Considering "building" a parts-o-caster...any advice or warnings?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by gururyan, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. gururyan

    gururyan Member

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    I have absolutely zero experience building a guitar. Recently I thought it would be a fun tinker toy to have something I created and can swap pups in and out of in the quest for tone. I would rather swap around and experiment on this "parts-o-caster" instead of my #1 and then if I found something I really liked I would do it to my #1. Anyway, I have great attention to detail and have good patience...is this a project that requires more experience than I have (I have zero)? Any pointers? I plan to have a strat body with an orange or trans orange body (think faded fiesta red circa '62), soft V neck with rosewood board. I don't even own a soldering iron, so I'd have to learn that skill too. I think it would be an educational process and fun at the same time. Should I go for it or just buy a less expensive strat and use it as my guinea pig to do with what I wish.
     
  2. straightblues

    straightblues Member

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    A parst caster will cost about $800 to put together if you use good parts. This does not include any tools you would have to buy. If you are putting together a parts caster for that kind of money, I would think you would want it to become your new number 1. If it isn't it probably isn't worth doing. If you want to mess around, just get a $250 used MIM.
     
  3. Hamer Player

    Hamer Player Senior Member

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    You can get a nice USA Peavey strat from eBay for under $100.

    Building one is not worth it.
     
  4. BradKM

    BradKM Member

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    It's an expensive proposition, especially if you have no tools and limited skills.

    If you're primarily hoping to use this as a platform for experimenting with pickups, I'd suggest looking for a cheap swimming pool routed Strat body made from the same wood as your primary guitar, or a used MIM, like straightblues suggested above.

    Then, spend some time learning to use an iron and go nuts swapping pups, pots, caps, and switches around.

    If you're serious about assembling a nice axe, you're looking at spending at least $700 in parts, another good chunk on tools, and you'll probably make some costly mistakes on the finishing and the nut work...so my advice would be to start slow.

    You can get a cheap kit from a lot of on-line retailers for less than $150 that will give you an idea of how everything goes together and where you might run into problem areas. For roughly twice that, you can get a nice Carvin kit that will likely yield a useable guitar. I'd go with one of those before shelling out a lot for premium parts.
     
  5. Badfinger

    Badfinger Member

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    Well, I guess I will post another perspective. Yea, its going to cost you between $800 and $1000 to put together a parts-o-caster (using quality parts), but I think its an exercise worth every penny. I ventured into this arena a few months ago, bought a body from someone here on TGP, a neck from Warmoth, WCR SR pups from another forum member, Callaham bridge, tuners etc from Warmoth, and put it together. Then I decided to change colors so I disassembled it and painted it (Shell Pink). And if I ever decide to change colors again, well I will. I bought the neck with the nut pre-installed and once I assembled everything, a set up was all it needed. The fretwork was pretty good, you may need a leveling job tho. I liked going thru the exercise of putting it all together and tweaking with it. And I have a Strat that is a pretty good player. Its not as good as my Custom Shop Fender, but its not $1000 worse than it either!
     
  6. MartinPiana

    MartinPiana Supporting Member

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    I had no particular chops when I started my guitar project. Soldering is pretty easy to learn -- read a paragraph on it and then practice (or better yet, watch an expert do -- even once). Soldering irons are inexpensive. I don't think I bought any other tools. I bought a Carvin neck, so the nut and frets were all ready to go. I had a friend paint the body (extravagant Miro paint job). That took months and months, then more time for my top coating and finishing. I spread the purchase of parts out over 14 months or so, so the financial pain was masked. $50 a month (average) ain't that expensive of a hobby. I'm on the 1500 grit sandpaper now -- should have it playing in a couple weeks. I work slowly -- I spend more leisure time playing guitar and surfing -- but this has been a fun and satisfying project so far. I just hope the damn thing plays as good as it looks!
     
  7. BradKM

    BradKM Member

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    You got lucky there. It's not uncommon to get lucky like that. I've built lots of parts guitars, including three or four for my own use. Most of the time the tweaking of the nut and frets that was needed was minor...but when you do run into trouble there someone without real experience won't be able to handle it, and taking it to a competant luthier will tack another $100 or so onto the price.

    Just as an example...a couple of years ago I gathered up a lot of the spare parts that were gathering dust on my workbench and in my parts drawers. I ordered a custom pickguard from Warmoth and slapped it all together. I wasn't expecting much. I used the neck and pickup off of an old Jackson, an aftermarket Strat body, a Mighty Mite bridge, and some CTS pots and switches I had laying around.

    I was surprised when I bolted the guitar together and it was almost instantly playable...no real set up needed. It sounded pretty darn good too.

    Eventually, I decided to give the guitar a proper Strat neck and invest in a couple of loaded pickguards to swap in and out. I've never run into more problems in a single build in my life. The new neck isn't a very tight fit (I'm not too concerned about it), none of the pickguards line up the same or have the same hole pattern (two fit well, the one that's currently on there is seriously miscut at the neck pocket), etc...the list goes on.

    Fortunately, I still consider this my "floor sweep" guitar and I'm not concerned about the misaligned pickguard...and I've got enough experience to fix the other problems myself. This guitar has convinced me that it's not as simple as slapping a few parts together with a soldering iron and a screwdriver, however...and when people ask I give them fair warning...especially if they say they have few tools and little experience.
     
  8. raz

    raz Member

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    If you're doing it to save money, don't.

    If you're doing it to learn and have fun and see what happens, do. You'll definitely learn some things. You might come up with a gem, you might come up with a turkey. But you'll learn some things.
     
