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Wed Nov 28, 2012, 04:45 PM

Anybody have any experience building guitars?

So a few days ago I came across the most beautiful guitar ever.

Behold: http://www.framus.de/modules/custom_shop/NewsCustomShop.php?newsID=3830&modell=AK%201974&page=0&cl=EN

Now a Framus AK 1974 costs about 4500 ($5800), so actually buying one is completely out of the question (not to mention that the one above is a custom guitar, which isn't even available for sale). Since those prices are beyond unaffordable, I thought maybe I could assemble my perfect guitar.

So after a bit of research I came across Warmoth Custom Guitars (http://www.warmoth.com), who seem to fit the bill. They will make body and neck to your specs (within certain parameters), and they ship internationally. I also read some positive things about their build quality. I was able to put together something that came close to my perfect guitar for about 1600. Which is still expensive, but I'll probably be able to save up that much money eventually.

The problem of course is that the most guitar building I've ever done is replacing the tuning mechanisms on my Epi Les Paul, i.e. I'm a complete noob and I'll eventually have to get a local luthier involved. But in the meantime I was wondering if anybody here had any experience building/assembling guitars and could give me some tips or answer some questions, and if anybody had ever bought from Warmoth.

Thanks.

P.s.: Why does the Spell Checker not recognize the word luthier?! Heresy!

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Reply Anybody have any experience building guitars? (Original post)
LeftOfSelf-Centered Nov 2012 OP
Twinguard Nov 2012 #1
LeftOfSelf-Centered Nov 2012 #2
Twinguard Nov 2012 #4
LeftOfSelf-Centered Nov 2012 #6
Twinguard Nov 2012 #5
LeftOfSelf-Centered Nov 2012 #7
LeftOfSelf-Centered Dec 2012 #18
Twinguard Dec 2012 #19
jeepnstein Nov 2012 #3
LeftOfSelf-Centered Nov 2012 #8
jeepnstein Nov 2012 #9
LeftOfSelf-Centered Dec 2012 #10
jeepnstein Dec 2012 #11
LeftOfSelf-Centered Dec 2012 #12
jeepnstein Dec 2012 #14
LeftOfSelf-Centered Dec 2012 #17
Tom Ripley Dec 2012 #13
Scuba Dec 2012 #15
LeftOfSelf-Centered Dec 2012 #16
ashleywilliam Dec 2012 #20
ProfessorGAC Dec 2012 #21

Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Wed Nov 28, 2012, 08:42 PM

1. I'm a bit of a luthier.

I just build for fun, not for sale.

I've bought many parts from Warmoth over the years, I've assembled more than a few kit/parts guitars, and I've spent countless hours tinkering with the various guitars in my menagerie (yes, they are all beasts). I am totally confident recommending Warmoth parts.

If you have some specific questions, concerns, thoughts, or ideas about construction, I'd be happy to help you out. I spend my down time reading about guitars, luthiers, building, materials, parts, etc... If I don't know the answer off the top of my head, I could certainly steer you in the right direction.

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Response to Twinguard (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 09:09 AM

2. Thanks!

I have lots of questions, since I've never done anything like this before. I'll start off with something basic but important: woods.

A quick note about what I play: I play mostly rock, from standard rock/punk crunch to metal (but nothing extreme). I usually keep my guitars tuned half-step or a full step down to better accommodate my voice and when I bring teh metalz I go to Drop C tuning. Though occasionally I might need to use standard tuning, which makes choosing the right string gauge a nightmare. At the moment I have no active bands so I only record, just running my guitar straight into my computer and do the sound with VSTs.

Ok, so here's my basic idea for the guitar: single cutaway, semi-hollow body, two humbuckers, one volume (push/pull coil split), one tone, three way toggle.

Warmoth's LP5S shape is perfect, although it seems Gibson slapped Warmoth with a cease and desist order for their body shapes. I did eventually find the configuration page, but I don't know if I'll be able to buy it.

I still have to read up on woods, so for now I just followed more or less what Framus was doing to get a price point; maple body with birdseye maple top, maple neck with ebony fingerboard. Warmoth lists Maple as a very bright sounding wood, which should be ok since I tend to keep Treble and Presence high on my sounds (but that's on a digital VST, so may be irrelevant). Do you have any other wood suggestions?

