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THe "What mistakes to avoid" thread

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What are some words of advice, specific or general, that you would give to newbies interesting in building guitars/basses can heed and avoid in their building experiences.

mine would be

1. never spray paint near or around a purous concrete ground

2. buy one tool at a time and learn how to use it properly

3. dont cut corners with safety. (i.e. not clamping properly)


ps im at school and will start in the summer really building

but i tried a year ago and needed time to rethink my strategy

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dont hurry up..

100 thinking and 1 action..

make your guitar in your head and compleate, make it..

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If you think your hand is steady enough to route freehand, slap yourslef in the face and make a template

Thick wood cuts slow, especially on a scroll saw, saw slow and where eye protection (the metal shot out could hurt)

this has been said before but, If you hear yourself thinking "its good enough" stop what your doing and rest

expensive parts look much worse when their broken,

there is no such thing as too much sandpaper

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If you think your hand is steady enough to route freehand, slap yourslef in the face and make a template


anywho--- always let paint/varnish coats dry rock solid before you even think about moving it ( i say this cos when refinishing at school, the rule is, move it, or have it stolen) otherwise, expect fingerprints everywhere B)

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Have patience, even when you're not a patient guy.

For example, a few more minutes spent on an MDF template is time you'll save later. It's easier to fix an irregularity in the outline on a template than on a piece of dense hardwood.

I haven't had to worry about it for mission critical areas yet, but I imagine this'll apply double for taking measurements.


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like hyunsu said, it's all in your head, read and make sure you fully understand what you're doing, then practice your skills on some spare wood, knowing what to do, and how to do it is 75% of the battle

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Project, project, project and more project... it´s never too much...

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When using a template bit with a top mounted bearing, always ensure the bearing can't creep above the template. If you're using the stew Mac small bearing, make sure your length of plastic tube entirely fills the gap between the collets and the bearing, or it will slip up when you least want it to happen. This has happened to me twice, and once is far too often.

Pin any critical glue joints with clipped off staples or brads, otherwise they will slip, and you'll have to repeat them. This is particularly important with headstock scarfs, and keeping centre-lines lined up when glueing on drop-tops or carved tops.

Always dry fit first, and then look all over thoroughly. Nothing will panic you quite so much as slapping the glue on and then finding that your joint won't close down fully.

Never be tempted to lay down 'one last coat' of finish, it *will* run or sag, and you'll regret it.

Finally, Measure twice, cut once.

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Never be tempted to lay down 'one last coat' of finish, it *will* run or sag, and you'll regret it

Amen to that!

Leave all paint for longer than you think you need to before buffing, i'm really guilty of braking that rule!

Get all the dust off your guitar with wirewool before painting/staining etc..

Plan it all on paper, all of it!

Don't burn all the knuckles on your left hand with a soldering iron like I just did. :D

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Keep a straightedge handy at all times when forming body and neck parts and use it frequently. It will let you know when you are sanding too much and in the wrong/right places.

Keep your work surface clean when sanding. That little tiny wood chip that dents your work (happened to me yesterday) means you have to sand it (the whole surface) right back to the bottom of that dent. Keep a large beach towel (or similar) handy to place your project on. By the time you've reached the sanding stage you have to handle your work with great care.

Scrap pieces of wood from your body/neck cuts are valuable for testing finishes, techniques, tools etc. Don't give them to your neighbor for firewood.

Lots of folks think that sanding is the easiest part of the job. I never use just my fingers on large surfaces. It will make an uneven surface. Flat surfaces require a rigid block and curves require a foam block. Thats where your straightedge is most valuable. When that final glossy finish is on you can definitely see those imperfections stick out in the reflection.

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Don't think it would be cool to show off your newly veneered body to your roommates after a few beers when it's not done drying. Especially don't show it off after you've been drinking at a ballgame! B)

Follow up, don't try and recut and reglue a new veneer in above mentioned state (slightly inebriated) after you split and cracked it. Always be properly prepared and have the correct amount of time(way more than you imagine!) before starting any step.

And one more. Now that you have a bonus piece of veneer because of above mentions stupidity, glue it to a shingle or something and use it to test your finish technique. Having scraps to test on makes all the difference in the world. I've been tryng to match a finish that Myka made on one if his guitars and it's taken up a lot of my scraps but it's been worth it. :D

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Delay gratification and don't rush it. It's hard to do that sometimes because it's easy to be excited about what you are making and to want to hurry up. So, if you feel like it's taking too long to do something, slow down.

Work on scrap before you mess up an expensive chunk of wood. Scaps are cheap and plentiful and expensive tone woods are not.

Keep your fingers attached to your hands. Protect your eyes, ears, and lungs while working in the shop!

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In no order

-Protect yourself!

-Patience. You will be happier in the long run, and you don't want to make some stupid mistake.

-Scrap Wood. If you aren't 100% sure about how to use something(and even if you are) try it on scrap wood.

-Draw out a plan with the exact measurements.

-And as previously stated. Measure twice, cut once.

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Here's one that I've seen several people miss or not fully understand (I was one of them when I first started):

Make sure you know what radius nut, fretboard, and bridge you are going to use. When using floyd bridges, the Original Floyd Rose (OFR) is usually (if not always) 10" radius for the bridge itself. Schaller's floyd (the one with the hardened inserts) is a 14" radius bridge.

