Assembling a strat from parts

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by 56_Special, Feb 4, 2006.

  1. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    What kind of time and skill does it take to assemble a strat from parts (sourced from some place like Warmoth or USA Custom Guitars)? I'm thinking about a body that is already finished at the factory. Once I get all the parts together, is further wookworking required? Small tweaks and adjustments? If this is my first time attempting a project like this, can I expect to assemble a very high quality guitar?

    Thanks!

    Martin
     
  2. K-man

    K-man Member

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    I built a Warmoth strat. I took a class at the local luthier and it was well worth it. There's still alot of work left to be done if you want a good quality guitar, such as mounting the neck, leveling and dressing the frets, cutting the nut, mounting the hardware, etc. I would suggest you try to find a class, or in the very least read Dan Erlewine's Guitar Player Repair Guide. Great book.

    Good luck! It's a great feeling to play a guitar you built (or at least assembled) yourself!
     
  3. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    Thanks for the 411, K-Man. So, if a parts guitar is comptently assembled---for example, under the supervision of an experienced luthier---how good a guitar will result? Would it be on a par with a high quality "store bought" guitar?
     
  4. DEMENTED

    DEMENTED Supporting Member

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    Most likely it would be of higher quality, as long as the luthier is competent.
     
  5. stratofied

    stratofied Member

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    Maybe better maybe not. The quality of the parts and skill of the Luthier will determine the final result.
     
  6. K-man

    K-man Member

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    It will depend on the quality of the parts and the luthier. If they are both good certainly the guitar will be much higher quality than what goes through Fender/Gibson assembly lines. Of course it won't be as good as a guitar hand built by a luthier with 20 years experience, but I think you get the picture.

    Remember you can take 4 hours to dress the frets, cut the nut, etc. and get them perfect, while the big guitar makers probably have a 1/2 hour to do it.
     
  7. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    This is, of course, true. But, in my experience, QC at say Fender is such that there is a ton of variation between different strats of the same model. You have to play a bunch before you find a good one. If you bought parts from one of the top parts suppliers, and had it assembled by a guitar tech with a good reputation, would it be reasonable to expect to have a guitar on par with "one of the good ones" or better. To my thinking, it wouldn't be worth the expense and extra trouble to have one assembled from parts if it isn't reasonable to expect such.
     
  8. K-man

    K-man Member

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    It would be better than one of the assembly line guitars, but it probably wouldn't be worth the expense to have a luthier build it (he probably wouldn't build it from parts to begin with).

    I think the point is you are going to build it yourself, in which case it is definately worth it for the pride you will have in playing a guitar that you built. My point was if you have never built one before than you should try to find a luthier who offers a class to show you how, so that the end result is a quality guitar.
     
  9. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    OK. So what you're saying is that it isn't so difficult that I would have to hire a luthier to do it. I should just, one way or another, acquire some basic skills. What I'm looking for in the end, is a guitar that sounds and plays at least as well as one of the good off the shelf Fenders without the crap shoot of sifting through heaps of them and I don't have the budget for a bespoke guitar. So, if I hear you correctly, if I can acquire the basic skills, a parts guitar will probably get me there (not the quality of a bespoke guitar but of an excellent off the self one).
     
  10. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    The assembly and soldering are fairly straight forward for most people who took at least a bit of shop in high school. Just don't overheat the pot soldering on the star ground (experience speaking). The biggest hurdle will be cutting the nut (unless yours is pre-cut) and dressing any frets that need it. This requires nut files and a fret file. You could do all the easy stuff and then have your tech/luthier do the nut, frets, and set-up. This would seem a logical choice for a first timer.
     
  11. r9player

    r9player Silver Supporting Member

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    I build my own from parts. Nut is the hardest part and I would recommend initially if you don't have all nessecary parts and equipment to have that done by a luthier/guitar repair shop.
    Everything else is pretty straight forward. I had to drill a few holes, dremmel a little bit of wood and was done (besides standard screwing in stuff and soldering some stuff)
     
  12. Loni Specter

    Loni Specter Member

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    Hello Martin,
    There is no better feeling than playing a guitar or bass that you have put together yourself.(well maybe if you cut the wood from scratch).
    I think that if you have basic tools and common sense, you can do the whole thing including the nut slots. I have cut lots of nuts from bone, ivory, plastic, micarta, brass and aluminum with hand files, exacto saws, and jewlers files. It takes time and precise measurment. Some folks have the patience and temperment for this. If you are not detail minded, stick to the simple stuff and leave the frets and nut to your luthiers.
    Assemling a Strat or Tele is very simple. I would start by getting hold of a cheap bolt-on neck guitar and slowly disasembling it, looking at the not so obvious details like, What size and type head the fasteners have, how long are they, how deep are the holes in the neck for those large screws. (The neck you buy might not have pilot holes drilled, and you will have to do that.)
    I've seen people drill pilot holes with a hand drill and go ALL THE WAY THROUGH the fingerboard. Same with the small pilot holes for the tuners and string retainer. Put a piece of colored tape on the drill bits at the depth you need to stop. If you try to screw those tiny tuner screws without proper sized pilot holes the will break off and YOU are screwed. The pilot holes should be the same size as the solid part of the screw minus the thread. Only the threads should be wider than the hole. Maple is a very hard wood! Also use a tiny bit of nose grease or dry bar soap on the tip of those tiny screws to ease the threading. Also make certain that the philips head of the driver matches the screw or you will mess the screw up. I'd say that is the most common mistake most people make, WRONG size tips on screwdrivers.

    If you have to drill the neck pilot holes, make certain that the neck fits reasonably tight in the cavity. All body with paint are different and be careful not to chip the thin paint at the neck pockit edges. (everyone does that at first). If the neck has a finish on it this could be a squeeze and you may need to sand some finish off either the body cavity or the neck where the touch. Remember that the neck and body taper, so the neck should be pressed into the bady from the top, not shoved in from the end. Some folks like to remove any paint from the flat part of the body's neck cavity for better sustain. I do.
    I also believe that the majority of tone "lives" in the neck, not the body. Spend the bucks on a good, not too thin, Warmoth neck.
    Well that's all the time I can spare now, gotta try and save a Fender '51 Squire from the worst fret job I have ever incountered on a new guitar. You could saw wood with the protruding fret ends!
    good luck!
    Loni
     
  13. K-man

    K-man Member

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  14. 56_Special

    56_Special Member

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    Loni, thanks for the advice!

    K-man, thanks for the links!

    Martin
     

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