Tuesday, January 12, 2010


And the words that follows after that would be scribbled:

"The craziest assembly ever!"

That's what Kelvyn scribbled over his ash-strat-bodied guitar. Comes with a red stardust, as I like to label it. In fact, the red stardust reminds me of one of his first few songs that I listened to during the Home Studio EP; Spaceman.

It is my first time to see a guitar not assembled. Of course, with the parts where the electronics (e.g. pickups and bridge) and the tension spring area (SP??) is carved out properly. But there were no drill holes for the screws to be screwed in any way.

So the planning began. But before we could even screw the pickguard into place, it wouldn't be fit into place. The bottom of the neck (where the highest fret, in his case, the 22nd fret is) was too thick.

But it could have been the pickguard that has been too thick.

So if you faced this problem, what would you do? File the wood, or the pickguard until it fitted into place?

The answer is, both is possible. But what's the brighter alternative? Because the neck is thick in the middle, and thin on where it rests on the body, if you were to file it, you'd probably break or crack it if it were to be re-fretted. For the pickguard, if you don't cut it professionally, it'll just look ugly.

So we filed the pickguard. There were 5 layers of the pickguard, so we slowly filed it.

After trial and error which took about 2 hours, we saw the conclusion was just to cut off that whole piece just to make it fit. Then it came to measuring the bridge, where if the strings were to be attached to the guitar, would the 6th and the 1st string be in proper placing so if you were to even fret the notes, would it be off the fretboard?

Or perfectly in balance?

If yes, then it's ok. But if no, what's the situation that caused the string to be at such a place. The position of the bridge? Or the saddles?

So when we wanted to attach the strings, we couldn't do it. Until we fixed on some Sperzel Machine Heads. It's one of the good ones that has a very interesting locking system. And my goodness. It was in Gold reflective and matte finishing. I must say, it did look good on the maple neck itself.

Now, the one that Kelvyn got was the 6 T/L Gold, if I'm not mistaken. The whole set costed about RM200, and it's pretty dandy. Just that installing it had no screws. It had this thing that we called a "Check marker", because it's just a small black metallic object with a diametre-spacing in the middle fit enough to put a needle through it. That was the support centre for the machine heads to not get out of place. So the objective is that you're supposed to see how you want the tuners to be positioned, use that black metallic object, that we named as the "check marker", to mark the wood where it's supposed to be drilled on the headstock, then you put the place where you put the strings through on normal guitars through the pre-drilled holes on the headstock, then only you put the "check marker" in the drilled hole.

Also, according to the instructions, it's supposed to be a #36 drill head, which represented the diametre in millimetre. With Kelvyn's set of stuff, there were only #32, #35 then #40. So it'll be too small, or too big.

So if it's too small, the "check marker" will be fitted in a hole too small, and the bloody thing will be stuck in the hole if you force it in and out too many times. And when it gets into the hole, you'll realise that nothing's there to help you pull it out without damaging the neck.

So, for a RM200 set of tuners, especially with the "check markers" being consistently crooked, most of them were hard to install, so we removed the "check markers" and super-elephant-glued the whole machine heads dead onto the headstock.

And it does look lovely.

After that, came the fitting of the 6th and the 1st string, to see if all went well. It did, with just some minor adjustment of the bridge.

So, we began work with the pickguard. For those who know, a pickguard has 11 supporting screws onto the body, excluding the ones you need to use to adjust the height of the pickups away from the strings, etc. And to screw that 11 supporting screws, took Kelvyn and I just about a few hours to ensure that the pickguard finally fell into place, where it fits under the neck, where the bridge will be properlly fitted on the bottom of the pickguard, and most importantly, the neck pickup not being too close or too far away from the neck that will response to picking up the vibrations of the strings when they're being played, and being used.

We took note that just because of a stupid pickguard, it was a very crucial thing because the part where Kelvyn cut off, if he cut off too much of it, the neck pickup will be too close to the neck, and that'll make the neck pickup totally pointless because the sound will be not at that "sweet spot" to get that sweet sound. Also, if it's too far away, it'll push the bridge further, and the whole bridge block will crash into the wood underneath the guitar, and you won't be able to use the tremolo arm feature.

