Monday, July 14, 2008

Part 1: Makin' a Tele



So, I decided that I needed a winter project this year. Something to get me off the couch, keep me off the streets, and make me try something new. I decided that building a guitar would be fun - challenging but fun. Here's my experience of building a Telecaster. I hope you enjoy it.


So, why build a Tele?


For the longest time I thought Fender Telecasters were a waste of time and wood. You could make a perfectly good Stratocaster with that hunk o' tree! Why would you want to waste it on a Tele? I used to say that Telecasters sounded like a tin cup full of nails. So, why in the world would I choose to make a Tele if I don't like them? Three reasons:

1) It is the easiest guitar to fabricate yourself. Seriously. It's a slab of wood, a neck, and some screws. There's nothing complicated about its construction (or so I thought). There is a reason this thing has been around since the 50's with little evolution. It's a simple idea that works.

2) I fell in love with a particular Tele about a year ago but was unable to purchase it at the time. It had a great sound and a fabulous feel to it. It was unlike any Tele I'd ever played.

3) Tastes change.

One note - I didn't decide to build this beast to save money. I could have bought a brand new Telecaster for the amount this project is costing me (not to mention the extra $ for tools!). But money was never the point of this project. …which is what I keep repeating to myself to help me forget how much I've spent so far.

I did a lot of thinking about this project before I started and I read as many blogs, wikis, books, and chat boards as I could to see how other people were tackling this hobby. For the record what I am doing is known as building a "Partscaster". My first step was to decide how much I wanted to do myself. Some people do everything from scratch - Body, Neck, the whole enchilada. They are very talented people with way too much time on their hands. I want to actually play this thing in my lifetime so I made a choice - I would make the body and buy the neck. I figured it was more of a challenge than buying everything and assebling it - but still realistic with my current woodworking/luthier skills.


One word about necks... They're frickin' expensive! The cheapest new one I found online was $100 (price+shipping). That was a quarter of my original budget for this project (that budget went out the window as soon as I started buying tools, oy!). I could have gone the ebay route but there are some things that I don't feel comfortable bidding on - this was one of those things. I don't want to pay some yahoo in East Overshoe for his Preemeeum (sic) neck.


In fact I was uncomfortable with the whole idea of buying a neck sight-unseen. For those of you that do not play – the neck really is where the rubber meets the road for a guitar. If the neck doesn't feel right to you as a player all the rest is bit moot.


A quick note about guitar bodies. You can buy them online pre-cut and ready to go. They too are ridiculously overpriced ($150 and up).  It's wood!  It is one of those rare things in life that DOES GROW ON TREES!  Why am I being violated for a chunk of Mahogany that's one foot by two feet?  Can you tell I felt a bit wrong-done?  This was one of the reasons I decided to build instead of buy – that and the actual wood working sounded kinda fun.


Since I had decided that I wanted to make the body I was going to need a few things:

Good wood in the right size (more on this in a bit)

A template to trace out the shape of a Tele

A saw that can cut around corners


This is where I had a brainstorm.   Or whatever passes for a brainstorm in the soupy mix upstairs. Why not just buy a guitar? No, really! Hear me out…


I decided that instead of buying a telecaster template online for $25 from some bozo who made it in his shed and then buy a neck I'd never get to touch prior to its arrival on my doorstep for $100 – why not buy a cheap import Telecaster? The cheapest ones are $160. So, I pay 35 bucks more – I get to try out the neck and I also get a three dimensional template – not some flat piece of particle board that I'll never use again. And hey – if I sell the body, pickups and hardware from the import after I'm done with it I could cover some expenses.


Well, that's what I did. In hindsight - the neck part was a good idea. The 3-D template was less so. I'll touch on that when it's relevant. I do plan on re-using some of the metal hardware bits and pieces from the Squier that I was going to have to buy. So it seemed like a good trade-off price-wise.


One note about imports (known as Squier Telecasters) - they sound pretty vanilla. They don't sound bad, per se but they have very little character. This is mainly due to the wood and the electronics used in their construction - two things I'm not going to re-use.


