Friday, February 25, 2011

My Latest Strat Copy Is Finished!

Compared to my other electric guitar builds, this one was a piece-o-cake. After adding a treble bleed circuit to the volume pot, I soldered the pickup's leads into place and bolted everything together. Check it out:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

eBay Here I Come!

Over the years, I've purchased a lot of guitar parts and wood on eBay. Not because I want to save money necessarily, but because I can find stuff there that I can't find anywhere else.

Today, I took my eBay experience a little further by listing three of my guitars for sale.

The Highline Special

The Highline Legato

The Highline Tomahawk

I was hoping to sell these guitars through my Highline Handmade Electric Guitars and Pickups site, but the weak economy coupled with a lack of familiarity with my product hasn't moved them off the wall just yet. I have all sorts of new designs I want to build, but I gotta make room first. So like the car dealer on TV says, "We're slashing prices like never before!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finishing With Water-Based Lacquer

There are a couple of notable differences between water-based and nitrocellulose lacquer as far as how they are sprayed and how they dries. Nitro starts to tack up the instant it leaves the spray gun or can and it's usually dry to the touch within 10 to 15 minutes. This characteristic makes it easier to avoid runs, but often results in orange peel if the sprayer is held too far back from the surface. Of course, if you spray too close, runs can and will happen. You have to find a happy medium in terms of far away and how fast you sweep the surface as you spray.

Water-based lacquer, on the other hand, seems to stay wet no matter how far back from the surface you spray. In fact, each coat takes about 30 minutes to an hour to dry. For that reason one needs to be aware of airborne particulates like dust. You don't need a spray booth (although if you have access to one, certainly use it), but it helps to move the guitar into an enclosed space like a closet right after you spray where it can hang to dry.

Like nitro, water-based lacquer also exhibits orange peel. My experience, and what others have told me, is that this is par for the course with WB lacquer. The difference is that WB lacquer's texture is more like an orange peel than nitro. Nitro feels more like 80 grit sandpaper. The good news is that you can sand out the orange peel from WB lacquer very easily. In fact, I usually start with 800 grit rather than 400-600 like I do with nitro. This means wet sanding takes far less time with WB lacquer.

A close-up of the orange peel texture common with water-based lacquer.

The biggest difference (and the reason why I love WB lacquer) is the curing time. Nitro take about 3 weeks to cure before you can level sand, however, WB lacquer takes only about a week. It cures even faster in dry climates like I live in.

Buffing out the finish to a mirror-like shine is also where WB and nitro differ. With nitro, I really have to push the surface into the buffing wheel to remove the scratches left by the final 2,000 grit sanding whereas with WB, I only have to lightly touch the surface to the wheel.

One might assume that since WB lacquer is so easy to sand and buff that it must be less durable than nitro. However, according to the manufacturer I use (Target Coatings), WB lacquer is much harder than nitro. I have a couple of guitars hanging on my wall right now that bear this out.

When you consider other differences like how flammable and toxic nitro is (it's illegal in some places to use), water-based lacquer and its lack of fumes and easy clean-up make it a no brainer IMO. I still dream of the day when a lacquer will become available that dries to a mirror-like finish right out of the gun without any wet sanding or buffing, but until the chemists can make it a reality, I'll have to keep the wet/dry sandpaper and buffing compound at the ready.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sink That Floyd Rose!

I received a question today about recessing a Floyd Rose tremolo bridge into the body of an electric guitar. Specifically, how thick should the body be? That's a good question since lowering the bridge would place the bottom of the tremolo block almost outside the back of the body depending on its thickness. In my experience, a 1-3/4" thick body will work as long as you back out the studs and increase the spring tension.

In fig.1 below, the bridge is level and recessed into a 1-3/4" thick body. As you can see, the bridge block extends out the back of the body. Not good! In fig. 2, the front of the bridge is raised up out of the body by backing out the studs. The rear of the bridge is pulled down into the body by tightening the claw, which increases spring tension.

If you want to keep the bridge level and recessed, a thicker body would be needed. Plan on 1-7/8" to 2" thick. Keep in mind that if you go this route, string action may end up too low. To prevent the stings from touching the frets or the tops of your pickups, you'll likely have to raise the front of the bridge and/or add some shims under the saddles.

I recommend sticking with a 1-3/4" thick body and setting up the bridge like fig. 2.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Progress On My Tom Delonge Stratocaster Copy

Check out the Highline logo I "inlayed" on the headstock. First I transferred the design to the headstock. Next I used my flex shaft tool and a tiny engraving bit to carve out the logo. Then I filled the area with some slow setting epoxy mixed with the same Surf Green lacquer I used to paint the body. After the epoxy had dried, I sanded away the excess and outlined the letters with black paint. Now I have to wait for the Seymour Duncan Invader pickup to arrive so I can finish this baby off. Should make a nice graduation gift for my son!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Surf Green Tom Delonge Stratocaster Copy

After carving the body out of a slab of Alder, I sprayed on 15 coats of ReRanch Surf Green lacquer. My original plan was to wet sand the surface smooth, but I really like the subtle orange peel texture. It may get dirty faster, but that'll just add to the guitar's mojo. Wait until you see the cool headstock logo I did.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Highline Single Cut Plan Is Now Available!

