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Guitarfrenzy

Making Of A Strat - Complete With Pics!

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Thanks again everyone for making me feel like it was all worthwhile to take all these pictures while it was being built. I'm not gonna lie, it did slow down the process, because it seems like it was taking more of my time to take the picture, than it took to build the guitar. lol Yet, I was hoping that it would clear up alot of questions people had that was holding them back from starting their own guitar. I had once been in the same position, I had read multiple books, but still didn't didn't know how they did certain things in the building process. It was simply because it was left out, and you had to go research alot until you could piece together enough information to get through the tough parts. As far as this pictorial being a tutorial on the main site it's really up to Brian.

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For now we have chose to put the neck down and get back to the body. We decided that it was time to test fit the heel of the guitar in the neck pocket template, and everything fit good, so we was ready to place the routing template. You should still have a centerline on your guitar body, and something you should try to keep established, since all your measurements and templates will be guided by this centerline. You might have to redraw so you can see it better. The dimensions of a Stratocaster's neck pocket are 5/8" deep, and 3" long. We measured out 3" with the centerline from the heel toward the body and drew it off.

Strat_bodycavities1.jpg

This line is very important also. Now you have a centerline that will guide you from side to side of the guitar, and a 3" mark that will keep you from going to far or close from the heel. Again, using the thin doublestick tape we aligned the routing template up. Double check everything at this point, because it would be sad to get this far and mess up.

Strat_bodycavities2.jpg

Before we can use a flush trim router bit, we need to drill out most of the excess wood. The pickup cavities will be 3/4" deep, and the control cavity, input jack are both 1-1/4" deep. We decided that we would drill out 1/2" all around, and later come back at the control cavity, input jack and go 1" on it. That way it leaves us with 1/4" play on both which can be routed out with smaller passes once we start using the router. The main reason for doing this is because it saves the wear and tear on a high dollar router bit. Here we had just started, just drill holes all around the cavities and neck pocket making sure not to get too close, but close enough everything will be easy once the router is started up.

Strat_bodycavities3.jpg

We place tape around the bit to insure we didn't go too far. This can take a while if you don't have a bit any bigger than we had at the time. After we get it all drilled out I'll post more pics.

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We started back drilling away more of the cavity wood today. As you can see we are almost halfway done, and after we are done we can get the router out and finish it off.

Strat_bodycavities4.jpg

I brought all my fretting tools to his shop today, but haven't gotten to fretting yet. Here are some pictures of the tools we'll be using when we get to those steps.

Strat_frettingtools.jpg

These are just some of the tools that will make the job alot easier.

Strat_frettingtools2.jpg

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Which strat template did you buy? I bought the 60's strat template a couple of weeks ago.

Your templates look completely different from the ones I was given. We bought them from the same guy so I wonder what's up? Mine seem to be thinner and warped in every way imaginable. I had to clamp and screw them down to make new templates out of mdf from them. :D I probably would have made the backup templates anyway but I was bummed about the condition of the originals.

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We was going for a 54' strat look, so we got the 50's strat template. It does pay to make mdf copies anyway, actually we are making copies of each as we are going, which has slowed us down some. I noticed on his site the other day that he is selling some templates now in 3/4", 11ply, birch plywood which would be great. But then again, you can make them easily with some mdf boards and plunge router with flush trim bit. That way you can save the original templates, and if you mess up and gouge the mdf you don't feel as bad, since you can always make another. The reason we didn't do it was because we wanted to get this one done quicker and we took our time to insure we didn't mess up the templates at all.

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Like always looks great, wouldn't using forstner bits a little easier for drilling the excess wood out? More pics, pleaseeee... can't wait to start mine...

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Like always looks great, wouldn't using forstner bits a little easier for drilling the excess wood out?  More pics, pleaseeee... can't wait to start mine...

Yes they would have, but we didn't have any at the time.. lol.. So yeah, it would have been ideal, we just had to make sure we wasn't close to the actual depth that we was gonna end up with. Just to be safe ya know.

