Monday, 27 February 2017

Bareknuckle Super-Strat

Well, it's a couple of weeks since the man-cave fire incident. I dried my tears, collected together a few tools, and have managed to clean out a spot in the shed to create a new workspace, I bought a replacement electric drill and I'm now in a position to actually start building again.

A week after the accident, I found a box on my doorstep - an Ash super strat kit sent to me by Andy in the Pitbull Guitars forum as a pick-me-up after all the fire hassles. It was an amazing act, completely unexpected, and really choked me up. They really are an amazing bunch of guys and gals over there in the forum. The kit is actually a special order (not an off-the-shelf kit by any means), with no front cavity and only pickup and bridge routes.

A Pitbull Guitars Special-Order, Ash Super-Strat
Since it arrived I've been itching to get going on the kit, and today I managed to get a simple mock build together. I loosely positioned the bridge, ran the outside strings to test for neck straightness, and used my new electric drill to bolt the neck into place.

Neck looks straight in the pocket.
It all took less than 10 minutes with the new drill. Do you know I've never tightened neck bolts with the drill until today? Such a time saving, and no stripped screws! Anyway she's looking pretty sweet.

Neck bolted into place and looking good.
Given that the top of the guitar is so clean, I'm planning on leaving her a bare-knuckle build with no rings around the pickups and just bare wood as far as the eye can see. A real no-nonsense shredder.

The Ash grain on this 2 piece body is pretty good and should look great with some grain filling and stain. For a finish I was thinking ebony or walnut Timbermate in the grain, and a trans-black dye job over the top. I was also thinking it might be cool to add some "natural wood colour" hot-rod flames. As with my previous builds sporting hot-rod flames, the idea would be to mask off the flame sections with artists frisket. Then the stain would be applied, hoping that the masked off wood remains clean and untouched. Another option might be to mask off everything *except* the flames and seal those up good with Tru-Oil before trying to stain the rest of the body. Hmm, as this is completely new territory, I might have to actually spend some time testing these techniques!

First draft - hotrod flames.
Anyway, as you can, see I dummied up some flames to try to get a feel for how it would look on the body. I think the black/natural contrast could really work with this design and I'm really excited to give it a try. I must say, I do like how the flames look on the body. Time to start some testing while I get the body sanded and the grain filled. Stay tuned for test results!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Heartbreak in the Man Cave

Well, I have some very sad news to relate today. Last week we had an electrical fire in the man cave. A de-humidifier caught fire and smoldered for hours. The windows and doors were all closed (to promote de-humidification) and so the oxygen supply was limited.

Fast forward to the aftermath and every surface in the 2-room granny flat is coated with a thick layer of electrical soot. Every crevice, every cranny, every cupboard is full. It stinks, it's corrosive, and it's fucking everywhere. While the building interior will need to be gutted and replaced, more importantly it is looking like every guitar on the walls and in the racks will be written off, including all my builds in progress. The hollow-bodies are particularly affected - being full of soot - but the hardware and frets on all guitars have very quickly become corroded. To make matters worse the cleaner used to remove the soot is not doing the finish any favours.

So basically that's my collection of around 20 guitars, built up over 5 years of hard work, decimated in one foul swoop. To say I am totally gutted is an understatement.

Once the damage is repaired I'll slowly start re-building, but right now I think I'll go sit down and have a cry.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Scratch Pine Toronado: Body Finish Do-over

Due to a catastrophic clear coat fail, the scratch Toronado build languished in the corner of the man-cave.  After a hiatus of almost 12 months, I've finally gotten around to resurrecting it. I couldn't rightly abandon my first (and only!) scratch body build, now could I?

The cause of this build's untimely demise was yet another issue with Acrylic as a finish. Once my current builds are done I vow never again to cross Acrylic's dark path! Everything seems OK with an acrylic finish until you try to assemble the thing. But, as soon as you screw into the acrylic, chances are it will lift from the surface in a bubble and you'll hurl the thing across the room. And it seems to be worse the thicker the clear coats are. Grrrrr! Maybe poly will serve me better in the future.

Anyway after dusting the body off I sanded it back completely, added a whole new coat of black dye, and got the Tru-Oil going. After 5 coats things are looking good already. I didn't apply the dye as darkly this time around, opting for more of a trans-black look. The pine grain is standing out nicely although the colour is looking a little blotchy. That's to be expected with pine, and truth be told I'm not that fussy.

Lots of grain in the pine to see, but some blotchy patches too.
Honestly, any variation in the finish is good with me; whether it's beautiful grain or colour blotches. I'm not even sure whether I'll even bother getting the body up to a full gloss this time around. I'll just keep applying layers of TO until I'm happy, but I'm kinda digging the satin oiled look the early layers of Tru-Oil give. I might leave the shiney to the chrome and pickguard for this bad boy.

