Turtlecove Workshop – Additions

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Greetings All,

I hope everyone is having a blessed summer season. Personally I haven’t been in the shop nearly as much as I would have liked but I do what I can when I, can. I’ve caught up on a few of the back-burner items that have been on my list a while.

Bandsaw Riser Kit

When I purchased my Grizzly bandsaw last summer , I ordered the 12″ riser block kit for at the same time. Unfortunately for me, the kit was on back order  for many months after my saw had been delivered. By the time the kit was finally available, I was engrossed in other activities and the thought of “breaking” my saw wasn’t the highest priority given my limited shop time. Not long ago, I finally gathered my courage and installed the kit which all-in-all wasn’t very difficult. Against advice given in the instructions, I did this without any assistance but it would have been easier and “safer” if I had had assistance.  For me, the biggest benefit to this upgrade, is that I learned more about how my saw is put together and now, I’m not afraid to make proper adjustments.

12" Bandsaw Riser Kit IMG_3703

Installing the new hardware was actually much less difficult than learning the nuances of the adjustment procedure.  It turns out, that I hadn’t done a very good setup on the guides the first time around and although I don’t feel they are perfectly set now, I know they are a lot closer to how they were meant to function. I have heard “experts” both pro and con regarding the practicality of resawing on 14″ bandsaws, but I wanted to give it a try.

Dust Collector

Not much to say other than,  every shop where power tools are being used need some for of dust collection. I finally broke down and purchased the unit sold by the store that sells freight down by the harbor. I had already installed blast gates and 4″ hose to my table saw and bandsaw but I was previously using a shop-vacuum for the suction. These hose runs were intentionally left long so I had enough existing hose to connect the new collector and my other new toy, an oscillating spindle-belt sander.


Spindle Sander

I also picked up an oscillating spindle/belt sander from Home Depot which is my first Rigid tool. Rigid does still offer lifetime warranties on their tools and amazingly even on their tool’s batteries. Now registering you tool with Rigid to receive this warranty is another story. The little card states, “Register your new tool in 3 easy steps”. I couldn’t believe how hard it was, there were more than 3 steps and they weren’t what I would call “easy”. It goes something like this 1) visit their website and create an account 2) register your tool online including model and serial number 3) register the receipt information from your purchase 4) cut the UPC code off the original box (you kept the box right?) 5) mail in the cardboard UPC code along with the original receipt with arrows pointing to the qualified product you intend to register 5) get postage for the item you now must mail into Rigid. If all your information “checks out” and Jupiter is in alignment with Mars, you will be notified within 2-3 weeks if your registration has been accepted. Rigid, I applaud your warranty but your primitive registration procedure sucks. I should be able to do all of this online at a single session. You are already checking the register transaction number so the need for me to mail you anything is frankly ridiculous and in my opinion is likely intended to reduce the number of valid registrations because who has time to mess with it?


I really had a difficult time learning how to adjust the belt so that it tracked properly. I finally got it but only after about the 20th attempt. Admittedly, I’m not the most mechanically inclined individual but I would liked to have had some supplemental materials to help me through the process. I’m sure someone has a link on YouTube but I never did check. I ended up iteratively adjusting a tiny bit at a time until it neither wildly spun off the top or ground itself down against the machine bed. I do like sanders however, for their ability to take bits of wood off at a time until you get things just where you want them. The dust port also seems to work pretty well so despite my bitching I’m thrilled with the purchase. I think it a good addition to the shop and I’d purchase it again.

Micro Adjuster Project

July 21, 2014 Leave a comment

I know there are many very accomplished woodworkers. I know this because I see evidence of their work everyday and I am still in awe but what can be done with the right tools, patience and a skilled hand. I on the other hand am not an accomplished woodworker so I look for projects that even I think I can build. I ran across a DIY fence micro adjuster on Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement magazine while surfing the web last week.


