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Not a typo - seems like I should have dichrocaster in quotations, but I put "build" in quotations because my Strat mod is not worthy of the title compared to the awesome real builds I've seen by most of you (still perusing through all your cool projects).   I am truly impressed by what I have seen here, and blown away by the level of craftsmanship.  Thats coming from a guy that majored in WW / Furniture Design at RIT back in 86 with furniture in FWW magazine's Design Book Six, so I know a thing or two about fine woodworking (just not luthiery yet).  

"build" also in lower case, because my goal is to cosmetically makeover some guitars in rather short time frames, so I am intentionally cutting some corners (literally, freehand with my tablesaw) for production effiicency, so some of the craftsmanship is a bit poor by my standards, as this is my first full guitar modification, so consider that issue when criticizing, but please PLEASE criticize - I need all the knowledge I can get.  I have only been interested in guitars for less than two months when it hit me that these new color-changing dichroic laminates would look cool on guitars, coupled with the incredible timing in which you can now get Floyd Rose bridges in the new rainbow chrome PVD plating.     

So now to explain "Dichrocaster".   "Dichro" is short for dichroic, which means di = two, and chro= color, a term / adjective for "color-changing" which is most commonly used as dichroic glass, Google dichroic glass and you will understand.  Few  are aware of the newer pigments now that are actually micro platelets of dichroic glass.  These pigments are the same as used in the $5000.00 per gallon Chromalusion (DuPont) and Mystic (BASF) paints.  What is super cool is I have recently found suppliers of raw borosilicate pigments with the same color shifting effects for a fraction of the said pre-mixed brands, and am using them in these strat mods (the "Dune" face acrylic).  I am also using another laminate for inlays that utilizes dichroic films in the optical core, which complements the rainbow Floyd Rose and the Dune perfectly (not explaining that stuff in too much detail for fear that this post might be removed as a veiled ad attempt - this post is so I can gain knowledge and ideas from this community).

So now details on this mod.  Got a cheapo squire with sound body and neck, and took it to the dado blade to remove 5/16" from the face and bevel to be replaced with the 5/16" back coated "Dune" acrylic.  Edges chipped pretty bad (didn't realize how thick the PE fill coat was), so next time I will pre-score the edge, but its gonna get body filler and urethane sealant anyway.  

I drilled the Floyd Rose stud holes first, then routed its mortice to a depth of 3/16" prior, then routed the 5/16" around it,  Then re-inforced the short grain in front of the studs with oak pcs epoxied cross grain in the bridge pup cavity - will show pics if interested.

I mounted the humbucker just for the photo below, but am curious from all of you why the screws were so long?  I needed to cut nearly a half inch off them, and they still will be able to be adjusted plenty.  The Dune acrylic face and the red inlay material all cut great with the laser, and I plan to carry the triangular "exhaust plume" deltas up through the neck in place of the pearl dots.  Then will ebonize the rosewood.  Planning to reshape the headstock and spray it with the same pigments as the body.  

I recently hired a young guitar tech to work for me in my other work, and we are doing this project together.  He (Sean) has been super helpful and we are learning a ton from each other, but curious what kind of can of worms I am opening by posting this (referring to inevitable comments like "you just ruined the tone by routing off the face and gluing in acrylic" type of comments - which I would welcome anyway.  My goal is not to create a great sounding guitar (will do my best in that arena), but to create an insane visual feast.     

  

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Here's the neck inlay lasering process.  I drew it out in CAD, then cut a test pc in mylar film to check accuracy, made minor adjustments, then used the film to position the neck perfectly.  The Laser then cut the oulines "perfectly" to where I wanted it.  However, I centered the template onto the fret dots, and after it was done, they were all off center - shifted to right by at least 1/32".  The chinese inlayed the fret dots wrong.  Should have known not to use a squire, but didnt have the $ for American.  

The laser could, theroretically engrave the inlay mortices, but it would have taken forever, and they would not have been parallel planed to the radius anyway, so my plan is to route inside the cut lines. Laser has done most of the work for me though, and I don't have to worry about chipped grain.  

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That's pretty freaking wild. Is the acrylic fascia bent to follow the arm contour or is it flat the whole way around?

Can the acrylic be had in thinner sheets? The cutout around the Floyd and humbucker appears to be visible through the top surface of the acrylic sheet, Could the cut line be hidden a bit more with thinner material?.

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Pretty much yes to all.  Yes, I thermoformed the bevel - not too hard, except I learned not to put the hot "ear" in my vise with a towel to protect the face while I bent it.  Just need to wet sand and polish the fabric imprint out a little.  Next time, I will simply lever the bend like the one in the pic below (first one bent with just a two point hold).  