Okay, if you've read this so far you know my game plan - buy a crappy import Telecaster, buy some good wood, and get a saw that can cut around corners.


I started by looking for the guitar. I ended up buying the Squier Tele at Mr. Music in Allston, MA. This was after going to all of the guitar shops in a 10 mile radius of Somerville, MA (there's 7 by the way). A quick note about Mr. Music - it is an independent music store that is worth a visit. If you're ever in the Boston area check 'em out. They always have fun toys to play with.


The Squier: It has a maple neck with 21 frets.  So, this was good news and bad news. I like maple necks but most Telecasters have 22 frets. For those of you counting - 24 frets equals 2 octaves.  More frets means the instrument has a greater dynamic range.  So, I lost out on that front but I did find a neck that is very comfortable and is also super fast to play.




Sunday, July 13, 2008

Part 2: Wood


In front of your house there's a tree. Look out your window – there's anther one. There's wood everywhere. You would think it would be easy to come by. Not so much…

The problem is that most wood you buy at a Home Depot or Lowes is still fairly wet (wood takes a few years to dry out) – or worse – it's warped. These are two things that are not so good for building guitars. Also, there are only about 4 or 5 types of wood that are considered well suited to guitar construction (Alder, Ash, Mahogany, Maple, and Basswood. There are also a few exotic woods that are rare). Finally, to build a Tele you need to start out with a block of wood that is roughly 20 inches long by 13 inches wide and 1 ¾ inches thick. That is an uncommon size for Home Depot. It turns out that its an uncommon size all around (at least for those of us that live in the Metro Boston area).

What I did find out is that it is very common to take two pieces of wood that are 20 x 7 x 1 ¾ and glue them together. Guitar makers do it all the time. In fact I've been told that if I sanded all the paint off of the Squier I bought it could be made of up to FIVE pieces of wood that have been glued together. Crazy Talk! Many people on the chat boards that I visited in my research talked about the necessity of good TONE woods in guitar construction - that the wood is essential in making the tone. Perhaps this is the reason the Squier Tele sounds like Ka-Ka. I'll leave that one unanswered until I finish my Tele.

So, I was talking about Wood. I found a great little woodworkers shop in Cambridge, MA – Rockler's. I'm told they are a chain of wood stores. What will they think of next? Rockler had just about every type of wood you could want – except the kind I wanted. I had wanted to make this Tele out of Alder. Alder is one of the traditional woods used in Telecaster and Stratocaster construction. For the record, Leo Fender, the man who started this madness in the 1950's started making guitars out of PINE – a very soft wood. For one reason or another (I'm guessing production costs or availability) he switched to Alder and Ash. Most people don't know that Leo couldn't play guitar to save his life. He built 'em – he didn't play 'em. I'm guessing he was more interested in making a durable, easy to build instrument than creating a tonally balanced instrument. …but I digress.

They didn't have my wood. No one in the surrounding area had any Alder and no one had Ash in a workable size. My third choice was Mahogany. This they had in the right size. I've owned Magogany guitars before. They are heavy but they sustain very well. Whether it was due to the resonance of the wood or the sheer bulk of the guitar – I'll never know. Either way – I bought two slabs of wood in the following size: 20 x 7 x 1 ¾.
Someone in the peanut gallery is saying something about Telecasters and Mahogany. Oil and water...? What? I'm sorry, I can't hear you.

For the record - Mahogany is not the wood of choice for Telecasters. It is usually considered too dark in timbre and tone for the classic Tele sound. Okay, I've said it. When you build your Tele - tell me how it goes.

One final note about wood: Rockler's had a wood called butternut that was lighter than mahogany in color and weight but came in 20 x 14 x 1 ¾ blocks. If I ever do this again I'm going to try this process with a solid block of wood like that rather than two slabs glued together. Maybe it won't make a difference in tone but it is one less step (i.e. no glueing).

