This article describes the build I did in the spring of 2019 to assemble and customize a kit from BYO guitars. What I was going for with this kit is to create a vintage telecaster/broadcaster with a customized motif. No crap parts or other compromises. I didn't want to spend a huge amount of time building it so a kit was a great way to jumpstart the process. Still in all I spent about two months getting it all done and tuned up. I'm a big Leslie West fan so that is what inspired the custom pickguard and why I gave it the name:
Parts List and links
BYO guitar kit contained
- Mahogany body (One Piece) with tummy cut and frontal electronics bay
- Byrds eye maple neck with cream binding
- Grover locking machine heads
- All black hardware
- Babicz full contact bridge
- Seymour Duncan Broadcaster single coil pickups
- 250K volume and tone pots.
Additional Parts I added to the build
Tools used for guitar assembly
The order for my custom shop kit took about two months to arrive and everything came in one box. A standard kit should come sooner but I had to be patient as I requested a one piece mohagany telecaster body and a Birds Eye Maple bound neck. This takes more time to manufacture. I also asked for black hardware which is a little out of the ordinary. Once the kit arrived I opened the box and inspected all the inventory. Everything was there except the black ferrules for the back of the body but wouldn't hold back assembly much. Kim sent the back ordered parts a couple of weeks later.
Body and Neck finish
Do not rush the finishing process. If possible work in separate areas for sanding and the application of finish. My finish choices were based on the theory that less is more. That a lighter application of a finish would pay dividends in a better, sweeter sound. Look at Rory Gallagher’s ’61 Strat, Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “SRV” guitar or the neck on Roy Buchanan’s “Nancy” and you see most of the finish is worn off. Here is the progressive process I used to create the finish I desired.
- Progressively sanded from #120 grit to #1200 grit on neck and body.
- Wipe all dust from part.
- Created 1/2 and 1/2 Tung Oil and Mineral oil odorless paint thinner. This is to allow for good penetration into the tight grain.
- Applied one coat of half and half and hung up to dry for one day.
- Sanded coat with #500 grit sand paper, removed dust.
- Applied full strength Tung oil, hung up and allowed to dry one day.
- Sanded coat with #500 grit sand paper, removed dust.
- Applied full strength Tung oil, hung up to cure for 10 days.
- Applied 3 coats of paste wax buffed to shine with a soft, lint free cloth after 60 days.
'''Lessons learned: It may take up to 60 days for the Tung oil to completely polymerize.'''
The neck was well done but when I ran my hand up and down the neck there were some burrs on the end of the frets. So I taped off the entire fret board with painters tape leaving the frets exposed. I then carefully dressed each fret with a jeweler's file until they were as smooth as butter. Since i had a bound neck I had to be extra careful not to scratch the bind so I taped that off as well. This was time consuming and took me an entire Saturday afternoon to complete. When completed I was exhausted but happy with the outcome.
After fret dressing I applied the same finish as the body to the neck except for the fretboard. The fretboard was dressed only with lemon oil. I applied 5 coats of lemon oil to the fret board. One coat each day.
Grounding and Shielding
Grounding is key to keep 60 cycle hum out of your sound. Metalized tape is used to create a Faraday cage around your pickups and electronics. Technically that means it keeps the hum out and the music in. I used Aluminum tape because I had a roll but many use a copper tape that can be had at StewMac. All of this is connected to grounding wires for your bridge and electronics and will keep your guitar super quiet.
I used crimp lugs to connect the ground wires to the shielding by means of a small phillips screw fastened into the body cavities with a star washer in between to insure a secure ground. For the bridge ground I used a fine, multi-stranded wire and placed it underneath the bridge, In this way I minimized any tilt of the bridge when fastening it to the body. Because of the anodized black finish I had to sand off the bottom until bare metal was exposed to insure a good ground.
This is a description of a customization the I employed on the pickguard to give the guitar an individual quality. I choose some graphics used on "Mountains Live - The road goes ever on" released in 1972. It has the best version of the epic song "Nantucket Sleighride" in my opinion. Which by the way is a true story.
"Lessons learned: You shouldn’t apply a translucent waterslide on top of black pickguard. The colors just do not come out. Duh…".
I chose a 3-ply white pickguard and it came out looking great. Sizing the image to fit the pickguard was a tremendous pain but worth the effort. I used MS Photo so no fancy image editing tools here. They would help I’m sure but I don’t have the skills needed in that area.
