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The Guitar




Make a guitar for under 200

25 killer Strat & Les Paul mods

9 772054 356006
9 772054 356006

Acoustic upgrades & wiring advice

Pickup winding and much more...
The Guitar DIY

B U I L D | F I X | I M P R OV E
Bible 2015

2015 Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender and the distinctive headstock designs
commonly found on Fender guitars are registered trademarks of FMIC. All rights reserved.

2015 Fender American Standard Ad Group RGT UK 210x297mm [3mbld].indd 1 06/03/2015 11:17
Anthem Publishing
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Editor Chris Vinnicombe

Can you fix it?
Creative Director Jenny Cook
Production Editor Gary Walker

Yes you can
Digital Editor Andy Price
Digital Assistant Tom Turner
Ill be the first to admit that my early
Art Editor Kai Wood
experiments in guitar maintenance were less
Contributors Huw Price, Dave Walsh,
than successful. For a start, my 11-year-old self
Dave Peterson, Dave King, Steve Bailey
thought that the bridge saddles on my Squier
Cover photography Eleanor Jane
Strat looked far better when adjusted so that
Publisher Simon Lewis
they sat in a perfectly straight line goodbye
intonation! Then there was the matter of the
upper-fret choking that I thought Id be able to
Senior Sales Executive Gemma Bown
solve with a claw hammer the less said about
Tel +44 (0) 7788 266847 that the better. Happily, Im not quite as inept
Ad Production Craig Broadbridge these days, thanks in no small part to the wealth of knowledge that fellow guitar journalists have been willing to share over the years, both anecdotally
ANTHEM PUBLISHING and in the pages of G&B.
Managing Director Jon Bickley If youre not afraid to wield a soldering iron or other basic tools, then theres plenty of potential, not just to simply maintain your instrument but
Editorial Director Paul Pettengale to improve it, too. Across the following pages, we present an extensive guide to doing-it-yourself thatll help keep your prized instruments and amps
Marketing Executive Verity Travers ship-shape, and we even show you how to build new toys from scratch. As always, proceed with caution and stay safe, but most importantly have fun!
PRINT & PRODUCTION If you attempt any of these projects wed love to see the results so please do
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In this issue...

6 Build Your
Own Guitar
Follow in the footsteps
of Brian May and create
your own electric for
just 200

Build Your Own Guitar.............................................. 6
With a budget of just 200 we show you how
to build your own Red Special

Damage Control ........................................................... 16

Sometimes an expensive fix just doesnt add up.
We help assess if your guitar is worth mending

Learn electronics ........................................................ 18

Before you visit a professional read our guide
to troubleshooting electric guitar wiring

Tools Of The Trade..................................................... 22

A comprehensive outline of the basic tools
required to work on electric guitars and basses

Solder Your Soul .......................................................... 24

Pledge allegiance to the four rules of soldering

28 Les 25 Ways To Upgrade Your Les Paul ............... 28

From zero-cost mods to vintage makeovers,
Pauls Mods the best ways to improve your Lester

25 GREAT WAYS TO MAKE YOUR The best Strat modifications ............................ 36

How to make your Fender Strat play and
DREAM GUITAR EVEN BETTER sound better than ever before



34 Strat Upgrades FEATURES

WE SHOW YOU HOW YOUR BELOVED Keep Your Fretboard Clean ............................... 44
STRATOCASTER CAN SOUND Are you suffering from gunk? We lift the lid on the world
of fingerboard hygiene
Refinishing ..................................................................... 46
An Ibanez RG gets a brand new highly figured
maple top. We show you how its done

Build A Lap Steel .........................................................50

The perfect project for a budding
luthier who loves a bit of twang

Actions Stations ..........................................................54

Adjusting a guitars action is a matter of
balancing several interacting factors

Necks In Line .................................................................. 58

We focus on the finer details of neck design

Strat Tremolo Setup Tips ..................................... 61

Setting your Stratocaster vibrato so it can take a
hammering is a tricky business

Project Superstrat.....................................................68
We take a budget 50s reissue Strat and convert
it into a fire-breathing rock machine

Headstock Break Repair ....................................... 72

It looks terminal but it can be fixed. We show
how to heal a guitar thats lost its head

Inlay workshop............................................................. 75
Insider tips on how to shape some showy shell

Rolling Your Own Pickups ................................... 78

The complete guide to homemade alnico heaven

Pro Tools............................................................................ 82
We look at a some specialist gizmos that
could take your luthiery to new levels

Boost Your Spruce .....................................................86

With a little knowledge and the use of a few
tools a cheap acoustic can to made to shine

Resonator Revival..................................................... 90
A National steel is brought back to its best

Acoustic neck reset.................................................. 94

A Gibson J-45 benefist from a neck reset and
some careful attention to the dovetail joint

Acoustic Rescue Plan .............................................. 97

An bargain ebay purchase with common
issues is saved from the tip

Uke Box Jury.................................................................102

If youre looking to build your first instrument
a ukulele kit is an ideal place to start

SPRUCE LAP STEEL Classical Renovation ............................................ 106

An old nylon strung classical is transformed

Amp Check Workshop ........................................... 110

What to do when your amplifier fails

Cone Improvements ............................................... 114

How to fix up a blown or none original Speaker cone

Mic Preamp Project ................................................ 118

How to convert the Shure M67 four channel
mixer into a classic sounding mic preamp

Mod Your Mic ............................................................... 122

A 150 condenser micis upgraded to a level
equivalent of an upmarket 1000 valve mic

Headphone Amp ........................................................126
DIY analogue tone in your pocket

Coda ....................................................................................130
Brian Mays Red Special GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 5

Main photo: Mike Prior Insert: Brian May by Chris Walter/WireImage/Getty images



Can you travel the same guitar-building road as Brian May
with a budget of under 200? DAVE WALSH accepts the challenge,
and shows us how its done

rian May and his father to build it in under a month from workshop, we decided, would be
Harold built the iconic Red start to finish..... banned: no pin routing, CNC or
Special 50 years ago using Clearly, building an exact complex finishing techniques or
whatever they could lay their replica just wasnt practical due to materials would be used just a
hands on for an estimated the complex nature of the build few power tools and a selection of
total of 10 guineas. To celebrate this and also the expense of such an hand tools. A bandsaw was used
anniversary, we thought it would undertaking. So we decided to briefly, but most of the cuts could
interesting to build our own version approach it from a different angle: be performed with a common or
of the guitar not an exact copy, what could be built for a miniscule garden DIY jigsaw or, if patience
but an instrument that you can budget that retained the most allowed, a hand saw and coping
modify to your own tastes using important elements but was simple saw. We did include a handheld
these techniques in the spirit of one enough to attempt at home? router, but its just a basic model
of the most celebrated handmade Most of the tools available that many people will hopefully
guitars ever built. We also decided to a modern guitar-building have easy access to. > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 7

PROJECT Guitar building

1 2 3

4 5 6

1 The basis for our build Construction Choices Some other tough decisions were very scarce so I researched it as
is a handmade tribute dating The original Red Special is a semi- made early on, such as the choice much as was possible, and had
from the mid-1990s
solid electric guitar using a chunky not to fabricate or incorporate a to guess the rest. Digging out my
2 Drawing the outline of one-piece mahogany neck bolted vibrato of any sort. The original RS replica, I decided that the outline
the body into a lightweight body formed uses an ingenious handmade unit was close enough to use as a basis
3 Cutting the outline with from a solid oak centre section that rocks on a knife-edge buried for the body.
a jigsaw and hollowed wings made from beneath the guitar top and a roller The mahogany neck would use
4 Perfect mirror images of blockboard, with the joins disguised bridge that was years ahead of its an elongated heel join set deep into
front and back by veneers. The unusual 24" scale time. Yes, we could use a budget the body. A pre-squared quarter-
5 Neck will be set into these length, neck woods and tone Strat fulcrum vibrato, but it looks sawn mahogany neck blank, bought
maple centre blocks chambers will be vital to creating totally wrong and will probably online, was good quality and
6 Beginning to glue a similar acoustic voice, so were sound wrong too. A cheap vibrato excellent value. The dimensions
together the layers of 12mm staying close with a few budgetary is also a pain to keep in tune, so a 750mm long, 70mm wide, 25mm
and 18mm MDF to make the
modifications. A mahogany neck hardtail bridge will be used. I toyed deep were almost spot-on for our
middle sandwich
is essential to capture the warmth with the idea of a Tele bridge or neck. It would leave enough length
of tone associated with the RS, but even a one-piece wrapover unit but for the pointed headstock and heel
the complex body would need to be ultimately a good old tune-o-matic to be carved from one piece. I also
slightly different. Blockboard was a and stop tailpiece won the day. A sourced an oak fingerboard blank
common material back in the day; perfectly usable pair can be bought that was already slotted for 24 frets
well be using MDF for the wing for 20 and offer solid string with the correct 24" scale length.
sections of the body because its anchoring and tone. We could have made one but I felt
cheap, available and in many ways The body outline we used is close that it may be too tricky to try at
is the blockboard of today. It doesnt to the original, if not exact. I made home without some of the specialist
have great tensile strength but it a replica in the mid-90s before any tools commonly used for the job,
doesnt matter as the MDF doesnt plans or templates were available and I also selected a dual action
take any of the string tension. online; reliable information was truss rod for ease of fitting.

7 8

7 Fitting the maple sections

8 Marking out the cavities


Guitar building PROJECT

9 10 11

12 13 14

Beginning The Body plywood gave us a total thickness of safety and file and sand up to the 9 Sawing cavities
Real guitar making usually begins 38mm thick enough for the body. line for a snug fit. Glue it all together 10 The completed centre slab
with carefully making an extensive Once dry these were also cut and using Titebond on a flat board for
11 Our blank is nice and
set of templates. We didnt have trimmed to rough shape. Tip: have support and to keep it level.
square. First, the trussrod
time for that as its too long-winded a nose around the timber cutting Once dry we mark out and cut
12 Routing out the
and not really necessary to achieve a section of your local DIY store as out the acoustic chambers. Were
trussrod channel
decent one-off result. After a quick they usually have a bin of off-cuts going for an approximation which
nose around, a couple of small going cheap, and theyll be big has two large sections removed 13 The Allen key channel
needs a 9.5mm router bit
sheets of 4mm thick plywood were enough for a guitar body. (Note: I down each side of the central spine
discovered that had once been a did cheat and use a small bandsaw and a smaller one behind the bridge 14 Gluing the fingerboard

protective layer on a shipment of for some of this work, but a jigsaw where the vibrato lives on the with locating pins

goods. A quick inspection showed works just as well. Dont forget to original. Again we mark and drill
that they had a pleasant reddish wear a mask when working with the corners and then use a jigsaw
quality on the top layer and were MDF as its a carcinogenic.) to remove the waste. It looks a little
thick and strong enough to act as a The original RS body crude at this stage but some elbow
top and back for a semi-solid guitar. incorporates a piece of rock-hard grease with files and sandpaper
Laying my own replica on top of oak table as the central spine that soon clean up the cuts a bobbin
the sheets I traced the outline and the neck and wings attach too. I sander would have been useful, but
cut the shape one for the top and didnt have any oak but I did have the chambers arent visible once
one for the back then temporarily an offcut from a maple neck blank. the top and back are glued on. >
joined the two pieces using small I decided to cut a section off and
pieces of double-sided tape which glue it together to form a narrower
allow the edges to be sanded flush, section to accept the eventual neck

leaving some extra material at the pocket; the wider end piece would
neck join area for tweaking later. give a solid section to anchor the
Once separated again, we end up bridge and tailpiece. The Red Special is nothing short
with two perfectly matched mirror Using the centre lines that we of a work of genius. Built by
image pieces that could now be drew earlier meant that lining up Brian and his dad Harold in
used not only as a template for the the correct position for the inserts 1963-64, the guitar is now 50
years old and is being
centre of the body sandwich but was easy. Use the fingerboard blank celebrated in a new book
would eventually form the actual and a long steel ruler to roughly published by Carlton Books,
top and back. This is the time to mark where the bridge will go (24" Brian Mays Red Special: The
measure and draw the centre lines from the centre of the zero fret Story Of The Homemade Guitar
That Rocked Queen And The
as theyll be used later for lining up in this instance) and position the
World. Its a fascinating insight
the rest of the body. maple blocks, then draw accurately into how the guitar was made,
Some MDF offcuts fell into our around them. Now you just need featuring never-before-seen
hands a 12mm and an 18mm to remove the unwanted MDF and images of the dismantled
piece that when glued together glue in the inserts. Start by marking instrument and X-ray shots of
the famous acoustic
with the plywood back and sides and drilling the corners out and chambers. A must-have for
would form a slab. Adding in the then using the jigsaw trim out the fans of the Red Special.
additional 8mm thickness from the excess. Cut just inside the line for Out now: 19.99 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 9

PROJECT Guitar building

15 16 17

15 Shaping the headstock Once were happy that its clean, Our neck blank was already Next we measure and mark out
16 Trimming down the neck
smooth and level, we go ahead and accurately cut and square on all the neck width in this instance
blank. A regular saw and a attach the back piece of plywood. sides; this was the main reason for 47mm at the nut and 55mm at the
plane will do the job Spool clamps are useful but at a buying in a pre-shaped blank, and 24th fret, which is unlike any other
17 Marking the tuner holes push a level surface and a few heavy its a must if youre going to rout for production neck. If you would
books or even bricks will do the a truss rod channel as you wouldnt prefer a more regular feel, mark
job. I used contact adhesive here necessarily have access to the out a 42mm nut and 56mm at the
as it allows for an instant and very machines needed to true it up. A 24th fret. With these two widths
sturdy bond. decent plane, some patience, a steel measured and double-checked, you
straight edge and a square will do can draw straight lines between
Starting The Neck the trick, unless you decide to use a them to give the neck shape.
While the body dries we can begin real fireplace... Continue the lines to the end of the
building the neck. We used the Again using the simplest method blank for the elongated heel and
simplest method, which is a mix available, we chose a dual-action rod then trim the blank down. A regular
of Fender style necks, with the that sits in a flat channel 6mm wide saw and a plane will do this job but
elongated heel mentioned earlier. by 10mm deep. Clamping the blank ensure that the sides are straight
The original uses a huge chunk to the bench and fitting the guide to and square, or the neck will never
of mahogany harvested from the router, we positioned the rod in feel right.
a fireplace with a separate oak the correct spot, exactly centre and Using the truss rod channel
fingerboard and a neatly carved leaving enough length either end and existing centre lines, lay the
angled headstock, but were going for the heel and headstock. Set the fingerboard over the neck and
to ditch the angled headstock and router guide for the centre of the mark it out on the back. You can
use the simpler Fender method of blank and rout the slot; spending a now trim the board and prep it for
a flat un-angled headstock, all cut few extra minutes to line everything gluing by sanding the back flush.
from the same blank. up accurately will allow you to not With the board in place we drill
Our 25mm deep blank is long only rout it out in two or three four pin holes, two through the
enough to incorporate the heel and passes but also use the clamps that first fret slot and two through the
headstock in one go, but it was just hold the blank level to the bench 20th fret. This allows us to clamp
too narrow at the headstock for the as stops for the router, ensuring the board on once glued without
full width of the triangular section. a perfectly-cut truss rod slot. With the danger of it slipping or moving.
Once the neck width was drawn out the guide still attached we swap Without these pins, your perfectly
to 55mm at the heel it left 15mm to a 9.5mm router bit and enlarge aligned pieces will slip and slide all
spare which I carefully trimmed off the opening for the nut access so over the place.
and attached to the headstock area we can slide an Allen key in easily. Remove the board with the pins
as small wings taken from the heel Well remove most of the channel in place and insert the truss rod
end to widen it enough to create the access in shaping the headstock with the flat bar section facing
distinctive pointed shape. later, but it needs to be there. upwards. If the routing went to

18 19

18 Rough-shaping the inch-

deep neck with a rasp
19 Neck pocket is routed for
correct neck angle


Guitar building PROJECT

20 21 22

23 24 25

plan then it should fit snugly and youre using a handsaw leave some is similarly chunky with an inch- 20 Now the neck tenon can
sit a couple of thou (or a fraction of room for filing and sanding down thick profile from first to last fret. be sanded flush
a millimetre) below the neck. Cut to the correct depth. Mark out and We used files, rasps and finally 21 Drilling the tuner holes
and stick a thin layer of masking cut the headstock shape. Ive used sandpaper to carve the neck, and it to 10mm
tape over the channel to prevent an approximation of the original didnt take very long, as its so huge! 22 Colouring the neck with
glue from running into the rod and shape, but you could use whatever If you decide to use a shallower mahogany stain
locking it solid. Apply the glue to works best for you. profile then always be aware of the 23 The fingerboard will be
the neck we used Titebond as its Now is a good time to radius depth of the truss rod, as this alone sprayed or dyed black
an excellent fingerboard glue that the fingerboard. Were going for dictates how much wood can be
24 Routing out the large
dries reasonably quickly and clear. a bend-friendly 12" radius rather removed from the back section of control cavity
We havent shaped or radiused the than the vintage Fender 7.25" on your neck blank.
25 Some work still to do, but
fingerboard or neck yet, so theres the original. A radius block is very were ready for stain
no need to be too precious with useful here, and we certainly used The Neck Pocket
your clamping; just get as many one. Take your time and start with Once happy with the neck profile,
on there to hold the whole thing an aggressive 180-grade paper and we line it up on the body. For an
flat while the glue sets. Place the work the radius in evenly up and RS we want the neck/body join to
board on the neck, locate the pin down the entire length of the board, be approximately at the 20th fret to
holes, tap the pins gently in with checking regularly with a radius bring the bridge position into the
a hammer to locate it, and then gauge and straight edge, and finish right place. Measure and redraw the
clamp the whole thing down. with 320 paper. centre lines on the body and line up
Once the glue has set we can Now we can roughly shape the the neck heel. Once satisfied that
trim down the fingerboard flush to neck and ensure that the taper and its central and located correctly,
the neck and then cut the headstock sides are straight. The original draw around the heel. This outline
section down to 15mm. We used RS boasts a neck profile of truly gives us our neck pocket. We
the bandsaw for this cut, but if mammoth proportions, and ours need to rout this out, so we use >

26 27

26 Applying the Rustins

Plastic Coating
27 Pin-striping the edges GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 11

PROJECT Guitar Building

28 29 30

28 Polishing the body a quick template by lining up two chisel this neck pocket it will just dont have to stick slavishly to the
29 A light sanding levels the straight-edged pieces of MDF take longer and more patience. original design.
dots. Now for frets offcut along the sides, and measure We now rout the neck pocket at an
30 Pre-bent frets ready for and cut a piece for the rear of the angle using the same template as Finishing Tips
installation template. Double-sided tape is once before with some simple wooden The original RS painted in many
again used to secure the template, shims to lift one end and create layers of Rustins Plastic Coating,
and then we gradually rout down a downward angle. Dont worry a two-pack high-build lacquer
to 15mm depth. The neck drops too much if the angle isnt exact traditionally applied with a brush.
in tightly so we can remove the first time be patient, and slowly We decided to use the same product
temporary template. We leave rout the correct depth. Youll have its a great way of achieving a
enough height to set an angle in the a small elevated piece of the heel high gloss result at home but we
neck later, but now we can glue the showing at the end which can be plan to cheat a little by spraying it
top section of plywood to complete either routed flush or removed with on. Once the neck and body were
the body. Once dry, we use a flush- a plane and files. prepped using fine paper down to
cut router bit to reveal the neck Once happy with the neck angle 500 grade to leave a little key for the
pocket through the plywood top. we can trim the excess mahogany lacquer, we stained the neck and
We now need to set the neck elevation that protrudes above the body using mahogany wood stain.
angle. Rather than cut it into the top. Once again use a router with The famous red of the original is
heel of the neck itself, we rout the a temporary template, or a small really more of a woody orange/
neck pocket to an angle. There is plane and files will do the job. brown in the flesh, and once
no set angle here its determined Finish trimming the body edges so lacquered this stain takes on just
entirely by the bridge that you the sides are all straight, and correct the right hue. Next we mask off and
choose to use. A Fender bridge or finish the cutaway blends into darken the oak fingerboard using
requires very little angle; a wrapover the heel/neck joint area. nothing more than a black aerosol.
requires a reasonably steep pitch. Next we finish off shaping the The whole thing will be lacquered
Were using a tune-o-matic, so we headstock, drill the tuner holes to in plastic coating later so this initial
drop the neck onto the slot, place 10mm, and then rout the control black coat is kept thin. A decent
the bridge in its position and check cavity using the same flush-cut black stain will work just as well.
the angle using a straight edge laid router bit we used for the neck I was lucky enough to hand the
across the frets and onto the bridge pocket. We decided to use a control whole thing over to our wonderful
to check the angle. Were looking layout similar to the original, so paintshop man Paul Rossi Ross for
for zero action, where the straight we cut a fairly large opening in the the finish work, and he mixed the
edge or strings can be lowered so top to allow for the pots, switches Rustins and then applied a couple
they touch the frets all the way and pickup hook-up wires to be of coats to the body and neck. The
along; this will allow the guitar to accessed easily. The pickguard is product self-levels quite well and is
be set up to any desired playing designed around your cavities so left to dry overnight.
action. If you dont have access to feel free to place the electronics On the original RS the sides of
a router, its possible to drill and wherever works best for you you the body are veneered and bound

31 32

31 The side dots are short

offcuts of plastic rod
32 Completed fingerboard
with its Rustins shine


Guitar building PROJECT

33 34 35

front and back. We didnt have accurate, sharp-edged hole. If they Fender method of scraping the 33 Gluing in the neck; we

the time to do either here but we go in accurately theyll just need a finish off the frets once dry and only needed one clamp
couldnt live with a visible MDF slight rub to level, but be careful not polishing the whole thing as one. 34 Drilling the bridge and
join, so we masked off the back and to break through the finish. Painted The result is a slick, glossy feel, just tailpiece holes
top and applied an aerosol-based dots or even self adhesive stickers like the original. If you choose to 35 Fitting the tuners.
red oxide primer. Its not a perfect would also work at a push, too. avoid a lot of this extra work then Running a ruler along the rear
match by any means but its a neat, We then install the fretwire. You just use a rosewood or even ebony edges of the tuners will ensure
quick and cheap solution. can use whatever size you prefer, fingerboard which wont need stain
The guitar looked great at this but we kept it vintage. An accurate or lacquer but will give a different
stage but the fact that the budget, description of fretwork installation feel and tone.
brief and schedule didnt allow for would take up an entire feature on
real binding was bugging me. Rossi its own and weve covered many of Fitting The Neck
suggested coach pin-striping. For the basics in past issues, so well Once youre happy with the finish,
those of you born after 1985, this is keep this part brief. Pre-bend the the neck can be fitted. Once again
a thin self-adhesive striping that is fretwire beyond the radius that we deviated a little; the RS uses a
easy to apply and comes in 3mm x youve set in the fingerboard, cut 24 large bolt fixing and two smaller
5m rolls of gloss white for a couple pieces to size and then tap the wire screws to secure the neck to the
of quid. After a final coat of Rustins, into the precut slots you may find body, but I decided to glue it in
it really looked the part. With the it helpful to apply a small drop of for a strong sturdy join. Titebond
body finish work dry and finish, we superglue to each end of the tang was the choice once again and just
flattened the finish to 2000 grade as you install them. Tap each fret one clamp was needed as the neck
wet & dry and then buffed with down level with the fingerboard so pocket was the perfect size (if you
budget friendly T-Cut and polish. it follows the radius and is seated find that the neck is a little loose
flush without any gaps beneath the then consider a gap-filling epoxy
Fingerboard And Frets bead. Take your time and seat the resin glue like Araldite). Apply
Now we turn our attention to frets accurately, as well-seated frets the glue and then clamp the neck
some of the trickier neck jobs. transfer tone. using some protection for the back
With the neck dry from its initial Once installed trim the ends of the body. Check the neck angle
lacquer coats, we block sand the with a flush cutter and file the ends for the final time using the straight
fingerboard flat using fine paper flush with the fingerboard careful edge, and then walk away and do
and then install pearloid dots. We work here will retain the finish on something else while it dries. I used
follow the somewhat unusual RS the fingerboard and neck. Level the time to screen the control cavity
dot layout of 6mm dots with simple and dress the frets using whatever using screening paint.
2mm side dots made from white method you prefer. Once the frets
rod. The dots are marked out and are level and the ends are smooth, Hardware Time
then drilled to a 2mm depth and we recoat the whole thing in Now its time to fit the bridge and
installed with a drop of superglue. Rustins. Dont worry about getting tailpiece and rout the body for the
Use a brad point drill for an finish on the frets as we use the pickups. Apply some masking >

36 37

36 Drilling for bridge posts

and earth wire
37 Switchcraft jack socket
from the outside... GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 13

PR0JECT Guitar building

38 Switchcraft jack socket

from the inside
39 That massive and all-
38 39
important scratchplate

tape in the bridge area and use tenner, so that sounded about right Secure the template one pickup rout
your steel rule to draw two pencil for our budget. Purely for aesthetic at a time, and rout to whichever
lines along the neck onto the tape. purposes I added a set of chrome depth is suitable your steel ruler
Measure the gap between the plastic covers and splashed out on a helps here to set the heights. If
lines and divide the measurement set of matching knobs. in doubt rout a little lower than
by two and mark it on the tape. Mark out and place the bridge in necessary as the pickups can be
This is your centre line for the position on the masking tape the shimmed upward easily enough
pickups and bridge. A couple of position of the top E string saddle is but dismantling the whole thing to
notable compromises here: there 24" from the centre of the zero fret, re-rout lower is a total pain.
are various versions of Burns Tri- plus a couple of millimetres, and Once the routs are complete
Sonics available of varying quality the tailpiece 50mm further back. we then drill for the tailpiece
and accuracy to Brians originals, Measure it all out and then space posts, install the inserts and then
but they are all out of our budget. out the pickups and mark out where the tailpiece. We drill into the
Bespoke units wouldnt have been they sit using an empty cover. You secondary piece of maple which was
in the spirit of this piece, so I settled have a choice to use a rectangular cut wide enough for the post width
on a used set of Wilkinson single- swimming pool rout as found on specifically for this purpose, and
coils that I had knocking about. modern Fenders or invest in or which lies 50mm behind the bridge
These are available on eBay for a make a single-coil router template. posts. With the tailpiece fitted, place
the bridge into the approximate
position and then fit a set of strings.
Before we do so we fit the tuners

PICKUP WIRING DIAGRAM and string guide blank as well need

to string her up soon.
.020 .100 Without the posts installed you
Credit: Esteban Anderson/AnderMay Guitar. Used with permission. All rights reserved

Micro Farads To Bridge may need to shim the bridge to set

String Ground the bridge position perfectly and
mark out the bridge post positions.
Remember, were looking for the
3 1 exact scale length plus a couple

3 T of millimetres on the treble side
with the bass side a further couple
of millimetres back. Slacken the
strings, remove the bridge and drill
the holes for the inserts as you did
for the tailpiece.
We also have to drill for an earth
wire from either the bridge or
tailpiece I chose the bridge for
this build as once the bridge post
1 4 1 4 1 4 insert holes are drilled its easy to
2 5 2 5 2 5 drill through into the bridge pickup
3 6 3 6 3 6 cavity for the wire, as pictured. Run
an earth wire from the hole through
the pickup rout and into the control
1 4 1 4 1 4 cavity and then hammer home
2 5 2 5 2 5 the inserts snugly and then fit the
3 6 3 6 3 6 bridge. Tune up to pitch and check
that all is well you should be able
Ground from Hot from pickup Ground from Hot from pickup Ground from Hot from pickup to achieve zero action with the
pickup pickup pickup bridge lowered to the body as low as


Guitar building PROJECT

40 41 44

42 43

Making The Scratchplate holes to size. Place your volume and and mark out the switch slots in 40 The drilled out pot
After installing a Switchcraft barrel tone knobs on the plate and draw the plate and then, using a 1mm mounting holes
jack quick work with an 11mm drill around them; centre and drill out drill bit, drill out the corner points 41 Routing for the pickups
bit through the side and a spanner the pot mounting holes in the plate of each rectangular slot. I then
42 Cutting holes for the
to fit were on the home straight, to fit the pot shafts. Were using CTS used a Dremel with a small router slider switches
but one tricky job awaits: making pots so we drill out to 10mm. Install bit to rough out the slots before
43 On/off and phase reverse
the scratchplate. Theres no real the pots and pickups and it begins to squaring them up with files. Drill
for each pickup
quick, simple way to make a bespoke look like a guitar! the mounting holes and install the
44 Our micro-budget RS,
guard. In the real world we would switches, wire it up and were done.
finished and ready to rock
make a template so the guard could Electronics There are many conflicting
be repeated or laser cut, but here The original intention was to wiring diagrams around, but ours is
were making a true one-off. First, use a 3- or 5-way selector switch shown on the last page. In essence
measure and cut a piece of one-ply wired up to give the most used of each pickup is routed first through
gloss black scratchplate material Brians sounds; in fact I did hook a phase reversal switch and then
big enough to cover the shape up a 3-way with the bridge and through an on/off switch which
that we need. On the RS the plate middle permanently in series, and joins the pickups together in series
stretches from the upper horn all the it sounded so good that I decided so, for example, bridge pickup plus
way down to and across the lower to blow the budget and invest an middle pickup together in series
bout. We needed a piece 300mm extra few quid in a set of six slider creates a pseudo-humbucker the
x 450mm which ate up 20 of our switches to allow me to wire her sound Brian May uses for most of
budget but was well worth it to up like the original with on/off and his heavier midrange tones.
achieve the correct look. Its a good phase reversal switches for each Once wired up and after a set-up
idea to practice the shape on paper pickup. One of the master strokes to set intonation, we finally plug her
or thin card which can be easily of the original design was to wire in and enjoy the sound and feel. The
modified; when youre happy, this the pickups together in series rather neck is massive possibly a little too
can be easily transferred onto the than the more usual parallel, and the big, which certainly explains why the
plastic material. Start by carefully many combinations that this offers majority of the commercial copies
measuring and then roughing out are really only available by using use a smaller more sensible neck THE BUDGET
We went slightly over our
the shape and removing the lower the original wiring scheme. Not profile, but the tone and warmth is
150 target on this project
left-hand portion so we can see what only would the switches complete undeniable. Of course it wont make but most of the extra
were doing. Once the dimensions the look but more importantly they you sound exactly like Brian May dosh went on good quality
are correct we start by cutting out the would open up the full range of even his own guitar wont do that electronic components
fingerboard slot/surround, as this sounds available. Sadly I had left for us mere mortals but for a few and decent wood where it
was needed
dictates the fit of the rest of the plate. the decision until the last moment quid and some time spent with tools
Neck and fingerboard 35
When the neck cutout is done, the so I couldnt source white switches it will get you a good deal of the way
Body materials 10
rest of the outline is fairly easy. With black ones would do for now as I and is sure to be truly great fun. Paint 15
the outline in place, drill for the could always swap them later. Hardware: 35
bridge posts and rout the pickups Fitting the switches is a little Dave Walsh is the head honcho of Electronics 36
slots. A pickup template here makes tricky. I mounted them directly to Eternal Guitars and Hot Rod Pickups: 10
Plastics 25
sense but you could use an old the plate rather than on a separate Pickups. For more info: www.
Dots 5
butchered Stratocaster plate as a metal plate beneath the pickguard as or www. Total materials and build
guide and drill and file the pickup on the original. Firstly we measure cost: 171 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 15

WORKSHOP Assessment advice


Sometimes an expensive fix just doesnt add up. Luthier
DAVE WALSH helps assess whether your guitar is worth mending

re guitars disposable Specialist clamps and cauls plus a at the time but a detached bridge
objects? Luthiers dont lot of experience is needed to assess 3 is a common occurrence.
think so; after all, they make the correct method and approach There are often unseen reasons
their living maintaining for returning the headstock to a for the bridge to lift away from the
them and increasing their one-piece item. soundboard. On older guitars the
lifespan. Every so often, though, A shallow-angle split with the hide glue may have reached the
they run into a repair that isnt headstock still attached and plenty end of its adhesive lifespan, drying
viable. Sometimes its a case of of gluing area is a fairly inexpensive and becoming brittle to the point
sentimental value, as when a fix on a mahogany-necked guitar where it cant handle the string
customer strolls in with a mangled (minus any refinishing work to pressure; in this instance the bridge
guitar that their late great aunt conceal the repair), but on maple can be re-seated, and all will be
left them. The trouble is, even if or with a full break-off at an well. However, if the top has begun
mint, its only worth a couple of acute angle then more elaborate to belly upwards because the
hundred quid but a full rebuild surgery including wooden splints internal struts and bracing beneath
will cost double that. At other times, to reinforce the join may push the are loose or broken, then more
a customer may request a repair on repair beyond a sensible budget on extensive surgery will be required.
a budget instrument that just isnt cheaper guitars. On a cheaper acoustic a bridge may
worth the work. Youll be amazed at come away that was not glued down
what can be fixed, but in the current Snapped truss rod well in the first place; some modern
climate of very low-cost far eastern A broken truss rod 2 less manufacturing dictates that bridges
manufacture and well-made budget common, and often a result of are glued onto the lacquered guitar
models, the lines can get blurred. heavy-handed maintenance can top, so the bond is only as strong as
So when is it time to assign your be one of the trickier jobs to rectify. the lacquer adhesion. On older or
axe to the skip? Heres a rundown In many cases the fingerboard will more expensive guitars the lacquer
of some common and some not so need to be removed to allow a new is carefully removed so the bridge
common repairs/issues that may rod to be inserted. On a Fender-type is glued firmly to wood, and any
seem deceptively simple to repair. electric, the skunk stripe will need repair should include this simple
to be routed out and replaced after procedure. A good luthier will also
Broken Headstocks installing a new rod. Its worthwhile check that the bridgeplate which
Broken headstocks 1 are an on an old, valuable guitar or a the string ball ends anchor against
extremely common ailment, higher-priced model, but if were is sound and strong enough to
particularly on mahogany-necked dealing with a cheap acoustic then, effectively spread the string pull
instruments, and thankfully in realistically, it may be time to assign across the bracing. On very cheap
most cases well, on a decently- it to the bin. On a cheaper bolt-on guitars the bridge can be re-
made guitar they can be relatively electric, a new neck may be more attached with countersunk bolts.
straightforward to repair within cost-effective than repair.
a reasonable budget. However, Separated neck
this is not a repair for the novice, Detached Its unusual to see a set-neck
even if it seems tempting to apply bridge/belly top guitar come away cleanly in two
superglue, Araldite, Prit Stick or It may look terrible particularly if parts 4 these days, as modern
wood screws (Ive seen them all). youre tuning or playing the guitar glues tend to keep the heel joint

1 2

1 The dreaded neck break:

the value of the guitar and
the neck material are both
important factors
2 Over-tightening a truss
rod can have expensive results


Assessment advice WORKSHOP

3 See a tell-tale crack at the

rear of the bridge? Detune the
3 4 guitar and seek help
4 Cleaning up a fingerboard
tongue after neck removal:
necks set like this need really
expert attention

somewhere between pretty snug can be repaired, but if the back, top rarely be greeted with a positive
and indestructible. However, if it or sides on a relatively inexpensive reaction, as changing the finish
happens, it can usually be repaired acoustic are split particularly will also to some degree change
unless either part is smashed into across the grain and the bracing is the tonal output (the same is
smithereens. Old hollowbodied smashed, then its full-rebuild time. true on an electric guitar, but itll
Hofners are particularly susceptible Also, as most acoustics also have a be particularly noticeable on an
to this sort of break, as are certain translucent finish, any repairs will acoustic). Be prepared to pay high
vintage Gibson SGs where the always be visible without a refinish prices if you insist on this type of
neck tenon joint has been routed of some sort. Solidbody electrics are work usually more than its worth
away for the neck pickup. On older still acoustic in nature and suffer if its a mid-budget sub-500 guitar.
acoustic guitars, the neck often some of the same string pressures, Another refinishing conundrum
pulls into the neck block and raises but theyre far hardier so even is the scratch/ding situation. Ive
the action; this means a neck re- a body completely split into two often had players come to me
set, where the old glue is softened pieces can be glued back together. devastated because their brand
(usually using steam), removed, However, refinishing will be needed new guitar has a scratch or chip.
and then re-set at the correct angle. to hide any serious repair, and At this stage their pride and joy
As all of the above is specialised this puts the repair costs into the needs to be restored to its original
work, its only viable on guitars unviable bracket on budget guitars. pristine condition or the world will
above a certain price bracket. If you stop turning on its axis. Of course,
have a cheap acoustic with a high Refinishing its possible; many scratches can
action caused by a badly angled 6 Refinishing a guitar either be polished out, but if the finish
neck but otherwise in good shape, electric or especially acoustic is has been scratched down to the
then consider keeping it for slide a far from simple task. When you wood then in truth the only way to
wander into your local repairer completely hide any finish damage
Smashed acoustic shop with a black-finish Strat copy is a total refinish. Even if refinished
5 Acoustic guitars are under a lot and ask for it to be painted red, it could soon pick up another knock
of pressure. If you think of the body dont be surprised if he tells you to along the way, and its best to try
as a lightweight speaker box, then sell it and buy another one in your and live with the imperfections.
add the pressure of the neck being chosen colour. The vast majority see sense at
pulled inward by string pressure Higher value guitars or badly this point, but not all. Ive seen a
while the strings simultaneously refinished vintage pieces are a chap pay hundreds of pounds for
try their best to pull the bridge different kettle of fish. Theyve his electric to be refinished to hide
away from the top of the guitar, already been devalued, so a really some relatively minor damage, only
then youve got a volatile mixture. good sympathetic refin can restore for him to arrive to collect it from
An innocuous knock can open some collectability. Acoustic guitars the workshop, take it from the case
a small crack in the body which require a lot of work to refinish, in an over-excited manner and turn
can soon open up into a major including removal of the bridge, around to show his mates and
structural problem unless patched and unless youre going for an whack it hard against a door frame.
and strengthened. Now, anything outlandish video prop design youll You live and learn!

