Sunday, January 15, 2017

Forming the guard

It's been a while, the neck got a GOOD Tusk nut courtesy of the local guitar wrangler and is now really a playable instrument, although the intonation of the G still leaves something to be desired but I haven't looked into that yet . . . the other stings are (close to) perfect although once I start fudzing with the truss rod (the relief is still a little large) I expect I may have to do some more adjusting. And I need to do . . . something . . . as the low E it buzzes ONLY when played open despite the fact that the height over the 1st fret is larger than over the 2nd when fretting on the 1st . . . . ??

In the mean time here is a longish post on progress with the 'proper' pick guard.


First drilling the mounting holes and then, drilling the countersinks . . . no easy recovery for mistakes now . . .

At least it looks good with the screw in place so the diameters are correct . . .

The tools for shaping, sandpaper would have been OK but a scraper makes less of a mess even if it's a little harder to keep in 'fighting trim'. I always keep a a small sanding block handy too (or is that one o . . . ) because once you've got a divot a scraper just makes it worse, especially around the edges next to the holes. And those countersunk holes make the creation of divots REAL easy.

Needs some more work but it's getting there . . . the edge at the round over especially is a bit thick.

The signs of a well sharpened scraper . . . shavings, not dust . . . so much easier to clean up, and it doesn't 'get everywhere'.

Ready for the pickup holes . . . turns out that one in the right bottom went REAL close to the edge but fortunately ended up OK. And my jig for sanding the edges in with a Dremel . . . WITH the new centering measure, it makes lining up the jig so much easier. One of the finished pickup holes is visible behind it.

Drilling control holes in the upper bout for the coil selection switches . . . and the holes for the pickup height screws . . . . . . a humbucker mounting ring makes a nice template . . . 

And here we are with most of the holes drilled and the shaping pretty much complete.

And then I had the BRILLIANT idea of recessing the pickup selection control knob . . . . 

Measuring and shaping the 'mounting plate'

And here it is with the required 3/8 hole <=> BTW ALWAYS clamp polycarbonate plastic down when drilling or sawing, or doing pretty much anything else involving any kind of force, if it moves around - especially small pieces or pieces with holes - they have a tendency to crack <=> . . . so now we need a 3/4" hole in the guard . . .

Measured . . . and cut. I used a punch to mark the center and drilled a 3/16 pilot hole (the size of the center spike on the spade bit) and then a 3/4 freshly sharpened spade bit with VERY little pressure from the back to the front and got very little tearout fortunately. Why from the back as tearout is always worst at exit holes, WELL . . . . . the front is already shaped and thus NOT FLAT making starting the bit exactly vertical that much harder. I SHOULD have done this before starting the shaping process. SHOULDA, COULDA, WOULDA I only came up with the idea later so . . . . 

AND blogger is throwing me for a loop once again . . . now it doesn't want to remove the 'align to center' from the text ... and ... even when the options show it IS removed it still . . . arrggghhhh . . . oh well I'm not getting a prize for layout anyway.

And then I produced some locating pins from a medium size nail . . . 


With some cutting, filing, grinding and fixing them into the plastic with some superglue the results are . . . quite good . . . as far as I can tell things are pretty much exactly centered with very little play . . . and the test knob (same size as the actual ones) fits correctly.


I believe we can glue it in place check all the other holes (I think the holes for the pickup height screws need to be drilled out 1/64 larger) and proceed with the finish (the guard has 1 coat of danish oil now and the quilt on the maple is nice, not 'master grade' - and it has some mineral streaks (some visible above -, but nice) and assembly . . . . . yes assembly . . . . Oh and the cutout for the neck pocket . . . need to cut out the neck pocket . . . . 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Progress . . . .

Well, some anyway, rough shape got cut with the jig saw. NOTE, rotary cutters and curly maple do NOT play nice together, you get an awful fuzzy cut so if you must, stay well away from the final line. AND, I found a great use for that vacuum driven Dremel I got initially, with a rotary sander it makes for quite a nice edge finishing tool and, here is the great thing, most of the dust created disappears directly into the shop vac . . . perfect.

And the edges are getting thinned . . . here the edge is down to 1/16 - 3/32 . . . . 1/16 is the goal all around but this is the first pass with some 60 grit EZ lock sanding disks on the dremel for quick removal of material and it already went a (tiny) bit quicker than I really wanted . . . . . . nothing disastrous but . . . . . . and yes it will be evened out by hand . . .

Also considering some ideas to reinforce the joins, with the cutouts for the pickups going through all four joins (reducing the total area) that may not be a terribly bad idea . . . . . . . 

Monday, December 5, 2016

So sue me . . . . .