So, gluing. I was supposed to take pictures of the gluing process so you could see how it works. I found that holding two gluey pieces of timber toghether while trying to focus my camera was a tad difficult...

...okay, I admit it - I forgot to take the pictures...

It basically involved me finding the two edges that were straightest of the two pieces I had and sanding them until they were smooth and made a tight joint when placed together. Then glue them together and introduce pressure (hello pressure, how do you do?).

I slathered a ton of glue between the two pieces of wood and used six 24 inch-long clamps to clamp the two pieces together. The basic idea is to glue and squeeze them enough that they in effect become one piece of wood.

A tip: as you are tightening the vice grips glue will seep out of the joint. This isn't a problem but you might find it easier to wipe this up while it is still wet rather than waiting until it is dry. Either way - it will sand away with elbow grease.

You should probably use wood glue for this process - that's what it's for. The wood glue I used recommended that I keep the glued pieces under pressure for an hour and let it set for 8 to 24 hours. I clamped it for 2 hours and let it set for 20 hours. When it was done – I took the above picture.

One note about the image above: This was taken after the glue had set for 20 hours. I then sanded the top surface with 60 then 100 grit sand paper and gave it a light mineral spirit wash to see what the wood grain will look like when I'm done. I nicked that trick from someone on the telecaster forum (http://www.tdpri.com/).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Part 3: Templates and Tracing





Within a half hour of getting the Squier home I had the strings and neck off of the guitar. There was a very good reason for this: If I had started playing the guitar I might have wanted to keep it - as-is.

I played the guitar a couple of times on a couple of different days at Mr. Music - enough to know that I liked the feel of the neck. But I only plugged the guitar into an amp once at the store - and that was only to check that everything worked. I knew that the neck was straight and that it was comfortable. I didn't want to know anything else about this guitar. Sometimes ignorance is best.

About a week or two had gone by since I'd glued the wood together. In that time I had sanded the top and bottom of the wood with 36, 60, 100 and 150 grit sand paper (in that order) with a power sander.



To quote a buddy of mine, "That thing works like a champ." As you can see it was snowing mahogany in my basement. Dust masks are your friend.

At this point I'm mostly trying to remove imperfections and glue residue. I don't need a finished surface yet because there is so much to do.

Next I tied down the Squier body to the wood and traced the body with a Sharpie. If I ever do this again, I would use a marker/pen with a thinner tip. The sharpie was a very wide line to try and cut to. With a thinner line I would have cut slower (and probably more precise). I wasn't really concerned with all of the bleed from the marker as I knew at some point I would be rounding off all of the sharp edges before finishing the guitar.

Another tip: When tying (or clamping) the guitar to the wood to trace it - try and line up the center line of the guitar with the glue seam of the wood. Guitars are not always symetrical (this Squier was close but not 100%). I found that centering the glue seam on the four holes drilled in the neck pocket (where the four screws go into the neck to hold it to the body) was a good place to start. If your guitar is close to symetrical you can also try using the hole drilled at the butt of the guitar for the guitar strap as a baseline centerpoint as well. I ended up eyeballing it a little. Your milage may vary.

.

When I was done tracing I had this:


Hmmm... It almost looks like there is a Tele in there - waiting to get out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Part 4: Power Tools




The wood is glued and the template traced - it's now time to start sawing.





So, for those of you who are not familiar with power tools - a jig saw is not a precision instrument. I had no illusions that it would create a finished edge - I knew there was some sanding in my future but I didn't know that it would be so imprecise. Perhaps closer to the truth is that I am the one who is imprecise and the tool is fine. I'm happy to put the blame on the tool for now and learn from my mistakes.
The "rough draft" of the body was in such bad shape that I was left with no alternative - a router would be necesarry.









For those of you not familiar with a router it can be a precision instrument in the hands of a skilled wood worker. As a guitarist - I've got game. As a wood worker - not so much...