5 6

5 The nightmare scenario.

Even cracks like this can be
repaired, but the job wont
come cheap
6 Full refins like this
can cost many hundreds of
pounds. Maybe its best to live
with the battle-scars GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 17

ELECTRONICS Diagnostic tips


Your guitar doesnt work. But whats wrong the jack, the pots,
the switch or something else? Before you visit the professionals,
read our basic guide to troubleshooting electric guitar wiring

he most important aspect check. Troubleshooting electrical through the volume pots resistive
of successful electrical problems always begins with check track and back to the pickup again
repair work is an efficient the circles testing because just via the earth return. In the diagram
diagnostic approach that one broken circle somewhere in you can see that the bottom of both
enables you to find out exactly the circuit can silence the entire the pickup coil and the volume pot
why a circuit is malfunctioning. system; find it, repair it and the are also connected to the body or
Diagnosing electrical problems is jobs pretty much done. casing of the volume pot, which
a tricky process combining a little becomes the main earth connection
hardcore knowledge with intuitive Spot the circle for the circuit.
judgement and a disciplined Lets consider a single-coil Strat- This is an example of a primary
process of elimination; of course, type pickup connected to a volume circle. Its primary because the
accumulating knowledge sharpens control, a tone control and then an resistive track in the volume pot is
up your intuitive judgement and output socket (see Fig 1 on the wired across the pickup at all times.
reduces the time spent eliminating opposite page). The pickup circle Fig 1 also shows another primary
possible problem areas. starts at the top of the pickup coil circle, the one used around the tone
Before attempting guitar electro- at the live or hot lead or wire, control; again, notice that the circle
surgery, however, its necessary to which then connects to the top tag is never broken.
understand a few basic principles. of the volume pot; this lead carries Another type of circle, a
The most important principle is the all-important output from secondary circle, is used to pick the
that electricity or, more to the the pickup. The bottom tag of the output off the middle or wiper tag
point, electrons flow in circles; if a volume control is then connected of the volume control and send both
circle is broken, the electrons cant to the bottom connection of the it and the earth connection via the
flow and the circuit wont work. pickup coil to complete the circle; guitar lead to the amplifier, where
The wiring system within a this lead is called the earth or, to the circle is completed. Secondary
guitar is made up of many circles, use its full name, the earth return. circles are interesting because they
most of which are straightforward In action, the electrons flow out are not true circles until something
and easy enough to spot and from the pickups live lead, down makes them so the position of a


Diagnostic tips ELECTRONICS

1 This diagram illustrates
the primary and secondary
HOT LEAD circles connecting a single
TONE POT coil pickup to its volume and
tone pots







switch, for example, or ultimately warned: crud is an acidic sweat- problem is the same: poor solder
the guitar amplifier itself. based compound, very partial to connections on the component
electrical contacts! and/or tarnished contacts within
Conductivity it are interrupting or breaking the
Primary and secondary circles may Spot the difference circuit circle.
be different, yet both rely on a good Components suffering from heavy Volume and tone controls
earth return in order to work. Its crud build-up will work properly can also silence an otherwise
because of this that they are prone most of the time, but every now functioning primary circuit circle
to breakdown, and for the same and then theyll need to be hit extra if a resistive track on a pot has
reason poor conductivity. hard or given a vicious waggle to become so filthy that the wiper
In primary circles, high resistance make them operate; conversely, is unable to pick up the signal.
solder connections (aka dry joints) components suffering from Spotting this problem is simplicity
introduce this poor conductivity into oxidation become very sensitive itself: if the amp is filled with gritty
a circuit, and nine times out 10 they and usually only work if they are sandpaper-type noises as you turn
can be cured by a simple jab from left untouched by the player. Both the pot back and forth,thats the tell-
a hot soldering iron. Resoldering a problems are very common and tale sign that the track and wiper
dodgy dry solder joint restores its relatively easy to spot. are dirty and need to be cleaned or
electrical resistance to the electron the part replaced.
flow to nearly zero ohms and, more Hunting the fault The diagnostic nature of electrical
importantly, fixes it at that point; the Freshly armed with your repairs has a real Sherlock Holmes
joint then presents the same near understanding of circles and feel and it can be very satisfying
zero resistance each time it is used, dodgy joints you are now ready when the problem is discovered.
and so becomes reliable. to troubleshoot just about any
Secondary circles can also suffer guitar. First, plug the offending External examination
from dry joint syndrome, but instrument, with its volume and Next, armed with a pencil, lets
theyre more likely to be troubled by tone controls turned up full, into troubleshoot a Strat with a noisy
dry contact syndrome a condition an amplifier. Select the neck pickup pickup selector switch. Start with
where the contacts within a switch, position on the selector switch, and the same test procedure as outlined
a pot or an output socket become hit the strings. If you hear nothing before: plug the instrument into
tarnished. At its worst the tarnish from the amp, flip the switch to the an amp via a lead and turn all the
is actually a thin film of very high bridge pickup and hit the strings guitar controls up full. Waggle the
resistance oxidation which prevents again. If you still hear nothing, switch back and forth and listen
the electrons getting through. Its jiggle the lead in the output socket to the noises from the amplifier.
possible to clean contacts to remove and listen for a crackling make-or- A switch that is working properly
the oxidation, but as oxidation eats break noise from the amp. If you will create a mild click from the
into the surface of the contacts hear a sudden rush of sound, then speaker as it moves between the
and takes away any hope of true youve found your major problem settings (this level of switch noise is
reliability, the best cure is often to the jack socket contacts and/or its acceptable, as the switch is making
bin the offending part and go for solder connections are breaking the and breaking the signal path). A
replacement. At best, however, the outputs secondary circle. Equally, switch with worn or dirty contacts
electrons are halted by a thin film you may find that the output socket will sound and feel altogether
of crud shed by you, the player. works fine and jiggling the pickup different moving it between the
This can usually be removed with selector switch restores the sound. settings makes the amp crackle
appropriate spray cleaners, but be Whichever way, the nature of the and roar, and the switch may feel > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 19

& Paul Raymond | UFO

3 Resoldering
the pickup earth
2 return wire to a 3
pot casing

2 Clunk-testing pickups stiff and difficult to move. (just remember to select the correct leads, and the bridge earth lead, are
works on any guitar with We already knew the Strat had a pickups before you check the pots). soldered together onto the back of
exposed polepieces, such as dodgy switch, so before removing When checking tone controls, also the volume pot. This all-together-
this Telecaster
the scratchplate to fix it, check if listen out for how the tone changes in-one-place earthing technique is
3 The standard Stratocaster there is anything else wrong with as you turn the pot up and down. a very reliable way to make a main
style wiring
the guitar. Start with the pickups, If it behaves more like a volume earth return point for both the
and be sure to note the results of control than a tone control then audio signal and the earth plane
your tests on paper as you go along. there is fault either with the pot, screening within the guitar. Some
its capacitor, the wiring around the Strats also hardwire the casing of
Testing the pickups component, or all three. both tone pots and the chassis of
Select the neck pickup and turn the five-way switch to the casing of
the amp up a little. Next, hold a The verdict the volume pot, a technique which
small steel screwdriver by its blade Weve carried out our external ensures that all the exposed metal
and touch it onto each pole of that examination of the troublesome parts of these components are
pickup 2 (you may want to lay the Strat. What do we know? Well, properly earthed.
guitar down flat). The screwdriver the selector switch has had it, the Unfortunately, older Strats and
will be drawn by the magnetism and pickups seem okay, but the first many copies omit these additional
should make a solid clunk sound tone control (the one for the neck earth wires and instead provide
from the speaker as it makes contact pickup) is noisy and doesnt sound the metal parts with an earth
with the pole. If that is all you hear, quite right. Of course, you would connection via a metal foil screen
then the pole has passed the test. have jotted all this down on your stuck to the rear of the scratchplate.
Before moving on to clunk-test checklist. So now its either time for The electrical connection is
the next pole, make sure that the some DIY or if you dont feel happy made by squashing the foil onto
screwdriver is NOT being earthed about that, a trip to a repair person. the underside of the pot when
out by touching a string. With the fixing nut is tightened. The
the screwdriver correctly in place Under the hood squashed foil approach is fine
on the pole touch the blade and If youre going DIY, the first step when the guitar is new and clean
listen out for a loud hum from the is to access the offending controls. but oxidation and dirt can build up
amp. If the speaker still remains Slacken and remove the strings and between the foil and the pots which
silent then the pole is functioning with a small cross-head screwdriver increases the electrical resistance
correctly, if it hums crazily then you remove the scratchplate screws; of their connection and upsets the
have discovered a fault which could place them on a tin lid or similar for earth return for the tone controls.
be within the pickup, its wiring safe keeping. Pull the scratchplate Back to our theoretical patient.
connections or both, and this fault upwards and out from the body The switch? Its possible that
could also be contributing to the and turn it over to see underneath. cleaning might quieten it, but the
noisy switch. Move the selector Watch out for the output socket best solution is to bin it and replace
switch to the middle pickup and leads and the bridge earth wire, it with a new one. Dirt and crud has
test its poles in the same way, which will still be attached to the also built up between the foil and
and finish up by clunk-testing the guitar body. the first tone control, which is
bridge pickup. The photo above on the left 3 cleanable and so repairable. If this
Next, hit the strings and turn the shows a typical Strat scratchplate; were a real guitar I would hard-wire
volume pot down and up to see that you can see how the three pickup the tone controls and the switch to
it works properly without adding live leads go straight to their the casing of the volume pot and
any crackles to the sound. Copy respective terminals on the switch, thereby avoid this particular
the test with the two tone controls whereas the three pickup earth problem happening again..






Dont know your cross-head from your multi-core? Scan your
beadies over these pages for a comprehensive outline of the basic
tools required to work on electric guitars and basses

ou dont need a workshop when you strip the end of a wire the finish or the scratchplate. The
bulging with gear to repair in preparation for tinning. This three sizes quoted cover the volume
electric guitars all it takes can be tricky on both screened and and tone control nuts, the larger
to get started is a handful of unscreened wire. output socket, and the mighty fiddly
tools costing as little as about miniature toggle-switch fixing nut.
35, and a clear table top (plus, of Small table-mounted vice The output socket nut on guitars
course, access to a mains socket to A 3" to 4" bench-mount type is that use a recessed output socket,
power a desk light and a soldering best. Maplin and B&Q have many such as a Strat or Telecaster, can
iron). Fortunately, most of the tools suitable small vices on offer; some only be tightened well with a box
used to repair electric guitars are are fixed to the table by a single spanner, so this size is a must.
the same as those you would use screw clamp, while some are held
for regular domestic electrical work. by a devilishly cunning sucker Soldering iron
Heres a typical list of tools required mechanism. A great first-time vice You will need two soldering irons,
for electro-surgery is available from Maplin; they call a 15W to 25W pencil-type, and a
it a Hobby Vice and it costs around whopping great 100W soldering
Screwdrivers 15. The vice is vacuum-mounted, gun. The pencil iron is used mostly
Medium-size Philips cross-head and is man enough for most jobs. for soldering the wires that carry
for scratchplate and cavity plate Their Table Vice, however, is a the signal of the pickups; these
screws, switch screws and pickup much better bet, and it costs about connections are quite small and so
screws, and so on. the same. This vice mechanism relatively easy to solder quickly and
Medium-size flat-blade for is well-made with a very cunning successfully. My favourite iron is
most control knob fixing screws, fit any situation table-mounting an Antex 15W pencil type which is
plus Gibson humbucker-type height system great for guitar techs. light and heats up rapidly. Itll cost
adjuster screws. around 20 from Maplin.
Desk light The solder gun is used to
Pliers Any domestic Anglepoise-type light unsolder earth connections to the
Small to medium sized wire cutters will do. metal casing of volume and tone
(also called electricians cutters). controls. These are much harder to
Box spanners work on than signal connections
Medium-sharp knife You will need a set of three double- because the metal casings are
A small kitchen knife with a three- ended box spanners which have substantial enough to draw the
inch blade the size you might different-sized spanners at each heat away from a small iron and so
choose to cut small vegetables is end: 12 and 13mm, 10 and 11mm, prevent the solder from melting.
my favourite. The blade isnt as and a 2 and 4BA. Box spanners are This earth the casing technique
sharp as a scalpel, but this reduces a really useful tools as they allow is important because it provides
the chances of cutting both the you to slacken and tighten nuts both a reliable and an effective
insulation and the multi-core wire on a guitar without endangering method of distributing the earth



1 Left to right: a Philips

screwdriver, box spanners and
a table mounted vice
2 Left to right: a soldering
gun, a pencil soldering iron
and a pair of pliers

return within the guitar and also comes up! This position guarantees Once clean, the contacts are
valuable EMR hum and buzz a lung full of unpleasantness which tinned with the iron, leaving a thin
screening. Sadly, the connections is probably very unhealthy. layer of solder on the end of the
to the casing are impossible to wire or on the surface of a contact
unsolder with a low-wattage Soldering: the rules or solder tag. This prepares them to
soldering iron; this is a job best Electrical soldering is an easy be soldered back into the circuit.
left to a solder gun which heats up skill to master if you follow
rapidly when you pull and hold the the right procedures. Its all Tinning a wire
trigger. Do that and its ready to about preparation, an organised Youll encounter three sorts of
pour serious wattage into the solder worksurface, and good technique. wire in electric guitars: single-core,
connection then the gun happily In fact, if you need the four golden multi-strand and screened. Tinning
turns itself off and the tip cools rules of soldering, here they are a single-core wire is the easiest:
down when the trigger is released. first, strip off a short length of
My own gun is produced by Weller 1) All contacts to be soldered insulation to expose the wire inside,
and has proven itself to be a reliable together must be clean of tarnish and scrape it with the knife. Next,
and effective bit of kit. Most regular and oxidation, made tidy and apply the tip of the hot iron to the
DIY stores will sell this gun or one correctly tinned. wire and wait a second or two for it
very like it from around 30. to warm up. Now push one end of
For the one-stop shopper some 2) Contacts to be soldered together the solder onto the wire and watch
online outfits offer complete must be placed together and heated as it melts instantly on contact. Pull
soldering kits for around 30, up by the iron sufficiently to melt the solder away from the wire and
which can come complete with a the solder tinning before any further then remove the iron. The wire is
100W gun, a 30W pencil iron, a solder is applied to them. properly tinned when the entire
miniature workpiece holder and a surface of the exposed end is plated
bundle of spare bits and solder. 3) The new joint must remain totally with a thin coating of solder.
still whilst the solder cools. The most common type of
Multi-core solder wire you will encounter is multi-
Medium weight multi-core solder 4) Only use multi-core solder. strand, which contains not just
is suitable for both signal and earth one core of wire as in the previous
connections. Buy small amounts to The first three rules require a little example, but many. These strands
begin with, and rolls when youve practise to perfect. must be twisted together tidily
got the hang of it. Down the centre before the wire is tinned; the twist
of this solder run four or more lines Cleaning duties and the solder tinning ties the
of flux which travel the length of the Cleaning the contacts before strands together so that they will
solder, in Brighton rock lettering soldering is important because not unravel when joined into the
style. The flux is a nasty concoction it ensures that the solder takes circuit. Apply the iron and then the
of chemicals which eat into the quickly to the new joint. Speed solder as before.
surface of the metals to be soldered is of the essence here as it saves Although tinning is the simplest
an important brew, as it cleans the the rest of the component from part of soldering many people skip
metal surfaces and aids the transfer excessive heat stress, an important it, hoping that sheer willpower will
of heat from the gun, but it stinks consideration on small components make it happen correctly. Dont be
when it melts so try not to have such as capacitors, switch contacts tempted a little cleaning and
your head over the iron looking and the insulation on most of the tinning can save hours of work and
down when the little puff of smoke signal carrying wires. some deep-fried components. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 23

WORKSHOP Soldering


With hot iron in one hand and a roll of multi-core in the other, we
return to the land of DIY guitar electronics ready to fix a faulty
Strat and to pledge allegiance to the four sacred rules of soldering

n the last workshop we outlined completely still whilst the solder A great deal of imagination can
the basic tools you will require both melts and cools. go into devising extra hands out of
for guitar electronics work and objects that are readily available, an
went on to introduce multi-core 4. Only use multi-core solder. approach I take myself as no two
solder and the four sacred rules joints are ever quite the same. Its
of soldering. Rule one, thou shalt As you may have guessed, rules possible to buy soldering aids from
always tin, was explained, and we two and three happen in quick electronic companies like Maplins;
examined examples of thoroughly succession, and once you have these cunning devices use flexi-
tinning both single and multi-core them mastered theyll appear mount crocodile clips to hold wires
wire. We also explained the fourth like a single action. If they dont and components where you want
rule concerning multi-core solder. run together smoothly then them while you apply the soldering
Now its time to fully investigate youll undoubtedly create a high iron. These can help you set up the
how to deal with rules two and resistance dry joint not good, and job so that the eventual soldering
three. However, for the sake of not clever. Making it all happen can be unhurried and therefore
completeness, lets review the four correctly as one action is difficult efficiently brief.
rules in all their glory. because soldering usually requires One good way that the first extra
three hands: one to hold the loose hand is used is to hold the source
1. All contacts must be clean of wire in the correct position, another of the solder in a fixed position
tarnish and oxidation, tidy and to drive the soldering iron, and a so that a length of solder can be
correctly tinned. third to guide the solder into just unwound and arranged just as you
the right position at just the right want it. A large reel of solder helps
2. Tinned contacts must be placed time. Making do with two is not out here since its quite weighty
together and heated up by the iron really a hardship, but it does mean and stays where you put it on the
sufficiently to melt the solder tinning that you will have to learn a few table. The stability of the reel, then,
before any further solder is applied. tricks to create a third hand and is your first extra hand; solder from
maybe even a fourth wherever a light plastic dispenser is harder
3. The new joint must remain and however they are needed. to manage though it can be held


Soldering WORKSHOP

1 2

firmly by a laying it on its side the joint to cool it down. The hand As solder joints are so individual 1 The crane method:
beneath a book or heavy ornament. used to hold the wire must remain you need to deal with each job as it hold the wire in position with
Once the source has been tied completely still so that the wire comes along. Practicing on some thumb and little finger while
guiding solder onto the joint
down, sufficient solder can be does not move as the solder cools. throwaway components can help to
unwound and arranged to be in At this point the wire is soldered get a feel of the iron and solder. 2 A dry solder joint to the
earth tag is a problem that can
close proximity to the work area. to the tag, but the joint is not very If you choose to rewire tricky
contribute to unwanted hum
Arrange the solder so that it leaves strong; more solder is required to parts of the guitar electrics away
the reel as close to your work top as make it reliable. Adding extra solder from the instrument, then a small
possible and bend it upwards at 45 can be quite tricky as the joint vice is an absolute must. Soldering
degrees as you approach the work. will probably spring apart if you a tone control capacitor across its
An unsupported length of solder apply the iron a second time. This tone pot, for example, is much
will try to droop or move away from situation calls for dexterity, more easier in a vice; the same goes for
the job at just the wrong moment, cunning and a little rule-bending. I wiring the between contacts or
so next introduce an S-shaped use a technique that involves using cross-wiring for a series/parallel
bend two or three inches from the my left hand to hold the wire in the humbucker switch. The job is done
working end of the solder to make correct position with my thumb quicker and more tidily if the switch
the it more rigid and manageable. and little finger while I guide the is held firmly between the jaws of
The S shape is another extra hand solder from the aforementioned a vice because the contacts to be
if you arrange the solder like a crane between the remaining three soldered are accessible and, thanks
crane over the new joint it should fingers onto the joint. The photo to the Anglepoise light, clearly
stay still and ready to use above left shows this in action. visible and perfectly still.
With the solder crane in place, Although this works most of the The next patient is a standard no-
the iron hot and the Anglepoise time, its not a universal solution frills USA-built Fender Stratocaster.
on, lets consider a fictitious solder sometimes you just cant get as Its problems are twofold: the back
job: you have just fitted a new neck close to the job as you wish. On pickup is hard to select switch
pickup to your beloved Telecaster these occasions it is perfectly fine to position 5 works occasionally,
and are about to solder the live use the iron to transfer solder to the mostly it just hums loudly; and the
output lead to the switch and the tinned-only joint. guitar hums when the musician
earth lead to the rear of the volume Arrange the solder crane as takes his hands off the strings.
pot. The control plate is open and close to the work as possible and
the plate mounted switch lies ensure that you can hold the wire in Hands off buzz
tags-up, ready to go under the iron. position with your hand. Touch the Any guitar that hums will have an
Having tinned the tag and the tip of the iron onto the end of the earthing problem. The hands-off
pickup hot lead, touch the tip of solder and load it with molten solder. buzz is probably down to a break
the iron back onto the tag. Watch Remove the iron from the solder and somewhere in the earth circuit.
carefully as the solder melts on the touch the solder laden tip onto the When repairing any guitar with
tag as the heat is transferred across tinned-only joint. Watch as the heat these symptoms, first check the
from the iron. When all the solder transfer suddenly melts the solder wire which joins the strings at
has melted, push the tinned tip of on the tag and wire. As it does so the the bridge to the earth side of the
the pickup lead through the hole solder on the iron will leave the iron controls usually to the back of
in the tag and watch as the heat and mix with the solder already on the volume pot casing. This wire is
from the tag is transferred across the joint. Remove the iron and once commonly called the string earth
to the wire. Remove the iron only again hold everything completely and most passive guitars become
when the solder tinning melts on while it cools, blowing on the joint hummy if this wire is broken or is
the wire, and as you do so, blow on again to help it along. making poor contact. > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 25

Vinnie Moore & Paul Raymond | UFO

3 Carefully resoldering
the pickup earth return wire
to a pot casing 3

With this Strat its unlikely to be bit of power the solder gun can the switch will bring the rear pickup
a problem at the bridge end of the provide. Adding the tag avoids this back to life.
wire. Fender changed their string by moving the weak point to a more
earth design in the 70s, making manageable position for soldering. Dry joints
a serious attempt to avoid such As you can see, dry joints were
problems with a body-mounted Make the switch responsible for most of the
solder tag and shielding paint on The second problem with the Strat, problems with this guitar. Spotting
the inside of the body cavity. The the intermittent, humming on them is an important part of
new tag was positioned near the switch position 5, is familiar: the troubleshooting electrical guitar
control cavity and was wired in two contacts used for the bridge pickup problems. Fortunately, this is
directions: one wire to the vibrato (position 5 on the switch) are relatively easy: dodgy joints usually
spring-claw, the other to the rear of probably twisted out of alignment. take on a mottled, dull grey colour,
the volume pot, with the tag also in If so, they could be touching the much like pewter or zinc, whereas
electrical contact with the shielding metal chassis of the switch when a proper, electrically sound joint
paint. A nifty idea, because the the bridge pickup is selected. If the remains shiny and mirror-like.
earth tag sorts out many of the chassis of the switch is not earthed One way to pick out the baddies is
earthing problems within a Fender then it could be making contact with your Anglepoise light if you
type guitar: firstly it tidies up the with the live or hot output of the arrange the light to shine down
earth plane within the guitar by switch and so humming when onto the scratchplate, good joints
creating a single earth point to touched. In the worst case it could will catch the light and reflect it
which all the relevant parts of the hum even if not touched. back, while dry joints remain dull
circuit can be connected; secondly, and wont reflect much at all. This
it enables the body cavity to be Surgery time light method is a very helpful way
screened. Removing the scratchplate reveals to sniff out a problem, but testing
Adding the tag also protects the that the string earth connection at the joint is best left to a multimeter.
wire that runs to the vibrato spring the aforementioned tag has become
claw from being yanked when a dry joint, probably through being Multimeters
the scratchplate is removed a tugged too much. The selector Maybe you can get by without one
common problem with the original switch is infested with crud to the of these gizmos, but even a simple
design. If you inadvertently pulled extent that the contacts used for multimeter can be very useful and
hard on the old type of string earth position 5 are eaten almost half some work, on humbucking
lead, it was possible to jar the solder away (crud never sleeps). The only pickups for example, is pretty much
joint on the spring claw enough to solution is to bin the whole part and impossible without one. Two kinds
make it become one big dry joint, replace it with a new switch. The of multimeter are available: the old
right where you need one the least. earth connection to the rear pickup AVO-style analogue needle-type
Resoldering this connection is very has also become a dry joint, and meters and the newer digital LCD
difficult as the large spring claw this is contributing to the hum in readout type. I find that the
draws the heat away from the joint; position 5. Resoldering the earth tag needle-type is easier to read, while
a successful resolder of this joint and the pickup earth return wire the digital types can only be read if
requires serious cleaning and every will cure the hum, and replacing you can look down on them.


WORKSHOP 25 Les Paul mods


25 Les Paul mods WORKSHOP

25 Ways
To Upgrade
Your Les Paul
From easy, zero-cost mods to tone-expanding wiring changes, clever vibrato
technology and even head-to-toe vintage makeovers, there are many ways to
personalise and improve your Les Paul. HUW PRICE reveals our pick of the very best

ven if youre disinclined to Les Paul players wishing to create because they were reluctant to drill
undertake woodwork or have their own vintage replicas, and this holes in a quality guitar. Nowadays
at it with a soldering iron, is the mindset that drives most of the range of bridges, tailpieces,
theres still plenty of scope for the cosmetic changes. tremolos and tuners that will slot
modifying, customising and The vintage ethos drives many of right in place is extensive. However,
upgrading your Les Paul. Broadly the electrical modifications too, with you should be aware that USA-
speaking the categories break down circuit reconfigurations, capacitor made Les Pauls are fitted with
into cosmetic changes, electrical tweaks and the ubiquitous PAF hardware that conforms to imperial
mods, and hardware upgrades. replica pickups. However, this is measurements, whereas those of
The iconic models Gibson one area where Les Paul players Far Eastern manufacture like
made during the late 1950s do need not be bound by vintage Epiphones and the various Japanese
not enchant all Les Paul players, correctness. There are easy and replicas require metric hardware.
but for some it has become an affordable ways to customise and Here are 25 of our top tips for
obsession. Original examples are in expand your range of tones, and modifying Les Pauls or SGs,
short supply given that only 1500 players are no longer restricted to ES-335s and others. Some are costly
or so were made, and the market conventional control layouts or even while others are cheap, and many
value has sky-rocketed accordingly. P90 and PAF-style pickups. wont cost a thing. Have fun and
Unsurprisingly, an industry of parts In the past many Les Paul players dont do anything irreversible
suppliers now serves the needs of shied away from hardware upgrades that you may come to regret. > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 29

WORKSHOP 25 Les Paul mods

1 50s WIRING
This is just about the simplest modification you control rather than the input (ie. outer) tag. With Gibsons first stop tailpiece the ones fitted to the
can perform on your Gibson, or indeed any guitar 50s wiring you can turn down your volume control 50s collectors guitars that cost the same as a
and it doesnt cost a thing. They call it 50s without the sound muddying up quite so much, and decent apartment was originally made from
wiring because its the way Gibson hooked things the volume and tone controls also become more aluminium, but later on this changed to zinc, which
up until around 1962 or so, and the only actual interactive, which may be the reason why Gibson remains stock on current models. Some players
difference was that they connected the tone changed it. If you decide you dont like it, simply claim aluminium gives extra woodiness and more
control to the output (ie. middle) tag of the volume reverse the procedure. treble with a wider dynamic range, while zinc fans
argue that their preferred metal has more low end
and sustain. Others will tell you that they cant
hear any difference whatsoever but even so, its
a simple and reversible DIY modification. The
Gibson version costs around 120, but alternatives
from Faber, Pigtail, Gotoh, Kluson and others start
from about 30. We believe aluminium sounds
different, but even if you cant hear it, at least your
Lester will be a bit lighter.

Fitting an aluminium tailpiece is a cheap and

easy modification that improves the tone of a
Les Paul for many players. Faber in Germany
offer aluminium tailpieces with various degrees
of relicing.

This picture shows the first stage of a 50s style wiring installation. Note how the bumblebee
capacitors are connected to the centre tags of the volume controls.
This is one of the earliest mods players performed
on their humbucker-equipped Gibsons (Claptons

3 TONE CAP SWAPS AND UPGRADES Beano burst was a classic example). It was
generally thought at the time that removing the
It is incorrect to say that tone capacitors have no differences between different types of capacitor of covers made the pickups sound louder. In fact
effect on the sound of a guitar when the tone the same value. The originals were 0.022uF paper/ players who removed their covers were probably
controls are fully up, because there is always some oil types; repros are available or you can use Mallory just hearing more treble, because the capacitive
treble bleed when a tone circuit is installed so 150s, Sprague Orange Drops or Vitamin Qs. Some effect of the covers caused high frequency roll-off.
the value of the capacitor will determine the like to experiment with different values too for Vintage nickel silver covers were very thin and
frequency at which roll-off occurs. Some players increased or decreased treble roll-off. Our best kept treble loss to a minimum, while later covers,
are convinced that they can discern sonic advice is to experiment! especially thick brass ones did the upper
frequency response no favours. The principle also
applies to Telecaster neck pickups, which can be
de-muffled by snipping the bridging wire from the
cover to the negative wire.

Covers are usually held in place with two blobs

of solder. Use a Stanley knife to cut through the
solder, being extremely careful with your
0.022uF paper/oil capacitors nicknamed bumblebees were installed in original Les Pauls. Replicas fingers and the pickup itself, then lift the cover
are available but not all are paper/oil. Russian made K40Y and K42Y paper-oil capacitors are readily off. Here we see an uncovered double black
available cost effective equivalents. Shed PAF Daddy.


25 Les Paul mods WORKSHOP

In addition to providing an anchor point for the which increases the chances of string breakage. One Much is made of the type of material used for
strings, the stop tailpiece ensures that the strings solution is to feed the strings through the tailpiece nuts. Traditionalists insist on bone, some prefer
have a suitable break-angle over the saddles. from the pickup side and wrap them over the top of the slippery attributes of high-tech materials like
However, when the tailpiece is screwed tight to the the tailpiece. Proponents claim that you get the Graphtech, while Lester players like Zakk Wylde
body, the angle might be too sharp and the strings tonal benefits of tailpiece-to-body contact coupled famously prefer brass. Currently Gibson installs a
may end up contacting the back of the bridge, with more sustain and a slinkier playing feel. variety of nuts depending on the model, including
an unusual zero fret device that allows player to
adjust string height. Even so, a nut can only affect
the tone of open strings, so the main reason for
installing a new nut would be if the slots are
inaccurately cut or they prove to be too deep after
a re-fret. For vintage authenticity you might
consider installing a 6/6 grade nylon nut. Pre-cut
nylon nuts are available, but often at a steep
price. Alternatively, you can buy a sheet of 6/6
nylon and make one up.

Discussions about guitar setup and playability

often overlook the importance of a well-cut and
properly slotted nut. This may be one for a
professional luthier, but you can choose various
This is one mod you can easily try for zero cost. Not everybody likes the result, but many players materials. Heres one being made by reader
who try the wrap over trick including Bonamassa, Wylde and Gibbons never go back. Tony Berrington in correct 50s spec nylon.

Nylon isnt generally regarded as a tone-enhancing Due to the way that theyre mounted, pickup- want an early 50s tone, there are plenty of P90s in
material, but here it is again. Les Pauls have swapping was never a big thing among Les Paul PAF mounts or what about getting Gretschy with
always had metal saddles, and the originals were players; chopping Fenders was always an easier an English mount and P90-sized FilterTron or
nickel-plated brass. Gibsons early Tun-O-Matic- and less scary proposition. These days things are DeArmond soundalikes from TV Jones. Alternatively,
equipped semi-acoustics had the same, but Gibson simpler and all kinds of options are now available Seymour Duncans P-Rails gives P90, PAF and
were fitting nylon saddles on the semis by the mid for humbucker and P90-equipped Les Pauls. If you Fender-like sounds at the flick of a switch.
60s. When comparing a 60 ES-330 with a 64
ES-330 we noticed the 64 had a sweeter and more
resonant acoustic tone, and a quick bridge swap
demonstrated that the nylon saddles were
responsible. If you want a similar effect, try some
nylon saddles on your Lester or mix up metal for
the wound strings with nylon for the un-wound
ones, like Joe Bonamassa.

Joe Bonamassa favours nylon saddles for the The Seymour Duncan P-Rails has to be the most versatile drop-in pickup replacement for Les Pauls.
plain strings on his Gibson signature model. It combines a P90 and a narrow single coil with a blade magnet. The coils can be used individually or
Hes a top wrap kinda guy too. combined in series for humbucker-type tones.

WORKSHOP 25 Les Paul mods

Without wishing to offend anybody, getting into Most of the 50s Les Pauls associated with than originality. Increased mass at the headstock
replica plastic parts for Les Pauls will lead you big-name players have diecast tuners with the may have enhanced sustain, too. Nowadays players
straight to the lunatic fringe of the relicing scene. exception of Billy Gibbons Pearly Gates. Taking a are equally likely to retrofit vintage-style tuners, but
Obsessives often engage in heated discussions Black & Decker to the headstock of a vintage LP youll need conversion bushes to do it. Youll get
about colour, texture and even smell. Put it this may seem horrific nowadays, but diecast tuners vintage looks and livelier dynamics and, contrary
way, you will know your bendy Butyrate M69 rings require wider holes than Klusons and players were to vintage lore, decent Kluson-style tuners hold their
are right when they smell of sick and they cost you more concerned with keeping their guitars in tune tuning just as well as diecasts.
a mere 200. Other ber-expensive items may
include single-ring tuner buttons and genuine
Italian celluloid fingerboard inlays. Then theres
knobs, switch tips and poker chips to consider.
Vintage Haven, Montreux, Dead Mint Club,
Monster Relic, Retro Vibe and Time Machine
Collection can make your vintage replica look
amazing but it will sound exactly the same.

Relic parts like these Time Machine Collection

M69 rings dont come cheap, but they look a lot
better than the ones Gibson use.

10 TAILPIECE CLAMPING There was a time when players removed their Klusons and fitted Grovers and Schallers for improved
tuning stability. These days the trend is the opposite, and here are a couple of Kluson-style repros
from Fake 58 one with a simple aged button and the other with a shrunken and shrivelled button.
Traditional tailpiece studs do not grip stop
tailpieces at all the only thing holding the
tailpiece in position is the pull of the strings.
Often youll see tailpieces tilting forward, and

its claimed that better tone can be achieved by A lack of clarity and treble is a common Les Installing a no load tone control potentiometer
securing the tailpiece more securely. Tone Pros Paul-related complaint, but what can you do when ensures that at the top of the turn the pot clicks into
sell a range of replacement studs that comprise pickup-swapping isnt an option? Whenever a a position that disconnects it from the circuit and
a stud and a separate cap that screws down onto guitar is fitted with tone controls, there is always eliminates treble bleed. Turn the pot down, and it
the top of the tailpiece, while the Faber Tone some treble bleed through the tone circuit (you will function as a normal tone control. You can buy
Lock kits consist of replacement studs with can test this and see for yourself by disconnecting them or make your own, and youll notice the
spacer rings of various depths, so your tailpiece the tone circuit from the volume control). biggest difference in the neck position.
will be gripped and the original appearance is
maintained especially if you go for a reliced
set. The spacers also allow you to set the
tailpiece higher off the body for a looser feel.

The obvious way to keep the tailpiece fixed in

position is to screw it flat to the body. Setting it
higher softens the break angle, much like
top-wrapping, but the tailpiece may need to be
secured. Tone Pros locking studs provide an Installing no-load potentiometers for your tone controls may help to make your Les Paul sound
effective solution. brighter and clearer. Theyre easy to buy, but its almost as easy to make them yourself.


25 Les Paul mods WORKSHOP


Any Les Paul with two humbuckers is actually equipped with four pickups The regular Les Paul wiring scheme means that the controls are somewhat
two pairs of single coils with each pair wired in series. When you think about interactive. One of the oddities is the way that turning down one of the volume
the range of tones you can get from a regular Stratocaster, its obvious Les controls kills both pickups when the pickup selector is in the middle setting.
Pauls have a lot of un-tapped potential. Jimmy Page certainly thought so, and Some players like it because you can do that stuttering staccato trick where
he had four push/pull switches fitted in his 1960 Les Paul. The push/pulls you hit a power chord and play it with the switch, but it drives other players
under the volume controls switch between regular humbucker and single coil bananas. Fortunately its easy to de-couple the volume controls by wiring the
tones. The push/pull under the neck tone control is a series/parallel switch, volume controls backwards; just follow the diagram. The downside of the mod
and the one under the bridge tone control switches the pickups in and out of is more noticeable treble loss when you turn down the volume controls, so
phase for Peter Green-style tones. If your pickups have vintage-style braided treble bleed caps may be required. Try 330pF for starters.
wires, theyll need to be replaced with multicore wires for this mod.
Ground Wire To Bridge

EP-4367 Switchcraft
Switch Ring

Neck Tone
Pull for tones with bridge
Neck volume
GW-0637 Pull for single coil
.02 Capacitors Tip
Braided Wire

Green wire
EP 4286-000
Neck Pickup
EP 4286-000
Bridge Tone
White & Red wire Pull for reverse phase
Bare wire
.02 Capacitors


White & Red wire

EP 4286-000

Black wire
EP 4286-000 Bridge Pickup
Bridge Volume
Pull for single coil
Green wire
Bare wire

EP 0055-xxx
Switchcraft Jack

Jimmy Page used a lot of trick wiring with his vintage Les Pauls for If you would like your volume controls to be completely independent and
out-of-phase and single-coil tones. A definitive schematic has yet to eliminate the cut out in the middle position, its a simple case of reversing
emerge, but heres one that will effectively do the job. the input and output connections on the volume potentiometers.


Filled holes in the tops of vintage Les Pauls are the secure the front of the Bigsby unit, and the strap
evidence of long-removed Bigsby vibratos. To button screw clamps it at the back. This do-it-
some a Les Paul with a Bigsby looks just as yourself installation can be done within minutes, but
incongruous as a Gretsch without one. youll need a fresh set of strings too.
Nevertheless, we think Lesters look the nuts with a
Bigsby and you can now install Bigsbys on Les The Vibramate system allows you to fix a Bigsby
Pauls without drilling any holes at all, thanks to a onto your Les Paul without drilling any holes
company called Vibramate. A specially-designed because it utilises the tailpiece studs and the
bracket attaches in place of the stop tailpiece to strap screw to hold the vibrato in place.

Early 50s style Les Pauls and Les Paul Juniors had and Faber offer the necessary conversion posts. For
wrap over tailpieces, so intonation can be replacement wrap over bridges and ABR-1 replicas
compromised. Fortunately wrap over replacement try Wilkinson, Pigtail, Badass, Hipshot, Schaller,
bridges with adjustable intonation are readily Gotoh, Tone Pros, Callaham and Gibson too.
available. Vintage fans generally prefer ABR-1
style aluminium Tun-O-Matic bridges with brass Trevor Wilkinsons take on the wrap-over
saddles to the later all-zinc Nashville bridges. They tailpiece is sleek and elegant. It has a movable
can be swapped, but they require thumbwheel saddle for the B and G that gives you a much
posts with a different diameter. Browns Guitars better chance of achieving accurate intonation.

WORKSHOP 25 Les Paul mods

Installing extra switches in Fenders was never a pull and push/push switches so the recent Key to the initial success of Paul Reed Smith has to
cause for concern because if you changed your introduction of a six-way toggle switch that fits in be his hybridisation of the Les Paul and the
mind, you could always buy a new pickguard to place of the regular three way is an exciting Stratocaster, combining traditional Les Paul tones
replace the one you had perforated. development. Called the Free-Way Switch, it and vibe with Stratocaster ergonomics and a
Understandably most Les Paul owners have provides Lester players with countless options. vintage-style trem that actually stayed in tune.
baulked at the idea of drilling holes in their Jimmy Page had one installed in the Les Paul Custom The timing was perfect for a generation grown
guitars, so the options for extra pickup he used for the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert, and weary of day-glo Superstrats. Fortunately there
configurations have largely been confined to push/ theyre manufactured here in the UK. are now several types of vibrato that can be fitted
to Les Pauls without any necessity to drill extra
holes or make irreversible alterations. The
Schaller Tremolo Les Paul is considerably less
intrusive than the Floyd Rose FRX, but the market
leader seems to be the Stetsbar Stop Tail.

Lets face it, nobody in their right mind would

rout huge holes in the body of a Les Paul to
mount a Strat-style vibrato, and Bigsbys arent
for everybody. The Stetsbar has long been the
option for players who want to mount a proper
whammy bar on a Les Paul.

The six-way Free Way switch was recently introduced by the UKs NSF Controls. It means you can add
all kinds of options to your guitar without altering its appearance or making the controls too fiddly.
Various types of magnets are used in pickups, and

19 METAL JACK PLATE UPGRADE they all sound different. The most common
magnetic alloy is Alnico, and P90s and humbucker
If a pickup fails or you break a string, you will be metal replacement. This is a cheap and reversible pickups usually have Alnico II, III, IV or V. Powerful
able to keep playing but if your guitar output modification but try to ensure the screw holes of the ceramic magnets are also popular with rock
fails, youll find that a Les Paul is not an ideal new plate will line up with the old one before you hit players who prefer high output with plenty of
choice for an unplugged performance. Every buy it now. The only tools required are a crosshead brightness. If you want softer vintage tones, extra
guitar design has its weak spots and the jack plate screwdriver and something to tighten up the jack brightness or higher output and more aggression,
is the Les Pauls because the slim plastic plate is nut. If you want to keep the original look, simply its cheaper to swap magnets than swap pickups.
all too easy to snap. The solution is simple a install the plastic plate on top of the metal one. Humbuckers have one magnet and P90s have two,
so remove the cover (if necessary), loosen the
backplate and slide them out.

Pickup manufacturers may be reluctant to sell

you magnets, but suitable alternatives are
available from Stewart-MacDonald and
If you wish to buy a metal jack plate, be sure to double-check that the screw holes will line up with Sensmag Inc. Heres a rough-cast A4 magnet
those of the original. If in doubt, contact the retailer for more information. being slid into position in a Shed PAF Daddy.


25 Les Paul mods WORKSHOP

PICKUP HEIGHT During his time with Fleetwood Mac, Peter Greens out the magnet then flip it around (not over) to
Les Paul had a very distinctive sound in the middle reverse the magnetic polarity relative to the coil.
Humbuckers have screws at both ends to allow you position because the two pickups were out of Tighten the base plate up, refit your cover if you use
to adjust the height of the pickups. Similarly, phase. There are two ways you can replicate this. one, and youre done. Alternatively you can flip the
soapbar P90s have two small screws passing After removing the cover of one pickup (wed phase electronically by reversing the hot and cold
through the covers that do the same job. The suggest the neck), slacken off the baseplate, slide connections. This can be hard-wired or switchable.
proximity of pickup coils to the strings has a
massive effect. Setting the pickups very high can
make them sound overly aggressive and
midrangey (the magnetic pull may even reduce
sustain). When pickups are set lower the tone can
be sweeter and more open, but they can sound
dull and unresponsive if set too low. To optimise
your tone the only tools you need are a
Hot from Ground
screwdriver and your ears. Take time to
Pickup from pup
experiment before buying a new set of pickups.

