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Brian

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Brian last won the day on November 16 2011

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  1. Thanks for posting this for our members
  2. Before adjusting anything make sure your guitar is strung up correctly and that your neck has the correct amount of relief and is not excessively bowed or warped. If your neck is bowed you first need to adjust the truss rod and check that the nut is good. If your neck is warped it will require a more extensive repair. Also check that the angle of the tremolo unit is correctly set and not floating at an angle. This would require setting up prior to any work on the rest of the instrument. In general it is recommended that all other avenues of instrument setup are checked before resorting to the use of shims otherwise one can easily end up going backwards and forwards finding that adjustment of one things changes those of another! Shimming a neck should be the last resort if all other setup adjustments run out of usable range. Try to imagine the strings of your guitar as a flat plane and the fretboard as a parallel plane running underneath them. The angle of the top plane which contains the strings is controlled by the position of the tremolo unit and the nut. The angle of the lower plane which is the the fret board is controlled by the neck pocket of the body. If your setup is perfect these two planes will have a more or less equal distance between them at any point. If your guitar doesn't look this way try adjusting the height of the tremolo bridge unit first. This will usually take care of the problem unless you find your action becoming too high or too low equally across the length of the fret board. If adjusting the height of the bridge corrects the problem but leaves you with too high or low of an action (distance between the strings and fretboard) or the bridge unit is left excessively high or low then you will need to to use shims to adjust specific areas of the instrument's geometry. Shims are commonly used in two different areas of the neck. One is under the nut and the other is directly under the heel in the neck pocket of the body. Nut shims are usually made out of one or more thin sheets of metal such as brass or steel. Shims located in the neck pocket are usually made out of wood rather than metal as the pressure between the two mating faces can deform the wood of the neck or body. In either case you can produce your own shim by using a sheet of paper, a business card or preferably a slice of hardwood veneer such as Maple. For shims in the neck pocket you might need to fold or layer paper stock 3-4 times to get the required thickness needed then trim to fit properly. Softer cardboard stock may compress in use creating a thinner shim than expected. A nut shim acts as a spacer between the nut and neck raising and lowering the distance of all of the strings at the headstock end. A neck pocket shim acts as a spacer between the neck and body, changing the angle from which the neck protrudes out away from the body. First determine if the distance between the strings and fretboard is too close either at the headstock end of the neck and remedy this if so. This can be determined by fretting the strings at the 3rd fret (or fitting a capo) and measuring the clearance between the first fret's crown and the strings. In the case of the string clearance being too low under the first fret, progressively add shims under the nut until a clearance of at least 0.005"/0,13mm is achieved with the strings fretted as described. You can now fret strings at the first fret (or move the capo here) and adjust the bridge height until the strings are a more equal distance from the fret board down the entire length of the neck. If adjusting the distance between the strings and the fretboard at the body end requires an excessive correction in bridge height you can place shims in the neck pocket to create a more appropriate neck angle and correct this problem. If the strings are higher on one side or the bridge sits at an uneven angle side-to-side, placing a shim in the neck pocket parallel with the length of the neck on the respective side raises the entire neck down that side when the neck is reattached. It is important to check that the neck does not possess any kind of twist or warp as this cannot generally be corrected through simple adjustment/shimming and will require professional repair. If the bridge is set too low in the body a shim can be fitted at the back end of the neck pocket (the end nearest to the bridge) to increase the neck angle. The opposite approach can be taken if the bridge is set too high on the body. A slice of veneer cut to cover the entire surface of the neck pocket can be progressively sanded thinner at one end to achieve a more permanent angled shim however creating layered paper shims is often more than adequate. In some instances you might find that you need the shim to raise only one corner of the two planes as described above. In these cases make a smaller shim and place it in the appropriate area of the neck pocket. Of course upon removing the nut from the neck or the neck from the body, if you find a shim already there determine what action it was doing in the first place then make the necessary corrections using as few shims as possible.
  3. Straight from the factory or off the shelf, an instrument rarely has its nut slots cut to ideal depths. Generally they are always cut a little high so that the instrument is buzz free out of the gate. For most people, slightly high nut slots go unnoticed and the tougher feel to the strings near the nut gets taken for granted. Before proceeding, ensure that your guitar is correctly strung up to pitch using the string gauges you normally use on that instrument and that your neck is reasonably straight with a little relief as per the previous step in this series. Check that your fretwork is not in need of immediate attention. A neck with incorrect relief or one with uneven high/low frets cannot be improved by adjusting the nut and may give false measurements. Firstly, you need to know what type of nut you have: Standard Nuts Standard "Gibson type" nut Standard "Fender type" nut The most common nuts found on non-tremolo or non-locking tremolo designs resemble the two above. A simple block of material with evenly-spaced slots. The material varies from plastics/composites, bakelite, bone, graphite and graphite substitutes, ivory, pearl, metals, wood or more exotic materials like carbon fibre or Borosilicate glass. Regardless of the material type, the function is the same. Each string has its own slot filed to the same width. The slot has a slight backward angle so that each string firmly contacts the very front of the slot. The depth of each slot is cut to create a string path over the first frets that is high enough that strings do not buzz over them when open notes are vibrating, but not so high that fretting lower notes becomes more difficult than the rest of the neck. "Fender type" nuts are installed into a slot milled in the fingerboard itself. "Gibson type" nuts butt up against the very end of the fingerboard, usually with a very small recess to prevent movement. These two styles are found on acoustics, basses, archtops, violins or in fact virtually any strung instrument vaguely related to a guitar. Locking Nuts Ibanez RG Locking Nut The downside to the previous type of nut is friction. In use, strings