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seamusoc

First Build Thread- Strat Copy (What else?)

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So I finished the Leaving Cert exams yesterday, and to celebrate I've decided to finally start building my own guitar. At the minute it's going to have a blue Swamp ash body, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard, abalone dots and black hardware, although that could all change because it'll probably take me months to build and I'll have changed my mind a dozen times within that time scale.

Using an 'Encore' Strat copy that I have disassembled, I started building the templates from it this morning. I've always believed that the best way to learn is to just dive in head first and pray that someone saves you from drowning, so I decided that I might start documenting my work and put it up here in case I do something disastrously wrong. Seeing as it's a first build, I'd love to just get advice from all you good people on how to improve. After around two hours work I've already learned a thing or two, which might come in handy to someone else.

I tried just stenciling around the body to begin with, which as you can all probably guess was disastrous. I started again with center lines this time, and after robbing some digital calipers off my brother, started to get some measurements to work with instead. I started with the neck, which was relatively straightforward, except for the heel. The neck goes from 56mm wide at the base to 43mm at the nut. Does the slight taper on the heel stop the neck pulling out of the body and keep it sitting in properly? I was thinking of starting the taper at the end of the heel- 56mm wide at the base, 56mm at the point the heel leaves the body, and then a taper to 43mm at the nut. I thought this might make it easier to get a tight fit at every place on the heel, and to keep the neck aligned as well. I'm assuming the neck is tapered at the heel for a reason, could anyone shed some light as to why for me?

I then moved onto the body, which was a learning experience. Drawing out the cavities was easy enough, but instead of drawing out the curve at the end of the pickup cavity freehand, I wanted to get it perfect. The curve wasn't a perfect semi-circle but a segment of a circle, so I couldn't just measure the diameter to get the radius. So I worked out a nice little formula to find the radius, from the width of the curve and the height. If anyone ever wants to copy a symmetrical curve here's how to work it out (excuse my handwriting): PIC I can even prove that it's true for a small fee :D

The other thing I had a problem working out is how to copy the cavity for the jack socket. It would have been a lot of effort to use measurements from the center line like I had for the cavities, so I had to find another way of doing it. Folding a piece of paper a couple of times and taping it at the side, I made myself a stiff piece of white paper. I then got a pencil lead refill for a mechanical pencil that broke two years ago (which I knew I would find a use for eventually), I rubbed the lead all along the edge of the jack cavity, placed the paper over it and rubbed it with my finger. The lead stuck to the paper and the outline appeared on the page clear as day. This is how it turned out here. Then all I had to do was cut the shape out, find out where I wanted the jack to be and draw around it.

I thought I'd share those two little tricks I learned today in case they'd help someone, although I'd say a lot of people have probably been doing them for while. I'm going to head out and play around with the body and headstock design for a while, in the meantime someone might be able to explain to me if it is important to have a slight taper on the heel of the neck where it bolts on, or if it will make any difference once the neck is screwed down and the strings are on?

I'm looking forward to building this now :wOOt

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I'm looking forward to it also! Haven't seen a Strat build for a while. This is sort of the reason why I decided to make a very old-school Fender style instrument myself. They're totally the easiest things to build because of their 2D nature.

Are you meaning a taper as in a neck angle? For normal Strat hardware, no. 100% flat. Adding in a Floyd Rose can require a neck angle or shims though.

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By taper I mean the way the neck naturally gets thinner as it approaches the nut. I'm not sure how to describe it, you might see what I mean from this. The neck on the Encore is naturally thinner at the nut and wider at the heel, but the end of the heel nearest the bridge is the widest point of the neck, making a taper along the entire neck (like the bottom one in the picture). I was thinking of making the entire heel the same width and then starting a taper from where the neck leaves the pocket (like the top one in the picture). It would mean that when the neck isn't screwed down it could slide out, but it would be easier to shape the neck pocket.

Basically in the guitar I'm building the template off, the neck pocket (and neck) is slightly wider at the end closest to the bridge, and I'm not sure if it would be better to make the neck pocket the same width at every point instead.

Yeah, a Strat seems to be the easiest thing to build technically (except a Tele), but it's kind of challenging to do something different with it. The Strat has to be the most popular guitar design, so it's making me think harder as to how to make my one unique :)

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The neck taper is normally constant all the way from nut to heel, requiring the pocket to have a matching taper. The neck is unlikely to fall out if there is no pocket taper - don't forget the strings want to pull the neck towards the body, not push it away. It's the screws that will do most of the work in keeping the neck secure.

Making a pocket taper that matches the neck is easier than you think - a bunch of clamps and a few straight, flat pieces of timber or plastic. I use a method similar to this. Example build thread It'd be far more work making a neck with taper all the way to the body and incorporating a transition to zero taper for the final neck/body join.

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yea, the reason for the tapering of the neck pocket is probably just the fact that its simpler to make a neck with straight sides..

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Ah yes, I see what you mean. Neck taper, sure. Some necks taper more than others, for example a 6-string bass might have a much wider string spacing at the bridge than at the nut. On the other hand. the 80s Aria Pro II SB-1000 4-string bass (a favourite of mine) had very little taper.

String spacing at the nut and bridge are a personal choice. The neck taper just follows the outer strings in a straight line. When I design a neck, I draw the strings first and then use that to calculate the exact fingerboard and neck tapers.

Sounds overly simplistic to put it in these terms, but a stretched string wants to be straight.

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