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Frankenguitars, partscasters and other bastards
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Author Frankenguitars, partscasters and other bastards
Sinamsis
So I've recently gotten back into playing/recording guitar big time, after an almost complete hiatus for the past couple years. I've started reassessing my guitar rig, and decided to build my first guitar from parts. I decided to build a Jazzmaster with Warmoth parts. I went with Bare Knuckle Nails Bombs and I had the electronics wired custom by Rothstein guitars so that the roller pots blends between single and dual coils of the humbuckers. I LOVE it. And it made me realize that I much rather prefer building my own bastardized guitars, and putting in premium components as I choose, rather than relying on Fender to give me whatever turd they see fit. I've listed my other guitars to fund this obsession (Gretsch 5422 and Rickenbacker 360).

My next project: I bought a Fender Starcaster reissue used on Reverb for a very good price. I'm putting in a Bigsby, replacing the bridge with a roller, putting in locking tuners, and I'm having Lindy Fralin (I happen to live in Richmond) replace the electronics and the pick up with his wide range humbucker.

I also just sold a Mesa recording preamp, and I'm putting that cash towards building a Warmoth Tele Deluxe that I'll probably put high output vintage voiced Bare Knuckles like the Abraxas into.

This has kind of become a dangerous obsession for me. I'm wondering if there are other equally ill people here like me. I'm even eyeballing my eurorack case to see what I can sell off haha. I don't think it'll come to that, but I've really gotten inspired.


Jazzmaster:




Next Project:

GuyaGuy
I suppose this counts...


Intended for a 60s Fender Coronado body that I got.

Not really parts but this is a refin I did of an already refinished 60s Gretsch Rally.



Sinamsis
I don't know why, but I can't pull up those photos on Safari, Chrome or on my iPhone.
commodorejohn
It's Photobucket. They've decided to be shitty and block off-site image linking unless you pay ungodly amounts of money.
sduck
I've built 2 warmoth based strat clones. Both really nice guitar!

The first one was kind of an experiment - they had just opened their online sales back in the late 90's, and back then the in-stock part of the site was just seconds and blemished parts that were priced really low. So I bought a neck and a body for ridiculously low prices by their current standards - I think the body was 135$ and the neck 98$ or similar. Originally I had some lace pickups in there, but switched it out to a EMG David Gilmour set up, which is fantastic.

The other one I decided to go all out - really get what I wanted, damn the prices. It still wasn't too bad. Mahagony body and neck back, selected quilt maple top, the real deal expensive ebony fingerboard, tall gold colored fret wire, dimarzio pickups. And it ended up amazing - sustains like you wouldn't believe, and if you've ever tried a real ebony fingerboard, it's the best feeling thing out there.



GuyaGuy
commodorejohn wrote:
It's Photobucket. They've decided to be shitty and block off-site image linking unless you pay ungodly amounts of money.

Ugh. Forgot about that. I've uploaded ransom-free pics.
Sinamsis
GuyaGuy wrote:
I suppose this counts...


Intended for a 60s Fender Coronado body that I got.

Not really parts but this is a refin I did of an already refinished 60s Gretsch Rally.






Nice! Those look fantastic! Making a 12 string is on my to do list.
smetak
I did something similar - thought about warmoth, but found a used and very price-friendly Godin Velocity for sale. Very slick neck with a nicely cut, light-weight body - very fine strat, especially for the price.

Changed everything - got Gotoh tuners (light-years away from the Grover machines on my other guitar, what a difference!), Wilkinson tremolo, etc.

For the pickups, a Bare Knuckle set with a Warpig humbucker and a pair of Irish Tour singles.

And painted it a deep, transparent blue.

In terms of $$$, couldn't have done better.
Sinamsis
sduck wrote:
I've built 2 warmoth based strat clones. Both really nice guitar!

The first one was kind of an experiment - they had just opened their online sales back in the late 90's, and back then the in-stock part of the site was just seconds and blemished parts that were priced really low. So I bought a neck and a body for ridiculously low prices by their current standards - I think the body was 135$ and the neck 98$ or similar. Originally I had some lace pickups in there, but switched it out to a EMG David Gilmour set up, which is fantastic.

