Custom Guitar Build Log

Hi there, all.

I'm going to start a build log of my custom guitar. I'm going to go with a design based on the shape of a Schecter 006 Elite (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Schecter-006-Elite-Electric-Guitar?sku=513057) with a Gibson style bridge/tail piece.

The guitar will be a neck-through design made of walnut and maple much like the Carvin DC400W (https://www.carvinguitars.com/catalog/guitars/index.php?model=dc400w), though it won't have the highly figured walnut grain.

I've also already ordered a set of EMG 81/85 pickups (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/EMG-EMGZW-Zakk-Wylde-8185-Humbucker-Set?sku=301511), however I did notice that the specs list the pots at 25k ohms. Is this correct? I can't find pots listed at any guitar parts replacement sites with pots lower than 50k ohm. Since I want to minimize the amount of switches, knobs, and other clutter, I'm looking into getting a concentric pot like this (http://store.guitarfetish.com/cp50kcopomo.html) to possibly add onboard distortion (black ice) or similar, however they only sell them in 50k and 100k ohm. Is the EMG spec correct?

Now onto some pictures: Below is a shot with all of the walnut and maple on a workbench at school.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Rough%20Lumber/01-28-08%20-%20Rough%20Wood%20012.jpg[/IMGDEAD]

Below: A picture of the walnut stock showing the larger blocks for the body, and the two strips I'll be using for the neck.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Rough%20Lumber/01-28-08%20-%20Rough%20Wood%20004.jpg[/IMGDEAD]

Below: This picture shows one of the knots I'll have to work around
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Rough%20Lumber/01-28-08%20-%20Rough%20Wood%20006.jpg[/IMGDEAD]

Below: This picture gives a small preview of what the grain will look like most likely. Not as exciting as the Claro Walnut on the Carvin guitar, but the walnut was donated by a friends father, and it'll still look great.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Rough%20Lumber/01-28-08%20-%20Rough%20Wood%20014.jpg[/IMGDEAD]

Below: Last, a picture of the Maple I was able to get. I bought this from a local woodshop, so it's not as exciting as the walnut, so I only took this one picture.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Rough%20Lumber/01-28-08%20-%20Rough%20Wood%20010.jpg[/IMGDEAD]
 

Brett

Member
2002-01-07 6:02 pm
Sorry, but it has at least one too many strings and the scale could be about 9" longer. Then I might be interested. :)

Best of luck. My woodworking skills are exceeded when I need to glue two random pieces of mdf together. Have you tried the Luthier forums?
 
25k pots are correct. The trick is that they're active pickups, so you don't need the high value pots because the output of the pickups is low impedance due to the buffer/preamp built into the pickups. Pretty sure you can get stacked 25k/25k pots but I can't remember where at the moment...

Bear in mind that it means you'll need room for a 9V or two in either your control cavity or in a separate battery box (I like the battery boxes for quick change convenience).

I got no issue with the number of strings but I agree with Brett on the scale (9-10" longer), and I'd have a wider neck and none of the speed bumps that it looks like you're putting in....

The headstock is doing weird things to my head, kinda looks like its bending to the left. Either that or I've spent too long at this sodded computer...
 

Brett

Member
2002-01-07 6:02 pm
Daveze said:
25k pots are correct. The trick is that they're active pickups, so you don't need the high value pots because the output of the pickups is low impedance due to the buffer/preamp built into the pickups. Pretty sure you can get stacked 25k/25k pots but I can't remember where at the moment...
EMG's have am O/P Z of about 10k and will work with higher R pots quite nicely.

Daveze said:
Bear in mind that it means you'll need room for a 9V or two in either your control cavity or in a separate battery box (I like the battery boxes for quick change convenience).
Power it offboard!!!!
 
Brett said:
Sorry, but it has at least one too many strings and the scale could be about 9" longer. Then I might be interested. :)

Best of luck. My woodworking skills are exceeded when I need to glue two random pieces of mdf together. Have you tried the Luthier forums?