The Toronado is a really nice shape, am I right?
I gotta say, coming back to this build I forgot how much I love this body shape. It's a little Tele, little Jazzmaster, and a little Jaguar-esque all mixed into one. I think after this one is done I'll get on and start another, this time maybe just in a simple Amber or Yellow. I will have to start from "scratch" again though as my MDF template is ruined.

Jazz Bass: Wiring & Assembly

I finally got this bad boy assembled and wired up today. This time around, as the bridge pickup cavity wasn't really shield-able, I didn't bother shielding either of the pickup cavities at all. I just whipped out the Slugga snail-tape and shielded the control cavity. The omission of the shielding on the pickup cavities seems to have done very little to increase the noise level - something to remember for future builds. I have read elsewhere that it isn't necessary, and even some who say it affects the brightness of the pickups so go figure.

Shielding by "Slugga".
With just 4 solder points, I had the remainder of the control wiring together and making noise in no time. Man, I love the ease with which these F-type kits go together. 4 wires soldered, and everything is done? Magic. Pitbull really do provide the goods with these pre-soldered control cavity covers.

Jazz Bass Wiring is amazingly quick with a pre-soldered control cover.

And so with the wiring done and the covers screwed down, she is finally making a nice clean, low boomp - boomp sound; especially from the neck pickup. Niiiice. Can you tell I'm not a bass player?? Well, I'm not. But I'll still try to do a sound demo once she's finished. How hard can this bass playing be ??? :P


Seafoam goodness gives a really nice looking instrument.

The all important headstock signage.
Ready to join the flock!

I still have to do a fret level, a re-crown, and adjust the height of the nut, but to be honest she's playing quite nicely already. In no time at all she'll be a permanent resident of the guitar rack!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Jazz Bass: Bringing the Shine

Finally got an hour or two to myself after the chaos of the Christmas season. I put it to good use, polishing the body of my Jazz Bass build and getting more Tru-Oil on the neck. Polishing started with 1500 grit, then moving on to 2000 grit and finally Meguiars Ultimate Compound. After two rounds of compound the shine is finally starting to come out. It may need a third!

Ultimate Compound for polishing.
Once I'm happy with the surface after the Ultimate Compound, I'll hit it with one round of Meguiars ScratchX 2.0 just for good measure. In the past I haven't been able to see a noticeable difference with the ScratchX but hey - why not.

In addition to polishing the body, I have managed to get a few more coats of Tru-Oil on the neck. It's definitely starting to look and feel great!

Tru-Oil almost complete on the neck.
This build is coming down the home straight now. Once the polishing is done I'll be able to line the control cavity with copper tape, get the pickups screwed in and soldered and she'll be ready to rock. Not long now!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Jazz Bass: To Cover on Not to Cover

Decisions, decisions.

Ok, so I'm not a bass player. I'm not even much of a guitar player. So when I make decisions about hardware etc, I usually go on aesthetics more than anything else. For my Jazz bass I need to decide on hardware - to cover or not to cover? Those bass players out there - do these huge-arse chrome covers make the jazz bass less playable?

50s retro cool to a more playable instrument?

Personally I've always liked them - I think that they give the bass a real 50s retro vibe. But will I hate playing it in the end? What do you guys out there think?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Flamed Starcaster: Headstock Flair

More work on the Starcaster headstock this week. Since there is no shaping required this time around, as a homage to the original Starcaster look I am creating a whooping swirly thing on the headstock. This 'single piece of flair' will be sprayed black and the now world-famous Turner logo will sit inside it.

Using a frisket sheet I cut out my whooping design and carefully stuck it down on the headstock. I then masked off the rest of the headstock and neck ready for spraying with black acrylic. That  was a few days ago now.

Frisket is on and the headstock is masked. Just needs paper to cover the neck.
First coat of black acrylic spray applied.
After the first couple of coats I got some 2000 grit and wet-sanded the black to smooth it out before adding a couple more coats. I then let it sit and dry for a couple of days.

The masking came off the headstock and neck today. I'm pretty happy with how the single piece of flair came out. I tidied it up just a smidge with the craft blade, and got my acrylic logo stuck on there. Looking good! I followed this up with the first soak coat of Tru-Oil before letting her hang in my extra-special drying room for a few hours. The Tru-Oil is slowly bringing the grain in the neck to life, so hopefully she'll look nice in a month or so's time.

Single piece of Flair is on, with the logo positioned inside it.
I followed this up with the first soak coat of Tru-Oil before letting her hang in my extra-special drying room for a few hours. The Tru-Oil is slowly bringing the grain in the neck to life, so hopefully she'll look nice in a month or so's time.

First Tru-Oil soak coat on and soaking.
That last photo of the headstock is very misleading - the colour is no where near that yellow. The colour is more like what you can see in the photo of the neck above it. Anyway, now for the patient drudgery of multiple Tru-Oil coats on the neck. I'm looking forward to getting it over and done with so I can finally set the neck and have this thing actually looking like a guitar!