The other one I decided to go all out - really get what I wanted, damn the prices. It still wasn't too bad. Mahagony body and neck back, selected quilt maple top, the real deal expensive ebony fingerboard, tall gold colored fret wire, dimarzio pickups. And it ended up amazing - sustains like you wouldn't believe, and if you've ever tried a real ebony fingerboard, it's the best feeling thing out there.





Those look great! I think I saw them in another thread. I'm guessing you like green. Haha. Those prices on the first guitar are insane! I wish. When I add up the money I spent on the Jazzmaster, it's not cheap. But to get an equivalent guitar from Fender I would've paid a lot more. And I got to pick out every last detail myself.

I've never tried an ebony fretboard. I bet it feels nice. Ha, I don't think I'm the most discerning guitar player. I have my preferences. But most of my life, I've played mediocre at best guitars.

Did you do all the electronics yourself? Did you level/crown/dress the frets?

Honestly, despite playing guitar for over 20 years, the whole process made me realize how little I know from the technical perspective. I've learned a lot about what actually makes a guitar. How wood selection and construction impacts tone. Different bridge types. The history of many guitars. I still don't know my elbows from my asshole, but I feel I've come a long ways. And I'm learning more by the day. This stuff fascinates me.
Sinamsis
smetak wrote:
I did something similar - thought about warmoth, but found a used and very price-friendly Godin Velocity for sale. Very slick neck with a nicely cut, light-weight body - very fine strat, especially for the price.

Changed everything - got Gotoh tuners (light-years away from the Grover machines on my other guitar, what a difference!), Wilkinson tremolo, etc.

For the pickups, a Bare Knuckle set with a Warpig humbucker and a pair of Irish Tour singles.

And painted it a deep, transparent blue.

In terms of $$$, couldn't have done better.


So this touches on something I have yet to come to a conclusion on.... Is it better to find a cheap, second hand guitar with good "bones" and then bastardize the hell out of it with modifications? Or is it better to start from scratch with something like Warmoth parts?

The Starcaster will be my first attempt at the former. Ha, I can tell you that I am easily going to pay more for parts than I paid for the Starcaster. From what I've ready, the reissue Starcasters are actually reasonably well built, but the electronics stink, and the humbuckers are nothing like the original wide range humbuckers. Ha, yes, I bought the guitar without even trying it out. That is a little crazy I guess, but it's worked out for me in the past haha. Maybe it's crazy to drop in more money into a guitar than it's worth. But the way I see it, all of these modifications are reversible, and if I hate it, I can keep the parts for my next build. I would be surprised though. To me, the Starcaster seems like the ideal guitar for modifying. We'll see.

I can't remember where I read it, but someone mentioned that unless it's a vintage guitar, a guitar will not likely appreciate in value as the market is relatively saturated as production runs have increased in size. That was the justification for modifying a guitar. I personally don't think it's crazy to put in some upgrades to the Starcaster since the foundation is good, and it will address the inherent short-comings of the guitar, changing it from mediocre to badass (hopefully). My Rick on the other hand.... I'm not going to touch. It's getting sold before I disrespect it. Even my Gretsch 5422. It's not a particularly expensive guitar. But it's nice as is. Maybe the pots could be swapped out. The Filtertrons are decent though. So that ones going too, rather than being bastardized.
sduck
Sinamsis wrote:

Did you do all the electronics yourself? Did you level/crown/dress the frets?


Sure, I do the electronics. But I'm a synth DIY guy, remember, so it's not a big deal for me. The older one has been through several versions of the wiring, besides the pickup change in the middle of things. The newer one is all set to have a complete redo of the wiring - switching it from a dimarzio wiring chart method to a old PRS style setup.

