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Hello, I decided it’d be interesting and a challenge to build musical devices for my grandkids...and me. So, my first project is an electric guitar. 
 

I’ve been lurking here for a bit. You all do some amazing work! I’m hoping you’ll cut this non-musician noob some slack and help me out. I knew nothing about electric guitars a few months ago. Clueless on Humbuckers and hardtails not to mention tuning machines. Anyway, I’m learning. Rock and blues lover all my life but never a chance to do more then listen ‘til now. 
 

I’ve progressed to the point where I’m ready to take a stab at building a complete guitar. I’ve designed a Fender inspired body and neck. Cut a few practice pieces on my CNC. CAD/CAM is Fusion 360. 
 

I’ve got on hand a couple of Seymour Duncan Humbuckers and a hardtail bridge. I’m thinking I’ll order pots, strings, switch’s and tuning machines from StewMac. I’m a bit confused on wiring options and would appreciate any advice. I’m guessing I need two 500k pots, not sure on caps or switches. I see some simple toggles as well as two post sliders. What do I need? Keeping in mind I’d like to keep ‘‘tis first build as simple as possible. Not afraid of soldering. 
 

Some pics of prototypes. 
 

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Welcome!

Your body appears to be set up for three pots and a one blade type switch. That would give you options for one volume and two tone pots or two volumes and one tone with a three position blade selector switch. If you are not tied to that body, the most common set up for two humbuckers is one volume, one tone and one LP type toggle, which will give you each pickup individually and both pickups. Do not forget your jack and jack plate. You need a cap for the tone pot. 23 (whatever the symbol is) is pretty common and what I use.

Once you decide on the controls, go back to the Seymore Duncan website and look up wiring diagrams. It will give you options to select that match your control selections and will give you a printable pdf. of the wiring using images of pots and switches  and so on rather than electrical symbols. That should get you well on your way. Check back in with any questions and be sure to show us how the build goes.

SR

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Thank you sir! As you can see, still in the phase of learning enough in order to ask questions. 
 

That body was a learning exercise. Here are some pics of my final design. I still need to clean up, improve my truss rod access as well as the magnetic electronics cover on the back. 
 


 

 

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some pretty neat looking 'first builds'.  cudos.  the truss rod channel looks really wide but that may be the pics?  esp going thru the neck/headstock are I would suggest you want to minimize that as much as possible. 

afa pots... you've got an open slate there and could go 'a lot of ways'.  there are a ton of diagrams online and if you hunt around you can probably find something to do exactly what you want... but first you must decide what you want!   I'm certain that once you get going in that direction... many here will help you get to the finish line.  looks like your final design is 1 lever switch and two pots... since you are going humbucker... I'd just buy two 250k pots and a 3 way lever.  1 master vol, 1 master tone, and a 3 way selector.  very straight fwd is a good way to start.

welcome and looking forward to more pics.

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1 hour ago, mistermikev said:

find something to do exactly what you want... but first you must decide what you want!

Indeed. And thank you for your response. I appreciate your ‘first build” skepticism and will take it as a complement. Life long woodworker and 4 year hobbyist CNC’r with desire for perfection (rarely achieved) result in a lot of chips and kindling haha. I went through 19 design iterations to come up with the final one, posted above. I am not an artist like so many here, don’t even do stick men well, so I’m thankful for CAD, despite the painful learning curve. 
 

Re truss rod, I have a “u-channel” from StewMac, 0.4” wide, so I guess wider then most.  
 

As for pots, I ended up ordering a couple of 500k and a couple of 250k. Pretty easy to swap around so, why not? Also, as you mentioned, a 3 way slider. 
 

A question about fret wire, is any particular size more suited to a beginner? Also, fret board thickness? I’m going with a radiused design, ~ 1/4” thick at center. Is thickness critical?

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2 hours ago, mistermikev said:

since you are going humbucker... I'd just buy two 250k pots

Curious about this Mike. While nothing is written in stone the conventional wisdom is 250K for single coil, and 500K for humbuckers and P90s. I know you are very advanced with electronics.....so what is your thinking here?

SR

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10 minutes ago, TMHNM said:

A question about fret wire, is any particular size more suited to a beginner? Also, fret board thickness? I’m going with a radiused design, ~ 1/4” thick at center. Is thickness critical?