Adjuster Jig – plans by Michel Theriault

Somewhere along the way I decided that the jig looked simple enough and that I should build a few of them so I purchased the hardware to make three. Additionally I thought I would have some fun and tinker with the plan a bit. It looked like the screw was off-center so that the left hand side of the block could be used for clamping. This was simple enough but I figured the block could be a bit thinner so the clamp would need to be opened quite so much, my idea was to put the adjuster screw back in the center and make cutouts for the clamp jaws.


This would make the adjuster ambidextrous, allowing clamping from either side. The cut-outs are a little over an inch  (1.2″) deep and this was a compromise so as not to weaken the center, yet allow enough space for the clamp jaw. The other modification I made was to drill 3/8″ holes through the end grain so that these could be clamped using my Rockler Universal Fence Clamps. Both of these modifications seemed to work out as I planned.


A third modification was to install rare earth magnets along the bottom so that I could just stick it to my table saw and band saw table without clamping. I haven’t installed these yet but my initial testing tells me I need larger magnets than those I had on hand. The adjuster screw turns without a lot of pressure but to move a heavy table saw fence the adjuster will need to be somewhat firmly affixed.

Micro-adjuster Scale

I did have an issue with the plans however which I addressed before starting the project. The scale that was to be printed and cutout for the adjuster had been messed up with the online copy of the article. After a couple of attempts at fixing it, I decided to make a new one using SketchUp. Expert I’m not but I can get around enough for simple designs and with a bit of patience I was able to knock out a scale that worked. So the way it works is as follows, using the recommended 1/4″ -20 bolt you have 20 turns for the screw to advance one inch. The scale has 50 divisions thus:

20 turns/in * 50 divisions/turn = 1000 divisions/in

So advancing the screw by one division should represent 0.001″ of throw on the adjuster. To make things simpler, the plan calls for a 1″ diameter wheel which is important because you need a scale to fit your wheel. The way this works is to find the circumference of the wheel and divide it into 50 intervals.

Circumference = pi * Diameter = 3.14 * 1 in = 3.14 in

So each interval on the scale should be about 0.063 in apart. Not easy to draw by hand but not too much trouble to make in SketchUp. Here is the scale that I drew for my project and you are welcome to use it for yours: https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=u9718b3cf-aca2-4ac5-b130-4c9ea1d2dcec

Printing things to scale requires a trick in SketchUp. First you must make sure that your model is being viewed in Parallel Projection (Camera, Parallel Projection) then when you go to print you can select your scale of 1 in drawing is 1 in printed.

SU printing to scale

So if you don’t want to fool with SketchUp you can also download this PDF version, just make sure you print it out in 1:1  scale: Micro-Adjuster Scale

What ‘s Left

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try a magnetic mount so I’m going to give that a bit of thought and purchase some bigger magnets! As creative as my clamping mount improvements may or may not have been I can’t think of a single place right now where the adjuster could actually be used in my shop. So there is that…. the magnet mount would change that. The 3″ bolts that were called for appear to be too short for this project. I’m considering purchasing a 3 1/2″ or 4″ bolt so that I have more room to add a second knob as called for in the plan. I made two wheels for each adjuster but the bolt isn’t long enough so for the prototype, the scale and the adjustment knob are one. Another thought I had been the cap nut coming loose during use would be bad for precision; I’ll add a spot of glue to secure it once I’m happy with the finished design. I haven’t yet made the plastic reticles for these adjusters as I ran out of shop time yesterday. Once I’m satisfied the version 1 adjuster’s are finished, I’ll rub some Danish Oil finish on them but at this point I’m still experimenting. Once I take a closer look at each of my fences and how I might use an adjuster, I might end up making a unique adjuster for each situation, I’ll let you know how things work out.

Categories: Woodworking Tags:

The Noisy Cricket Gutair Mini-amp

June 23, 2014 Leave a comment

As I may have previously mentioned, I’m discovering the real joy of electronics and discovering how they work. The basic facts I learned as a young-in were important but without learning how and when to put the components to use, the knowledge was unrewarding. It’s my own fault for not digging deeply enough into the topic but that was then and in today’s world we have so much wonderful (and free) information placed before us it is easy to learn. This revival begins with the simple desire to understand more fully how the electric guitar functions. Understanding pick-ups, volume and tone controls, microphones and amplification. It sounds like a life-time of study or at least a full retirement of study for me.

