I had been wanting to get a new electric guitar, but I keep leaving the music stores empty-handed. Nothing seems to feel right, and I can't make myself "settle" on something.
I also have some kind of shyness/intimidation problem about trying them out in the store. What I really wanted to do was borrow the things for two hours and try them at home, but that's not an option.
I started looking into kits. I somehow figure that if I put it together myself, it will be more "mine".
This is a "Saga" kit. Its supposed to resemble a Paul Reed Smith. Observations:
The woodworking is pretty good, but not perfect. The body is rather heavily coated with sanding sealer-if I wanted to clear coat , it would not show a very strong grain, and be a slightly gross yellowy-blond color, so I'm going to paint.
The neck, fingerboard, and fretwork look really good.
The hardware looks a little bit "cheapo", but its replaceable.
I gave the back of the neck 4 wipes of wipe-on poly. I decided to leave the shape of the head stock well enough alone.
I also buffed the frets while the masking tape was still in place, although they were pretty good as received.
Painting the body. I decided to paint it "like a car", using automotive paint. gave several coats of sand-able primer, sanded, then went for glossy paint. Auto paint is a pain, the kind where you have to do all coats within 1 hour, else you have to wait four days before sanding.
The minute after I took this picture, I managed to drop the body on the floor. Almost back to Square One.
Used multiple coats of primer, and much sanding to correct the dings I put in by dropping it.
I repainted, waited an excruciating six days, and gave several coats of clear coat.
Now I have to wait a whopping two weeks before buffing it out. I'd better build a kayak or something. The brand name of the kit is living up to its name.
While doing all that waiting for paint to cure, I decided that The head stock shape was too "flashy" or "modern" or "macho" or something, so I gave it a new shape. Reminds me of something you'd see on a Danelectro:
After all that waiting, finally started final sanding & buffing. I went to auto parts stores for Ideas about how to get the best finish. I ended up using a foam pad on the buffer, polishing compound, and wax. It looks like a car.
I had been thinking that the painting & finishing would be the most tedious part. The most tedious part is still going on.
Initial setup came out lousy-super high action, and worst of all it didn't work. The tuners were nearly useless. The volume control acted like an on/off switch, tone control did nothing, and the pickup selector didn't work. I decided to take to a Reputable Repairman, who didn't seem to want to touch it. he did, however give me good information about what its problems were. The neck angle was "wrong", so I shimmed it with matchbook covers. Huge difference! I took a shot at filing the nut grooves, thought I may have gone too low, so learned the plastic-dust-and-super-glue trick. Filed, sanded & buffed the frets.
Now, for the electronics. I found wiring diagrams online, none of which coincided with the number of wires on my pickups. I went online and chose DiMarzio pickups through the dazzling array available. Wiring these also took two tries-the online diagrams assume knowledge I didn't have.
I also got Grover tuning machines. They were easy to install, and work well.
The finish doesn't look like the typical nitrocelluose job, but it looks o.k..
It took about five times longer than I expected, and I learned a great deal about guitar construction and setup. All in all, I don't think I'll be building another....