Yes I changed my mind . . .

I never was exactly sold on the previous idea for the pick guard after seeing it, but wanted a wood guard and thought the colors were pretty and got carried away at the wood shop and . . . and thought a 2 piece pick guard would be 'cool' and ... and after seeing it with the maple thought that that might be a bit garish and ... and then was at a loss how to exactly connect the 2 pieces (blunt edge gluing of plastic to wood not being the best idea I ever came up with possibly ... epoxy or maybe urethane might do the job . . . on second though foaming urethane might not be the 'best' option, it will be problematic to get rid of off the top off the plastic.

ANYWAY

This is what I came home with . . . 1/4" thick (as was the other wood) one piece of walnut and one piece of curly maple. Not terribly impressed with the curlyness of the maple but I did some looking on the internet and it turns out that it's generally not THAT pronounced before finishing so maybe there is hope.

and there is a piece of yellow heart . . . Ok pieces layed out checked twice so ready for cutting . . .  it IS a mitre box saw but, well it's a CHEAP miter box saw and it probably won't be around much longer.  IT   IS   NOT   STRAIGHT , that doesn't matter much here but for some other projects ... ugghhhh

And here it is lined up . . . and checking to make most of the visible 'curl'. I figure if I can see it on a relatively rough sanded piece it's going to come out at least alright after the finishing.

And . . . that is the WRONG edge dumbo. Always check edges against a straight edge (there are some nice ones on metal levels with <0.005 deviation) and these were NOT straight coming from the store, holding it up to backlight is an especially rigorous check . . . so some painters tape, superglue and 120 grit sandpaper to straighten out the edges. It should be a shooting board and a #4 (or larger) plane BUT I don't own a plane as I haven't been able to find a reasonably priced one (and it may turn out the $100 IS reasonable for a good plane) that wasn't 'faulty' in some way or other. So just keep it flat and rub it STRAIGHT along the straight edge nice and even so you don't sand in a curve. And keep checking.

AND that piece of yellow heart JUST KEPT SHOWING UP . . . ok I get the message . . . I'll just put in an accent. Ready for the jigsaw, after measuring twice right.

And here is the whole set sanded and checked, 2 large pieces of maple, a medium piece and a strip of walnut and a strip of yellow heart. And some paper towel and acetone for degreasing and removing any remaining dust. Did I mention to degrease any wood before gluing, it's not terribly important when you have large joints, especially with non oily woods, but on a small joint I want maximum strength, and it's going to get even smaller. Acetone is OK for the job, dissolves almost ... anything ... and that includes your flooring if it's man made fiber / plastics . . . also it's toxic . . . and did I mention flammable . . . yeah real nice stuff . . . wear nitrile gloves and work in a well ventilated area, don't store near heat sources, etc. Basically don't be stupid and use something a little more environmentally friendly like mineral spirits. But I have it, and my brain is fried from to much organic chemistry (both practical and book learning) anyway. It does evaporate FAST, thus the toxicity don't breathe the stuff if you don't ABSOLUTELY have to, so no waiting after cleaning, with mineral spirits you should wait a bit before doing the gluing. Keep on wiping until you see no more color coming off the wood.

And glue, Tightbond III for maximum strength . . . one join at a time and clamp AT LEAST the minimum recommended time before setting up the next join ... ONE, TWO and THREE, and yes I joined the yellow heart and walnut strips BEFORE gluing them to the second piece of walnut so it really was one join at a time.

So here is the finished product . . . and check, ready for sanding. Well I did cheat, I had flattened the walnut and yellow heart strips with a rasp at this point, they were glued face on and not on the cut sides and were a bit wider than 1/4", and sanded up to 120 to get an idea of the figure.

And more sanding . . . use as large a FLAT surface to sand as possible so you do NOT inadvertently sand in any low spots unintentionally . . . . This piece actually contains a bow, it's concave on top (fortunately, it wasn't exactly planned that way, I just looked for the nicest side of the maple to use on top). I want to keep that curve for a bit of a 'carved' look and sand the bottom flat . . . . checking . . . more sanding needed. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

And then I found this . . .

Rick Toone | Luthier . . . one of the most comprehensive discussions if somewhat fragmented between different builds on the ergonomic and technical physics aspects sorry need a better term there but he does take A LOT of care with the physics of guitar building.

And some BEAUTIFUL, if sometimes very unconventional, instruments. Unfortunately each of them cost a GOODLY chunk of my yearly income . . . . .

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oodles of doodles

Well I had some time on my hands . . . uhhmmm . . . well maybenot really but I didn't feel like doing anything else so.