Soldering Iron/Station

As I often do I wrestled with picking my “first project” for trying out my new soldering iron. After much rumination and anguish, I decided to lay down my $100 on the Hakko FX888D, soldering iron. Review after review after recommendation compared this Hakko to the Weller WES51. Clearly for a “serious” hobbiest, these were the two irons of choice.


Hakko FX888D


Although the Weller iron had its following, the Hakko was mentioned over and over again as a solid buy. The Weller had an analog display whereas the Hakko was digital. There were debates both ways as to which was better. In the end, I went with the Hakko which included a free wire nipper (cutter). Woo hoo!

What to Build First?

My interest in electric guitars and “tone” lead me to learn more about audio circuits. As I was surfing the web, I ran across a pretty awesome site with the odd name, “Runoff  Groove“. I discovered all the wonderful work that has been done creating guitar effects pedals which has been placed in the Creative Commons for anyone to enjoy. I learned that guitar effects pedals exist to allow unique sounds to be sent/played through tube amplifiers which on the whole wouldn’t have many effects built in to them. The amp that I have is Fender Mustang I, solid state modeling amp with beaucoup effects already built-in to the amp. In a practical sense, I don’t really need any pedals at this point in my playing what I needed more was to learn about the effects that I already had available to use.  I was intrigued however by the many mini-amplifier designs I had run across. Using one or possibly two transistors to power a speaker and/or headphones. I figured I could use the mini-amp when traveling so in that sense, it would be both an educational and somewhat practical “toy” and also not terribly difficult to build.

I considered building the “Ruby” amp until I ran across the “Noisy Cricket” from Beavis Audio Research.

Ruby - mini-amp

The Ruby – mini-amplifier from Runoff Groove

Noisy Cricket - mini-amp

Noisy Cricket – mini-amp from Beavis Audio Research

The circuits are somewhat similar and both are based on the LM386  low voltage audio power amplifier chip. The Noisy Cricket project page came with a lot more information about actually building the device, pictures, parts lists and just a bit more documentation to get my feet wet for the first time. When I ran across the “Radio Shack Protoboard Build Guide” link, I was sold! This would be my first project and “instant gratification”. Rather than muddle for days over what parts to buy and where to buy them, I’ll stop by Radio Shack, and get started soldering. And that is exactly what I did, only they didn’t have all the parts that I needed so I still had to muddle over parts and the best place to purchase them.

RS mini-amp build

Radio Shack mini-amp project sheet (circuit build)

It felt good to finally tin the tip of my new soldering iron and solder up my first circuit board since I built my Heathkit H-8 in the 1980’s. I had the skills then, but I was very rusty now. After a while I began to calm down and my hands quit shaking so much and the welds got better. Hey, its new equipment and everyone has to begin their journey somewhere and so I started mine…..

Noisy Cricket mini-amp RS build

Start of the Noisy Cricket build, Radio Shack version.

I came prepared with magnification (reading cheaters) but I was shocked at how I needed it for every component and every weld. Man, how am I ever going to coup with surface mount components? Perhaps I never will…. On future builds, I’ll opt to use sockets for the LM386 and power transistor which in this case is the venerable MPF102. This would allow easy repair and some experimentation but really, if I fry the LM386 I know how to desolder and replace it so is the socket really necessary? And as far as experimentation goes, that is what the breadboard is used for so by they time one is building I should think the design would have been mostly locked in. There are many ways to get a job done so I have some experimenting in my future.