can bind up in the nut slots when using a tremolo or string bending. This leaves the string out of tune and can cause "pinging" sounds as the string pops out from being bound up. Worse yet, strings slowly grind their way down lower into the nut slots, especially wound strings in softer nut materials. Eventually open strings start buzzing over lower frets. Guitars with floating/locking tremolo systems such as a Floyd-Rose commonly use a metal locking nut mechanism which clamps strings in place once tuned. Locking nuts usually comprise small metal pad or cam clamps which hold two (sometimes three) strings at at time. The nut slots are precision milled into the body of the nut itself with perfect string witness points and falloff angles at the very front of the bridge itself. Other Nut Types Some tremolo systems (eg. a retrofit Kahler) work in conjunction with a standard style of nut, instead locking the strings a short distance beyond the nut. For the most part, these remove the issues of "binding and grinding". The standard nut is adjusted the same as it would be without the additional string locking unit. Zero frets are a hybrid between a "normal" nut and a fret. An additional fret is placed at the point where the nut would normally be. A guiding nut is placed slightly further back from the zero fret whose sole duty is to manage the string spacing than to set string height. The physical advantage of a zero fret is that they provide the same string height clearances as any other fretted note; automatic ultra-low action with no maintenance! Famous examples of instruments including zero frets are the Höfner "violin" bass and unusually, Brian May's inimitable "Red Special" with it's non-locking floating tremolo system. Other styles of nut exist also, such as the Fender LSR roller nut, adjustable brass nuts, etc. These require more specific considerations whereas this article is meant to cover the most common examples; an upcoming future update will cover the more exotic styles of nut.... Measurements One by one, fret the strings at the third fret or place a capo over all of the strings at this position. Each string should have an extremely small amount of clearance between the bottom of the string and the crown of the first fret. This can be carefully observed through lightly tapping the string at the first fret with a finger and/or measuring using engineer's feeler gauges. Ideally you should have at least .002"/0,05mm of clearance under the thinnest strings and .005"/0,13mm under the heavier wound strings. Generally speaking, as long as the strings are not contacting the first fret the clearance is fine. If you do not have feeler gauges on hand, Post-It notes from the small pads (not the big cubes as they're thicker) are approximately .004"/0,1mm to .005"/0,13mm thick. Grab a block of 25/50 Post-Its, measure the thickness of the block with calipers and divide it by the number of sheets. If this measurement is close or dead on, move on to the next string. You may should jot down the clearances as you move across the fretboard to see the nut slot heights in relation to the fretboard as you progress, especially if you have a locking nut. Adjusting A Standard Nut If you have determined that any of the slots in the nut are too low (usually due to wear and age) you may want to consider replacing the nut at this point. There is the option of packing the bottom of the nut slot using a mixture of CA (cyanoacrylate, crazy glue) and baking soda, or a little material sanded from elsewhere on the nut. Backfilling and cutting back nut slots in this manner requires a fair bit of experience and practice; the subject of a whole different tutorial. Nut replacement is generally more reliable, quicker and simpler....they're pretty cheap! If any of the slots are too high (or you just backfilled one) and excessive distance in the measurement between the bottom of the string and the first fret exists, the nut slot needs to be cut deeper. Special nut slotting files are readily available for this, however they can become expensive as specific file widths are required for each string gauge. Suppliers such as Stewart MacDonald sell nut files with dual cutting gauges, however welding nozzle/tip cleaners suffice for occasional repairs. It is even possible to mount a small piece of an old wound guitar string onto the side of a popsicle stick as a makeshift file of the correct string gauge. Firstly, remove the string from the nut slot. Usually it can be loosened and temporarily seated in an adjacent nut slot. Using a feeler gauge, find the existing falloff angle towards the headstock in the nut slot. File the slot a little at a time, keeping the file vertical and maintaining the existing falloff angle. Clean the slot from any debris, replace the string and bring it up to tension before repeating the 3rd fret/1st fret clearance test. Repeat the filing process until an adequate clearance is achieved. Replace the string and ensure that open notes ring clearly, otherwise the slot may have an inadequate falloff angle or the string is not seated firmly at the witness point. Bad nut slot falloff angle The string will intonate badly and open notes will likely buzz or choke. More desirable nut slot falloff angle The string witness point is sharply defined at the front of the nut. Adjusting A Locking Nut Filing down the metal in the slots of a locking nut is not an option. Instead, height adjustment shims are fitted under the nut itself to alter the height of the entire unit. Nut shims are available in different styles and thicknesses from the bridge/nut manufacturers or luthiery suppliers. Most are available in both full width and half width to allow raising one side of the bridge more than the other. If necessary you can combine several shims to achieve perfect clearance across the fretboard. Sacrificing a couple of feeler gauges is also a swift fix if shims are not easily available! Step 1: Introduction and headstock area Step 2: Trussrod and neck bow adjustment Step 3: Nut height check and adjustment Step 4: String height and bridge adjustment Step 5: Adjusting the intonation of a guitar Step 6: Adjusting pickup height
  4. This tutorial could work on a refret but was performed on a fresh fretboard. Start out with a properly radiused fretting caul, a matching radius block and a good straight edge such as as steel ruler. Lay your straightedge down the length of the board and make sure it is straight to begin with. Check underneath the straightedge for any light indicating gaps. The exception being clear acrylic inlays! If necessary, use your radius block to level the board where needed. To adhere sandpaper to my radius block I use a spray adhesive. Start out with 320 to 600 grit depending on the condition of the fingerboard's surface and the amount of levelling required. I always trim the sandpaper around the sides of the radiusing block. Clear your paper often and blow any excess dust from your fingerboard. A quick ragging with a Scotchbrite pad down the length of the board pulled dust out nicely. Lumps of dust buildup on the sandpaper (especially when working with naturally oily woods such as Rosewoods) cause unsightly ridges down the length of your work. If the paper had "loaded up" and cannot be cleared easily, change to a new piece of sandpaper. Once you have made sure the fretboard is straight and level from the top to the bottom, lay your fretting caul or a radius gauge in the area of the first position. Check there is no light escaping underneath. Repeat