I had not originally planned on using a router to refine the shape of the Tele. I was hoping to avoid routers in general and be able to sand my way to a symetrical guitar after I had cut the rough shape with the jig saw. ...the whole time I would be dodging snowballs in Hell and shooing flying pigs circling around my head...

The only power tool that make me more apprehensive then a router is a table saw. Anything that spins around in thousands of revolutions per minute should be respected. Adding a carbide razor to the tip of said spinning object - with no gaurd in sight - is cause for concern. The body part most likely to be damaged by a table saw or router? The fingers. The body most important to the playing of guitars? The fingers. ...you can see the nature of my concern.


I was going to seek help from friends or family - people with more routing skill than I to help me with this part of the project but my pride (read obstinance) got the better of me. I decided the only way to learn how to swim was to jump in. I went out and bought a Home Despot special - a Ryobi router for $60.



So, for those of playing the home game - that is $120 in tools - so far. That's $35 for the jig saw, $60 for the router and $25 for the router bit. I already had the sander but did need to buy sand paper in the following grits: 36, 60, 100, 150, 220, 320. I still need to buy 400 and 800 grit (and maybe higher for when it comes time to put a finish on this gal). This is just the begining too, so keep your calculators handy.


As I said, I'm not a skilled wood worker but very few people are born that way so I figured I could probably learn. Yeah, one big part of the learning process is having a teacher. As most of us know the other big part of learning is experience. Bad experience being a the more memorable for most of us. I've had three teachers when it comes to wood working: my father, and my buddies Bill and Rudy. In addition to teaching me how to use tools all three of them have tried to teach me the same lesson: Measure twice - cut once.


...did I mention that I'm a slow learner?



This is where Experience comes in. Suffer enough heart-ache and you'll learn eventually. This project has been painless for the most part but there have been numerous times where if I had just measured twice I would be playing my guitar now and not still building it.
But I digress...

One of the great things about routers is that if you buy the right router bit you can use a template or form to trace a shape. As long as your template is smooth and accurate - your final piece of wood should be as well. I bought a router bit with a ball bearing colar just above the cutting edges. This way the ball bearing guide follows the contours of the template and the blade cuts the wood. To make the template I used the Squier body to trace the shape on a piece of Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) that was about 1/2 inch thick.

If I ever build another guitar I would use 3/4 inch plexiglass for my template instead of 1/2 inch MDF. The extra hight would make it easier to do more passes with the router. I bought a router bit that is too long - it should be 1/2 inch not 1 inch but my local home despot only had the larger bit. Because of this my initial cut is too deep. It means I make fewer passes with the router but it also means my cuts are not as precise and I had quite a few burns on the wood. With routers - the shallower the cut - the smoother the end product. Some people recommend making 1/4 inch passes or less with the router. I was making anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch cuts. Cuts that deep are hard on the router, hard on the blade and hard on the wood. Less, in this case, is more. Way more. There is also the thought of a router bit snapping because it is working too hard. That friends and neighbors is the thought that gives me the creeping willies.

Another reason for using plexiglass is that a transparent template would make positioning hardware and pickups much easier.

So, what you do is take your finished template and put it on top of your body wood. Clamp the template to the body using vice grips/clamps (remember not to let the clamps directly touch the body - use wood scraps between the clamps and the final piece whenever possible - this will mean less sanding later). Set your router on top of the template. Lower the router blade so that the ball-bearing guide touches the template and the blade touches the wood (I made the mistake of letting the blade touch the template and now that template don't work so good). After you make a few passes the body itself will act as the template. The ball-bearing will follow the contours of the previous cuts you made.

I made so many mistakes with the jig saw on my rough cut that I had to move my template around a little in-between router cuts to get a smooth finish. The end result is that my Tele is slightly less wide around the waist than standard Tele's are. Still looks okay!



Note: I wiped this with a quick mineral spirit wash again to 'preview' the grain.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Part 5: Deep Pockets




The most nerve-racking part of this build - and not uncoincidently the most important part of building the guitar - was routing the neck pocket.