As a player, I've been a beginner for maybe 12 years. My first couple of builds used medium tall fret wire and then I switched to jumbo and stayed with that. It is more forgiving for imprecise fingering and particularly barre chords. The down side is if you are heavy handed and squeeze too tight, you can pull your notes sharp.

Fretboard thickness depends on a number of things. Strength is one. Two way truss rods press against a fretboard as it forces the neck to bend. U-channel, not so much. You need to leave a little meat under the slots to conserve that strength. If you have a tight radius to your fret board, the fret slots at the edges are going to use more of the thickness of the board. A flatter radius will give you more play. 1/16" at the center of the board is not uncommon for higher radius boards. And then finally you need to consider the thickness of the neck you prefer. Again for strength you want to keep some meat under the truss rod channel. I like 3/16" minimum, but certainly no less than 1/8". If you are shooting for a thin neck then go with 3/16' in the middle of your fretboard, and save some room for under the channel. If you like a chunky neck then a  thicker fretboard is nice.

SR

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3 hours ago, TMHNM said:

Indeed. And thank you for your response. I appreciate your ‘first build” skepticism and will take it as a complement. Life long woodworker and 4 year hobbyist CNC’r with desire for perfection (rarely achieved) result in a lot of chips and kindling haha. I went through 19 design iterations to come up with the final one, posted above. I am not an artist like so many here, don’t even do stick men well, so I’m thankful for CAD, despite the painful learning curve. 
 

Re truss rod, I have a “u-channel” from StewMac, 0.4” wide, so I guess wider then most.  
 

As for pots, I ended up ordering a couple of 500k and a couple of 250k. Pretty easy to swap around so, why not? Also, as you mentioned, a 3 way slider. 
 

A question about fret wire, is any particular size more suited to a beginner? Also, fret board thickness? I’m going with a radiused design, ~ 1/4” thick at center. Is thickness critical?

wasn't skeptical... think they are worthy of full build.  vnice job. 

ah, u channel - that is a wide one.

frets - it's a personal pref thing.  taller will last longer and bend easier.  wider will also last longer.  thinner is easier to crown but personally I'd go wide tall.

1/4 final thickness is def the standard.

 

3 hours ago, ScottR said:

Curious about this Mike. While nothing is written in stone the conventional wisdom is 250K for single coil, and 500K for humbuckers and P90s. I know you are very advanced with electronics.....so what is your thinking here?

SR

doh, meant 500k but 250k will work too.  worked for alan holdsworth anyway.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, here’s what I have at this point. 
My first ever use of Tru-Oil  Certainly unlike any oil finish I’ve ever used in the past, not expecting to see it build so quickly  Kinda like  shellac.

Anyway, I’m guessing I should wait to finish the neck until after I’ve done the fretwork but I wonder the best way to clean the finish from the frets?

Thanks 

 

3C9F4264-BA8B-46A1-AF06-E7E9E9646D01.jpeg

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11 minutes ago, TMHNM said:

I wonder the best way to clean the finish from the frets?

I suppose the fret slot saw would be a relatively easy and safe way to reopen the slots.

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1 hour ago, Bizman62 said:

I suppose the fret slot saw would be a relatively easy and safe way to reopen the slots.

Yeah, I suppose I’ll have to acquire one.

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If you have a feeler gauge, file one of the blades rough and use that. I have done a set of nut files from a €5 feeler gauge set with most common string thicknesses. For a makeshift groove cleaner basically any strip of steel should do as long as the thickness matches. Maybe even the backside of a hand saw blade slighly roughened. Tru oil shouldn't be too hard to scrape off anyway.

The slots are about 0.02" or 0.5 mm wide.

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Well, this is embarrassing,

I’ve discovered a major flaw in my effort. My bridge humbucker cavity is too far back in the body to allow for proper placement of the hard tail bridge. Didn’t do enough reading, dummy.

Hadn’t planned on it but looks like I’ll be doing some inlay work on this one. Cut a positive to fill the cavity. Hog out another cavity in the right place. Come up with an inlay design of some sort, wish I was more artistic. Turn this mistake into a feature if I can. 
 