this check down the entire length of the fingerboard. If all is well you should have no light escaping underneath the caul or straightedge no matter where they are placed on the fretboard. I finish up levelling using 2000 grit paper. This is an Ebony board and look I can see my neighbors house in it without adding oil! Grab a business card and the fretwire you intend to use. Place the edge of the card right up against the underside of the fret along the tang. Flip it over and draw a fine line along the edge of the tang and onto your card. This leaves a line corresponding to the tang depth, giving you an instant fret slot depth ruler! One by one, cleaning each fret slot of any debris and dust. Whilst compressed air helps, it cannot always remove packed dust. A craft knife blade with the tip broken off makes an excellent tool to evacuate fret slots. Slip the card down inside each of the individual fret slots and check their depths. Fretboard leveling and radiusing reduces the depth of the slots. Move the card side to side across the entire slot, but do not force it down. If the line rises out of the slot, you need to whip out your slotting saw and deepen that particular area. Neck support cauls are a life saver and are essential when using an arbor to press in frets. I pre-radiused the fret wire to a radius slightly smaller/tighter than the fretboard radius. After pressing frets in I use a Dremel to trim the excess off. Alternatively you can use pliers or other nippers to trim the wire to length before or after pressing. The neck support caul cannot be placed under the highest frets. Grab a scrap piece of 2 x 4 about a foot long and measure the height of the base of your arbor press A the width of the base B and the distance from your work surface to the bottom of the neck heel you're working on C. Cut up the board and use the pieces to assemble a supporting jig as pictured. Place your two A blocks under your neck support caul. The odd-shaped block fits squarely under the neck and over the arbor press so that you can continue to press frets safely down the rest of the neck. Now grab a second piece of 2 x 4 and a double-sided flat file, ideally one with a coarse cut on one side and a fine cut on the other. Make a cut down the length of your piece of wood that is at a 35° angle (or whatever your preferred fret end bevel angle is). Then cut a slot down the edge at position A as shown, just thick enough to grab and hold your file. Insert the file with the coarse side towards the smaller flat area. I added a $2.79 piece of Tandy brand suede cut in two I purchased from the crafts section of Wal-Mart. This was stuck using contact cement and helps your tool slide along the length of the neck without scratching the tops of your frets. For the next few steps: If you're working with a lighter-coloured fretboard (such as Maple) I recommend applying masking tape between the frets or any other areas of exposed raw wood. Debris from filing fretwire can contaminate the wood causing ugly marks! A magnet is useful to collect debris. First thing you want to do is square off the fret ends against your neck. Start off slowly and be careful not to whack the end of your tool into the headstock! As soon as the "cricket chirping" sound of the filing has disappeared you know you're finished. You can then move on to the other side. After you have done both sides, flip your tool around and repeat the process to cut a bevel onto the ends of your fretwork. Don't forget to listen for the cricket to stop chirping. Grab a coarse sanding sponge and run it up and down the length of your board at the same angle as your bevel cut. Do this quickly back and forth a few times, then move on to the other side and repeat. Grab a finer grit sanding sponge and repeat the process again. After you're finished, simply wipe the dust off and buff out the top of your neck! The bevel on the sides and the tang slots are perfect along the fret board so no fill is really needed. If any gaps are visible under the fret tang ends, you can use a matching wax filler stick to close them off.
  5. You will be dealing with boiling water and extremely hot wax so use caution Water spilled into hot wax can react violently - ensure the two cannot mix Molten wax is highly flammable - remove all sources of ignition Molten wax causes severe burns - wear hand and eye protection, cover all exposed skin Start out bringing a half to two thirds of a pot of water to just barely boiling. Whilst waiting on the water to start boiling, grab a empty soda can and take the lid off (if you use a standard can opener it takes a few turns but will eventually come off). Cube 1/2lb (~227g) of paraffin wax and fill as much of it as possible into the can. Once your water has come to a boil, turn off the heat. Grab your can and hold it in an upright position in the middle so it doesn't tip over and watch the wax melt (keep adding the left over pieces as space permits). Try to add beeswax once your original 1/2 lb. of wax has melted. I used a candle made from pure beeswax which allows the wax to stay pliable much longer. Paraffin wax starts to melt around 100°F (37°C) and beeswax higher at 150°F (65°C). A digital meat thermometer works great to monitor the wax temperature. Aim for a little over 150°F (65°C) to allow the beeswax to melt properly and blend with the paraffin wax, however stick below 176°F (80°C) simply out of safety. Anything higher, carefully lift the can up out of the water. It will take a long time for the wax to drop down fifty degrees and harden back up so no need to rush anything. Wrap your pickup with a rubber band to keep the bobbin tape and its adhesive from coming undone. I am doing this to a pair of new pickups so the bobbin tape adhesive holds up really well. Start dipping in the wax and tap it on the bottom a couple of times to release any bubbles. The pickup can sit there for a couple of minutes to let the wax penetrate the windings and displace any air pockets. Raise your pickup out of the wax and dip it again to build up a nice heavy outside coat of wax. While the pickup is cooling, check the wax temperature. If it has dropped significantly below 150°F, carefully remove the can and place it well out of the way. Heat the water for a minute. Turn off the heat, replace the can carefully and monitor the wax temperature until it stabilises. Grab any other pickups you may need to be potting and repeat the process. After a pickup has cooled off a bit (about 3-5 minutes) it is safe to take off the rubber band and go for a couple of more quick dips! You can do this in the same session, or let the wax fully harden off and do it some other time. A second dip is always good. Here's a tip for later that only costs a buck or less, grab a cheap plastic ice cube tray and place it on top of some cool water in a bake pan. Using tongs or pliers pour your extra wax in the tray and let it cool so you can reuse later on when you need to pot more pickups. Be super careful not to accidentally spill hot wax into the water! Now that your pickups have cooled off (about 4-8 minutes) You can start cleaning off the top, I just use my fingernail because I really don't want to scratch the surface. Cleaning the tops with tough paper towels will take care of the rest of the wax buildup and buff the surface - you're good to go! All nice and freshly potted with a thin coat of protection. Don't forget to wrap your wax after it cools since you do not want any contaminants getting in there during storage!
  6. When restaining a body which was finished in stain to begin with, you can run into the following problem: You've block sanded a workpiece ready to be stained to where the sheen of the top coat is gone and and applied the new stain evenly across the side you're working on. As it dries you notice that areas didn't take the stain well and are developing light imperfections. What has happened here is that the top coat was absorbed into the finish deeper than you thought it was. First let the stain dry completely. Then take a piece of fine grit sandpaper and scuff down the surface even more where the spots are showing till your sure there is no more coating blocking the stains ability to absorb. Now take a cotton tip swab and lightly moisten it with your stain (I know they suck up stain like a sponge). Wipe the tip of your swab against some scrap newspaper till it is almost dry, then gently rub the color into the spotted area. This way you can control the amount of stain that actually is absorbed into your project blending the imperfection(s) away. This sure beats sanding the whole thing down again and starting over! Just as an added extra when staining figured tops: Stain them twice (though most do anyway), but make the first coat very dark i.e. don't dilute it too much, then sand when dry to 400 grit removing much of the stain as you go along, then re-stain with the color diluted correctly to achieve your end color. The point is that the first "dark" coat will bring out the figure of the wood much more after being sanded and the final more diluted coat applied.
  7. One simple step a lot of people overlook when finishing a guitar body is masking off the neck pocket and other important areas. While it really isn't necessary it does have benefits. Sprayed paint can build up rather thick especially around the edges, which could effect alignment of your neck during assembly. Another benefit which is cosmetic; when you peel the tape away from the body you will be left with a clean professional-looking finish. Suspending the body while painting is a must in many situations.... One simple tool which you will find yourself making is a hook to hold it up. If you use a wire coat hanger, taking the time to form its shape helps build a convenient tool. Make the hook which fits through the neck screw holes to extend out further. An extended flat bottom "J" which allows painting around the hole without any problems. A shorter hook can actually mask the body from spray otherwise! This also allows you to suspend the body upside down by hooking it through the trem rout. You will find this advantage helpful when painting the bottom of the body. Making your hook long enough to be able to hold on to the top will also allow you more control of the body when painting around it if your working in a limited space. Keeping the design simple on top also allows you to remove it from the area your painting it and hang the body elsewhere to dry, like if you find yourself painting outside and the weather is less than perfect. Ever wonder how to go from a shiny metallic, bright or dark burst edge to the middle and keep relatively the same hue of translucence color on your body? Metallic looking edges are made by applying a silver burst around the body, then painting the entire body in the translucent color of choice.Bright looking edges are made by applying a white burst around the body, then painting the entire body in the translucent color of choice.Medium to dark edges are made by applying a medium to dark gray burst around the body, then painting the entire body in the translucent color of choice. Painting pickups: I have had limited experience here but I will tell you of one success story. I used acrylic artist paints which are flexible even when dry to paint the missing part of the pattern found on a Jem FP. It looked pretty cool because it gave the illusion of the pickups disappearing into the body.
  8. The first tools you will need are a pencil or pen, and a piece of paper larger than the guitar body as pictured. I just used notepad paper and some masking tape. If you're working with a material that doesn't have a special pattern to it you can skip over this part and move down to the covering the back. Just follow the same directions for the front of the body. Flip your body face down on the paper and trace around it. Once you have your tracing complete cut it out carefully with a razor blade or Exacto knife. . Keep in mind if you chose to use construction paper to make your template you can use the inside piece later to do a PoorBoyBurst™ around your body, so keep that extra piece handy! Now comes the big part. Using your negative template, find the exact place in the material pattern that you want on top of your body. Notice I also have a template for the headstock which has a strip through it to show me where the tuners will be. When you have finished locating the perfect top for your project whip out your trusty roll of masking tape and secure the template(s) all the way around the edges, now go get mom's best fabric scissors =o) Carefully cut around the area you have chosen, giving yourself an extra 1/2" to 3/4" for good measure. When you're finished you can peel the tape and template(s) off and get ready to mount your material to the body! Although not 100% necessary, I usually spray the cavities and sides the final color I plan on using. Not necessary but definitely makes it easier later! Make sure the surface(s) you're going to attach the material to are clean and as free from paint as possible. Bare wood is where it's at for the best possible adhesion of the glue at this point. Gather up your Titebond and a squeegee plus a disposable brush. Place your guitar body on top of newspapers or a large piece of cardboard to protect your working surface. I use a disposable cup or bowl of water to place the brush in when I am through. Titebond is water soluble and even though it is an El-Cheapo brush I like to get as much mileage out of them as possible. Now spread out a nice pattern of glue on the area to be covered. Use your brush to spread out the glue until you have a nice even coat without thick drops or lines. Clean any overruns from the cavities and edges with a damp paper towel or cloth. Place your material on the project surface and start squeezing out from the center. You want the surface to be as flat and smooth as possible so take your time. You have about 20 mins before the glue starts to set up. This should only take 2-3 mins tops. A rolling pin from the kitchen is extremely handy! In the previous photo you can see that the material flopped down over the side and attached itself to the body. This early in the game you want to avoid this happening as it will make trimming the material all that much more difficult. If this happens, pull it away from the body. You might need to babysit the body whilst the glue properly sets up (20-30 minutes) to make sure nothing is going wrong with it. Once the glue has cured well (about 2-3 hours) it is time to whip out your Exacto knife with a fresh blade. Trim around the outside edge. Remember to move forward as you cut on the down stroke. Using only fresh blades it should separate the material along the edge like a hot knife in butter so if the blade starts to drag, replace it. I always try to lean the side of the blade up against the body when ever possible doing this and hold it at a 30-45 degree angle along the edge. Also remember to lightly hold the material taut when possible, pulling it from the project as you cut. You're going to end up with some fairly long strips as you go. It's tempting to cut them off and start a new strip but I prefer to keep going as long as I can and keep the cut going. If you run into an area where the glue did not take, just give that spot a little extra material around the edge and continue. It can always be repaired later after you are finished trimming