Pickup height is a vital ingredient of the fine art Hot output to To

of setting up a guitar. Many players dont switch or jack Ground
realise the huge effect it can often have, and go
chasing the latest, hippest pickups without first If you dont want to remove the cover from your pickup, you can reverse its polarity electronically.
making the most of the ones theyve got This can be done permanently or it can be linked to a switch to give you the option

It is widely acknowledged that some of Gibsons A desire to recreate the looks and tones of late The value of volume pots does have an effect on
current Historic Collection models are the finest 1950s models seems to inspire the vast majority of the sound of guitars. As a rule of thumb,
guitars they have made since the 1960s but some upgrades, and success is largely dependent on the lower-value pots equate to reduced treble
owners want even more authenticity. A company pickups. Unfortunately, PAFs seem to be the (Fender use 250K pots to sweeten up their
called Historic Makeovers offers various hardest pickups to get right. Certain key single coils). 500K was always the stock value
packages that include nitro refins with aniline ingredients are well understood, and these include for volume and tone controls in Gibsons, but
dyes, authentic fading, relicing, neck reshaping, plain enamel magnet wire, butyrate bobbins, many Les Pauls are fitted with 300K volume
top re-carving and celluloid inlay replacement. maple spacers and 2.5" magnets. Leaving the coils pots and some have 100K tone pots. If your LP
Optional extras include Brazilian rosewood unpotted is vital too, but the real voodoo part sounds too dull and dark, measure the volume
boards, trussrod replacement, Royalite rebinding, involves getting the tension of the winding exactly pots and install 500K replacements if 300Ks
neck re-setting and nylon nut replacement. Prices correct and knowing how much to offset the coils. are fitted. Conversely, 300K pots will help to
start from $2015 and customers supply their own There are a handful of manufacturers whose PAF smooth out over-bright trebles. Some players
guitars. Converting early 50s Les Pauls to late replicas are pretty spot-on, but be warned that the find the balance they like with a 500K pot for
50s specs has also become popular of late the truly authentic tone of PAFs doesnt always the neck pickup and 300K for the bridge. CTS
premise being that the tone is in the old wood. conform to expectations. pots cost around 5 so its cheap to experiment.

Buying a high-end Gibson Les Paul reissue then By and large, replica PAF builders have proved You can buy control pots from suppliers like
sending it to Historic Makeovers to have it more adept at recreating the look than the Allparts UK, but make sure the shafts are long
stripped, dismantled, rebuilt and refinished is tone but, even so, there are a select few that enough for an arch-top Les Paul. Alternatively,
not inexpensive, but its a lot cheaper than a have managed to nail both. Heres a real 50s check out pre-wired control assemblies from
real 50s Les Paul. Heres a specially treated R9. PAF with that iconic decal. companies like Emerson Custom Guitars. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 35

WORKSHOP 25 Strat mods

How can you improve a guitar thats
been described as already close to
perfection? HUW PRICE has 25 ways
to make your Fender Strat play
and sound better than ever
before and some of them
hardly cost a bean


25 Strat mods WORKSHOP

here was a time when vintage electronic components, plus bridge
Fenders were thought to sound blocks, saddles and nut materials. And
superior to newer ones simply its not all about vintage tone; a proper
because they were old, and most understanding of the way the component
players were content to leave parts fit into the formula will help you
it at that. As the prices of vintage to make informed decisions about
Fenders went stratospheric, the guitar the modifications that will make your
community began to ask why the old Stratocaster play and sound the way
ones sounded different. Could those actually you want it to.
characteristics be replicated with newer The purpose of this Guitar & Bass
instruments?. article is not to list all the fabulous
Well, maybe, yes. It became aftermarket accessories and relicd
apparent that various changes had plastics that you can solder into or screw
been made to Fenders manufacturing onto your Fender Strat. The emphasis is
methods and materials. In retrospect, on optimising the basic instrument, and
1965 was not year zero for Fender many of these modifications wont cost
because these changes occurred you a thing. Others are relatively cheap,
gradually even if most were instigated and wed advise you to investigate all
by CBS bean-counters. the options before spending big money
Pickups and woods have been on exotic parts because with a few
subjected to close scrutiny, but only judicious tweaks, a bit of basic wiring
now are players becoming aware of and some routine maintenance, that
the significance of seemingly minor old Strat may yet surprise you. > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 37

WORKSHOP 25 Strat mods

Some Strat players never use the vibrato Robert All guitars with single-coil pickups are prone to copper, but you have to join all the edges with solder
Cray and Billy Gibbons prefer hardtail Strats but picking up noises, and Stratocasters will buzz and because the adhesive is non-conductive. Many pro
most consider the springs to be an essential hum depending on the environment. Fortunately, players have installed dummy coils, and they
component of the guitars sound. So how can you there are ways to quiet things down. The simplest feature in some Suhr models; you can remove the
have a trem-loaded Strat that you can be tuned up is to fit a RWRP pickup in the middle position, but bar magnet from the underside of a cheap pickup
in a single pass and wont go out of tune when you this will only hum-cancel in positions 2 and 4. and use it as a dummy coil. Ultimately, though, the
snap a string? Simple: tighten the spring claw, Some advocate lining the pickup and control routs only sure-fire way to silence a Strat is to install
place a lump of wood between the bridge block with copper foil. Allparts sell sticky-backed noiseless pickups such as Lace Sensors or Kinmans.
and the back of the trem rout, and slacken off the
claw to allow string tension to wedge it in place.
Its simple, its cheap, and it works. Just ask Eric.

Not a trem fan? Using five springs, tightening

the spring claw and wedging a piece of wood
behind the block will give you hardtail tuning
stability with spring-loaded tone.

Many have wondered why Fender chose to provide
tone controls for the neck and middle pickups but
neglected to provide treble roll-off for the pickup
that actually needed it most. Its easy to remedy
this oversight, and if you can solder, it shouldnt
cost a thing. Method 1 is to swap the middle (or
neck) pickups tone control to the bridge pickup;
method 2 is to add a jumper wire so the bridge
pickup can share one of the other tone controls.
Problem solved.

The suggested position for a dummy coil connected to a regular Strat circuit with an in/out switch.

Pickup upgrades are often an attempt to sweeten
the sound, but most of us overlook the tone
capacitor. Fender initially installed 0.1uF caps
firstly paper/oil types, then later ceramic discs.
Around 1964 the cap value was changed to
0.047uF. Treble is always lost through tone
circuits even when theyre supposedly off so
the capacitor value is significant. A Strat will
sound brighter with a 0.047uF cap than a 0.1uF. If
youre chasing vintage tone its worth spending
20p on a 0.1uF capacitor before spending 200 on
a set of pickups. If you want your Strat to sound
brighter, try a 0.022uF cap.

To connect the bridge pickup to a tone control, This is a reproduction of Fenders original
most modders move the middle tone control paper/oil 0.1uF capacitor. The treble will sound
connection over or use a jumper for the bridge vintage-correct with this value or you can fit a
pickup to share the middle tone control. 0.047uF or a 0.022uF for extra brightness.


25 Strat mods WORKSHOP


Dan Armstrong devised a parallel/series wiring These pseudo-humbucker settings are fatter and The term Stratitus is used to describe the
mod for Strats that uses the middle tone control louder while settings 2 and 4 are genuinely out of odd-sounding tuning anomalies many Strats
as a blender/mixer. With the blend control at 10, phase. You can explore semi-series and semi-out of exhibit on the low E string as you play above the
you get all five regular pickup settings. When its phase tones as well, because theres a blender 12th fret. This is caused by excessive magnetic pull
rolled fully back you get a H/S/H configuration rather than a switch. The new layout is simple to from the pickups inhibiting string vibration, and
the middle pickup combining in series with the operate and if youre content with master volume pickups that are set high will make things worse.
neck and bridge in the front and back positions. and tone, its a great way to use that spare control. Dont assume that your Strat came out of the
factory adjusted to perfection the proximity of
the coils to the strings has a significant effect on

tone. Set the pickups high and theyll make your
Strat sound bright, loud and aggressive; set them
Dan Armstrong Wiring

lower and the tone should open up, with sweeter

trebles and more dynamic response. Set them too
low, and your Strat will sound dull and lifeless. All
three pickups have height-adjustment screws and
theyre there to optimise tone and balance the
levels of the pickups. Let your ears guide you.

The pickup height adjustment screws are there

to be used. If youre nervous about doing this,
attaching a small piece of masking tape to the
ends of each cover and marking the pickguard
This Dan Armstrong mod provides four extra tones, with pseudo-humbuckers in the neck and bridge. level with a pencil will allow you to return
It sounds fantastic, its easy to use, and your guitars appearance remains unchanged. easily to your original settings.

Over time vibrato arms can become loose. If they block so that as the arm is tightened it presses Turning Telecasters into Tele/Strat hybrids is
develop too much play then they rattle back and against the spring and feels a bit more stable. common enough, but fewer players have
forth when you use them, causing noise and Another popular fix is to wrap PTFE tape around the attempted to Tele-ise their Strats with a
making it harder to achieve a smooth vibrato and arm thread. You can buy this tape from plumbers replacement bridge pickup Lowell George being
you can certainly forget about Jeff Beck levels of merchants and its very cheap which is just as well, an honourable exception. These days its a cheap
precision. There are a couple of tried and trusted because the tape will need to be refreshed every so and easy mod that requires a metal inductance
remedies, though. Some players like to drop a often. For a more permanent solution, check out the plate to be attached to the underside of a regular
small spring into the bottom of the arm hole in the innovative trem arm from the UKs Staytrem. Strat bridge pickup. These can fatten, focus and
generally beef up your bridge pickup tone. Steel
plates sound different to copper and so forth, so
do some research beforehand to decide what
appeals to you. Suppliers include Fralin, Shed
Pickups, and Oil City.

An inductance plate will make your Strats

bridge pickup sound more like a typical
Some well-placed tape can tame a loose tremolo arm but youll need to replace it often. Telecaster. Theyre cheap and easy to install.

WORKSHOP 25 Strat mods

Friction is the enemy of stable tuning. This has Strat players have long struggled with over-bright that balances the treble response of the pickups
been well understood for decades, and excellent bridge pickups, prompting aftermarket pickup and frees up the second tone control for trick wiring.
results are achievable with traditional petroleum makers to devise balanced sets. Many deliver, If you connect the master tone control to the output
jelly and graphite from soft pencils. Other DIY but the underlying cause is not addressed. Stock (centre) tag of volume control rather than the input,
solutions include silicon grease, Chapstick and O Strat pickups are balanced, but the stock circuit the ratio of guitar signal to treble bleed remains
ring grease, while specialist guitar products isnt, as only the neck and middle pickups bleed consistent regardless of the position of the volume
include Big Bends Nut Sauce, Graphit All and many treble through the tone circuit. Changing to a knob. Many find it renders treble bleed capacitors
more. Although they all do much the same job, the master tone arrangement is a simple modification superfluous and you can try it on your Tele too.
guitar products are designed for accurate
and mess-free application. Potential Neck hot wire
sticking points include nut slots, the Middle hot wire
point where the strings contact the
saddles and beneath the string Bridge hot wire
trees. Lube up as part of your
string-changing routine.
Ground wires from all pickups


Big Bends Nut Sauce is a

popular guitar lubricant. The Disconnect the middle tone control from the
syringe and micro brush make it circuit altogether and connect the neck tone
simple to apply and it might help control directly to the input or output tag of
to keep tuning solid. the volume control. Output jack

In the days of three-way switches, players were controls. The spare tone control becomes the middle Friction is the cause of most tuning problems,
aware of the Strats in-between settings but it was pickups volume. You can still have all your regular and rough nut slots are a common source of
hard to make the switch stay put. Here, the middle Strat settings plus all three pickups in parallel and a friction. Listen for clicks and pings from the
pickup is disconnected from the volume control great sounding neck/bridge combination. Its known headstock area as you tune up. Budget Strats
and the switch, leaving a Tele-type neck/both/ as Memphis Wiring because this was the preferred often come with plastic nuts, which arent good
bridge arrangement with master volume and tone configuration of Sun Records legend Roland Janes. for tone or tuning; why not consider upgrading
to bone or a self-lubricating graphite nut from
Neck Middle Bridge With Memphis wiring, the neck and bridge Graphtec? Trem king Jeff Beck prefers a roller
pickups are connected to a three-way switch nut, but standard nut slots must be altered to fit
and the middle pickup fades in and out with one. If you already have a bone nut, try
its own volume control.
wrapping a length of string with 1200 grit wet
and dry paper and smoothing the slots. After
protecting rosewood fingerboards with masking
tape, buff the nut and slots with chrome polish.
Ground Wire


Output jack

3-Way Switching: Tip

1. Bridge
2. Neck & Bridge Middle
3. Neck Volume

Main Volume controls the

output of the 3-way switch
Tone Roller nuts are popular with heavy vibrato
Middle Volume controls the users because they provide a friction-free

output of the Middle Pickup Tele 3-Way Switch ride. The drawback is that in order to fit

one, the nut slot will need to be widened.


25 Strat mods WORKSHOP


Although the in-between settings are often positive and negative connections of one pickup. We believe a pickup upgrade can provide the
referred to as out of phase, its really two pickup Individually the pickups will sound the same, but in biggest improvement of all, but it shouldnt be
coils working together in series. Theres a degree combination the thinner, scratchier, honkier sound regarded as a cure-all there are easier and
of phase shift because theyre picking up string is useful for getting clean sounds high in a mix cheaper upgrades that you should perform first.
vibrations from different areas of the string, but without eating up too much frequency space. Its a Vintage tone enthusiasts may want scatterwound
the pickups are actually in phase electronically. tone heard on funk and old Motown records, and it coils and they should check out the various types
True out of phase switching means reversing the can be brutally lo-fi through a fuzzbox. of alnico and slug staggers Fender used in
different eras. Formvar magnet wire was used
This diagram shows how a push/ prior to the CBS takeover and plain enamel
pull or push/push switch can be thereafter. All these things make a difference. Hot
wired for phase reversal. wound single coils and drop-in humbuckers with
coils in stacked and side-by-side configurations
will make your Strat far more powerful. Drop-in
P90 soundalikes are also available, as are
low-output Danelectro-style lipsticks.
Hot from Ground
Pickup, from pup,
probably probably
white red or black

Single-coil sized dual rail pickups such as

Hot output DiMarzios Air Norton S solve hum problems
of pup, and boost output, without extra routing.
possibly to To
switch Ground


Push-pull switches a switch box combined with a

15 NECK POCKET CLEANUP potentiometer in a single unit have been around

for a long time. The control knob works
To resonate together as one, the body and neck of rubber grommets, cardboard and scraps of conventionally but it can be pulled up or pushed
a guitar should be coupled as tightly as possible. sandpaper are not ideal. Try a sliver of hardwood down to use the switch mechanism. The switch can
Wood-to-wood contact is ideal but this isnt the veneer if you need to shim. Many necks have labels perform any number of functions, some of which
way things generally turn out. Pop the neck off and stickers in between the screw holes. Peel them are detailed in this article. The problem for Strat
most Strats and youll often find various horrors in off and clean up any residual stickiness. If youre players is that stock tapered knobs are not easy to
the pocket. A shim is often needed to achieve an spraying a body, consider masking of the neck grip and you cant get your fingertips underneath
optimal neck angle, and its accepted practice, but pocket so the wood remains exposed. if they are tight against the scratchplate. The
solution is simple fit a push-push switch instead,
so you push down to switch on, and push down
again to switch off. Its fast, effective and means
you dont need to drill holes in your pickguard.

This push/push switch is mounted on a pot

We recently found this plastic cut-off in the neck pocket of a Strat. Needless to say it was binned. casing. The standard value for Strats is 250K.

WORKSHOP 25 Strat mods

Most of the changes that were instigated at Fender This is something we discovered by accident while shielding plate hanging around just like the ones
by the CBS management were intended to reduce trying to replicate the huge, warm tones of a Fender used between 1959 and 1967. On a whim we
costs rather than make real improvements. Like genuine 63 Strat with an 83 Tokai Goldstar. fitted the shielding plate and the midrange acquired
many other components, the quality of string Acoustically there was little to choose between a thicker, chewier and sweeter vintage loveliness.
saddles fell when a cheap alloy nicknamed them, but despite trying various sets of pickups We cant offer a scientific explanation but if youre
monkey metal replaced the bent steel. For and correcting the tone cap, the sound wasnt chasing SRV tone, a 10 aluminium shielding plate
vintage tone, steel saddles may provide a quite there. By chance we had an aluminium should be the first item on your shopping list.
noticeable improvement; other popular choices
include stainless steel, bass and titanium. Heavy
trem users may wish to investigate roller saddles,
or Graphtecs. They all have different tone and
sustain characteristics, so do your research and
make sure the saddles you choose are compatible
with your Strats string spacing.

There are countless options for upgrading Strat

saddles. These Graphtecs have built-in piezo
pickups that are intended to provide
Stratocasters with an acoustic option. Pete A 1960s-style aluminium shielding plate does influence the sound of a Stratocaster. Try one before
Townshend is known for using these. buying an expensive set of handwound pickups.

This may help your Strat to stay in tune a little This one is a source of contention because some cover onto the back of the body and remove it. If
better. In lieu of an angled headstock, Fender use claim to hear the effect of a removed spring cover your guitar sounds more resonant and responsive,
string trees to achieve the necessary break angle while others cant hear any change at all and then congratulations on completing a successful
over the nut. We have noticed plenty of Strats with even the advocates admit it only works on some upgrade. Youll probably find string changing a lot
string trees screwed flat to the front of the Strats. Either way, its free and totally reversible. easier too. If your guitar sounds just the same, feel
headstock, making the break angle greater than it Simply unscrew the six screws holding the spring free to put the cover back on.
needs to be and increasing friction under the tree
itself. Put a spacer under the string tree to reduce
the angle and straighten the string path between
the nut and the tuners thats what Fender always
did. Alternatively you can bypass the string tree
completely and achieve the necessary break angle
by winding the B and E strings all the way down to
the bottom of the tuner post.

The string tree on the left is shimmed, while the

one on the right is flat to the board. Wed
recommend shimming both in order to reduce
friction and avoid tuning issues. Some claim to hear a difference when they remove the spring cover; others dont. Its worth a try.


25 Strat mods WORKSHOP


Fender originally used 10oz cold rolled steel Many players experience a problem with their E this as it combines a vintage-spec 2 7/32" screw
(CRS-1018) blocks with shallow holes for the ball strings slipping off the fingerboard when they spacing with modern 2 1/16" string spacing. Its a
ends, and these are generally regarded as being apply finger vibrato. On old guitars this can occur drop-in replacement for vintage-spec Strats, and it
effective tone enhancers. Use a magnet to test if because the neck has become worn through years cures slippage by moving the E strings further
your block is steel if the magnet falls off, it isnt. of playing or overly aggressive fretwork, but some towards the centre of the fingerboard. Bent steel
Callahams vintage-spec blocks are excellent but contemporary Strats like the Yngwie Malmsteen saddles and a cold rolled steel block come as part of
expensive in the UK. Domestic equivalents are signature model exhibit the very same problem. the package, and the narrower spacing might also
available from Wudtone, and Kevin Hurley sells his The Callaham V/N bridge is useful in combatting be a better match for Strats with humbuckers.
blocks on eBay, both relicd and non-relicd and in
narrow and wide spacing. With either of these, you
should get extra brightness, definition and sustain.
Even if you dont plan to change your block, its
worth popping off the bridge plate to scrape off
any paint that may be applied to the top.

This cold rolled steel Hurley relic trem block

weighs a vintage-correct 10oz. It was made in
the UK, and at a shade under 30 its less than Callaham make very high-end hardware and this Vintage/Narrow bridge has modern string spacing
half the price of some American made blocks. with vintage-style pivot screw spacing to prevent E strings from slipping off the fingerboard.

NECK JOINT Does your tone get dull when you turn down? If so, Leo Fender and his team intended the Strat
try soldering a capacitor between the input and vibrato to be a floating unit, where the spring
If a guitars neck is loose in its pocket, then it will output terminals of the volume pot. When the tension balances out the pull from the strings.
be less effective at transferring vibrations. On top volume control is fully up, the cap is bypassed, but There are no hard and fast rules about setting
of that, the neck may actually move around, when you turn down, the cap allows some of the these up, because all players require different
causing tuning instability and string slippage. On high frequency content to bypass the volume pot feels. Some require no upward movement, but
occasion you can see a gap between the bottom of and go straight through to the output. Suitable most prefer to be able to vibrato above and
the neck and the neck pocket, even when the capacitor types include ceramic disc, film and below pitch. Tightening and loosening the claw
screws are fully tightened. Assuming theres no silver mica. Be careful, as if the capacitor value is screws fine-tunes the trem response, and it can
shim, this could be because the screw holes in the too high, you may experience some excessive be done with surprising precision. Carl
body are too narrow for the screws. If you cant brightness as you back off. Some suggest a 130K Verhayen tunes his trems so the G, B and E
push the plate screws straight through the body resistor in series with the cap to reduce the treble strings pull up a minor third, a tone and a
holes, you should have them drilled out to bleed or a 100K resistor in parallel with the cap to semitone respectively. It sounds very musical
increase their diameter. Many builders experience modify the pot taper. Begin with a 1000pF, and be and its surprisingly easy to set up.
this issue with replacement bodies. prepared to experiment.

If your Strats neck screws appear to be fully A treble bleed cap helps brightness
tightened but theres still a gap visible between when you turn down your volume.
the body and the neck, it requires some Some use a cap on its own; others This spring claw is intentionally angled because
attention. Assuming theres no shim, there prefer a resistor in series or as it has been adjusted to provide precise
should be no gap whatsoever. shown here in parallel with the cap. intervals when the bar is pulled up. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 43

WORKSHOP Fretboard hygiene


Are you suffering from gunk? We lift the lid on one of the
shameful secrets of the guitar world, fingerboard hygiene.

ake a look at the fingerboard rosewood, maple and ebony 1 . aided by ammonia, which makes
on your guitar. Can you see a The rosewood and ebony boards it perfect for polishing metals and
row of six elliptical mounds of are usually unfinished (although modern plastic finishes. Apply the
grime between the frets? Tish, a light oil can be applied for some Brasso onto a soft cloth and rub the
you ought to be ashamed of moisture protection and to enhance entire top surface of the fingerboard
yourself. What on earth produced the condition of the wood) while in line with the frets, not along
this muck? Well, you, basically. maple is typically more heavily the length of the neck. Obviously,
No matter how clean you think protected by a clear or tinted finish. the harder you rub, the shinier your
your hands are, grease and sweat frets will be. Always finish off with
from those digits will eventually be Finished fingerboards a quick wipe from a clean cloth.
compressed onto your fingerboard. There are different methods of When you are satisfied, restring and
Of course there can be more cleaning the different types, so lets set up the instrument.
contributing factors, namely beer, start with the finished fingerboard,
nicotine, sandwiches. which is usually made of maple. Unfinished fingerboards
The resultant effects of dirty You may have read articles or Working on these is a little more
strings are all too familiar: dull books encouraging you to use involved. To achieve that factory
notes, poor intonation and that soap and water to clean the grime look on your frets and fingerboard,
general my-strings-are-cheesewire which collects between frets. Ive you may need to go shopping first.
feeling. But before abandoning witnessed the effects of water on Youll need
your playing to set up as a free wood and modern finishes its not
Masking tape (insulation tape is not the
cutting service for Monsieur advised. White spirit applied with a same thing)
Camemberts Cave du Fromage, soft rag is much safer, as it dissolves 600 and 1200 grit wet and dry paper
take heart: this can be avoided (or grease and softens dirt with no A straight razor blade (double or
at least reduced). Set aside a one-off danger of damaging the fingerboard single-edged type)
hour-long session to clean your or finish. Ball up the cloth into OOOO wire wool (thats very fine)
fingerboard, and get into the habit a small pad and dip it into the A small bottle of fingerboard oil
of preventative measures. white spirit. Using small circular
But first things first. Remove all motions, you should find that all With the exception of the oil,
the strings and throw them away. the dirt lifts straight off the lacquer. youll get all of this at a high-street
On guitars with fulcrum vibratos The most difficult area to clean will auto store. Single-edged backed
(Fender vintage, unrecessed Floyd be on the very edges of the frets. A razor bladesshould be available
Rose, Wilkinson, etc) place some cocktail stick with a piece of cloth from an automotive paint supplier.
thick card, a few business cards or on the end will get into the tightest If you cant get those, standard
plastic credit cards (expired only), of corners. double-edged blades are fine,
or the vibratos backplate under the Theres a good chance that, if the although you must wrap sufficient
back of the vibrato this will stop fingerboard is dirty, the frets will masking tape around one edge 2 .
it being pulled back by the springs be tarnished. You can kill two birds This is not only a safety precaution:
when you remove the strings. with one stone at this point, as both it allows you to identify the edge
the frets and the fingerboard can that was last used. The double-
The fingerboard be polished in one hit, with Brasso. edged blade will feel more flexible
The most common types of This product is not like other liquid and may well be more suitable for
timbers used for fingerboards are abrasives; its cutting abilities are beginners trying this method for

1 2

1 Rosewood (top) and

maple fingerboards
2 Tape that razor blade
very carefully


Fretboard hygiene WORKSHOP

3 Using the blade to scrape

the face of the fingerboard
3 4 5 4 Taping up the board with
masking tape
5 Polishing frets with wet
and dry
6 Final polish with 0000
steel wool
7 Remove the masking tape
from the ends inwards

6 7 8
8 Final buffing with
fingerboard oil

the first time. As to the fingerboard what you are doing. Dont worry if wool out again. The fine OOOO
oil, we recommend Mansons the fingerboard has any inlays of grade will remove any traces of
Fingerboard Oil, a lemon oil-based pearl or some other material. So the 1200 grit wet and dry paper,
preparation which works very well, long as the blade is sharp, it will and will leave the frets looking like
and the small bottle will last a very, deal with them. chrome 6 , and you will probably
very long time. Alternately look By now, you may be horrified feel quite pleased with yourself.
for almond oil (in the ingredients at what youve just done. Dont Its crucial, however, that you dont
section of your supermarket). panic. All those wood shavings will get too carried away. The next part,
On this type of fingerboard, soon be a vague memory. Take the although extremely straightforward,
you should take the precaution of OOOO wire wool and rub furiously needs patience.
taping up the areas of the guitar along the length of the fingerboard, The masking tape must now be
which could be marked in some frets included. I know what youre removed 7 , but you have to lift
way. The headstock, pickups, and thinking, trust me. the two ends towards the centre.
the portion of the body around the At this point, the wire wool will This method prevents the lacquer
neck joint are favourite targets for have cleaned away any debris which on the edge of the fingerboard from
over-enthusiastic polishing. may have been compacted along chipping off.
Now take the razor blade in the length of the frets. You will also The worst is now over. Wash your
hand; the idea is to use it as a be aware that the frets now have hands and find a clean, soft cloth.
miniature scraper. But first, a a matte finish, thanks to tens of Put a few drops of the fingerboard
word of warning: some guitar thousands of tiny scratches. oil onto the cloth 8 , and wipe well
manufacturers would have you Wipe the board down with a into the grain of the fingerboard.
believe that your fingerboard clean cloth. It will make you feel Turn the cloth over and buff the
really is either rosewood or ebony. better. Take the masking tape and, whole neck. Its vital to remove the
Imagine that sinking feeling as you very carefully, mask the fingerboard excess oil as, although it protects
scrape off a top layer of coloured 4 so that only the frets are showing. the fingerboard, it can actually
dye to reveal a very much lighter This will mean that once you get as cause the strings to deteriorate.
coloured wood underneath. If far as the 8th or 9th fret, you will Wait half an hour or so for the area
youre not sure whether your board have to start cutting the tape in half to dry, give it a final buff with an
is pukka, always get a second in order to keep things neat. oil-free cloth, and re-string.
opinion. Alternatively, scrape a little Using an old pair of scissors, or Follow these instructions and
right behind the highest fret, rather the edge of a work surface, cut two chances are that youll have a neck
than anywhere more important, or three 50mm squares of 600 grit thats better now than it was when
to see if the colour changes wet and dry paper 5 . This will be the guitar was made, as most
dramatically. plenty. Wrap the square around manufacturers cannot afford the
Take the blade between the your finger and rub along the time for such luxuries. So what can
thumb and forefinger of both length of each and every fret. Only you do to keep it looking that way?
hands 3 , and hold it at roughly move onto the next fret when all of Keep a small towel or cloth in your
80 degrees to the fingerboard the scratches left by the wire wool case or gigbag so that you can give
surface. Remember, as you scrape have disappeared. your hands a wipe before, and the
back and forth between the frets Fingers sore? I have news for strings a wipe after youve played.
(with the grain), you are merely you. Do exactly the same thing now Fastfret and other cleaning and
trying to remove the dirt from the with the 1200 wet and dry. Dont lubrication products are fine but
fingerboard. It doesnt take a genius skimp. If you have knowingly left keep it clean in the first place and
to realise that there is a risk of scratches, you will feel them later youll find your strings last longer.
scalloping the board if you press too when you bend strings. Keep it clean, and clean it often
hard. Ill repeat that: think about Now its time to get the wire you know it makes sense. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 45

WORKSHOP Refinishing

The guitar as it was before

we started and right - the
finished article



This 1990 Japanese-made Ibanez RG550, originally metallic red, was badly
damaged in a bizarre plumbing incident. What better subject for a complete
transformation? HUW PRICE rolls up his sleeves and gets to work
Refinishing WORKSHOP

1 2 3

4 5 6

fter this Ibanez was water- guitar top. We had to join the two glue will squeeze-out, but wood 1 The clear gloss top coat

damaged the owner chose pieces together. They were placed glue wont stick to plastic 5 . made the sticky backed plastic
crinkle up. Action is needed!
to cover the body with sticky on top of each other, edges closely On a flat-bodied guitar the 3mm-
2 Body preparation: the
transfer sheets, but they aligned, then clamped to a shooting thick veneer would have been fine,
thickness sander left a rather
crinkled up badly under the board (you can make a shooting but its too thick to bend around the
sharp line along the body
clear lacquer top coats. We decided board from two pieces of MDF; body chamfer, so it was back to the chamfer
on a complete make-over, adding see 4 . A block plane will remove woodworking shop to sand it down
3 The chamfer edge was
a bookmatched maple veneer top wafer-thin shavings from both to 1.2mm. smoothed over to allow the
with a trans black finish to restore edges simultaneously until both veneer to bend over it nicely
this shredder to its former glory.. are straight and true. To test the STAGE 3 4 Shooting board: two
joint, place the edges together, hold Veneering the top lengths of MDF stuck on top of
STAGE 1 them against a window pane, and Obviously our join had to run up another to create a step
Stripping the body look for any daylight. This is called the centre line of the guitar, but 5 The veneer halves are
The guitars owner, Roger, had candling. Keep working with plane we have options regarding which glued on a clamping board.
Note nails on the outside
already done most of the work and shooting board until not a areas of grain to use. You can cut
when he used a heat gun to speck of daylight shows through. the body shape out of a piece of
6 Using a paper template
remove the original poly for the You dont need any specialist paper and place it over the veneer to
helped us decide which section
first refinish. We peeled off the tools to glue the veneer halves help visualise the end result, then of the veneer to use
transfer and hit the white paint with together just a flat board, some draw around the cutout to mark the
stripper, but since the plan was to small nails and some heavy shape of the body 6 . Now cut out
add a veneer and we needed a clean weights. Place the pieces with joint the body shape with a craft knife,
gluing surface, we put the whole edges together and something leaving 5mm around the edge for
body through the flat sander at our under each end to hold the joint a safety. This allows you to get your
local woodworking shop. On the few centimetres above the board clamps close to the edge of the body,
back, we took off just enough to get like a shallow roof. Draw along the and cuts down on trimming later.
rid of the paint; the top lost 1.5mm outer edges with a pencil, remove When gluing veneers its
to compensate for the thickness the veneer pieces, then hammer important to spread the pressure
of the veneer. This left a sharp in a nail every few centimetres across the entire surface, so I cut two
line where the chamfer met the along the outside pencil lines. Place clamping cauls out of scrap plywood,
top surface 2 , a problem when the two pieces back on the board just a bit larger than the body. This
it comes to folding a veneer, so we with the outside edges butted up makes clamping much easier and
used a plane followed by a sanding against the nails, and apply wood protects the body from the clamps.
block to reinstate the curve 3 . glue all along one edge. Press the For the top chamfer, we cut the
centre edges flat against the board, veneer diagonally across the starting
STAGE 2 allowing the nails to push the joint point of the chamfer curve then held
Preparing the top veneer together. Place a long, flat piece of it down with gaffer tape (masking
David Dyke (www.luthierssupplies. wood all along the joint, and put tape isnt grippy enough for the job). came up trumps with the heavy weights on top. Make sure Using gaffer tape is a bit risky, but
bookmatched veneer they sent for you apply plastic packing tape to no grain was lifted 7 .
the body and at 3mm thick it the backing board and the piece of For gluing the veneer, we
was about the same as an acoustic wood supporting the weights; some decided not to use Titebond, > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 47

WORKSHOP Refinishing

which hasnt always been too knife, then used a small file to true headstock was left overnight, and
successful for us on this kind of job up the edges of the slot 8 . when the clamps came off the result
in the past, but Humbrol Cascamite was just about perfect. The next task
actually urea formaldehyde glue, STAGE 5 was to carefully true up the edges
just like the stuff Gibson used Veneering the headstock using a craft knife and a sanding
to attach maple tops on Les Paul A matching maple headstock veneer block, then re-establish the locking
bodies in the 50s. This comes would give this guitar a real touch nut ledge using a mini sanding
in powder form which is mixed of class; sadly the old refinish had block made from a wood offcut 12 .
with water, and unlike Titebond, it left the front surface uneven and Remember the paper template
doesnt go off too quickly. rounded towards the edges. Rather we made for the headstock? Before
than use paint stripper, we began to I applied the veneer I used the
STAGE 4 sand off the gloss black using a flat cutout section to record the position
Trimming the veneer sanding block. As the wood started of the trussrod rout and the screw
A pro luthier might use a router to to show it was easy to see the low holes for the trussrod cover and
trim the edges of the veneer, but in spots 9 , so the sanding continued string tree. Guided by the template
our workshop articles we like to use until the black had almost marks I drilled through the
non-specialist tools. Itll take you disappeared. This reduced the depth veneer to reinstate the holes, then
a while to trim the body edges and of the ledge that the locking nut sits carved away the maple covering
the pickup and bridge routs using on, but that depth will return when the trussrod rout. From the rear
a craft knife, but its quite possible. the veneer is applied 10 . I drilled pilot holes through the
Make sure youve got plenty of fresh David Dyke provided a nice piece centre of each tuner hole, enlarged
blades, and watch those fingers! of maple veneer and once again we the holes in the veneer with a wider
Next, use a sanding block to true up placed a cutout template over it to bradawl bit, then used a reamer
the sides and round over the edges find the area of grain that worked to increase them to the right size.
7 Clamping cauls for front of the body and the routs. best for the shape. Again, its best After flat sanding with 240 grit
and back protect the body and To reinstate the holes for the to draw the outline onto the veneer paper, the head and body were ready
distribute the pressure
knobs and switch, place the body and cut out the shape leaving 5mm for finishing 13 .
8 The edges and routs were face-down on a piece of plywood and extra all around the edge.
trimmed flush using a craft drill through the centre of each hole Next we made two clamping STAGE 6
knife and sanding blocks
with your thinnest drill bit. Use the cauls, roughly the same shape as The trans black finish
9 Sanding the finish off the original holes in the control cavity the headstock, from a scrap piece Because of our cool-looking veneer,
front of the head. The black
to guide you, then flip the body over of plywood. Our headstock wasnt we opted for a PRS style stonewash
areas reveal the low spots
and use these pilot holes for larger quite flat, so I stuck a piece of cork finish. On the figured maple tops
10 The work has paid off, and
bradawl bits. I was able to drill the tile to the underside of the top caul that you see on guitars by PRS and
our Ibanezs headstock is now
ready for veneering switch screw holes to size straight using double-sided carpet tape, Suhr and so forth, the maple is dyed
off, but had to use a reamer to widen hoping that this softer material before the finish is applied. This
11 The headstock veneer
the holes for the pot shafts to the combined with clamping pressure makes the grain pop out regardless
is glued in place. Too many
clamps is just about enough! correct diameter. For the switch slot would conform to any curves. of the viewing angle.
I drilled undersized holes all the With Cascamite glue applied, For our water-based black stain
12 Heres the headstock
veneer glued in place and dry way along its length then cut out the the cauls were positioned and we settled on a 3:1 ratio of dye to
and ready for edge trimming wood between the holes with a craft the G clamps tightened 11 . The water. First, raise the grain of the

7 8 9

10 11 12


Refinishing WORKSHOP

13 14 15

16 17 18

veneer by wiping it over with a for the front was secured loosely; and set the guitar aside for a week. 13 The headstock veneer,
trimmed, with tuner holes
damp cloth; when its dry, wipe on firmly fixed masking tape leaves The finish was then cut back using
reinstated and truss rod nut
the dye. At first our guitar looked sharp edges in the lacquer when its 800, 1200 and 1500 grit wet and exposed
dark purple, but after sanding off peeled off. I then placed the body dry abrasive paper in the usual way.
14 Our body after the first
most of the dye it got a lot better. If face down on two risers to spray the After buffing to a deep gloss with application of stain. At this
you repeat the dying, sanding and back and sides black. Farecla G3 and 3M Machine Polish stage it looks a bit purple
wiping process, it accentuates the We decided on a thin black burst and sticking an Ibanez logo from 15 Heres the body with the
contrast in the grain 14 - 19 . around the edges to blend in the eBay on the headstock, the guitar first coat of stain sanded back.
veneer top. After removing the front was ready for reassembly 20 . Not too handsome, you say?
STAGE 7 mask and laying the body on its 16 When the veneer is wiped
Spraying back, we carefully sprayed the burst, Verdict down with white spirit, it
Steve Robinson (www.manchester holding the spray can over the For a project like this, remember really starts to look exciting supplied two cans centre of the body and directing the that you dont have to use black dye 17 More staining. Were
of black gloss and two of clear gloss spray outwards. Start by spraying the procedure would be the same adding a second application to
nitrocellulose. The maple top was beyond the edge then gradually if you wanted your guitar to be trans get the colour to go darker
first protected with a few coats of bring it towards the body until you blue, trans red or trans-anything. It 18 Stain sanded back again.
clear gloss. Once dry, I masked off see the edges of the body picking involved quite a lot of work, but More stages give more grain
the front of the body and sprayed up the colour. Be patient and build were delighted with the results. You contrast but less movement
satin black into the bridge and up the burst slowly. If you end up can still find Ibanez RGs like this 19 A second wipe down with
pickup routs. Next I brushed high- with splutters or overspray, you can for less than 300 second-hand, white spirit gives an idea of
how the guitar might look
density cellulose base coat from sand off the excess because there and with some time and around
Fiddes ( onto are clear coats underneath. 100 in materials you could end up 20 With black burst and clear

the back and sides and sanded Next I covered the whole guitar with a superb maple-topped guitar. coats added the Ibanez is
everything smooth. The mask with several coats of clear gloss What are you waiting for?

19 20 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 49

PROJECT Lap steel


Many guitarists are tempted by the lap steel but most dont own
one, so why not build one yourself? Its the perfect project for a
budding luthier, and HUW PRICE can tell you exactly how its done

f you have ever fancied having business of fret slotting, I designed 3" wide for the centre block and
a stab at guitar building, a lap my project around this board. 1" and 1 1/2" strips for the wings.
steel is a brilliant place to start. I didnt really want to recreate They also planed the front and
Theres no awkward truss rod a classic design, so instead I back surfaces so I had everything
installation, no tricky neck looked at loads of lap steels on the smooth and squared up. At home I
carving and, best of all, you dont internet then made a sketch of my sawed the wing strips to length, cut
even need frets. This month, were own. Next, I had to draw up scale the angles using a mitre saw, and
going to try to create our very own plans. When Im building guitars marked out the centre block.
lap steel guitar in a single weekend.. I prefer to work with Imperial
measurements because the US In the workshop
Starting out parts suppliers do the same. When Once the centre block was cut to
First we need the wood for the body. creating scale plans, I simply make length I drilled the machinehead
Ever since I moved into my house, 1cm equivalent to 1", so the 25" holes to avoid any chipping-out,
Id been eyeing up the wooden scale length became 25cm. Once then made a straight cut using the
mantelpiece 1 , Brian May-fashion, I was happy with the shape and mitre saw where the neck taper
but with a view to making a lap dimensions, I taped together six meets the base of the peghead 3
steel. The wood actually turned out sheets of A4 paper and drew up the . After this I removed the unwanted
to be African mahogany, or Khaya full-scale plans. This is worthwhile timber using a chisel and smoothed
Ivorensis, to give it its posh name. because it reveals errors, and you everything out using a Carroll drum
Next, the fingerboard. I checked can even physically arrange parts sander attached to my electric drill,
in the Stew-Mac catalogue and on the drawing, like tuners, 2 to held tight in my drill press 4 .
noticed that they sell flat, pre-slotted make sure that everything fits. Drill presses for conventional hand
Dobro fingerboards in ebony and Since I dont have any specialist drills are cheaply available in most
rosewood, 19" long and 2 3/8" wide timber-cutting equipment, I took DIY stores, and you should be able
with a scale length of 25". Since I my plank up to my local joinery to get a Carroll drum sander in
didnt want to get into the tricky firm and they cut it into three strips any specialist tool shop. Be careful

1 2

1 Our lap steel in its original

fireplace form
2 Making full-scale plans is
a good idea


Lap steel PROJECT

3 Here are the main body

parts, all ready
3 4 4 Fine-shaping with a Carrol
drum sander
5 Remember to drill a hole
for the pickup wire
6 First stage of gluing the
body together

5 6

not to apply too much pressure pickup. After carefully marking covering coat of the nearest colour
especially if, like me, you only have everything out, I drilled the output I could find in Halfords Rover
a cheap drill press because the jack hole using a 1 bit and then Primula Yellow 8 . Once that
Carroll wont sand straight. Also chain-drilled all around the areas had dried I applied some dark
make sure you wear a breathing where I needed to remove wood grain-filler and followed this with
mask and a pair of goggles. That with an 8mm bradawl point bit. For some more misting colour coats.
exotic sawdust can be irritating. this the drill was mounted in my With just a hint of grain showing
I had decided to fit a T-style drill press so each hole ended up through the finish, I applied several
bridge, partly because I happened exactly the same depth. coats of clear cellulose lacquer. The
to have a spare one already along I removed the excess wood with a one I always use is Fiddes Bone
with a load of T-style pickups. The Dremel-type tool and a router bit in Hard (, which
other good thing about this kind of a Stewart-MacDonald mini-router is available in aerosols. The finish
bridge was that I knew I could buy base. Serious routing with a Dremel had to sit for a week or so to harden
a bridge cover if I needed a hand is tricky, and you should work your before I could polish it up. I cut the
rest. After I had drilled the string way slowly to the required depth surface back with 1500-grit wet and
and screw holes for the bridge, I otherwise the router bit will be torn dry sandpaper (used wet) and then
clamped one of the wings onto the loose or start wandering around all polished it, first with 3M Machine
centre block and drilled a through- over the place. If you havent got a Polish, then Farecla G3. I used to
hole to get the pickup wire into the router, you could clean out the holes use T-Cut but the ammonia in this
control cavity 5 . using a chisel. The results probably product softens the finish, making
I drew the curves of the lower wont be as neat, but nobodys ever the polishing stage much harder.
bout onto the wings and knocked going to see it 7 .
off the corners with the mitre saw. Now the body was ready for final Painting
The plan was to round them off filling, shaping and sanding. Its Next it was time to move onto the
later with the Carroll sander (most worth taking your time over this fingerboard. I drilled the holes for
pros would probably do this with phase because the quality of the the position markers using an 8mm
a bandsaw, but I dont have one). finish depends on the preparation. bradawl bit before I glued on the
Next I brushed on some Titebond My timber had been fixed to the fingerboard because I didnt want to
glue and clamped the body parts concrete fireplace with a number risk damaging the finish in the drill
together 6 . Besides drawing up of large nails, so I had to fill all the press. Next I removed the masking
the plans, Id estimate that all the holes using wood filler. I used the tape from the body and dry-clamped
work so far had taken me less than stuff that comes with a separate the fingerboard into position.
five hours. After sitting overnight hardener, just like car filler. Once I drilled two small pilot holes
the clamps were removed, and Day that was dry I sanded everything through the board and into the body
Two began. smooth, masked off the area where for locating pins when the board
the fingerboard was to be glued on, was being glued on (I know from
Gluing and Routing and brushed on a coat of shellac- experience that things can slide
I had chosen to use a T-bass style based sanding sealer. about once that slippery glue is
control plate, so I needed to make Since I was aiming for a faded applied). I unclamped the board,
the holes for the controls and the TV yellow finish I misted on a tapped a couple of panel pins > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 51

steel Moore & Paul Raymond | UFO

7 Body routs done: note the

output jack hole
8 First coats. Note masked
7 8
fingerboard area
9 White fret strips and
pearl dots installed
10 L-section nut cut and
screwed into position

9 10

through the pilot holes, and applied installed because if you tap them The next stage was to fit the
Titebond glue to the bottom of the in beforehand they will cause the tuners. I ended up using some
fingerboard. After carefully lining fingerboard to curve, and this will Schallers that were sitting in my
up the panel pins with the pilot make it harder to glue down. parts drawer.
holes in the body, I tapped them in Making the nut was really simple.
a bit and clamped everything down Finishing off I bought a length of 1cm x 2cm
to glue overnight. I flipped over the body and tapped aluminium corner from B&Q, cut
After removing the panel pins, I the string ferrules into place using a a piece to the width of the fretboard,
glued in the pearl dots 9 . Installing hammer and a length of dowel rod then drilled three holes in the
frets on a brand-new fretboard is to protect the body. After attaching 1cm side and screwed it onto the
actually much easier than youd a Shed Spider pickup to the bridge, headstock 10 . I measured to make
imagine but theres not much point it was simply a case of threading sure that each bridge saddle was
when youre building a lap steel: the the wires through that pre-drilled exactly 25" away from the nut, and
frets are merely visual markers, so hole into the control cavity and loosely attached the strings. I stuck
I used 0.02 white binding strips screwing down the bridge using the some masking tape over the top of
instead. The fingerboard slots were pre-drilled holes. I attached the pots the nut, spaced out the strings by
0.023 so the binding just tapped to the control plate and wired in the eye, marked the top of the nut on
in, and it was such a tight fit I capacitors, then joined the pickup each side of every string and cut the
didnt even need glue. The whole wires direct to the volume pot. The slots using nut files. If you havent
procedure took just a few minutes, output wires were soldered to a got nut files, you can get by with a
and I sanded everything flush using regular mono jack socket that was needle file and some abrasive paper.
11 Example Blueprints for a sanding block. Its best to fit the bolted to a curved plate and screwed
making your lapsteel frets with the fingerboard already in place onto the body. Conclusion
To be honest, this project took me
more than one weekend, but thats
11 only because I decided on a sprayed
11 1
1 finish to make it look as good as
possible. You could make this
1 13/8
project even simpler by applying an
oil finish or just waxing the wood.
So is this the lap of luxury? Well,
to me it sounds just like lap steels
19 sound on records. It sustains for
31 days and, more by luck than
planning, that volume control is
perfectly situated for volume swells.
5 /8 All I have to do now is buy some
DI BOX DI BOX 1 heavier strings for those countrified
6th tunings, and then figure out
3 24 how to play it. Wish me luck!


WORKSHOP Action adjustment

DIY WORKSHOP ife is full of commonly used
words and phrases that we

only partly understand.
We may use them from
time to time, but if pushed
wed struggle to provide accurate
definitions. In politics and we
Adjusting a guitars action is a matter of have budget deficit; in sound
engineering theres impedance;
understanding and balancing several while in the world of guitars theres
interacting factors. HUW PRICE explains all that little word action..
Action means different things to
different people, but at a very basic
level its generally attributed to
string height i.e. the gap between
the top of the frets and the guitar
strings. Those with a more rounded
understanding may use action as
a catch-all term to cover the overall
playing feel and setup of a guitar.
Many of us will have shaken our
heads in disbelief when reading
forum posts describing how
someone has bought and sold
several examples of a particular
guitar because the action was
always lousy. This beggars belief
because action can always be
adjusted. However, there are various
technical issues and build quirks
that may prevent your guitar from
playing properly with your preferred
string action. So lets take a look at
the other factors that dictate how a
guitar can and should be set up, and
discover what we can do to achieve
the best action possible.

The highs and lows

Received wisdom usually states
that a low string action is good and
a high string action is bad. Those
who are old enough to remember
cutting their teeth (and fingers)
on cheap Far Eastern guitars with
strings half an inch or so off the
fretboard will recall that upgrading
to better budget guitars or
eventually a real Fender or Gibson


Action adjustment WORKSHOP

1 Checking the neck relief

2 3 with feeler gauges, with a capo

at the first fret and a finger
at the fret nearest the neck/
body join
2 Download some radius
templates free from the web,
print them off and cut them
out carefully with some very
sharp scissors
3 If youre having a re-fret,
it would be a good time to
have a chat with your luthier
about fingerboard radius as
well as fret size and height

brought ever-improving playability. metal or fusion or just like to shred fingerboard surface like a section
These days we can expect even will need lower action to perform of a cone, more curved at the nut
the most affordable guitars to be lightning-fast runs, hammer-ons end and gradually becoming flatter
perfectly playable, so the action-to- and pull-offs. A flatter fingerboard up the neck, thus offering the
price equation no longer applies. If radius is also preferable for string- best of both worlds. Apparently
you can now set things any way you bending too. lots of vintage guitars, particularly
want it, what are the pros and cons Fenders, have ended up with
of high and low string action? Fingerboard radius compound radius necks, as this
String height will affect your When starting out, I was always often occurred during re-fretting
tone. Youll probably find that told that Gibsons had lower action when the fingerboard was sanded
higher action produces a fatter than Fenders. Prior to the 1980s to remove dents. It may not be
sound with more sustain, while this was generally true but, to be vintage-correct but it can make for a
lowering the action makes the more accurate, Gibsons had the more playable guitar.
sound thinner and less resonant. So potential be set up with lower string
balancing tone with playability can action. This was because Gibsons Its a relief
be a bit of a trade-off, but the extent preferred fingerboard radius was Consider for a moment the arc of a
to which this is noticeable will 12" compared to Fenders 7.25" vibrating string. The displacement
depend on the way you use your (modern Fenders tend to have a from centre is greatest halfway
amp and effects. High gain can 9.5" radius). along the length of the string, and
cover a multitude of sins. Fenders vintage fingerboard displacement is lowest near the nut
Your playing style may also radius can cause problems if the and bridge. Consequently, if the
dictate how your guitar should be string action is set too low. As you fingerboard is perfectly flat along its
set up. At one extreme we have bend a high E or B string, the string length or worse, bowed backwards
guitars that are set up exclusively height stays the same but the fret a low-set string wont have enough
for slide; the strings need to offer height becomes relatively higher space to vibrate without buzzing
some resistance to the slide and due to the curve of the fingerboard. against the frets. Its thus common
youll want to avoid having the Consequently the vibrating string practice to set up guitars with a
strings touching the frets at all, comes into contact with the higher small amount of neck relief, with
so heavier strings and a medium frets as it is bent, which causes the trussrod slackened off to allow
or high string action with shallow buzzing, reduces sustain and the string tension to bow the neck
nut slots is the way to go. At the eventually chokes out the string. very slightly forward. You can check
other extreme, guitarists who play The only easy solution is to neck relief visually by placing a
increase the height of the string finger or capo on the strings at the
to the point where it can be bent first fret and pressing the low E
without coming into contact with string flat against the frets where
the frets. This is true for most the neck joins the body. You should
guitars, so it follows that a flatter notice a very slight gap between
radius board allows the strings to be the top of the seventh fret and the
set lower and thats why shredder string if the neck has some relief.
guitars from the likes of Jackson If youre experiencing fret buzz
and Ibanez have boards with radii around the lower and middle frets,
closer to 16". the chances are that the neck has
If you do a lot of chord work no relief or a back bow. Raising
(particularly barre chords) and string action may cure the buzz,
little lead playing, a Fender-style but your guitar will become harder
radius will probably make your to play. The only workable solution
guitar more comfortable to play. is to slacken the guitars trussrod
Some makers offer necks with to create some relief. How much
a compound radius, with a relief is a matter for debate, but > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 55

Moore & Paul Raymond | UFO

4 Cutting nut slots to the

ideal height takes experience
and an expensive set of nut 4 5
files. Its really a job for the
5 This Gretsch has a solid
bar bridge, but you can use
a radius gauge to check its
the right match for your
fingerboard radius

gaps up to around 0.02" are typical. maintenance. Most likely the frets wish to try setting your string action
You can measure neck relief using will simply need a light stoning to that little bit higher.
the type of feeler gauge available in get them level, followed by dressing The limit on how low you can
car accessory shops. However, you to restore the crowns, and a polish. take the action will be pretty
may prefer the feel of a flat neck. While older or heavily-used guitars obvious when choked out bends,
The real key to action set up is to may need their frets replacing, buzzing and lack of sustain impact
realise that everything has a knock- guitars can remain playable with too much on tone and playability.
on effect on everything else. If you very low frets, but string-benders After setting the neck relief, try
slacken the trussrod too much and will miss the fret height that allows taking the high string down to
the neck ends up with too much your fingers to get under the strings where its low enough to fret easily
relief, the action will feel higher. If for more secure grip, easier bends but high enough for decent tone
you lower the saddle to compensate, and better vibrato control. The and easy bending.
your guitar may play fine at the bottom line: fret health is crucial to Since the fingerboard is curved it
lower frets, but may buzz higher up achieving a nice playing action. follows that all the strings cannot be
the fretboard. You have to play the set to the same height. The outside
guitar to determine if it feels good Nut business strings would be way too high if
and hone in on the optimum setup. String height can be adjusted at the middle strings were set at a
Wood moves about depending both ends, and the depth of the workable height, and if the strings
on temperature and humidity. This nut slots has a big influence on were lowered to make the outer
will cause the neck relief to increase playing feel. Cutting the slots to strings playable the middle strings
and decrease. Your neck is far more the optimum depth is a skilled job would be touching the frets. Ideally
likely to move than the saddles on that requires time and care hardly the string heights will be set to
the bridge. If the intonation on your compatible with mass-producing follow the curve of the fingerboard.
guitar goes off, you should check guitars. Many factories cut nut slots Tune-o-matic and wrapover
the neck relief before adjusting cut on the shallow side because it bridges do not allow you to adjust
the saddles. If the back bow has saves time and money. the height of individual strings.
increased, the scale length will When you get that new guitar Tune-o-matic saddles sit at differing
have increased and vice versa for home, the chances are that the nut heights to achieve the required
a forward bow. Learning how to will need some attention before it curve and the radius is cast into
adjust a trussrod is everyone should will play its best. If the nut slots are wrapover bridges. Fender-style
do. Read up about it, confine your too shallow you may find it harder bridges allow for individual string
efforts to a quarter-turn, and always to hold down notes at the first fret height adjustment. Many luthiers
use the correct tool. Youll discover regardless of the saddle height, and use radius gauges to set the saddle
that you are able to keep your guitar open chords might feel a bit stiff, radius accurately. You can download
in optimum playing condition. or may even sound out of tune. If printable gauges; just Google guitar
the slots are too low youll hear fret radius gauge and go from there.
Fret height and wear buzz as the open string vibrates Since the strings are set above
Frets, like car tyres, eventually need against the first fret. the fretboard the string radius
changing, but frets dont always should perhaps be slightly larger
wear evenly because we tend to Saddling up than the board radius, but setting
stick to certain keys and therefore Although setting the saddle height them identically seems to work fine.
wear occurs in localised areas. This may have seemed like the logical If youre unsure of your fingerboard
explains why certain notes induce first stage in adjusting the action, radius you can use the downloaded
fret buzz while others play cleanly. weve left it until last as theres far gauges to determine what it is.
Again, raising string action can more to action than simply raising Guitars set up this way tend to play
reduce buzzing but compromises and lowering the strings. Hopefully very evenly and the strings always
playability. For a low, buzz-free weve identified the factors that may seem to fall where your fingers
action, your frets need to be level. thwart your attempts to lower your expect them to be. It does make a
Fretwork isnt daunting: its just action and explained why you may real difference.








WORKSHOP Neck & Fretboard


Profiles, scale lengths, fingerboard cambers, lacquer choices all
part of the myriad subtleties that dictate how a guitar neck feels
to the player. We focus on the finer details of neck design

ne of the most important fretboard is an obvious exception). Tele and Les Paul), numerous
aspects of any guitar, not The rear section of a neck is makers today especially those
surprisingly, is how easy shaped from a hardwood blank using pointed, dropped headstocks
the instrument is to play with long, straight grain to ensure splice the headstock to the neck.
and its universally agreed that the neck can be slim but still Done properly, this can save timber,
that this is mainly determined able to withstand the pull of the but such a joint is only as strong as
by the shape and feel of the neck strings. Some luthiers use a single the glue and the flushness of the
and fingerboard. The rest of the piece of maple or mahogany; others two surfaces.
instrument pickups, bridge and laminate three or more pieces Fretboards are usually rosewood
body timber though important, together longitudinally with the or ebony, two very hard timbers
can only perform at their best once grain direction of the outer pieces that dont require a lacquer finish to
the neck is playable. In a nutshell, opposing in order to balance stress protect them from the environment
everything starts at the neck.. and reduce the chances of future and you, the player. Maple is used
twisting. Laminating the timber successfully for fretboards, though
Neck and neck this way is cost-effective and being a naturally white timber
Styles of neck construction can structurally sensible: the laminate it requires a finish to protect it
vary considerably between guitar is very strong and stable. This from dirt. This has caused some
makers. Most necks are built consideration ensures maximum controversy, not least due to
from a combination of two types strength, especially where the Fenders ultra-thick 70s finish that
of hardwood: one for the bulk or headstock joins the top of the neck, gave maple fretboards a reputation
back of the neck, the other for the thinnest and weakest point. for being sticky and slow.
the playing surface that holds the While Fender and Gibson have Modern, thinner satin finishes
frets, aka the fingerboard (Fenders habitually plumped for one-piece and higher frets tend to equalise
one-piece maple neck with integral necks and headstocks (on the Strat, the feel of a maple fingerboard, but


Neck & fretboard WORKSHOP

The three most common neck profiles:

where the finish is applied over the Scale length is important here warmer than another instrument
frets as on 70s Fenders a re-fret too, as it directly relates to the with a brighter maple fretboard.
can be a bit of a nightmare. Usually distance between the frets. Players Even highly experienced guitar
the only solution is to remove both with big hands may feel happier makers hesitate to be drawn into
the frets and the fingerboard finish, playing on the longer 25.5" Fender any precise judgements on the
which then has to be reapplied, scale than the shorter Gibson 24.75" sound of wood. Let your ears and
adding to the repair cost. scale. More and more companies, hands make the decision. You
Ideally, the combined shape such as PRS, are using a halfway may simply like the look of a nice
of both the fingerboard and the 25" scale length. The best of both piece of rosewood; its a valuable
rear section of the neck should worlds? Maybe. resource, so enjoy it.
complement one another, helping Apart from the physical size of
to make complex fingerings more your hand, the way you fret will The camber never lies
comfortable. There are many factors affect how the neck feels. If you The cross-sectional shape of the
at play here: the necks width and grab the neck with your thumb fretboard aka the radius or
depth, the shape of the back of around the bass strings, a bigger camber is very relevant to a
the neck, the fretboard radius, the D shape may be preferable; if you guitars playability. Consider, for
frets, the guitars scale length and, fret in the classical thumb behind instance, the plight of players of
of course, the action. Thats why, at position then a thinner neck, often vintage-spec Strats or Teles who
G&B, we list these specs in reviews with a flatter back, might suit you find it difficult to make first, second
to help you decide whether a guitar best. If youre trying guitars in a and third string high-fret bends
might suit you. shop, the sales assistant should ring clean and true. Beyond the
be able to help you pick C and D 10th fret, bending more than a
Neck shapes shaped necks to compare, and a semitone especially with a low
To simplify matters, it could be said well-stocked store should be able to action can cause the strings to
that there are three basic styles of produce a V neck too, like the one choke out on the upper frets, the
neck shape: the C, the D, and the V on Fenders Eric Clapton Strat. Ask sound becoming throttled and
shape. The C shape describes most to try instruments with different buzzy as they approach or pass the
Gibson-type guitar necks, a smooth scale lengths so that you can gain centre of the fingerboard.
oval in section. The D describes some idea of the neck shape and Most guitars have a regular
many Fender-style profiles with string length combination that suits radius that is the same at the nut >
fatter, squarer shoulders (the your hands best.
sides of the neck). The V shape has Of course, you may find a great
shoulders that are often quite steep, neck on a not-so-great sounding


and although usually attributed to guitar, or vice versa thats life. If
Martin, the style was also adopted youre rich, an answer may lie in
by Fender at times in the 50s and a custom-built guitar: the rest of
has been frequently reapplied to us will have to get used to a dodgy
reissues and signature models. Of neck on a great-sounding guitar.
course, these categories are broad After all, if your sound is poor, 16"
and the variations manifold, but whos going to notice those solos?
this should help you to grasp the On the subject of tone, the
most commonly-used terminology. materials used for the neck and
In essence, the shape of the rear fretboard also contribute greatly 12"
section of the neck dictates how the to the sound of the instrument,
neck feels in the palm of your hand. although surprise, surprise
Whats comfortable is obviously opinions on the effect run in all
very personal: some players like directions. Whatever anyone tells
the big, deep D-shaped necks of you, the tone of a guitar is the sum
old 50s Les Pauls, others will rave of its parts and your hands, and
about the super-thin C Wizard just because you have a rosewood
shapes of modern lbanez necks. fretboard it wont make a guitar GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 59

WORKSHOP Neck & fretboard

1 Rosewood allows easy

refrets or even board
2 On maple fingerboards
any re-radiusing means a
3 Gibsons with their flatter-
camber boards choke out
far less

as at the highest fret. Older vintage The trick is turned by subtle being much flatter in comparison.
and many reissue Fenders have a re-cambering of the frets with PRS generally employ a halfway
relatively small radius of 7.25". Such carborundum or a grindstone so radius of 10" to match their halfway
necks feel great to play on; barre that the top (or crown) becomes scale length. Fig 1 shows the four
chords feel good and first position gradually lower on the higher frets, common radiuses: 7.25", 10", 12"
riffing is easy. However, the small the radius at the last fret being and 16". See how curvy the Fender
radius causes upper fret choking. anywhere between 12" and 14". 7.25" seems next to Gibsons 12".
Loads of players learn to live with it, This modification works very well
while others cant abide it. but requires extra dressing and Compound cambers
Curing the choking on a 7.25" reshaping of the low-to-middle Re-working the neck is one option
radius fretboard involves a cunning sections of the higher frets, which for your favourite guitar, but a
re-radiusing of the frets so that the is difficult and expensive. The size much more elegant way out is to
perceived radius increases as you or gauge of the frets also has a large swap the neck for one built with a
travel up the board. Though this bearing on the potential success compound radiused fretboard and
appears to flatten out the board, it of the job. Many repairers see this to stash the old neck out of harms
is actually only the frets which take repair as a compromise, since the way, original and untouched. This
on the new shape; honed this way, height of the frets is progressively swap could also involve fitting the
the strings are less likely to collide reduced; you may cure the choking new neck with a set of locking
with them and choke out. but you now have lower frets, and machineheads and a graphite nut,
string bends are likely to be harder a good move for both fixed-bridge
to execute. However, on valuable and tremolo-bridge guitars.
guitars it may be the only option. The compound radius idea is far

FIG 2 NECK SHAPES The ultimate repair is to change

the fretboard radius itself, work
which involves removing the frets
from new it crops up on certain
classical instruments but
Warmoth in the USA were one of
then shooting the board with a the first to offer a compound radius
a On the left, a a b plane to flatten the radius. Once the on a retro-fit neck to suit, for
constant radius neck has been re-fretted, the new example, a Stratocaster. The
fingerboard with frets retain a regular height from Warmoth compound radius shapes
a surface like one end of the neck to the other the fretboard so that it takes on the
a tube
(bear in mind that on Fenders with contour of a section of a cone
veneer fretboards theres often not unlike a normally radiused
enough material to reshape). If any fretboard which takes on the
refinishing is involved, as there will contour of a tube (see Fig 2, left). A
be if your fretboard is maple, the typical Warmoth compound neck
repair is going to be costly, though will start with a radius of 10" at the
its justifiable since the guitar will nut and end with a radius of 16".
b On the right, play and feel much better. Many other companies employ
a cone-shaped Fender has taken notice of this compound radii, from Jackson to
compound radius
and have, for example, altered the UK makers Overwater. Still, as we
growing flatter fretboard radius on the American stated earlier, neck shapes and
towards the Standard Series, swapping the fretboard cambers are only part of
upper frets vintage 7.25" for a gentler 9.5". the playability story. Before you start
Incidentally, this specific choking thinking of refrets or new necks, get
problem never afflicted Gibson your guitar professionally set up
guitars as their radius was, and still youll be surprised what a
is, typically 12", their fretboards difference it makes.





Strat trem units can be a vital part of a players arsenal. However,
getting them set up correctly so they can take a hammering and
still do you proud is a tricky business. HUW PRICE is here to help

he history of vibrato potential. Behind that potential, How it works
guitar bridges is long and however, lie a number of limits. The The fundamental difference
complicated, but the ruler of Strat trem is a mechanical device between the Bigsby units and
the roost at least until 1954 and, like all mechanical devices, it Fenders design is that the Fender
was Bigsby. Theyre still requires proper maintenance, not bridge floats. Bigsbys work with
very popular and work efficiently to mention careful adjustment to fixed bridges and a roller bearing
enough within their limits, but function correctly. turns to raise or lower string
theyre probably best suited to Setup information wasnt tension thereby altering pitch.
archtop guitars. The Bigsby B16 readily available in the 70s and Fenders method counterbalances
for Telecasters was introduced in 80s so many players of that era string tension with the pull of
1953, but Leo Fender reckoned he threw in the towel and simply springs housed in a body cavity. The
could come up with something a blocked off their trems, or turned arm moves the entire bridge and
bit more sophisticated for his new to locking trems from the likes the springs and strings supply the
Stratocaster model. With help from of Floyd Rose and Kahler. At this restorative forces needed to bring
Freddy Tavares, he completely stage the traditional Fender trems the bridge back into position.
nailed it as usual.. days seemed like they could be What could possibly go wrong
Maybe Fender was trying to numbered, but once the novelty of with such a simple system? Plenty,
distance his design from Paul two-octave dive-bombs had worn as it happens but the problems
Bigsbys by calling his new bridge off, it became apparent that locking are often integral to guitars in
a tremolo. Its a misnomer, trems created as many problems as general rather than specific to
because tremolo actually describes they solved. trems. Unfortunately trem systems
fluctuations in volume rather than When Paul Reed Smith tend to expose issues that might
pitch. Consequently, Fender amps introduced his own trem in the otherwise go unnoticed. The
have vibrato channels when in mid-80s, he was able to apply the primary cause has to be friction.
fact they actually produce a tremolo lessons hed learned from years of Anything that impedes the free
effect. To avoid confusion well just setting up Stratocasters. His design movement of the strings and the
use the term trem. was surprisingly traditional and it bridge will prevent the trem from
Of course musicians loved demonstrated that Fenders original returning to a state of equilibrium TOOLBOX
Leos Stratocaster trem and it had design could be made to work after use. The PRS trem minimised Cross head screwdrivers
a huge impact on music over the reliably as long as the designer has or eliminated friction points Allen key for saddles
next decade or so, and many would thorough understanding of vital wherever possible. You can do Guitar tuner
agree that it was Jimi Hendrix who topics such as friction points, proper the same with your trem when Wet & dry paper
was the first to really explore its full nut setup and spring adjustment. performing routine maintenance. > Chrome polish GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 61


Most guitar tuning instability can be traced to
the nut. The strings pass through narrow Vintage-style Stats will have just one string
grooves with a lot of downward pressure, so tree for the B and E strings, but modern
they have a tendency to stick and bind in the examples generally have a second for the D and
slots. Nuts are often pre-slotted (or slotted in a G strings. Through careful string winding (see
hurry on a production line). Making a nut work Strings & Tuners) you can get away without
smoothly requires time and effort, but its using string trees at all.
something you can do yourself. If you notice If you do prefer to use them, then do ensure
pops or clicking sounds from the headstock that the factory spacers are installed under
when you bend strings or use your trem, the the trees themselves. If the trees are screwed
nut may need attention. flush with the face of the headstock, the string
Nuts are often left too high above the string The string slots are the correct depth but the angle will be too great and the sting will rub
slots, so even if the depth of the slot is correct, top of the nut needs to be filed down to excessively against the tree.
the string sits too deep (see pic, right). The top expose the tops of the strings very slightly Reach for that chrome polish again and buff
of the nut only needs to be high enough to hold up the underside of the string tree to make it
the string securely in the slot, so in effect the polishing compound; we find that chrome as smooth as possible. Some players choose to
top half of the string can be proud of the top of polish is particularly effective on bone. strip the insulating plastic off the wire, thread
the nut. This helps keep the contact area Once the slots are super-smooth, you can the string through the centre and then place
between the string and the nut to a minimum, add some lubrication. Guitarists have been the plastic under the trees to make things run
thus minimising friction (see below). using graphite from soft pencils for decades, smoother. Alternatively, another dab of lube
Nut files can leave grooves in nut slots. Once but this leaves the slots looking mucky. cant do any harm.
the depth of the slot is optimised, the inside Vaseline or wax can also be used, but there is
surfaces of the slot can be smoothed out with some anecdotal evidence that these can
wet and dry paper. Try 1200 or 1500 grit,
maybe wrapping the paper around cut-off
damage guitar finishes. We prefer propriety
products like Big Bends Nut Sauce (see pic,

lengths of string. You can follow up with some below right).
New strings always require a settling down
period before theyll stay in tune. You can
hasten this process dramatically by giving new
One side of the ribs are glued: strings a thorough stretch. Dont go too crazy,
now for the other side because youll snap them. Just stretch a little
at a time, with your fingers under the strings,
pulling away from the fretboard. Work along
the length of each string, check the tuning and
repeat until the string has stopped stretching.
Tuners have often been unjustly blamed for
unstable trems. If you have diecast tuners,
tighten up the screws holding the buttons on
This nicely-polished and height-adjusted nut After polishing the string slots, try adding to stiffen them up. Vintage-style tuners tend
supports and secures the strings properly, some suitable lubricant. Here were applying to be pretty stiff, so they should be fine.
minimising friction in the string slots some Big Bends Nut Sauce: its good stuff The break angle over the nut is important.
The well-known US luthier Dan Erlewine
recommends an angle of between 5 and 12

4 FRICTION POINT 2: THE BRIDGE SCREWS degrees. If the angle is too steep, the strings
may catch in their slots; if its too shallow you
Many of Fenders current trem systems work on may experience buzzing sounds from behind
knife edge pivots with one screw at each side of the nut, and open strings wont ring cleanly.
the bridge. This was also Leo Fenders preferred You can set the break angle by wrapping the
arrangement during his latter years at G&L. string around the tuner post. If you take it all
Obviously a knife edge ensures minimal physical the way down you can increase the angle,
contact, and these trems generally have a very which may allow you to dispense with the
free and smooth action. But what if your bridge string trees. You can also wrap strings
has six regular screws? upwards to shallow the angle (see pic below).
Fender counter-sunk the screw holes on the
underside of their bridge plates to create knife
edges, but some cheaper replica bridges wont
have this feature. If yours doesnt, you may be
able to countersink the holes yourself. You could
also try removing the four centre screws. This
may appear reckless, but SRV got away with it
using 12 and 13 gauge strings so two screws
with a set of 9s or 10s should be okay.
If you want to keep the original looks, you may
decide to drill the four centre screw holes in the
bridge plate over-size; then the screws can be
reinstated without making physical contact with Above: notice how the number of turns
the bridge. This mod is not recommended for around the string trees can be used to set the
collectable guitars! Once again, use a dab of break angle of the strings over the nut. 5 to
Vaseline or Nut Sauce under the screw heads. 12 degrees is recommended




Unfortunately we cant provide any hard and
fast rules regarding the number of springs you
should use or the way they should be arranged.
It really all comes down to personal taste,
because some players prefer a light feeling trem
while others prefer a stiffer setup to stop the
bridge moving when bending strings and to
maintain tuning if a string snaps.
The springs are hooked onto a claw thats
screwed to the body of the guitar. If its adjusted
tight against the body, it will be pulling the
springs hard and the bridge plate may end up
sitting tight against the top of the body. This will
allow you to dip the trem, but you wont be able
to pull upwards.
Most players prefer their trem bridges to
float, allowing both upwards and downwards
movement (its also thought that Stratocasters
sound more Stratty that way because you hear
a hint of reverb from the springs themselves).
Heres where you need to experiment with
combinations of springs and various claw
adjustments to position the bridge where you
like it and achieve the right feel for your style.
Stratocaster trems allow you to use up to five
springs. If youre using a set of ultra-heavy
gauge strings, then all five springs may be
needed to get the bridge floating properly. At the
other extreme, a set of .008"s or .009"s may
only require two springs. Most often three
springs are used, and theyre either arranged
straight or angled for a bit more pull. Well get
into fine tuning later, but the starting point for
most trem setups is a gap of 1/8" between the The traditional Fender Stratocaster trem system allows you to use anything for two to five springs.
body and the back edge of the bridge. Here we show all the usual combinations and configurations


unscrew both claw screws until the bridge is just

starting to lift to get a looser-feeling trem with
no pull up. Remember to re-tune the strings each This old Strat trem
time you adjust the claw screws. has been set up as
If you want a floating trem with some pull up recommended by Carl
available, unscrew the claw screws a few turns Verhayen and the
at a time, keeping it square to the body rout, spring claw has
then return the strings to pitch. Work slowly, ended up at an angle.
re-tuning after each adjustment, until you It doesnt look pretty,
achieve a body to bridge gap of about 1/8" with but this Strat really
the strings tuned to concert pitch (see pic, left). stays in tune and the
If you have ultra-light strings and you cant get trem is very playable
the bridge to lift, try removing one spring.
This Strat has been set up with a gap of The flaw with this method is that some strings
about 1/8" between the back of the bridge naturally exert more pull on the bridge than
plate and the top of the body others. This is particularly apparent with hybrid Remember that, with a Strat trem,
sets like skinny top/heavy bottoms. You can get everything affects everything else. Once the
If youre installing a new bridge or re-installing around this by angling the claw to balance out bridge height and spring tension have been
one after a re-finish, wed suggest the following. the spring/string tension across all six strings set, you will almost certainly need to
Position the bridge and tighten the two outside (see pic, above right.) re-adjust the height of the string saddles
bridge screws until they just touch the top of the With Stratocaster trems, you can also and re-set the intonation. Whenever making
bridge before fitting the springs. Install the four fine-tune the response to achieve accurate pitch adjustments, you need to re-check
remaining bridge screws being sure to leave shifts. For instance, top guitarist Carl Verhayen
everything else. Essentially, you should
them just proud of the bridge plate, not screwed sets up his trems so that the G string pulls up a
expect to gradually hone a Strat setup rather
down then tighten the claw up close to the minor third, the B string goes up a full tone, and
body, string up the guitar, and tune to pitch. the E string pulls up a semitone. You can try this
than nail it straight off. If you can work
At this point there should be no gap. If there yourself; just remember that if your trem wont methodically and remain patient, theres no
is, tighten the claw up further or add another pull up far enough, youll need to slacken the reason why your trem-equipped Strat cant
spring. If you dont want to pull up on your trem, spring claw on the treble side and vice versa if play smoothly and stay in tune just as well
you may leave it like that. You can also slowly it pulls up too much. as any other guitar. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 63

WORKSHOP Electronics upgrade


1 x CRL 5-way lever switch
with spring action
1 x WD Music 5-way
switch knob
1 x Switchcraft 14 jack
1 x Sprague Orange Drop
0.022mF capacitor Scratchy pots, intermittent output sounds familiar? The
2 x WD Music Tele
barrel knobs majority of these woes can usually be corrected with a quick clean
1 x black chrome Gotoh
football jack plate
and check, but when they wont clean up, its time to upgrade
WD Music vintage black/

white wire WD Music
Products 01223 820082 he build quality and finish components, install new higher- youll need to reach inside and hold
of even the cheapest electric specification units and rewire all the chassis of the pot. If you use a
guitars is quite staggeringly these new components with some posidrive screwdriver youll make
good these days. However, one swanky cloth-covered wiring 1 . quick work of the switch locating
area where the manufacturers screws and the football side-
TOOLS still cut costs is in the hidden Dissasembly mounted jack plate 4 .
40W soldering iron
Resin core solder electrical components. Plastic-cased Our Ibanez 2 has its original Flip the guitar back onto its
Assorted posidrive and switches, small chassis pots and humbucker/humbucker/single front and locate the three pickup
flathead screwdrivers soft metal jack sockets are cheap coil configuration with a five-way leads 5 as they enter the control
Assorted box and open end to mass-produce, but its these very selector and master volume, master cavity just behind and above the
spanners in imperial and
metric sizes
components which transfer the tone control configuration. Laying volume pot (on humbuckers these
Needle-nose pliers juice from your pickups to your the guitar face down on a smooth, are usually multi-core wires with a
Wire cutters guitar lead. These are the usual soft surface (an old blanket or soft bare stranded earth wrap and two or
Wire strippers culprits if your two-month old towel makes a fab non-scratch more conductor leads with a colour-
Craft knife or artists
guitar goes on the coded insulation
scalpel for trimming
plastic and cloth
insulation on wires
blink, and as any
guitar repairer will
Repairers will strongly recommend covering. Standard
single coil pickups
Servisol Super 10
switch cleaner
tell you, they can
be a nightmare
that you change at least the volume pot have just two leads,
one from each end
to service. Thats when installing an upgraded pickup of the winding).
why good repairers There will also be a
will strongly recommend that workbench covering) we start by fourth wire (usually black) entering
you change at least the volume removing the back plate to reveal the cavity and soldered to the back
pot when installing an upgraded the internal organs. Any guitar with of a pot. This is the earth wire that
pickup, otherwise youre leaving this kind of rear access (such as a feeds from the bridge or vibrato
1 Heres our pile of
a weak link in the chain which is Les Paul) can be left strung up and spring claw. This wire is important
gleaming new components: effectively strangling your tone. in tune throughout the process. If so dont ignore it, pull on it or cut
a pair of CTS pots, a high- This Ibanez EX series electric is youre working on a Strat-type then it. Disconnect it from the pot 6
quality CRS five-way switch, a fine case in point. The pickups the strings need to be slackened together with the other wires and,
a Switchcraft jack, an Orange
work fine (you have to abuse a or removed to flip the scratchplate if its long enough, fold it back out
Drop capacitor and, of course,
that cloth-covered wire guitar very heavily to actually break over. Before you do anything else, of the way and tape it to the guitar
2 Our patient, an Ibanez
a pickup) and the owner was happy spend a few minutes drawing body. Dont forget to reconnect it,
EX, has decent enough with the basic sound when it an accurate, detailed diagram of or your guitar will sound absolutely
pickups but is suffering from worked, that is. The output was the original wiring layout. Dont shocking. You have been warned.
worn-out components that intermittent, with an unbearable imagine youll remember where the Next, trace the pickup wires
werent exactly state of the
loud hum from the earth circuit. wires go you wont. to the switch and make a further
art in the first place. Let battle
commence On inspection, the pots and switch Next, pop off the control knobs note of where they go; then either
3 Pop off the knobs and
were completely shot and the solder to reveal the hexagonal nuts that unsolder them or simply clip them
remove the nuts with the had become brittle, so we decided hold the pots in place 3 . Remove off at the switch terminal. Label
correct-sized box spanner to throw out all the old cheaper them with a box or open spanner; them N, M or B (neck, middle,

1 2 3


Electronics upgrade WORKSHOP

4 5 6

7 8 9

bridge) and then tape them out On this guitar we needed to widen casings and the wire tips. Tinned 4 Removing the jackplate

of the way as well 7 . As were the diameter of the holes using a parts allow the actual soldering reveals a cheap socket.
upgrading from a single-sided dedicated hole reamer, but you can to take place much quicker. The 5 Off with the back plate,
plastic switch to a more traditional do the same with a sharp round file surface on the back of the pot and identify the three wires
coming from the pickups
double-row Strat-type switch you and a little patience (its a good idea casing also needs to be cleaned of
will need to source an alternate to protect the finish with masking any trace amounts of grease caused 6 Wires disconnected.

switch diagram, but thats easy tape and work inwards towards the by handling or oxidation to ensure a You have drawn a detailed
diagram, havent you?
the web is a great resource for this cavity rather than outwards, where clean, strong solder join. I use P320
type of information. you run the risk of chipping the Electro Coated finishing paper to 7 With an empty control
cavity, we can label the wires
Now remove the pots, switch, finish around the holes). Secondly, do the job, although a small metal
coming from the three pickups
jack and any remaining wiring and check that the pot shaft protrudes file or sharp screwdriver will be and tape them out of the way
immediately throw the lot the bin. enough to take the knurled (inside sufficient to scratch through to the
8 Check the new pots fit.
Dont be tempted to save it for use the cavity) and flat (on the face of shiny metal surface. The holes might need a touch
at a later date; life is simply too the guitar beneath the hexagonal Select a pot for volume (either from a file or reamer
short to go to the trouble of fitting nut) washers plus the nut with will do) and turn it so the three lugs 9 Prepare all the parts and
old parts only to discover that they a couple of threads visible when are facing toward you as you look tin the whole lot in one go. A
were knackered in the first place. tightened. This may take a bit of down on the back of the casing. small vice is invaluable
trial and error but is worth the Using needle-nosed pliers, bend 10 Practise tinning on the
Preparation trouble to ensue a solid fit. the right hand lug back to touch the easiest bits fist. Pot and jack
Its now time to prep the new All okay? Great. Now remove casing and then solder it to the case lugs are the simplest
components, as they all require a the pots again and seat them in 11 . Its this connection that turns 11 Tinning the pot casings is
little attention before installation. a small vice, if you have one, (or your neutral pot into a volume hardest. Prep well and use an
Firstly check that the potentiometer a cork block with a suitable-sized pot by sending the signal to earth iron of the right power
shafts fit through the existing holes hole drilled into it) ready for you to when the volume pot is rolled back. 12 Now were starting to
on the face of the guitar 8 as start tinning 9 . Any surface that is Touch the part to be tinned with re-populate the control cavity.
higher spec components are often being soldered needs to be tinned the soldering iron, allow it to heat All lugs, casings and wire tips
should be tinned before this
slightly larger and more rugged first, and that includes the lugs on up, and then flow the solder over stage. Note the posh new
than the ones theyre replacing. the output jack 10 , the pots metal the part, NOT the soldering irons > capacitor on the tone pot

10 11 12 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 65

WORKSHOP Electronics upgrade

13 14 15

13 Switchcraft is the name tip. Youll know a good solder join a 150mm length of live (white) pickup wires 15 that you carefully
in jack sockets: heres ours when you see it: itll be bright and and earth (black) shielded wire labelled earlier. Strip and twist a
ready to go. Nows the time to shiny rather than a dull and lifeless to the jack. The live white wire 10mm section of the earth wire
replace the plastic jack plate
with black chrome. Its as
grey. Next, add two separate patches connects to the jack tip terminal from each pickup lead and tin
important to tin the leads as of fresh solder to the back of the and the black earth wire to the them before attaching to the as-
the other components casing to accept the earth wires later barrel or inside of the jack. Once yet-unused patch of tinning on the
14 Now were using out new on. Ensure your soldering iron is soldered, push the two wires volume pot casing things can get
cloth-covered wire to make good and hot, and work quickly to through the channel on the side of a little crowded and fiddly at this
the connections between avoid over-heating the track and the instrument and into the control point, but its important to try and
output jack, tone and volume wiper inside the pot. cavity and test the fit by inserting a avoid twisting the three earth wires
pots, and switch. Its probably
best to leave the pickup wires
When youre sure youre happy lead into the jack. The lead should together if possible as it makes
until last with the soldering, set the pot aside fit snugly with a pleasing clunk. If removal of a single pickup a
15 Rewiring complete, youre
and clean the back of the second it does you can remove the lead serious pain.
ready to plug in and check that pot (now, by default, the tone pot). and move on. Trim, strip and tin the remaining
everythings working Tin the middle and right hand With all the components in place, power leads from the pickups and
16 A soldering gun is lug and also solder two separate its now time to start hooking it all attach to the switch as per your
optional: a 40W iron is tinned patches on the back of the up 14 . Follow your diagram and, new diagram for the double-sided
essential. Use a proper stand! casing. You now need to install the using the replacement trimmed switch. Tighten the jack plate
17 Bits and pieces you need: capacitor between the middle lug on wire, join the switch and the tone screws, squirt a little Servisol switch
a Posidrive screwdriver, the tone pot and the pot casing. Its pot to the volume pot. At this point cleaner/lubricant into the openings
Servisol switch cleaner/ this capacitor which bleeds off the replace the original earth wire in the potentiometers casing, and
lubricant, miniature flathead
treble frequencies on the tone pot. mentioned earlier to the casing on then plug in. If all is well then
screwdrivers, a round file,
a reamer if youre really Capacitors are fragile and are easily the volume pot before soldering the replace the back plate and seat the
serious and box spanners popped if overexposed to heat, so jack socket earth lead to the same new knobs over the new wider-
use a flat-head screwdriver between point using a heat sink to keep diameter pot shafts.
the capacitor and the solder join to the wires in place while the solder These new parts should stay
SAFETY TIP act as a heat sink to absorb most cools. Then run a piece of black usable for many, many years if they
Solder can spit and spill of the heat away. With the now pots earth wire from here to the tone are regularly serviced and cleaned.
when heated, so wear safety
ready, tin the terminals on the five- pot casing to complete the basic Check out our sidebar on page 64
goggles and protect your
guitar and surrounding way selector switch and carefully circuit earthing loop. Keep it neat for details of all the tools you need
surfaces with cloth. install all three components in the and tidy, but allow sufficient slack you can see some of them the
Double and triple-check that control cavity 12 . so components can be loosened pictured below 16 17 . Then follow
you have switched off or If the existing jack plate is plastic, and removed for inspection or the instructions, and hopefully
unplugged the soldering iron
now is a very good time to upgrade maintenance without the need for youll be enjoying a guitar with a
after use these things get
white hot and are extremely it to a nice sturdy metal plate. unsoldering. clean signal path and a blissful lack
dangerous if left on! Tin the terminals 13 and solder Its now time to re-solder the of earth hum and crackle.

16 17


Guitar_Dec12.indd 43 19/10/2012 16:36
PROJECT Superstrat



Though you can buy a new Fender with almost any pickup configuration,
modifying a model to your own taste can still sometimes make perfect sense.
HUW PRICE helps convert a 50s reissue into a rock machine

he chances are that most guitarists ideas online before they buy the wrong parts Stratocaster, Dafydd wanted a beefier and
are would-be guitar designers to some or do any damage to a precious instrument. more powerful instrument for the rock and
extent. Of course, we arent all inclined G&B reader Dafydd Jones used a website heavy blues styles he predominantly enjoys
to sit there with a paper and pencil called Kisekae ( playing. However he likes single coil tones
doodling body and headstock shapes, to help him decide on the parts and the look too, so he got in touch to see if we could
but how many of us have found ourselves he wanted for his new Stratocaster project. do something to help. We recommended a
dreaming about pickup swaps, wiring The design program allows you to drag and Super 5-way switch that can be used with
schemes and various other modifications at drop guitar parts onto a any type of guitar coil-tappable humbuckers to provide a variety
one time or another?. body to see how the finished guitar is going to of sounds. So once Dafydd had acquired
It carries on through the generations but end up looking. the parts, he turned up with his guitar, and
these days guitar modders can try out their Starting out with a Mexican-made Fender Project Superstrat was ready to go.


Before starting a project like this its wise to make a humbucker equipped guitar sound too
assess the condition of the guitar. Since the dark. To maintain clarity and definition, 500K or
guitar was only a couple of years old the frets even 1M pots are recommended for humbuckers.
were in good shape, and it was clean and well On this particular guitar four wires needed to
cared for. Even so, we agreed to perform a basic be detached. Three had black insulation and were
setup once all the parts were swapped over. the ground connections from the output jack, trem
The first job was to remove the scratchplate spring claw and the conductive paint in the pickup
along with all the pickups and controls. We could and control cavity routs. These were all soldered
have recycled the volume and tone pots, but to the casing of the volume pot and, since there
keeping the scratchplate and controls intact was so much slack wire, we decided to snip them
would give Dafydd the option of returning his off rather than attempt to de-solder. The fourth
guitar to stock should he ever change his mind wire was the white insulated signal wire
or decide to sell it. Besides which, the original connecting the centre tag of the volume pot to the Above: these are the wires you must de-solder or
Fender pots were 250K, which would probably tip of the output jack. snip to remove the scratchplate assembly


Superstrat PROJECT


One of the problems that everybody encounters
with aftermarket parts is that they dont always
line up perfectly, and some barely fit at all. The
Boston-branded scratchplate Dafydd had sourced
from Amazon was a decent quality item with a
subtle mint green hue. Even so there were some
minor issues.
With the original scratchplate removed I was
able to carry out a trial fit. The good news was
that the new guard looked fantastic on the
off-white body, but the bad news was that the
screw holes on the bass side of the neck didnt
line up. In fact, one was in a completely different
location. The screw holes on the treble side were
spot-on, but I would have been forced to screw the
others in at angles if I wanted to re-use the
original screw holes.
The solution was simple. Fold some sandpaper
over the end of a long wooden match and twist the
match to round over the corners. In a short while
you should have turned the end of the match into
a small rounded dowel. Next you should fill the
screw hole and cover the end of the match with
Above: the new scratchplate was a good fit but the screw holes didnt quite line up
some strong wood glue that will set hard. I get the
desired results with Titebond original.
Next, push the rounded end of the match into
the glue-filled hole, snap it off about half an inch
proud of the surface, then gently tap it snug with
a soft mallet, taking great care not to dent the
finish or to snap the match. Simply repeat the
process for each screw hole and set the body aside
while the glue dries. Preferably this will be
overnight, to make sure.
When the glue had set, I used a Stanley knife
blade to cut the tops of the matches flush with the
body. If you try this, be extremely careful with the We squeezed wood glue into the screw holes and You can use a fresh blade to trim the tops of the
finish and your fingers. Push the blade towards tapped in rounded-off matchsticks to plug them matchstick plugs flush with the finish
the routs, not away, to ensure that if you do slip
and damage the finish, it will be in the area
hidden beneath the scratchplate.
The second problem we had to address was
that the holes in the scratchplate were too narrow
for the shafts of the CTS pots Dafydd had bought
for the project. Its quite a common problem when
modding guitars, because manufacturers in the
Far East tend to use metric measurements and US
manufacturers work with imperial.
We could have drilled out the holes to widen
them, but I prefer to use a reamer tool. To
compensate for the taper I reamed from both
sides, continually checking until I had just enough Rather than drill out the scratchplate holes to Here the volume pot hole has been widened, and
width for the pot shafts. widen them for the new pots, we used a reamer were about to move onto the tone pot hole


Fenders Strat bodies are made with various humbucker he wanted meant I had to remove
types of pickup routs. Obviously three single coil some wood to accommodate it.
routs are the traditional way, but some have Positioning the new scratchplate accurately on
humbucker routs at the bridge and neck, while the body showed that wood only needed to be
others have the swimming pool rout that allows removed from the bridge side of the rout. I
the various factories to install any pickup covered that area of the body with masking tape,
combination. Dafydds Strat was already routed re-positioned the scratchplate, and traced around
for a bridge humbucker, but fitting the neck the scratchplates neck pickup cut-out. As you can
see from the photo, I then marked the intended
Left: masking tape was placed over the finish in rout line an eighth of an inch away from the edge
the area where wood needed to be removed to of the pickup cut-out to gain a bit of extra
accommodate the new pickup. We traced around clearance, and finally drew two lines to join it up
the pickup hole then added a bit of extra clearance with the edges of the existing rout. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 69

PROJECT Superstrat

Its possible to remove excess wood with a chisel, The first step towards completion involves fitting the JB SH-4 Dafydd bought was actually a bridge
but the proper way to do it is to use a router. I the two 500K control pots and the Seymour rather than a neck unit. Either way it worked out
bought mine used for a little under 15; in fact the Duncan Super 5-Way switch. These switches are well because we got the fatter-sounding neck coil
bearing guided router bits I used for this project double the thickness of a standard Strat switch, under the octave harmonic along with some extra
cost more than the router itself. so when installing one into Strat with a regular tonal variation because the single coils were spaced
Routers are terrifyingly efficient tools and you control rout, the connection tags should be wider apart. The polepieces of the neck pickup lined
must never attempt to make cuts freehand. I oriented towards the centre otherwise it wont fit. up perfectly too.
transferred the intended rout shape onto a piece of Its colour-coded for Seymour Duncan pickups, With the three ground wires reconnected to the
scrap ply and cut it out with a jigsaw to make a but since Dafydd had chosen a Duncan TB-4 body of the volume control and the white jack tip
routing template. Try cutting just inside the lines Trembucker for the bridge and a SH-4 for the wire re-connected to the centre lug of the volume
and tidying up the edges with a rasp, file or neck, that was fine (and do check out the pot, the time had come to put the guitar back
sanding block to make them straight and smooth. Seymour Duncan website its a fantastic together. Whenever you rewire a guitar, especially
Dont worry about rounding off the corners the resource for modders, with clear diagrams of just when its a wiring scheme you havent used before,
bits rounded guide bearing will take care of that. about any wiring configuration you can think of). it makes sense to test everything before screwing
The routing template was clamped onto the First I connected the recommended 0.047uF down the scratchplate and re-stringing; that way, if
body to hold everything in position. Some people capacitor for the tone pot. Since we were going you have made a mistake, fixing it will be a lot less
use double-sided tape, but on our Strat the finish with two rather than three controls, I was able to work. Thankfully the wiring diagram we
under the scratchplate had a tendency to chip and bridge the gap between the two pots with the downloaded was so clear that everything worked
I didnt want to risk inadvertently removing the capacitor itself, point to point style. We used a first time. However we did feel that the 0.047uF
finish when removing the router template. nice new old stock Russian paper-in-oil capacitor capacitor rolled off too much treble, and we
Dont try cutting to full depth straight away. I bought from eBay. Taking inspiration from eventually changed it for a 0.022uF.
used a shallow 3/8" router bit for the first two cuts Gibsons 1950s wiring schemes, I connected the
and allowed the bearing to be guided by the router tone circuit to the output (centre) lug of the
template. I swapped over to my 1" bit for the final volume pot. The idea is that any treble bleed
cut: if I had attempted to use the 3/8" bit, there through the tone circuit remains constant
would have been nothing to guide it as it reached regardless of the position of the volume pot. Since
the wire channel area. I set the 1" bit 1/16" above hot humbuckers tend to sound quite dark, I
the bottom of the cavity and the guide bearing was soldered a 0.002uF treble bleed capacitor across
able to make contact with the template all the way the input and output tags of the volume control;
around. If you look at the photo, the areas of this helps to retain clarity when the volume
exposed wood show how much was removed. The control is turned down to clean up an amp. Above: the pots and Super 5-Way switch were
wood we cut away only lightened the body by 20g With all the preliminary wiring done, it was installed and initial connections made first. Note
less than half the weight of a PP3 battery. time to install the pickups and hook them up to the treble bleed capacitor on the volume pot and
the Super 5-Way switch. Although Trembuckers the way the tone capacitor is wired point-to-point
are supposedly designed for Strat-type guitars,
their mounting screws were too long for the depth
of the body routs. Sawing and filing metal in the
vicinity of a pickup is inadvisable because the
pickup will end up covered in metallic dust, so I
simply snipped the excess off with a strong pliers.
The switching arrangement Dafydd wanted
was neck humbucker, both pickups and bridge
humbucker, with single coils in the in-between
The router template might look a bit rough and
settings. I found the correct schematic on the
ready, but the pickup cavity will be smooth
Seymour Duncan website and followed the The pickup wires have been soldered to the switch
instructions. However, there was a problem: as per the Seymour Duncan schematic. We prefer
rather than having the two inner coils on the in to keep cable runs as short as possible and the
between settings as described, we got the outer excess green wire we snipped off was used to
coil of the neck humbucker. This could be because connect the switch to the volume pot

The verdict
For the very first pass we used a 3/8" router bit
We were really pleased with the way this
and cut only to a one-third depth
Strat modification turned out, but the only
opinion that really mattered was that of
Dafydd, the owner. Heres what he had to
say: Ive always wanted to have a custom
build guitar, and now I do. It looks amazing
and the sound is stunning. All my mates
think that its fantastic, and even my parents
cannot believe the sound from it... so much
so they dont make me put my headphones
We used the same 3/8" bit for the second cut on all the time! Since Ive had it back, I
then swapped over to a 1" bit for the final cut. havent played any of my other guitars and I
When we had finished, the pickup cavity was big have joined another band. It is an absolute
enough to accommodate a humbucker. You can gem and thank you so much for
see the router bits we used in the neck pocket customising it for me.


#40045 - Minifoogers GaB half _Layout 1 25/10/2013 10:45 Page 1

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WORKSHOP Headstock break



Attempting to fix a headstock break on a valuable guitar is not
advisable, but here DAVE WALSH shows how you can save a cheapo
beater thats been beheaded with a few tools and some know-how

uitar necks often have of or a gentle fall from a stand, and detune the strings down to slack
a weak spot just below the bang the headstock cracks open or and place the guitar gently in a hard
headstock. Its caused by breaks right off. case together with any loose chips
a number of factors: the Neck breaks generally fall into of wood or paint, all of which are
direction of the wood grain, three categories: firstly, a clean vital to restoring the guitar to its
1 This Baby Taylor toppled the truss-rod routing particularly type where the headstock is still former glory.
gently onto a carpeted floor if the rod is adjustable from the attached and flaps open (this Were going to look at a couple
and the headstock snapped
headstock and the amount of is the easiest to fix, especially if of headstock breaks a mahogany
right across in a diagonal line
following the grain. It goes to string pressure on the head itself. repaired immediately); a diagonal headstock crack on a Baby Taylor
show how careful you need to The majority of these breaks split through the headstock again and a less common maple break
be with mahogany necks occur on mahogany-necked guitars. simple if caught early; and the on a Gibson J-200. The Taylor
2 This recent Gibson J-200 Mahogany is a fantastic tone wood worst of the bunch, a completely arrived with a brutal-looking split
reissue met its doom during a and easy to carve but its relatively broken-off headstock. If the break diagonally across the headstock and
radio recording session. Its a soft in comparison to maple, is badly splintered or contains through the A tuner hole 1 . In
short, clean break, but itll be
the other common neck wood, multiple fractures, the repair fact the head is held together almost
near-impossible to completely
disguise the glue line in the so if youre in the market for a may involve routing and inlaying purely by the plastic Lexan face
pale-coloured maple secondhand Les Paul, always check wooden reinforcing splints into the veneer, which has prevented the
3 A natty way to hang onto
this area for evidence of a repair. neck and headstock. head from spitting clean in two. On
bridge pins and saddle is On some guitars it doesnt take If youre unlucky enough to the J-200 the break has fractured
simply to tape them in place much more than a slip off a strap experience a break, immediately with a smaller, shallower crack

1 2 3


Headstock break WORKSHOP

4 5 6

7 8 9

above the more obvious break 2 . clamp directly to the headstock guitar strings come packed in is 4 Cutting out the clamping

How accurately a crack will go back and I often fabricate individual ideal. Cut the packing to a nice neat caul for the headstock face. A
handsaw would do fine
together is the one determining cauls for specific jobs. They can square (trim off any ridges, too) and
factor to how successful a repair be made from many different then attach it to the cork side on the 5 The finished front-face
caul with cork simply attached
will be. In both cases, using a materials, but were using 10mm caul using masking tape or double-
by double-sided tape
plastic headstock face has prevented MDF covered with 5mm cork sheet. sided tape. Now the caul is ready for
6 Heres a rear view of the
a more serious break and both These materials are cheap and easy use, and any adhesive that escapes
dry run. You need to make
should prove pretty straightforward to source; cork is firm enough to be the clamped crack and there will sure the crack will close tight
to fix with the correct adhesive and clamped hard but also gives a little be some can be easily removed.
7 Another dry run, this time
clamping method. at the curved neck/headstock join. Okay, now DRY run the
on the Taylor. Were using a
Start by removing the strings Begin by making a caul to cover clamping. This is an essential stage, full-length caul for the rear
and use a piece of masking tape to the headstock face. Loosely trace as once the adhesive is applied it is
8 Slow-setting two-pack
secure the bridge pins and saddle around the headstock and cut the very difficult to assess how well the Araldite is hardcore stuff. Mix
in the bridge 3 . Next, remove the caul with a bandsaw if you have clamping works 6 , 7 . Once youre the glue very thoroughly
tuners and truss rod cover, ensuring one, or a jigsaw or a coping saw happy that the cauls and clamps 9 You need to get the glue
that you dont add any additional 4 . Sand any rough-sawn edges will close the crack tightly, mix the right into the crack. A metal
stress to the headstock as you do so, smooth and lay the caul flat onto adhesive. We are using Araldite, feeler gauge is a good tool
then lay the guitar face down on a some 5mm cork sheet (dont pull a two-pack epoxy resin which is
flat, soft surface. the tiles off the bathroom floor; its actually stronger than wood when
The crack must be clean and free readily available in your local art set but also has excellent gap-filling TOOLS
from dust, dirt and any grease. A shop). Mark around the caul and properties and can be sanded flat. Araldite slow setting epoxy
bit of patience is essential before cut with scissors or a craft knife. Dont be tempted to use white wood resin (blue & white tubes)
slapping a load of adhesive in and Attach the cork to the MDF caul glue it simply isnt strong enough. White spirit
10mm MDF sheet
whacking on a couple of clamps. using double-sided sticky tape 5 . For Araldite (use the slow-setting
7mm cork sheet
Not all cracked headstocks want Repeat the process for the rear of blue/white pack only) mix equal Set of G clamps
to go back together as easily they the headstock, taking into account resin and hardener together on a Plastic string pouch
came apart, and it can be very the differences in shape and length. scrap MDF offcut to achieve a thick 600 and 1200 grade wet/
difficult getting the edges to line We made a standard oblong for the paste 8 Be careful this stuff dry paper
T-Cut and soft lint-free
up perfectly for the entire length Baby Taylor and a shorter, wider is an industrial-strength bonding polishing cloth
of the separation. You must ensure caul for the rear of the J-200. Cauls product. Mix enough for the job, Feeler gauges
that the surface on either side of dont need to be a work of art: they but theres no need for messy haste Artists scalpel or
the break will line up and come just need to cover the break area as the adhesive remains usable and craft knife
Small file set
together when the clamps are and have sufficient width to accept fluid for at least an hour, depending
Double-sided sticky tape
on. Fortunately, on both of these as many clamps as necessary. on ambient temperature.
acosutics most of the edges are Three or four clamps will be used Apply the adhesive into the crack
intact and there are no missing for an average repair. To prevent using a feeler gauge (the 0.05 to
pieces of wood. any adhesive from sticking to the 1mm type used for spark plug SAFETY TIP
Once the damage has been cauls, cover them in a non-stick adjustments) and/or a spatula. Its White spirit is extremely
flammable. Any paper towels
assessed, its time to make some or adhesive-resistant substance. vital to get the adhesive all the way
soaked in it need to be
clamping cauls. Cauls are essential By a strange quirk of fate, the thin to the bottom of the crack a carefully disposed of in a bin
you must never attach a steel transparent plastic pouch that many syringe can be used, but for our > OUTSIDE your home GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 73

WORKSHOP Headstock break

10 11 12

10 We ended up using three breaks a thin feeler gauge was the adhesive is dry and the clamps through or feather together. Once
G clamps to cover the Taylors adequate 9 . Now push the join are off). Also remove the excess the area is flattened 14 it can be
headstock-long long crack
together. The excess adhesive will from the plastic covering on the polished either on a polishing
11 Clean away surplus glue be squeezed out, so get ready with cauls, and re-apply the clamps. wheel or with T-Cut, a soft lint-free
with white spirit, and after some kitchen towel and a small This can be repeated periodically cloth and some elbow grease to
an hour you can remove the
clamps and cauls, clean again,
bottle of white spirit to wipe away for approximately two hours before achieve a smooth, blemish-free
and then reapply the clamps. the excess. Keep cleaning it away the curing process starts in earnest. surface 15 , 16 .
Repeat several times and ensure that none has leaked After any final clamps adjustments, At this point the guitars are
12 After 24 hours, the glue onto other parts of the guitar. Clean leave the job to dry. perfectly playable and the headstock
will be hardened enough to any adhesive from your hands and Now wait for 24 hours for the areas stronger than ever 17 , 18 .
allow filing away of the excess then line up the cauls and apply the adhesive to set and that means Once the joins and surrounding
13 Use 600 and 1200 wet- first clamp to hold them together a complete 24 hours, not just wood have completely settled
and-dry to smooth the crack like a sandwich, with the headstock overnight then remove the (usually after two to three months)
without removing any finish as the meat/filling 10 . clamps and cauls, and youll find the finish could be touched in to
14 The Taylors tough poly Apply the remaining clamps and a solid headstock once again with hide the repairs. The Baby Taylor
finish doesnt need quite the be sure to quickly wipe away any small ripples of adhesive along could have the headstock bursted
delicate treatment of the J-200
remaining squeezed-out glue 11 the original break line. Remove in to cover the break but the clear
15 Without a pro polishing before placing the guitar onto a these ripples with careful filing finished maple on the J-200 will be
wheel, you can simply use flat surface with the clamps taking using a small file before sanding a lot trickier and any refinish work
T-Cut and a lint-free cloth
the weight. Thoroughly clean any with 600 and lightly-soaked 1200 here could draw more attention to
16 The J-200s nitro-cellulose adhesive from the feeler gauge and grade wet/dry paper 12 , 13 . The the repair. In general, I advise
finish needs care - you could
other tools. aim is to flatten the join without against refinishing as the damage is
easily sand through it
Wait about an hour and then removing any of the original finish. to the rear of each instrument.
17 The Taylors mahogany
carefully remove the clamps and Work carefully a little patience Once again, do not experiment on a
neck hides the repair really
well. Youd hardly know
cauls holding the join together will improve the overall result high-quality, vintage or collectible
as you do so and, using white enormously. Bear in mind that guitar: for that, its always best to go
18 Not invisible, as we
spirit, wipe away any adhesive that thin nitro finishes blend nicely and see a good luthier. But on a
predicted, but the repair is
certainly stronger than the has squeezed out (this reduces back into each other, whereas thick cheap old plunker or a laminated
original wood the amount of cleaning up once polyester is far tougher to rub import, have a go at it!

13 14 15

16 17 18




Pearl! Its the touch of glamour that makes a
really classy guitar complete. DAVE KING has some
insiders tips on how to shape some showy shell

t our repair shop we often Theres also AbaLam 3 , a material though: you can go into the layers
get requests to personalise invented by Chuck Erickson (aka of epoxy when sanding, which
peoples instruments, which The Duke Of Pearl) that helps doesnt polish to the same finish
can involve anything from conserve our existing stocks of as the shell and can look unsightly.
complete rebuilds to new shell. Its made from abalone and Still, with care this can be avoided,
fret markers. Here, were going to mother of pearl shells that are not and youll have the advantage of
take a look at what can be done with thick enough to cut solid blanks being able to cut far larger inlay
different inlays. from. Very thin slices are cut from pieces at once (its available in sheet
Fretboard markers, side dots the outside of the curved shells, sizes up to 200mm square). Its
and all other decorative inlays epoxy is applied between the layers also available in strips for purfling, 1 Pre-cut inlays Dots, stars
come in many different shapes, and then they are pressed flat. which saves a vast amount of time. and flakes can all be bought
sizes 1 and materials: mother Because the slices are so thin they Normally solid shell would have 2 Pearl comes in many
of pearl in black, white and gold can be flattened without breaking to be cut by hand to go around the shades, as do minerals
2 , abalone in various reds and and made into many different outside of a guitar, but AbaLam can 3 AbaLam Aka laminated
greens, and alternative materials sized sheets of varying thicknesses. simply be broken into the purfling abalone. Very convenient
such as malachite and lapis lazuli. AbaLam does have its critics, channel and filled with glue, and > indeed

1 2 3



4 5 6

4 AbaLam on a Dave
the when its finished the breaks are start to mark out. Importantly, fretboard splitting along its length
King guitar The results are almost impossible to see 4 . check twice . Its not uncommon between the markers (more so on
impressive Many vintage guitars have no for certain guitar makers (myself) larger inlays). To overcome this I
5 The emulsion trick Makes fretboard markers or side dots or to be up until three in the morning use either a quarter-inch bit with
marking out so much easier both have fallen out. Well have a before a guitar show putting an the edges very carefully ground off
6 Drill bit mods. look at fitting fretboard markers intricate design between the 2nd using an oil stone to reduce the
Taking a 1/4 (6.35mm) bit first. Before you start drilling holes, and 3rd fret to cover a hole that has cutting circle to about 6.1mm 6
down to 6.1mm decide which positions youre going been drilled in the wrong place! , or first drill the holes with a 6mm
to put them in. On guitars youll Now well scribe the centre of the centre-bit then use a 6.1mm metal
have a choice of the 3rd, 5th, 7th, hole to give the centre-point drill drill to take out the clearance. For
9th, 12th, 15th, quarter-inch holes
17th, 19th, 21st
and 24th frets (if
AbaLam is a material made from youd need to
use the closest
7 Drilling the holes Double-
you have one). abalone and mother of pearl that is metric metal drill
check and triple-check first
8 Depth stop. A homemade
These are all the
harmonics on available in time saving strips and sheets (6.3mm).
Im working on
device for hand drills
a guitar string new fretboards
(though mandolins have one at the bit a good start. The most common here so Im able to use a pillar drill
9 Colour match Adding
10th rather than the 9th). Im using size of fret marker is either 6mm with the depth-stop set correctly to
wood dust to the mixed
epoxy glue a new fretboard here, but the same or quarter-inch (6.35mm). The ensure the markers go in level with
principles will apply to retro-fitting. problem is that a 6mm dot will not the board. If youre putting markers
10 Side dots. Improvised
hand drill reaches the tricky Whenever Im fitting inlays I easily go into a hole produced by a into a completed guitar youll have
places always start by painting the surface 6mm centre-point drill bit there to use a hand drill, so here I always
11 Jewellers saw. This is the
of the board with white emulsion needs to be some clearance. In time use a piece of dowel with a hole
tool for cutting pearl inlays 5 for visibilitys sake as its just the fretboard might well shrink drilled through it to act as a depth
about impossible to draw anything a little due to climate change or stop 8 . For glue I use epoxy resin
12 Ready to cut. Shape is
scribed in white paint on on a piece of ebony that you can incorrectly dried timber, but the mixed with dust from the timber
the pearl see. Let the emulsion dry and then dots will not. This can result in the that Im inlaying to ensure that any

7 8 9

10 11 12



13 14 15

16 17 18

gaps will not be visible 9 . Araldite the support rest 15 : shell dust is with the right hand edge of the
gives a little, which will allow for carcinogenic so its very important cutter youd pulling towards you.
expansion and contraction. Make to wear a face mask as well. Hold Remember not to make the recess
sure the epoxy is mixed well before the shell firmly and always cut on too tight. The inlay should fall in:
you start to add in the dust; put the downstroke; with practice youll too tight and you run the risk of
enough glue in the hole to allow soon realise simple shapes are cracking the fretboard. Glue your
for some squeeze-out around the not difficult. Straight-sided pieces inlays in the same way as the dots
edges, and leave it to dry before like my triangle are hard to cut 18 , using plenty of glue and once 13 Straight edges. Easy to
sanding down. If youre planning accurately, but easy to clean up with dry they can be sanded down flush finish off with a sanding stick
to install side dots 10 , mark them a sanding stick 13 . with the surface. Its fiddly work but 14 Scribing the triangle. Note
all out very carefully and scribe the For my headstock logo Ive it all can be done with just a few the full-sized handheld router
centre of the hole. A hand drill is glued a paper template to the shell simple tools. If done carefully with 15 Cutting jig. Fragile pearl
too big for this job, so Ive made up blank with a little superglue. When patience youll be surprised at the needs this supporting rest
a piece of dowel with the correct cutting shapes, try and cut into quality of the results that can be
16 The frying pan method.
size drill bit glued into the end. the corners from both directions achieved. Best be stealthy with this one
With this youll also be able to get to to avoid radiuses where you turn
17 Ready for the Dremel.
the fretboard past the body join. the saw around; uneven sides can For shell supplies in the UK, Shape is marked out on
While thats all drying we can be cleaned up later with a fine file. try www.smallwonder-music. the head
try cutting some of our own shell. I now have three pieces I need to, 01435 830 509. Other places
18 Gluing the inlay in.
Shell is very brittle and needs to be glue together before inlaying. A of interest based in the USA Nothing wrong with plenty
cut with the correct tool: a jewellers non-stick frying pan provides a include, www. of glue
piercing saw 11 . good surface 16 ; superglue doesnt, and 19 All finished All dry, and
The more teeth per inch, the stick to Teflon. Lay the pieces on the sanded down to a fine finish
finer the cut: saw grades for shell pans surface and run glue run into
would generally be from size 1/0 the joints. Now the logo is in one
to 3/0, or 48 to 56 teeth per inch. I piece I can lay it on my headstock
generally use a 2/0 small enough and scribe around it.
to turn a sharp radius corner, but I cut out my first-ever Tree Of 19
not so fine as to snap all the time. Life entirely with chisels and a
Youll need a drawing of whatever scalpel because I wasnt aware of
youre going to cut (a few minutes Dremels 17 , which along with
on the web will find many patterns). the inlay cutters from Stew-Mac
Right now I need to put a triangular are the perfect tool for inlaying.
inlay just in front of a nut, so Ill When using any hand-held router
scribe the shape on the white- remember to always push against
painted shell 12 and then set to the direction of the cutter, so if
work with a supporting rest that youre looking from above the
Ive made out of a scrap timber (the router with the cutter going
slot will become worn, so make clockwise and cutting with the left
a new one from time to time). I edge of the cutter you would be
also have a vacuum attached to pushing away from you; if cutting GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 77




Hand-wound Alnicos have never come cheap which is why Spencer
Mumford of Shed Pickups first began winding his own. In this
article from 2004 HUW PRICE took tips from a fledgling pickup maker

s a callow youth I once tried and vulcanised fibreboard flats. alnico IV). As usual it all came
to wind my own pickup. I It seems that many sound-hounds down to economics, and as alnico
bought some magnet wire believe that pickups from the 1950s became increasingly expensive,
(God only knows what and 1960s still set the tone, but manufacturers started using much
gauge), stripped the broken through careful analysis of the cheaper ceramic magnets. Sound
coil off a 1970s Strat pickup with a materials used and the construction quality is influenced by magnetic
razor blade, and started wrapping. I methods employed, todays pickup strength, and since ceramic
had read somewhere that pre-CBS gurus believe it is possible to polepieces (slugs) are stronger than
pickups had 8350 turns of wire replicate the sonic characteristics of alnicos, they produce a brighter,
compared to 7600 on later models, vintage pickups. more edgy sound.
and I was also aware that they Major manufacturers always seek
were hand wound. Unfortunately Why Handmade Pickups to maximise efficiency, and by the
I took that literally, so there I Sound Different mid 60s Fender and Gibson had
was wrapping the wire: one, two, The standard industrial magnets decided that it would be cheaper to
three it took me about a fortnight. of the era were made from an machine-wind their pickups. This
Eventually the coil was so massive alloy of aluminium, nickel and produces an even coil that looks
that I couldnt fit the cover on, and cobalt called alnico that comes in very neat but it is thought to have
inevitably, it didnt even work. various forms, all with different sonic drawbacks. Hand-wound
Fast forward 20 years, and magnetic characteristics. Alnico pickups are actually machine-
Im reviewing pickups for Guitar V is the most common but some wound, but the wire is guided onto
magazine. When talking to manufacturers are recreating the the bobbin by hand. This introduces
manufacturers such as Fralin, sounds of the early 1950s using more irregularity into the wind,
Experience and Bare Knuckles, weaker alnico II and III (rumour which according to Lindy Fralin
certain key phrases keep cropping has it that the best-sounding PAF results in a looser coil with more air
up; scatter-winding, alnico slugs humbuckers were loaded with gaps. You need a good grasp of flux



1 Its a wrap A spool of

magnet wire, ready to go
1 2 2 Paraffin wax Yucky stuff,
but good for potting

lines, capacitance and inductance to build a winding machine from Spencer tried using the sewing
fully understand this phenomenon, commonly available parts 3 . First machines foot pedal but that
but the bottom line is that hand- off youll need an electric motor; wasnt sensitive enough, so he
wound or scatter-wound like many DIY pickup builders ended up using an electric fan
pickups are transparent and clear, Spencer chose one from a sewing controller from B&Q (a dimmer
but never brittle or edgy. machine. Because he planned to switch might burn out). The black
build the machine on a plank of insulation tape around the pickup
Materials chipboard, he took an angle grinder mounting spindle holds a small
Most of the bits and pieces that you to the sewing machine to make magnet, and next to this you can
need to build pickups are easy to a solid metal base for mounting see the magnetic sensor unit for an
acquire. Allparts ( 0845 345 5951) the motor, but you could screw ordinary digital speedometer that
sell vulcanised fibreboard pickup the motor down if you were using Spencer bought from his local bike
flats for P and J basses, T-style and a solid wood base. He used the shop. The speedo is attached to the
S-style pickups as well as all the original sewing machine drive belt yellow mains cable just behind the
stuff for humbuckers. You can buy and attached this to the spindle wire guide, and Spencer uses this to
small quantities of magnet wire that was used for winding cotton gauge the number of turns 19km
1 from Scientific Wire (020 8505 bobbins. This was mounted on an equates to a DC resistance of 7K.
0002). What gauge? Well, AWG L-shaped bracket and a 10mm The wire spool sits on the floor
42 (American Wire Gauge) was shaft was pushed over the end underneath the winding machine
standard for Gibson and Fender, that is used to mount the bobbin and passes up through a 90 degree
although some early Teles were for winding. A little further back elbow bend purchased from B&Qs
wound with AWG 43, and Gretschs Spencer arranged two more L plumbing section.
DeArmonds used AWG 44. brackets facing each other with a Last but not least is a car
Allparts will supply Fender-style second 10mm tube fixed between compass, which Spencer uses to
cloth covered or PAF-style braided them. In the photo you can see that check the polarity of his polepieces.
lead-out wire. two rubber doorstops have been
Magnetic slugs are more of a drilled through and pushed over A Bit Of A Wind Up
problem; they are obtainable, its the tube. The wire passes between Allparts fibreboard pickup flats
simply that industrial suppliers these, and the gap between them come ready-pierced with slug holes
3 The infernal machine
have minimum orders. Eclipse can be adjusted to stop the wire that are a little too narrow. 4 A
Spencer Mumfords
Magnets (0114 225 0600) can going over the edge of the bobbin. 5mm drill bit is used to widen homemade winding rig, based
supply alnico V and will cut it to Next: speed control. At first them, and after checking for > on a sewing machine
length, but make sure you ask for
the slugs to be pre-magnetised.
Their minimum order is 50, so
you could be making pickups for 3
your friends, and their friends,
too. Magdev in Swindon (01793
425600) offers a wider range of
alnico rods for single-coils and
blocks for humbuckers, and their
minimum order is 23.50. Finally,
you need to buy some paraffin wax
2 from your local hardware shop
for potting purposes your pickup
kit is now complete.

The Infernal Machine

DIY pickup builder Spencer
Mumford has figured out how to GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 79


4 5 6

4 Adapting the flats Drilling polarity 5 the slugs are gently 8 and secure the bobbin before hand is also used to guide the wire
out the holes to 5mm tapped into the base (north up for it is pushed over the 10mm shaft slowly and evenly side to side to
5 Polarity check. A car Strat-style pickups) using a resin attached to the cotton bobbin shaft. side, carefully building up the
magnet will do just fine hammer. Vintage Fender pickup Spencer then starts the motor to layers gradually.
6 Hammering in the slugs, slugs were bevelled around their see how square the bobbin is to the Although Spencer uses a
gently does it upper edges, but slugs direct from shaft, and makes fine adjustments kilometre gauge to regulate his
a magnet supplier have squared to minimise wobble. The 42-gauge windings, its possible to buy
edges. If you want the rounded wire is fed through the plumbing counters to accurately track
vintage look, secure a slug in pipe, threaded through the eyelet in the number of turns. Some
an electric drill, set the drill to the bottom flat and secured with a manufacturers check the DC
maximum speed and gently touch small piece of masking tape on the resistance several times towards the
the edge of the polepiece against a base of the pickup. More masking end of a wind by carefully removing
fairly smooth file and round over tape is used to cover the two metal some of the magnet wire insulation
the edges. You might prefer to eyelets to prevent the delicate wire and measuring using a multimeter;
secure the drill in a workbench and snagging on them and snapping. digital ones are best. If more turns
hold the file by hand. After setting the spacer rubbers, are required, some lacquer is
If youre making a staggered the first few turns are made by hand sprayed on to restore the insulation.
set, make sure the slugs go into the before engaging the motor. Spencer When you have finished
correct holes and tap on the upper allows the wire to pass between his winding, the loose wire is cut,
flat 6 . Spencer does his by eye, finger and thumb, holding the wire threaded through the second eyelet
judging the slug height by placing downwards so that it passes over and secured with masking tape,
a cover over the unwound pickup, the spacer spindle. Some pickup and then the wound pickup is
but many people use spacers each winders prefer to use felt to tension removed from the spindle. Some
side of the slugs. As a guide, the B the wire and Spencer reports that manufacturers prefer to thread
string pole should be just below the the Fuzzy Felt shorts from his sons the loose ends of the magnet wire
top surface of the plastic cover. Noddy set works well, but he prefers several times and even tie a knot to
The next step is to lacquer the to pinch the wire gently between his secure them.
slugs between the flats to stop the fingers. If the wire starts to feel hot, Now the doorstop and bolt are
coil shorting out. Nail varnish is it means the tension is too great removed, and after the ends of the
ideal; colour is optional. Once dry, and you should allow the wire to cloth-covered lead-out wires have
a 2mm bolt is passed from the base move more freely. been pre-tinned they are inserted
through the centre hole in the flats Start with the motor running into the two eyelets and soldered.
7 (you might need to drill this fairly slowly and build up speed as Scientific Wires magnet wire is
one out a little, too). This passes you become more confident. Its solderable so you dont need to strip
through an un-drilled doorstop and easy to see the wire as it passes the insulation layer off first, but
a washer and nut is used to centre onto the bobbin, and the tensioning remember to use a small soldering

7 8

7 Centre bolt. A 2mm bolt

holds the flats together
8 Ready to roll The
completed bobbin is mounted
to the electric motor and
carefully centre



9 Tele-style pickup ready

for baseplate gluing
9 10
10 First try Huw Price
attempts the task himself

iron tip and its best to work this can get you into trouble if you that I try making myself one
quickly, because the magnet wire use distortion pedals or high-gain for my Strat. Barring one scary
can burn through. amps. Seymour Duncan Antiquity moment that required some
Once the solder has cooled, check PAFs are unpotted, like Gibsons expert untangling, I successfully
the DC resistance of the pickup with 1950s originals and their current completed my first pickup and I
a multimeter; again, a good digital Burstbuckers, so you could try couldnt wait to get it into my guitar.
one is best. If you are getting no your pickups unpotted to see if you Im chuffed because it sounds very
reading at all, try a little more heat experience problems or not. good. The highs are sweet and
on the solder joints to make sure the Potting is very simple. Pour some clear, the bass is well defined and it
insulation has melted off. Once you water into the bottom of a saucepan doesnt squeal.
have confirmed a satisfactory DC and place a Pyrex glass bowl into Spencer estimates that single coil
resistance, trim the ends of the wires the saucepan, making sure it pickups cost around 12 to make,
under the bottom flat and push the doesnt touch the bottom of the and humbuckers will set you back
other ends through the small hole pan. Put paraffin wax into the bowl around 20. When you consider
between the eyelets. 12 (some people like to add 20 per that a winding machine will cost
cent beeswax), bring the water to you around 50 to put together
Potty Time the boil over a low flame and the and that the cheapest off-the-shelf
Of course you want your pickups wax will quickly melt. Paraffin wax hand-wound pickup will set you
to wail, but you dont want them is flammable, so be sure to keep a back around 70, rolling your
to squeal. Microphonic feedback is fire extinguisher handy. Turn off own seems like it could be a good
a nasty thing, and it occurs when the heat and submerge the pickup way to go. If you have a Strat, for
the coils in a pickup start to vibrate and the cloth-covered wires 13 . You example, you could wind a hot set
from sound pressure. It is common should see tiny air bubbles escaping for rock gigs and a vintage set for
practice to wax pot pickups, to from the sides of the coil and from blues, country or funk just mount
solidify and protect the coil. the ends of the slugs. them on two separate scratchplates
There is much debate about After a minute or two this will and swap them as required. If they
this practice and some claim stop and the pickup can be placed sound really good, you could even
that a properly-wound coil on a non-stick surface to cool start making them for your mates
shouldnt need potting, but this (according to Spencer, the cover of 11 Dying the wire Vintage
requires correct and consistent Guitar is perfect). Check you still Since this article was first published look for cloth-cover wire
tension something only the have a DC reading and pop your in 2004 Spencer Mumford has
12 Melting the paraffin
best pickup makers can achieve. new pickup into your guitar. become a highly respected boutique Technically, a Bain Marie
Slight microphony might even be pickup maker and his Shed Pickups
13 Potting the pickup
desirable because the pickup will Its A Wrap are now widely used by many top Soaking the completed
be more sensitive to the acoustic After watching Spencer wind a players. Go to www.shed pickups. unit in wax helps prevent
properties of the instrument, but T-style bridge pickup he suggested com to see how hes progressed microphonic feedback

11 12 13 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 81

WORKSHOP Pro tools


Most of our workshops have looked at repairs and set-ups you can do at
home with tools available on the high street. DAVE KING looks at a couple
of specialist gizmos that could take your luthiery to new levels


Pro tools WORKSHOP

1 2 3

4 5 6

pecialist tools can make your Once the frets are out, a close luthier suppliers. Any more heat 1 Fret-pullers for removing
life easier and a lot more inspection of the board reveals a than this and you could well pull worn-out frets
efficient. The purpose of this concave gap under the straight- the fretboard off rather than just 2 A dab of lemon oil will
feature is to introduce you to edge, which means a bent-forward soften the glue. prevent chipping the board
a few that have become really neck. Many old instruments like Ive clamped the element to the 3 A Neck heater for
indispensable for me.. this Martin have no adjustable fretboard with a packer under one straightening non-adjustable
Our repair subject is a Martin truss rods, and the fretboards are end 5 ; this way, when it gets up to necks, or even correcting
000-18. Its a guitar thats had a generally not thick enough to allow temperature, the glue joint between back-bow. A dangerous item:
use with care
hard life. The neck is bent and is in us to simply plane them flat, so we the fretboard and the neck will
need of straightening, which will need to try and flatten them some soften, and this in turn will allow 4 This multimeter checks
the temperature stays around
help get the action down a little, and other way. the neck to be pulled back, getting
100 degrees
the frets are worn out and all need A neck heater from Luthiers rid of the bow. The heater will need
5 A packing piece that is
replacing: Generally, this guitar is Mercantile International (again to be left on for about an hour to
just the right depth to get rid
in need of a little love and care. from the US) makes this a very soften the glue sufficiently; once of the bow
The first tool were going to have simple job. As you can see from the glue has softened and the neck
6 These neck tools
a look at is a pair of fret-pullers 1 the picture 3 , its a hollow, flat has moved, the heater needs to be
will speed up neck jobs
from Stewart McDonalds in the steel bar with a heating element turned off and left to cool, giving considerably
USA. For years Ive been using inside that can be heated up to time for the glue to harden. I leave
pincers with the face ground off to about 250 degrees centigrade, it all in the clamps for a further 24
give a flush surface to get under the though to straighten our neck hours, just to make sure.
frets, but this tool is purpose-made well only need a temperature of Next, fretboard tools 6 . We 7 Sanding blocks carved to
for the job and will pull the frets 100 degrees. The crucial point do have quality retailers in the exact radii for fingerboards
out quickly and efficiently. One here in italics, just to make sure UK, such as David Dykes Luthier 8 A fret slot saw that cuts
tip: soak the fretboard with lemon you dont miss it is dont get it Supplies (01435 812315) and on the pull. Comes complete
oil 2 before pulling the frets, as too hot! Im using a multimeter to Touchstone Tonewoods (01737 with depth stop
this will help stop the tangs of the measure the temperature 4 , but 221064), but the specialist tools 9 The Jaws is brilliant hand-
fretwire breaking out the surface of its much cheaper to buy a surface were talking about here are only held fret press.
No more hammers!
the wood. thermometer from one of the available direct from the US, >

7 8 9 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 83

WORKSHOP Pro tools

10 11 12

10 The Jaws 2 is another Fret and all these come from Stewart thinner, and that makes a finer cut. because of the shape of the heel, so
Press. This one combines the MacDonalds ( Now we can move onto the well move on to the next fretting
fret caul with a big F clamp Youll see from the picture that I fretting tools. For many years, tool: the Jaws 2 10 , complete with
to give access to the upper
fingerboard. Packing bits are
have a selection of profiled sanding the idea of banging frets in with cauls. This is a standard F clamp
included blocks to help me clean up the a hammer on an instrument that modified to accept the clamping
11 Packing blocks A bit of
fretboard 7 . These blocks will you may have spent many hours caul that we used earlier and it also
improvisation around the produce the correct radius on the working on or may be very old comes with a selection of clamping
octave fretboard, which will later tie up and fragile has seemed to me to blocks to sit over the braces on the
12 Upper frets Jaws 2 also
with the fretting tools. Remember, be rather barbaric! No more: with inside of the guitar. Packers 11
works through the soundhole many modern instruments have modern tools you no longer have to can be made to work your past the
a compound radius which gets do this. The first tool Im going to 10th to 14th fret, making a bridge
shallower the further down the be using is the Jaws hand-held fret between heel and neck, and by
fretboard you go, and for these you press 9 . This one comes with a using this we can now press the
wont be able to use the sanding selection of clamping cauls to suit frets in from the neck join to the
blocks: thankfully, the old Martin the radii blocks we used earlier. top of the fretboard.
we have on the bench this month With the 12" caul fitted to match The two or three frets at the end
has the same radius all the way the sanding block we used, the fret are always a problem as theres
down the fretboard. Ive used a press simply slips over the neck and not a lot underneath holding
12" radius block with 180-grit fret and a gentle squeeze on the them up; when hammering, the
glasspaper stuck to it, and you can handle pushes the fret in evenly all hammer tends to bounce on the
go on to 320 grit to get a mirror the way across the fretboard. With fret! Its possible to put sandbags
finish. You wont always get all of the Jaws and the second fretting and various other things inside the
the wear marks out, so remove tool Ill mention you can very guitar to absorb some of vibration,
just enough to give the frets a flat quickly work your way from the first but in my experience pressing them
surface to seat on. fret up to the heel on an acoustic is by far the best method. You can
Once the fretboard is levelled guitar in about 20 minutes. One of see from the pictures 12 & 13 that
youll need to clean out the fret the big advantages of this system is the last fret has just been done, and
slots, and possibly make them a that it will push all the frets in to the this one has always given me the
tad deeper. Another specialist tool same depth; hammering them in most problems in the past.
is a fret slot saw 8 . You can now never seems to get them all perfect, So here we are, with all the frets
13 Caul close-up Concave,
get one that has a stop on it, which though Im sure some might argue. installed, levelled and correctly
and curved to press the can be adjusted to the correct depth Nevertheless, with this system the seated, and with less risk to a nice
frets in to ensure you dont go too deep. It frets dont even need levelling when guitar than with the tools we used
14 Finished job One Martin also cuts on the pull stroke. Most finished just a quick polish. to use. All of these are great devices
fretboard ready for another Japanese tools work in this way it Once weve got up to the 10th that can help make doing our
50 years allows the blade of the saw to be fret the Jaws press will not work repairs that much easier.!

13 14


Everything Forever
Imagine having all the Eventide stompbox effects in one
compact package. H9 Max comes with 45 algorithms and all
associated presets from TimeFactor, Space, PitchFactor, and
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#41542 - Eventide H9 Max half.indd 1 18/03/2015 14:02

WORKSHOP Acoustic upgrade



With a little knowledge, a few tools and the odd chunk of cows tibia, a Chinese or
Korean acoustic can be made to sound darn good and play surprisingly well. Top
luthier DAVE KING leads us through the process
Acoustic upgrade WORKSHOP

1 2 3

4 5 6

ur guinea pig guitar for eliminate any high spots. Instead, will greatly enhance the sound of 1 Removing the nut. No
this DIY acoustic upgrade work backwards and forwards a few your guitar: Ive tried most of the thwacking! Very gently does it
feature is a Cort SFX. For inches at a time 3 . Remember substitutes and in my opinion, 2 Make sure fingerboard is
around 300 its a lot of to tilt the oilstone over to the left none seem to work as well. flat. Use a good straightedge
guitar, with solid spruce top and the right, and keep checking Lets begin with the nut. Place 3 Levelling the frets. Work a
and mahogany back and sides, but everything carefully. You should the blank in position and mark small area at a time
there are a number of things we can end up with a thin oilstoned line around the end of the board, 4 Use a black felt-tip to
do to improve the spec. While our visible across the top of all the frets. and then mark a line across the show when all the frets are
Cort is good value, it has a plastic Now the frets are level we can top about 3mm higher than the being touched
nut and saddle which dont transmit begin to profile them. Well work fretboard (I know this seems a lot, 5 Rounding fret ends You
the sound as well as bone. The neck first on the fret ends 5 . I use a but well reduce it later) 9 . You can use a needle file, carefully
needs a little adjustment and the small triangular needle file with the can shape the nut in a number of 6 Fingerboard protector
frets could really do with levelling corners ground off, which stops the ways: files, a grinding wheel, or the Natty gadget and a useful buy
and re-profiling. The bridge pins file from marking the fretboard. For method I prefer, glass paper stuck
are also plastic, and well replace added security you can also use a to MDF sheets. Start on 80 grit
them with ebony ones. fretboard protector (available from then go up to 240. The marks left
The best place to start is by 6 . Hold the from the 240 will be polished out
removing the old nut 1 . This will file at about 45 degrees to the end of using 600 grit wet and dry when
be glued in, so be careful; place the fret and gently radius the end of weve finished the nut. Youll need
a block of wood behind it, and each one. Many top makers still use a bevel on the back of the nut and
gently tap it with a hammer. Once a triangular file to profile the frets, one on the top; the angle on the top
its safely removed, we can start to but this is very difficult; Id advise needs to be about five degrees less
level out the frets. First, adjust the you use one of the files designed than the angle of the headstock 10
truss rod so that the neck is straight for the job, with a hollow surface (normally 15 degrees).
(here the adjusting nut is inside the on the cutting edge (these come To file the sides of the nut, youll
guitar at the neck join, but if theres with quite a coarse surface, mind, need to hold it securely. I use a
a cover plate on the headstock so the best way to use them is to 50mm-square piece of timber
on your guitar, it will be under wrap a piece of glass paper around with a rebate to hold the nut, and
that). Make small adjustments, no them 7 , starting with 320 grit because the timber is 50mm square
more than a quarter turn, and use aluminum oxide paper then move it gives you a surface to hold a
a straightedge to make sure the up to 600 grit wet and dry). Once sanding block or file against 11 .
fretboard is as close to level as you youve removed all of the marks The exact angle of the sides of the
can get it 2 . made with the oilstone, the frets nut are usually square, but some
Now well need a new, flat can be polished with 0000-grade guitars vary. Just make sure the
oilstone to level the frets, and check wire wool. Use a little lemon oil at nut is flush with the edges of the
its flat with a straight edge: if its the same time 8 , as this will clean fretboard. If you try holding it just
not it can be levelled on a piece of and protect the fretboard. with your hands youll end up with
plate glass using wet and dry paper. Now the frets are all levelled and a rounded side to the nut not a
Dont just whizz all the way up and polished, we can start on the nut pro look.
down the fretboard, as that way and the saddle. Is bone superior Nows the time to move on to
youll just follow the frets and not to plastic? Yes, in most cases bone the saddle, the removable piece > GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 87

WORKSHOP Acoustic upgrade

7 8 9

7 Rounding fret tops Using sitting in the bridge. This Cort little more in tune, so if youre the ends of the saddle 14 mark the
a concave file with glasspaper has a compensated saddle, so the sort of person who is bugged by the profile from the old saddle, hold it
8 Lemon oil and fine steel point at which the string leaves the fact that an open E chord can be in in a vice and file to shape.
wool Gives a lovely finish surface of the saddle varies from tune at the bottom of the fretboard Now the tricky part filing
9 Setting the initial nut string to string. Why? Well, when but out of tune at the top, then this the top of the saddle for the
height Itll come down later a string is plucked on any stringed will help. compensation. First, make up a
instrument at least, any fretted If the old saddle is the correct jig to hold it, using either a piece
one: violins are exempt because you size, simply copy the new one from of timber or MDF with a 35 degree
can change the tuning by moving it but make it a little higher (about bevel cut on the face of it and a
your finger a fraction there is a .75mm) to allow for the adjustments rebate in the opposite side to hold
small amount of string at the point well need to make for the the saddle. When clamped to a work
where it leaves the nut and the compensation. Start by making sure surface this will allow you to work
saddle where it does not vibrate, the bottom of the saddle is flat 12 on the saddle securely; the bevel
and this changes the tuning of each (vital on all guitars but especially will help you guide the file and the
10 Correct angle. You need string, depending on the gauge on electro-acoustics, where a bad rebate will hold the saddle (if youre
to halve the angle to the head and the tension. Compensated contact with the pickup below will unsure, practice on a saddle-sized
11 Filing the nut sides. Use a saddles make up for this by varying give an uneven response). Now, cut piece of timber first). Hold the
little jig to keep things square the string length to allow for the the new saddle to length, holding it new saddle next to the old one and
12 Filing the saddle bottom.
part that is not vibrating, making in a vice or cutting block, making transfer the centre points from the
This method will keep it your guitar play a little more in sure the ends are square. Sand the old to the new 15 . Youll see the
totally flat tune. On electric guitars, of course, saddle down to thickness using treble E is closest to the front and
13 Saddle thickness. Dont each string saddle is individually your sanding blocks, making sure the B closest to the back. Put the
take too much off the ends adjustable, but this would be very its an even thickness along the saddle in the jig and start filing back
14 Round off the ends. For a
difficult to achieve on an acoustic entire length and, importantly, not to the correct points that you have
perfect fit in the bridge slot guitar because of buzzes and rattles. too tight in the slot: it should be marked 16 , using the jig to guide
15 High points. Copy
Compensated saddles are harder to a gentle push-fit, but not fall out. the file. Once youve finished work
the compensation to the make than a straight saddle but they Once happy with the length and the on the front of the saddle, turn it
new blank do ensure that your guitar plays a thickness 13 especially round the over and file the back edge to suit,

10 11 12

13 14 15


Acoustic upgrade WORKSHOP

16 17 18

19 20 21

making sure that youve worked to a it yet). Fit the two E strings first, underside of the string on the bass, 16 Filing the angles. Note the
point about 0.5mm wide. aiming for about two and a half slightly less on the treble. At the jig and, again, the felt-tip trick
When youve completed all the turns of string around the tuner. same time as lowering the strings 17 Compensation done. Just
steps the top of the saddle can be Tighten the strings up enough to at the nut youll have to be checking some rounding-over to do
rounded over to give the strings a keep them taut but not to pitch. the action at the 12th fret. This 18 Reaming for new pins.
smooth surface to sit on 17 . Make The best way to cut the slots in should be about 2mm under the Tape on reamer marks
sure there are no flats; the string the nut is with proper nut files. The bass side and 1.5mm at the treble. max depth
needs a radiused point to travel centres of the two E strings should These figures are rough guides, and 19 Outside nut slots E strings
over, and flats give buzzes. Finish be 3.5mm in from the edge of the depending on your style of playing should be 3.5mm from edge
the saddle with 320 grit to remove fretboard 19 . Cut the slots with the you may like to adjust them either 20 Spacing the other slots.
the file marks, then 600 grit to get file at an angle halfway between way. Bring all the strings down Take your time: this is vital
a nice polish. fretboard and headstock, ensuring evenly, a little at a time 21 . 21 String heights. Take each
The only other thing were the string has contact all the way Now remove the strings, nut and one lower a tiny bit at a time
going to is replace the string pegs. across the top of the nut. When the saddle. The strings should sit with
On this guitar theyre plastic, but E strings are in the right place, add no more than half their depth in the
wood ones well use ebony will the rest of the strings and again nut, so reduce the top to suit and
make sure that more sound from tighten them up a little. There are finish by polishing with 600 grit
the string gets transmitted to the many ways of spacing the strings wet and dry. Put everything back
top. For this job you may need a equally, but if you just measure together, and this time put a dab
reamer (expensive) 18 which will from centre to centre youll end up of glue under the nut. When the
cut the holes for the pegs with a with a smaller space between the guitar is tuned to pitch, adjust the
taper, ensuring a good fit. Ream the bass strings than the treble strings. trussrod to leave a slight hollow in
holes out until the pegs sit flush on I generally divide the space equally the face of the fretboard.
the bridge. Make sure the reamer then make smaller adjustments by As it turns out, our humble Cort 22 Slot angle. The correct

stays square to the guitar, and use a eye or carefully measure the space has been transformed. Its a far angle ensures a buzz-free nut
square for guidance. between the strings 20 . more playable guitar, with better 23 Finished nut. Perfectly cut
Now its time to fit the strings. A reasonable action to aim for at tone, volume and sustain. The time and beautifully polished
Place the saddle in the bridge and the first fret would be a gap of about spent replacing a few parts has 24 Saddle Like the original,
rest the nut in position (dont glue .5mm between the first fret and the been really worthwhile. but in toneful bone. Fine job!

22 23 24 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 89

WORKSHOP Resonator



Got an old resonator thats in need of a bit of TLC? Or maybe you just
fancy finding out how these maverick guitars hang together? DAVE KING
shows us how a pro tackles a neck set on a National


Resonator WORKSHOP

n this article were going to take This instrument needs to have its of the marker; this way we can drill
a look at some maintenance neck taken off and reset at a greater through and prise the rest out.
work on a single-cone resonator angle, which should give us the Dont drill too deep, just through
guitar. After 70 or more years right action along with the correct the dots, or youll end up drilling
of coping with 160lbs of saddle height and break angle. With the head of the screw off 5 .
tension on the neck, its inevitable the strings and cone removed, we We can now see how the neck
that some vintage Nationals can start dismantling it. join works. The timber packer
are suffering from neck angle First, the soundposts 2 . These under the end of the fretboard
problems. On a resonator guitar hold the instrument together, and goes between the neck pole and
the angle of the strings over the without them the guitar would the body of the guitar: this pushes
cone determines the amount of collapse. They are generally glued up on the inside of the guitars top
downward pressure on the cone: and pinned in but unfortunately and ensures we end up with a flat
too much and itll kill the sound, here the pins are pushed under the fretboard rather than one that dips
too little and there wont be enough surface of the neck pole, so pulling down over the neck join.
pressure to make the cone work.. them out is not an option. We need Before starting work on the
The instrument that were going to get a saw into the sound well neck angle Im going to replace
to be looking at is suffering from and cut them out, not forgetting to the saddle in the biscuit with
too little downward pressure over also remove the two screws that go a new, higher one made from
the cone and displays boxwood which is
an action at the 12th
fret of 4.5mm, which
This is an irreplaceable original what the originals
where made from.
too high even for cone from 1934, and its extremely This will give
slide playing (this
instrument needs to be thin, so we need to take great care me something to
work to when Im
set up for fingerpicking adjusting the neck
rather than slide, so we need an through the sound well and into angle. If youre careful, the old
action at the 12th fret of about the neck pole. saddle can be levered or chiselled 1 Shallow break angle
does not produce enough
2.5mm. You can see from the The end of the fretboard is out and simply replaced: its a good
downforce for the cone
picture 1 below that the straight- screwed onto the metal body at the idea to keep the original biscuit
2 Removing the old
edge shows only a few degrees of 15th, 17th and 19th frets which as these instruments are far more
soundposts. A saw is the
string break angle over the cone, is why there are two position dots collectable when original (and only way
and we need an angle of about 15 at the 15th and 19th for a screw anyway, replacing it will change the
3 Removing neck post. First,
degrees. Also, the bridge is far too either side of the fretboard (the one sound).
the screws in the soundwell
low: we should have a saddle height at the 17th goes right through the Now, the neck angle. Im going
4 Drilling out the pearl dots.
of about 7mm-9mm. Any higher body and into the neck pole). The to remove some timber from the
What is this madness? Well
than this and the forward pressure screws are located underneath and neck pole 6 to allow me to pull the
5 The screws are hidden
on the cone will make it collapse. they need to be carefully drilled neck back. Using a straight-edge,
underneath and there are
This an original, irreplaceable cone out with a metal drill bit 4 (not a Ive marked a line down the length
five in all
from 1934, so great care is needed centre-point bit like youd use on of the neck pole: the straight-edge
6 A timber packer goes
and these cones are only about timber) which should be a couple of must be held at the heel of the
between the neck pole and
eight thousandths of an inch thick. millimetres less than the diameter neck as this is where the whole > the top

1 2 3

4 5 6 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 91

WORKSHOP Resonator

7 8 9

7 New saddle Crafted from thing pivots from. This should neck back the heel no longer fits the original round biscuit packers. To
boxwood, like the original result in a wedge being cut from the body of the guitar 11 , and it needs mark out the height Ill hold them
8 A matter of angle Marking neck pole 8 . to snuggle up perfectly. Well cover about an inch in front of where they
out a wedge at the top of the With the material removed, we the body of the guitar with tape for need to end up and mark a line
neck pole. With this removed, can put the neck back in and check protection, then mark the joint. I across them using a Stanley blade
the neck angle will be right
the angle (make sure you put the have a number of different scribing as a scriber 16 . This makes them
9 The folding wedge packer back under the end of the tools for this job 12 : the one Im come out a little long, but by the
technique. Pushing these fretboard). You can see from picture using here is a ruler with a cutting time youve moved them into the
together shifts the neck pole
9 that Ive used a pair of folding edge ground on to it. With a line correct position they should fit with
up by tiny increments until
its just right wedges to push the neck pole up scribed all the way round the heel just a light push. Ive used a little
against the sound glue on the top
well; this will do
until weve got the
The string angle controls the and some pins
to hold them and
right neck angle, pressure on the cone: too little and it Ive also left the
10 Not enough. The saddles
the right height, but our first
then some new
soundposts will wont work properly tops of the pins a
little proud 17 , so
neck reset hasnt given enough need to be cut. if they need to be
angle. Time to try once again Picture 10 shows the neck fitted for me to work to 13 , Ill carefully removed in the future they can just
11 Heel gap The neck set but we still dont have enough chisel my way down to the line 14 be pulled out without having to cut
means the heel has tilted away angle, so well have to take the neck and hopefully we should end up the soundpost.
12 Homemade scriber. Dave back out and remove some more with a perfect fit without even the The only other work we need to
uses a ground-down ruler material from the neck pole to pull tiniest visible gap 15 . do to finish the inside of the guitar
13 Marking the line Shows it back further. After the second try, With the neck correctly fitted we is to replace the two screws that
how much wood must come off all is well. can get on with securing it using connect the sound well with the
14 Chisel time. Carefully take Still, before we can refit the the soundposts and the screws neck pole. Also, theres a wedge
the wood off down to the line soundposts and position markers, under the fretboard markers. Ive between the end of the neck pole
15 Heel re-fitted No visible some work on the neck join is made some new props for the and the end block that needs to be
gap. Youd hardly ever know needed. Because weve pulled the soundposts: that way we keep the fitted, glued and gently pushed into

10 11 12

13 14 15


Resonator WORKSHOP

16 17 18

19 20 21

place. Well let the glue hold it and is to mark out the string slots then too shallow they will fall out. Some 16 Marking new soundposts.
not force it in, as if its too tight it remove the biscuit from the cone resonator players like to have the Note the old round biscuits
could well push the neck away from to cut the slots, but I prefer to cut slots cut to a V shape to ensure 17 Pinning new soundpost.
the body. them while the biscuit is still on the strings dont choke, but Ive Pin left proud for future
Once the screws have been the cone 21 . Beware: if your files always found cutting to the correct removal
fitted to hold the end of the are not sharp and you catch one depth works perfectly fine. Ive 18 New pearl dots. One job
fretboard down we can install new of them in the string slot, you run used a sanding block to sand down where superglue really works
pearl dots, running a little thin the risk of crushing the cone. On the top of the saddle and smeared 19 Filing down the dots.
superglue down the sides to hold an original, irreplaceable cone this the biscuit with wood glue to hold Careful not to mark the
them securely 18 it securely on fingerboard
, and when the glue
is dry they can be
Beware: if your files are not sharp and the cone. A
little black stain
20 Checking the neck is
straight. A wedge can
filed down flush to you catch one of them in the string slot, always helps be added

the surface of the

you run the risk of crushing the cone. make it look a 21 String slots. Dave does
fretboard using a little more like this with the saddle in place
fine file 19 . Check it should. 22 Completed saddle. Correct
that the end of the fretboard is would be a catastrophe, so proceed When we place the cone back in depth slots, plus dark stain
straight over the body join: if it with caution! the soundwell well make sure that 23 Perfect angle. The new
needs pushing up then a small Picture 23 shows the break angle the bass side of the saddle is about neck set has given a perfect 15
wedge can be pushed in between and the height of the new biscuit, 2mm closer to the bottom of the degrees of string break over
the saddle. Bring on the blues!
the neck pole and the packer on the plus an action at the 12th fret of guitar than the treble side to allow
inside of the guitar 20 . This often 2.5mm. Before we replace the for intonation. All the remains are
can mean getting your hand into coverplate, we need to clean up the the tasks of replacing the cover
some pretty awkward places inside top of the saddle. The slots in the plate and restringing. We now have
the guitar. saddle should be exactly the same a National resonator that should
Now its time to start cutting the depth as the strings any deeper hopefully be fit for another 70 years
string slots. You can do this in a and you seriously run the risk of of playing without making the
number of different ways: one way choking the sound, but if theyre owners fingers too sore

22 23 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 93

WORKSHOP Neck reset



Many aging acoustics would benefit from a neck reset and some
careful attention to the dovetail joint. In this article a Gibson J-45
gets the full treatment. DAVE KING is the man with the chisel

he Gibson J-45 is a classic ours, as you can see, its pointing at On this one, however, I can clearly
spruce/mahogany slope- a spot halfway down the bridge. If see that the neck and fretboard
shouldered guitar, and a the bridge is higher than 6mm its have been off before, which in turn
mainstay of the companys sometimes possible to simply plane means the top would have already
range from 1942 until 1969. a little off the top; bear in mind, been cut around the dovetail to
In the 70s the model went square- though, that if the bridge is 9mm allow the neck removal. Your guitar
shouldered, but it made a strong high and you plane 3mm from it, repairman should be aware of these
comeback in the reissue era and this will reduce the tension on the potential catastrophes!
has now regained its place as a soundboard, and this can adversely So, with the neck removed, its
classic fingerpicking, rhythm and affect the sound. time to change the neck angle.
songwriters tool. Our patient is On this instrument we could The first thing we need to do is
a fine example from 1950, with a do one of two things: either reset thoroughly clean up the neck join.
problem thats likely on any guitar the neck at a different angle to On this J45 theres a 2.5mm spruce
this old: the need for a neck reset.. compensate, or re-brace or replace packer under the end of fretboard
Apart from the neck joint actually the top. The problem with doing 3 that Im going to remove and
breaking, the only reason to reset any work on the top is, again, that replace (using an ultra-sharp chisel,
a guitars neck is to increase or it might drastically change the of course, as it cuts so much better).
decrease the neck angle. On an sound of the instrument, and many The next job is to clean up the
acoustic guitar the tension on the vintage guitars sound as good as joint 4 5 . For this Im using a
strings amounts to about 180lbs, they do because of the way the tops sanding block with some angles
and over time the tops can belly have moved under tension over the cut on it to allow me to get around
outwards or the neck can pull years. Theres also the question of and into the dovetail. You need to
forwards, either of which will result value and originality. So, generally, produce a perfectly clean and flat
in a very high playing action. the neck would be reset. surface, which we can later build up
The easiest way to check whether Extra care is needed with old with some veneer. If the surface is
a guitar needs a neck reset is to Gibsons. On some, the necks were not completely flat the veneer will
place a straight-edge along the put into the sides before the top not stick well, giving a weak join,
fretboard 1 and see where it was glued on. This means that the which could break.
meets the bridge (with saddle top goes over the dovetail joint, so With the dovetail cleaned up we
removed). The straight-edge should pulling the neck out would also should now have quite a loose
just hit the top of the bridge 2 . On pull the top away from the guitar! joint, and this will enable us to



1 2 3

4 5 6

adjust the neck angle. This job edges on it, apart from the one we stringing up the guitar and discover 1 Assessing the situation.
normally requires about six hands to use to do the cutting (you can also that the strings are hanging over Typically, the top of the guitar
hold everything together. The neck put some masking tape on the body one edge of the fingerboard. has bellied up
must be held with the straight-edge of the guitar to make sure you dont Now weve cut the shoulder with 2 Straight-edge test. Lines
at the correct angle so that it just scratch it). The method is to push the chisel we can move on to using up halfway down the bridge
clears the top of the bridge 6 ; use the ruler around the heel, scribing some glasspaper to give us a perfect 3 Chisel work. Removing the
some packers under the joint to keep the shoulder at the same time, and fit 11 . Well mark the surface of the packer under the fretboard
the neck in the correct position. creating a line about 0.5mm deep. shoulder with a pencil, then place 4 Cleaning the joint. Notice
Once youve got the neck at As you can see, its possible to get a the neck in the joint with a piece the natty angled sanding block
the right angle the heel will need really nice clean line. of glasspaper under it. By gently 5 Heel cleaned. We used the
to be scribed around so that we Next, using a Stanley knife blade, pulling the paper out with a little same angled block as in pic 4e
can recut it 7 . It needs to sit we can pick off the timber under pressure on the neck, well be able 6 Correct neck angle. The
perfectly against the side of the the line thats been scribed, giving to get an exact join. When all the ruler rests on top of the bridge
guitar. If youre pulling the neck a really clean line to work to with pencil lines have gone, it should be
back, remember that you should be the chisel 8 . Well work all around just right.
removing material from the bottom the heel with the chisel, frequently Before moving on to fitting the
of the heel: this is important. If checking the joint to make sure dovetail Im going to replace the
you remove material from the top were not taking to much away, 9 packing-piece that I removed earlier
of the heel youll push the neck and at the same time also making from under the fretboard. The old
and fretboard closer to the bridge, sure that the neck is not only at the packer was a 2.5mm thick piece
wrecking the intonation, which can right angle but also thinking three- of spruce, so well replace it with
only be fixed by filling and recutting dimensionally to ensure the neck something similar 12 . The only
the saddle slot. To scribe the heel is in line with the bridge and the thing to make sure of here is to 7 Scribing around the heel.

joint I use the edge of a ruler with pin holes 10 . Its easy to get carried use the correct clamping blocks; Were using a sharpened ruler
a cutting angle ground on one away with the neck angle and to the upper one should match the 8 Next step removing the
edge, which is generally the right forget about lining it all up with fingerboard radius, while the one strip of lacquer below the line
thickness at about 1mm. Of course, the bridge; this could result in real on the back should be flat. Once 9 Delicate work chiselling to
the surface of the ruler has no sharp embarrassment when you get to the glue has dried, the excess > remove just the right amount

7 8 9 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 95


10 11 12

10 More checks making sure timber can be planed off 13 . A to clamp the veneers with an even glue goes on, do one last check 16
the neck lines up with bridge handy tip when planing across the pressure all over 15 . Also, well to make sure everything is in line,
11 Fitting heel to sides using end grain, by the way, is to always wrap them in parcel tape to stop and when the glue has gone on
the glasspaper pull method plane into the centre; if you go all them sticking to the dovetail. check it once again, both for the
12 New packing piece glued the way across in one swoop, you The next part is not easy. With angle to the bridge and to make
in place under the fingerboard could easily split out the edges of the dovetail tighter than it should be sure its lined up with the bridge
the fretboard and the spruce. it now has to be fitted, and the best pin holes.
A correctly-fitted dovetail is a way Ive found is to use chalk dust. To glue the two parts together
remarkable thing: it pulls itself By covering one surface with chalk 17 its necessary to use the
together in all directions. In fact, and gently pushing it into the joint, radiussed block on the top of the
a perfect one wont even need any the dust will be transferred from fretboard and a clamping caul to
clamps when you glue it. On this one surface to the other. The point go around the braces on the inside
13 Trimming packing piece one, though, well need to use that makes contact first, of course, of the guitar. The glue Im using
Plane to centre to avoid
a couple of clamps to hold the will be the tightest part; by sanding is Titebond aliphatic resin. It dries
fretboard down. Since our dovetail or chiselling a little off at this point harder than PVA and will keep
14 Preparing the packing
is loose-fitting at this point, well the joint will close up. This may our guitar together for many years
veneers. Place in the rout
employ a piece of veneer on each take 20 or 30 attempts to get right, to come. The neck joint will now
side of the necks dovetail 14 . but you should end up with the need to be left for 24 hours before
15 Clamping up and gluing to
Unless its a particularly bad fit, one chalk dust transferring from one the guitar can be can refretted 18 ,
the sides of the dovetaill
or two pieces are normally enough side to the other all the way down and well also do a little refinishing
16 Check straightness again
(in the past, though, Ive had to the dovetail. around the neck.
lining up perfectly with the
pin holess
build up dovetails by as much as Once youre happy with the fit This, then, is how you approach
6mm). You need to have enough which should have no play in any the tricky but rewarding task of a
17 Final gluing. One big
veneer in there to keep the whole direction it can be glued together. neck reset. One warning: if you
clamp, and one for the
fingerboard neck sticking up by about 6mm; Remember, glue does not fill gaps, think you might like to have a go at
this will give enough to re-fit the so the better the fit the stronger it work like this yourself, we seriously
18 Neck set done, just a
refret and some touching joint when weve glued the veneer will be and the more efficiently it recommend you do not start with a
up to go on. Well need three clamping cauls will transfer the sound. Before the 1950 Gibson!

