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Entry for November 2018's Guitar Of The Month is now open!


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JACK G last won the day on December 4 2017

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to post your comment Meatloaf. Although I have very fond memories of The Shadows era I have to admit they are no longer on my play list. However I will always be grateful to them for turning me onto music.
  2. Thanks Scott, I am still amusing myself with guitars - I buy basically sound but slightly neglected Epiphone Les Paul guitars and with some TLC bring them back to showroom condition. As you mentioned parts are so easy to find these days especially with the internet and very inexpensive too.
  3. As you will note as you read the following I have been around the block and am no spring chicken. For the past 20 years my interest has been vintage watches my lifelong interest going way back to the 1960s has always been music and guitars. I hope you find this post of interest............................. It was 1963, I was into my second year as a teenager and a huge fan of the The Shadows. I wanted to learn to play the guitar just like Hank and of course the guitar had to be a Fender Stratocaster. Now in 1963 a Strat was both a very rare and very expensive guitar in the UK and way out of my league but I had a plan. I had access to a fully equipped woodworking shop at my school and a very enlightened and supportive wood working teacher. A set of plans were obtained from Practical Woodworking magazine or similar and I set about buying the wood and the hardware. The wood came from a local wood yard - ordered on the 23 March 1963. The neck was a solid length of 3" x 1.5" mahogany and the body was a hardwood called Obeche joined to the through neck top and bottom with plywood front and back to cover the joins. I cannot remember the fingerboard wood. The hardware also came from a local shop - Ron's Music Shop. In 1963 there were no specialty guitar magazines, obviously no Google and limited supplies of hardware for solid electric guitars hence the unlikely mix I ended up with. I just had to buy what they had. The tailpiece, pickups, bridge, machine heads, strap buttons and brass frets (which came on a roll and needed cutting to each individual length) were certainly not designed to all go on the same guitar. The string nut at the headstock was hand cut from a piece of bakelite. Having collected the parts the next stage was to shape the body and headstock. The plans were for a fairly ordinary body and headstock and I wanted the Strat shapes. It was not possible to go and see one to take measurements or draw round the shapes so I traced round Hank's guitar on the front cover of a Shadows 45rpm EP and scaled it up. As can be seen from the finished guitar a little was lost in the the translation with this exercise. Probably just as well I was unable to see an actual Strat. I could have managed the through body stringing OK but the contoured body would have been a major problem. The body is in fact a slab construction as seen on the Telecaster. Many, many, many hours were spent both at school and at home shaping the body, neck and headstock and this was all done by hand. In fact not a single power tool was used to make the guitar. Eventually I was able to join all the parts together with a horrible smelling glue which was heated up in what looked like a witch's cauldron. The body was sprayed at a local crash repair shop - initially a pale blue but changed within a couple of months to current colour. The scratch plate was cut out of a Formica sheet by a very helpful guy at City Ironmongers, a local DIY shop, where I bought the various small screws. The electrical parts came from Bensamon Radio a local Army Surplus parts shop. Every town had one of these shops in the 1960s so tone and volume pots, control knobs, capacitor, micro slide witches and jack input all came from here. These were all wired up following the original Practical Woodworker guitar plans. The guitar was eventually finished some time in 1964. Although the guitar build was originally inspired by Hank Marvin by 1964 my new guitar heroes all played Telecasters or Les Paul guitars. I bought a cheap second hand semi acoustic Les Paul lookalike (I think it was a Hohner) took the two pickups and two control knobs off my guitar and fitted them to the new one. During 1966/1967 I spent a year at Art School. In the 1960s this was a sort of finishing school for people who had creative tendencies. During this year at Art School my 'partner in crime' was Martin Briley a hugely talented guitarist and all round musician. http://www.martinbriley.com/biography.htm Martin formed his group Mandrake Paddle Steamer during this period and I got to see first hand how a band got it together and developed. Spending time with Martin made me realise that I showed no signs of any musical talent and had very little natural playing ability. I loved music then and still do - it is my oldest interest which is still with me. But I had to come to terms with the fact that I was a listener and not a player. A newly found and serious interest in photography meant my guitar playing was abandoned. The Les Paul lookalike was sold around 1967 and my home made guitar was relegated to a cupboard. Following two house moves since 1967 it remained in various cupboards for the next 50 years! In November 2016 I got the guitar out to have a look at it. Luckily it has been stored in a case so condition was as I had left it in 1965/1966 but looking sad with no strings, two missing control knobs and no pickups. I decided to get the guitar up and running again. My first thought was get the body repainted with a good high quality gloss finish, remove all stains and varnishes from the neck and fingerboard and refinish and change all hardware. But soon the vintage watch mantra of 'originality, originality, originality' kicked in and I decided to change as little as possible and keep the guitar as made in 1963. So here is what I did.................................. Body. Over the years the wood has shrunk a