  9. johnmfer

    johnmfer Member

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    I started doing my own mods six or seven years ago, and I now have two partscasters I built from scratch and two that started life as one thing and have evolved into something else entirely. I have one other guitar that's factory stock, and it's up for sale. I can't seem to bond with factory guitars any more, keep trying but it doesn't work out. So, beware, it's addicting.
     
  10. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    I 100% agree with raz.

    By running the racks you have a better chance at finding a gem Strat....but, while it's a crapshoot, you could get lucky with a parts-o-caster.
     
  11. googoobaby

    googoobaby Member

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    I thought about doing it right but when I added up all the costs, it turned out that I could buy an excellent used guitar for the same price. I ended up buying someone else's parts-o-caster for a fraction of what they paid and it's an outstanding instrument. Warmoth really does make an excellent product, but with not much resale value through no fault of theirs.
     
  12. Killa-B

    Killa-B Member

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    This is also the advice I'd follow. I've built 5 parts guitars, 3 of them were really nice (2 are still my main players-90% of what I use). The other two were not bad, but between the somewhat random wood and my poor choices, the finished product was not what I wanted. Parted them out, and lost a good bit of my investment.

    For a guy with no tools and no experience, the nut will most likely be a visit to a tech. It's a really impossible task without the right tools.
     
  13. bluegrif

    bluegrif Member

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    If I'm reading you right I'd say do it. I've built several. Including one that's no partscaster, but a guitar of my own design. That was actually my first but I did have my luthier cut out the shape and route the neck pocket because at the time I didn't have the tools. If, as you say, you have patience and are detail oriented you should be fine. Building from parts is pretty straightforward. Especially if you buy finished parts. When I built my self-designed guitar, the finishing took the longest by far. I used swamp ash and had to start with grain filler, spray many coats of nitro. Spray, sand, spray, sand, spray, sand; then eventually bring the finish up using rubbing compounds. It's about the same process as painting a car and I got a lesson from an auto painter friend of mine. Anyway, I had to measure, drill, rout, install hardware where there was only solid wood, etc. My point is, I had very few prior building skills (other than soldering - been fixing cords since I started playing over 40 years ago). I'd never built any furniture and am not a very mechanically inclined person. I did use a Warmoth neck which I finished and modified the headstock shape myself.
    It is important that you're doing it for the right reasons, not to attempt to save money. Also, I recommend getting a good book or two. A lot of great information can be found in The Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine.
     
  14. gururyan

    gururyan Member

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    Great insight, thank you all!

    I may just go with plan B which is to pick up a used Koa Strat for under $500 and just use that, or a Jimmy V or 50's Strat so I can have my favored V neck.

    Gotta run though, out the door to catch Hosty and Bonamassa in a few minutes. I'll take pics of the rigs, since I know you sickos would enjoy that. :rolleyes:
     
  15. JoeB63

    JoeB63 Supporting Member

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    If you want it to really look professionally made, have someone else finish it.

    Also consider this -- you could buy a used American Fender and spend $100 - $200 on a super top-notch set-up (maybe PLEK) and you'd have a great guitar for less money - plus resale value.
     
  16. michaelprice83

    michaelprice83 Member

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  17. PB Wilson

    PB Wilson Member

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    Depending on how picky you are, finishing will probably be your biggest hurdle. After that, things to pay close attention to will be (in no particular order) shielding, setup, fretwork and getting the neck holes drilled accurately. I say go for it and appreciate the work that goes into these instruments.:cool:
     
  18. pfflam

    pfflam Silver Supporting Member

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    Do it if you love to really own the thing.

    I made my #1 (see sig) I love it!!

    It ended up being a sum of money, but a good aspect abvout building it is that it takes time and you spend over a long period . . . .and its kinda fun to hunt eBay for cheap-but-good-parts . .

    I really really scored on my body: an Ash Tele for just over $100 from a seller named Swamp Gas . . . . also, I was lucky to have a neighbor, a true Wisconsin Tool loving artist, who had all sorts of tools and even knew how to patinate Brass for my dark Brass pickguard.

    Anyway, it was a great project and I love my guitar to high heaven - I used Warmoth for the neck - and its great- but next time I will use USCG to get a vintage radius with compound . .

    Nitro? don't spend the outrageous Guitar specialty prices, (and don't be ttoo finicky IMO) go for DEFT or PlastiCote Classic Lacquer . . ..

    I say just jump in get makin!!
     
  19. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    I've got two Warmoth strats and they're both really nice guitars. The first one was bought literally a piece at a time -- before you could do it on ebay -- and the second one was someone else's favorite plank for the first ten years of it's existence.

    Buying somebody else's project guitar is definitely a cost effective way to go given that you can find them at guitar shops (and pawn shops) for as little as $300 bucks; and generally not priced any higher than $650 or $700 online or elsewhere for a top-quality parts-o-caster.

    The obvious downside is going to be in the hit you'll take when selling you're kit-built guitar for as little as a third of your total out-of-pocket expenses. However, if you use quality parts and don't cut any corners there's a very good chance you'll end up with a really kick-ass sounding and playing guitar that you're way too happy with to even consider selling.

    IMO the only real reason to build a custom parts guitar is the fact that you have options that very few -- if any -- off the rack guitars offer.

    For example, I like the feel of Warmoth boat necks and there's nothing Fender offers that even comes close; unless I commission the custom shop to build me a one-off custom instrument. No thanks.

    If you're happy with off the rack guitars, buy one, save yourself a bundle of money and try some different pickup combinations et cetera until you find one that sings to you. ;)

    I've had both of mine for 5 and 10 years respectively and couldn't be happier.

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    Check out this birdseye pattern.
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    Here's a few pics of the other one.

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  20. HHB

    HHB Member

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    my partocaster "blackie" copy has vaulted to my number 1, very very happy w/ how it turned out. it feels cool to play one that you put together yourself as well
     

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