We'll yesterday, I was sick all day and haven't felt really good today either so I'm not sure I'll stop by today, but we will have more pics before long, we have only been working on this guitar a little over a week now, so it's been going by so fast so far. I'm optomistic that we should be completely done by two more weeks. We ordered the rest of the parts today, so they will be in soon. I've also been doing some repair work on the side, and between that and working my regular job everyday, playing Friday, Saturday, and practicing Sunday night with the band. And really, to be honest with you, I think I just needed a break, so when we get back to it, we should be fresh again, and we'll both be ready to finish it out.

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great, did you already decided how you are going to finiosh it... B) I hope it's not on the thread, I have read it since you begin it and haven't seen it...

(out of topic) :D you joined the forum on my birthday, that strat will make a great birthday gift :D

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great, did you already decided how you are going to finiosh it... B) I hope it's not on the thread, I have read it since you begin it and haven't seen it...

(out of topic) :D you joined the forum on my birthday, that strat will make a great birthday gift :D

Either a blue burst, blue or just light blue. Actually, funny you asked, I've been practicing on a small piece of ash to find the best way to achieve a good dye process on ash, since ash doesn't like to take a dye very well. I've got another way of doing it that I want to try out before I start, I'm hoping that it will work really good, but we'll see.

That is a neat coincidence that I joined PG on your birthday, but not that neat.. haha.. Sry can't give this one up just yet.

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Sorry you may have already said, but ive just been looking at the pics :D , where did you get the template? B)

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Okay, less yakking, more building and photos! :D

I agree, but sometimes things hold you up that you didn't expect. For one thing, the 1/2" cut, 1/2" wide pattern router bit is worn out and only burns the wood, so we can't cut out the cavities in the body until we get the new ones in. I've had it for some time so I guess I should have expected it. So, I had to order some router bits yesterday, shipped 2nd day air, which will be in tomorrow. So, since we couldn't work on the body, we decided to start fretting the guitar, and yet ran into another problem that I'll explain later. But this weekend I promise you'll get more pics. B)

Matt V

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As I mentioned earlier we decided to fret the guitar before carving out the back contour of the neck. There was two problems with this. First off, we had bought the fretwire (wide/medium high) in strips and not by the pound which is rolled up thus already over radiused. The other problem was that when I had brought all my fretting supplies I didn't bring the fret bender I made, so I figured that I'd just cut the wire anyway and press them in with the arbor press and they'd bend to the correct radius. Since I'd never done it this way before, I figured it might work and was worth a try, but as you will see it wasn't a good idea at all.

So like I said, I had left the fret bender at home and was determined to fret anyway. We started by checking the tang length to see if our slots was gonna be deep enough after all the hand sanding was done to the fretboard. It showed to be approximately .05".

Strat_fretting_01.jpg

Then we used a 6" steel ruler to measure the slots at the edges or smallest part of the slot to see if it would accept the fretwire.

Strat_fretting_02.jpg

In our case the fretwire tang won't be a problem, but if it was you should use a smaller .20" saw to give it more depth, since you might widen the slot accidently with the .24" one.

Strat_fretting_04.jpg

You would just run it across the slots that needed to be deeper, making sure you was perfectly perpendicular to the fretboard at all times, until you was slightly over the amount you needed.

Strat_fretting_05.jpg

Next, we beveled the tops of the slots ever so slightly so that the frets seat nicely. The reason for this is twofold. First off, most fretwire has a slight rounded edge between where the bottom of the crown joins the tang, and by doing so allows it to seat flush with the fretboard. Secondly, it makes the frets press in easier.

Strat_fretting_06.jpg

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After you've beveled the edges of the slots, it's a good idea to clean the slots once again, since you don't want anything to keep the frets from not seating properly. Now that the slots are clean once again, it was time to measure and cut each fretwire. I make sure to leave at least 1/4" overhang.

Strat_fretting_07.jpg

If you notice in the background, we made a place to hold each fret so that we know where each one will go after we have cut them. Next, we cut the fret after we have gotten our measurement.

Strat_fretting_08.jpg

Repeat the process until you've gotten each one custom cut and placed in the numbered holes in the board to keep them in order. The frets looked like they was cut various lengths and not progressively bigger, but that's only because the holes in our boards wasn't cut the same depth.. lol

Strat_fretting_09.jpg

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First off, we had bought the fretwire (wide/medium high) in strips and not by the pound which is rolled up thus already over radiused.  The other problem was that when I had brought all my fretting supplies I didn't bring the fret bender I made, so I figured that I'd just cut the wire anyway and press them in with the arbor press and they'd bend to the correct radius.  Since I'd never done it this way before, I figured it might work and was worth a try, but as you will see it wasn't a good idea at all.