off the excess. As careful as you might be, when you flip the body over to inspect the edges you are going to see fuzz and a tiny strip of material all along the edge as pictured above on the right. This is a good thing at this point sp don't try to shave it off! While cutting on the down stroke the material along the edge stretches when separating from the body. This extra amount of material will be useful when finish out the top and smooth out the sides later. Now that you are finished trimming, go ahead and make any necessary repairs . Ever wonder why sometimes people put silly photos in a tutorial like the one above? It's actually a neat little trick. Drop a little of the glue you're using for your repairs and use the droplet as a guide to let you know what's going on with the glue you're working with. The clearer or more skinned it gets, the harder the glue is getting on your project. Time to score some material for the back! Since we are dealing with a few more contours here you'll need to get a bigger piece of material than you did for the front. The beauty in working with a nice cotton blend or mix fabric is it's ability to stretch. Go ahead and glue that piece down on the back as you did with the front. However, in order to relieve some of the stress of the stretch you're might have to put some slits into it near the arch of the body where the contour is. These only need to come about a 1/4" from the edge and not all the way up to the body. You will also need to do the same thing around the back of the neck area. You will probably want to babysit the body again and hand burnish the material along the contours as it dries. After it has dried you can trim around the outside and the cavities once again. If you're doing this to a JEM style body, now is a good time to do the monkey grip handle. Slice along the inside edge first till the contour of the handle reaches out. Spread a little glue down along the bare wood and on the material and press it into place. When this is dry trim it out. I used a total of three brand new Exacto blades just to trim this much smoothly, after all why waste energy and possibly mess up an entire project over less than a couple of bucks worth of blades? Whew =o) Now that you have finished your initial trimming, it is time to pick out the filler of your choice. There are many options available on the market from sprays to pastes which all dry rock hard and clear. What you're going to need is a sanding sealer or a wooden grain filler which dries clear. I tend to lean towards the pastes and my trusty cheap brush. If you choose to spray, you'll need several coats to get the desired thickness. Make sure that you coat underneath the fringe of the edge which is still sticking out. With the paste you will want to brush it on thick and across the weave of the fabric then allow to dry. You'll now find that it is quite easy to trim the edges with a fresh blade. The material will have become quite stiff by this point. I have laid a piece across a cavity for you to see in the photo below. At this point trim out all of the cavities. After trimming you might want to add a finish coat of your sealer just to take care of any areas which might have escaped. After this you can take your sanding block and some 320 grit to knock down the major buildup of filler and smooth out the edges. A quick run of 600 or 800 grit smooths everything out nicely. Now that you have finished smoothing out the filler it is time to mask off and paint the cavity's and sides. At this point it is time to make a decision about the sides of your finish. These can be straight paint to the front and back or a PoorBoyBurst™ as pictured. 2-3 thick coats of clear is sufficient, then let the body dry for about 24 hours or however long it requires. Wet sand any orange peel back with high grit paper before adding several more coats of clear. Any remaining texture from the material should gradually disappear from the surface between each coat. Be very careful not to sand through! Final polishing with swirl remover and buffing compound finishes this right off!
  9. First of all this will work using any spray paint method be it from a can, air brush or paint gun so don't worry about having to purchase expensive equipment. You will need: Trace out your guitar body onto reasonably-thick card as shown below then cut out your template. Place push pins around the template at least 1" from the sides for support. Placing your template on the guitar body use pennies, nickels or quarters (washers if you genuinely are a PoorBoy) taped in tubes as weights. The idea here is to hold the template down on the guitar body. Be sure that the template is aligned with the edge of the body all the way around. Now you can begin to paint! Remember that you need to keep an evenly spaced view of the body as you move around. Importantly, keep the nozzle of your spraying apparatus at least 18" or more away from the template. Too close and you could bend the horns or blow it away! Also, the closer you get with the nozzle, the sharper the edge of the spray will be as it hits the body. The distance makes the burst softer. Let it dry completely before removing the template. There you go! A beautiful burst every time with a nice fanned edge =o) With a little practice you can do multiple colors at different depths from the edge of the body. Ever wondered how to go from a shiny metallic, bright or dark burst edge to the middle and keep relatively the same hue of translucence color on your body? Here's a few tips which may help: Metallic looking edges are made by applying a silver burst around the body, then painting the entire body in a translucent color of choiceBright looking edges are made by applying a white or light-colored burst around the body, then painting the entire body in the translucent color of choiceMedium to dark edges are made by applying a medium to dark gray burst around the body, then painting the entire body in the translucent color of choice
  10. Blow Torch Method The most commonly performed burnt finish is made using the ordinary gas blow torch. If you're going to do this method I'd recommend practising on a piece of low-caloric value wood like Basswood or Alder to get your technique down. Low caloric value woods burn quicker than higher ones like Maple, so you quickly get into the habit of not hanging around with the flame! In a pinch and can't find scrap Basswood, then try Poplar or Aspen which have similar properties. Heat Gun Method If the body still has its original finish you can achieve a great random billowing pattern by using a heat gun made for removing paint. Just allow the gun to set in one area on high setting longer than is normally necessary and the paint will fly off of the body like kernels of corn popping out of a hot oil skillet, leaving an unusual pattern behind. Be careful not to work in one area too long though or you will be left with pockets of ash in the body which can look scrappy. A STRONG WORD OF CAUTION HERE! The chips of paint that pop off are sticky flying cinders of hot molten paint. They hurt. I know because I've used this method. Wear plenty of protection including and not limited to; gloves, safety glasses and long sleeves. Also work in a large open area where the toxic fumes can escape and the cinders won't hurt or ignite anything where they land! Heat Gun with Template If your body is clean, free of all marks and down to the bare wood it is possible to do a controlled burn using a heat gun. This neat trick is to use aluminum foil as a heat shield. Folding it over makes it less prone to flapping or bending. The edges can be cut into masking patterns or shapes. Start at one end of the body and whisk the heat gun along the edge of the foil till the pattern starts to form in the wood. Let the body cool down some and move your foil down a few inches and start all over again, overlapping the burns in the wood as you want.