Thickness doesnt matter at all in making the Dune, so thin would be nicer, however, it appeared easiest to outline it for removal of the face during electronic work yet to come.  I thought about the FR overlaying the acrylic, and just removing the FR if lifting the whole face.  My original plan was to seal the edge flush with urethane, then overcoat the seal line with 2K urethane (continuing the gloss), but I decided now to make it "key" into the horns, then place one screw where the jackplate will cover.  That will facilitate easier removal. therefore I can do the next one where the FR overlays the acrylic, which, as you point out, would be best.  Still need the cutout behind the FR for pull ups.  Planning to apply black velvet in the bottom of that cutout.  

Thinnest possible would be about 1/8" if I used .060" acrylic, as the cast "Dune" pattern adds another 1/16".  Need your advice - If the acrylic is thin enough, could one get away without milling off the surface?  The pickguard adds .090", and not planning to cover it with one, so it might work.  

Can't wait to do the next one in gold borosilicate over white.  Use all gold hardware, bleached maple neck, etc.  The one below is the same Blue2Red boro that is used above, except its sprayed "over" white.  (back coating is done in reverse - pigment, then background color).  Gold or silver boro looks similar.  

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Lacquer thinner takes off the residue, and the outline of the mortice is a convenient black color, which is good when I epoxy the inlays (after ebonizing the rosewood with dye) with black epoxy.  Cleaning out the mortices after routing with a 1/8" DIA bit was easier than I thought - took all of twenty minutes.  The sharp internal points in the deltas snapped right out since the laser cut nearly 3/32" deep.  Deeper than I wanted it to, but the fret wire didnt move after wood removal.  Epoxy should solidify it well.  

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So heres the gluing jig for the inlays.  The .060" aluminum strips is so the gorilla glue can expand and push the inlay material against the aluminum so it bends and conforms to the fretboard radius.  After de-clamping, the inlays were, in fact, flush with the surface, following the radius, except the last inlay,  Likely not going to inlay this way next time - going to pour epoxy over raw dichroic film, then mill flush.    

Following pic is the epoxy filled joint.  milling flush tomorrow after epoxy sets.  I ebonized the Rosewood prior to epoxying BTW.  

Last two pics are the "keying" system in order to eliminate putting screws through the "dune" face, which would have looked ok, but I wanted the face to be as clear of hardware as possible.  I took a 3/4" carbide straight bit and custom ground it into a titanic "T" slot bit.  Now the face will lock into the body at the cutaway horns, then only one screw under the jackplate to hold the back down, which will allow easy removal to access the wiring, etc.  

Putting it all together by end of week after I reshape and coat the headstock.   

 

 

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Nearly ready for the stage.  

Need to lower the floyd rose studs, and do minor detailing.  Headstock was a PITA, but eventually turned out.  Had to re-laser the logos and paint fill with acrylic rather than white lacquer, even though the test panel turned out perfect.  Test panel turns out great, so all is good right?  Use same settings on the laser and it should be pristine right?  NOT.  

 

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Hey StratsRdivine,

Your concept is very cool, indeed an "insane visual feast," as promised. But (IMHO) your Dichrocaster is trying to show off too many things.  As a teenager from the late 60s/early 70s, I can appreciate psychedelic ✌️... but now more into subtle.  (I also built custom mountain bikes in the 90s, so remember anodized purple!). 

How about that wavy silver-white facade you showed in the first post ... THAT I could like!  Or a strat pickup guard that would shame pearloid?  I know the depth requires a certain amount of thickness, but maybe a pick guard that is inlaid, with only a few mm above body surface?

Another question/suggestion ... if your cover scintillates like natural wood chatoyance, can we see a video clip?

I, for one, would be interested in a design that mimicked an LP with book matched curly maple .

good on ya, man!

 

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11 hours ago, charisjapan said:

Hey StratsRdivine,

Your concept is very cool, indeed an "insane visual feast," as promised. But (IMHO) your Dichrocaster is trying to show off too many things.  As a teenager from the late 60s/early 70s, I can appreciate psychedelic ✌️... but now more into subtle.  (I also built custom mountain bikes in the 90s, so remember anodized purple!). 

How about that wavy silver-white facade you showed in the first post ... THAT I could like!  Or a strat pickup guard that would shame pearloid?  I know the depth requires a certain amount of thickness, but maybe a pick guard that is inlaid, with only a few mm above body surface?

Another question/suggestion ... if your cover scintillates like natural wood chatoyance, can we see a video clip?

I, for one, would be interested in a design that mimicked an LP with book matched curly maple .

good on ya, man!