The neck pocket is the nitch carved out of the body where the neck is attached (in this case screwed to the body). It is usually around 3/4 of an inch deep but can be more or less depending on how thick your neck is. Having never done this before, I decided to use the Squier guitar body that I bought (this was the one time when buying the 3D template came in handy) to mark off on the neck how deep the pocket should be.






I put the Squier neck in the squier body and then took a mechanical pencil and marked off how much of the neck sticks out of the pocket. You then take a very precise mesuring instrument (something with 1/32 and 1/64 marks - 1/16th isn't going to cut it) and mesure how deep the pocket is by measuring what doesn't stick above your pencil mark. This is the eventual depth you will set your router bit to - thus creating the correct depth for the pocket. Again, with routers it is better (and safer) to do several successive passes. At least that's what I tell myself to justify the amount of time I spent on this...

So, how am I going to do several passes with the router without botching up the pocket shape (never mind depth)? Why, another template of course! This one is easy, Take some MDF (or plexiglass or plywood) and trace the area of the neck that sits on the body. I made a mark on the neck (again with a mechanical pencil) where the neck sticks out from the body. The easiest way to do this is to put the neck on the original body and make a mark where the body and neck meet.
You probably want to take good measurments if you don't plan to do things the way I did them (buying a squier to use as a template).

So, why was this pocket the most nerve-racking part of the construction? A couple of reasons...

The pocket is made at the edge of the wood - where chipping the wood is easiest. A router will naturally chip large chunks out of a piece of wood - out of spite. (okay it just seems that way).
The pocket is also made right at the glue joint - which seemed scary to me but I've been assured that at this point the glue is as strong as the wood - so no biggie.
But the biggest reason is that the way the neck fits into the pocket defines how well the guitar will play. If the neck sits in the pocket at a left or right angle the strings may not fret well (the strings could over-hang the neck in worst-case situations). If the neck sits poorly in the pocket there could be dead spots on the neck that don't ring out - or just as bad the action may be forever too high (this would be if the neck bent up or down at the pocket. And finally, if the pocket is too big (read I sneezed at the wrong time and made a "V" shaped pocket instead of a "U" shaped pocket) the neck will never correctly transfer the vibrations necesary for good tone or decent sustain. The goal is to have the neck fit in the pocket joint snugly - without screws holding it in place. I was unsuccessful in that respect - but the neck fits pretty good for someone who was shaking like he had the Delerium Tremens the whole time I was using the router.








It is also worth noting that after I finished making the neck pocket I sold the Squier body on craigslist. I think I got $30 for it. I included the body (still in near new condition), the Squier bridge, the neck pickup, and all of the guts (tone pot, volume pot, input jack, etc.). I kept the neck, the bridge pickup (for the short term - I ended up replacing that too) some of the hardware pieces (cover plate, tuning keys, strap buttons, neck plate, etc). All in all, between what it would cost me to buy the above items and what I got back from the sale of the body - I probably didn't spend that much more than I would have if I bought a neck (sight unseen), hardware, and guitar body templates. I ended up feeling okay about it. And I still have the templates that I made in case I want to do this again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Part 6: Diggin' Holes


You'd never guess it by looking at one but guitars are full of holes.  True most of them don't go all the way through but they are still holes and they need to be dug.  Here's how I dug mine.

As you can see from the pictures there are the following holes:



1) Control Cavity where the volume, tone, and pickup controls will go. This hole was made using a drill press to get the right depth and a router to smooth the edges once most of the wood was carved out with the forsner bit and drill press.   It is the deepest of the holes - being between  1 and 1/4 inches to 1 and 1/2 inches deep.  The wood itself is only 1 and 3/4 to 1 and 5/8 inches deep - so this was the tough one.  You accidentally go all the way through on this one and you now have a handle for carrying your mistake around to gigs.


2) The neck pickup hole - also made with a drill press and router combo - this was the easiest one and the one I was the most cavalier about making.  Most of the hole will be covered by the pickguard - so it's not essential that the hole is straight or even.  IIt just needs to be deep enough to fit your pickup.