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 01:07 PM

4. Maple bodies are definitely bright.

My biggest concern about maple bodies is that they tend to be quite heavy. Ebony, bubinga, walnut, and wenge bodies will also be very bright, and also pretty heavy (and expensive). One thing luthiers do to reduce the weight is to make a body of ash or mahogany and then cap it with a piece of maple (in fact, my current build is ash with a maple top and 1/4" wenge stringers). Ash is fairly bright, alder will be less so, and mahogany is fairly dark sounding, but all three options with a maple top will be noticeably lighter than a solid maple body and still pretty bright.

A maple neck is always a good choice since maple is very stable. An ebony board on it is going to be quite bright, a maple board is also going to be nice and snappy. You might also consider bloodwood, wenge, or even pao ferro for a bright sounding board.

I don't want to sell you on wood choices that you might or might not want based on my own personal findings, I just want to let you know that there are many options, and some of the options will weigh less or cost less and still give you a sound that you will enjoy.

Another thing to consider is that, in most cases, the wood offers subtle tone differences compared to the differences you can get with different pickups, different strings, different picks (or plectrums if you prefer), different hardware, and different amps. An ash Telecaster with a maple board strung with stainless steel wound strings played through a Fender Twin Reverb with the treble and presence cranked will be almost painfully bright. A mahogany Les Paul played through the same setup will also be bright, but far easier on the ears.

A standard alder body/maple neck setup will also be brighter with a brass nut, high mass (brass) bridge, and single coils or P-90s than the same guitar with a bone or graphite nut, graphite saddles, and humbucker pickups. There are a bunch of parts to a guitar and they all, to one degree or another, have an affect on the tone.

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Response to Twinguard (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 04:41 PM

6. Thanks for the info

I am worried about weight, but not in the way you might think: I have no real experience with semi-hollow bodies and I'm worried that the guitar will be neck-heavy. So a heavy body is actually sounds good to me. But I definitely want a semi-hollow body.

I wear my guitar fairly low, so my normal playing position is with the neck pitched up at maybe a 30 angle, and ideally the neck would stay in the position if I let go. It's an issue with my Epi Les Paul, which I believe is all mahogany and has chambered body. The guitar levels out to horizontal (at best, it might pitch down if move too much) and I have to reach down to bring it back up for playing. I've done some reading and mahogany could be an interesting alternative for the body, but I'm worried about the balance.

I'm pretty set on the Birdseye Maple top, because I want the top of the guitar to have transparent red finish, which should look good with the grain coming through. Actually the paint job, is probably gonna be another problem which could bring this whole project down: I was imagining transparent red top, cream or white binding and solid black back and neck. Don't know if Warmoth would actually do a combined paint job like that, and whether I could afford it.

In the end I probably wouldn't even be able to tell the tone differences in the woods...

As for the rest I was thinking about going with a Seymour Duncan Custom SH-5 in the bridge and either a '59 SH-1 or Jazz SH-2 in the neck, Tuno O Matic Bridge with stop tail piece and GraphTech nut. Someday in the future I'd also like to add a piezo bridge, but for now Ill keep it simple(r).

Again thanks for your input.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 01:15 PM

5. I'm not sure about any legal conflict between Warmoth and Gibson.

If you are unable to get what you are looking for from Warmoth, you might also check out Carvin guitars. Building a guitar, even just assembling one, is an awesome feeling and you end up with an axe that you can be proud of forever. Sometimes, however, you are unable to get exactly what you want from Warmoth (or any of the other places). I don't know if Carvin ships internationally, but it would definitely be a good option. You can customize just about anything you want on their guitars. They don't have dealers, and therefore no middle-man, so their guitars are quite reasonably priced... especially factoring in their quality. My brother has three Carvins and likes them as much as any others he's played.


* I just went to Warmoth and indeed they are having issues with Gibson re: their Gibson style bodies. Personally, I don't really see the problem since Gibsons are mostly (if not all) set-neck guitars and Warmoth only makes bolt-on guitars... but that's between them.