Both of these necks came with the frets done already - ready to play. I just had to do some slight truss rod adjustments on them once I got them strung up.
mateo
Sinamsis wrote:


love Beautiful guitar. I've been thinking about building a warmoth jazzmaster and you've inspired me!
forestcaver
Yes - enjoy building guitars, amps and pedals ! Here is a Warmoth-ish tele - Warmoth neck, Fender Japanese body, Bare Knuckle pups.... (you do need to spend the time dressing and setting up the neck - not too hard - this was my third build - previous Martin OM and a Les Paul in sycamore from scratch made the build of this guitar pretty straight forward - I'd always wanted a tele with Warmoth neck and BKs - so am happy with it :-) )
Sinamsis
sduck wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:

Did you do all the electronics yourself? Did you level/crown/dress the frets?


Sure, I do the electronics. But I'm a synth DIY guy, remember, so it's not a big deal for me. The older one has been through several versions of the wiring, besides the pickup change in the middle of things. The newer one is all set to have a complete redo of the wiring - switching it from a dimarzio wiring chart method to a old PRS style setup.

Both of these necks came with the frets done already - ready to play. I just had to do some slight truss rod adjustments on them once I got them strung up.



Awesome. I wired up the power in my eurorack case so I have a little experience soldering. But knowledge of electronics is pretty limited. I think I could follow step by step instructions, but the coil tap was a little intimidating for me. I want to start on an easier project. We'll see if I ever work up the courage. Haha. I actually have a buddy in town who is a little better versed in these things and I may enlist his services in the future. I certainly envy your knowledge. Can you recommend any good resources to read up on this sort of stuff?
Sinamsis
mateo wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:


love Beautiful guitar. I've been thinking about building a warmoth jazzmaster and you've inspired me!



Thanks so much! I really like it. I made the mistake of taking it to a big box retailers for a set up because it was nearby. I'm not really happy with the work. I think he dressed the frets but didn't level them. I'm getting some occasional buzzing on the 9th fret of the low E, which seems weird to me with a Mastery bridge. So I'm going to take it to a real luthier to have it looked at. But it really does sound great. The coil tap mod gives it such versatility in terms of tones. The Nail Bombs are really responsive to rolling back the volume. I generally play it at about 8.5 or 9/10. At fully open they break up slightly. I like some gentle dirt in my "clean" signal. I've played it mostly in standard tuning and dadgad. It has become my favorite guitar, and has inspired me to turn over my whole guitar collection.
phase ghost
Sinamsis wrote:

So this touches on something I have yet to come to a conclusion on.... Is it better to find a cheap, second hand guitar with good "bones" and then bastardize the hell out of it with modifications? Or is it better to start from scratch with something like Warmoth parts?


This is a great point, and something I've also considered. Eventually, I'd like to put together a dual humbucker strat. Originally, I considered the Warmoth route, but would a MIM HH Strat with better pickups make more sense?

Warmoth VS American Strat? No question, I'd go with the Warmoth. Warmoth vs MIM w/ better pickups. I don't know, that's tough. Visually, the Warmoth would most likely win. But, they'll be a premium paid for that.

*** Edit: Awesome fuckin' guitar, btw! I don't know how you guys play with the pickup selector in that position though. I'd be switching pickups on every strum!
Sinamsis
So i don't know much about MIM strats, but I had a MIM Tele years ago and I really liked it. I always regretted selling it. Electronics might also be worth upgrading. I don't know specifically about MIM guitars, but I feel like if short cuts are taken, they are often with the wiring, pots, etc. The real perk of Warmoth is building a guitar that is exactly to your specifications, down to the very last detail. The other thing you might consider is buying a body off Reverb, eBay, Stratosphere, whatever. American made Fender bodies can be found for relatively cheap. Then you can drop in whatever you want. And you could get a Warmoth neck. Shopping from the already manufactured inventory on Warmoth can save some cash.

Thanks! Regarding the PUP selector, it actually moves from neck to bridge orientation, rather than the direction of a strum, so it shouldn't be a big issue. But I'm not really a crazy strummer. Haha.