 

You couldn't be more perfectly tracking with my future builds if you tried!  I keep telling friends that the next one will blow his away - yet will have no color-changing FX.  

I had to get this one "out of my system" because the materials are so colorful, and I am addicted to color - to the point where its too much, kindof like when you traded for those awesome peanut butter squares in high school cafeteria, but after eating one it was too much to eat more.  

So track with me here, as it relates to your comment ". . . if your cover scintillates like natural wood chatoyance . . . ".  The 3D sculpted back of the acrylic in the dichroaster is designed after actual dune patterns right? (from Mars, actually)  So I had the epiphany that other natural patterns can be done, so I have actually made molds patterned directly from photos I took of brain coral, which look really cool, but not running there yet.  Planning to do a pattern based on the markings on the face of the Napolean Wrasse.  Google that and you will see what I mean.  

So then I got this idea that I had been kicking around, but it really gelled at five in the morning last week, to the point where I stayed up, and went to the shop to test this idea.  Here it is:  

The 3D topography in the Dune pattern is nearly invisible if opaque coated, but when you spray metallics, the pigments "trace" the topography like when Indiana Jones threw dust on that invisible "faith" bridge in "Last Crusade" - nearly exactly the same.  So then I was thinking about quilted maple.  Don't forget that I have been working with highly figured woods since the eighties, and although you don't see it here,  figured woods were a large inspiration for all these laminates.  

When you study figured wood, using quilted maple, quilted mahogany or pommele Sapele, for example - the light refraction is a trace from the wood fibers actually light piping the light in the direction of the grain, and appearing like hollow cavity dishes on the female side of the bookmatch, and as bulging quilt billows on the male side of a bookmatch.  

So I am currently working on two new patterns - one called "Quilt" and one called "Bee's Wing" - both with a mirrored division line to simulate bookmatching.  And to answer your question - these patterns will be sprayed with silver and gold borosilicates, as well as different versions in champagne metallics, subtle flop pearls, etc.  all with white backing.  

Then the hardware will be all chrome or gold plated.  I am even planning on scalloping a neck, then coating the neck with the same gold boro over white that will be used in the body.

Can't wait to do that one.  

To prove how well you were tracking - I am designing a male thermoforming form in order to form the acrylic in an archtop for an LP.  Then do the bookmatched quilted pattern using a fade or sunburst of gold boro to silver boro.  

As to your comment about a pickguard?  See below.

 

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Thanks, Knightro.  With all the expertise here, I am curious your ideas on future "baseplates" to mod from.  I am eyeing up several low cost used Squires at my local music shop to add the gold / silver over white in the quilt face with gold appointments.  Getting a nice neck and body for low cost, already finished, routed etc, from a Squire is allowing me to focus on faces, pickguards, etc, but my guitar tech wants me to buy bodies and necks from Warmoth, and I said thats too much finishing work, not to mention nearly a grand for a good neck / body pre-routed. 

I am not afraid to finish, nor build from scratch.  Thats actually the issue - I can apply the best of the best finishes. and that takes time, cuz I'm a perfectionist.  Then I recently learned that nitro is preferred over 2K urethane for tone issues, but I love urethane for buffing.    If I ever did a body, it would be Wenge, with a satin conversion varnish - which is basically a catalyzed nitrocellulose - real hard, and sprays like a dream.   

Since these guitars will have acrylic faces, then the chambered bodies from Warmoth without tops are looking real attractive.

I'm really asking these questions from a value standpoint.  If one of these is ever offered for sale, then is it de-valued if the guitar was made from a used Squire, or will it have better value if made from new Warmoth body and neck?  The neck is the greatest value, as I can order pretty much anything from Warmoth and get virgin frets, then make my own bodies.  Maybe even oil finish, since you only see the back and sides after I've faced them.    

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StratsRdivine,

I another life, I was a marketing man, and you're absolutely correct that a Squier donor body would definitely lower the "perceived" value of anything you make.  To a certain extent, so would a Warmoth body ... even a bona fide Fender!  Even though Squier has raised the quality bar quite high, it's still M.I.C. "junk" to a lot of folks.  Warmoth makes a very nice product, and many folks swear by them, but they still suffer from a "not-a-Fender-product" stigma.  And to emasculate a real Fender strat ... blasphemy!!!  (I'm not saying this is MY opinion, just how people perceive things) 

Of course, you don't have to tell who made the donor body at all, your creations are unique, and it's probably best not to say anything. Unless ... you want to make a statement of how special your guitars are.  In that case, you should get a nice template (strat and tele templates are pretty inexpensive) and rout your own bodies.  Two good things about this approach, 1) you could use less expensive wood, asi it would not have to be full thickness and you could use heavier wood and chamber it, and 2) even if you are using the iconic shapes, these would be totally your own creation, always a plus from a marketing standpoint.  As you have finishing talents, the cutting out and routing of a body to perfectly match your tops is kind of "grunt-work."  (Apologies to luthiers, but as a carpenter, throwing a piece of wood on a router table with a template is not really our highest-level skill :thumb:) You could ask a local luthier or even a craftsman (cabinet maker?) to do this for you.

