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What To Do For The First Build...

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Well, as i'm reaching the (maybe) halfway point of my deployment to Iraq, i'm starting to think about what to do for the first build that I'm going to do when I get back. I go on R&R in a month or two and I'm about to start purchasing the parts now and doing some measuring and basic design when I'm on R&R. Initially, I wanted to make a neck through superstrat, but given my inexperience (and the fact that I already have more than a few superstrats) i've decided to scale the project back to something a bit simpler for a first project, and build something that I don't already have.

I've decided to build something of a hybrid between a strat and tele with a few of my own touches, this is what I'm thinking:

Ash body, tele shape but with some strat style contour cuts, no pickguard.

Maple neck w/ strat style headstock

Maple FB (probably to be purchased slotted and radiused to 12") with extra jumbo frets

Two strat style pickups, one bridge, one neck

master vol, blend, and master tone

Gibson style 3 way (I prefer these to the fender blade style, and its easier to

I can pretty much build the above guitar from parts and pieces I already have sitting around, with the only purchases being the truss rod, fretboard and bridge. I plan on making this my "learning experience", since I can make this guitar for less than $100 out of pocket. The only thing is, I cannot make up my mind as to whether or not to build this guitar with a two post strat style trem or a hard tail.

Obviously, the hard tail will be a much easier build, but I could stand to benefit from the experience with installing a trem, given that I want to build a superstrat down the road. I'm on the fence with this one. I'd like to ask everyone's thoughts on the overall concept for this guitar, and what your thoughts are for which you think fits the concept better. For those of you with experience building, what your thoughts are on going trem vs hard tail, problems and difficulty vs experience to be gained etc. Thanks.

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Teles with strat-type trems look weird, so I'd go for the hardtail.

Other than that, if you want trem, do trem. They're not that hard to install, after all, just require a router and some good templates and measuring. The most 'annoying' thing about trems is the extensive routing, and the fact you have to do it all in stages (oh, and if you're clumsy, drilling the stud post holes into the trem cavity at the rear. Not that it matters for function, but it certainly makes you look foolish. Really wish my drill press had the necessary reach...)

Since you want to go trem eventually, why not start with this one? I would reccomend spending a decent amount of cash on a good quality trem, though (Gotoh, Hipshot, otherwise), since the import stuff is hugely variable in terms of quality.

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The nice thing about going with a hardtail, besides it being somewhat easier, is that you can more easily convert it to a trem, compared to going back the other way. (Easier to remove wood than add it!)

How much trem usage do you do now, or plan with this guitar? Something like a Bigsby is always an option.

I agree with sentiments expressed above about not skimping out a trem, and the fact that it's really not that difficult in the end, it's just drilling and routing - it's only more difficult really, in that if you mess up and mount it too far forward or back, it's a bit more difficult to fix than re-mounting a hardtail bridge.

Check out the instructions at Stew Mac for their tremolo routing template - it will give you a good idea of the process.

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Well, a week into contemplating this, I think I'm going to use a trem on this one. With most of my playing, I do tend to use the trem quite a bit, but that is mainly on my many superstrats with floyds. I figure with this one, I want to build something that is a bit simpler and something that I dont already have. With this guitar, I probably wont use the trem much, but I think I would like to have it for the occasional light use. The more I think about this one, I'm trying to get something that's part tele, part strat, and part my own.

Taking into account the fact that a cheap trem is probably not going to hold up under alot of usage, I still ended up getting one that I got dirt cheap ($10), since it was someone else's leftover. But, that said, I did some planning and figured out that the footprint will be small enough that if I don't like it and want to change, I can go back and put a tele bridge and custom shape (yet easy to make) pickguard over it and convert it into something like a regular tele, down the road with no problems other than some empty trem routes. (that's what my friend did with his, and got this trem lying in his parts bin in the first place) I'm going to try and build this guitar using as many leftover parts as I can and keep it low in price. That way, I can take the budget and the lessons learned from this one and put them into build number 2.

So, in the end, keeping with that theme of using leftover parts, I guess someone else's leftovers will add to the first build soup. Thanks for the suggestions.

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I think that was the right decision to make, especially if you're planning on making most of your guitars w/ tremolos. The way I see it, you're going to have to rout and install your first tremolo bridge one way or the so you might as well do that for the first time on your first guitar. You might as well screw up those little things that get screwed up because it's your first time doing it on a body w/ other little first time screw-ups. If that makes any sense...

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