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Response to Twinguard (Reply #5)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 04:50 PM

7. I'm fairly worried...

because that LP5S body is exactly the one I want.

I already have a Strat shaped guitar ('89 Ibanez Jem 7PBK) and a Les Paul, so I have my heart set on a semi-hollow body, and that body design couldn't be any more perfect if they had extracted it directly from my imagination.

I'm really difficult when it comes to guitar designs; there are guitars I would never consider just because I don't like the headstock design!

Gah, this cease and desist order makes worries me. Why aren't they going after all the other manufacturers that are making Les Paul and SG knockoffs? Hopefully they'll have come to some kind of agreement by the time I have the money together. I've yet to find another custom body maker that does semi-hollow bodies...

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Response to Twinguard (Reply #5)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:46 PM

18. Bad news.

I wrote to Warmoth about the body and they confirmed that they're not selling the Gibson shaped bodies anymore. For the moment they don't know what they'll do, and probably won't know until spring. I think I read Warmoth actually has a licensing agreement with Fender, so there are no problems with their models. Apparently they couldn't work out an agreement with Gibson, or Gibson wasn't even interested. Interestingly enough this affects only the bodies, they can still sell Gibson replica necks!


I hope they come up with something similar to the LP5S hollow-body, because I haven't seen anything else around like that.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #18)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 06:38 PM

19. That's terrible news.

I will, however, keep my ear to the ground. If I hear anything I'll let you know.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 12:34 PM

3. The best Strat I ever played...

was a Warmoth home brew guitar. There's really not all that much to building an electric guitar if you can measure things correctly. You can do it. The most demanding part will be the finishing.

Now if you were talking about building an acoustic guitar, well, that's another thing entirely. I have friends who do it but they have a fortune wrapped up in jigs, clamps, and fixtures. And that's not even taking into consideration the shop tools. One friend just sold two of his to a very well-known Nashville artist and it looks like he's about to launch his luthier's career into overdrive. I should have bought one of his before the word got out.

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Response to jeepnstein (Reply #3)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 05:15 PM

8. I can only imagine how much work goes into building an acoustic!

Electrics are a little simpler.

I'd really love to assemble the guitar myself, and I would if I knew anybody who could help me out (in person, as in hover over my every move to make sure I don't screw things up). It's probably better that stuff like setting the neck and drilling the holes for the electronics (I don't like Warmoths default configuration for the body I want, and they don't do custom jobs) is better handled by somebody who knows what they're doing.

Also I've never used a soldering iron before so that's just an accident waiting to happen. It would probably end up that when I use the pick-up selector the windshield wipers activate and when I turn the volume knob the toilet flushes.

And the finish really worries me. I want the top of the body to be transparent red and the rest black, and I'm worried Warmoth will either not do it or charge a fortune.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #8)

Thu Nov 29, 2012, 07:56 PM

9. Take your time, do it yourself.

None of what you describe is remotely difficult. It's all about as easy as it gets as long as you take your time, use the right tools. Measure twice, cut once.

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Response to jeepnstein (Reply #9)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 01:06 PM

10. Well, I got all the unimportant stuff out of the way...

Yesterday I found a website that will print custom headstock decals, so my guitar will actually have a name and the headstock won't have to remain unadorned! Start with the important stuff, I always say... They do the real thing, not just simple stickers, but proper decals for guitars, for like $5 (price depends on font size and number of letters).

On the more useful side I found a wiring diagram from Seymour Duncan for the set up I want, and it looks pretty straightforward, so that's a definite plus.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #10)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 03:44 PM

11. You're halfway there...

more or less.

What kind of finish are you wanting to do. I'm partial to sparkles embedded in layers of lacquer, but I'm a bit off according to many. My dream guitar right now would be something like this.

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Response to jeepnstein (Reply #11)

Sat Dec 1, 2012, 10:44 PM

12. Dat Guitar!

That design actually reminds me of a PRS that Butch Walker used to play, way back when he still made rock music.



It's not the best picture (man, did they catch him in an unfortunate expression), but it's only one I could find where you can see the guitar.

