Monday, October 29, 2007

Shaping and Scraping

Ok... My camera is giving me shit so if you're just here for the pics, this is all you get:

So there you have it. That's the body of the cheapo guitar cut to shape and routed. I used pretty much the same method as I did on the baritone body. The only difference is this time I frakked up the glue joint between the two pieces of wood so the top of the thing wasn't quite level so before I started I put some eighty grit paper on my random orbital sander and whirred it across the top and back a few times. Worked like a charm. I used the same template as I used for the baritone body. I like it and just can't think of anything better.

First thing I did was trace the outline on the body and do a rough cut w/ my jigsaw. Last time I tried to use a smooth cutting blade and get as close as possible, which worked OK. This time, I just went ahead and used a fast cutting blade and stayed about a half inch outside of the line. If anything, this method left me w/ less wood to cut away during routing--and it must have saved me fifteen minutes or a half hour w/ the jigsaw. Of course, it could have just been the fact that I have greater and more substantial jigsaw skill now but I really do think this was the better method of doing the rough cut and will continue to use it in the future.

After that, it was a simple matter of routing. I set up my template follower to cut a sixteenth of an inch outside the line and am glad I did. There was a little bit of tear out but, unlike last time, I left some extra wood. Once I was done routing, I just took my trusty random orbital sander and sanded down to the line.

So far, I must say this is head and shoulders above the first one and I think I'm gonna buy a nicer neck than I originally planned. I like the kinda weird streaks on the cheapo alder I'm using and I think this one will be nice enough just to finish w/ a couple or five clear coats. I'm thinking I will get a tele-style neck w/ a maple fingerboard and it will look really simple and classy. Probably go w/ chrome hardware and chrome-covered humbuckers. The only weird thing is it's gonna have about six knobs because of the electronics I'm gonna cram in there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gluing Up a Blank

For some reason, I never seem to get around to working on my new project, the cheapo guitar. It is mostly laziness combined w/ the fact that I have a new band started up which takes a great deal of my time. Also, it's fall now so by the time I've relaxed for an hour after work, it's already getting dark and I'm not keen on using power tools w/o proper illumination. However, I did finally get around to gluing up the body blank, which is a relatively simple process.

First thing, the two pieces of alder I bought off the world's most famous auction website had roughly sawed edges that needed to be straightened to be jointed so I could glue them. Originally, I had planned on using a router table for this but, alas, the one I got off that same auction site is the right kind for my router--thought I had a great bargain on it too. Instead, I used a hand plane, which is a fun tool that makes fun, long shavings:

Having never used one of these bad boys in the past, I spent about twenty minutes fixing the mistakes during the first five minutes. Nevertheless, I managed to get it pretty well straight. I checked my progress continually throughout this process w/ a straight edge to make sure I was keeping it real.

Then I put a generous amount of wood glue on there. The brand I chose was Titebond but only because Elmer's (which should work just fine) seemed to commonplace for use in luthiery. Plus, I was pretty damn certain that I wanted it bonded tite-ly.

For some reason, I always think wood glue looks delicious, like a vanilla milkshake:

After I got the two pieces together, it was just a matter of clamping things up and wiping off the excess glue:

Unfortunately, I wiped too much excess glue off and actually manage to suck some out of the joint w/ a paper towel. Just a little but once it was dry, I squeezed some more glue in there to fill up the crack:

Now it is right as rain and feels completely sturdy, like it's a solid piece of wood. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the two pieces of wood completely even. That is something I'm going to be able to hopefully deal w/ this weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A New Engine for the Hollowbody

A while back I found a really cool Ibanez Artcore hollowbody guitar on clearance at my local guitar warehouse of super proportions. It only cost two hundred bucks so I bought it on the spot and have regretted the descision exactly never. It is a fine looking, great playing and decent sounding guitar. The only problem was the stock pickups were about as flat as your back. Of course, I will not let such things stand in my house so I set about changing them. Ultimately, I chose to use some GFS Retrotrons I had laying about. I originally had them in the SGeezus but found them a bit to chimey for the inherantly dark sound of that guitar but they seemed a perfect fit for the hollowbody. At the very least, I figured, they wouldn't be so dull sounding. I also wanted to try out a super fancy RS Guitarworks wiring harness so I figured I'd give that a go too. Let me tell you, replacing the pickups in a hollowbody is as harrowing an adventure as you could imagine.

First, I took the thing apart:
And already my first surprise! The bridge isn't attached to the body in anyway aside from the pressure from the strings. OK. I guess I will just have to put it back on. These are the original electronics:

As you can see, the pickup selecter switch is weird and cheap looking and the pots are teeny tiny. They weren't problematical but I felt there was a very high chance of failure. I will give Ibanez this: they were at least the correct values. A lot of times in cheap guitars they'll just use whatever's cheap. No 100K volume pots here.

The next step was wiring up the harness. I had a bit of frustration w/ this and didn't end up taking any pictures. Sorry. It turns out my trouble was the tip of my soldering iron was just old so I replaced it. No big deal. It also helped to use a little extra flux. I got some that was safe for electronics work in a little tin from a giant electronics chain.

Next was the hard part: getting the harness in there. Lord. This experience was so harrowing I don't even want to think about it. You gotta work through the pickup slots and the F-holes the whole time. I have big lardo mega fingers so this was not easy. You pull the pots and other components through w/ string (I used thread, doubled up) and it is even more difficult than you'd expect. The whole thing was a mess:

Eventually, I got 'em in though and it was honestly thrilling to finally be done w/ it. It took me over a week whereas it takes me maybe two hours to wire up a regular electric guitar. I must say the new pickups are really sharp:

As mentioned, they are GFS Retrotrons. Specifically, the bridge is a Hot Liverpool and the neck is a regular Liverpool. They are modeled after the old FilterTron pickups like you might see in a Gretsch. It's at least a distinctive look where people can tell it's customized right away. The sound of them is exactly as hoped--very clear, bright but still smooth. It's brought new life to the guitar. The RS Guitarworks harness works well too. The volume knobs especially are much more usefull. The guitar doesn't get all kinds of dull sounding when you turn them down.

And here she is in her entirety, not bad for $200 and some pickups I had lying around: