Designing/Building my first guitar! (Photos added 10/22)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by PermissionToLand, Oct 20, 2017.

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Which design should I go with?

  1. #1

    3 vote(s)
    75.0%
  2. #2

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Make up your own mind, douchebag!

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    So I'm taking a sculpture class in college and the teacher left it pretty open ended to work with whatever material/medium we wanted and I had the idea of designing my own body and making a functional guitar from it. I've done enough work on my own electronics that there should be no issue there, but I've never worked with wood like this or painted (or stained; not sure yet). I will bolt on an existing neck to avoid the arduous task that would be from scratch.

    To make it as easy as possible (since it's halfway through the semester already!) I'm ordering a routed blank from Warmoth. I've hit a few bumps in working out the specs, but at this point the only rub is that they only offer a 25.5" scale, while my designs were built around a 24.75" scale. To change it, would require reworking the designs entirely so they don't look awkward (and that is assuming they CAN be worked to fit that scale without looking awkward). They are mostly SG/LP based ideas and proportions. I worked on the designs all summer so they've had a lot of time to develop and refine and I was quite satisfied with the results. I started messing around with a Strat-based idea which is not bad, but definitely not as good as the others and not as developed.

    So I'm a bit caught here, not sure what to do. I could try positioning the bridge myself; we have a drill press in the sculpture studio. But, of course, I am apprehensive toward attacking something so consequential with no experience. And yet, it would probably be easier than trying to rout PUP cavities and especially a control cavity. I'm not ruling it out.

    Edit: Okay, I scanned the sketches!

    #1 should look familiar to SG fans, but it's not really as close to an SG as it may look, even the pickguard was altered pretty substantially to fit the different proportions.
    design1 graysc photo sm.jpg

    I did actually make a literal singlecut SG sketch and the difference is quite stark, and it doesn't work nearly as well as #1. Forgot to scan it, but I will when I get the chance.

    #2 is probably more original, but of course the SG lover in me is pulling me towards #1.
    design 2 grayscale photo sm.jpg

    Either way, I'm thinking I'll do it in a Walnut finish or stain with a black, 5-ply pickguard. What do you guys think?
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2017
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  2. Bonzo21

    Bonzo21 Active Member

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    Why not order a kit guitar from ebay or amazon? That way you can have whatever shape you want and you'll have the right neck...

    Or get the body hardtail so there is no big route in the back and drill press your own through body string holes and measure out your own bridge. Measure out half your scale lenght from the 12th fret and aim that at the middle of how ever much your bridge saddles move. Bam, bridge placed ;)
     
  3. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Because I'm designing the shape! :cool:

    Body will probably be hardtail TOM/stopbar but I'm tempted by the opportunity to mount a Maestro without having to fill/hide stopbar holes... it's just that the cheapest ones are going for around $100, it would be almost entirely aesthetic for my purposes, and that's probably going to end up being like 1/4 of what I'd spend on the entire project.

    I know placing the bridge is really just simple math but I'm a perfectionist about intonation and even Gibson positioned my SG's bridge a little off, so it's intimidating. I'm not sure how to determine the angle it needs to be placed at, either. And of course, there's the need for it to be perfectly centered, as well.
     
  4. Bonzo21

    Bonzo21 Active Member

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    This makes sense now that I've seen the sketch... I thought you were going to sculpt a design in whatever guitar shape ...
     
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  5. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Here's the singlecut SG sketch I was talking about:

    sg singlecut 002.jpg

    Quite different from #1 and frankly, doesn't work too well IMO.
     
  6. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Yep, I'm with #1 too. Sexier than #2.

    For a short scale neck, you can find an Epiphone neck for not much on eBay.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Epiphone-L...939328?hash=item3d4bd02d40:g:Q3gAAOSwAA5Z5AnP
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/epiphone-l...547860?hash=item440dfe5514:g:8l8AAOSwOW9Z4QUh
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-80...593059?hash=item2cc7ea77a3:g:4VsAAOSwpKtZ3~XD

    For bridge placement, I did a quick search on mylespalul forum in the luthier section for Greco, a good builder. I remember him posting a template of the bridge placement for his LP Jr build. I used it on one conversion I did. If you don't find it, you can always ask the guy, he's nice.
    http://www.mylespaul.com/search/1804548/?q=bridge&o=relevance&c[node]=26&c[user][0]=870
     
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  7. Logan

    Logan Well-Known Member

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    Looks like a PRS Starla combined with a late 60s Batwing SG; beautiful concept work indeed! I hope you can get it to work out PermissionToLand.
     
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  8. bwotw

    bwotw Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I'm getting some Starla vibes too! But I like the contouring more on your sketches. IMO, #2 works better; the agressively pointed, well, point, on the cutaway looks a little off were the rest of the design is so curved and rounded. To me, at least.

    What about thickness? SG-thick, or thicker?

    Good call on walnut stain and black pickguard, I bet it will look great.

    This photo shows the Starla for comparison and also the usual SG cherry/blackPG combo that would look pretty cool too

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I already have a neck from my brother's Epi SG Special that is surprisingly straight and has level frets. Thank you for the lead on bridge placement though!

    You're the first here to pick #2, I suspect if I put them up on MLP, the results will be the opposite!

    When I finished #1, I did remember PRS had a similar design. I definitely like mine better though. I never liked PRS' blocky horns, and the pickguard mounted knobs always look cheap to me.

    Warmoth makes the blanks 1 3/4" thick, and I probably wouldn't have time to try thinning it out. That's not bad anyway, about the width of a Strat or ES-335; between an SG and LP.