little and a couple of areas were the plywood had been filled have slight cracks. Other than this and a slightly flat original paint job it remains untouched. The pic above shows what is probably the worst routing on a guitar ever. Pickups. Trying to source replacement pickups has proved nigh on impossible because of their size. Apart from the odd length and width my originals were very shallow compared to most humbuckers available now. I spent hours on the internet and visited every shop in Denmark Street, London's guitar capital, before accepting that I had to find another way to solve this. I didn't want to rout out any more depth in the body and didn't want to drastically modify the scratch plate either. So with a little creative thinking I found a way round this. I bought a pair of mini humbuckers which were smaller than my originals, but have a shallow depth and attached to the scratch plate the same way as my originals ie. they were designed to be attached to a semi acoustic guitars finger plate. Pic below shows the pickups fitted. But I now needed to fit some covers the same size as the scratch plate apertures. My years of fabricating aluminium sheet to repair rotten bits of wood in doors, window ledges and door frames finally paid off. I bought a small sheet of mirror polished aluminium from ebay and commenced construction. The finished result is seen below. The holes were drilled whilst still flat and folding was done in a vice after scoring the aluminium first so it folds neatly. Folding the shorter ends required making a small jig just slightly smaller than the width so that the ends folded inside. I then fitted chromed slot screw heads as 'faux' pole adjusters and super glued the covers to the pickups. It was hard work trying to find these chromed screws and all the other chromed slot head screws I used - everyone seems to use Phillips heads now although these were a new thing in the UK in 1963. The original pickups had rounded corners which I could not fabricate so the apertures in the scratch plate was modified from round corner to square and I must admit I am pleased with the way they turned out. Ideally I would have preferred to use stainless steel which is harder wearing but it is also a much harder material and difficult to work with. Electrics. As the pickups had been removed I needed to refresh my memory of how I wired it all up. From memory I thought I had 1 volume and 2 tone pots. So it was back to the internet again this time studying wiring diagrams for 1 volume and 2 tone pots for two pickups with no selector switch. I couldn't find anything so took my temporarily wired up scratch plate to my local Guitar emporium. The guitar shop man was very helpful and advised that you cannot rig up a 1 volume plus 2 tone set up without a selector switch. You can however rig up a 2 volume plus 1 shared tone set up without a selector and he printed out a wiring diagram for this. I decided to buy new pots as the originals crackled badly and to do a completely rewire. Once completed I had to work out how to introduce the two micro ON/OFF switches above the pick ups into the circuit. These were a last minute addition to the original build and are similar to the ones used on Fender Jaguar's. I am slightly embarrassed by the poor location of these switches when originally fitted but had to stay with them. Initially I just could not remember how they were originally wired up. After close inspection I could see that each switch should have three contact points on the reverse but my pickup removable must have been clumsy as one switch had a damaged third contact and on the other switch the contact was missing altogether! I had to take each switch apart to repair them but they are OK now. These switches allow you to instantly turn each pickup on or off independently without using the volume controls. Lastly a separate ground wire was introduced to eventually screw to the bridge and the scratch plate was ready to be refitted using a new set of chrome screws. I couldn't find any tone/volume control knobs similar to my original ones so I fitted a set of Strat style tone/volume ones. These were around at the time of my original build so are period correct but there is such a variation of whites available that it was third time lucky to get a match to the scratch plate. Unfortunately the standard set of knobs are 2 tone and 1 volume but I need 2 volume and 1 tone. This remains a work in progress. Neck and headstock. Not too much to do here. Cleaned off some surplus wood stain from the frets and fitted some polished washers at the base of the machine head shafts. These are purely cosmetic as I thought the headstock looked a little bland. The machine heads were removed, cleaned and then refitted with new screws. Check out previous pic to see the cosmetic updates. The string trees are just cup washers but before refitting I added a flat washer underneath them to prevent the sharp edges cutting the strings. I also added a small ferrule so that they could be screwed tightly to the headstock making them stable. Body, bridge and strings. Some adjusting to the bridge saddles to ensure they were the same height was required . Although the fingerboard is flat the bridge has a slight radius. I replaced the original white plastic strap buttons with stainless steel ones. All the original parts removed during the restoration such as the strap buttons, wiring loom and screws have been kept safely. I was almost there and all that now remained was to fit a set of strings, tune up and plug in. I am pleased to report that it is surprisingly playable with quite a low action. Guess this was more by luck than judgement when first built as the bridge is not adjustable for height. Each pickup has its own volume control and the tone control works on both pickups. Coupled with the individual ON/OFF micro switches for each pick up there is fair amount of sound options available. My 1963 'special' is now displayed on a wall in my home office - its time in a cupboard is over. I thoroughly enjoyed the restoration process and would like to do another so it's a shame I didn't originally make two guitars.