The scary bits of my guitar

After what seemed like an eternity, all the bits and pieces finally arrived. Unfortunately the company I ordered from forgot to pack one of the key bits, but it could be sourced locally so only had to wait a couple of days for that last bit (the nut).

My guitar’s neck

One of the interesting things about the neck is that the frets had been fitted before the final coats of paint had been put on, so the frets have paint… some of which is chipping off. I was told this was often fixed with steel wool, but after trying that decided that I was also probably filing the frets down too. So I cleaned off the worst of it and just left it as is. I’m pretty sure it will come off whilst being played, anyway.

Tuners, bridge, strings, and some other bits and pieces

I had been waiting for all the bits before doing final painting, mostly because I needed to screw everything in and I figured drilling a finished body would be far more stressful than one that I could easily touch up. I decided it would be a bad idea to drill in the pickguard (with pickups) until I had the neck, tuners and bridge screwed in, since otherwise the strings might not align under the pickups (this is important, misplaced strings = bad sound).

The neck I had was mostly finished: I needed to fit the tuners, fit the nut, and drill some holes so it fitted into the body. This is not as straight forward as it sounds. The nut was too wide for the slot in the neck, so I had to sand it down in all directions until it fitted into the slot at the top. I was going to glue it down with proper glue, but decided hot glue might be a safer bet if it needed to be removed later.

The tuners were… harder. The holes that had been predrilled in the neck weren’t quite large enough to fit the bushings for the tuners, so I had to file them out. I had ordered a reamer from TradeMe to do this, but it was taking forever to arrive, so ended up buying a bastard file from Mitre 10. Patience is not my strong suit when it comes to toys. Each hole had to be carefully filed out, without being made oval, or chipping the finish. This meant LOTS of masking tape, and I still managed to chip the finish on at least two of the holes. Fortunately, I had filed from the front and chipped on the back, so the stuff-ups were conveniently covered with the tuners later on.

Bushing on the left. This is the general concept — file in hole.
In the sun with the file and the neck, more tape was added before any filing was done.

Once the holes were filed out I had to squish a bushing into them. The bushings were supposed to be tight — so I only filed out the holes enough that I could easily get them in about halfway. Pliers were used to put them completely in. I wrapped the head in a towel so the pliers wouldn’t crunch and ruin the finish: this turned out to be a bad plan because the towel fluff caught in the bushings as I pushed them in. There’s probably still some fluff in there.

Bushings in.

After the bushings were fitted, the tuners are dropped through from the other side, screw holes marked, tuners removed, screw holes drilled, tuners replaced and screwed in. The hard part is getting the tuners straight. Even though the pegs fit through the tuners and can’t move, they can rotate in the hole. So, I held a ruler hard against the tuners as I marked the holes to ensure they were in the right position. Also, the holes weren’t marked with a sharpie: I used a drill bit to start the holes, just gently rotating it by hand.

Drilling the holes was stressful too: I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to go through to the other side of the neck. The Internet showed me that I could put some tape on the drill bit to match the depth of the screw, and to not drill past the tape. This worked like magic.

Drilling with tape. Note the chip from filing out the second hole. Not cutey cutey.
Completed drilling.

Once the holes were drilled, I screwed the tuners in — again holding a ruler to the side to make sure everything lined up. It did. I am so happy with the result. It’s the bit I’m most proud of so far.

Tuners from front (nut in too).
Tuners from back. Just… gorgeous.

And now, a non-pictorial update…

Because the parts took so long, I haven’t been able to paint the guitar with it’s final colour coat, and clear coats… because I was waiting to line everything up. Now I didn’t actually take photos of this bit, but after getting the tuners in, I screwed the bridge in gently, clamped the neck in gently, and put the two outside (E) strings on the guitar. I didn’t put the strings under tension — which turned out to be a mistake because the alignment could have been better — but lined up the pickguard (with pickups) under the strings and then marked and drilled out the holes for that. Plus all the other holes for the backplate, strap locks and so on.

Then… the scary bit — drilling the holes in the neck to bolt it to the body. It was scary because it turned out the alignment of the pocket wasn’t very good, and so had I bolted it in without the strings in alignment the low E string would have been off the side of the neck! The thing would have been completely unplayable. Fortunately I put the strings under tension, realised what was happening, and tilted the neck into the correct alignment before tightening the clamp. I did mark the back of the neck slightly with the clamp, but I’m ok with this because it will be covered with a neck plate. I’m not convinced I got the holes quite right, but the strings look to line up pretty well so let’s hope they stay that way after the painting is finished.

Speaking of which… the final colour coat is on (yay!). Not 100% perfect but 99.95% so pretty darn close (I found a little dot of primer when I put the first clear coat on).

Final colour coat, post sanding.

I have also put on a layer of clear coat, but I didn’t realise the clear coat wasn’t nearly as thick (read: it’s runny) and so after spraying the front and turning the guitar around, discovered paint running down the back. it doesn’t mark as badly as colour coat does, but still, those runs will have to be sanded out. I also need to be far more patient with the coats — lighter coats with gaps in between to make sure it’s tacky rather than runny for the later coats.

I also changed the painting rig for the last colour coat — using some zip tied/duct taped coat hangers (and a broom) as a holder. The nice thing is I can move the guitar safely inside when I’m done, without risking dropping it or picking up dust on the way.

Smart, eh?

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