To be honest, I spent days and days researching about the guitar I wanted. I had a pretty specific vision, but I just couldn't find it. I wanted a Jazzmaster with humbuckers, and I wanted them coil tapped like the Jaguar HH I used to own. I wanted to try higher gain PUPs that weren't active. Aesthetically I had a pretty clear vision, and I just knew that wasn't going to happen. I thought about the Troy Van Leeuwen JM, but it wasn't quite right, and I didn't really care for the aesthetics. I'm really pleased with how it came out, and really it's been the inspiration to go further down the rabbit hole haha.
sduck
Sinamsis wrote:
sduck wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:

Did you do all the electronics yourself? Did you level/crown/dress the frets?


Sure, I do the electronics. But I'm a synth DIY guy, remember, so it's not a big deal for me. The older one has been through several versions of the wiring, besides the pickup change in the middle of things. The newer one is all set to have a complete redo of the wiring - switching it from a dimarzio wiring chart method to a old PRS style setup.

Both of these necks came with the frets done already - ready to play. I just had to do some slight truss rod adjustments on them once I got them strung up.



Awesome. I wired up the power in my eurorack case so I have a little experience soldering. But knowledge of electronics is pretty limited. I think I could follow step by step instructions, but the coil tap was a little intimidating for me. I want to start on an easier project. We'll see if I ever work up the courage. Haha. I actually have a buddy in town who is a little better versed in these things and I may enlist his services in the future. I certainly envy your knowledge. Can you recommend any good resources to read up on this sort of stuff?


Hmmm, I'm sure there are some good resources out there. Certainly some good youtube type things on wiring. Although lots of first hand experience is kind of crucial - knowing how to strip wires in your sleep, how to successfully solder things right the first time, things like that. Knowing that soldering the ground wires to the pots is tricky because they're huge heat sinks. Grounding everything after shielding, except those parts that aren't supposed to be grounded. Etc.
Sinamsis
sduck wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:
sduck wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:

Did you do all the electronics yourself? Did you level/crown/dress the frets?


Sure, I do the electronics. But I'm a synth DIY guy, remember, so it's not a big deal for me. The older one has been through several versions of the wiring, besides the pickup change in the middle of things. The newer one is all set to have a complete redo of the wiring - switching it from a dimarzio wiring chart method to a old PRS style setup.

Both of these necks came with the frets done already - ready to play. I just had to do some slight truss rod adjustments on them once I got them strung up.



Awesome. I wired up the power in my eurorack case so I have a little experience soldering. But knowledge of electronics is pretty limited. I think I could follow step by step instructions, but the coil tap was a little intimidating for me. I want to start on an easier project. We'll see if I ever work up the courage. Haha. I actually have a buddy in town who is a little better versed in these things and I may enlist his services in the future. I certainly envy your knowledge. Can you recommend any good resources to read up on this sort of stuff?


Hmmm, I'm sure there are some good resources out there. Certainly some good youtube type things on wiring. Although lots of first hand experience is kind of crucial - knowing how to strip wires in your sleep, how to successfully solder things right the first time, things like that. Knowing that soldering the ground wires to the pots is tricky because they're huge heat sinks. Grounding everything after shielding, except those parts that aren't supposed to be grounded. Etc.


Ha so it sounds like I should do a couple with my buddy to learn the ropes before I cause some irreversible damage.

Even reading up on things I once considered trivial like bridge saddles has taught me a lot. Ha it seems to be just as much about the process as it is the end product for me.
numan7
Rockin' Banana! sweet guitar, Sinamis - i'll bet it sounds amazing through the showmaster!

i keep thinking about getting a squier j-mascis jm, upgrading its components, painting its headstock to match the body and giving it black pickup covers and pickguard.

i'll probably go with seymour duncan 'antiquity' alnico-ii pickups if i do (although i can definitely see the appeal of humbuckers). i was thinking of going with stay-trem. but that black mastery hardware looks so exquisitely nice on yours that i just may have to reconsider.