Yes, I have those also. I have an Ibanez Ergodyne 5 string bass, and what appears to be a Fender P-Bass, but that was bought from a pawn shop and restored by a guy who didn't keep any of that information around.

Daveze said:
25k pots are correct. The trick is that they're active pickups, so you don't need the high value pots because the output of the pickups is low impedance due to the buffer/preamp built into the pickups. Pretty sure you can get stacked 25k/25k pots but I can't remember where at the moment...

Bear in mind that it means you'll need room for a 9V or two in either your control cavity or in a separate battery box (I like the battery boxes for quick change convenience).

I got no issue with the number of strings but I agree with Brett on the scale (9-10" longer), and I'd have a wider neck and none of the speed bumps that it looks like you're putting in....

The headstock is doing weird things to my head, kinda looks like its bending to the left. Either that or I've spent too long at this sodded computer...

Yes, I know I'll need the battery box.

Also, the headstock probably is off since I merely traced a picture I found online.


Brett said:
EMG's have am O/P Z of about 10k and will work with higher R pots quite nicely.

Power it offboard!!!!

well that's good to hear. If I find some concentric or DPDT pots at 50k ohm you think it'll have little or no effect compared to the 25k ohm?

I have class today, so I'll have time to start planing some of the wood. Maybe even get some of it glued if I'm lucky. I'll have updates tonight.
 
Make sure you use animal glue if you want it to stay together.

Here's a pic of my homebuilt made in 1980. It was a combined effort, with a very good friend, Fred, assisting me with this very complex project.
Those 27 years seems to have passed rather quicky after extolling about a year and a half of tedious, part-time labor. I remember it like it was yesterday, the day we finished it. It's one project that I'm glad to have finished, and I'm not looking forward to building another one anytime soon. It would have been a major waste of effort had I used a typical woodglue, as this guitar would certainly be in pieces by now.
Any project worth doing, is worth doing right the first time.

Body is Hawaiian Koa, Eastern Hardrock Maple with Rosewood borders and pinstripe.
Neck is thru-body, Eastern Hardrock Maple, with Rosewood center stripe, Ebony fretboard, Abalone dot inlays and sidemarkers, jumbo frets on a 24-3/4" scale, Schaller machine heads. Action is SUPER low without one iota of fret-buzz. Nut is compensated for near perfect intonnation and made of brass. The Nut has to be compensated because of the super low string height, as a super low action reduces string "stretch" when fretting notes.
The finish is Dupont's Concept 20/20 catalyzed enamel, no primer or sealers were used because it could have a tendency to delaminate between the finished layers after several years. The finish it tinted slightly with red mother-of-pearl and it looks gorgeous under proper lighting.
Pickups are circa 1978 - Carvin SD models.
Switching behind the bridge is for individual coil selection and pickup phasing. It encorporates an active homemade buffer and uses standard RJ-45 network patch cables to supply external power and redundant low impedance / balanced output signals to a homemade stomp-box style interface. I never really liked 1/4" phone jacks. RJ-45 is a more modern concept that actually WORKS, and patch cords last longer, and are cheaper to replace. NO HUM... EVER!!!
It is a dream to play. A super fast action, tons of sustain, and the weight is perfectly balanced.
If I were forced to build another, I would I widen the neck about a 1/4 inch, and flatten the radius just a tad, but only because I have big hands and fat fingers. I would probably add a wang bar too, if I could ever find one that worked right. Otherwise, it is perfect as is.
Sorry the pix are so bad. I don't have a digital camera, and the guy that took these obviously lacks the concept of composition.

I wish you the best of luck, and skill, on your most worthwhile project.

[IMGHTTPDEAD]http://home.swbell.net/deewm/images/Guitar3.jpg[/IMGHTTPDEAD] [IMGHTTPDEAD]http://home.swbell.net/deewm/images/Guitar.jpg[/IMGHTTPDEAD]
 
Grizzly (woodworking machine supplier) has a lot of guitar parts and kits (the owner makes guitars as a hobby)

Grizzly.com

I would disagree with the use of animal glue. Having built pipe organs for over 30 years, I'm very familiar with animal (hide) glue. In pipe organs we use it for applying leather and other things that will eventually need replacing because the glue can be easily removed with window cleaner. Titebond (alphatic resin glue) is used by over 90% of instrument makers.