Also, having the pickguard at a further distance from the neck will cause it to be in an odd position, and if we tried forcing the pickguard under the neck, using the neck to sandwich the pickguard seemed like the best and lazy-man's idea to overcome such situations.

But this guitar is going to be used for years. Not 5 or 7, but probably 30 years from now. And if the pickguard were to be sandwiched in between of the neck, where the neck is screwed onto the guitar (Unlike Gibsons, where the whole thing is glued), the tension is going to make the screws loosen up, or due to it being used to sandwich, either the pickguard or the neck, or the guitar body is going to crack.

Hence, forcing Kelvyn to cut off the damned thing. Then only the outlining of the screws started. One by one, ensuring that the drill we had was straight, and we drilled all the holes in place.

And started screwing the screws onto the body.

The original gold Fender screws, mind you.

God, it looked beautiful.

It looked beautiful without the screws, pickguard and stuff, but now, it just looks naked, but hell, it's still beautiful.

I guess through this, I felt Kelvyn's happiness because this was one of his dream things to do as a guitarist.

Of course, that wasn't the end of our troubles. We wanted to install the Fender American Strat bridge, which is wider than anything else in this world, which also caused a problem to fit the bridge onto the body.


This is what happens if you Ebay everything off ebay.com, and expect to assemble it yourself. Every part from different manufacturers work differently, and hell, it was tough to really do it as we were doing trial and error.

But we had fun. A couple of laughs to make us less demotivated to continue on with working on the guitar.

I thought about it. Instead of coming back from Australia to see a new guitar he uses, like every other time I come back from KL, why not be there and watch how the effort was used to make this guitar.

Obviously, it took a lot of effort, and it's not even done. Because of the fat bridge, we're planning to chop some bits and pieces off.

But being too tired, when I couldn't register normal conversations except to hold things steady so he would (hopefully) not drill my fingers off, and drill holes in the guitar.

And although the electronics aren't in, nor is it playable yet, but it looks beautiful as it is already. I have a strong feeling that I won't be around to see or hear how it plays, but I guess I'll catch a glimpse of that when I get home from Australia.

And although he does watch videos about how guitars are being produces, and I watch about how the Top Gear team produce cars that can nearly fly up to the moon, and float on water, etc. But assembling the guitars of your dreams may be an issue.

I thought, "How hard can it be?", like the question being brought up on Top Gear, was an easy one. But I must say, assembling a guitar is tough.

And guess what?

This guitar, this body, pickups, parts, etc, was already given to us because it's already been designed about 50 years ago.

Imagine 50 years ago, when Leo Fender made the first few Stratocasters, Telecasters before the rest kicked in. He and his partner considered all of the problems we faced tonight.

But the difference is, they started from scratch. And Jimi Hendrix made the Stratocaster the icon of electric guitars.

Fender had all physics in his mind, about how the pickups should be placed, the bridges, the screws being used, etc.

All we do is we get all the parts, and screw them together, not knowing the concept.

But Fender had to come up with the concept.

So being a pioneer of something, isn't easy. In fact, it is very very tough.

So Leo Fender, you're a fuckin' genius. Even though I don't play Stratocasters because the feel is not my sort of thing. But get a Strat, get a proper tube amp, plug it in, and it's the sweetest thing that'll make your ears reaches their orgasms.

Both sides, mind you. Stereo, indeed.

Designing guitars at that era, and everything worked. All of the designs of electric guitars came from Fenders, and just got a major improvement and became better playable guitars.

But mark the keyword there - improvement.

Not innovation.

But improvement.

I'm not sure if Kelvyn needs an extra hand, but it's interesting to talk to him about this guitar stuff, and it's interesting to watch and learn more. Tonight, we're going to chop more wood. Without the tools, this is going to be an interesting process as well. Heh.

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