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Entry for March 2018's Guitar Of The Month is under way!



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About Flamesong

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    Filmmaking, philosophy, piano
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  1. Single Coil (N) / Series / Single Coil (S) Switch

    Wow! That is enormously simpler than I could ever have imagined. Thank you so much. I do feel a little foolish because I ought to have got out of the habit of thinking that short circuits were always a bad idea when I had spent months looking for a nice looking push normally on/momentary off switch to cut the signal as a kill switch then realised that actually shorting it out was just as effective if not preferable for some reasons.
  2. I have a bit of an odd experiment that I want to try out for my next guitar. For it to work in the best possible way, I really need to be able to switch between single coil (n), series and single coil (s) on each of three dual rail pickups. Ideally, this would be done using three on/on/on mini-toggle switches. I can see how simple it would be to connect the switches to select single coil (n) and (s) but it doesn't seem possible to offer the series option without interfering with the single coil options with it being necessary to connect the coils together. I have a couple of weeks before I plan to start on a kind of low-tech prototype but if anybody has any suggestions, I'd be grateful as it might save me a great deal of frustration. Thanks.
  3. Oak for body

    Thanks for the comment. I'm sorry that I didn't do much of a progress report. I'm actually a filmmaker in my other spare time but although it sometimes occurs to me to document what I am doing, I really like to focus on whatever it is I am actually doing and I suppose the brutal answer is, I can't be bothered but for reasons I find good. Also, I used to work as a graphic designer and I always hated people seeing work in progress or looking over my shoulder. Anyway, to answer your questions: I can't really comment on how good the oak was to work with as I have nothing to compare it to. The only other guitar I have constructed was ash but it was a kit. Actually, just a few minutes ago, I was comparing the two as apart from the body, they have exactly the same hardware setup yet sound incredibly different. The oak sounds cleaner but I think there is more, as yet undiscovered, than just the wood causing the difference. The tone knobs have much more effect than my other guitar despite them both being wired identically (I copied this one from the other) and exactly the same capacitors. The wood was a little knotty and I managed to locate the knots where is wasn't so important. I wasn't too bothered about the imperfections of the wood - I actually find them very attractive. I used orange fountain pen ink to stain the wood and treated it with a couple of coats of satin spray lacquer. One issue which I anticipated but didn't know what to do about until it was finished was the balance. I had intended for it to have just a jack socket strap anchor with the other anchor just above the neck plate but once I tried the neck on, I realised that was not ideal so I added another anchor at the end of the neck pocket and one in the conventional place below the bridge. These two seem to be about right but it isn't too bad using the other anchors. As far as pickups are concerned, I am actually on a very tight budget so I'm not using anything top end that I know I can replace later when I have a bit more money so the pickups are imported dual rail humbuckers each having a humbucker/series switch and there is a pull switch for the bridge pickup on the lower tone knob. Also, there is a push kill switch. I find that I only use humbucker option when I have two pickups selected and have one in series, the other humbucker otherwise the sound is very thin. For the next one, I need to research some new switching as I need to have a three position switch with the options single(n)/series/single(s) and so far I haven't found a way to do it. I couldn't sleep lat night trying to figure it out and ended up conceiving of something which could be a monster - so maybe I need to reel my ideas in a bit. I might spend a few weeks experimenting with some pine offcuts before I commit any more oak.