Photo of one of the many organs I built.
 

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well, I've gotten a little bit of work done on the guitar. Sorry, no pictures of the wood, my camera batteries were dead. I've gotten the wood for the neck planed down to the correct thickness (or just about), and the body blanks were squared off and cleaned up. Unfortunately, one of the large walnut blocks has a fairly large crack running through it. I'm going to have to cut the block along the crack, edge plain it, and glue the block back together. In the meantime, however, I've ordered most of the hardware and extras for my guitar.

Here's the stuff I was able to get from Guitar Fetish:
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Guitar%20Fetish/IMG_1819.JPG[/IMGDEAD]
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Guitar%20Fetish/IMG_1820.JPG[/IMGDEAD] [IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Guitar%20Fetish/IMG_1821.JPG[/IMGDEAD] [IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Guitar%20Fetish/IMG_1822.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

I've also ordered an ebony fretboard, preslotted for 24 frets and radiused to 12" from LMI, pore filler, pick guard material, truss rod, fret wire, nut, and other miscellaneous items.
 
Well, today was a good day for my guitar. While class was shortened because of a 2 hour late start due to snow, I did manage to get the neck glued together today.

These first two show the 7 layers I'm using for the neck/center of the body. The whole thing measures 4 - 4 1/4" (I can't remember exactly). The humbucker pickup rings are slightly skinnier than this block of wood.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20the%20Neck/IMG_0602.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20the%20Neck/IMG_1860.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

Here's a picture showing the clamps used to hold the whole thing together.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20the%20Neck/IMG_1861.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

And two more views showing the clamping of the neck.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20the%20Neck/IMG_1863.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20the%20Neck/IMG_1864.JPG[/IMGDEAD]


In addition to getting this small part completed, I came home to find a shipment from LMI. In this, I received my fretboard, fret wire, truss rod, side and front mother-of-pearl inlays, and pick guard material which I'll use for cavity covers.

So here's a picture of all of it sitting on a chair.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/LMI%20Products/IMG_0610.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

Now the two different sized MOP inlay dots
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/LMI%20Products/IMG_0608.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/LMI%20Products/IMG_0609.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

A close up of the Madagascar Ebony fretboard, pre-slotted for 24 frets, and radiused to 12".
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/LMI%20Products/IMG_0612.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

And finally a close up of the fret wire
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/LMI%20Products/IMG_0613.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

Next, I plan to plane the neck so that it's flat, and begin to draw out the cuts I'll need to make.

Since I want an angled neck, I'm thinking I'll do a rough cut at the ~3 degree angle on the table saw. To flatten it, I'm thinking I can run in through the edge planer to get a perfectly flat surface to glue the fretboard to. Next, I'll cut the angle for the headstock to attach to. After this, I will route the truss rod cavity. Then I'll go back, cut the neck down to the correct thickness. Then I should be able to glue the fretboard on, and taper the neck down.

In the meantime, I also plan to first cut out the rough shape on the two blocks of walnut. This way, when I glue the neck to the wings, It won't be too wide to send through the planer, and it also will make cutting the horns on the band saw easier (our school has a fairly small band saw. A buddy of mine is also building a guitar and he's further than I am, and he cut the body out after gluing the neck in, but I think my way will be easier.)

Then I'll route the pickup and electronics cavities.

After this, comes the real work, I plan on carving both the front and the back of the body. On the back, I'll do the standard cutout for the chest, but I'm also planning on doing a small amount of carving since I like the feel of my Epiphone SG which is thinner than my homemade Telecaster (my first custom guitar - done in a class with a pre-built necks).

So with the basic plan I've outlined here... does anybody see any major problems/flaws or things I should watch out for?
 
I know you want to finish it fast, but be sure to let the glued-up parts set for at least a couple of weeks before machining. The glue puts a lot of moisture into the wood that makes it swell. If it isn't really dry before machining, it can cause a lot of grief down the road. Found this out the hard way...
 
