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Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Fri Sep 07, 2018 10:50 am

Son has to do an extended project/essay for A Levels. Is thinking about assembling a guitar from a kit and writing about the process, the physics and the chemistry behind pickups, finishes, ageing, the history of electric guitars, probably a bit about notable self build guitars (cough Red Special cough).

I've persuaded him to go for a design that has a bolt on neck rather than one that is normally glued, and as we already have a Strat in the house, he's thinking about something Telecaster ish as a platform for a Bigsby (because he has an obsession with Bigsbys. He's 17) or something Jem like because he likes the handle in the body.

Any thoughts/observations/recommendations? Good suppliers? Websites/Guides>? He'll have the run of the School's workshop
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Dave B » Fri Sep 07, 2018 10:56 am

Speak unto Wonks about this - he's very into his kits at the moment. He'll no doubt be along to recommend his preferred supplier (from Oz iirc).

There's loads of cheap kits out there, so if he just wants something cheap n cheerful for the process, then he could grab one of those. If he wants something to play and keep and cherish, then I'd be looking at something serious (back to Wonks's recommendations again). The cheap kits are all CnC'd anyway so shouldn't be too attrocious.

For something more pointy, Max once found an ok supplier of necks and bodies and did a BYO RG-a-like. Not sure if that is still valid
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Wonks » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:09 pm

I've bought several kits from https://www.pitbullguitars.com/ and they've got a good supportive forum there as well - which I contribute to. BlindDrew has just finished one of their kits, and Steve Hill also bought a similar kit to Drews and finished that. It takes about 2 weeks to get an in-stock kit (about 5 days from Aus then one week plus languishing in a customs facility in the UK) and then you'll need to pay customs duty of about 3%, then VAT of 20% plus a PO handling charge when it gets into the country before you can pick it up or have it delivered.

You can get similar kits in the UK from a few vendors, but normally without much support and Pitbull have a much wider range of guitar kits to choose from. They are all made in various factories in China, often ones making fully assembled guitars. However, they normally are hand routed and drilled using templates, rather than workforce-reducing CNC machines, which introduces some variation between identical kits.

Veneer-topped kits look good, but it's 0.6mm thick veneer, so will only take the lightest sanding and whilst things have got better recently after feedback, there can still be issues with skewed veneer join lines and glue marks (which stop the wood absorbing stain).

The hardware and pickups supplied with all these kits is useable but nothing special, and at Pitbull, the tuners can be upgraded to Grovers at low cost if bought with the kit

For Strats and Teles, you can buy decent UK made bodies and necks, but you'd need to supply all your own hardware, and obviously the cost of these bodies and necks is probably going to be at least double that of a basic Strat or Tele kit.

Pitbull do a delightful all-mahogany SG Jr kit which will probably be my next one (once I've finished all the others) , which can be had with an ebony fretboard. https://www.pitbullguitars.com/shop/gui ... -mahogany/

Because of the CITES changes on Rosewood, a lot of kits that would have rosewood boards now have switched to manufactured Blackwood Tec boards, which is nothing like as nice. Ebony (normally the figured type) is often available now as an option.

Finish is down to you. I'm a nitrocellulose person, but acrylic and poly sprays can be used, whilst wipe-on poly and TruOil are also very popular finishes.

The physics side of it will be much stronger than the chemistry side of it, although you could look at the comparative chemistry of the different finishes available, environmental impact, relative hardness etc.
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:44 pm

(Brilliant tips, Wonks)

... not to mention the safety aspects of nitrocellulose. Not desperately worried about spinning up some chemistry/materials science on all of this, not in the least because the chap who did this is a close family friend http://www.compoundchem.com/2015/11/24/guitar/

We had stumbled upon pit bull already - we'll probably take that route with a solid recommendation like that. The question here is about the academic value of 5k word dissertation vs. 1k dissertation + artefact. Matthew is planning on doing 5k + artefact so I wonder if this is actually a ruse to get another guitar!
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Wonks » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:50 pm

"The GAS is strong with this one.."
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:51 pm

CITES. There's something else to write about ....
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:51 pm

Wonks wrote:"The GAS is strong with this one.."

