a conversion neck, or even get a shorter scale fender body (jaguar/mustang). Mixing other odd brands is totally doable, but more prone to failure.
Finishing isn't too bad. If you follow the reranch directions exactly as described on in their "refinishing 101" you can end up with a great, professional-looking finish. Just remember that anywhere you goof in an earlier step will show through at the end, so do it correctly, every step, from the start. Staining is quite easy, but I would definitely use grain filler. Because all manufactured guitars come with a flat, smooth finish, we as consumers view it as an essential part of a what an electric guitar is-having the bumpy grain present looks very wrong and incomplete to me. Mathias is totally right in that stain and tung oil is super easy, forgiving, and effective, but if you're spending so much money making a personalized guitar, why skimp on the finish?
I've assembled 3 guitars now and the main things I've found to be expected are:
Its going to take longer than you think
Its going to cost more than you think
It wont sell for what you put into it
Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:49 pm
That's really helpful. Thank you! Is the width of the neck where it bolts on to the body pretty standardized then? I just need to worry about heel rounding and scale?
Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:00 pm
bennroe wrote:That's really helpful. Thank you! Is the width of the neck where it bolts on to the body pretty standardized then? I just need to worry about heel rounding and scale?
To answer all of that; with fender parts, yes.
Some people might argue that having a super tight neck-in-pocket fit is essential to sustain, tone, etc, but from what I've played, some gap between the two wont kill your guitar; whats really important is that the neck is bolted tightly to the body.
You can also totally get a tele neck to fit onto a strat with a little bit of routing in the neck pocket, but I wouldn't recommend that for a first time.
As long as you stay with fender and fender replacement parts (dont have to be fender licensed), you'll be good!
Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:54 am
How important to a guitar's sound is the shape of its body? I'm sure it has to matter somewhat, but I'd guess pick-ups and type of wood matter much, much more. I ask because I'm hearing everyone's advice about Fender standardization and keeping things simple for my first build, and I actually really like telecaster bodies, but I want to make sure I end up with a guitar that sounds the way I like. I haven't settled on pick-ups yet, but if they're the main component in achieving the sound I want, I don't want to be limited by what fits in a tele. I see that there are builders who will make custom-routed tele bodies for different sizes of pick-up, but those bodies often seem much more expensive than more standardized ones. That could be worth it if body-shape also plays a big factor (as there are things I really like sonically about stock teles too), but if it's a minor or completely irrelevant factor it might behoove me to pick a body that fits my pick-up load-out in its stock form.
For that matter, how do different types of wood impact the sound?
Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:38 am
I think this can be a total can of worms, since different guitars are synonymous with different woods, but usually there are a lot of other things in play that should be considered. For example, les pauls have dense, mahogany bodies, so some people then think that if you have a mahogany strat, youll get les paul-like sustain, not realizing there are way more things than just the body wood in play (neck angle, thickness of body, hard tail bridge, etc). http://www.warmoth.com/Guitar/Bodies/Options/BodyWoodOptions.aspx
is a nice guide on different body wood types, but I wouldn't focus on that too much for achieving a desired sound.
What makes classic fenders sound the way they do is their electronics, leo was an electrician after all. A tele sounds like a tele because of the pickups and the bridge. That's why the jazzcaster (telemaster) is in right now, sounds like a tele, but looks like an offset. The true genius of the classic fender line is that no two fender models sound alike because they all have totally different electronics. Bridge style matters as well, hardtail vs block trem (strat) vs floating trem (jazzmaster).
I think you should first identify what sound you want to achieve, then begin your search for parts that align with your wants.
Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:02 pm
That all makes sense. I like my tone extremely bright, but also full-sounding, with as much sustain as I can get. I play both clean and heavy parts, and I don't like when my heavy tone gets muddy, but I also don't like it thin.
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