Yeah, i know how this story ends already. :D

It's better to have them over-radiused, because they're more likely to flatten out than they are to bend to the correct radius (and stay that way) when you hammer or press them into the slots.

If you don't have a fancy fret bender, use two pairs of pliers and gently grip each fret by the tang and pre-bend to just slightly tighter radius than your fretboard. You'll have less risk of a fret end popping up later on.

Personally, i don't think i'd fret a neck before carving it, either. Catch a fret end with the spoke shave or rasp while you're carving it, and you're gonna have repair work to do before the guitar is even finished!

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First off, we had bought the fretwire (wide/medium high) in strips and not by the pound which is rolled up thus already over radiused.  The other problem was that when I had brought all my fretting supplies I didn't bring the fret bender I made, so I figured that I'd just cut the wire anyway and press them in with the arbor press and they'd bend to the correct radius.  Since I'd never done it this way before, I figured it might work and was worth a try, but as you will see it wasn't a good idea at all.

Yeah, i know how this story ends already. :D

It's better to have them over-radiused, because they're more likely to flatten out than they are to bend to the correct radius (and stay that way) when you hammer or press them into the slots.

If you don't have a fancy fret bender, use two pairs of pliers and gently grip each fret by the tang and pre-bend to just slightly tighter radius than your fretboard. You'll have less risk of a fret end popping up later on.

Personally, i don't think i'd fret a neck before carving it, either. Catch a fret end with the spoke shave or rasp while you're carving it, and you're gonna have repair work to do before the guitar is even finished!

Yes it is better to have them already radiused, but I didn't have the fret bender I made with me, so I tried to without it. It was worth a try, and I learned something from it, so not all was lost. I quickly discovered the solution and since they was already cut, I couldn't run the strips through the fret bender, so I had to end up making some fret bender pliers, with a dremel and some files. I quit after the first fret since I knew that it wasn't gonna work the way I wanted it to, and will bend the frets with the pliers I made this weekend, so everything is ok. As far as the fretting after the neck is contoured, I've done it both ways before, and since I'll be using a duplicating device to shape the back of the neck, I won't have a probem with the fretwires, since they will be beveled and cut before I begin.

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This next step can be skipped if you don't have a pair of Fret Tang Nippers. The reason for using them is to cut away the tang and leave the crown on both sides of the fret, so that seasonal changes that will shrink the wood, won't leave the tangs exposed, which can hurt your hands when playing.

Strat_fretting_10.jpg

The end result should look something similar to this picture.

Strat_fretting_11.jpg

Go through all the frets doing the same thing and place them back into the wood block to keep them in order, it's very important to keep them in order.

Strat_fretting_12.jpg

Next, we tried out the first fret to see how things will work for us, since we didn't radius the fretwire I expected the worse and thankfully I was ready. We decided to give it a go, and used Titebond to help glue the fret in nice. Using a pipette we got started.

Strat_fretting_13.jpg

We squeezed glue into the fret slot.

Strat_fretting_14.jpg

Using the fret press we attempted to seat the fret.

Strat_fretting_15.jpg

Just as I had feared, getting in a hurry didn't pay off this time. The edges of the fret wouldn't stay down, so we ended up clamping it down with the fretpress by tightening the top screw of the arbor to hold the pressure on it.

Strat_fretting_16.jpg

We let it dry overnight and everything was ok the next day.

I learned a valuable lesson as to not try to do a job unless you have the right tools with you or you'll end up having to wait anyways.. lol

I went home that afternoon and made a fret bender plier with a dremel and small files, simply because I couldn't use the normal fret bender because the frets was already cut into smaller pieces. More fretting later....

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Either a blue burst, blue or just light blue. Actually, funny you asked, I've been practicing on a small piece of ash to find the best way to achieve a good dye process on ash, since ash doesn't like to take a dye very well. I've got another way of doing it that I want to try out before I start, I'm hoping that it will work really good, but we'll see.