  11. Before we get started let me just say if you have never attempted an inlay before, practice a few times using a spare piece of wood such as a 2x4, this particular method uses clear acrylic sheet for the main material on top which can be purchased in sheets for a few dollars and will render enough material to do this several times over so take your time and practice. My method may not be the same as others and your results may vary but it works for me! You will also need to have all of the frets off of your board unless you plan on spending the next year or so doing fine detail sanding between frets, I used a 16" pre-radiused ebony board for this tutorial and did not fine sand it till the end just in case I made any small marks along the way (accidents can happen). You can either start with your fret board mounted to the neck or not, as you will see I choose to attach this one part way through. Firstly, I drilled a 1/4" hole in a 1/2" thick board and cut a slot to the hole from the side to make a jig for cutting on my table top jigsaw. To hold it in place I used some spring clamps you can pick up at just about any hardware store, those things are great! OK let's get started on the actual work, first of all since this is a tutorial about doing a 3D inlay it will involve using a flat insert such as the one I've made out of vinyl decal material pictured on the right and inlaying it under a clear piece of acrylic plastic. I'm using the 3/32" thick type found in the local Lowes hardware. First I laid the insert on top then I scored a line along every edge of my insert to make a clean very tight drawing on the acrylic sheet. Next I cut out each of the individual pieces using my table top jigsaw on the lowest setting. At this speed it doesn't melt or weld the acrylic back together behind the cut. Just be sure to take your time and also blow away the dust often so you can follow your line. I left the backing on the bottom side of the acrylic to protect it till it's ready to go into the fretboard. Inspect each piece as you get them cut for closeness to your score line. If a piece isn't cut properly you can always run it up and down a flat bladed file, this also helps to smooth out any ragged edges. Next lay each of your pieces on the fretboard and score a line around each one. When positioning them, measure the left and right space as well as the space between the frets to ensure that they're centred....unless of course you're planning something different! ....sometimes when you think you have it right you end up finding out the positioning wasn't that perfect. Be sure to go back and check each one over again since this will be the final time before cutting into the wood! I started out using a very fine cutting tip in a Dremel. Freehand works well if you take your time and stay inside the score marks. No need to rush this part and you can always practice on a scrap board (many times, practice is wise). PS. If you couldn't stay in the lines with crayons as a child now is not a good time to try this on your actual fret board! Get some practice in!! After you have finished the outside edges, switch the bit in your Dremel to a larger router bit and attach your router base. Adjust the depth of cut to about 85-95% of the depth of the acrylic so when you're finished the pieces will still be sticking out of your board all across the top. Of course be very careful as you do this step and constantly blow away any buildup of dust that impairs your vision. After you have cleaned up the middle it's time to switch back to your original tiny cutting tip to clean the edges up freehand. Take your time and clean up the inside of the edges by slightly undercutting them. For the tight corners the Dremel in the router base couldn't reach reliably, use the tip to tidy each one up. Take a new razor blade and clean up the corners until they are neat looking and tight. Keep test fitting each acrylic insert in the cavities as you go. If they don't go in easily, clean up the area where they're binding with the Dremel or the knife. Each piece should be able to go in neatly without force, and not sloppily. Each piece should not only fit easily but should also sit very slightly above the fret board. Time to grab your inserts and make sure each of them fit easily into the routes now. If they don't fit have a look to see if your going to have to adjust everything else or trim them (hopefully neither). Time to prep your board for some serious inlaying! Make sure all of the dust and any other junk that may have found its way into the routes is brushed out, blown away or otherwise removed; totally clean. I'm using a two part clear epoxy made especially for jewellery inlays. I start by mixing it up on a piece of clean aluminum foil since paper or card can contaminate the epoxy with dust and fibres. I use toothpicks for the mixing since they're cheap. I only mix up a small amount of epoxy at a time since I don't want to chance it starting to set up before I have used it all. Here you can see Part A and Part B side-by-side. As you mix the two parts together it is almost impossible to avoid little bubbles of air trapping in the mixture, but we'll discuss that a little later.... Now that you have your cleaned-up fretboard, your inserts easy to get to and the epoxy is mixed it's time to get started. Swab up some of the epoxy with a toothpick and drip it down into the cavity. You only need a tiny bit at this point so it can grab the insert you want under your acrylic piece. There's no need to go overboard at this point. A little dab will do ya. With a little dab of epoxy in the cavity drop in the insert make sure it lays flat. Take more of your epoxy and fill the cavity about 1/2 way making sure it spreads around evenly. If you encounter any bubbles in your mixture as you do this, poke them using a clean toothpick. You can push them away to the side but they'll escape when you place in the acrylic insert anyway. It doesn't hurt to get rid of as most of them as you can though. Now, set your insert down on top of the epoxy and gently press it into place. Let the epoxy ooze out along the edges. When you get to larger pieces it becomes difficult to chase air bubbles from underneath the acrylic . Instead, you can wipe a dab across the back of the acrylic and slide the insert on to it before forcing the bubbles out from the back with a toothpick. Gloves are advised because epoxy isn't good for your skin! Anyway. You can see that the bubbles show easily as you dab epoxy on top of the insert. Take your time and carefully tease any of them out as you work. The toothpicks are great for cleaning out any excess epoxy that manages to find its way into the fret slots. If you want, you can use masking tape or Teflon strips. One of the advantages of the particular epoxy I use (Epoxy 330) is that instead of waiting the normal dry time of 2-3 hours for it to set up an infrared heat lamp will harden it completely in 10 minutes. Don't do it too close otherwise the wood might crack! Your choice of risk. OK so now all of the inserts are in and the epoxy has