Sunday, April 22, 2018

Headless Kit Build: Pickup Problems

Last weekend it was finally time to wire up the electronics for this thing and give it a try. Unfortunately in the first few minutes this happened.
From what I could tell, the ends of the coils were never really attached to the wire at all. I tried for a few minutes to see if I could find the end of the wind of the pickup to re-attach, but decided that for this pickup, it probably isn't worth the effort. I've put in an order for a cheap, but not as cheap pair of rails for the neck and middle position until I spot something better used.

Luckily there was still a little more work to do. I had to drill a hole to connect the grounding wire to the bridge. This kit, like many kits, left that out.
And I drilled holes for a pickup ring at the bridge.
Unfortunately while the pickup ring is standard size for a humbucker, the actual pickup that shipped with the kit does not fit into the bridge route! I didn't plan on doing more than testing with it anyway. But still, you don't expect the pickup that ships with the kit to not fit at all.
I have a Duncan Alternative 8 bridge that I'm excited to dry out so I went to make sure it fits in the bridge. And that's when I discovered yet another problem: the bridge pickup route is too shallow for the pickup mounting screws and springs! Luckily a creative solution here was just to drill a few mm deep under the screws with a large bit with allows the pickup to to be installed.
For now I'm going to wait for the new pickups to come in and work on some other projects.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Using Aniline Dye and Tru Oil to Liven Up an Uninteresting Cheap Neck

This is an older project I never got around to posting.

About a year ago I got a great eBay deal on a cheap telecaster with a flamed maple top, ash body and a maple fretboard. It is a budget guitar from kit quality parts and at the time I thought it would be a great project base. Unfortunately while the body is finished nicely, the neck and the actual fitting of the neck to the body were a disaster. The frets were way off the edge of the guitar, the neck needed some serious shimming and the finish was so thin on the neck and fingerboard that after a few minutes of playing, oil from the strings had stained the wood.
The frets needed a full leveling, beveling and crowning. They were like a mountain range out of the box. Given the wood needed to be refinished anyway one of the nice things was that I could go right at the frets with the tools without doing anything to actually protect the fretboard.
Then after sanding the fretboard until it was back to plain white maple, I took a bit of of the brown, yellow and black dye powders from a Keda five dye kit and applied it. The first coat wasn't very impressive.
But I sanded and repeated three more times. After a few coats what was a very uninteresting bright white maple neck actually started to show some figuring. Especially on the fretboard itself.
After 4 rounds, I started to carefully apply Tru Oil which really made the dyed figure of the maple fretboard pop out from the field of the wood.
This whole process only took a handful of time per day for about a week and a half to go from one of those $20 range cheap telecaster necks to something that is both playable and actually looks quite fancy.
Two things didn't go perfectly. First, I sanded enough material off between the frets that in a few places, especially given the frets weren't seated well to begin with, you can definitely see a little gap between the crown, exposing the tang when you look at an angle. Also it's very difficult to apply Tru Oil to a board with frets on it without making a mess. I'd go slower if I were doing this again and consider thinning it out more as I left some white lines near the frets themselves that are visible only when looking closely.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Headless Kit Build: Locking Nut Adjustments and Mirror Glaze

We're finally close to the finish line with this one. This next picture shows a tip that applies to any of these low end headless kits.
The Steinberger style system relies on a zero fret that acts in the capacity a nut normally would. The locking nut holds the string at a slight angle against this fret. The problem with these kit necks out of the box is that the nut sits a little too far forward to make enough of an angle to keep the strings tense against the fret. I use a sanding drum to take off about a 1mm of wood right above the fretboard and then a grinding wheel to smooth things out.
After making the nut adjustments I used some disposable polishing wheels and Meguiar's Mirror Glaze finishing polish to finish things off on the body and neck. Overall I really didn't do an excellent job prepping the wood on this guitar so I probably could have gone with a more coarse polishing compound first but still it doesn't look terrible.
And there's one of just the body.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Headless Kit Build: The Final Coat

It has been a while since the last update. Many coffee filters have been used. There was a pretty big hiccup along the way.
I managed to over sand the left horn to the point where I went through the sealer, pulled up some dye and messed up the color pretty bad. All things are fixable. They just take time. This mistake along with being pretty much otherwise stretched for time lately added about two weeks to the build.

This was the first take at re-applying dye. The hard part at this point is that sealer and oil have already soaked into the grain.
So while it started to come back together in the picture above, it actually took two cycles of this, the second being far more angry with a lower grit, to start to get close to the picture below.
And finally, if you're not looking for the spot (which is now lighter than it was) it finally fits in with the overall randomness of the colors on the rest of the body.
Here's a shot that includes the back of the maple neck which is already looking pretty good with many slow coats. The body has a lot more surface to cover so as I'm working toward the last coats, I apply a few drops of oil to a filter, then to the body. Then with the filter at the end, I apply whatever is left on the filter. Meaning the neck gets a far more generous number of coats each with far less oil.
I'll let this dry until the end of the week and then over the weekend move on to buffing out the finish on the body, doing the fretwork, installing electronics and hardware and hopefully I'll have something playable by sometime next week!

For Sale: Seymour Duncan Sentient 8

Update: this pickup sold! This articulate neck humbucker sounds great in darker, warmer instruments (ex: mahogany body with a rosewood fre...