Claescaster

Tag: Claescaster

How to… Repair lacquer damage

I really like worn guitars, well it’s hard to avoid when most of my guitars are 30-40 years old, the oldest guitar I got is my little Levin from 1942. However, there is one thing that I can’t stand, marks and dents on the back of the neck. Some little imperfection that you feel every time you move you hand up and down the neck. I’m not sure if it’s related to my slight OCD but it annoys me so much that I tend not to play any of my guitars that doesn’t have perfect smooth necks. The worst used to be my Greco Les Paul, it had a dent in the neck and I complained so much when I bought that I actually got it cheaper. When I received my Goya T-18 and my Morris W-40 and realised that they both had really bad marks on the back of the neck I just wanted to cry. Then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I can’t be the only one that has issues with this, so I checked some Youtube videos to learn how to fix it and then ordered everything I needed. It’s actually really easy to fix yourself, well as soon as you find good lacquer and sandpaper with a grit fine enough, that turned out to be impossible around here. I managed to find a eBay seller that sold Nitrocellulose lacquer fairly cheap and was willing to ship to Spain. The sandpaper I had to order from China, I couldn’t find anything finer than 800 in Barcelona. After a months waiting and some feeble practice runs on less loved guitars I was finally ready to try to fix all dents, marks and imperfections on the back of my guitar necks. It went really well, or as well as it could with just 2500 grit, ideally I would have liked to have something much finer for really getting the shine back, especially on flat surfaces like bodies, the necks looked pretty good anyway.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
Before I started on any necks I decided to practice on the fairly roadworn body of my old Claescaster. The sandpaper I ordered from eBay came in 1500, 2000, 2500 grit and actually turned out to be made in Japan. I cut wine corks in half and glued sandpaper strips to them to get a straight sanding surface, remember to mark the grit on them otherwise it gets a bit confusing. Next step, apply the lacquer. It dries pretty fast, about 10 min, which is good because you normally need to apply lacquer more than once to really fill the dents. When it’s dry just cut off the access with a razor blade until the surface feels smooth. It’s good to tape around the blade, not only to avoid cutting yourself, but also to not scratch the surrounding surfaces.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
Remember to dip the sandpaper in water before you start sanding, you can really feel the difference especially with the finer grits. I used 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit on my little wine cork sanding blocks. I would have loved to have something even finer. I tried everything I could think of that could have a bit of sanding effect but was finer than 2500 grit. Pencil eraser, sponges, different cloths, in the end I rubbed really hard with metal polish which seemed to work a bit. As a last step I applied a bit of Carnauba wax and a lot of elbow grease and then buffed it up with a fine microfiber cloth.

Repairing lacquer damage on guitar
This is the back of the neck of my Morris W-40. The seller didn’t even bother to mention that it had deep cuts in the neck. This took quite a few fills with lacquer to even out the dents but in the end it worked pretty well. You can still see a slight colour change but you can’t feel the dents, which was the main thing for me. The last photo is not of the final polished result, it’s in the middle of sanding, I forgot to take a picture when I was done. I’m very happy with the result on all of the guitar necks I tried to fix. It was also a lot easier to get the sanding smooth and unnoticeable on the back of a neck compared to a guitar body.

How to… change pickups

Morgan Telecaster, Claescaster

Last Sunday I decided to change the pickups on my old Claescaster. I had ordered a cheap $24.00 set of Artec ones, just regular Alnico V pickups from EY Guitars. I also ordered a new Wilkinson vintage bridge, without any doubt my favourite Telecaster bridge, since I took the old one and put on the new Claescaster. It was a pretty straight forward procedure as usual, I didn’t even have to check Seymour Duncan’s wiring diagram this time.