Next up…

Well the promise of instant gratification was a might exaggerated when I discovered that RS (in fact two stores) didn’t have one of the potentiometers nor the transistor that was required for the build. I was excited to get started though and gave me motivation to find a parts supplier and commit to an order. So I did, in fact I have two fairly substantial orders in for supplies. I finally ordered from Futurelec mainly because they seemed to have all (or most) of the parts that I was looking for and at good prices. Their website was navigable but I haven’t been super impressed with their customer service yet. It doesn’t appear that I can called them and I have no idea how to track my orders so I guess I’ll email them to see if everything is alright. Meanwhile, there are a few things I could work on with the project case, e.g. drilling holes for the pots and LED’s. I really think it best at this point however, to just wait for all the parts to arrive before I do much more with it. I purchased enough components to build additional units but I’ll be first interested in how this one turns out before deciding on what will follow. I think my next project might be a DIY iRig, or maybe a complete practice amp with speaker cabinet or perhaps ……

Categories: Electronics, Lutherie Tags:

Arduino – Huh?

June 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Whereas it is a fact that I haven’t been doing much blogging, it is not true that I have completely fallen away from my hobbies. It is also true that I haven’t had very much time in the shop for a variety of reasons including, job and family responsibilities. If a person has to spend their time doing something, family is a pretty good something! Enough for the excuses and on to today’s post.

Learn About Micro-controllers

As the saying goes, “everyone has to start somewhere” and I sometimes have a had time getting started. Taking your time isn’t necessarily a bad thing but paralysis is so at some point you just need to step up to the bar. I have recently become interested in electronics as a side-effect of my interest in building electric guitars. I mentioned that I wanted to build a pick-up (coil) winding machine which started this learning process in earnest. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to learn (or re-learn in some cases) everything but this time I really, really wanted to know how it all worked. If I was going to build a coil winder, I was going to need a machine that would count the number of times the coil rotated, thus counting the number of turns on the coil. It was fascinating to see the number of creative ways people invented to achieve this task on You-Tube. One fellow used a micro-controller on a breadboard to build his winder. He published his work which was almost enough information for me to understand what he did but not quite. It was then I ran across the open-source project Arduino.


Arduino Uno Development Board

This was an eye-opener. Easy to learn and use. Inexpensive and available to everyone. Arduino can be a stepping stone to the world of micro-controllers and for that it is a truly amazing gift. Micro-controllers are computers that allow us to interface with physical world. Need to record a temperature, position a servo, turn on a light using software? You could probably benefit by using a micro-controller.  Engineers don’t need Arduino to work their magic, but for students and regular folks like you and me Arduino makes learning fun and easy! Enough said for now, go check it out for yourself.



Categories: Electronics Tags:

Tinkering with Electronics – Makita Drill

This has got to be one of the most boring blogs around or at least it’s getting there given that the frequency of posts have significantly declined over the last several months. And ironic it is too because playtime in my mind has been moving along non-stop. My latest rabbit-hole has been to learn all about electronics. Electrical Engineers generally start off as brilliant people and study for many, many years to become proficient, I don’t have that kind of time so I’m depending upon my high school physics to “catch-up” (teasing here). I do have some basic background knowledge but I never learned enough to actually apply of it so I’m hoping to change that this time around. If nothing else as always, I’m having fun trying.

Exploring – Makita 9.6V NiCd Drill

My Dad bought me this portable drill many years ago and it has given me good service. The drill is in great shape but I couldn’t bring myself to spend the $50 on a replacement NiCd battery pack and ultimately replaced the drill with a drill and two batteries that didn’t cost me much more than $50 combined. Since then I have purchased another new hand drill so now I was considering using the motor for my planned pick-up (coil) winder. For this session I really just wanted to confirm that the drill was still functioning normally and to do that I was going to need a 9.6 VDC power source (or similar) and I was going to have to reach the battery terminals which were located deeply inside the hand grip. I was hopeful I could use the battery charger for my power supply but to reach the terminals, I was going to have to take the drill apart.

I began by plugging in the battery charger and tested to see if I it was producing any voltage. I detected none, so I took it apart to see how it was assembled. Being a selfish and horrible blogger, I neglected to take a picture of any of findings but I can describe them. Here is a picture of an identical charger to mine, the picture is not mine. You’ll notice that there are two switch buttons, yellow for reset and red for charge. There is also a red LED to indicate the unit is charging. You can see the + and –  molded into the case indicating how the battery pack should be inserted and you’ll notice the  “key slot” on the negative side of pack prevents inserting it backwards. What you can’t see from this photo is there is a third metal contact which connects a circuit to a thermister which is wired to the first battery in the battery pack. The NiCds are shot but I salvaged the thermister.


