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Sep 27, 2004

I play a bit of bass and sometimes fool around with an acoustic guitar. I was cleaning out the spare room (which was starting to look like something out of Hoarders) and right at the back of a cupboard I found my old electric guitar that I haven't played in more than a decade. It's a horrible bright yellow colour. I thought about re-finishing it, but once I was looking at how-tos and vidoes on that, I stumbled across some stuff about building a guitar from a kit and thought "I want to try that".

So I'm trying that. My last real experience with woodwork was in high school 20+ years ago, and I got to do maybe a whole semester of that because my high school sucked at scheduling and kept putting me in "home ec" class instead. Anyway, I sucked at woodwork. But I decided to jump right into this anyway.

I bought a complete "telecaster" kit - that is, the box contains everything needed to build the guitar, except the paint/stain/whatever. The website of the seller has a forum full of helpful people, and it looked like people with my skill level were successfully making instruments.

Spent about $150 on the kit and another ~$100 on tools, stain, sandpaper, etc. I'm in Australia, so everything's gonna look more expensive than it would in the USA.

I'm probably about half way through the process, but I thought it'd be interesting for people to watch me screw everything up as I go. Hopefully I'll also get advice while I'm at it!

Unboxing and test-fitting:

After checking everything was present (yes!), my plan was to assemble and make sure it played (without electronics), make sure the neck wasn't warped, etc. It went pretty smoothly, but took forever and I had to go buy the right sized drill bits etc.

Lining up the neck and bridge was nerve-wracking, and drilling the holes even more so, but I got it right! The guitar makes sounds, the neck isn't twisted or mis-aligned, the bridge is placed correctly, and we're all good to disassemble and start the next part.

...wait, poo poo, I forgot to check the string height!

That's... a little high. The bridge saddles are all the way down too.

That could be a problem. I asked for advice at this point, and what I'm going to need to do is make a shim to fit inside the neck pocket (where the neck fits into the guitar body), to bend the neck backwards a little and bring the strings closer to the fretboard. I'm going to wait until the final assembly to do this, so no pics yet.

After that, I disassembled everything and started sanding. And sanding. And sanding. There's not much to look at during this part of the process, and it took forever since I was doing it by hand. Started at 180 grit. Sanded. Moved up. Sanded. Read about sanding. You get it - I sanded a lot. My arms and fingers hurt. It looked pretty much like this the whole time:

While I was sanding, I was also thinking about what the head of the guitar should look like. I'm not a particular fan of the Telecaster's headstock, and I didn't want to just template an existing design onto it (this is my guitar!), so I downloaded some templates and drew on them until I found something a) simple b) ok-looking and c) if not exactly original, then at least not completely standard.

I don't have a working jigsaw, so I ended up cutting it out with a coping saw, then filing to shape, then sanding. I practiced on pieces of scrap pine until I was confident I wouldn't ruin everything, then cut and filed.

Then sanded and bevelled the edges slightly, but I managed to forget to take a photo of that - I took it right back the the pencil lines visible in the previous image.

Next (again, no pictures), I removed the glue marks that were present around some of the edges by rubbing them hard with some stuff called Goof Off. Repeated the process 3 times, and they seemed to disappear nicely. Or so I thought. I managed to miss one major place and pssibly two more, which has buggered up the stain coat a little bit. I'm sure it's salvageable.

So after much sanding and prep work, I was ready to stain. I used some stuff sold by the site I bought the kit from. It's supposed to be "natural", and it does indeed smell like citrus instead of harsh chemicals. Not sure if it's the best bet, but the pictures I've seen of guitars that have it on look pretty nice, so I thought I'd give it a try. Spent a while masking off the binding (white strips around the edges), and then stained. It came out... OK. I love the colour.


I don't know what these spots are, I don't think they're glue marks and they're not very visible in real life, but... drat! Sure they're fixable, but waiting on advice.

MIssed a glue spot, the stain didn't stick to it at all. I guess I can get it off and then re-stain the area, but soooo frustrating.

And finally, I was dumb enough to start doing this over newspaper, and some of the news ink rubbed off onto the finish. Not sure what I'm going to do about this other than leave it there to remind myself to think things through.

...and that's where I'm at! More sanding to do on the neck, fixing those problems on the body, many more finish coats, fret levelling, etc all to come once I get to them!


Sep 27, 2004

You don't need to go anywhere to learn this and also you don't need to have any skills. This is literally my first ever attempt at anything even vaguely like this. I was clueless enough that I literally watched youtube videos and read through tutorials for every tiny step. Even to learn the right way to sand. The only power tool involved was a drill/driver. I did all the work at the kitchen table and on an old coffee table on the porch.

OK so I kinda forgot I started this thread because I was keeping a build diary on another site and... yeah. Since I last posted I've finished 3 different kits. so here's what happened with the telecaster (probably in order or close to it).

I waited a long time after the previous step, scraped the binding clear of excess stain,

and started to apply the final coats. It looked like this:

I figured it'd kinda even out with a light rub of steel wool in between coats. That turned out to be a bad idea because the steel wool left little bits and pieces in the finish. Waited for it to dry... sanded it back a little... tried again, this time with a light wet/dry sand at 1600 grit in between coats. Worked much better.

After doing this 3-4 times waiting a week in between, the final product looked... ok.

Bumps everywhere. Figured it might polish out, waited 6 or 7 weeks and... the top coats just wouldn't cure, had picked up dust, and just generally looked like poo poo. By this point I was also building a bass and a les paul, so I forgot to take photos of the next steps, which were: Sand the top coat back. Apply Tru Oil (actually a varnish), sanding every 2-4 coats, and going up to 20 coats.