Sorry for the long wait between updates. Unfortunatly, class has been canceled because of weather a few times, and I've also forgotten my camera.

Well, I finally have updates. Since my last update, I've managed to plane the neck flat again, draw oou all of my cuts, cut off the headstock portion of the neck, and re-glue it on. Here's a few pics:

In this picture, you can see how I glued the whole thing together. The piece on the bottom is only there to give me parallel surfaces for the clamps.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20Headstock/IMG_0617.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

In this next picture, I have a few dowels which I set into both the headstock piece and the neck since I didn't want the pieces to slip after I had clamped them together.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20Headstock/IMG_0615.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

Unfortunately, the block I was using to clamp against was also glued to the neck, so when I pulled it off, I had a small amount of tear-out; I'm fairly sure it won't affect the finished product, but I'm a perfectionist, and having looked over this simple fact makes me somewhat worried about what other mistakes I may make later which will affect the guitar.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20Headstock/IMG_0620.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

Next, is look at the whole headstock glued onto the neck. As you can see on the right hand side of the picture, the headstock piece is set down from the plane of the neck blank. This is because I'm planing on having an angled neck, so the line drawn is where the neck will actually be.
[IMGDEAD]http://www.jdjlab.com/~logan/Guitar%20Build/Glueing%20Headstock/IMG_0618.JPG[/IMGDEAD]

-----------------

Next I need to figure out how to cut the neck angle. I had thought I would use the edge joiner at my school, block up the bottom end of the neck, and slowly shave the neck down to the line, however, the out-feed table on the jointer has been messed with, so it leaves a slight arch to anything being sent across it. Right now, I'm looking for somewhere else that I could cut this angle on their jointer, and I'm looking for some other way to cut the angle of my neck and ensure that it's flat. Any tips?

Between the need to cut the neck angle, and the lack of wood for the body, I'm somewhat at a stand still right now. The walnut blocks I have, cracked further after acclimating to the room. Where as I could have worked around the checks and splits as shown in the pictures above, I wont' be able to now. So I am now in the process of looking for walnut. If anybody knows of any good dealers in North Central Iowa who will have something in stock for me to look at, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Preferably, I would like two blocks 2" thick, 9" wide, with one being 19" long and the other being 24". However, if I can't find anything, I may go with a Mahogany body with a walnut top, where I'd still need the same dimensions, except I'd only need it 3/4" to 1" thick.

Does anybody know of online places I could look too? I've found plenty of sites where I can buy gunstock or table top sized slabs of walnut, but the gunstock chunks are too narrow, while the table tops are way too big, making them much too expensive. While I would like something with a slight amount of figuring, I don't need AAAAA grade figuring (I can't afford it).

Any help, comments, or criticisms are appreciated.

-Logan
 

ccreddell

Member
2008-01-09 7:52 pm
I have had real good luck getting great wood at good prices off of ebay. Takes a little searching, but well worth it. Heres a couple places I look;

http://instruments.search.ebay.com/...bfmtsZinsifQQsspagenameZSTRKQ3aMEFSRCHQ3aSRCH

http://crafts.search.ebay.com/wood_...sacatZ48313QQsspagenameZSTRKQ3aMEFSRCHQ3aSRCH

Also, if I'm not mistaken, EMG p'ups come with the correct pots already wired up-at least all the ones I have bought over the years have.

Hers a link that might help you with your jointer;

http://www.owwm.com/FAQ/JointerTune.asp

Oh, btw, that fingerboard doesnt look like ebony to me, it looks more like rosewood

Anyway, it looks like you have a great start to your project, so good luck!:smash:
 
forgot to add:

I've bought very high quality lumber from Paxton Lumber Co. http://www.paxtonwood.com for over 20 years now. They have several outlets and will ship too. Give them a call and see what they can do for you.

If you are interested in African mahogany, I have about 600 bd ft left over from a project from about 12 years ago. It's all 8/4 rough cut, most is over 12" wide, some 16 - 20" wide.