I’m not an EE but clearly this is to monitor the charging circuit so that when the battery reaches a certain max temperature, charging is stopped. How does the thermal protection circuit work? I’m not sure, I haven’t looked it up yet but it didn’t stop me from taking the thing apart and digging deeper inside.

Four screws and the top comes off easily to reveal a pristine 120 VAC to 12 VAC transformer. Next in the circuit was a 4 pronged chip on a heat sink labeled RBV-401. Google is my friend and I was able to pull up a data sheet on it. It is a bridge rectifier which is a very common method for converting AC current to DC current using a network of 4 diodes. Hey, he DID learn something over the last month!

RBV4 Rectifier

So looking at the pin outs I can see the 12 V AC are on the center pins with the VDC on the outer two pins. Using my meter I now see a nicely stable 10 VDC are being generated. Time to wire this to my drill to see if I can make the motor run.

Dis-assembly of the drill was quite straightforward. I removed a  series of screws and carefully separated the two halves.


I wired up some leads to the outer pins of the rectifier and established that the drill motor was functioning perfectly. Although I knew the drill battery packs were rated at 9.6 VDC, I was curious what voltage  the motor was rated for. Again I Googled the part number on motor RS-750SH and by all indications it was a 12 VDC motor. I decided to hookup a spare 12 VDC power supply I had floating around and again the motor performed well. I realize that things could change when/if the drill was under load and at this point I have no idea about how many amps this thing would need to function as a drill. I don’t think it would pull very many amps however just spinning a bobbin around to wind a pickup.


Having had enough fun for one day, I decided to close the drill back up for safe keeping. I haven’t yet decided if I want to use the drill as a drill or if I want to sacrifice it for another project. It seems a bit of a waste to destroy a perfectly functional drill. Another option might be to retrofit a battery pack or even to convert it to a corded drill. I can’t decide, what do you folks think I should do?

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Electronics, Lutherie Tags:

Shop Cleanup

April 14, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to get back in to my shop and the clutter has built up. Before I can create anything, I must tidy up a bit! This snap doesn’t do the huge mess justice but believe me it needed some attention.

Shop Clutter

I decided to start with an idea I’ve had for a little while. As a homebrewer I have collected quite a few yeast tubes which one used to be able to turn in for fresh yeast (9 tubes = 1 tube of yeast). Unfortunately they ended that program and I’ve been “saving” them up ever since. Coincidentally Susan’s wonderful 94 y/o Grandmother has moved into Assisted Living and we “inherited” a couple of primitive night stands that Susan’s Grandfather made years ago. I decided to use the drawer space for small parts, lining the bottom with recycled vitamin bottles and adding a test tube holder up top. I certainly didn’t over engineer this, more of a “Git-R-Done” approach AND I didn’t permanently alter the historic piece as the rails I added are just pin nailed in place (no glue). The tubes are held by two pieces of hard board scrap and I supported the center with a removable stretcher.

Vitamin Bottles Re-purposed Yeast Tube Re-purposing - removed Yeast Tube Re-purposing - top


Another “enhancement” was to make drill drawers. Once again shopping in my basement, I found an old silverware tray lying around I felt might help me. Using blue foam that I recycled from computer packaging I organized various bits and pieces formerly kept in a toolbox under my workbench. So far so good.