13 14 15

16 17 18




Buying an acoustic guitar with issues neednt be too much
of a risk if youre handy and prepared to get stuck in. HUW PRICE
snapped up a promising-looking contender and set to work

rom the outset I want to purfling, ivoroid binding and ebony US-made model, but the ROS-
say that the guitar weve for the fingerboard and bridge, and 626 sells new for around 600. I
chosen to be our patient, a I was also surprised to discover managed to pick this example up
Recording King, is a great that the finish is nitrocellulose and on Ebay for about 225 because it
guitar. Essentially its a pre- bone is used for the nut and saddle. had some issues. After a week or so
war style Martin replica with solid Recording Kings attention to detail of procrastination, mostly because I
mahogany back and sides, a solid is more than evident from the open- was enjoying the guitar too much, it
sitka spruce top and a one-piece ended saddle slot and the slot-head was time to address the fingerboard
mahogany neck with a soft V tuner screws. The specs might read cracks, re-glue the lifting bridge
profile. Theres also herringbone like that of an expensive, high-end and make a new saddle. >

The fingerboard cracks which, to be fair, the eBay
Superglue wicks into tight cracks,
seller had photographed to make them look worse
and you dont need to clamp
than they actually were consisted of several long,
hairline cracks running the length of the
fingerboard, and they needed to be stabilised.
The cracks were too fine to force in regular PVA
wood glue or epoxy, so I resorted to medium
viscosity superglue. Superglue is ideal because it
wicks straight into cracks and it doesnt need
clamping. After the first application I scraped the
board flush with Stanley blades, rubbed some ebony Snapped Stanley knife blades will scrape
dust into the cracks and applied a second dose of the hardened Superglue flush
superglue. After the second scraping the cracks had Three bridge clamps
all but vanished, leaving a beautifully smooth Palette knife
fingerboard. I followed up with some 1400 grit Titebond Original glue
micromesh and some lemon oil and the board felt File
better than new. The factory had dyed the ebony for Jewellers saw
a uniformly black look; the scraping revealed the Micromesh
Metal polish
grain plus some natural brown tones, and to my eyes
it looked a lot more attractive.
> Ebony dust
Stanley knife blade GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 97


Removing the bridge is a fairly serious matter,
but here it had to be done because it was already
separating from the top. First, slivers of paper
were inserted under the bridge crack and
marked to determine the extent of separation.
Three things are needed to remove an acoustic
guitar bridge a heat source, a wafer-thin
palette knife and strong nerves. Actually that
last ones a joke its not that difficult, but you
do need to be careful and patient.
Luthiers often use specialist bridge-sized After pushing in slivers of paper, the A cardbord mask is used to protect the
heating pads but, like many others, I use a depth of the separation is revealed top of the guitar from the heat of the iron
regular clothes iron. First I cut a rectangle out of
a piece of corrugated cardboard to protect the
finish, then held the hot iron on the bridge for
around five minutes (not forgetting to turn off
the steam setting).
Once the bridge felt pretty hot I removed the
cardboard and slid the palette knife under the
You can expect some spruce too come away
existing gap. It went in quite easily and I
gradually worked my way around the bridge,
occasionally stopping to apply more heat. All the
while you must ease the palette knife between
the bridge and the top, taking great care not to The softened glue allows the palette knife
damage the finish and trying to work from the blade to slide in fairly easily. Work all around The black tape outline shows that the finish
outside edges towards the centre rather than from the outside to the centre wasnt properly scraped back at the factory
pushing the knife straight through.
Its imperative to do as little damage to the
top as possible, so never try to lift or prise the acrylic or nitro finishes. Some builders carefully almost 10mm wide all the way along the area
bridge off. If you get bored or impatient, just scrape away the finish in the bridge area after the under the back of the bridge. No wonder it was
stop, have a break and come back to it later. guitar has been finished; others apply masking pulling loose.
Removing this bridge took me around 15 tape to the bridge area of top of the guitar prior to This struck me as bizarre considering the
minutes, but relatively little of its surface area spraying. The tape is then peeled off to expose otherwise outstanding build quality for a guitar
was actually in contact with the top. bare wood when its time to fit the bridge. in this price range. However I have since learned
When the bridge finally released it was So far as I can tell, someone at the Recording that in early June 2011 two of Recording Kings
obvious why the back had been pulling up. Read King factory simply scored out a rectangle using a head honchos re-trained the factorys bridge
any book on acoustic guitar building and you will sharp blade then chiselled away the finish along gluing staff to ensure finish scraping and
learn that the soundboard wood underneath the with a fair amount of the spruce top. This left an application was standardised and correct.
bridge needs to be exposed for wood glue to uneven surface, along with some nasty gouges. Hopefully the well-documented Recording King
adhere. Wood glue wont stick to polyester, Worse still, there was a strip of intact finish bridge lifting issues have now been remedied.

All the flaky wood fibres pulled loose by the
removal of the bridge need to be sorted out and
by the time it was sanded we had a smooth
concave trough in the under-bridge area. Next
we took a spruce offcut and sanded it down to a
thickness of just over 1mm. The offcut was then
divided into smaller lengths, and the undersides
were sanded to create a slight curve. This curve,
coupled with the clamping pressure, allowed our
spruce patches to conform to the damaged
surface of the body.
Once the pieces were glued in place they were
left for 24 hours. Insulation tape was carefully
laid along the edges of the bridge footprint, and
we used a very small sanding block to make the
patches level with the surrounding top. We chose
Titebond Original glue; it sets very hard and will
prohibit the bridge from moving. The glue joint
should be stronger than the wood fibres, so
there shouldnt be any structural issues.
Above: Spruce veneer in-fills are glued into
position in small sections. Left: Tape is applied
along the bridge outline to protect the finish and
a sanding block is used to level the gluing area.
The outer pin positions have been marked




Now for gluing the bridge back on. I decided to
make a bridge clamping caul, because its tricky
to make bridge clamps hold position on
scalloped braces. I held a sheet of white paper
against the bridge plate with my fingers and
used my thumbnail to push the paper into the
corners of the brace/bridge plate intersection to
mark the area. You can mark the front and back
edges of the bridge plate the same way, and
when you remove the paper the crease lines will
provide a reasonably accurate template for your Heres the paper template Top, the upper bridge caul; bottom, the inside
clamping block. Next, transfer the template to a for the bridge clamping caul clamping caul with cork X brace overhangs
piece of scrap MDF and cut it to size, then cut
another piece, slightly wider, to overhang the X
braces each side of the bridge plate. Then I
attached cork pads to the overhangs to protect
the braces and drilled two 10mm holes for the
outer bridge pins.
Since the original bridge outline was clearly
visible, I placed the bridge in position and
marked the position of the outer pin holes on
our freshly sanded gluing surface. I then drilled
through the spruce patches and increased the
diameter to accommodate the bridge pins
The bridge must be scraped and sanded At last the bridge is clamped and the guitar is
using a reamer.
to remove all trace of the old glue set aside for 24 hours. Note bridge pins
The beauty of doing a bridge refit, as opposed
to a first-time bridge fit, is that you can use the
existing bridge pin holes to position the bridge bridge. So-called pyramid bridges like this one underside of the bridge, I gave it a final buff up
and stop it sliding around when it has been glued are tricky to clamp because of those pointy bits on with black shoe polish.
(of course this assumes that the bridge was the top, so I stuck some cork pads onto the ends to The clamping caul was covered in plastic
correctly positioned in the first place). Just make life easier. packing tape and secured to the bridge plate
make sure you use plastic pins, because wooden Before clamping I thoroughly scraped and using two very small pieces of double-sided tape
pins will stick to the wood glue and if that cleaned the bridge base to remove all traces of for easy removal. The bridge was positioned
happens youll be in real trouble. glue and old finish. This revealed that the ebony using the pins and clamped using three bridge
Another spruce off-cut was placed on top of had been dyed black because the natural timber clamps. The glue squeeze out was cleaned up
the bridge along with two more holes for the had so much brown colouring. The rough-looking immediately with a damp cloth and the guitar
bridge pins. This was done for protection and to visible surfaces were sanded with 320 grit paper was set aside for 24 hours before the clamps
distribute the clamping pressure across the followed by micromesh and, after masking off the were removed.

The bridge had an open-ended bridge saddle slot doubt was extinguished when we discovered a thin A bone blank was inserted into the slot and a
as used by Martin prior to 1965 but shim of plastic binding at the bottom of the slot. I sharp pencil was used to trace the curves of the
somewhere along the line this guitar had already knew that the saddle height was pretty bridge onto the new saddle at both ends of the
acquired a post-1965 style saddle. A new saddle much spot on albeit with the shim in situ so at slot. Next, the blank was removed and the old
was required to fill the slot properly and all least I had a decent template to work from. saddle was placed on top to trace its shape and
size onto the new blank. The ends were then
drawn free-hand to create a smooth transition
between the old and new shapes.
A jewellers saw was used to rough-cut the
bone blank and a file was used to bring the
height of the new saddle close to the original.
The intonation was already very good, but notes
were slightly flat at the 12th fret so I decided to
bring the string take-off point on the top of the
saddle closer to the bridge pins. After a quick
rub with micromesh and a buff with chrome
Open saddle slot but the The new saddle has been cut and filed and polish the saddle was pushed into its slot and it
saddle old saddle doesnt match the ends now look exactly as they should was finally time to put the strings back on.

Verdict exceeded my expectations, so a big thanks to much louder, and the bottom end gained a
The Recording King ROS-626 has an Alex and Reuben for telling me about it. lot of power. The slight crashiness we had
archetypal old-school slothead tone thats Fixing the bridge-to-body joint noticeably noticed was virtually gone and the overall
perfectly suited to blues, slide, ragtime and refined the Recording Kings tone, but clarity, smoothness and balance improved
even open-tuned Celtic style meanderings. replacing the saddle had a much more enormously. The works definitely been
Even in stock form this guitar significantly profound effect. The guitar felt freed up and worth it, and this ones a keeper. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 99


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PROJECT Ukulele kit



If youve ever wanted to build your first instrument then a ukulele kit is the
absolute best place to start: small, manageable, simple and with an outcome
packed with fun and joy. Say Aloha! to HUW PRICE

TOOLBOX hen the package arrived, ukulele kits, both Soprano and neck blocks; a bridge, bone saddle
Wood glue & Original glue
at first sight it was hard Tenor, but this 78 package from and nut; and all the braces. You
finishing materials
Titebond to believe that anybody Tonetech is the all-solid mahogany even get a set of strings. All that
File could fit a ukulele into Soprano version with pre-slotted youll need to provide is some wood
Jewellers saw such a small box. A quick and dotted rosewood fingerboard glue, finishing materials and a few
Micromesh check confirmed that everything and banjo-style tuners. days work. So after a quick read
Metal polish
was present and correct. Japanese The package includes front and through the instructions, we were
Stanley knife blade company Hosco offer various back plates; pre-bent sides; heel and ready to get started.


Unlike the acoustic guitar kits weve built before,
Draw a centre line down the heel
the uke kits rims were bent from a single piece of
block and youre ready to glue
mahogany rather than two pieces. We drew a
centre line down the gluing surface of the neck
block and applied glue to one side only. One end of
the rim was clamped with its edge carefully butted
up against the centre line, then glue was applied
to the other half of the neck block, and the other
side was clamped up. Next we attached the tail
block, and the whole assembly was set aside.
This jig keeps the shape of the body
One side of the ribs are glued:
while you glue the box together
now for the other side
While we waited for the glue to dry, we cut out the
U shaped clamp jig shown on the back page of the
instructions from 5mm plywood. The purpose of
this is to slide over the body to define the width of
the waist and hold the sides square. Once the
blocks were firmly fixed, we removed the clamps
Heel block and tail block all in place, with and slipped the jig onto the rims to form the
string to keep the shape of the waist correct outline shape for the body.


Ukulele kit PROJECT


The kit contains four pre-bent strips of wood The ukulele kit comes with the soundhole
that must be glued to the sides. These provide pre-cut along with a neat little trough ready
extra rigidity and widen the gluing area for the routed to house the rosette. Hosco provide three
top and back plates. The top linings followed the strips of white plastic and two of black. With
flat edge of the sides and we glued those on first acoustic guitar builds you can usually hide any
with the jig in place. All you need to clamp the joints beneath the fingerboard; unfortunately
strips is a bag full of clothes pegs. the whole rosette remains visible with this
The back strips were glued in at an angle from design so attention to detail is needed.
the taller heel block to the shorter neck block. First, we pushed the strips into the trough to
Once the glue had dried we filed and planed the hold them together, then dripped a little
excess mahogany away, then trued up the superglue over the centimetre at the very end
surfaces of the sides and the strips using a wide, and pulled the strips back out after a couple of The rosette, all glued in, with the ends
flat sanding block. seconds. The superglue fixed the strips together; mitred and the whole thing sanded flush
just dont leave them in too long, or the plastic
might stick to the wood too. That comes later. superglue allows it to wick in between the strips
Next, the superglued end of the rosette strips and through to the wood beneath.
was placed in a mitre block and cut at a 45 We left the very final section un-glued and
degree angle. The strips were then put back into used a craft knife to cut away tiny shavings of
the rout, starting at the mitred end, and we held plastic until the ends matched up. This part is
them in place by using patches of masking tape fiddly and time consuming, but dont rush it or
placed at intervals every few centimetres. you may end up with a blemish that will bother
Next, we worked our way around the rosette you every time you look at your uke. And we
with superglue. The thin consistency of wouldnt want that.

The linings or kerfings come

pre-bent too. Which is nice

The instructions provide plenty of tips on how to rough and ready, so we took the opportunity to
glue the various components together with the finesse them a bit, evening up the curves and
bare minimum of clamps. However if, like us, you shaving them slightly to enhance resonance.
do have a decent number of clamps at your
disposal then you may as well use them, because
its easier.
For this uke build there are only two braces
each on the back and front, plus a bridge plate.
The approximate positions are marked out, but
we took the opportunity to determine our centre
lines and ensure the brace positions were
squared up. One thing to note is that the gluing The top has only two braces,
Clamping the kerfing in place
surfaces of the top braces are flat, while the plus a bridge plate
with a load of clothes pegs
back braces are curved. The braces were a little


To determine the exact positioning for the top From the moment we read the instructions we G-clamp to ensure the top surface of the body
we flicked forward in the instructions to find the had concerns about gluing the neck. We have lined up with the surface of the neck, onto which
recommended distance between the neck joint done mortise and tenon joints and bolt-on necks, the fingerboard would later be attached.
and the bridge. Since the bridge plate was but this kit involves simply butting the end of Once the glue had dried we drilled a dowel
already on, we just made sure it would end up the neck up against the body and holding then hole through the neck block into the neck,
directly below the bridge. With our plywood jig together while the glue sets. The instructions are covered the 6mm dowel with glue, and pushed it
in situ we positioned the rims over the top plate very vague but suggest augmenting the glue into the hole. We cut the end of the dowel flush
and marked the inside edges of the rims on the joint with a dowel. with the surface of the heel block and sanded
braces. Using a fine saw blade we cut through The thing is, should you drill the dowel holes everything smooth.
the braces and used a chisel to remove the in the neck block and neck heel separately, or
excess from the brace ends to achieve a nice with the neck and body dry clamped together? If
tight fit. Glue was applied to the surface of the so, that would mean doing the drilling before the
rims as well as the neck and tail blocks and the back is attached. We tried this and found it
top was clamped in position while the glue dried. impossible because we couldnt clamp the neck
firmly enough to the body. Besides, even if we
had succeeded in drilling two perfectly aligned
holes, trying to tap the glued up dowel into the
neck joint and trim it flush while working
through the tiny soundhole wasnt a very
attractive prospect.
We decided to deviate from the instructions,
and glued the body onto the neck before
attaching the back plate. The thick rubber band
Gluing the top onto the box. The excess top included with the kit provided enough pressure We decided to drill our dowel
material can easily be chiselled off later to hold the neck against the body, and we used a hole after the neck was glued on GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 103

PROJECT Ukulele kit

The neck heel protruded beyond the gluing the heel. It eliminates the join line where heel The rosewood fingerboard in our ukulele kit
surface of the neck block, so it needed to be meets body and gives extra strength to prevent came pre-slotted, and we installed the frets
trimmed flush before we could glue on the back. the neck tilting forward. The brace overhangs before gluing it to the neck. We tapped them in
We chose to use a classical guitar building were trimmed back bit by bit until we achieved a with a plastic-tipped mallet, then snipped the
technique where the back plate continues over snug fit, and the back was glued on. edges flush with the fingerboard using a fret
nippers. Using the same straight-edge sanding
block that we used to sand the rims flush, we
removed any rough edges from the ends of the
frets and then tilted the block slightly to angle
the fret ends.
The centre line was still marked on our neck
and body, so we aligned them with the centre
line we had previously marked out on the
fingerboard and then glued them together.
When you glue pieces like this, the slippery
nature of wet glue can cause the pieces to
move around as clamping pressure is applied.
When you bring the pieces together, try leaving
them unclamped for a few minutes. This allows
the glue time to get an initial grab and the
pieces will be less prone to move about under
the clamps.
When you do apply clamping pressure using
several clamps, start off with them finger-tight
and then apply a small turn to each clamp one
by one. Once you see glue squeeze out all along
the joint line, you can be confident that you
have applied sufficient pressure.

Gluing the back on. Can you ever have

too many clamps in your garage? No

As supplied the top and back plates were crudely can be tricky. Try pushing the blade through the
cut, so there was a substantial amount of wood, along the grain line, at 1mm intervals to
overhang that had to be trimmed flush with the create a comb effect, then slice across the
sides. We used a fresh pack of Stanley knife grain. If you do about 10mm at a time, its easy.
blades. Just work slowly, be very careful with You dont need to trim 100 per cent flush with
your fingers and follow the grain of the wood. If the sides because you can complete the job by
it cuts easily and smoothly, youre probably sanding. Mahogany is an easy wood to work
working with the grain. If the wood starts to chip with, and about half an hour with a detail sander
and flake, youre probably going against the tidied up the edges and smoothed out the sides
grain and you should work from the opposite at the same time. We continued using the detail
direction. As you trim in the neck and tail block sander and hand sanding until the body and neck Go with the grain to trim top and back: here,
areas youll be cutting across the grain, which were ready for finishing. youll be working down into the waist

Bridges must be glued to bare wood, not lacquer, them. The bridge was centralised with its saddle masking tape was removed ,leaving the bridge
for maximum strength. Placing a patch of slot aligned with the 177mm line, and we drew patch in place. Do take care to peel the tape
masking tape over the bridge area before the around the outside edge with a pencil. A craft away along the grain lines rather than across it,
finish is applied is much easier and quicker than knife was used to cut through the masking tape or otherwise you risk removing flakes of wood
trying to scrape or sand away the finish after its just inside the pencil lines and then the excess along with the tape.
been applied.
We went back to the instructions for guidance
on locating the bridge. This uke has a scale
length of 348mm, so the instructions suggested
locating the saddle position 177mm from the
12th fret (the extra 3mm is added to ensure the
uke intonates properly). We placed a couple of
strips of masking tape over the bridge area then
held a straight edge against the edges of the
fingerboard and drew the neck lines onto the
masking tape along with the centre line.
Next we marked the neck lines 177mm from The bridge position is marked Then the excess tape is cut away. Double-
the 12th fret and drew a connecting line between on the patch of masking tape check that the saddles in the right place


Ukulele kit PROJECT


Tonetech suggested applying grain filler first,
which is the usual procedure for mahogany. We
used white spirit-based filler that we brushed
on, allowed to dry for a short while, then wiped
off across the grain before leaving to dry
overnight. Although not included with the kit,
Tonetech supplied us with water-based sanding
sealer and gloss lacquer (8.50 each). These
products can be sprayed or brushed onto the
instrument; we decided to use a brush.
The sealer goes on quite thick, and after
drying overnight it sanded smooth with ease.
The lacquer dries very quickly and, as
recommended, we brushed on four coats of
lacquer with one-hour intervals between each
coat. Its very tricky to avoid getting brush
marks and lacquer build-up around the edges
and even after the finish is wet- and dry-sanded
then buffed up with polishing compound, it
doesnt have the depth that wed associate with
Filling the grain of the mahogany
nitrocellulose. Maybe youll have better luck, but
with a white spirit-based filler
we regretted not spraying nitro as usual.


With the finish done, its time to glue on the The stock nut was a fine fit and we simply fixed it
bridge. We peeled off the patch of masking tape in place with a few dots of superglue. The tuner
covering the bridge area and placed a piece of bushes were pressed in from the front using a G
masking tape at each end of the bridge area with clamp; never attempt to hammer them in,
a third piece just in front. Next we marked the because you will inevitably dent the headstock.
177mm point once again to align the saddle slot, The tuner posts also push in from the front, and
and then we marked the centre point of the theyre secured by screws that pass through the
bridge. Glue was applied to the base of the tuner buttons.
bridge and we found that the tiny body made it
easy to clamp the bridge in place from the
outside. With the glue set, we removed the With the bridge masking removed, we apply
clamps and glued on the cover strip over the three pieces of tape as location markers
redundant screw holes.


The saddle was inserted into the bridge slot and attractive and have an aura of authenticity,
knots were tied at one end of the strings to theyre pretty crude. If you have hopes of
secure them in their string slots at the back of building a truly playable and practical First, persuade the tuner bushes
the bridge. The tuners work on the friction instrument, wed suggest a tuner upgrade would into the headstock with a clamp
principle with a 1:1 ratio. Although theyre be a smart move.

Strung up and ready to go: our kit ukulele is The finished headstock, with tuners
ready for its first sunset serenade all assembled and the nut in place

Verdict kit will find this a walk in the park. We Considering that you can buy an all-solid
A success? Sure. Though the instructions completed our ukulele over five days. mahogany uke such as the Ortega RU10
sometimes came across like they were Getting our uke in tune and keeping it (with decent tuners and a gig bag) for just
translated from the original Japanese via tune was a bit of a struggle maybe those over 100, building your own doesnt really
Google Translate, they were quite easy plastic strings needed some time to stretch make economic sense. But thats not really
to follow. As kits go, this was about as out and settle down but the tone was the point: putting this kit together is a lot of
simple as they come. It would be a great warm, mellow and woody. Some cheaper fun, youll have the unique pride of playing
introduction to building, and anybody who ukes have a plinky, thin tone but this one an instrument you built yourself, and it
has previously completed an acoustic guitar sounds like an all-solid wood instrument. sounds pretty sweet too. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 105

WORKSHOP Classical makeover


Old hand-me-down nylon strung guitars have kick-started many a
youngsters playing career, but after a little work you might decide
yours is a keeper. DAVE KING gets an old friend ready for a new home

regularly get people bringing to life, but few are worth paying However, it does have a solid back
in old nylon string guitars someone over a hundred pounds to and sides, reasonable tuners and a
for repair and setup. These sort them out... neck thats pretty straight so its
instruments have often been On the other hand, with a little worth the effort.
1 Bridge Not pretty, but in the cupboard for 30 years love and care most of the work can Have a good look at the guitar
saveable. Note the added and many have a sentimental be done at home. The nylon-string before you do anything, work out
screws attachment (ah, the memory of guitar we have here was picked up what needs doing, and tackle one
2 Removing the saddle Fret. that first E minor). While some at a boot fair near Bryon Bay in task at a time. First, were going
Pullers will hoick it out nicely are beyond saving, you do find Australia around 15 years ago for to work on the bridge 1 . The
3 Tie block height is 1.5mm some with solid tops and decent $2. After serving as a travel guitar tie block (the bit the string goes
lower to allow for the veneer fretboards that can be brought back for years it went into the cupboard. around) is a bit tatty. Its made from

1 2 3


Classical makeover WORKSHOP

4 5 6

7 8 9

a soft piece of maple and the strings need to make sure we dont go over clamping pressure 7 8 . Apply 4 Planing the bridge. Your
have pulled into it over the years. the screws with the plane, as blades the glue (Titebonds the stuff) to plane should be scary sharp
The best thing we can do is really dislike metal. the face of the bridge, and hold the 5 Preparing the veneer.
to plane it down a little and fix a If you want to remove them then veneer firmly with your fingers for Were using 1mm thick ebony
Macassar ebony veneer to the top do so, and then drill the holes a a minute; this lets the glue grab 6 Square ends. Use a
(it would often be made from bone little deeper and replace them. a little, and stops it from sliding sanding block and a cutting
but bone is difficult to work with in The ebony Im using was bought about when you tighten the clamps. block
this situation, and ebony will work as a head veneer from David Dykes Place the clamping block over the 7 Under Pressure. MDF and
well enough). Before you start to Luthier Supplies (01435 812315) veneer, clamp it in place, clean off cork blocks help keep it even
plane the bridge down, cut out a so its already the right thickness. any excess glue and leave it to dry 8 Gluing the veneer. Youll
cardboard template to go around Cut the bridge veneer about half for 24 hours. need these proper long C
the bridge; this will protect the a millimetre over length using a Once dry, the veneer can be clamps
soundboard while youre working cutting block 5 ; the ends can be cleaned up using sanding sticks: 9 Finishing off. A sanding
on it. Youll also need to pull the sanded smooth and to the correct gently take the edges off the tie stick gives the final touch
saddle out: for this, use a pair of length using a sanding block and block and clean the top face 9 .
fret pullers 2 . The tie block needs cutting block. Make sure the end of Our bridge still looks a little worse
to finish up about half a millimetre the cutting block is square: this way for wear, so well clean the rest of it
below the surface where the saddle the sanding block can run on the up using glasspaper, then stain the
sits, so allowing for the thickness end of it, ensuring the veneer ends rest of the bridge black again using
of the ebony were going to put are sanded squarely 6 . Also make wood stain from a DIY shop 10 .
on (1mm), we need to be a total of sure the veneer is the right size it Mask the area around the bridge, 10 Adding stain. Careful: a
1.5mm lower 3 . The best way to will be difficult to reduce it once brush on the stain, and be very little black stain goes a very
plane a bridge down is to use a very glued to the bridge. careful: use too much and itll run long way
sharp block plane 4 (blunt tools To glue the veneer, use some on to the top. 11 Stoning the frets. Nylon
never, ever work properly). bridge clamps with blocks of MDF Now we can move onto stoning strings mean much less wear
This bridge has had screws put in on the feet; Im using a block with the frets 11 , re-profiling the tops and tear
it at some point (probably to hold it some cork glued to it to add more and getting rid of the sharp 12 Check fretboard. A quality
in place while being glued), so we protection and to ensure an even edges. Use a flat oilstone to level > straight edge is a lovely thing

10 11 12 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 107

WORKSHOP Classical makeover

13 14 15

13 Fret ends. This block the frets, working your way up grit wet and dry 15 . When the frets markers (or further, if you want
makes sure of a 35 degree and down the fretboard using a are nicely profiled is give them a to). You dont need to use it in the
angle circular motion with the stone. The polish with 0000-grade wire wool actual drill itself; just turn the dowel
14 Profiling frets. Work from frets on our test instrument are and lemon oil. by hand, as youre only going in a
320 wet and dry up to 600 pretty good and the neck is quite How about some side dots? Most couple of millimetres. Put a little
15 Frets polished. Fine wire straight, so all thats needed is a classical players dont need them, superglue in the holes and tap the
wool and lemon oil is the trick very light stoning. When the frets but I struggle with guitar playing bar in gently with a hammer, leave
16 Adding side dots. A useful are level use an angled block set to most of the time and any help I can the to dry, and then cut it off using
addition for beginners 35 degrees and a sanding stick 13 get is good, so this will certainly snips. The bar can then be trimmed
17 Drill bit extension. Useful to smooth off the edges of the frets. be true for the average beginner. level with the edge of the fretboard
when access gets tricky Now all the frets are level with the The third, fifth, seventh, ninth and using a nice sharp chisel 18 .
18 Cutting off the dots. A edge of the fretboard, its the time 12th positions will do just fine 16 The nut and the saddle on this
sharp chisel is best. Be careful to take off any sharp edges. I use a . The plastic bar that Im using guitar are bone, so theres no need
19 Saddle angle. Should
triangular needle file with the edges comes in various colours and sizes: to replace them. The saddle needs
point downwards about sanded smooth to stop the file from a white 2mm diameter one will reshaping, though, as it appears to
20 degrees removing wood from the fretboard. do the job. Mark the centres of the be flat at the moment; it needs an
20 Sanding the saddle. Make Now the frets can be reprofiled holes with a scriber, and check at angle of about 20 degrees on the
sure youre keeping it square using a fret file, which are available least twice; theres very little more top of it going down towards the tie
21 Lubing the tuners. Just a
in different sizes to suit your annoying than drilling the holes block 19 . Use a sanding block, 20
tiny spot will be enough fret wire. Use either a fretboard in the wrong place. Youll probably and once youve achieved the correct
protector (Touchstone Tonewoods be able to use a drill for most of angle youll also need to round over
01737 221064) or mask off between the holes, but drilling at the 12 fret the front edge of the saddle or itll
the frets using masking tape to can be difficult. I use a length of cut through the strings. Use the
avoid scratching the fretboard. Start dowel, and drill a hole in the end sanding block to ensure a straight
with some 320 grit paper wrapped with a 2mm drill bit . I then glue edge, then polish with some 600
around the file 14 , keep going until the drill bit in with superglue, using grit wet and dry.
youve removed any marks left by an extended drill bit 18 that will Now for the strings. With
the oilstone, then move up to 600 allow you to get to the 12th fret classical guitars, this is a whole

16 17 18

19 20 21


Classical makeover WORKSHOP

22 23 24

25 26 27

subject in itself. First, well put a gap of between 3.4mm and 4mm the tops are level 28 . 22 Wound strings need just
little oil on the tuners it may help 26 depending on your playing To reduce the action at the 12th one wrap under
keep them working for another 30 and the type of string used (higher fret youll need to slacken the 23 Treble string wrap. The
years 21 . Lets start with the two E tension strings will generally play strings off and remove material plain ones need an extra turn
strings. Pictures 22 and 23 show at a lower action; the more tension from the underside of the saddle. 24 The locking trick works
how they are tied to the tie block: on a string, the smaller the circle it Mark the amount to take off with a works at the headstock, too
the wound strings are wrapped will vibrate in). On the treble string felt tip and use the sanding block 25 Where the action is. About
around themselves once and locked youll again need about 0.7mm at with a square fence; this will make 0.7mm is right at the first fret
at the back of the tie block, but the the first fret and 2.7mm to 3mm at sure the bottom of the saddle stays 26 At the octave up to 4mm
treble strings which have more the 12th fret. Start off on the high nice and flat 29 . Once happy with higher than a steel string
of a tendency to slip are wound side, as its easy to lower the action, the action you can finish the top
27 When cutting nut slots
around themselves twice before but to raise it youll need a new nut of the nut to leave just half of the remember that important
being locked at the back of the tie and saddle. If the strings are too string protruding 30 , and, when break anglel
block, with the tension on the string high, bring them down a little at a you pop the nut back on, add a 28 Make sure the string tops
holding it all place and stopping any time from both ends. If you lower it touch of glue underneath to hold are level at the nut
slippage. At the tuning head end we right down at the nut then reduce it it in place. With nylon strings its a
29 All strung up. A properly
have to do a similar thing 24 . Put by a touch at the 12th fret, you will in good idea to tune them up to pitch strung bridge: no slippage
the string through the hole, then turn lower it more at the first fret. and stretch them by pulling them
30 The finished nut. Note the
pull it back around itself; when the The good news: as the strings away from the fretboard, tuning slots are just half a string deep
string is tensioned one gets locked on nylon-strung guitars are all of to pitch and repeating a few times
under the other, and stays in place. a similar gauge, youll only need until they stop slipping.
With the two E strings on, check one or two nut files. Hold the file So a decent Spanish guitar has
the action at the 1st fret 25 and the at an angle of about 10 degrees to been saved from the scrapheap and
12th fret. At the first fret on the bass ensure the string is held firmly over is ready to place in a beginners
string you should be looking for a the nut, and file down a little at a hands. Trouble is, a correctly set-up
gap between the top of the fret and time 27 . When youve done the E classical is such a nice thing to have
the underside of the string of about strings, put the rest of the strings around that you might be rather
0.7mm, and at the 12th fret for a on and adjust all the strings so that tempted to keep it for yourself

28 29 30 GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 109



Its a guitarists nightmare: tuned up, ready to go and you amp
doesnt work. HUW PRICE outlines some steps you can take, but be
warned: electronics can kill. If in doubt, see your tech

ll amps, eventually, go wrong. due to valves going beyond their list that may allow you to figure
Its simply a fact of life. If sell-by date, resistors drifting off out whats wrong with your amp
youre lucky, itll happen value, or capacitors becoming leaky. and perhaps fix it yourself. Getting
at home or in rehearsal; But, amps can also fail completely. into the nitty gritty of component
the electronic version of This article isnt about replacement goes beyond the scope
Murphys Law dictates that itll maintenance issues or tone tweaks; of this article, but if you can figure
happen at a far more awkward, and well be discussing what can you do out whats wrong, it may save your
public, occasion. Sometimes its when little or no signal comes out of amp tech time, save you money
just a gradual deterioration in tone the speaker. Well draw up a check and maybe save the gig.


Is the amp completely dead, with no pilot light
The fuse: so obvious,
and no orange glow from the valves? If so, the
but examine this first
circuitry of your amp probably isnt seeing any
electricity. First of all, check the fuse in the
mains plug after removing it from the wall
socket. You may need to take the back off the
plug to do this if its an old fashioned
non-sealed type. Test the fuse with a
multimeter and while youre in there, check
that all three cables are securely connected to
their respective pins.
Most amps will also have a fuse socket on
the chassis, often in the vicinity of the mains
input. Remove the fuse and test it. If its blown,
simply replace the fuse with another of the
same rating. If that new fuse blows, youll
know for sure that something is wrong inside
the amp. Replacing a fuse with a jumper
connection is never an option. The fuse is there
to protect you and your amp. If the fuse isnt
the problem, you need to start substituting
valves. Jump to item No 4!


Amp check WORKSHOP

If the pilot light is on, but the amp produces no
sound not even hiss or hum there may be a
problem with the rectifier valve. Many valve
amps will have solid state (diode) rectification
to convert AC into DC. If your amp does have a
rectifier valve, the most common types will be
labelled GZ34, 5Y3, 5AR4 or EZ81. Rectifiers can
look very similar to power tubes so, if youre
unsure, check your valve code on line to
determine what type it is. The best way to
troubleshoot your rectifier is to substitute it
for an equivalent that you know is working.


Before moving onto the circuit board and the
components, its best to verify that the speaker
is working. With your amp turned off, set your
multimeter to its lowest resistance setting,
unplug the speaker jack from the chassis and
touch the metal probes to the tip and sleeve
sections of the jack plug. You should hear some
popping or crackling if everything is ok.
If theres no noise, try touching the probes
against the positive and negative terminals of
the speaker. Noise from the speaker would then
indicate that one or both of the speaker cables is
faulty, or maybe a solder joint has failed inside
the jack plug. Use your eyes and your multimeter
to trace the problem. If theres still no noise, the
speaker may be blown. Try plugging your amp
into a working speaker cab to verify this, then
repair or replace the broken speaker.

Amps blow fuses when excessive current is procedure with the power valves (one at a time)
being drawn. This can happen when a valve goes and rectifier valve installed.
faulty, so substituting valves in known working Work your way through the amp, adding one
condition may solve the problem of blowing valve each time until the fuse blows again. If
fuses. Try removing all the valves, then switch you do identify which valve may be faulty, try
the amp on. If the fuse blows, the problem isnt swapping it with a verified equivalent. If the
being caused by the valves so jump straight to fuse still blows, it may not be that particular
item No 7, over the page. valve, but theres a strong possibility that the
If the fuse doesnt blow, there a good chance fault lies with one or more of the components
Check the speaker both that one of the valves is the guilty party. Turn within the vicinity of that valve socket. You
at the speaker jack and the amp off, reinstall the rectifier valve, and might need several fuses to complete this
the terminals switch on. If everything is fine, repeat the section of our troubleshooting guide.

VALVE SWAPPING quite easy to swap. Firstly, do a

visual check. Are all the valves
glowing orange? You may need
into life as soon as the faulty
valve is replaced.
Alternatively, put all the valves
to remove any metal covers from your faulty amp into a
Old Fender amps, like this 1950s and dim the lights to be sure. If functioning amp one at a time
Deluxe shown on the right, had a one or more of the valves isnt until the good amp suddenly
very straightforward valve glowing, there may be a problem. stops working. If none of the
layout. The audio signal moves However, a valve may still glow valves causes the previously
from the first preamp valve on even if it has stopped passing functioning amp to fail, then
the far right to the power valves audio signal. the problem with your amp is
on the left. The rectifier valve on With the amp switched off, unlikely to be the valves.
the far right is located next to the pull out a valve and replace One word of warning valves
mains transformer. it with an equivalent that you get hot! If you cant wait for them
Amps often stop producing already know is working. Then to cool down, make sure you
sound due to valve failure simply work your way through all protect your fingers with an oven
without blowing any fuses. the valves one at a time, and if glove or something similar when
Fortunately, valves are really youre lucky your amp will burst youre removing them. GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 111

WORKSHOP Amp check

The power supply section of every valve amp Here are the socket connections for
delivers a high DC voltage for the plates of the the most common power amp
valves and a second voltage for the valve valve types
heaters (typically 6.3 volts AC). Assuming that
a working speaker is properly connected and
all the valves tested okay, its time to test the Still feeling confident? If so,
internal voltages. Before continuing we should bring that positive probe down
stress that this is the point where things can onto the heater pins of one of
become dangerous. the sockets of the audio valves
Lets test the heater voltage first. Set your and check that the meter reads
voltmeter to the appropriate scale usually around 6.3 volts. The heater
around double the voltage youre expecting to pins will vary depending on the type of valve, so
read then secure the meters negative probe refer to the diagrams. Wed suggest verifying the
firmly against the amp chassis and turn the heater voltage on one of the preamp valves.
amplifier back on. Hold the meters positive The high voltage is applied to the plates
probe in one hand and put your other hand in (anodes) of the valves. Try to determine where
your pocket. you can measure the output voltage of the power
You must never touch the amp with both supply section. Alternatively you can also take
hands while testing circuitry. Doing so risks readings from the plates of the audio valves.
taking an electric shock across the heart, and This is a little more complicated because the
that will probably kill you. plates are usually connected via dropping
resistors. If possible you should try to find a
schematic or circuit diagram for your amp. Many This cathode bias resistor the lowest component
of these will include target voltages at key points shows signs of overheating. The body is quite
dark and the colour bands have faded
in the circuit. If you dont have this information,
you should expect to read something between When an amp comes in for repair, its always
160v and 260v on the plates of a preamp valve best if you ask the owner what happened when
and between 350v and 550v on the plates of the amp failed. Our G&B colleague Martyn
power valves. Casserly seemed oddly relaxed when
If your readings fall somewhere within those describing how the Master Volume control
areas, it doesnt necessarily mean that the started making noises, then stopped working
voltages throughout the amp are correct. and a bit of smoke started coming out the
Here are the socket connections for the most common However it does suggest that the power supply back of the cab. Burning and smoking can
preamp valve types. The EF86 pentode has a different section of the amp is working properly and that be complimentary terms used to describe
connection layout to the common double triode valves. your mains transformer is okay. Always set the amps, but when these characteristics become
This is the reason why you cant swap them without scale on your voltmeter so its around twice what literal rather than figurative, you can be fairly
re-wiring the socket youd expect the actual voltage to be. certain that something of a pretty serious
nature has occurred.

6 POP TESTING Excess heat and burning usually leave
tell-tale signs on components, so opening up
Dont worry; the pop test isnt another enormously if you have a schematic/circuit the amp and carrying out a visual inspection
competitive karaoke show from the malevolent diagram for the amp youre working on. for burned or discoloured components was the
mind of Simon Cowell. Its actually a simple and Sometimes a schematic is provided in the best place to start. One of the resistors in the
straightforward method for tracing faults in instruction manual but if not, you can usually power supply looked discoloured to us which
audio circuits, and engineers have been using it find one on line. You can actually do your pop is usually a sign of excessive heat (see
since the year dot. tests at the same time that youre checking your picture). We didnt like the look of the cathode
The pop test is also known as the circuit HT/B+ voltages. bias resistor either.
disturbance test. The idea is to work your way In this diagram you can see the sequence of But more worryingly the mains transformer
from the output stage to the input stage of your the pop test points for a 5E3-type Fender Deluxe. became very hot and this was accompanied by
amp using a probe. You should hear a pop or If you understand the principle, you should be a burning smell. There was also a slight
crackle every time you touch the probe to a test able to figure out the sequence for any amp if buzzing/humming noise that became louder
point. As you work towards the input stage of you have access to the schematic. If you dont as the transformer heated up. We let
the amp, these noises should get louder. As soon understand the principle, then you almost everything cool down, removed all the valves
as you get to the point where the test noise gets certainly shouldnt be doing this sort of and powered up again. The result was the
quieter rather than louder, or disappears maintenance work just yet. same even with no load on the transformer.
altogether, youll have identified at least one of We concluded that insulation inside the
the problem areas. mains transformer had possibly failed and a
All the test points are on the valves new transformer may be required. However,
themselves. By and large, audio signals enter the we decided to replace the dodgy-looking
valve at the grid and exit at the plate/anode. So resistors just in case. We used wire-wound
when youre pop testing, you need to touch the resistors rated at 5W. Resistors are cheap and
anode/plate first, then the grid remember, they were easy to install, so it was worth a try.
were working backwards. For a suitable probe, Unfortunately the transformer continued to
try using a small-bladed screwdriver with a overheat and mains fuses blew quite quickly,
heavily insulated handle. Again, keep one hand so at this point we decided that the Carrera
behind your back or in your pocket, and never amp should be turned over to a properly
touch any of the metal parts. qualified tech. Knowing your limits is a good
If your amp has inter-stage volume controls, thing when youre dealing with dangerous
they should be turned up slightly. It also helps voltages and expensive components.