:clap:
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby adrian_k » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:28 pm

Looking forward to the build diary already :) ...
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby blinddrew » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:50 pm

As Wonks mentioned above I've recently done a Pitbull build but I've also done a tele from Gear4Music in the past, which has a surprisingly good cut and fit for the price. There's a bit of a choice about approach here though: the G4M stuff seems to come with a fair bit more pre-completed; most of the wiring, pilot holes for some of the hardware, it's really just an assembly job. The Pitbull kits give you more to get your teeth into. Think of them, perhaps, as a lego kit versus an airfix model.
Which is more appropriate I'll leave to you, but once you've factored in shipping, import taxes, duty and the arbitrary postage fee then the UK sourced stuff is quite a bit cheaper.
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Wonks » Fri Sep 07, 2018 6:35 pm

A friend of mine was given a Gear4You Strat style for his birthday recently. As Drew says, there is a lot more done in terms of holes and a pre-wired and fitted, fully-loaded scratchplate.

The PBG kits also tend to have pre-wired scratchplates for the Strats and a couple of other Fender style kits, but most don't, and apart from the tuner holes, jack holes, Tune-o-matic post holes and sometimes post holes on two-post trem guitars. The rest you have to make yourself. It's generally nothing too onerous and you do learn more about guitars - especially thinking about scale length on S and T style guitars when you need to drill the bridge fixing screws.

On the G4Y kit, the body was very very light basswood (so light that it could have been balsa) . The neck was nice and the fret-end had been filed down at an angle so there were no sharp edges.15 minutes with a screwdriver and you could have had it all put together (though obviously with no finish). Nice, just not very challenging.
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:04 am

Kit??? you not got any trees at the end of the garden ?? :D
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby blinddrew » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:12 am

Um, er, tree protection order!
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:21 pm

There are tree protection orders on the trees at the bottom of our garden, as it happens!

He has been asking questions about carving out his own body but I can't see us sanctioning that kind of risk!! :-)
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Dave B » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:53 pm

I've just had a slightly oblique idea - why doesn't he make a self-build lap steel?

It's one of those things that could be as posh as he wants it to be and by doing it himself, he can try different pickups in it as well, change the nut+string gauges, etc. It's a simple design and would give him something extra in his playing arsenal.
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:44 am

Good idea, but didn’t excite. At the moment all he seems to be talking about are 7 string kits. Not that he likes much music with 7 string guitars, mind, and at his own admission!
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Hewesy » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:36 am

As a thought, how about getting hold of a kit but then looking to use the body as a template to recreate it out of something a bit more expensive/cheaper?

If he has the run of the workshop it might be rude not to try and recreate it. Or even create a body out of a wood which isn't generally regarded as a tonewood for comparison? Say get an Ash/Alder kit and make a body out of something else, go up to the local reclamation yard and see what timbers they have kicking about. (Did someone say mantlepiece?!). Then he can compare the two using the same neck, pickups etc.

Then when he wants to rout it for a B-Bender, he has a body to practice on... Or at least cut a monkey grip like the Jem and compare what losing that chunk of bodywood has on the tone. I'm sure we've all heard the Van Halen story of him hacking up a guitar to find 80% of the tone went with it, be an interesting slant on his coursework to prove/disprove that.

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Re: Self build from kits

Postby arkieboy » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:04 pm

Nice idea! Will suggest.
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Re: Self build from kits

Postby Hewesy » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:53 am

No worries - if he has the run of the place then go crazy - using the kit as a template means at least he will still have something playable at the end of the coursework (as long as he keeps that stock!).

And he might even end up with a guitar that lasts him a lifetime, like Dr May.

Plus if he did end up with something that required specialist tools, or broke a few bits in construction, that should be all part and parcel (hopefully!) of what the school provides.

If he's going Tele he might even be able to cut a few bodies on the bandsaw if he gets chance, so he can stock up on a few for when the course ends and he only has the shed/garage/hand tools to work on or with.

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