  4. I already posted about my second guitar in a thread I started about using oak for a body after I found a piece which could be big enough for three bodies on eBay. Anyway, two months after finding the piece of oak and eventually taking the leap and buying it, I have finished my first oak bodied guitar - though I concede that owing to limitations of space and gear, I was cornered into using a pre-made neck - but I intend to do some tests with scrap wood to see if it might be possible to make a neck using a router table rather than a bench saw. I had made some sketches of a body shape I could make which would use a standard Stratocaster scratch plate (I'm taking an incremental approach to my ultimate goal) and implemented a solution to one of my biggest guitar annoyances; guitars falling over when there is no stand available and came up with the fin shape. This both created the problem of where to put the input jack and provided an answer - in fact, I think the answer might have been conceived before the problem was realised. However, having the input jack where it is did pose another issue - the internal plumbing under the bridge - so the angle of the fin would have to be right to avoide undermining the bridge and remain aesthetically pleasing and this took a lot of work in illustrator as the shallower the angle of the recess the less attractive it looked - not only that but every time I changed the recess angle, the angles all the way across the top of the body had to be changed to compensate otherwise it looked lumpy. Eventually, I thought I had cracked it and the anchor screws from the bridge would miss the jack access hole by about 0.25 inch. Unfortunately, not ever having owned a guitar with a hardtail bridge, I naively assumed that the strings just fed through the bridge from the side opposite the saddles - I hadn't realised that the strings went through the body and that I would need to add ferrules or a ferrule plate. So, at the last minute, I decided to use a ferrule plate as individual ferrules might not line up neatly on the back given the imprecise tools that I have. When all the string holes were drilled and the ferrule plate was in position, I felt quite chuffed but a bitter blow came when I drilled the holes to secure the ferrule plate as one went through the jack socket access hole. It was disappointing but easily fixed, I simply cut the end of the screw off - I figured that if the end of the screw was exposed in the hole, the exposed threads weren't actually doing anything and the strings would actually be acting in the same direction anyway - it's not as if the screws were acting in opposition to any forces. When I finally strung it and started to set it up, I found that the bridge could have been located slightly better - giving a little more adjustment leeway for intonation. Talking of which, I had quite a lot of trouble adjusting the intonation and thought I have created a pig and got pretty annoyed with myself. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was just impatient, maybe I was forgetful but after a good sleep, it dawned on me that in all the activity involved in putting it together, I had forgotten something which I had learned when I first tried to play a guitar, 40 years ago and which is part of every guitar player's fundamental knowledge; new strings stretch! I had a little trouble with the neck pocket. It was seemingly perfect - it was so tight that the weight of the body could be supported when holding the neck at all angles. Again, I felt quite chuffed at that - I had created my own neck template which was almost identical to one which was later shared to me on here from a guitar making magazine. But when it came to preliminary assembly, the neck pocket was too shallow and because I had, by this time, cut out the body shape and sanded it down etc, there was hardly any body for the router to rest on. When I originally routed the neck pocket, I used the offcuts from the body to hold it in my Workmate and rested on them but I had since cut about 1mm with sanding and so there was a ridge between the body and the off cuts. Consequently, the neck pocket lost all its tightness and even sufficient straightness to require me to then re-rout the pickup cavities which had a knock on effect to the scratch plate position. I have resolved that in future, although I might outline the body on the wood for guidance, I will rout the neck pocket before cutting the body shape (making sure it is the right depth) and then position everything from that point. Apart from the practical advantage, it would also mean that if it gets messed up, worst case scenario, I have wasted a bit of wood - not hours of work. Maybe this is standard procedure but it wasn't the way it was done in the various YouTube videos I watched beforehand. So, I made plenty of mistakes (many - some I haven't mentioned) but I have learned a lot from them and enjoyed the challenges they presented. But I also got to implement the lessons I learned from the first guitar which was a kit from which I discarded all but the neck and body and one or two bits of hardware. I have already started thinking about my next project but I have some ideas which may not have been tried before - at least a Google search has not gleaned any evidence - maybe they have been tried but the results were so disastrous that they have been kept secret.
  5. Oak for body