If you've always wanted to try your hand at a single cut, carved top electric guitar project, now you can. The design was inspired by the classic shape of a Les Paul, but with a tweak or two to make it unique. The cool thing is you can build it either as a flat top, or if you feel ready for the challenge, a carve top. The side view in the plan shows the carve top's profile, but you'll need some woodworking skills to generate the shape. A while back I posted an article here that explains how I make a carve top. Another cool feature is the wiring schematic. It's based around a master push/pull pot that's wired to coil tap both humbuckers.

As I write this post, I'm spraying my own version of the Highline Single Cut with multiple coats of clear lacquer. So far, it's looking pretty badass! Check out my tumblr blog for Highline Handmade Electric Guitars and Pickups for my progress on this build so far. And yes, it will be for sale once it's finished! ;-)

How About A Forum On eGuitar Plans Web Site?

I was thinking of adding a forum on the eGuitar Plans web site as a place where luthiers of all levels could share experiences and help educate anyone interested in building electric guitars. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Idea For An Electric Ukulele

The other day I was sifting through my scrap wood pile and found a couple of thick slabs of Mahogany that are too small to use for an electric guitar body. Not wanting to let this nice wood go to waste, I've decided to try my hand at building an electric ukulele. I thought about an electric mandolin, but ukuleles are so popular right now. I've done a rough drawing based on my Highline Single Cut body. Who knows, I may add this plan to my order page.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Highline Single Cut Guitar Plan Is Almost Ready

I've taken advantage of the cold weather by finishing the Highline Single Cut electric guitar plan. I hope to have it ready for purchase on the eGuitar Plans order page in about a week. Before the temperatures dropped, I was able to apply the stain and spray on a black and purple burst effect. To check out my progress, visit the Highline Guitar's web site and click on the tumblr logo at the bottom of the home page.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Super Easy Series Of Guitar Plans Is Now Available

Whew! It took a lot of work, but the new Super Easy Series guitar plans are now available on the eGuitar Plans order page. Right now there are two designs available with more in the works.

The idea behind the Super Easy Series is to help simplify construction of your guitar by developing a design for just a body that will incorporate a Stratocaster-style, bolt-on replacement neck. After all, it's the neck that gives most potential builders fits. You need specific skills and experience as well as a bunch of specialized tools to fabricate a neck and fretboard. With the Super Easy Series, all you have to do is make the body, bolt on a prefab neck, wire it up and plug it in to your amp.

So check out the new designs and let me know what you think.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Coming Soon: The Super Easy Series Of Electric Guitar Plans

It's taking quite a bit of time to get everything for the Super Easy Series together, but I hope to have two different body shape plans ready for purchase in the next few days. Each guitar shape will be available with either a hardtail, a standard tremolo or a Floyd Rose tremolo. You'll also be able to choose from a variety of pickup configurations.

The drawings are done, but I have to set up the web pages on my eGuitar Plans site. As it turns out, with all of the options, there are 15 ways you can order each plan. For two different guitar bodies, that means 30 choices. Plus, each plan will come with three files; a full size, a tiled letter and a tiled A4.

As you might imagine, this is going to take a little time to organize and push live. Hopefully early next week.

Oh, and the price for one of my Super Easy Series plans? $5. About the cost of a magazine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Check Out Brian's Axes

Brian from Racine, WI sent me a couple photos of his two builds. The red one is a modified Kramer design and the blue one is his own creation. Pretty f**king awesome if you ask me. Love the blue finish. He told me the body is Mahogany and with those EMGs, I'll bet it sounds unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

That Pesky Virus Warning

If you're getting a virus warning when you visit my eGuitar Plans web site, clear out your browser's cache. A while back, my Wordpress blog was hacked, which resulted in the warning. Fortunately, the site was cleared by Google after I removed the old blog. Unfortunately, if you haven't cleared your cache lately, the warning will still appear.

A Revised Plan For The Super Easy Series

Based on the comments and emails I have received regarding my idea for the Super Easy Series, I've decided to tweak the plans and do what I do (and enjoy) best; wild looking designs. Single and double cuts are cool for sure, but most of my customers want designs that are unique. I may still offer the single and the double as a conservative option, but we'll see. In the meantime, I have spent hours and hours refining the shapes of the guitars I want to offer in the Super Easy Series. Right now I'm leaning toward a variation on the Vizagoth and the Icarus. Stay tuned!