3) The bridge pickup hole (also made with the drill press and router combo).  This needs to be pretty big and an odd shape because the bridge pickup is positioned at an angle.  I ended up tracing the bridge plate and the bridge pickup to outline the maximum and minimum size the whole could be.  If it was smaller than the pickup - obviously the pickup wouldn't fit but if it was larger than the bridge plate the hole would be visible and the electronics exposed to the elements instead of hidden under the bridge plate.  The problem is there's only a few millimeters difference in size.  I actually made the hole a millimeter too big and had to  build up the side of the hole with some wood putty so the whole wouldn't be visible.

You would think that's it for holes.  Not so much...


4) There are 6 holes in the back of the guitar for the ferrules that hold the strings in place.  They have to be drilled with a drill press to an exact depth so that the ferrules are not sticking out or counter sunk.  They are supposed to be flush with the body of the guitar.  As it happens the only reason for this is that I bought the kind that need to be flush.  You can buy the kind where it's okay for them to stick out from the body but the hole you have to drill for them is even more complex.  Go here to see what I mean.  I liked the type that I bought ( the one without a lip/rim) because they looked beefier and would hopefully transmit more vibrations from the strings to the wood.  One of the toughest things about making this guitar was lining up the 6 holes so they were close enough together to come out at the correct place in the bridge plate but also be far enough apart that the ferrules didn't touch.  As you can see - I messed one of them up and had to try rebuilding the wall of the hole with sawdust and glue.  I worked a little - but not enough.  I will be relying heavily on the fact that wood swells when it gets wet (when I stain the guitar) and that I'll be putting a lot of sealer/lacquer on the body.  With any luck the damaged hole will be small enough that the ferrule will fit snugly.  If not - I'll have to try a little glue - Something I'd prefer not to do to the ferrules.  I want contact with wood for maximum tone (if there is such a thing).  


5) The Input Jack.  This is a relativly easy hole to drill as long as you have the right size bit.  The hole needed to be 7/8 of an inch due to the type of input jack I purchased.  You just need to mentally draw a straight line from the outside of the guitar to the side-wall of the control cavity (hole #1).  This is how the electronics connect to the outside world (i.e. the guitar cable).  This hole ends up being the deepest hole you make and required the most muscle to create.  I ended up having to press the hand drill into the wood with my whole body to get through the 2 - 3 inches of mahogany.  Using the drill press for this hole was not an option for me due to the type of drill press at my disposal - if you have one that'll do it - use it.  This hole was no fun to drill.

Okay, you'd think we were done with the holes now.   Not so much...

6) I had 6 holes to drill for the strings to pass through the body.  In theory these are easy to make - you put the bridge on the body where it is supposed to go and mark off where the string holes are.  Then you use the drill press to drill straight down.  Sounds good in theory.  This is where I messed up the holes for the ferrules.  The string holes and the ferrule holes meet up in the back.  I didn't drill the string holes exactly right - so the ferrule holes suffered.  Not too much but enough that one of the ferrules may be loose when I'm done.  If all else fails - when I string up the guitar the string tension will hold the ferrule in place but I'd like it to fit their without string tension.

7) Bridge Screw holes (done with a drill press).  There were 4 holes that had to be drilled for the screws that hold the bridge in place to the body.  They have to be deep enough and wide enough so that the screws holding the bridge in place have plenty to bite.  Here's the challenge:
a) The holes are too big - the bridge doesn't stay in place - therefore the guitar can't stay in tune therefore Jerry picks up a more relaxing hobby.  
b) The holes are too small - the screws cause crack/splits in the wood as they get screwed in to the wood - therefore the guitar splits in two when strung with guitar strings (100+ pounds of pressure) - therefore Jerry goes into a corner for some 'quiet time' before drinking heavily - and then goes and picks a new hobby

8) Neck screw holes (done with a drill press).  Four holes used for the 4 screws that hold the neck to the guitar body.  I used the metal plate (see here) as a template for where they should be drilled.  They were easy to do - again it was just a matter of drilling them the right width.  There wasn't a lot of wood here to be forgiving so I tested it out with a piece of scrap wood first to know that the wholes were the right dimensions.

