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#1
Hi guys! Long time no post. I used to be a regular builder here, but life happened over the last 6 or 7 years, and I no longer have access to a shop. I've always wanted to get back to it though, so I have a few projects lined up that I can still manage without "proper" equipment, and I'll be posting those as time allows.

First up is a heavy mod to a Squire strat, hence the quotes on "making". This project basically exists because I want an Yngwie Malmsteen signature strat but don't have the money, so I'll be getting this done as quickly and cheaply as possible. I live in Chicago and we've got a warm snap for a few days with temperatures up in the 60s, which will give me a chance to shoot lacquer etc. outdoors, so I'll be tearing through this pretty fast over the next few days.

I'll be:
- Scalloping, re-carving, and coloring/staining/refinishing the neck
- Re-contouring the neck joint and possibly the right arm of the body
- Refinishing the body
- Replacing the pickups with Dimarzio HS-3/4
- Light colorization/aging to the plastic components

After doing guitar building/modifying the "right" way for years I've realized you can kinda do whatever you want as long as you're not an idiot, so some of the materials/techniques I'll be using I wouldn't necessarily recommend to others, but am fine doing myself because I don't care. I'm starting with a $220 guitar, about $110 in pickups, and maybe $30 finishing materials. I'll probably get it PLEK'd later this summer, so for about $500 total I'll have a guitar that has arguably better fretwork/playability than a from-factory Malmsteen strat due to the PLEK, sounds 95% similar plugged-in due to pickups, is a color I actually like, and has a neck joint that feels better and allows better access. YMMV

Here goes!

Dissembled:


The body will be shot in whatever you want to call this shade of blue:


Taping:


Ready for surgery:


First blood:


I used to remove most of the wood with just a 1/8" round bastard file, but over the years I've switched to cutting guide channels next to each fret and then hog out the lion's share of the material with a 1/4" file, which makes for much, much faster and easier scalloping:


Done with the 1/4" file cutting:


Masking tape just over the tippy top of the side fret markers to check scallops for symmetry and equal depth:


Man down!


Done with roughing in the shapes, on to sandpaper:

Yes my work bench is a sink in my apartment. No I'm not ashamed.
Last edited by lumberjack at Feb 19, 2017,
#2


Have you considered installing a new nut, a roller tree and a better quality bridge?
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou
Shindeiru



Quote by Axelfox
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
#3
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE


Have you considered installing a new nut, a roller tree and a better quality bridge?


Forgot to mention some of that stuff! I generally don't like trems, so I'm just going to be blocking this. Once blocked I generally can't complain about cheaper bridges, as long as the hardware isn't made of soft crappy metal. This one feels about as rugged as a MIM bridge so I'll probably leave it. In general I'm completely blown away by the quality of the guitar for the price; the vintage modified and classic vibe Squire stuff feels really good compared to other guitars in that price range. Oh, and I'll be cutting in a new nut for it also, probably brass just for the fun of it and/or that's what's on the Yngwie strat.

Scallops sanded to 150, beveled, and fret ends dressed. Light coat of lacquer to raise the grain before moving onto finer grits. One of my favorite things about scalloping a fingerboard is the way the grain pattern spills in between the frets; the fact that the neck is one solid piece with no separate fingerboard makes this even more fun to look at:


Drop filling the broken inlay with saw dust/glue. I have plans for the inlays, but they'll be a bit further down the road:


Needed a dowel for the neck but couldn't be arsed to go to the store - shaved a bit of shim into something close enough:




While this dries I'm gunna get to work on the body. Be back in a while.
#4
Starting in on the neck joint. Normally I'd use a band saw for this but I cut the corner off and/or set the vertical contour with the rasp, and will use it for pretty much all the shaping:


Screws countersunk, and ended up going for some fairly aggressive landscaping on the lower horn/arm:


Heel roughed in:
Last edited by lumberjack at Feb 19, 2017,
#5
Back contours finished, neck re-shaped to match the new joint:


New joint allows for much better access, me thinks. With a normal strat block heel I tend to start bonking into it in the 12th position, and anything after that I'm usually modifying my hand or thumb positioning in some way or other. This allows me to freely hit the 21st fret with no change in my wrist angle or tension in the hand, and the deep carve in the back of the lower horn will let me swing the back of my hand down into position for wider stretches/sweeps without hitting it:


EDIT: To my surprise and delight, it appears this body is made of actual wood. It's a 3-piece basswood ordeal; not sure why but I expected plywood. These Squires sure have come a long way in terms of quality over the years
Last edited by lumberjack at Feb 19, 2017,
#6
The basswood explains why it's so easy to carve. It's a popular wood in modelmaking for a reason.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou
Shindeiru



Quote by Axelfox
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
#7
Bit of primer gives a better idea for what these contours actually look like:



Side note: when did this sub-forum die? This place is like a graveyard compared to what I remember - the front page used to only go out a day or two max, and had at least a few full builds going all the time. Now it looks mostly like wiring and painting questions from 11 days ago. Where did all the people excited about woodworking go? I was about to buy another guitar but I'm feeling like buying tools and planning a couple builds for the summer would be better! This community used to mean a lot to me.

Anyone out there remember what I'm talking about, the GB&C "golden age" circa 2007-2012ish? Did people leave for other forums or just stop building like I did? Anyone else interested in breathing some new life into this forum?
#8
Those are some really, really cool contours you've cut out. Great job!
Quote by lumberjack

Side note: when did this sub-forum die? This place is like a graveyard compared to what I remember - the front page used to only go out a day or two max, and had at least a few full builds going all the time. Now it looks mostly like wiring and painting questions from 11 days ago. Where did all the people excited about woodworking go? I was about to buy another guitar but I'm feeling like buying tools and planning a couple builds for the summer would be better! This community used to mean a lot to me.

It's happened for a number of reasons.

Newer and far more popular websites like reddit have taken a lot of traffic away from UG. The popularity of fads such as Guitar Hero were at their peak when the popularity of this forum peaked, which is not a coincidence. Guitar-oriented music does not have the mainstream recognition it once did 10 years ago. The popularity of build threads also started to die out when the global financial crisis hit for obvious reasons.

The tightly-knit community that kept the forum alive has grown out of their teenage years and most of them now have families to look after and full-time jobs. It means they have less afternoons to spend on customising guitars.

With social networking on a handful of humongously large websites being the bedrock of the internet community at large, the concept of dedicated forums dedicated to specific interests is beginning to grow antiquated.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou
Shindeiru



Quote by Axelfox
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
#9
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Those are some really, really cool contours you've cut out. Great job!

It's happened for a number of reasons.


Thanks! And yeah, that makes sense. I guess it's pretty hypocritical for me to show up here 5 years later complaining about how everyone left, when I did the exact same thing Oh well, I'll keep sharing stuff when I can, particularly in a few months when I can get back to some of my old tools.

In the meantime, I finally have something pretty to post: inlays sorted.
#10
After soaking up quite a bit of lacquer, it's finally starting to build. I'll probably spray a couple more coats tomorrow, along with the color and clear on the body, and then get to work on the hardware/plastic stuff while this all dries out. It's going to be nice polishing those frets out; nothing worse than scratchy frets!



You can see the fresh maple doesn't match the lightly amber-tinted original finish, which I'm not worried about for the time being. I'll be doing some colorization to the neck once I have a solid, relatively dried out base of lacquer to work over top of.
#11
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE

The tightly-knit community that kept the forum alive has grown out of their teenage years and most of them now have families to look after and full-time jobs.


On the other hand, we have a whole cadre of beginners with cheap black guitars who play downtuned bedroom metal.
#12
Quote by dspellman
On the other hand, we have a whole cadre of beginners with cheap black guitars who play downtuned bedroom metal.


Well, we were all bedroom rockers of one sort or another at some point I suppose.


Anyways, body shot with color. I'm really happy with the way this shade of blue is shaping up, and am looking forward to seeing the inlays play into it:


#13
Very nice color! It looks like the vintage Daphne Blue.

I've stopped doing threads when this sub-forum really slowed down, more than the rest. There's a Mahogany Squier Tele with HB and SC PUs that I plan to refinish. It was one of those $70 deals when MF and GC closed out the discontinued model.

#14
Quote by Ippon
Very nice color! It looks like the vintage Daphne Blue.


Exactly what I was going for!

Still have a lot of work to do on the neck, but I'm happy with the way it's shaping up - getting all the scallops looking properly blended is gunna be tough.
#15
I stopped building stuff when I ran out of space. I still have wood that I have earmarked for projects but I really need to get rid of some of my existing guitars first. And that seems to be the sticking point. Plus I was old even 10 years ago, although I do have a cheap, black 7 string that I play in my bedroom, so I guess I've still not grown up yet.

Nice work by the way. Always nice to see people doing good things in a limited workspace.
#16
Quote by von Layzonfon
I do have a cheap, black 7 string that I play in my bedroom, so I guess I've still not grown up yet. Nice work by the way. Always nice to see people doing good things in a limited workspace.