The locking nuts that come with the bridges are almost always a 10" radius. I know stewmac and Warmoth sell them with 10" radius nuts. The replacement locking nuts that stewmac sells are 14" radius - that can be confusing for a beginner. You can buy flatter radius locking nuts from other places - check into it if you need them (I think they start at R7 and up).

Ideally, you'd like to match the nut radius with the radius of the fretboard at the nut end - the bridge radius with the radius of the higher fret end of the fretboard. You can get away with about 2" of error without losing much in terms action. A 12" cylindrical fretboard can be used with a 14" nut and bridge without loosing much in action. As the difference gets larger, the action (string height off the frets) gets worse. You can use metal shims to correct a floyd's radius but it's not likely you will be able to alter the locking nut's radius without buying the correct nut.

I hope that helps someone. I wasn't able to find this info in any one place when I built my first one.

Also - I agree with the above on this - use templates when routing! I've seen too many freehand routes lately that really don't look very good.

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To repeat what some have said, but phrased differently.

1) Start with the finished product. Define what you want it look like, sound like, feel like, play like. This will go a long way towards determining what woods, pickups, bridge, finish, and scale you will be using.

2) Do an honest and accurate self assement of your skills and tools.

3) Compare points #1 and #2 against your budget. Does everything make sense? Do you have the money to buy a body that has already been carved? Do you have the skills or the patience to carve your own body? Or neck? I will carve my own bodies, but not necks. No way.

4) Always use scrap wood on your guitar body when using clamps.

5) When in doubt: PRACTICE

6) The easiest thing for me to forget when building a guitar is the string ground.

7) Find a local luthier who will help you out when things go wrong or you need help with some task you can not perform. Because things will go wrong or some task will be too difficult. For me, it is shaping the nut that I can not do. Then either buy your stuff from him or be prepared to pay by the hour.

8) If you think the question you have is so basic that it must have been asked already, try the search function provided by the forum

9) There are two ways to waste your money. I) Buy the right item for the job, and absorb the cost. II) Buy the wrong item for the job today, and buy the right one later.

10) :DB):D

Guitar Ed

Opinions are like @ssholes. And I just showed you mine.

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1) It's OK to throw your project in the trash and start over again, dead is, after all, well, ...dead. B)

Don't hang on to a dead horse, it stinks and it won't ever get any better smelling. B)

It's OK to go buy a fresh horse, bury the dead one, and try your jockeying skills again.

2) Expect failures, they're part of learning.

Don't look at a failed task or step as a bad thing. It's not bad at all, it just the learning curve 'in action', hehehe.

'Bad' is just your 'stamp' on an otherwise uneventful (and expected) event in the process of learning.

It's all about your attitude and where your head is at. B)

3) Remember to back up and keep looking at the 'Big Picture', don't get so anally caught up in the tonal properties of your freaking tuning gear bushings that you lose sight of what 'camp' the guitar should sound like in the end.

'OK, lessee, let's use a solid Coco-Bolo neck, solid Ebony body, and make it 2" thick...that should make a Tele-stylee RAWK!'... B)

4) Work WITH the wood, don't try to always force the wood to only do what you want it to do, let it tell you what IT would like to do too (you think I'm kidding? I'm not. B) ) Working with what the wood has to offer is one major part of what I do. If that wood don't want to be Midnight Blue, I ain't gonna force it to be Midnight Blue, cuz it will never look Magnificent. Decent maybe, but never TOPS.

When you and your wood are on the same wavelength, things go very good.

Repeat after me...Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm... B)

5) If the FUN ever dissapears (i.e., you screw up your first finish and get all pissy about it cuz you forgot that screwing up is natural and part of the process) then sell all your wood and tools and become a mathematician or something, cuz this is FUN STUFF!


6) While I agree that plans and thinking it out 1000 times is great mojo-himbe-mojo stuff, most new guys are working on 90% enthusiasm and adrenaline and 10% pre-thought most of the time when starting out, and they are LEARNING this stuff as they go along. So I don't believe that most new guys will go to the lengths spoken of already. So what to do instead?

Just expect, if you DON'T pre-plan everything out beforehand, AND you're learning as you go, ...to make some mistakes, and ROLL with them. Don't let a mistake be a roadblock, be flexable.

Some of my most prized guitars had something weird happen to them somewhere in the process, and instead of getting uptight in the shorts about it, I said to myself, 'how can I make this (MF'in MISTAKE) work -for- me instead of working against me?'

Again, it's all in where your head is at (...dude B) ) Get your head and perspective right, and nothing will bother you too awfully much, no matter how severe it seemed when it happened.

Kind of like Ju Jitsu on wood, you -use- the energy of the mistake to propel you to faster and higher and greater achievements, not make you a pisser and moaner. :D

No one likes pissers and moaners, don't let it be you. :D:DB)

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Do not spill acetone on the carpet right behind where you are sitting and not notice it until it has soaked through your jeans,(I must've gone around the shop at Mach 20 a couple of times.)

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Guest Litchfield Custom Gutars

Listen to people like Wes, TSL, Drak, Rhodes, Setch, and others on this forum who are well knowledged.

Dont settle for less. You will regret it when you look in the salvage bin.

Keep your pride and ego in check. Dont let your skill be surpassed by your potential. If that makes sense. Dont try to do something you cant do, because you think you can, and then call it good enough. Refer to point two.

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Do an honest and accurate self assement of your skills

good one. Unfortunately some people aren't too good at judging their own skills.

I'm not sure if this one already came up, but make sure you give your frets not too much of a bevel...

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