In the mean time, I finished the neck with the original stuff I ordered, which dried nice and hard, sanded back smooth, and just generally feels awesome:

Printed a headstock decal onto waterslide paper I bought on ebay. tested out 5 or 6 times on a test piece before I got the process right. Applied coat after coat of tru oil over the decal until the edges more or less disappeared. (You can see that it's a transfer in the right light, but not on a casual look)

The process of tru-oil and sand and tru-oil and sand over the body and headstock took several weeks.

I forgot to take pictures, but I ordered a bone nut "blank" (ie, a strip of bone), and filed it to shape to replace the plastic one I managed to mangle.

I ended up with a far from perfect finish, but not too bad for a first time. Then it was time to assemble.

...and finally, here it is next to the j-bass I also built from a kit and converted to fretless.

I might go into some detail about the conversion process soon.

e: bonus photo of my most recent build:

The mrs bought me a dremel for christmas, so the next one is gonna have inlays. Which I have absolutely no idea how to do, but learning is fun!

Elector_Nerdlingen fucked around with this message at 09:58 on Dec 26, 2016

Sep 27, 2004

Mephiston posted:

Funny to see not only another guitar builder around, but someone who also bought a pitbull guitar kit.

Got a question for you AlphaDog, how did you find the kit quality?

I ask because mine was really poorly bookmatched (SG-1L kit), with 1/4 of the body being a solid chunk of flame maple, and the rest is basswood, less than fantastic routing and a few other niggles, and I was wondering if it was an overall thing, or just the fact that I doubt they get a lot of left handed kit requests, and had mine sitting around forever.

I've found that Tru-oil's a pain in the rear end if you're not careful with dust and debris from between-coat sanding. My guitar wound up looking like a donut with one gust of wind.

Also, was your LP a set-neck or bolt on? If it was set-neck, what did you use to glue it in?

All in all. lookin great, dude.

Quality on the 3 kits I've built has been OK to fantastic. The routing on the tele bridge pickup was tight and it looked like it was gonna be a problem, but in the end it all fit. The only other quality issues I've really had were with the plastic bits. The pickguards on the j-bass and tele were average at best, and the pickguard (I left off) and cavity covers on the LP were total poo poo.

The other stuff I've noticed, I would guess is more or less unavoidable in a kit. Glue spots on/in the wood is a big one, but you can fix those pretty easily. Just grab some Goof Off or similar stripping product and use it carefully. The basswood body / veneer top thing is in the specs. Some kits are available in ash, alder, and mahogany, and you can custom order any kit in any wood, but I understand it gets pricey. Can't speak about poor bookmatching, my tele and LP aren't exactly matched but they look OK, and the j-bass is solid ash which in my opinion looks great but holy poo poo I would not do it again this thing is so goddamn heavy.

Tru-oil's a bitch. The Dingotone top coat they sell was worse. I can't see how to avoid the dust problem without buying a tent or something to finish things in. Or getting an airbrush and spray booth which I might just do one of these days.

LP's a set neck because I wanted to try it. It was terrifying, but the neck angle and action ended up working real well. I bought a tiny pot of glue from pitbull, used about a quarter of it and still got a fair bit of it squeezing out onto my laboriously tru-oiled finish. I understand you can use pretty much any "proper" wood glue. Ask at carba-tec or a similar place and they'll definitely know which ones would and wouldn't work. Unless I do a semi-hollow (and theose look real daunting), I think I'm gonna stick with bolt-ons.

Oh, and it turns out I don't really like Les Pauls. Like, it doesn't feel great to hold or play. I thought I'd hosed it up, but I went guitar shopping and played a couple of $2000+ LPs and they felt similar. I'm primarily bassist and my guitars have always been acoustics or strat-ish ones until I started building, and LPs don't feel right.

Can't seem to find the time to get a new one started at the moment, but I either want to do a thinline humbucker tele in surf green -ish stain, or a bright red p-bass so I can have p-basses in different tunings.

Sep 27, 2004

Don't get me wrong on the Dingotone - I really liked the way the red came up on the telecaster, and the neck finish worked perfectly. It was the third step of the body - the clear topcoat - that I couldn't get to work.

Cool that you got inks to work well though. The colour on that LP is the third colour I tried. The first two were an inked red/yellow burst and then a plain red with ink. I couldn't get anywhere near the depth/pop I got with the Dingotone, so I gave up, stripped it back (again), and used the blackest wood stain I had in the cupboard trying to get a trans black effect and somehow wound up with that lovely deep brown instead.

Never played a 5 string, would like to try. I'd never played a fretless either until I did that j kit. They didn't offer a fretless neck I liked at the time, so I converted the regular neck myself and it was a bitch but I learned heaps and it's a glass-like finish on the fretboard so I feel like I did pretty well.

After my first attempt at a finish coat, rough enough to cut your fingers if you zipped them along it:

After many weeks of experimenting and very very careful sanding, all dry and finished and ready to be attached:

The entire final product:

I should mention that for whatever reason it was an absolute motherfucker to get set up so that it didn't buzz. I don't fault the kit for that, more that I didn't know what I was doing setting up a fretless instrument. Only alterations to the stock kit were the neck (as pictured) and I filed and shaped my own graphite nut because the plastic ones in the kits are poo poo but not shitter than any other plastic nut. Thing's strung with Sadowsky flatwounds now, and it goes mwuh to my complete satisfaction.

I think I'd go with another 4 string over a 5 string, but set it up for B -E -A -D and get my doom on.

Elector_Nerdlingen fucked around with this message at 13:10 on Apr 3, 2017

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