Drill Drawer - top Drill Drawer - bottom


The more stuff one wishes to use in the shop, the more one has to keep after the organization to find it! Good luck in your own organizing projects.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.
Categories: Woodworking Tags:

Solid Body Guitar Makeover

April 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Susan and I returned home yesterday from our week together celebrating 5 years of marriage. Actually I have been off since last Friday but Susan had to work Friday, Monday and Tuesday so it wasn’t until Wednesday last that we were able to get away. So let’s do the math here:   (Art-home)+(Susan-working) = Shop-time

I’m pretty sure I mentioned in a previously post that I wanted to get started working on guitars this year and I’ve finally gotten a start. The plan was to get my feet wet by rehabbing an Ibanez CX140 fat Strat knock-off from the 90’s. I (foolishly?!?) picked it up from a pawn shop for about $30. Most of the components were still functional although the guitar was filthy dirty and the Tone potentiometer was blown. I didn’t want to spend very much money on this project guitar but…. I did want a project where I could learn and had some ideas about what I wanted in the end. In the end, I spent more than was strictly necessary but I didn’t crazy. My objectives were to 1) learn 2) fix the tone cicuit and 3) “black out” the looks.

Stabilizing the Neck

I began my odyssey by removing the bolt-on neck only to discover “I was not her first”. In fact two of the neck bolts were shorter than the other two and one of the longer bolts had been broken off in the neck. My first official act of lutherie was to remove the broken screw and plug the hole. I found that I could use one of my medium plug cutters to both extract the screw and make a uniform hole with one operation. Unfortunately I didn’t have any hardwood plugs that would fit the new hole. Doesn’t seem right does it but keep in mind the plug cutter makes a plug but that plug is much smaller in diameter than the hole it made cutting the plug. As a work around I used a larger plug cutter on a piece of oak then I carefully sanded it down until it just fit.

A new neck plate and bolts in black

The rest of the neck was in decent shape although there was a rather annoying ding on the bass side that my thumb always knew was there. I decided to sand this area of the neck back to bare wood and use the steam heat trick to pop out the ding. I used my soldering iron and a wet rag and damned if it didn’t work. So I continued working out other smaller dings and then as you might expect I inadvertently touched the hot tip of the iron leaving a tiny black brand. It is only the size of a spec but you know, be extremely careful doing this sort of thing.


Cavity Shielding

I finally bit the bullet and placed an order with Stewart-MacDonald for some of the parts I was going to need including conductive copper tape for shielding the control cavities. This tape isn’t exactly cheap so for this project I decided to use aluminum foil for shielding and save the copper tape for my first “original” build. I know, I know, how cheap can you get? Well, I’ve done some research and I know that aluminum foil works as does the metal tape I decided to use instead of foil. The real difference is that the sticky part of the copper tape conducts as well as the copper itself. This means that overlapping tape strips will conduct whereas with the aluminum tape this doesn’t happen. No worries, I can fix that.

 Metal Tape for Shielding the Cavity

I thought about connecting the strips with a dollop of solder but then realized that I could use a tiny piece of the copper tape to connect them. Used very little of the copper tape to bridge all the strips, presumably saving a bundle. Well I just didn’t want to spend a ton on this build (notice the “swimming pool” style route) so I still think this was a good solution.

Locking Tuners

The stock tuners on this guitar were chrome and although most of them worked I did have a couple that seemed very sloppy when tensioned. I decided to spring for the Guitar Fetish locking / staggered tuners in black. They weren’t extravagant ($35) but they were just what I wanted so I sprung for them. The good news, the bushings fit perfectly on the face side of the headstock so I didn’t need to do any work there. The not-so-great-better-learn-to-be-a-luthier news was that the tuner barrels were too big for the back of the headstock. Plus these tuners had one mounting screw and the old ones had two mounting screws and alas, none of  holes lined up! So job one was to plug the twelve old screw holes and sand them flush. Then I used a stepped drill bit to carefully center in the existing hole while widening the shaft to the closest step on the bit. This left everything a tad to small so I hand fit each tuner using a T-handle reamer and some patience.

Fitting the Tuners

Even though this is my very first project, I have been paying attention and I have read where a lot of luthiers break screws during their builds. So what I learned is 1) make sure your screwdriver fits the screw head with no wiggle or play (learned this from Galeazzo Frudua) 2) make sure you drill an appropriate sized pilot hole (learned this from Mike Snider) 3) lubricate your screws with paraffin or bee’s wax  (learned this from Chris Schwarz) 4) if the screw squeaks while you’re driving it STOP, back it out and widen the hole by wiggling around the (pilot hole) bit. You can run the drill in reverse so that you don’t deepen the hole. (also a Mike Snider tip). Knock, touch and work wood, I didn’t have a single problem taking this advice.