cheers
Sinamsis
numan7 wrote:
Rockin' Banana! sweet guitar, Sinamis - i'll bet it sounds amazing through the showmaster!

i keep thinking about getting a squier j-mascis jm, upgrading its components, painting its headstock to match the body and giving it black pickup covers and pickguard.

i'll probably go with seymour duncan 'antiquity' alnico-ii pickups if i do (although i can definitely see the appeal of humbuckers). i was thinking of going with stay-trem. but that black mastery hardware looks so exquisitely nice on yours that i just may have to reconsider.


cheers


Thanks so much! Yeah, the Showmaster makes everything sound better. Haha. I snagged a Rockerverb 50 in a trade as well, which does a nice clean. But the sparkle of the Showmaster is something else. Sadly I can't run it through the cabinet because of our newborn. So I have it going into a load box and then into the computer where I'm using some cab sims. It actually sounds pretty good to my ears. But yeah, the JM sounds really nice through it.

I've always been tempted by the J Mascis JM but I was always turned off by the fact it was a Squier. Ha, now I don't even know if that means anything. I used to be a big Dinosaur Jr fan btw.

The Mastery bridge/trem are nice. They were pretty pricey but well worth it I think. I initially wished I could've gotten them in all black, but I do like the little bit of chrome here and there.

Ha, it's funny you should mention painting the headstock. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I think I've come to the conclusion that I just like a plain maple neck on my Fender style guitars. The JMs with the painted headstocks look nice. A little binding on the neck looks nice too. But I'm happy with the simplicity of mine.
Sinamsis
The Starcaster arrived today. I switched out the bridge for a roller bridge, and installed a Bigsby. Also installed locking tuners. I briefly played it before I started tweaking it. It plays great, and unplugged sounds very good. I can say with confidence that I'm going to switch out the pups and electronics. The humbuckers sound pretty muddy to me.





Savage
Here is my beloved partscaster...



Sorry I got the shadow of my head in the picture. I was originally going for a Tele like Roy Buchanan's '53 that he called "Nancy". It turned out more like a '50 Broadcaster since it has no skunk stripe, and it's a little darker than "Nancy". Putting it together was a cinch. It was the butterscotch color that took weeks to get right. I started out with shellac that had six times the yellow analine stain I should've used, and each of the early coats made it seriously yellow! So I thought to myself, "What makes a guitar turn dark with age?" And I thought of people playing guitar back in the old days in bars thick with cigarette smoke. (I have a 1957 triple-neck non-pedal steel guitar that I thought was off-white until I cleaned off all of the nicotine and saw it was snow white!) So I took the tobacco from a cigarette and soaked it in mineral spirits overnight, and I strained it through a coffee filter yielding a dark brown liquid that I mixed into the yellow shellac. From that point on, every coat turned the color of the guitar to a deeper, richer butterscotch color. After eighteen (18) coats of this butterscotch shellac, I put three coats of varnish on it so I wouldn't absorb a Marlboro through my hands when I played it. I had it sitting in the case while setting up for a gig, and when a guy saw it, he asked, "Hoe old is that guitar?" My youngest brother, the drummer, just grinned and said, "Go ahead a tell him..." At the time, it was about a year and a half old, but he thought it was a 1950's model. I then believed I had achieved what I wanted as far as color was concerned. The lousy photo makes it look darker than it actually is, but it is probably just a little darker than Roy's "Nancy".

The body is swamp ash, and the neck is a highly figured birds-eye maple. The neck required no shimming at all, and because the fingerboard is a separate piece of wood, the truss rod was put in from the top. So no skunk stripe was needed on the back, thus the Broadcaster look. The machines are Mini-Grovers and work beautifully, and I radically deviated from the Broadcaster design and put two 'modern' string trees on it because I'm prone to serious string-bending. The bridge is also deviant in that it's a six-piece rather than a three-piece. I have an 'ashtray' bridge cover that I actually use from time to time. When I play jazz or classical, I sometimes don't want to do any bridge muting at all. But I'm so used to muting on the bridge, the ashtray keeps me from accidentally doing so. I carved the nut from a blank piece of bone. The pickguard is a matte-finish 5-hole. I thought about wiring it like an original, but I went 'modern' on so much stuff already that I chickened out and wired it 'modern'. No fancy 'orange' or 'bumblebee' caps, just a plain old film capacitor. I don't remember the value, I think it's a .022, but it rolls off nicely without being just an on/off tone control, though I rarely use it.