That is a neat coincidence that I joined PG on your birthday, but not that neat.. haha.. Sry can't give this one up just yet.

Here is the answer LeeM

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Today we got alot done and things are coming together nicely. We went to Buster's shop today to carve the neck, it was Rick's copy carver we used, we had built me and Rick one a couple of months ago. I don't have room to use mine at the moment, because I'm still getting ready to build a nice shop to use it in. Actually, he doesn't have quite enough room in his shop either, and luckily Buster let's him keep it at his shop. Also, my 3/4" roundnose bit was already there, so I was thankful Buster didn't mind us coming over to finish the neck. I'm glad I'm not the only one I know who likes building guitars in my area.. lol

We decided that we would put off pressing all the frets in, simply because we got the chance to get the back contoured today, so we couldn't pass up the chance. We just took the fret bending pliers and bent the over radius into the 12th fret wire and pressed it in, just so that the neck would lay level while we carved the back. We will get back to fretting the neck after the back is carved. But before we did anything to the neck, we wanted to get the body cavities all routed out. The top cavity depths are as follows:

Neck pocket:......5/8"

Pickup cavities....3/4"

Control cavity.....1-1/4"

Jack cavity.........1-1/4"

Trem cavity........all the way through

We used a 6" steel ruler to keep check on the depths, router, and a 1/2" wide x 1/2" depth of cut Pattern router bit.

Strat_bodycavities05.jpg

We could have used the plunge base, but just used the fixed turn adjustment to make deeper passes. Take your time and don't try to route out too much in one pass. If you had used the drill press and drilled out most of the wood away, then you shouldn't have a hard time routing.

Strat_bodycavities06.jpg

As you can see in the photos most of the wood is already drilled out good. One other thing you'll want to do is clamp the body down to a table so that it won't move when routing. Also, check to make sure that your clamps won't be in the way of the router base when your routing.

Strat_bodycavities07.jpg

We started routing out the body cavities making small plunges until we was at our destination for each cavity.

Strat_bodycavities08.jpg

We checked every so often to make sure we didn't go too deep with the routing. That's where the 6" steel ruler comes in handy. It took us a while but we was finally done with the cavities at the neck pocket, pickups, and control cavity.

Strat_bodycavities09.jpg

Look back at the depth measurements if you need to know what each should be.

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We then routed the tremelo cutout down as far as we could go. Then used a 1" pattern flush trim bit to get deeper, until it was routed all the way through the body. You will have to take the template off when you go far enough to get that accomplished. When we was finished we checked everything once again to make sure it was ok.

Strat_bodycavities10.jpg

So far, things are looking good. We still need to route out the tremelo cavity in the back of the body, but we decided to get started on the neck since we wanted to make sure we had time enough to setup and finish it before we left.

We could have used a spokeshave, rasp, and surform to carve out the back of the neck, but we have long given up such fun. There are plenty of tutorials and books on carving the back of the neck this way if you don't know how. Using the carver machine we could make a perfect replica of a Strat neck in 10 minutes. The hard part is aligning everything up. We aligned two neck templates on the carver table as a guide and doublesticked them down when we got them where they needed to be. It's very crucial to have them exact as your neck contour depends on it, if it's off, then your contour won't be centered at the back of the neck, and that can be a disaster. We used a Strat neck off of my guitar to use for duplication.

Strat_neckbackcarve01.jpg

In the picture above, you can see the two templates aligned and the Strat neck, and also a test neck that was built to make a neck contour template for future necks if we ever need that size neck again. That way, we don't have to chance messing up a good neck again. We aligned the original Strat neck with the template and also the test neck with the other template on the router side and used double stick tape on both to hold them in place. We went ahead and carved it out. Now we had a copy for later use.

Strat_neckbackcarve02.jpg

We checked the test neck to make sure that the carving was perfectly aligned to center. Then we took the plunge and started on the real neck, now was the moment of truth.

Strat_neckbackcarve03.jpg

There was no turning back at this point. If you look real close you will notice in the picture below that we decided to use some wood to keep us from going too far down the side away from us, because when your running the machine you can't see how far you have gone on the other side of the neck and we didn't want to carve into the table.. Yikes

Strat_neckbackcarve04.jpg

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