Did you know that moving coil

dynamic microphones like
Shure SM57s and SM58s are
actually speakers in reverse?
Their basic construction is
so similar that many studio
engineers sometimes use
Yamaha NS10 drivers as low-
frequency microphones on
kick drums and bass guitars.
If you have a nice old speaker with a blown or non-original cone,
Both have diaphragms fixed to you need to read HUW PRICES guide to fixing it yourself
solid structures around their
outside edges (plastic for the

microphone, a paper cone for
guitar speakers) which are ooner or later most vintage out or blow, many speaker cones Here, we have a go at repairing
in turn fixed to tubular coil amp owners will face a will split or tear, especially around an old Celestion G12H Greenback.
formers wound with metal
dilemma: what is more the edges. Most are made from Thousands were made and there
coils. The coil and former
assemblies are inserted into a important originality or paper, which doesnt last forever. must be countless examples in
circular gap between the north functionality? Its a fact of life So what can you do when a lovely various states of disrepair all over
and south poles of a magnet, that capacitors go leaky, valves wear old Vox Blue, Celestion Greenback the country. If the date codes
and the built-in springiness out, and speakers blow. This month or Jensen becomes a liability? Some published on
around the edges of the
diaphragm allow the coils to
were going to figure out what can might advocate boxing it up for celestion_date_codes.html are to be
move forwards and backwards be done when those old speaker posterity and replacing it with a believed, ours was made on March
inside the magnet gap. cones finally give out.. repro or a replacement from Weber 2, 1973. Celestion sells recone kits
A mic transforms acoustic Guitar speakers have to take a or Tone Tubby. But whats the point for most of its classic and current
energy into to electrical energy
lot of punishment. Many old amps in having an all-original but useless speakers, and G12 kits come in 8
that we can record. Speakers do
the exact opposite they turn are regularly cranked up louder speaker stashed when you could Ohm and 16 Ohm versions.
electrical energy into acoustic than their designers ever intended, re-cone it for another 40 years of
energy. An alternating current and the speakers are often pushed service? You could do the recone Emptying the basket
from by a guitar amp is fed to beyond their limits. This will take yourself and even change the Our speaker was absolutely filthy,
the wire coil, which causes the
coil assembly to move forwards
its toll, and even if they dont burn impedance while youre at it. having sat on a shelf for several
and backwards. This in turn
moves the speaker cone, which
compresses air particles in
front of it to form sound waves
like the soundboard of an 1 2
acoustic guitar.

1 This 70s Celestion G12H

was in a terrible state and a
perfect candidate for a recone.
This photograph shows how
the spider had already become
detached from the chassis
2 The cone has been
removed, but at this stage the
cork gasket is still in place



3 We put a couple of
squares of gaffer tape over the
3 4 gap to keep everything clean
4 Removing the cork
gaskets isnt hard. We
removed most of them with a
wood chisel
5 Heres the basket after
finishing off the cleaning with
some acetone
6 A brass brush on a Dremel
polished up the surface of the
spider with good results

5 6

years. There were two holes in the a Stanley knife, but I found it easier Mind the gap
cone and the spider had detached to gently prise off the cloth cone Ive already mentioned keeping
from its gluing surface all around material and gaskets using an old stuff from getting into the voice
its edge 1 . Keeping everything chisel 4 . Its hard work but it goes coil gap when youre preparing a
clean is essential when youre quite quickly, just as long as youre speaker for a recone, but youve
reconing, and the gap for the voice not trying to remove every last bit. also got to clean out the gap. I
coil has to be kept completely free To shift the old glue residue, brush started with a quick blow from
of debris. I started by snipping the on some acetone and let it soak a compressed air aerosol just
two wires and cutting around the for a few seconds before scraping like the type that can be used for
top edge of the cone. I carefully any remaining material off the cleaning computer keyboards and
lifted out the cone, spider and voice metalwork 5 . Since the spider had relicing nitro cellulose finishes.
coil assembly 2 , then immediately already been blown off its surface, Next I took a thin strip of
covered the voice coil gap with tape less cleaning was needed in that cardboard and a strip of masking
3 . Its essential to keep that gap as area. There was some surface rust, tape and wrapped the masking tape
clean as possible; masking tape or so I put a small brass brush on my over the end of the strip with the
gaffer tape will be fine. Dremel tool and set about cleaning sticky side facing outwards. Take
Using a damp cloth, I wiped both gluing surfaces back to shiny a little bit of the stickiness off the
decades of dust off the metal basket, metal 6 . Brass is better than steel tape by pinching it a few times with
and set about the gluing surfaces. because any loose strands wont your fingers or wiping it against
The outer edges of the cone are stick to the magnet. Alternatively your clothes, and then push the
glued to the top of the basket, and you could use sandpaper, but be tape into the gap. The cardboard
a set of cork gaskets are glued on sure not to leave any abrasive strip provides the necessary
top. Some people cut these off with particles behind. rigidity for the task, and you >

7 8

7 Cleaning the voice

coil gap with acetone on a
kitchen towel wrapped
around some card
8 Centering shims are used
to accurately position the coil
former in the gap GUITAR DIY BIBLE 115


9 10 11

9 The next stage: the should be able to carefully move bead of the glue to the area where centering shims 9 and glue on
centering shims are removed, the masking taped cardboard in the spider is fixed to the chassis, the dust cap. The edge of the cap is
ready for the dust cover a circular motion around the gap and then apply another bead all angled to conform to the cone, so it
10 The dust cap can be and pick up any lurking dust or around the outside of the chassis centres up nicely. Place it correctly,
lowered into place using a debris. Perform this several times, for the edge of the cone. Allow the then carefully draw a pencil line
sticky tape handle and then repeat the process using glue to sit for five minutes to let it around the edge. Remove the dust
11 The final touch: new lead kitchen paper soaked in acetone to go tacky and then, after ensuring cap, apply a bead of glue along
out wires are connected to the wipe the surfaces of the gap 7 . the cables line up with the chassis the inside edge of the pencil line
chassis terminals
terminals, slide the coil former into then, using a loop of masking tape
The dry run the gap using the centering shims as a handle 10 carefully position
Once youre confident that the gap to guide it home until the spider the dust cap onto the glue. You
is as clean as it could be, its time settles on the glue bead. can use a shot glass or an egg cup
to try a dry run at assembling the Eyeball the top of the cone to as a weight while the glue dries.
speaker. Make sure the lead out ensure its centred, then press it While youre waiting, heat up
cables line up with the chassis down onto the glue. You can use your soldering iron and attach the
terminals, and drop the voice coil one side of a disassembled clothes new hook up wires to the chassis
into the gap. Celestions recone kit peg to work your way around the terminals 11 . The job is finished,
includes four cardboard shims to edge, and use your finger to press but do leave the glue to set for a day
help you to centre the coil former down the edge of the spider. The before hooking up the speaker.
in the gap. Simply push these down four cork gaskets should then be
in between the inside of the coil attached using the same glue bead Verdict
former and the inside edge of the method. Make sure the fixing bolt Besides being diligent about
gap 8 . If all goes well, you should notches line up with the holes cleaning the coil gap, reconing a
be ready for the real thing. drilled into the outside edge of the guitar speaker like a Celestion G12
basket. The gaskets should also butt is relatively easy. Unless youre able
Sticky moments up tightly against one another. Once to get a discount by buying recone
Glue isnt included with the kit but theyre in place, flip the speaker kits in bulk, it probably isnt going
Celestion recommend a clear slow- over onto a flat surface and allow its to save you much money but it
setting rubbery contact adhesive weight to press the joints together only takes an hour or so, and its a
such as Bostik 1782 to stick the for a few hours while the glue dries. lot of fun. Im planning to do the
spider and cone to the metalwork. same to an old Jensen and a pair of
Now its time to put this thing Capping it off Elacs, and I cant wait to hear what
together. First apply a continuous Finally, remove the cardboard they sound like.

COIL ASSEMBLY DUST CAP transformer is attached to the speaker
A tube or cylindrical former that is A dome of paper or fabric thats glued
glued onto the inside of the cones onto the base of the cone to keep debris Celestion G12 Recone Kit

base. This forms a rigid structure for
the magnet wire wound around its
outer surface
out of the magnet gap

supplied by Celestion

The metal chassis of the speaker that These are the positive and negative
all the parts are attached to SPIDER terminals where the speaker wire that 01473 835300
A flexible cloth membrane thats glued comes from the amplifiers output
CONE to the outside of the cones base then
Guitar speaker cones are usually made glued to the base of the basket. The
from paper (aluminium has some spider helps to centre the coil in the
followers among bass players). Its often magnet gap and forms a barrier Cone
be dead straight, but sometimes its against debris
flared. Earlier designs are often smooth Dust Cap
or Basket
but later designs are ribbed to increase MAGNET GAP
Coil Former
stiffness and tighten up the bass The circular air space between the
response. The edge of the cone is glued annular pole and centre pole of the Annular Pole
onto the basket, and this is what moves magnet assembly where the coil Magnet
to produce the actual soundwaves assembly is inserted Centre Pole


on any device,
at any time!

Mooer Firefly M6 Yerasov SCS 8-way

Mini-flightcase board designed to hold a sextet of Mooer stompboxes Russian technology and a Secret Connection System? Sounds like FX espionage


t last count, Mooer compression pad, with only the erasov does things a little power supply into any one of the

manufactured more than connector ends visible above the differently from other stompboxes and all eight will be
50 mini stompboxes. surface, where two sections of manufacturers, and this powered up.

The Firefly M6 is a lightweight pre-cut foam hold the pedals in SCS board short for Secret Stripped of pedals, thanks to

pedalboard designed to hold up to place without the need for velcro. Connection System employs a PCB the RJ connectors, the SCS board
six of them, with a detachable lid for Though the cut-outs are designed to and RJ connectors inside, which resembles a piece of equipment 523mm
performance use. Unscrewing the hold only Mooer pedals, it wouldnt distribute both audio and power. from a telephone call-centre more also makes six-way (65) and 1980s hair metal timewarp, but

six crosshead screws that secure the be beyond the DIY skills of many of Each individual pedal is also secured closely than it does a piece of guitar four-way (54) versions if you dont thats not mandatory.
board surface to the bottom half of us to take a craft knife and widen in place by a thumbscrew; when gear, but when everything has been require as many individual sounds It is worth noting, however, that
the mini flightcase reveals that the the outlines to facilitate the use of the whole thing is hooked up, you assembled its both sturdy underfoot from your board. assembling this set-up, as reviewed,
pedals sit on a 4mm thick section pedals made by other brands. robust case in the world the panels colour and typeface tell you exactly simply plug a standard 9V 500mA and straightforward to use. Yerasov The pedals themselves will all would cost well in excess of 700.
of acrylic thats resting on a pair The combination of the hidden are metallic-painted hardboard, the what to expect. If you are starting function conventionally as part of While over time, many players total
of rubberised foam compression daisy chain and Mooers Z pedal frame is aluminium and the fittings your pedalboard from scratch, by the a more traditional setup, but when spend on a fully-featured pedalboard
pads. The daisy chain power lead connectors (5.95 each) is extremely are a little flimsy as a compact, time you factor in the purchase of used in conjunction with the SCS stocked with quality stompboxes
lives in the void behind the rear neat and, though its not the most fuss-free setup for jam sessions, six pedals, five Z connectors and an Footswitch here (also listed as the might amount to more than that,
rehearsals and pub gigs, we really external power adaptor, the Firefly FS12 Loop Selector), it gives you a youd have to really buy into the
like this. That said, the case hasnt will be starting to look like less of master on/off switch that enables SCS philosophy to make such a
been designed to carry the required a bargain; but if you already have you to trigger any number of the significant investment.
external mains adaptor, so youll a bunch of Mooer pedals, then this is effects at once. The SCS Footswitch
have to remember to put that in your a sensible choice. also doubles as a headphone amp
guitar case. or direct out with switchable 1x12 or
+ Innovative approach that
With the lid detached and your VERDICT 2x12 cabinet emulation and a choice minimises cabling
pedals powered up, the fully-loaded + Very neat and tidy solution of EQ curves based on Jenson (clean) + Using the SCS Footswitch to activate
board is a little prone to skidding + No need for velcro or zip ties and Eminence (lead) drivers. multiple effects is very effective
around; the feet on the underside Can be used with Mooer pedals only, Plugged into a decent valve Carry bag offers no padding
of the board section could do with unless modified combo, the Screamer and When you factor in the cost of the
being more rubbery. Mains adaptor not supplied and Compressor pedals sound individual pedals, it quickly
doesnt fit in the case becomes an expensive option
The Mooer pedals themselves particularly good in combination;
generally perform well; many of the It might not stand up to heavy road given that the pedal selection here Its niche, for sure, but Yerasov is at
use, but for rehearsals, jam nights and least bringing something different to
While the Firefly snugly companys designs are, shall we say, No, this is not a picture of also includes a pair of distortions a cluttered market
pub gigs, this is a neat solution
accommodates Mooer pedals, inspired by familiar circuits, and in the back of our office and a chorus, its difficult to resist
you can alter the cut-outs
numerous instances the choice of
7/10 modem, its Yerasovs SCS
getting sucked into some sort of
7/10 >


Download your FREE App today!


Search Guitar and Bass and download your FREE app today

GB2612.App ad.indd 125 22/07/2015 16:46



How about the prospect of four classic-sounding microphone preamps for a mere
50 or so? HUW PRICE shows you how to turn the venerable and commonly-available
Shure M67 four-channel mixer into a phat front end for your recording setup

1 Built between 1968 - 1988, any of us have home Shure M67 four-channel mic amp/ resistors. This is the stuff that causes
the Shure M67 has gained a bit recording setups, but few mixer, obtainable for around 50. modern makers to wax lyrical in
of a reputation in vintage audio
circles. With a few changes, it
have the facilities to record We picked up a 240v version for their advertising, and charge you a
can be transformed into a mic a live band or even a drum 30 from an online auction, and set premium.
preamp thatll add warmth and kit. Even if we have enough about the conversion. The stock design routes all four
depth to home recordings of microphones, the usual problem mic inputs to one output via a
vocals, electrics and acoustics,
basses or even drums
is that we havent got enough The Shure M67 shared second gain stage, as M67s
mic preamps. Most semi-pro mic Shure made the M67 for 20 years, are actually mono mixers. Well
2 Here are the four original preamps/digital interfaces only so theyre plentiful. Eddie Kramer show you how to reconfigure the
input transformers with circuit
input connections on the left
have a couple of mic pres; the even used them to record Woodstock circuit for individual outputs. Well
edge of the board, shown prior spares are for line level signals. festival, and the basic circuit never keep the second gain stage on
to our cunning relocation Interfaces with multiple mic pres changed. Were dealing with old channel 4, and relocate the gain
3 This shot shows the gain tend to be expensive, while the school discrete electronics, so you control to help the M67 cope with
controls and high pass filter sonic quality of budget units is wont find any microchips or op high-level sources like electric
capacitors of the stock unit. frequently indifferent.. amps just four proper mu-metal guitar and drums. Lastly well be
Were going to shift these gain If youre up for a bit of soldering, input transformers and a bunch adding switchable phantom power
controls back up the signal
chain, putting them after the
though, you could modify a vintage of transistors and carbon comp so the M67 can interface with
input transformer

2 3



4 5

6 7

modern condenser microphones. them to the bottom tags of the gain channels, on the circuit board 4 The gain controls and

Gain control controls. Finally, solder fresh cables between gain controls 3 and 4 youll high-pass filter capacitors
post-modification. We chose
The stock M67s input between the centre tag of each see four 33K resistors with three to use a different value cap on
transformers 2 bump up the volume control and the relevant orange bands labelled 1-4 9 . the switches: see Bass Roll-Off
gain, which feeds straight onto the input tags on the circuit board This is where the individual input 5 The Shures original
transistors great for fuzztone, but where the input transformers were stages join the shared mixer stage output connectors are,
useless for recording cleanly. The fix: originally connected. via blue cables leading from the frankly, no good for the likes
move the gain control from after the Lo-Cut switches. of us. Were going to clear this
transistor gain stage 3 to a position Individual outputs Were going to retain the extra lot out and make some space

between the input transformer and The M67 has some unusual and gain stage on channel 4, so leave 6 At the top of the picture

the transistors 4 . Channel 4s unnecessary features 5 so to clear that blue cable intact. The three you can see the three
holes that remain after we
transformer wire will need to be some space, we disconnected the others can be snipped off close to
removed the Shures original
extended to reach the gain controls, headphone output 6 . Its easy to the circuit board. De-solder the headphone and line out
but thats very simple. do the connections are tied onto other ends of the blue cables from connections
Heres how to do it. First, each the green and white cables that lead the Lo-Cut switches and install 7 Ah, thats better. Two
gain control has an orange wire to the Line Out connections. Well longer cables that will reach from new output sockets have been
leading from the centre tag to the reuse this socket for output 1. the switches to the tip connections installed along with a switch
centre tag of the Lo-Cut switch: The line outputs are loudspeaker- of the individual output jacks for the phantom power useful
for protecting ribbon mics
remove them all. Secondly, there are type connections hardly we installed earlier. The ring
four wires leading from the circuit compatible with modern wiring and sleeves should be connected
board to the bottom tag of each conventions. Disconnect the brown together then connected onto the
control brown (1), red (2), orange and yellow cables from pins 2 and ground wire running along the
(3) and yellow (4). Disconnect each 3 of the mic output XLR, cover the top of the XLR sockets. This will
one from the potentiometer and ends with heat-shrink, and replace provide three pseudo-balanced
reconnect them to the now vacant them with the green and white outputs for the lowest possible
centre tags of the corresponding cables that are connected to the noise levels, and you will be able to
Lo-Cut switches. line outputs. These come from the use balanced cables to connect to
Thirdly, there are some white output transformer, so output 4 will your digital interface. PARTS LIST
cables connecting the outputs of the be transformer-balanced. When the 8 x 6.8K resistors
transformers to the circuit board line output terminals are removed, Phantom power 4 x 68mF electrolytic
theyre labelled, so reading from the holes are the right size to M67s were designed to run on capacitors (axial)
Mini toggle switch
the back of the chassis to the front accommodate TRS jack sockets for battery power as well as mains. 2 x TRS jack sockets
the order is 1, 2, 3, 4. De-solder outputs 2 and 3 7 & 8 . Whats more, one mains- 4 x 0.1mF to 0.2mF audio
these from the board and reconnect Going back to the first three connected M67 could be used to > grade (axial) GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 119

Vinnie Moore & Paul Raymond | UFO

8 9

8 Its all taking shape. This power two more M67s using the 30v like the Shure SM57, dont have Channel 4 gain
photo shows the new output terminals on the rear panel 10 . So bass-cut switches. Some budget Although the first three channels
connection wiring, as seen that redundant 30v supply can be condensers are the same, and a have plenty of gain for electric
from the inside of the chassis
used for phantom power. phenomenon called the proximity guitar, bass, drums or any other
9 Here are the four 33k Although 48v is the nominal effect can make the bass sound loud source, theyre a bit marginal
resistors where the individual
power supply for condenser mics, boomy and muddy. for quiet sources. You can get away
inputs join the mixer stage.
Note the three bands of many will run on lower voltages, I found the stock 0.022mF with close micing a strummed
orange on each one as not all mixing desks provide the capacitors a little over-zealous. acoustic, but delicate fingerpicking
full 48v. Phantom power will come The manual seems to indicate a isnt really an option. So thats why
on at power up, but if you like to corner frequency of around 350Hz I left channel 4 feeding into the
use ribbon mics, a phantom on/off and since our acoustic guitar test mixer gain stages, giving enough
switch is a wise option. Next to the recordings sounded thin and gain for just about any application.
power cord theres a screw terminal unnatural, I decided to lower
labelled Ground. Its not connected the corner frequency to around Verdict
to anything, so we can remove it 100Hz. The roll-off capacitors This simple project wont cost you
and widen the hole with a drill bit are wired directly onto the Lo-Cut much money, but the best bit is that
or cone cutter to accommodate a Filter switches on the front panel this Shure M67 sounds
phantom power switch. so theyre easy to get at; simply phenomenal. Many of the sonic
You can simply solder a cable remove the originals and replace characteristics of records from the
onto the positive terminal of the them with values of your choice. analogue era are attributed to
30v supply and route it to pins 2 Various websites have the formula valves, but transistor mic preamps
and 3 of each XLR input via pairs of to calculate the exact capacitor value like early Neves, Tridents APIs and
6.8Kohm resistors and four 68mF needed to hit any chosen frequency, so forth really were just as
10 Above left you can see a
redundant red 30v terminal
electrolytic capacitors. If you decide and after crunching some numbers important. The M67 sounds just
with the ground tag above to fit a switch, solder the 30v feed we determined that we needed like youd hope an all discrete
it. Were going to use that to the centre pin then attach the a cap value between 0.1mF and vintage mic preamp would sound
terminal to provide our phantom power cable to the top or 0.2mF. Feel free to experiment; fat, chewy and larger than life.
phantom power
bottom lug. the best value will depend on the Even the noise levels are pretty low,
11 Phantom power parts input impedance of your digital and any slight hiss when youre
with two high-tolerance 6.8k Bass roll-off interface as well as your chosen pushing the high gain channel just
resistors feeding XLR pins
2 and 3 with a cap between
I decided to keep the switchable mic. Remember that the capacitor adds to the retro vibe. Best of all, it
the resistor junction and the bass roll-off because many mics is in the signal path, so use audio sounds incredible on acoustic and
XLR pin that are commonly used for guitar, quality replacements. electric guitars!



3 issues for
just $10!

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WORKSHOP Mic upgrade



Can a 150 condenser mic be upgraded to a
level equivalent to a 1000 mic? We think so.
HUW PRICE shows you how to build the valve mic
that your acoustic and electric guitars deserve

he reason many Chinese but sold under many preamp/impedance dropping
condenser and ribbon mics brands: Carvin CTM100, Apex 460, circuit was designed around a
look and sound so similar Nady TCM-1150, Harper Diabate 12AY7 valve, and the HST-11a was
is badge manufacturing, HDV-1, Peluso P12 and Telefunken specified with a similar 12AT7
which has always been a USA RFT M16. The Peluso and (ECC81). However, 12AX7 tubes
feature of the industry. Neumann, Telefunken have upgraded capsules, are cheaper than 12AY7 and 12AT7
Schoeps and AKG all made mics valves, transformers and circuitry, tubes; this is why Alctron installs
for Telefunken, Phillips and many but most of the others are stock, 12AX7s, which have a gain of
others. Even the 59 Les Paul of with different colours and logos. 100mu (a 12AY7 is around 44mu,
vintage microphones, the ELA Prices: 150 to more than 1200. a 12AT7 around 60mu). This extra
M251, was badge-manufactured for The Alctron HST-11a is a decent gain can overload the transformer
Telefunken by AKG. . mic, probably the most popular for when used on loud sources like
For this workshop (see pic 1 for DIY work. Starting with the easiest electric guitars, so theres a lack of
what the finished articles look like and cheapest, well work through clean headroom. Cheap Chinese
and pics 2a and 2b for what the mic the common modifications, 12AX7 microphones can also be
looked liked pre-modding) were assessing their impact. noisy, and the two things you least
1 After all the upgrades using a nine-pattern valve mic want from a recording mic are
were going through, we called the HST-11a, bought new on Mod 1: Valve Swap noise and distortion.
thought it should look the part eBay for 149. Its made by Alctron The HST-11a resembles the The GE 12AY7/6072 as used in
as well. The base and grille Electronics in China (www.alctron- legendary AKG C12. The C12s the original AKG C12s are now very
were nickel-plated, and the
body and power supply got a
vintage-style hammered paint
2a All the components are
clearly labelled on both circuit
boards. It does make things
2a 2b
straightforward, but be gentle
when removing components,
including the valve
2b Heres how our
microphone looked on the
outside before the mods. Much
the same unit is available
under various manufacturer
names, including Carvin, Apex,
Nady and Harper Diabate


Mic upgrade WORKSHOP

3 We tried a whole selection

of valves, including a Mullard
3 4 and an expensive NOS General
Electric. We found that, taking
everything into account, the
12 Electro-Harmonix 6072A
won the contest
4 Most mics pop shields
have three layers of mesh.
You can improve the response
but increase likelihood of
interference by carefully
breaking the solder joints and
remove the inner layers
5 In order to get our new,
bigger C8 capacitor in see pic
5 6 6 we first needed to relocate
R8 back to the rear of the
circuit board
6 Its a very tight fit, but
we found we could fit our new
Ansar Supersound capacitor in
lengthways. This made a huge
difference to our budget mic

expensive. Fortunately the Electro- screws attach the grille housing to Alctron use small, high-capacitance
Harmonix 3 version is well- the main body of the mic. We freed electrolytics. A value of 1mF or
regarded, so we got one for 12. We the housing, gently lifted it clear above is needed to pass all the bass
also tried an E-H 12AT7/ECC81 and of the capsule, and pushed a thin frequencies. The Ansar Supersound
a GE 5751, which is like a low-gain flat-head screwdriver between the capacitor we used had to be
ECC83 with an amplification factor inner and middle grille layers to installed lengthways, which meant
around 70mu. prise the innermost layer upwards. moving R8 (270Kohms) to the rear
The valve is held in place by A bit of persuasion will break the of the circuit board 5 6 .
a plastic spacer with a sprung solder, and you can pull the mesh Installing the Ansar made a big
receptacle for the pointy bit at the out from under the rim using a difference, almost eliminating the
end of the bottle. Push the plastic pair of needle-nose pliers. Once it honky midrange and producing
base against the valve, prise up one was removed we tack-soldered the a smoother, more balanced and
edge, slide it sideways to clear the fine mesh back into position with natural tone. There was a little less
transformer housing. Pull out the a powerful iron and filed any sharp low-end weight, but the Ansar was
valve, and reverse the procedure to bits of metal smooth. nevertheless a huge upgrade.
fit the new one. This mod produced a Next, the 100mF capacitor
Next, we tested the results on noticeable improvement in detail labelled C6. Given the value, we
acoustic and voice, taking care and openness, clearing up the had to stick with an electrolytic, so
to maintain mic placement and midrange. When we removed the we installed a legendary Black Gate
allowing each valve to warm up for fine mesh things got even better branded cap. This made an even
10 mins. The stock 12AX7B was but removing layers might make bigger difference than changing C8,
muffled, indistinct and grainy, with the mic susceptible to interference restoring and even improving the
a honky midrange. The ECC81 and wind blasts, so a pop shield will bass depth and fattening up the low
was clean and bright, but bland. be essential for vocals 4 . mids. By this point the microphone
The 5751 was slightly softer at the was starting to sound pretty good
top and smooth in the midrange Mod 3: Capacitor Change but it was just about to get a whole
better, but a little lean in the low There are only two capacitors in the lot better.
mids and bass. The winner: the direct signal path: C4 and C8. C4
Electro-Harmonix 12AY7/6027A is rated 1000pF and connects the Mod 4: Capsule Swap
(see pic 3) for its bass depth, rich capsule backplate. In some HST-11a Capsules are to mics what pickups
mids and sparkly highs. variants this will be ceramic, and are to guitars. Were all accustomed
its worth changing to polystyrene to the benefits of upgrading PARTS LIST
Mod 2: Capsule Grille or polyester. In our mic the C4 pickups, and mic capsules which Mic:
150 from eBay
A capsule housing has three layers hidden on the rear of the front are easy to buy are no different.
Ansar Supersound 1mF
of wire mesh two thick mesh circuit board was polyester, so we Now, most Chinese capsules are capacitor: 2.50 from
layers sandwiching a much finer left it alone. based on the 1950s Neumann- CricklewoodElectronics
layer. Most modders agree that The C8 is of greater concern. designed K67, originally used in Black Gate 100mF capacitor:
1.71 from HiFi Collective
this is one or two layers too many. Its a 1mF electrolytic, and most the U67 and still living on in the
6072a/12AY7 Valve:
The inner layers can be removed, engineers agree that electrolytics U87. This was engineered with 12 from Watford Valves
with care, because theyre only arent great for audio. The space a treble boost to be matched Peluso CEK-12 capsule: 155,
tack-soldered in place. Two small inside the HST-11a is limited, so with a treble-reducing preamp > KMR Audio GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 123

Moore & Paul Raymond | UFO

7 8

7 A selection of Peluso circuit (this treble pre-emphasis/de- protecting the capsule when youre wire to join Pins 6, 7 and 8 to
capsules, all of which were an emphasis arrangement is similar in soldering; hot solder and resin can Pin 9 (ground) then move the C8
improvement on the original principle to the RIAA curve used for destroy it. connection from where it previously
8 Heres our favourite vinyl records and the EQ curves used The deficiencies of our stock joined R8 to Pin 1 of the valve.
choice of capsule, the CEK- for analogue tape machines). Most capsule were clear: a noticeable This mod produces mixed
12, installed and ready for
Chinese condenser mics combine high frequency lift and a whooshy, results. The output level dropped
these trebly-sounding capsules with smeary quality in the presence and some of the presence was
flat-frequency response circuitry, region. The CEK-47 had a much lost, but the midrange became
which is why they often sound too smoother and more filled out softer and smoother. Removing
bright and harsh. Alctron capsules midrange, with a touch more bass. circuitry is always an attractive
usually have a frequency spike at The highs possessed a bit more option, but improvements were
around 2.7KHz, 7KHz and a rise tinsel than wed expect from a marginal with the stock transformer
in response between 8KHz and vintage Neumann, but it was a step (which many consider to be pretty
16KHz. Whats more, quality control forward in quality. The P-47 had the decent, anyway). Cathode follower
isnt exactly rigorous. Neumanns rolled-off highs wed expect from a removal would make most sense if
earlier M7 and K47 capsules didnt vintage Neumann along with solid you simultaneously upgraded the
have the treble pre-emphasis, lows and an ultra-warm, richly output transformer with a Cinemag
making them a better match for the textured midrange. The CEK-12 CM-2480 or a Peluso.
flat-response Chinese preamps. 8 combined the best of both with
Peluso capsules 7 (www. tight bass, sparkly detailed highs Conclusion are and a full but less exaggerated Much of the modding info on
great value for money. Peluso buys midrange. All three were a big step the internet is ill-informed,
its metal parts from China but the up in quality and actually a very contradictory and/or dangerous. We
gold-sputtered diaphragms come cost-effective way to put a HST-11a wanted to sift through everything
from Germany and all the crucial into a higher league. and present you with the mods we
diaphragm tensioning and assembly consider worthwhile. Be realistic,
work is done at their own facility. Mod 5: Cathode Follower however, and bear in mind this is
Pelusos UK distributor KMR Audio The HST-11a circuit differs from the similar to fitting posh pickups, a
provided three capsules for us (see C12/M251 circuit its loosely based steel trem block and quality pots
pics 7 and 8): an edge-terminated on because both sides of the double to a Mexican Strat; whilst it may
CEK-12 based on the original AKG triode valve are used, not just one improve the quality of the guitar
CK12 capsule, a CEK-47 based on side; the second half becomes a from pretty good to very good, it
the old PVC-style Neumann M7 cathode follower to lower the output will still sound like a Strat.
capsule, and a P-K47 based on the impedance of the circuit. The We compared our modded
Mylar-diaphragm Neumann used in designers probably decided on this HST-11a to a vintage Neumann
the later FET U47s. because it places fewer demands CMV563, a Telefunken USA ELA
Three wires from inside the on the output transformer, allowing M250F and modern valve mics like
capsule housing are soldered to the the use of cheaper items. However, the SE Z5600a II (499), M Audio
circuit board. Note the positions, most reports state that the HST-11a Sputnik (379) and the Oktava
de-solder the wires and remove the has an industry standard 10:1 ratio MKL5000. Our HST-11a is as good
capsule housing. Release the two transformer, which rather negates as the 500-600 mics, maybe
screws holding the capsule base the purpose of the cathode follower. better. It has a pure, impressively
plate to the body of the microphone Many modders remove the detailed sound of its own that falls
and slide the assembly clear. Two cathode follower altogether and take between the Neumann and the
screws fix the capsule riser clip to the audio output to the transformer Telefunken. It cant match the
the base plate. Remove the stock from Pin 1 of the valve via C8. Telefunkens high frequency sheen
capsule assembly and reverse the Its fiddly but really quite simple; and its not as deep and velvety-
procedure to install the new one. just remove R8 along with the sounding as the Neumann, but for
Never touch the fragile diaphragm, wires connecting Pins 6, 7 and 8 an outlay of around 325, it runs
and always ensure the housing is to the circuit board. Solder a link them surprisingly close.


Available in WH Smith and all good newsagents*
or online at
*Also available at Barnes & Noble USA and import stockists worldwide

VR08 ad 210x297.indd 28 24/07/2015 14:21

PROJECT Headphone amp


Smart phone apps are great but sometimes nothing but analogue
tone will do. This little headphone amp offers an old-school
alternative which you can build yourself. DAVE PETERSEN is your guide

useful feature of many out on apps and their various medium-impedance microphone
modern small practice amps attachments that offer a staggering to a more-than-healthy level in your
is the headphone socket array of guitar tones on the go, cans. It fits in your pocket, accepts
that allows you to play at a but sometimes theres just no a standard guitar jack cable and
self-satisfying level without substitute for pure analogue tone. feeds standard headphones from
alarming the civilian population. So in this article were going to its 3.5mm stereo phone socket.
Most of us have smart phones tell you how to build an analogue Powered by two low-cost AAs,
1 Stripboard: cut to size and these days and many have splashed gadget that will boost a guitar or standard or rechargeable, itll play
with a key for you to follow


Headphone amp PROJECT

Heres our parts matrix.
The code denotes the strip
by letter and the hole by
number. Note that the letter
22mm 18mm 20mm I is omitted. Parts sequence
goes from left to right
referred to matrix

12mm 6.5mm 7mm picture view

12mm 1. JM23A (3.5mm jack skt): E3
9mm / G1 / J3
30mm 6.5mm 2. M10R (10 ohm resistor):
B5 G5
3. DT98G (100 nF poly cap):
18mm 14mm
F7 H7
4. VH41U (220uF cap): D8
(+) E8 (-)
5. VH41U (220uF cap): F9(+)
6. M10R (10 ohm resistor):
60mm G11 H11
7. DT98G (100 nF poly cap):
B12 D12
8. VH41U (220uF cap): E14
(+) G14 (-)
9. NJ38R (driver i.c.): pin
1 D17,
pin 4 G17, pin 5 G20, pin
for at leasst 100 hours or more. to the problem of not having a provide two boards in case of 8 D20
The Pocket Rocket isnt a kit conventional volume control. unrecoverable errors the first time! 10. M100K (100Kohm
theres no special printed circuit Refer to the picture with the strip resistor): E23 H23
board, so were going to tell you Building the pocket rocket and hole numbering at the bottom 11. DT92A (1nF poly cap):
E24 G24
how to build it with parts you can Begin by using the drilling diagram of page 126 1 and score both 12. VH41U (220 uF cap): H25
buy yourself for around 28. The (above) to place the drilling centres ends of strip 10, where you want (-) J25 (+) 13. M1K (1Kohm
parts list is based on Maplin parts in one end of the plastic box. Use a it to break. Carefully bend along resistor): C26 J26
and components. 3.5mm bit to pilot out the holes, and the strip until a crack appears at 14. M10K (10 Kohm resistor):
C27 G27
Theres not one end. Gently
much space
in the box, so
This gadget will boost a guitar or mic increased pressure
should cause the
Off-board components
15. BW79L (6.3mm jack skt):

finding a small to a healthy level in your cans and itll crack to follow the
Tip terminal wire to E25.
Tip ground/sleeve terminal
enough volume
control isnt
play for 100 hours or more strip in a straight
line to the other
common wire to H21
16. FH100A (mini toggle):
centre terminal wire to C28.
straightforward, scored end. End terminal wire to G28
either to source or to fit. Instead drill as accurately as possible to the All being well, your final board 17. NE19V (battery clip): red
weve used a mini switch one way template. Widen out the jack hole size should be nine full strips wire to A12, black wire to
BW79L ring terminal
for ordinary guitar level, the other to 6.5mm and then to 12mm with a across and 31 holes long. The
Links matrix: A11 E11 G16
for microphones or loud guitar tapered reamer or a round file. The 39-hole board is broken across the H16 D21 G21 E22
levels (take care of those eardrums, switch and headphone jack are both 32nd row to get the right length. F22
people!). The tone stays clear drilled out to 6.5mm final diameter. The rough edges can be filed Breaks matrix: C20 / D18
with low guitar volume settings, Now, lets prepare the stripboard. smooth to reduce the width for D26 / E9 E18 E26 / F18
F26 / G18 / H15 / J11
so this is a practical solution Weve specified a piece that can a comfortable fit. Using a pair of >

2 All the soldering done.

Make sure to avoid jumping
any tracks with stray solder GUITAR DIY BIBLE 2015 127

PROJECT Headphone amp

sharp-nosed pliers or side cutters, shown in the box below. Now fit using a nut to fix the board down
3 Inside the box doesnt
look too complicated does it! nibble out one corner of the board the resistors across the board, to the case. You may like to include
to clear the corner post of the case passing the wires through the holes a small washer or spacer under
(according to the matrix, holes 1 to 4 specified in the Parts Matrix (note the board to avoid bending stress
in strips A to C should be removed). that one of the resistors stands with the nut tightened. Now fit the
Before attempting this, wed advise up on end), trim the wires under 6.3mm jack socket, with one spacer
you to score the corner with a the board, and use the off-cuts to inside the case, and the switch,
straight edge and a hobby knife to make the links. Fit the links across oriented with its throw horizontal.
prevent accidentally overshooting the board as specified in the Links Fit two AA cells to the battery
with the nibbling tool. Matrix (again shown in the box carrier and connect the clip. The
Drill a 3.5mm hole in the board, below), bend them back along the carrier should fit snugly enough to
using hole E 29 as the centre. Use strips and trim them to about 2mm, avoid any need for further fixing
the same drill as a spot-face cutter then solder them to the strips. Take with the lid in place. Connect your
to create breaks in the tracks at the care not to solder-bridge any strips: favourite phones and guitar, and
points listed in the Breaks Matrix likewise with the resistors. Fit the you should get good clear sound
IC, whose pins should straddle the at a reasonable level on one switch
row of four broken strips D G, setting and much louder on the
holes 17 20; likewise the mini- other setting.
jack, whose terminals should We had so much fun with this
Part numbers and prices are taken from the 2015 Maplin website
appear through E3, G1, and J3. Fit
the capacitors and the wiring from
little box that were working on a
more sophisticated version. This
the jack, switch and battery clip, will have mixable mic and guitar
QTY PART NO DESCRIPTION PRICE as per the Parts Matrix. Note that channels and were looking at a bit
1 N70BQ Project box (Hammond 1591B) 5.29 battery-clip negative (black) goes of stereo echo too.
1 JP47B Stripboard 2939 3.49
1 JM23A 3.5mm stereo jack skt. 1.59
direct to the middle ring terminal
1 BW79L 6.3mm 3-pole jack skt 1.99 of the three-pole input jack, and *Please note: This article was first
1 FH00A SPDT mini-toggle switch 2.79 that the right-handmost 220uF published some years ago, however,
1 NJ38R TDA2822M driver i.c. 2.91* capacitor is oriented inversely to the all parts are still currently available
1 NE19V Battery clip 1.49
three others. from Maplins, with the same part
1 YR60Q 2 x AA battery box w/PP3 clip terminal 1.59
4 VH41U 220uF 16v electrolytic caps 2.36 Finally, push the nose of the numbers, with the exception of the
2 DT98G 100nF poly caps 0.98 mini-jack through the 6.5mm hole TDA2822M amp driver (the rather
1 DT92A 1nF poly cap 0.59 nearest the roof of the box, and vital black box in the centre of the
2 M10R 10 ohm resistor 0.78 mark the case through the hole you board) which it no longer stocks.
1 M1K 1Kohm resistor 0.39
1 M10K 10Kohm resistor 0.39
made in the board. Drill through, Happily these components can still
1 M100K 100Kohm resistor 0.39 and pass a short M3/6BA screw be bought on ebay or from sites like
TOTAL 27.99 through the case and the board,



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Photo: Mike Prior


The Guitar