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Putting together my own "kit" guitar: Questions

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First of all, I'm new here, so hello everyone!

So, let's get to the topic: Lately, I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on what I’d want to have in a “dream” guitar and realized the price would shoot completely through the roof if I actually got someone else to custom-make everything for me. Given this realization, my only option (at least for the years to come) is to start putting together what I want myself. Besides, I’m sure this will be a hell of a lot of fun. I also realize this will probably entail the need for compromising here and there, but as long as it’s not too big a deal, I can live with that - more on this later, though.

Some ideas here are stolen from another bloke. I’ll start with the specifications

25.5” scale length, 6-strings, 24 frets

- Construction: Bolt-On

As many bolts as possible, 6 or even 8 if that’s possible. I don’t particularly like the bulky heel usually employed on bolt-on guitars. The Conklin-typical heel looks and feels a lot nicer.

- Body: Either Korina (Black Limba), Walnut or Swamp Ash

Shape would have to be a mixture between the standard Conklin guitar shape and this one.

- Neck: Graphite

I want to be able to change tunings and different string-sizes fast without having to readjust the truss rod. The bright sound graphite necks give is also what I’m looking for. I would most likely order the neck from Moses Graphite Necks.

- Fretboard: Phenolic

See above.

- Frets: Stainless steel

No fret wear, brighter sound. Undecided on size.

- Zero fret

Since there’s no fret wear, no need for a nut affecting string height.

- Neck/headstock shape:

Neck should be as thin as possible. For the headstock, I will probably also go with what Conklin does on their guitars (quite similar to the Vangerov-model, actually).

- Inlays: None

I like the inlays on this Novax-guitar, but can do just as fine without any.

- Pickups:

Bridge: Bartolini ZBS-80

Middle: None

Neck: Sustainiac Stealth Plus sustainer-system. Probably a Bart single-coil as well (possibly ZBS-70 or 75).

- Bridge: Most likely Schaller 456

I’m open for other suggestions. What I’m wondering is how individual string-saddles would sound on a guitar. Probably a stupid idea, though.

- Tuners: Possibly LSR

- Electronics:

volume pot

no Tone pot

Bartolini pan pot

on/off switch for sustainiac

normal/mix mode switch for sustainiac

gain pot for sustainiac

I’m not quite sure on the possibilities for the sustainiac yet. Need to inquire some more here.

Most likely a Bartolini TC5Z preamp

- Finish: Either satin or glossy transparent blackish finish

Since neck and tuning machines are both satin black, I’ll probably go with the satin look for everything, including pots, pickup mounting rings and bridge (might have to get it powder-coated somewhere).

So as you can see, there are some special elements to it and some quite ordinary parts as well. Let’s get to the questions, then:

About building it myself

I have some soldering experience and I’ve also done some stuff with wood in the past; nothing to write home about, though.

- How hard is it really to put together such a guitar?

- Could there be any “compatibility” issues between parts of different manufacturers (I’m thinking neck and body)? How do I prevent them?

- What are generally the hardest parts for a rookie like me?

Body wood choice

Tuning would be down to C for the moment. Might change to lower or higher tunings later.

- Korina, Walnut and Swamp Ash seem to be great tone-woods but I’m really not sure what to go with. Based on what I’ve initially read (and the looks), Korina would be my favourite, but I’m worried it might be a little too muddy for low tunings (check the Extended Range section on the bottom). But then again, the bright graphite neck and the stainless steel frets might antagonize any potential muddyness... I know it’s hard to talk sound, but I’d love to hear experiences and ideas on this.

- Who should I approach to make the body for me? Bigger places like Warmoth or a luthier?


- Any experience with Moses necks, both tone and setup-wise?

- Maybe there are other manufacturers of graphite necks that I’m not aware of?


- Where could I get Stainless Steel fret jobs done?


- How good is the Schaller 456 really? Any better/cheaper alternatives?

- Anyone know ABM bridges? How are they?


- What would look better on Korina/Walnut, a transparent satin finish or something glossy

- This one is a great example of a Korina-finish I like, and here is the same for Walnut (bleh to Ed Roman, but those pictures show nicely what I mean); Would it be possible to get something like that with a little bit of black thrown in so it doesn’t look that “woody”?


- What are important things I might have forgotten?

- What do I need to be particularly attentive about?

That’s it for now. Please give me any hints and tips, however insignificant they may seem. Everything is appreciated!

And, lastly, if anyone in here is an aspiring luthier who would like to help me with this - for money, of course - (or knows someone who could and would do it), I'd be more than happy to accept the offer and work together!

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Hi AlphaWave,

As I read through your post, the thing that struck me is that what you want to do is pretty ambitious for a first guitar. Damn'd nice, but ambitious.

To answer some of your questions: Soldering and wiring need not be difficult, but I don't know what impact a pre-amp will have on part of the project. A bit more research on your neck will tell how many bolts you will need to hold it on. And a bit of practice on finishing black korina will tell you how to finish the guitar for the real deal.

Take care,

Guitar Ed

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First of all, thanks for the kind words. I'm trying to clear everything up beforehand so as not to run into trouble when the work has already begun.

guitar_ed: From what I understand, (basically) the more bolts you use, the better it will sound - to a certain reasonnable extent, of course. Haven't compared this myself, but I'm relying on an interview with the german bass-builder Jens Ritter (www.ritter-basses.com). I'll have a look at finishing-tutorials. What do you think of my wood-choice?

asm: a. Doesn't matter. Of course I want it to become as cheap as possible, but it's a custom guitar, and I want it like that, so price will only be second priority. b. First, when you want a low action and change tunings often, you will have to adjust the truss-rod. Second, as I pointed out, I like the inherently bright tone a graphite-neck produces. And third, the way I see it, graphite is superior to wood as a neck-material because it's not so susceptible to temp- and humidity-changes and a lot more stable. What I might go for is a wood neck with graphite-reinforcements, though (which are getting more and more common these days).

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there could definitely be compatability issues between body/necks from different companies, and even between hardware.. the best thing to do is just double check all measurements... you don't want to end up with a neck and body that barely fit, or a bridge with a different string spacing then your pickups.

your project sounds incredibly ambitious, but will be absolutely amazing when you're all done!

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are you planning on doing this thing with aftermarket parts or making the body yourself? because if this is your first guitar building experience it think you should opt for something cheaper and easier. but if you do choose to go about building this, good luck.

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