About necks, yeah, they are a very important part of the guitar.  Marketing-wise,  a real Fender neck from Stratosphere will WoW the semi-purist buyer. (a non-traditional body with a perfectly acceptable "real" neck)  But if you are going to reface the headstock, who makes the neck is almost moot.  (Remember, "almost")  If it is a quality neck, straight, smooth and fast frets, with a reasonably mice grain, but has a matching or complimentary headstock "veneer" of your shape and design, this would probably get you the customers willing to pay a premium price.  That would be a truly custom guitar. 

Of course, the next level of marketing would be the pickups ,,, and further down in importance, the hardware.  Pickups are a hard choice for a custom guitar builder.  Seymour-Duncan makes some really nice pickups, in fact, a very broad spectrum ... even custom-made.  But they have the reputation of 'off-the-shelf' that some custom guitar buyers would find undesirable.  You could choose a boutique supplier ... some would "die-for" Wizz, others would say they are overrated.  Depending on how many guitars you are making/selling, you might just offer the customer a choice.  Actually, a reall marketing solution would be what car makers do ... offer a "package" ... the customer chooses from the "X," "Y," or "Z" package.  (the Three Bears Approach)

Just to be clear. I don't sell guitars for a living, so this is just an exercise in marketing strat-egy (pun intended). 

Whatever you end up with, cool ideas, eye-candy-galore, and personal zeal will sell your guitars.  Best of luck!

 

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I was waiting to see this one complete before I commented as I wasn't 100% sure what to make of it.  that's certainly a colorful feast for the eyes.  not my style... but certainly very cool.

I'm curious... what kind of music do you play on a guitar like that....

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2 hours ago, Jdogg said:

I was waiting to see this one complete before I commented as I wasn't 100% sure what to make of it.  that's certainly a colorful feast for the eyes.  not my style... but certainly very cool.

I'm curious... what kind of music do you play on a guitar like that....

Interesting question.  I don't think I would ever have made these if it weren't for my love of screaming classic rock licks heard through the amps of my friend, Steve.  He plays a Les Paul and an EVH Wolfgang in a couple local cover bands and most notably in a journey tribute band called E5C4P3 in which the singer, Jason, is absolutely dead-on Steve Perry.  My wife really got me into them, and there was this dormant teenager in me the never really appreciated Neil Schon til now (Grew up a Rush fan, then Al DiMeola, but always loved all classic rock),  

So the quick answer is Classic Rock will be played through it mostly (not by me). which is why the humbucker in the bridge.  Steve will be gigging with it for a while til I make the next, better one.   

Here is the real reason for making this:  Every gig I see these guys play in, they play their hearts out - no matter what size audience.  They are doing it because they LOVE it.  And since my wife and I always go to their shows. I thought, why not add a little of my art to the whole experience - regardless of any potential sales to the guitars.  I make my day job money elsewhere, like all these guys in the band.  It is so freeing to make what I want, not what is dictated.  Such is the same for many of you, I presume.  

I started making pickguards for them a few weeks back, but then decided on a whole guitar.  

Here is Steve's Les Paul with Red Burl Pickguard I did several months ago.  An example of choosing a restrained, elegant material, not going over the top - no knobs, no color other than what goes well with the LP.  I don't think I would ever do a LP the way I did the the Dichrocaster.  

 

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Thank you so much for your input, CJ.  This is precisely why I am on this board - to learn, and avoid mistakes.  I actually thought of getting an American Standard Strat, just for the name, but then to cut it up?  Blasphemy.   I do plan on making my own bodies anyway for the design below (in acrylic below, but also solid wood), so you have me leaning toward making my own bodies (I designed one last night based on a Strat, but slimmed it down and "sexified" the lines a bit - similar to the Ibenez Jem) to call them my own design, but then buying the necks.  I had heard of Stratosphere - need to check them out more.  Whatever I get, I will be doing the headstock carving.  

This one below (scale model) will hopefully be ready for NAMM 2018.  Gonna do a lot of practice guitars first.  

 

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So here are highlights from tonights studio photography.  I pulled out all the tricks - huge four foot diffusers in front of the halogen, my stage spot and my hand - held PAR 38 LED floods, all with polarizer on my Canon 60D.   All against black velvet backdrop.   

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