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4 minutes ago, TMHNM said:

Turn this mistake into a feature if I can. 

You can do it. At least with a little help from your friends on this very forum!

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2 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

You can do it. At least with a little help from your friends on this very forum!

Thanks for the vote of confidence, appreciate it!

Being a big fan of the KISS principal, this is what I came up with. Probably walnut, maybe a quarter inch thick. Or, maybe just more mahogany. It’d look like a multi piece glue up to the casual observer. Not a very artistic inlay but hopefully I’ll end up with a playable instrument.

You will note I added the thru holes for the bridge. Doh. 
 

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My first ever mod was similar to that.My buddy has a pearl white Guild with an HSS set up and a tremelo.. He wanted two humbuckers and a hardtail. I routed out the center and put in a half inch thick piece of cocobolo and matched the carve. It looked very similar to what you've depicted, and he loved it.

SR

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What a stylistic approach! The KISS principal is highly underrated, yet a simple stripe of the right proportions can look just right. I can imagine that stripe would tie the fretboard to the body very nicely. A fanciful inlay would require other decoration following the theme, yours already does that. Speaking of "artistic", functionalism is a genre among others.

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I’ve managed to work out a fixture on my CNC that enables the location of my original xyz datum points. So I’m reasonably confident I can make the needed cuts. 

Ive also done a bit more research and have found that I measured incorrectly, I don’t have the problem I thought I had. Plenty of space to mount the hard tail. So...
I would appreciate some insight on bridge placement. StewMac’s calculator says 25.25” from nut edge to string break on the bridge saddle. For a 22 fret, 25.5” scale guitar. I’ve also seen/read that 12.75” from the center of the 12th fret to the same point. There’s a quarter inch difference between the two on my little project. Which should I choose?

i think I’ll leave the stripe for my next build 😊.

 

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The correct bridge string break placement is twice the distance from the edge of the nut to the center of the 12th fret. There's no exceptions of that rule.

Allow some adjustment range both ways, in average the scale is 1 mm shorter for the high E and 2-3 mm longer for the low E, fine tuned from there according to the strings you use - tension, gauge, tuning etc.

 

 

 

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That is a good looking first build.

Your run in with the misplaced bridge pickup cavity is why i always tell people that the best order of operations is to rout the neck pocket, then drill for your bridge, then pickups. That insures proper placement and alignment.

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9 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

The correct bridge string break placement is twice the distance from the edge of the nut to the center of the 12th fret. There's no exceptions of that rule.

Allow some adjustment range both ways, in average the scale is 1 mm shorter for the high E and 2-3 mm longer for the low E, fine tuned from there according to the strings you use - tension, gauge, tuning etc.

Thanks for the definitive answer!

 

 

 

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so... I saw you talking about finishing the neck... just a few words on what I've learned... in case you are using tru oil for that.  as you've seen it builds fast... so you might want to make sure you have room for the finish in the neck pocket.  also, doing it on the fretboard is tricky in my experience.  if you build up enough to get gloss... it will quickly wear away when playing it.  Also, it will quickly build up on the frets.  I thinned mine down a lot with mineral spirits and found that I really only want to do two light passes to avoid getting past a satin finish. 

afa bridge placement... getting a cnc machine is on my list of todos... but I think even having that I would revert to placing the bridge after I've got tuners on, and using a string.  getting the neck on straight... and getting the strings to line up perfectly down the board... is pretty easy to do with some string threaded thru the bridge.

that said... with a tune o matic style... you pretty much have to take a leap at some point.

wish I had more usefull advice for you!

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Thanks so much, comments and advice most appreciated. 
I’d been thinking tung/citrus oil on the wenge fretboard, More trouble then TO but better I think. It seemed having a thick coating of finish on the fingerboard might not be good. TruOil on the rest of the neck.

Thanks for the heads up on build up hindering setting the neck, I’ll mask off the section that fits in the cavity. It’s perfect at present so I’ll try and keep it that way. 
 

Also, I’ll take your advice on manual bridge placement, makes sense. Kinda bummed though since I spent a lot of time working out how to re-setup the body for some accurate re-work. Oh well, at least I’ll know how to do it next time. 
 

Now to finish my gitar!

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