Anyway, as for my guitar I've got the design all worked out in my head, but there's a hitch. The body I had selected, Warmoth's LP5S model, a slightly oversized Les Paul shape that can be done as a semi-hollowbody, is not available anymore, since Gibson threatened Warmoth with legal action if they continued to sell Gibson-like body designs. I read on the semi-official forum that Warmoth are working on replacement models that will be different enough so that no legal action can be taken against them. So this whole project hinges on whether I like the new body shape they come up with. I sent them an email to see if they can give me some additional info. I'm really nervous, because I would hate for this whole thing to fall apart only because I was a few months too late to get the body that I wanted.

So, presuming everything goes right, the top of the body will be birdseye maple, only one f-hole (on the top side), with a transparent red finish for the top, which should look great with the wood's grain showing through the finish. Cream binding around the edge, and everything below that solid black. Hopefully Warmoth can do the two color paint job. The neck will be all black as well (although it'd be awesome if the face of the headstock could be red, but I don't think they do that). The fingerboard will probably be ebony with no inlays; even though I like dot inlays I just can't see them on this guitar, same goes for trapezoids and none of the other designs really appealed to me.

2 humbuckers and the hardware will be all black: tuners, nut, bridge, toggle switch and black metal knobs. Volume and tone knob should be in the strat position, not in the Les Paul configuration. The pick selector should be in the position PRS uses for their solid bodies, slightly behind the bridge, more or less where the top tone knob is on a Les Paul. From what I've seen Warmoth doesn't allow for this kind of control configuration, so this might mean that I have to find a way to drill the holes myself. And considering the guitar should already be finished when I get it that causes me some concern.

I even already picked out the font for the headstock...

Whoops, got a little carried away with the description.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Reply #12)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 08:52 AM

14. I'm more of a Bakersfield Sound kind of guy.

If Warmoth can't provide the body, there are legions of small shops that can do the same thing.

One thing I always wanted to see in a shredder guitar was a Les Paul with a typical neck inlaid with trapezoids. Instead of the typical and boring mother of pearl, I'd like to see them done in black diamond pearl on an ebony neck. Side markers are more important than fingerboard markers anyway.

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Response to jeepnstein (Reply #14)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:37 PM

17. I had to look up the Bakersfiled sound, I wasn't familiar with it :)

Bad news on the body front: I got a reply from Warmoth, that the shape I wanted is no longer available and that for the moment they don't know what they're going to do. It probably won't be until spring that they'll know where they're going with this situation.

I am a bit worried; If I just wanted a simple Les Paul shaped body, there are plenty of alternatives where I could buy. But since the shape I want is less common and the fact that a semi-hollow body is probably harder to manufacture and has less demand, I have yet to find something even remotely similar. Waiting until spring per se is not a problem, since I have to save up the money for the guitar first anyway, but I just hope that come spring they'll come out with a shape that I like.

Black inlays on a dark neck, you say? That's a pretty interesting idea, and I don't think I've ever seen it done before.
I'll have to start to pay attention to whether I look at the neck inlays or the side dots when I play, to see if I have to change behavior if I have a guitar with a neck without inlays.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 05:27 PM

13. Just cigar box guitars and diddy bows

Sorry

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Tue Dec 4, 2012, 08:39 AM

15. Thanks for this thread. I'm learning from it. I may want to build a guitar one day. We'll see.

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Response to Scuba (Reply #15)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:14 PM

16. Yeah, I never really considered building a guitar.

Then last week as I was driving it just popped into my head that just maybe I could build that guitar that I've always been looking for but never found. I'm curious to see if this project will actually come to fruition.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 07:39 AM

20. yes i have

 

I have little experience building guitars.

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Response to LeftOfSelf-Centered (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 11:09 AM

21. I Put A Warmouth Neck On A Strat

I bought a bird's eye maple neck (separate but matching fingerboard).

But, that's a bolt on, so there was nothing to it. I put different pick-ups and control pots in it too, plus a brushed metal scratchplate.

But, since Strats are simple planks of wood, that was easy too.

The real trick, it seems to me, is getting the neck on a guitar when it's not bolted on, but integral. I think they dovetail those joints. That would take really good alignment and manual skills i don't have.

But, i can tell you that they do make really good parts. My neck is the same today as it was when i bought it 1982. Frets are unchanged, neck is still rail straight.

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