The neck pickup came from an old blues musician's guitar when he wanted to replace his neck pickup, and I got what came out of his guitar. (I know the blues musician's name, but I don't want to use it without his permission.) I had a brand-new third-party neck pickup, but I thought, "New after-market pickup? Or old funky Fender pickup?" So I went old funky Fender. After all, I could always switch it if I didn't like it, right? Besides, maybe some of that guy's mojo might still be lingering in the wiring, and never underestimate the power of mojo! The Fender had a dent in it, so I switched the covers out. I don't have a clue what he didn't like about it because it has great tone and output. I guess he just wanted something different. (Or maybe it was the dent...) The bridge pickup is a Schaller that they quit making in the mid-1990's. It has even poles that have a kind of engine-turned look, and it's pretty hot but can still play clean. The two pickups are 'out of phase' so the middle switch position gets a little of a Strat notch sound.

I can raise the action on it and it plays jazz beautifully. Lower the action a little, and it turns into Jimmy Page's 'Dragon'. Slam the action down as far as it'll go, and it cuts like a razor. I've played just about everything on this guitar, and it handled it beautifully. The only person that didn't like it was a Les Paul fanatic who hated Telecasters. He thought mine was the "ultimate Telecaster", and he hated it more than any other Tele he'd seen. In those days, I was playing in a country music group, so the action was in cut-like-a-razor mode, and I could see why he hated it. So I considered his hatred a 'good thing'.

I have over twenty guitars, and this is definitely one of my favorites. But then, I built it the way I wanted it, so it should be a favorite! It's in mid-action Jimmy-Page's-Dragon mode these days, and I was just playing it last night after violin practice. It's coming up on its twentieth birthday next year, and maybe I'll buy it a bottle of Dom.
Sinamsis
That's a beaut. I really love the look of a butterscotch tele.
smetak
Savage wrote:

Sorry I got the shadow of my head in the picture. I was originally going for a Tele like Roy Buchanan's '53 that he called "Nancy". It turned out more like a '50 Broadcaster since it has no skunk stripe, and it's a little darker than "Nancy". Putting it together was a cinch. It was the butterscotch color that took weeks to get right. I started out with shellac that had six times the yellow analine stain I should've used, and each of the early coats made it seriously yellow! So I thought to myself, "What makes a guitar turn dark with age?" And I thought of people playing guitar back in the old days in bars thick with cigarette smoke. (I have a 1957 triple-neck non-pedal steel guitar that I thought was off-white until I cleaned off all of the nicotine and saw it was snow white!) So I took the tobacco from a cigarette and soaked it in mineral spirits overnight, and I strained it through a coffee filter yielding a dark brown liquid that I mixed into the yellow shellac. From that point on, every coat turned the color of the guitar to a deeper, richer butterscotch color. After eighteen (18) coats of this butterscotch shellac, I put three coats of varnish on it so I wouldn't absorb a Marlboro through my hands when I played it. I had it sitting in the case while setting up for a gig, and when a guy saw it, he asked, "Hoe old is that guitar?" My youngest brother, the drummer, just grinned and said, "Go ahead a tell him..." At the time, it was about a year and a half old, but he thought it was a 1950's model. I then believed I had achieved what I wanted as far as color was concerned. The lousy photo makes it look darker than it actually is, but it is probably just a little darker than Roy's "Nancy".


Man, just reading on how you were able to achieve the colour tone made my head spin!!! Amazing!

I gave mine to a friend, who is a profissional luthier, to get a translucent blue that ended up coming out dark as hell, far from what I wanted. I can't begin to imagine doing anything near to what you have done!
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