- Fit pickguard to body. I neede to sand the guard where the neck met the body for a better fit.
- Created graphic image
- Sized image printout to pickguard. This was an empirical process of printing it out on plain paper and fitting it to the guard.
- Create waterslide on your printer.
- Spray waterslide with one thin coat of acrylic clear spray and allowed to dry one hour.
- Cut waterslide to fit pickguard.
- Sand pickguard with #500 grit sandpaper to improve adhesion.
- Apply waterslide to pickguard and blot with damp cloth to remove air bubbles.
- Spray acrylic two topcoats on finished pickguard.
'''Lessons learned: Too much clear coat on slide will crack when placed in water. Touched up with permanent marker and liked the look. Appeared like old album cover.'''
At this point I was ready to assemble all the components to the body of the guitar.
- Fasten neck pickup to pickguard and run wires into the electronics cavity.
- Fasten the bridge pickup to the bridge and install the Babicz bridge to the body with the ground wire in place.
- Install the pickguard.
- Wire the ElectroSocket to the electronics and fasten to the body.
- Leave the electronics hanging out for potential customizations later.
Installing the Grover locking tuners into the neck was a breeze as long as you took care to not strip the screws. You can place the nut into the slot without glue for now as we rough in the neck installation. The kit from BYO had the neck at the proper relief and the frets were already leveled so I could bolt iti up and see where I stood. The neck should havea slightly concave relief to it, too much and it have too great a string height, too litlle and they would buzz.
Hint: If the neck is too concave (action too high), turn the truss rod nut clockwise to remove excess relief. If the neck is too convex (strings too close to the fingerboard), turn the truss rod nut counter-clockwise to allow the string tension to pull more relief into the neck.
I bolted the neck up carefully with a hand driven screwdriver and installed strings to see where the action was.
Hint: Affix a capo at the first fret and depress the sixth string at the last fret. With a feeler gauge, check the gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the 8th fret for the proper gap.. ~ 1/16" or 62 thousands of an inch. It you hit them hard you might want it a little higher.
I then applied the headstock graphic with the logo for the guitar. I applied a thin coat of clear coat after it dried to keep it intact.
Nut slot adjustment
Adjusting the nut slot height is the final component to bringing the neck to full potential. The side of the nut facing the fretboard is where you want your string suspended from. Farther back and it will effect your intonation and potentially have an annoying string rattle. To this end you must take care to file the nut slot angled down towards the headstock. To determine the maximum depth you can go follow this process:
- Place fret rocker between F & F# frets.
- Measure height of frets with feeler gauge.
- Add .005 and use as guide for slot depth for each string.
- Fret height was .045 so set slot at .050.
Tuning up the guitar and removing one string at a time from it's slot choose the appropriate file for that string and file down a little at a time. Restring and bring it up to tune testing each fret for buzz. Take care to not exceed or maximum. Hit the strings hard to insure you do not have unwanted buzz. Once all six strings are completed redo the bridge adjustment and bring your intonation back to perfection.
After all this you should have an acoustically sound instrument. The Birds Eye Maple neck really brought out the sustain in my opinion and it just sings.
Adjust the screws for each pickup so they are as close as possible to the strings without hitting them when at the 22 fret. That should do it.
What I did to give the guitar some individual qualites was to make several modifications to the wiring over a stock setup. One was to smooth out the tone control so at low volumes it gives the same tone response. The other is to place the bridge and neck pickups out of phase relationship when the selection is both pickups. This gives it a different edge. To do that I made the wiring changes in the diagram below. The value of the capacitor needs to be chosen empirically and I actually ended up using a 0.1 micofarad ceramic capacitor so experiment and let you ears be the guide. I found this on http://singlecoil.com/frmset.html and it has a lot of other interesting modifications to give a try. It's all about the tone man!
So two months later this is what I ended up with "The Mountaincaster"........
After kicking it around for a while I noticed that the F# fret was buzzing a little in the higher octave and on closer inspection I noticed the fret was not competely seated. To fix that I used crazy glue with one of the microtips StewMac sells to pinpoint the glue application. These things make a difficult job a lot easier. After applying a thin bead I pressed down on the fret with the fret rocker for about a minute or so. This eliminated the buzz.
|About the author|
Mark is an engineer in multiple disciplines. An avid music lover and gardener.
He also likes to keep the 'ol truck running in his spare time.