    I just finished my oak guitar - as somebody who wanted to make guitars for over 40 years and have always felt that it might be beyond me, I can't quite describe the feeling I have from thinking that this was just a bit of wood I saw on eBay two months ago today; though I concede that the neck was pre-made with a paddle headstock. It still needs some work in that the intonation needs tweaking etc. The shape was basically designed to accept a Stratocaster scratch plate but with reduced profile. One thing that I find annoying is how guitars tend to fall over if there isn't a stand around so I made the fin so that there were two points of contact with the ground. The jack is of the strap lug type but there are two strap anchors at each end - at the neck end, they are just above the neck plate and at the end of the neck pocket. This was a bit of a last minute inclusion as I got a rush of anxiety about the guitar's balance. Anyway, I already have ideas for the next one which I could say are in a way, quite literally revolutionary but I need to do some experiments first.
  6. Having explored Leo Lospennato's site, I ended up ordering one of his books and will order the other next month so the free magazine downloads have paid off for him, I hope.
  7. Thank you very much for the advice. I've been away for Christmas and New Year and quite eager to get back to my guitar. I take on board what you said and as I mentioned, I have the offcuts from when I cut out the body so I can use them to act both as a firm clamping buffer and platform for the router. I have the right kind of bit which I used the first time but as it is the most critical bit of the whole body (in my inexperienced eyes), I am probably a little hyper-nervous about it. And thanks for the magazine links, they will no doubt be invaluable. I just noticed the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain pictured in issue 1. One of my favourite ever moments was seeing them live - the front row was occupied by a young ukulele players club, all under about 15. When UOGB played Smells Like Teen Spirit, the young kids were all headbanging - I loved it.
  8. I am reaching the final stages of my guitar body and everything was looking pretty good. My neck pocket is so comfortable that it almost squeaks - it holds the weight of the neck on its own. Unfortunately, I have just discovered that it is about 3mm too shallow and given the shape of the body, there isn't much of a platform to rest the router on. I kept the offcuts to hold the body on my Workmate when I did the pickup routing but I routed the neck pocket when the body was just a short plank of wood. Actually, I wouldn't mind any neck pocket routing tips because this is the single greatest anxiety I have had about guitar making as it is so critical to get it right; particularly the flat neck contact.
  9. For me, and my opinion of the Stratocaster as a design classic, unfortunately, its Achilles heel is the floating bridge. The negligible benefit, for somebody like me who finds the tremolo bar gets in the way more than it gets used, is far outweighed by the way it makes tuning so unstable. Tune one string up or down by a semitone and the rest are out by 1/5th of a semitone. I'm not claiming that as a scientific fact but just a beermat guess - if the tension on the floating bridge on one string is increased by X, it must compensate the tension on the other strings by X/5-ish, surely. Anyway, that's a rudimentary arithmetical way to explain the observation that when I'm tuning a string on my Strats or Strat copies, the process was not as simple as it is on any of my acoustic guitars until I decided to dispense with the tremolo, put full tension on the spring claw and tighten the screws down as far as they would go with the result that the bridge no longer floated. It's still possible to dive-bomb (which is all I ever did anyway) but the tuning is so much less hassle. My first self-designed body tries to make use of the best bits of a Strat using a Strat scratch plate but trimming the fat somewhat and a hardtail. Actually, returning to the original topic, it did concern me that there are design elements which may be original and might get copied. Maybe my concerns are premature as it isn't finished yet and when it is, it might not be as well behaved as I hoped.
  10. I'm late coming to the field of guitar making (as I am to this thread), although I first dreamed of making guitars and used to sketch out ideas when I was about 13 which is 44 years ago. My thoughts will probably be regarded as slightly off-topic by some but unless somebody is either trying to gain from passing their work off as the genuine article or, for whatever reason, feels the need to prove that they can replicate the genuine article, I don't really understand why they make replicas. For me, I want to express my creativity in my work. So far, due to resource restrictions, I have only made a kit guitar and I am in the process of making a body I have designed with a pre-made neck - but I hope that at some point, I will design and make all the bodies and necks. When I was looking into how to get my own logo on the headstock, almost all the guides and materials I could find seemed to be oriented towards applying fake Fender logos. I was bewildered. Genuine Fender waterslide logos are for sale on eBay (along with countless fakes). How often does a Fender owner need to renovate their headstock to such a degree that they need to replace the logo? Having said all that, I nominated the Stratodaster as a design classic a few years ago when I took a course which concerned the process of prototyping and iterating design as a general practice, i.e.not related to guitars, per se. When I recently put pencil to paper to design a new body, I started by inserting construction points which denoted essential or desirable features such as access to high frets, thigh rest, strap pins, etc. and when I connected the dots, it was almost impossible not to draw a Strat. I had to really distort my ideas to come up with anything which wasn't Strat, Les Paul, skeletal or 'spaceship' shaped. I think that this is borne out with all the Strat like but not precisely Strat shaped guitars. My feeling, as far as Fender and Gibson are concerned is that maybe having done some market research they discovered that the fake market probably drives the sales of the genuine articles in that replicas allow an entry into the market for those with limited resources and the authentic guitars are aspirational and lead to future sales. Having not been able to afford anything other than copies in my youth (I owned a Daion Stratocaster copy and Marlin Sidewinder), I'll never forget the feeling I got many years later when I got my first Fender Stratocaster (which had a bit of a back story). I have prints of paintings by Picasso and Géricault on my wall. Nobody thinks that they are genuine and their ubiquity is part of the mythos of the original. Without the copies, Fender might not have the status it has. How an innovator approaches the matter of copyright might be a different matter, though. If somebody takes a design which somebody crafts with care and then starts churning them out cheaply, that must hurt but the evidence for legal action will hopefully be clear.
  11. Giving it a go