cured, time for the inevitable sanding.... I started by using 80 grit sleeve to knock the top of the epoxy off. A flat bladed file is also a good option. Yes...it's a beautiful mess but it's my mess =o) Anyway the dust you create as you sand at this point should only be white in color, if you start to see anything else back off immediately as hitting the board at this stage is a very bad thing!! Now that the majority of the top has knocked down it's time to change to higher grits (120 to 220) and continue smoothing the area down. This is what it looks like once I finished using 220. The acrylic is fogged over but the magic will happen soon enough. Here is a side view. It's hard to see but the inlay is still sticking up slightly like a mini speed bump. I do not want it level just yet since the sandpaper of choice has been too large a grit and will cause permanent lines scored into the acrylic if I go any further. Time to switch over to radius block sanding. For this board I needed a 16" radius block. I started out with 320 grit, then each grit through to about 2000. If needed, final polishing can be done with micro mesh. It's useful to have compressed air available. Sand paper builds up with wood and epoxy dust quickly during the sanding process. You can also see the lines running up and down the length of the board from the radius milling machine slowly beginning to disappear. (this board was purchased online from LMII.com) As you change through the grits you will slowly start to see the top of the acrylic smooth up. If you're using an ebony board like this one you'll also see it polish itself up nice and shiny without the use of any oil =o) Fret markers 3 and 5 Fret markers 7 to 12 Fret markers 15 to 24 All finished and ready for the guitar!
  12. Contrary to what many people believe, a dead straight neck is not the most desirable aspect of an instrument set up for playing. Due to the distance a vibrating string moves (deflection) the neck requires a small amount of upward bow to prevent the strings from buzzing on frets. Adjusting the balance between string tension (which bows the neck upwards into "upbow") and the truss rod resisting (or assisting) this pull, the player can have control over the playability of the instrument. This guide was written from the perspective of setting up a fast-playing instrument with a precise low setup such as an Ibanez RG/JEM or other similar instrument. Different players and their respective differing styles may require marginally different measurements dialling in to those quoted. A little on truss rods.... In their most basic form, a truss rod is designed to add stiffness (or "resistance to bending") to a neck under string tension. Originally, they were simple non-adjustable reinforcement bars set into the neck. Gibson introduced the first adjustable rod which was set into a curved channel. When the adjustment nut was tightened, the rod tried to straighten itself out, taking the neck with it. These single-acting rods are surprisingly effective and reliable when installed correctly and well-maintained. Double-acting rods are a much more flexible device which allow the corrective force of the truss rod to act both against and with the tension of the strings, carrying the neck both ways if required. Other rod and neck adjustment methods exist, however the fundamental purpose is to give the owner (or tech) control over how the neck bends in use. "I heard that a straight neck is ideal...." For the most part, it is! A bendy pretzel neck is no use to anybody. However, it has to be borne in mind that strings need room to vibrate. A surgically-straight neck can produce ultra-low action, which is great until you come to playing it. String buzz is a BIG problem! The ideal neck shape is one that has a very mild curve upwards. That simple small amount of "relief" gives strings room to breathe whilst still allowing low action in the upper positions. Note! This tutorial makes a few assumptions which you need to be confident about checking before using these techniques. Most importantly, it assumes a neck that is well-made and has not warped; that the fretwork is straight and even with no humps and dips beyond the usual curvature of a neck. These are not problems that a truss rod adjustment alone can remediate and should be fixed first. With some single-acting and vintage Rickenbacker-style rods it is possible that these steps may not correct all necks. If you are attempting to adjust out a back bow where the neck is bent backwards into a convex shape (you are unable to seat the straightedge onto the first/last frets) and adjustment leaves the truss rod nut loose (string tension alone does not induce forward bow) the neck will likely require professional adjustment or more risky methods of forcing the neck into shape. Simply, the bow in the neck has also bent the convex truss rod channel straight or beyond into a concave type of curve. Tightening the truss rod in this condition will make the back bow more severe rather than doing what is otherwise expected. By all means head over to the forums or consult a professional tech for advice if this is the case. Inspection Firstly, the neck needs checking as to whether or not it has a suitable amount of forward/up bow. This is done by placing a steel straightedge (or similar item with a dead straight edge) lengthwise down the center of the fingerboard between the 3rd and 4th strings, with the guitar tuned to pitch and in the player's position. "Player's position" is how the guitar would be oriented if it were sitting in your lap for playing. If you try this procedure with the guitar flat on its back or other orientation, the neck may not be in it's natural position. Gravity acting on the mass of the neck and the headstock can cause it to bow marginally into a different position which throw off the measurements you are trying to gauge. If you prefer working on your instrument laid on the bench, that is fine also however it's good to know why an instrument might start acting slightly different once picked up and played normally! Ensure that one end of the straightedge is touching the center of the first fret and the other is touching the center of the last fret. Using a feeler gauge (you can purchase one of these at most automotive stores) check the clearance at the 7th fret. If there is less than .005"/0,13mm clearance, the truss rod will need loosening in order to reduce its resistance to string tension, thereby increasing the amount of neck relief present. If there is a larger clearance then the opposite is true; the truss rod will require tightening to increase resistance and decrease neck relief. If you do not have a straightedge to help you check the neck relief you can either use a capo at the 1st fret and manually fret the strings at the last fret (or have a friend hold down the strings at these frets) and use the strings themselves as straightedges. If you do not have a set of feeler gauges you can use a thin piece of cardboard such as a playing card to measure clearance under the strings. The card should barely slide under the