I had doodled this during some downtime at work, starting from this somewhat firebirdy thingy:


To this

And then 'wasted' most of a (rather expensive) 12 column evidence pad to get to ... this:

Which went into the computer and ended up like this:

Not bad but it has some (I can't define them) problems I think, maybe to long for the width, to much on the left and not enough on the right. I don't know but the balance seems off somehow. And that point at the top has GOT to hurt.

And then I started playing around with the curves and got this:

That actually looks rather interesting . . . . 

And then it turns out I'm not all THAT original . . . do a google search on ergonomic guitar and you'll see what I mean. I must have seen some of them before but can't really remember. And also there is this example:


I'm quite a fan of Ben Crowe and can't believe I didn't remember this. There is also a YouTube video which has a much better look at the instrument . . . 

I'm definitively not in Ben Crowe's class when it comes to building instruments but I might just give this a go in Maple and Wenge . . . with a maple on maple neck I think.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Once again . . . . . .

So here we are . . . once again


As promised a better picture . . . the rain let up for about 15 minutes and the sun peeked through so . . . and YES the 'garden' is a mess, I could have been cleaning that up instead of working on the guitar.

And here it is with the 'other' pick guard . . . . . . the maple faced ply was finished with 2 coats of dark walnut Danish oil (Watco) sanded back and then 'flooded' with natural Danish oil by basically knocking over the can onto it . . . not a procedure I would expect to be repeating but who knows. The pick guard on the guitar is unfinished maple face ply . . . 



And then there was Sunday - haven't we been here before - the new tip on the soldering iron made all the difference in getting it all apart and back together.


And yes, the sharp eyed can spot that the neck pickup is upside down in the pick guard, at least according to the SD name printed on it. There is only 1 switch below the tone control now and it switches between one 0.01 uF cap, off, and two 0.01 uF caps in series (0.005 uF), the 0.033 uF was to much to be useful, going from 10 to 7 on the tone control almost completely muted the high E string. This may be more useful, and I have some green (no orange drops at radioshack) polyester film 0.022 uF caps as well, in case I want to go higher



And here it is all put together again. I did find that my jig for routing the pickup holes is off by 1/32 or so and just a 1/16 or so bigger than it should be. I'll make a new one for the final 'real' one. All the screws are also in now.

The pickups play pretty nice with the bridge & neck . . . bridge PU has the strings right over the outer edge of the poles, while they are pretty much on center for the neck PU.


Sorry for the dark picture . . . . 



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Anno MMXVI die XII mensis Novembris, in qua natus sum


Anno MMXVI die XII mensis Novembris, in qua natus sum:



Better pictures when the weather actually improves here . . . . NOT taking it out in the rain . . . not that that would improve anything probably . . . . . . . .

It's not "finished" . . . . by quite a bit . . . . . crappy plastic nut from . . .  Amazon possibly . . . action . . . the bridge is screwed down almost to the deck and it may still be a bit high (may need one of those nice StewMac shims) . . . intonation, well the saddles are not line up straight, and more or less where you'd expect them to be . . . . but that's just from a rough check I did way back when I first put the neck on . . . wiring . . . hmm, it's not quite wired like the circuit, no treble bleed yet, and there is an 0.033 µF orange drop tone cap hard wired . . . on the wrong end of the pot . . . the tone and volume pot work in opposite directions . . . . OOOPSSS
. . . . so what IS there
    • // P90, serial, parallel, rail // wiring for the two P rails in the top bout for each pup
    • rotary switch for // bridge, serial, parallel, neck // pup selection and the phase switch in the lower bout . . . thought about a 5 position 2 deck 4 pole rotary to put it all on the same switch but I'm not sure I could remember where all the options were . . .
    • volume - no treble bleed as yet . . .
    • tone (with the aforementioned 0.033 µF cap hardwired . . . I THOUGHT - we all know about that right - that I had a 0.022 µF somewhere BUT the lowest I could find was a 0.033 µF . . . 2 X 0.047 µF, 2 X 0.068 µF and a number of assorted caps higher in the range but NO 0.022). I did find 10 or so 0.2 µF caps . . . NO idea why I have those . . . )
    • and a on/off/on SPDT switch (in the very back) that switches the tone pot from the standard Fender configuration / modern Les Paul (i.e. tone before the volume), to the 50s Les Paul configuration (i.e. tone after the volume)
The black dots are NOT connections to the back of the Vol pots . . . yes, I threw me first too . . .
From: Harmony Central by BG76
The top is the standard for a tele, the bottom is the grease bucket mod.
From: Squier-talk by Pictoratus

There are some sources that claim that with the Tone AFTER the Volume the 'need' for a treble bleed is largely gone as the modification in the circuit does not result in a marked decrease in the highs when rolling off the volume . . . . . we'll see . . . . . of course now decreasing highs with the tone pot DOES decrease the volume . . . can't have everything . . .