    Looks superb. I'm a bit envious of all the space and gear that you (and most other people) have. This is my kitchen.
  12. Tone pot capacitors

    Hi, Thanks for the reply. I'm pretty sure that the circuitry is okay, I checked it quite thoroughly whilst trying to sort out the push-pull bridge on switch problem which I mentioned in another thread. I did get a bit confused about the values of the different capacitors I have but I measured the ones I used and they were 22nF. As you say, there isn't much to get wrong but I will check everything out again when I next take it apart in a few days.
  13. Tone pot capacitors

    I did a bit of online reading before buying the tone pot capacitors to customise the kit I was putting together and the concensus seemed to be that 22nF was the capacitance of choice and that there was little advantage between one type and another so I ordered some 22nF of the type some call 'orange drop'; maybe 4mm in diameter. I must admit that when they arrived, I was a bit surprised at how small they were (the loaded pickguard which came with the kit had capacitors about 10mm in diameter) but I was reassured by what I read online that size was not an issue. Having virtually finished (I have to adjust the nut and I'm just waiting for some files to arrive), I have discovered that the tone pots don't seem to affect the tone at all. Am I missing something? If so, could somebody please recommend a type and value?
  14. Oak for body

    8.7kg of oak just arrived. It looks nice and feels solid. I'm wondering how to really bring the grain out. I tried a technique on the kit guitar I customised which is ash but it didn't come out as well as I hoped. I'm hoping to pickup some wood to practice on tonight.
  15. Oak for body

    I'm all to aware of the dangers that tools pose. In June, whilst doing something completely unrelated, I put a chisel through the index and middle fingers of my left hand completely severing the flexor tendons in both of them and detaching the tendon from the distal of my index finger. That detached again three weeks after the initial surgery so I had to have another operation. I can no longer straighten my index finger nor fully bend it and my middle finger only gets about 30º movement in the middle distal joint. I'm right handed so it is quite annoying when people say that I was lucky it was my left hand. Anyway, I am just about managing to play most chords again but struggle some like open Dm and G7 which require my index finger to play the top E string and barre chords are a bit muffled but I have made a lot of progress in the past month. I tend to play open inversions (they may not even be real chords) higher up the neck so I am at least able to play most of my own creations. And I've never been particularly good at playing lead so now I have a good excuse not to bother anymore. But yes, I will practice on bits of waste wood. I just got notice that the oak is arriving today so I am more than a little excited to get a feel of it.