Customising an Affordable Guitar Into Something Unique and Awesome... on a Budget

The guitar that you see here started life as a standars Aria stg, with just standard specification and the normal three single coil pickups to a standard strat wiring.

Ultimate Guitar
Customising an Affordable Guitar Into Something Unique and Awesome... on a Budget
The guitar that you see here started life as a standard Aria stg, with just standard specification and the normal three single coil pickups to a standard strat wiring. The guitar originally had a Rosewood fretboard on a maple neck.

The guitar was ok to begin with, but not anything special or particularly good, I just knew that I wanted some thing different. I wanted it to look different, feel different and sound different to anything I had owned or played before. The first decision was what to do with the body, as it happened this turned out to be quite simple. The body is made of Ash and is of really quite good quality, it also had a good wieght and felt very comfortable to play with, so I left the body alone and used it as it was.

The next part was to decide about what neck I wanted, I did not really feel at one with the original neck as to me, it felt awkward and cumberson, this was not helped as I have athritus in my hands anyway, so I was going to need something far more comfortable. I found a beautiful and well made 22 fret Maple neck with Maple fretboard item, this was just amazing to see the beautiful work that had gone into building this, it was made from Canadian Maple and was the one most significant part to the construction of what I was looking for. This was also the single most exspensive item on the build. So this was now looking pretty good, apart from the new neck being the same width, length, scale as the original, had turned out to be 6mm shallower than the original, and in fact the incorrect size had been given in the description, oooohhh, what now, do I send it back and wait for another, do I block it up with a plinth of wood, my end decision was to get a 6mm metal plate made to fit, not sure how this would turn out or feel when playing the instrument, I still decided to take a gamble and get the plate made, what a good choice.... when the guitar was assembled the plate was awsome, it balanced the guitar amazingly and the sustain was brilliant, the set up was just great, would I do another this way...? Yes...with out any doubt. The other interesting thing about the metal plate is that the guitar never ever went out of tune, even if left unplayed for weeks in a room that the temperature would change a lot in, it was if the plate absorbed the differences and kept the tuning correct all the time, the same was the with the intonation, it just stayed perfect all the time, I will admit it was a lot of luck in the fact that it was so good, but now I know about this, I would do this every time.

The next thing for me was that I was after a greater variety of sound, I was also considering doing a Gilmore mod for the electrics any way. I decided that I would go for 5 seperate single coil pickups to achieve what I was looking for, I know....suicide, what about all the noise of all those single coils layed out next to each other... well this was going to take some thought about to get this sounding right, without unwanted noise, buzzing, feedback, etc. Well as I had some knowledge in computer engineering, there was a principle that was going to apply here, in electronics, heat is the problem with a lot of electronics in a confined space, this is energy and is usually desolved by fitting a heatsink, a basic cooling block attached to the componant that is generating the heat. With the 5 pickups, noise was going to be the energy that I needed to desolve, my method.... a Pharaday cage, named after Pharaday of the electrical fame. The frame is basically a mesh cage in wich electronic noise can be dissolved, this is it in the simplest form. I decided to make a cage into the body caverty of the guitar, underneath and insulated from the electronics of the pick guard.

I decided to use 1 mm nickel plated wire and wrapped this around the side of the caverty in the body 50 times. The first end of the wire was soldered to the bridge plate and the other end fed back through the body caverty onto the earth used in the wiring of the pickups...I felt very unsure about it in a way as I was assembling it, I was worried it could work more as a feedback generator, but everything was well insulated and shielded on the Pharaday cage, well I guess the question is, how well did it work....?, the answer, brilliantly, there was no buzz, hiss,or any sort of noise that was not wanted from the guitar, in actual fact, the guitar was far quieter than it had been originally with just the three pick ups. The rest was quite simple after that, I laid the pickups in alternation from plus to minus polarity, or north and south to be more precise. Each pickup was made to adjust individualy and the three middle pick ups are wired to the volume and tone as normal. The second tone was converted to a volume control for pick ups 1 and 5, the two outer ones on the guitar, this gave me brighter bridge blend when using the neck pick up, or a more mellow sound when using the bridge pickup, but I could totaly control the volume of the two outer pickups, this gave me the Gilmore effect that I was looking for and fully controlable volume when using them, if I did not want to use these, I just turn the volume down on them and revert back to the three standard strat pickup sound. The whole thing went together and worked a treat, I had a great guitar with a beautifully balanced feel to it, great sound and variation from the pickups and no unwanted noise, what else could I wish for, I put a new set of 10,s on just to give the tone a bit of feel. The action could be set very low as the depth of the plate was perfect for this and the sound, tonal quality and sustain from the guitar was just fantastic.

This is not likely to be a must have to many guitarist, the idea is to just show what can be achieved on a budget, with a bit of time and some luck, the rewards are great and is worth considering if you are looking for something different, that sounds different and is like an extention of your sole, then this may be an idea for you, not to mention the fact that it was fun and a rewarding project, I sold the guitar afterwards and was actually offered more money for it of a dealer than what I thought of asking for it...I now have one in Candy Apple Red....???? The whole project cost me very close to £300. the guitar sounded like and played like a £3,000 if ever you have an idea of making a guitar on a budget, do not be put off, or give up, you never know what you can achieve.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    This is great! UG needs more lessons on maintenance and building, I think. Very cool idea about the cage to reduce noise too