9) Pick Guard holes (not pictured).  Something like 11 holes used to keep the pick guard in place.  Small holes done with the drill press.  The trick is to make sure you don't drill them too big or small (width or depth).

I'm surprised there's any wood left.  I paid how much for this collection of holes...?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Part 7: Mistakes Were Made...Part 1

So, if you are playing the home game - here's where we stand...
The wood was glued, traced, sawed, routed, drilled, routed again, and sanded. If I were this piece of wood - I'd ask for my money back.

At this point in my build I took a two-week detour. I put the guitar together. It made little sense at first (and I have no pictures to document it) but I assembled the guitar. I put the neck on the body, I wired up the electronics, and I plugged that sucker in! It was fun and I have no regrets but it did put me 'off-schedule' by a couple of weeks while I was enjoying my new Tele. But seriously, I wanted to make sure that everything fit - that the body and neck pocket were lined up correctly and that the action and intonation could be properly set-up. My thought-process was that if I waited until after I stained and lacquered the body I might miss an opportunity to fine-tune the shape and then have to sand or reshape a body that has been 'finished.' I was guessing that once I got to the lacquering/finishing stage I wouldn’t want to sand the body too much. Ha! Little did I know...

As a side note - the guitar set up well and sounded pretty raunchy (that's a good thing) but putting the neck on the body did highlight an area that needed to be looked at - the neck pocket.

The neck itself was straight but there were a couple of 'dead-spots' on the neck right where the neck joined the body. When the notes were played (or fretted) they would not ring out clearly. This was due to the strings buzzing on another fret somewhere. The problem wasn't based on string height or the straightness of the neck but rather the angle of the entire neck in the neck pocket. I read somewhere (maybe Steward McDonald) that the neck may need to be shimmed so that it is angled a bit more in the pocket itself. In effect the neck as a whole is either pointing up or down too much in the pocket and I need to adjust it - hence the shims. This is where the fine-tuning comes in. I've read of people putting thin slices of wood, metal even matchbook covers on one side of the neck pocket (sandwiched in between the neck and the body) to angle the neck just a little to remove the dead spots. Matchbook covers! Crazy Talk!

Another piece of information I gleaned from assembling the guitar prior to staining and finishing it was that I had placed the bridge too close to the neck. When deciding where to place the bridge on the body of your guitar you have to know the "scale length" you are using. The scale length is the distance from the nut on the neck to the place on the guitar where the string makes contact with the bridge (usually the saddles). Fender Strats and Teles are approximately 25 1/5 scale. Gibson guitars are a little over 24 inch scale and PRS guitars are somewhere in between (more proof that Mr. Smith was trying to find the market in the middle of these two products). I measured the distance from the nut to the 12th fret (on the neck) and then placed the bridge that same distance from the 12th fret to the body. It's supposed to measure something close to 25 1/2 inches from the nut to the bridge. So I did this but when I placed the bridge - I placed it so that the holes that hold the bridge to the body were 25 and 1/2 inches from the nut. I should have been measuring to the saddles - not the holes. It's not the end of the world but it meant that I would have to alter the springs that control the saddle positioning on the bridge. I clipped the springs in half, which should allow me to position the saddles directly above the holes that hold the bridge to the body - thereby giving me a 25 1/2 inch scale. For the blissfully ignorant this fine tuning of string length and saddle positioning allows me to ensure that any note played on the neck in tune. If the intonation of the string is off less than or more than 25 1/2 inches - notes will be sharp or flat.

So, I was able to identify a couple of things that I should fix prior to finishing the body. I thought to myself, "I made some goofs but nothing major. So far, so good!"

...but the doozey was still yet to come.