So here are some photos from the 'work' . . . . .


I got annoyed with all the ground wires - never mind the possibility of wiring an unintentional 8) ground loop - so I decided to 'waste' some of my copper foil for grounding, this is just after reassembling the harness on the guard so it's not tied in yet . . . nor was the tone installed . . . 


Still not tied in, but the tone has been installed with the on/off/on switch . . . I thought it now would be simple mater resoldering all superfluous ground wires to the copper . . . but . . . well see below . . . stupidity intervened . . . 


And you would think that that large piece of foil between the pickup cavities (sorry the angle is wrong but trust me, it's at surface level) would be plenty for a connection with the guard . . . right . . .   . . .   . . .  RIGHT  ... ... ... ... ... ... ... WRONG, without a screw in that area . . . well a bit of pressure does the trick but that would make playing a bit hard, so now there is an interconnect at the screw over the cavity below the bridge . . . . works like a charm now . . . . and what's that white 'thingy' at the back in cavity . . . take a closer look . . . 


So here is the lead to the plugin . . . the mantel is soldered to the copper shielding/ground - you can just about see the soldered lead to the bridge thimble at the extreme right. The white thing is a double screw connection, it's rather large and may not fit in some crowded confines but a JM has - mostly - loads of space so why not make life simple when I know I'm going to futz with different pick guards . . . 


Ready for the ground rewiring and testing . . . see if you can spot what I first forgot about . . . switching on the amp resulted in incessant extreme hum . . . any guesses . . . no . . . you can see the solution on the pick guard at the right edge between the pickups . . . yea . . . ground . . . REALLY . . . forgot about that, it's been a while . . . so I was ready to unsolder all kinds of things . . . and had in some instances . . . it was a BEAR to get some of them back . . . . . . . . . . . found one wiring mistake in the connection of the neck pup to the switches . . . and that was it - well after I had diagnosed the grounding problem - despite the fact that the multimeter says that the P90 side (or the rail) side of the pup is out of the loop ticking the pole(s) with a plastic covered paperclip (MUCH easier the handle than the old screwdriver and still plenty of signal) still results in an audible - if MUCH attenuated - signal . . . not sure if there is a 'sneak' circuit somewhere . . . if so I can't find it and the multimeter says NO ... but that may just be because I'm not measuring in quite the right place ... BUT I EVEN get that answer when measuring the output direct ...  ... ... ... or if this is just something the p-rails (and possibly other humbuckers) do because of the shared magnet (and close proximity of the coils) or ... or ...  or ...

. . . or maybe it's just peculiar to this wiring situation . . . . . . .

Anyway an hour (or two) later and quite a bit of frustration with the crummy soldering iron tip gets us . . . here . . . with a new set of super slinkies . . . not my favorite but I got them cheap . . . and I figure I'll go through a couple of sets while dealing with the next stage


The pick guard is in place and the neck is back on (check that the right screws are in the right holes . . . contoured heel . . . wouldn't want to put the long crew in the short hole and go through the fret board). One drawback of the current config with the 22 fret overhang . . . can't take off the pick guard without taking off the neck or the bridge . . . with the locking tuners it can be done without ditching a set of strings but it's a bit of a bore loosening the stings, screwing out the bridge . . . Oh well, it'll stay like this for a while ... while I figure out the rest of the electronics . . . . . The other iffy thing is that the pickups are 85 mm side to side at the height adjustment pads and the rout is . . . 85 mm side to side best as I can determine, the neck pickup didn't want to go down past a certain, rather high, point . . . first though some of the wires had caught beneath it, there ARE rather a lot in that area. But no, in the end I think it got caught on the edge of the rout as a little persuasion managed to clear the problem without anything else going obviously pear shaped . . . an 85 mm peg in an 85 mm hole doesn't have a lot of clearance . . . . 

Oh and Radioshack has 3/16 replacement tips . . . you may want to shorten them a bit for use in a Weller soldering iron but a Dremel and a cutoff wheel . . . and a grinding stone . . . did the job just fine - but remember they are HOT after that . . . yeah forgot . . . stupidity and all . . . And came away with some 0.022 and 0.010 µF caps (green poly metal film, no orange drops, but buying just 2 orange drops at mouser or digikey and paying the postage . . . yeah) so one of those can go in . . . . as soon as I find a 1000 pF for the Treble bleed . . . trying to limit the times disassembling the new baby . . .