Once I had sanded and shellacked the back of the neck, I was ready for the final installation of the tuners. I lined them all up with a straight edge and drilled the holes for the screws.

Tuners Installed

Fitting the New Tremolo Bridge

Again I took a chance and ordered a new tremolo bridge mainly because I wanted the bridge in black. Vanity they name is Arturo. Well the new bridge looked great and seemed to be a bit beefier than the old bridge only it didn’t fit the opening on the top of the guitar. Turns out very little work was required as a very thin layer of material needed to be removed from each end and this was easily worked with a Dremel tool and small sanding drum attachment.

Test Fitting the Pickguard and Bridge

When lining up the new bridge, I was fortunate that the center two of the six attachment screws lined up with existing holes. This gave me a solid reference for lining up the new bridge but I did have to plug and re-drill the outer four screw holes before attaching the new bridge. I compared the new bridge’s spring attachment plate and bolts and they were essentially identical to the existing ones so I didn’t bother changing them from original. I haven’t yet setup the tremelo but with the bridge in place I moved on to the electrics.

Hacking the Pickguard

As I mentioned before, it didn’t make any sense to spend a lot of money fixing up this low-end guitar from the 90’s but I did have a couple of goals. First, the volume circuit worked but the tone the tone circuit was fried. Second I wanted to “black out” the guitar so I wanted (but didn’t need) a black pick guard. Lastly, although I really like humbuckers I kind of wanted the “pure” Strat S-S-S setup mainly because I’ve never owned or even played one and I wanted to experiment.

At first I was just going to upgrade the pots and capacitors but I also had a wicked snap-crackle-pop associated with the 1/4″ jack.  I decided to purchase a (black) pre-wired Strat pickguard from Stewart-MacDonald and was not surprised at all to find that it didn’t fit my guitar. Oh well I gambled and knew this was likely. I could have adapted the pickguard to my guitar but I didn’t like the idea of plugging and drilling all new holes plus I wasn’t happy about what I was going to have to cut off the pickguard (can you say mutilation?). Early in the project I had spray painted the white tremelo cover with some flat black paint I had on hand and decided it looked pretty good. This led me to the conclusion that spray painting the original pickguard was a viable option. All I needed to do was to purchase or fabricate a humbucker to single coil mounting adapter. Dude, I’m a woodworker so I can do anything I’ll just make one. In hind sight it would have been better to just buy the thing. I spent way too much time making the adapter and although it works, I could have used those  hours to better advantage I think.  And on a related note, I found out on final fitting that I’d have to trim the pickguard where it meets the new bridge (remember it was a tad larger than the old one). So in a dumb-ass-move I thought I could just chisel off the small piece of plastic. Fail, not only did the chisel not do what I was hoping, I managed to break/snap the thin piece of plastic which separates the bridge pickup and the bridge. I repeat FAIL!

Only after this did I bring out the Dremel with drum sanding attachment and perfectly fixed it in about 20 seconds. Now I have a blemish, what will I do?

Getting the humbucker-single mounting adaptor right was the tedious part but I also needed to drill a hole for the second tone pot as the original only had one. So I eyeballed a good spot in between volume and tone and drilled a pilot hole before widening with a stepped drill bit. I didn’t want another split or cracked piece of plastic. This went well and I mounted and installed the newly populated and painted original pickguard.

Will it Play?

Answer yes, all the electronics and tuners check out. But I haven’t taken it back to the basement to set it up so it is very difficult to play bordering on impossible.  Did I mention that I also replaced the plastic nut with a Tusq XL? Well I haven’t exactly shaped the nut properly so this is a big part of the problem. Once I shape the nut, setup the string radius on the bridge and float the tremolo I think it will be ready to play. So far its been a fun project and I am achieving my goal of learning by doing. I’ll keep you posted when I get her back into the shop.

Phase I Build Completed


You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.
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