string without lifting it. Tightening or loosening of truss rods should only be carried out in small steps. Sensitive truss rods can sometimes require a small fraction of a turn to significantly alter neck shape. Additionally, it can take some time for the wood in necks to "move into the new shape" and reach equilibrium....don't go cranking on the rod if it doesn't co-operate immediately! A rushed setup may yield the correct clearances initially, however necks may continue to move over a longer period. Patience more than pays off when dialling in the perfect setup! An hour between truss rod adjustments is satisfactory with a whole re-check of the neck the following day is good practice. Should the clearance be too small, the neck is too straight. If the straightedge is unable to sit over the first and last frets, the neck is in fact bowed backwards ("backbow"). Both of these situations require that the truss rod nut be loosened by turning it counterclockwise. Do this gradually as described previously and recheck the clearance each time, allowing the neck to resettle as appropriate. If the clearance at the 7th fret was more than .015"/0,13mm you will need to tighten the truss rod by turning the nut in a clockwise direction. Remember to move it in fractional increments (less than 1/8th) as it can move significantly with each adjustment; recheck the clearance each time after the neck settles. Below you will see pictures of the common types and where the truss rod nut is located. On many guitars you will find the truss rod nut located underneath a cover on the headstock. View of a standard Allen wrench style adjustment truss rod For some guitars you will find the truss rod adjustment on the other end of the neck which may mean you will have to remove the strings and take the neck off to make an adjustment. This does mean that you will not be able to make the adjustments with the neck under string tension or in the player's position. Plan adjustments ahead before removing the neck! Heel end truss rod adjustment In the case of spoke wheel adjustment nuts at the heel end, it is possible to adjust the rod using a screwdriver or Allen key by parting the 3rd and 4th strings to gain access to the wheel. The two most common style of truss rod adjustment tools are Allen wrenches and barrel style socket wrenches. If you're adjusting the neck on (for example) an older style Strat neck at the heel you may need to use a flat bladed screwdriver instead. Always check that the tool is the correct size before applying force; a stripped or broken adjustment nut is a far greater headache than a badly set up neck! Step 1: Introduction and headstock area Step 2: Trussrod and neck bow adjustment Step 3: Nut height check and adjustment Step 4: String height and bridge adjustment Step 5: Adjusting the intonation of a guitar Step 6: Adjusting pickup height
  13. The steps in this tutorial are meant to be followed in the order they are presented, failure to do so can cause frustration, a waste of time and a poor setup. If you are confident that you can skip a section by all means do so to save yourself some time. In many of these tutorials measurements are used as a guideline and not a solid fact, you may need to change or adjust these measurements for your own personal playing comfort. For this particular tutorial there are many pictures of different types of guitars in each step to help you better understand your own. Step 1 Headstock Area First start out by making sure all of the screws holding your tuners on the head stock are tightened down correctly. For your reference I have photographed most of the common styles of tuners found on modern day solidbody electric guitars and under each one you will see a description and also a pointer in the picture where the screw is located. Common sealed tuners - 1 screw per tuner In-line open tuning machines - 7 screws per strip Kluson Deluxe tuning machines - 7 screws per group Generic closed box tuners - 2 screws per tuner Sperzel locking tuners - no tie down screws Generic sealed tuners - no tie down screws Try not to over tighten these screws as the threads will strip out the wood easily. If you should run across a screw that is in this condition pull it out completely and dab a little wood glue on the end. Insert it back into it's original hole and wipe off any excess; this will help the screw retain itself. Alternatively, insert a matchstick into the hole with a drop of thin cyanoacrylate (CA, crazy glue) or wood glue. Once dry, carefully redrill a pilot hole for the screw and replace. If the screw itself needs replacing (stripped head, etc) you can generally order one through your local music store or hardware outlet. The most common size is a 7/16" #2 Phillips head. Now move on up to the top of your tuners and make sure the individual buttons are screwed down tightly. Believe me it is an embarrassment if you go to tune up and suddenly you're lost because the button keeps spinning and the spindle goes nowhere leaving you tuned exactly where you were to begin with. Or even worse yet it falls off leaving you searching the ground like somebody dropped a contact lens....these screws are machined small and it can be difficult to get a replacement. The turning action of many tuners are loosened or stiffened by adjustment of the button retention screws. "Finger tight" is preferable to locking them with force or flapping in the wind. Now make sure the front of the tuner is firmly mounted. For press-fit bushings (left) they simply need to "not be loose". If a push-fit bushing does become loose, the tiniest amount of yellow/white wood glue adds sufficient (but non-permanent) retention in the wood. Tuners with screw-down ferrules require either a socket wrench or a spanner for tightening. Tuner bodies and ferrules are often made with softer metals, so torquing these down tight is not advisable since it is easy to break components or strip out the threads. Just beyond finger tight is sufficient. If your guitar is strung up loosen each string individually and check for spindle movement by grabbing the top and wiggling it. It is fine to have a small amount of play but generally little to no play is the accepted rule. If you have open back tuners you can adjust this by tightening the screw located on the back of the gear as pictured below. Otherwise, if you are experiencing too much movement you should consider replacing your tuners. Tune your string back up to pitch and move on to the next tuner. The last thing to check on the headstock are the string trees to make sure they are snugly fastened down. Not all guitars have these and there is a wide variety available on today's market. Below you will see pictures of the most common ones. Standard 2 string tree Full neck string tree 2 string roller tree Step 1: Introduction and headstock area Step 2: Trussrod and neck bow adjustment Step 3: Nut height check and adjustment Step 4: String height and bridge adjustment Step 5: Adjusting the intonation of a guitar Step 6: Adjusting pickup height
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