    I've continued to refine the sketches and will do so more today. Going to try removing the bevel by the knobs on #1 and changing to LP style knob placement. For #2, mostly changes to the pickguard shape.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
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  10. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    A little update: I've been able to push the project over to next semester and now have ordered a nice unfinished Maple neck from GuitarFetish with a bound Rosewood fretboard and trapezoid inlays. A much better solution than just sticking on an Epiphone Special neck like I planned! I want that soft, natural feel of a Fender neck, so I'll either leave it unfinished, stain it, or do a matte Nitro finish. The headstock face will either be painted black or body color (Walnut Brown) and I had the idea to leave my surname as the logo, unpainted on the face. Inlay work would be beyond me anyway, and it will be cool to see the grain through like that.

    Also, the body blank has arrived! It's 2-pc solid Alder with a nice grain to it. I had to make some special routing requests to make it all work, since Warmoth designs their routing for Fender style bodies and a 25.5" scale. To make it a 24.75" scale, I will have to position the bridge PUP and bridge/TP myself (using only a drill press!). I also had to request the control cavity shape from their LP copy because the standard one would have conflicted with the body shape. I will still have to modify the cavity to fit a switch and output jack. I was able to get the neck pocket angled, which is great since I will be using a tuneomatic.

    IMG_2151 sm.jpg IMG_2152 sm.jpg IMG_2153 sm.jpg

    You'll notice that blueprint has the switch on the pickguard. I'm on the fence about that; it would be much easier because it would not require altering the control cavity, but I'm thinking it would get in the way of my strumming.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  11. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    The neck has arrived! I have to say, I'm impressed for a $75 neck (especially on sale for $50). The fretboard is a beautiful piece of dark Rosewood with consistent grain, the inlays are nice swirled acrylic just like on Gibsons and very cleanly inlaid, the profile is a comfortable medium-chunky and it seems dead straight. Too bad I'll have to wait until I can string it up to see how level the frets truly are.

    IMG_2154 sm.jpg
    IMG_2167 sm.jpg
    IMG_2169 sm.jpg

    There is one issue though; it's about 1/16" off at the 12th fret. Hopefully I can just trim off the end of the fretboard at the nut and it's not a mistake in the fret spacing throughout. I am pretty OCD about intonation so that would drive me nuts.

    Also, the cutting at the heel was a bit sloppy:

    IMG_2171 sm.jpg
     
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  12. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Lookin' good ! That is a nice neck.
    Can't you check fret level with a straight edge ?

    And what is it with the 1/16" ? From nut to 12th fret ?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  13. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    A straight edge can give you an idea, but when it comes to string clearance, especially on the high frets, even the most minuscule discrepancy can cause issues. I had a buzz on one guitar that never showed on a straightedge. I could just buy a fret rocker from stewmac, I suppose. But it definitely looks like the frets have been crowned, so they may have lightly leveled them already.

    Yes, it's 1/16" too long measuring from the nut to the 12th fret. I'll probably have to calculate the proper first fret position and see how it matches up.

    Funny enough, I measured my other guitars and while my Samicks are spot on, my Gibson is actually almost 2/16" short! And yet somehow it doesn't have any major intonation issues (besides the bridge being placed too close).
     
  14. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Is that 1/16" so important, if you place the bridge at the same distance from the 12th fret ?
     
  15. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Well, if it's extra length only at the first fret, it would throw off the intonation on open strings. If it's spread across all the frets, it will be off on every fret, albeit less so.

    Moving the bridge 1/16" further out would make the scale length too long and only further exacerbate the issue of open string intonation. Moving it 1/16" in would fix the scale length issue, but I suspect that would throw off the intonation of the frets.

    Think about moving your bridge saddle 1/16", it can make a noticeable difference. I'm also very picky about it (because frankly, it's very important to having a professional sound).
     
  16. LDS

    LDS Member

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  17. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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  18. Plan Zero

    Plan Zero Member

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    Put the switch in the horn, that way you retain the convenience but won't hit it all the time. I love the pointed horn. So glad you're going with that style. Is the neck warmouth as well?
     
  19. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    I've never been a fan of that look, and the horn is pretty small, so it would have to be pretty far in to cover the cavity rout needed. Turns out my brother has a router anyway, so I can modify the existing control cavity easily now.

    I'm still not 100% decided, but leaning toward the pointed one. The neck is from Guitarfetish, so it was made in China but the quality control was very good. A bound neck with trapezoid inlays from Warmoth would be nearly $200.
     
  20. PermissionToLand

    PermissionToLand Well-Known Member

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    Good news, I checked the fret positioning and they're all off by the same amount (more precisely by about 1/32"), meaning I can just shave off the extra length.

    Now I'm reading some build threads on here (big thanks to SGLou and SGJohn for their excellent threads) and writing out a step-by-step plan with all the info I can gather. Then, I may even map that plan out over next semester to give myself a rough timeframe.

    Now for the interesting stuff: I've decided what parts I'm going to install.

    For pickups, I'll use GFS Alnico V humbuckers, because I want a bright SG-like tone and I'm going to use their neck position for both because I like lower output pickups and the neck is 7.6k while the bridge is 8.6k. That should put it in the ballpark of a T-Top, sonically.

    All hardware will be Nickel; that wasn't even my plan but it worked out that all the parts were available in Nickel, so why not?

    The bridge will be a Gotoh Nashville style. I already have one on my Gibby and it's great; rattle-free, more saddle travel than an ABR and very reasonably priced.

    Tuners will be the original Green Keys from my Gibby CS/Historic SG.

    GFS wiring harness just to make it easier on myself. Probably going to want to replace their switch, but we'll see.

    ColorTone Tobacco Brown Lacquer for the finish, and while the body will be gloss, the back of the neck will be satin. The headstock face will most likely be body color (but maybe black, still hedging on that) and glossy.

    Knobs will be Witch Hats, of course!
     

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