I've never understood where the hate for bedroom guitarists came from. Not everyone gets into music so they can play sweaty gigs in dive bars for half-drunk audiences that don't even care; some people get into music for no other reason than to express themselves, even if it's only *for* themselves. Not everyone dreams of being famous, or even having their music known. I know I don't. Who is anyone, especially strangers on the internet, to judge someone else's taste in music and location of practice/performance?

But I digress. Thanks for the encouragement.

Just finished up with the neck, which is finally ready for its finishing coats of lacquer before long-term drying. I could not be more pleased with the way the color came out:





Can't wait to wet-sand out that orange peel and polish those frets! I think this is really gunna pop.

EDIT: body/neck next to each other for color context
Last edited by lumberjack at Feb 21, 2017,
#19
Amazing work! I love it.
I really like the colouring of the neck you have done.
Did you sand off the existing finish before priming?
I am going to totally steal your idea of carving away the neck joint and horns to allow better access on a project I am working on.
My Gear:
Ibanez Jet King 2
Ibanez RGDIX7 MPB
Ibanez GRG 7221
OLP John Petrucci
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Squier Stratocaster (modified)
Harley Benton CLD-41S (Acoustic)

Peavey Vypyr 30.

Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
Boss FRV-1 '63 Fender Reverb
#20
Quote by N1ghtmar3C1n3ma
Amazing work! I love it.
I really like the colouring of the neck you have done.
Did you sand off the existing finish before priming?
I am going to totally steal your idea of carving away the neck joint and horns to allow better access on a project I am working on.


Thanks! Enjoy the contouring - I've done it to a bunch of bolt on joints and it's definitely transformational; I think it makes the instrument much more ergonomic.

Ideally you would strip the old finish, then seal the grain with something like sanding/grain sealer, then prime, paint, and lacquer, with each step sprayed as thinly as possible. Trouble is, on a mod like this I just don't care - so no, I didn't strip the old finish off. The tonal difference on a pre-glued 3-piece solid body that I'm finishing with opaque paint and plan on running into high gain amps just.... I mean I have a hard time believing it matters. Maybe if you're working on a vintage instrument that you'll be using to play jazz, blues, and other genres that live closer to the line between clean and breakup, but honestly I never once plugged in a guitar, cranked up the volume and thought "woah I can totally hear the way this thin nitro finish is letting my tone breath and helping me express my music more authentically."

Anyways that's just me. The main thing is doing what makes you happy with the instrument, so if that means stripping the old paint and refinishing with fermented Siberian tiger saliva (or just good ol' fashioned nitro) you do you brother.

The blank for the nut came in so I finished that up this evening. This is an unreasonably large number of pictures for making a nut, but I had an unreasonably large amount of fun making it. I've never had the pleasure of making a brass nut so this was really novel/interesting.

Blank



Using the old nut as a guide for rough shaping:



Sanding:



Polishing:


And done:
Last edited by lumberjack at Feb 24, 2017,
#21
Cool!
Quote by killedbyaspork
because there is also a gibson squire, and they don't want to get them confused
#22
I'm super impressed really good work on that neck and the fretwork on the guitar looks good (you do work on it yourself or did squier make it that good?), that Ibanez style easy access neck joint conversion too! I need to let you loose one one of my Squiers!
Cornford Hellcat
Peavey 5150
1994 Ibanez Jem 7V
#24
Quote by Zhaezzy
I am glad you did not break my no black guitar rule.


I follow the same rule, sir!

Quote by Bigbazz
(you do work on it yourself or did squier make it that good?) I need to let you loose one one of my Squiers!


The only work I did on the frets so far is angling and re-dressing the ends to better accommodate the shape of the scalloped ends. Overall the fretwork on this guitar was pretty great before I even got started.


In other news the store I ordered the Dimarzio pickups from on Reverb thought it would be a good idea to wait a week before telling me they don't even have the pickups, despite advertising on Reverb that they do and letting me send them money for them. So, the wiring harness will have to wait until I get them from a more reliable source; I've got a blank sheet of pickguard for a bit of atypical wiring I have in mind, but I'm also sorta waiting until I have the pickups because I'd like to stain all the covers/knobs/pickgaurd at the same time, with the same solution.


Until then
#26
Would it not be a better idea to scratch up the brass nut in the areas where it's going to be glued into the fretboard? Glue doesn't stick well to such smooth surfaces.

Obviously don't scuff up the nut in areas where you'll actually see the scuffing. just in the areas that you cannot see.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou
Shindeiru



Quote by Axelfox
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
#27
Quote by Zhaezzy
I usually get pickups from Amazon. They can fit in a mailbox so fewer worries. They have them there and some prewired pickguards too.


That's what I ended up going with - not as cheap as used of course, but 2-day prime shipping is hard to beat!

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Would it not be a better idea to scratch up the brass nut in the areas where it's going to be glued into the fretboard? Glue doesn't stick well to such smooth surfaces.

Obviously don't scuff up the nut in areas where you'll actually see the scuffing. just in the areas that you cannot see.


I don't think I'll need to use glue, and I'd mildly prefer not to. I shaved it to pretty much exactly match the channel pre-finishing given a gentle wap of the hammer to set it in. Once the finish coats of lacquer that actually got in the channel are all dried up I'll be able to shave that lacquer back down to the wood for the same tight press-fit, kinda like shaping a neck pocket for a tight fit before even using bolts.

That's the plan anyways, but if it doesn't fit quite right I'll glue it, in which case a scuffed up surface will glue much better!
#28
God I love watching DIY work like this on high res photos. Keep it coming.
The more you say 'epic' the less it means.
#29
Nice build, man!
I'm looking to teach myself scalloping frets soon, so this is a nice insight!
+1 on the forum dying out though... I used to trawl through this place during its golden years, up to 5 years ago and I only just came back as well. It's kind of sad to see how quiet it's gotten, I too remember the first page changing 2-3 times a day with all the new threads. I stopped trawling when I left for college and lost access to a workspace.

I hope the axe plays beautifully for you!
#30
 
Finally circled back around to this project - got the pickguard done today.  This was a surprisingly major pain without a jigsaw and other tools; my little jewlers saw was too shallow to reach inside the guard to get the pickup slots, so I had to "cut" it out with a dremel and then set the bevel by hand. 
Traced off the old guard:


Ugh: 


Beveling: 


Cleaned up


The control locations are yet to be determined; I'm only using a volume and a 3-way switch.  I'll tint all the plastic tonight and should have time to buff out the body and neck tomorrow or the day after.   

#32
Neck came out lookin' pretty tasty by my standards: 






#33
Well friendos, this project is done!  Sorry it took me so long to post - I was really busy and by the time I got back to working on this I was a bit rushed, and made some mistakes I wasn't particularly proud of :/

Ah well, it lives! I never use the middle pickups so I just threw a dummy in there for the time being, but I'm definitely sticking with the 3-way toggle.  
 











I'll do a little video with some playing in a bit, and I promise to get to work on my full build soon :P
Last edited by lumberjack at May 20, 2017,
#35
Damn that looks so dang cool.

Love how the neck joint came out. Not a fan of the finish on the neck though, it looks too dark and aged. But it's sure as hell better than what I could do.

At least you got the colour of the body correct.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Omae wa mou
Shindeiru



Quote by Axelfox
Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
#36
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Not a fan of the finish on the neck though, it looks too dark and aged. 


Agreed!  It looked fine on it's own but it's too dark for the color of the body - initially I was planning on relic'ing the body, which is why I think I went so dark.  I may get around to it one day, but for now I'm just happy to have it up and playing.  
#37
Beautiful work!  I haven't seen anyone give a Strat a heel contour like that, and I actually like the darker neck color with the blue.  
#39
Super awesome mod man!  Love the stain on the scallop, as it makes the contrast nice.  Such manual labor, wow.  You would have loved my 1-1/8" belt sander.  I have cut belts into narrower slitted belts to fit between the frets.  The loose belt can actually contour to the fingerboard radius.  But then again, you can claim that it was hand carved.  Did you simply scuff the existing poly finish on the Squier so that primer will stick?  Sweet.  

You wondered why this forum is so inactive, and I wondered too, but I found ProjectGuitar dot com, and its got a lot of cool builds going on there, but its also kindof inactive.  More than this though.  Then the Gear page is great - very active, but a lot of pro luthiers, no space for mods.  

Whats your next mod, or rather what would you do on another one?    
Stratocasters are the most perfect aesthetic design ordained by God after the McLaren F1, Nudibranchs and the small of a womans back.
#40
Quote by StratsRdivine
 Did you simply scuff the existing poly finish on the Squier so that primer will stick?  Sweet.  

You wondered why this forum is so inactive, and I wondered too, but I found ProjectGuitar dot com, and its got a lot of cool builds going on there, but its also kindof inactive.  More than this though.  Then the Gear page is great - very active, but a lot of pro luthiers, no space for mods.  

Whats your next mod, or rather what would you do on another one?    


Yep, just scuffed it up with 800 grit if I recall and then primed.  And yeah, I've always been partial to UG since it's where I cut my teeth, and it doesn't look like there's better options out there for hobby-level building/modding anywhere else so...

My next project will be my first full build in nearly 8 or 9 years.  Haven't made much progress on it yet, but when I do you can find it here: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1729542#1
Last edited by lumberjack at May 24, 2017,
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