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The old stock pickups and bridge from my Morgan Telecaster, aka the old Claescaster

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The new Artec Alnico V pickups in gold, mounted on a Wilkinson WTB bridge, in gold of course

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I got 3 Meters (9.8 Feet) of wax coated cloth wire, 22awg, for $1.70, that’s about a tenth of the price here

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I changed the pots a while ago to nice full size Alpha 250k audio pots. I should probably get a new switch as well but the old one is still working fine

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Since the new Artec pickups came with cloth wire I thought I should change all the old crappy pvc wires for some fancy 22awg cloth wire, not sure why I chose yellow though. I stuck to the old 50′s vintage wiring like I had it before

I haven’t tried them properly yet, just plugged them in to see if they worked, well I did a quick little sound clip just to see if there was any difference. I really like the bridge sound of the new ones, really twangy but the neck might be a bit too muffled. I’m rehearsing tonight so then I will get a chance to play loud and see if it was worth $24.00 or not. Hopefully the neck pickup will sound less muffled when I play it through my Fender Blues Deluxe which tends to make even humbuckers sound clear and crisp. Please don’t judge my guitar playing too hard, it was after all a Sunday morning after a long weekend. I think you can hear both my cat and my woman going about their business in the background.

Claescaster Morgan stock pickups (Neck, middle, bridge)

Claescaster ARTEC pickups (Bridge, middle, neck)

Update 2013-07-12I might have got a bit too carried away last night because the two sound clips I recorded are very LOUD. I guess I had more fun with my new pickups than I expected. I think they sound pretty good, I’m not the worlds greatest guitar player but to me they sound way better than the old stock pickups. The neck pickup didn’t sound muffled at all through my Fender Blues Deluxe, and the middle sounds sweat like hell, well worth $24.00.

Claescaster ARTEC pickups with Fender Blues Deluxe (Bridge, middle, neck)

Claescaster ARTEC pickups with Fender Blues Deluxe (Bridge, middle, neck)

EY Guitars

EY Guitars

I just received my package from Hong Kong, the guitar parts I ordered from EY Guitars for the old Claescaster. How cute is this, they have packed it in a lunch box to keep it safe. I wonder if that something they always do or if it was just a really considerate worker that thought that Spain was really far away and it might be a bumpy ride so he or she better pack it in a Tupperware. They were pretty quick too, I placed the order on the 6th, sent out on the 8th and here on the 25th, just two work weeks. It was holidays here in Catalonia this weekend so I bet no one was working on Friday or Monday, it might have been lying around here in the post depot since the middle of last week, it has happened before.

The Claescaster

Claescaster The new Claescaster has been my office guitar for the last month or so and I’ve really grown to love it. I guess all new guitars needs to be broken in by being played a lot so 30-40 min a day so should do the trick. There is nothing more relaxing than playing guitar after you have eaten, well maybe sex but that would be rather awkward in a office environment. I can strongly recommend everyone to get yourself an office guitar, if don’t already have one.

The Old Claescaster

I have just ordered a new set of pickups for the old Claescaster. Since the new Claescaster is done I felt I needed another project so what could be better than giving some love to the old Claescaster. I went for some cheap Artec ones, just regular Alnico V pickups but with a bit of luck they could be good. They only cost  $24.00 for both so I don’t expect too much. I bought them from a Hong Kong site called EY Guitars, I didn’t want to order things from USA since I had so much trouble with the customs last time. I also ordered a Wilkinson vintage bridge in gold since I took the old one and put on the new Claescaster. Let’s see how it goes, how long it takes and if I get charged any extra custom fees.

cropped-claescaster3.jpg The old faithful Claescaster

These are the Artec Hot Ceramic Telecaster Pickups, a bit fancier then the ones I bought but they were sold out in gold so I had to go for something else.

The Claescaster

Mighty Mite Telecaster The new Claescaster

My new Claescaster is finally done. It was fun, rewarding and extremely annoying to build. If anyone plans to put a guitar together, make sure that you either stick to American parts or non American parts. To mix like I did was a nightmare since nothing fitted. I don’t think a single part fitted straight away, I had to make every hole bigger, or cut a bit here and sand a bit there. Anyway, now it’s done and I’m really happy with it. I just need to change the nut tonight for a Tusq and then we are all set.

Telecaster electronics Not the cleanest soldering but at least everything works

I wish the ground cables would have stuck a bit easier to the pot so the soldering wouldn’t have been such a mess. I also realised when I first plugged it in that the switch didn’t work since I had soldered 1-3 and 6-8 together, apparently 1 and 8 shouldn’t be connected.

Kluson style machine heads Kluson style machine heads from Northwest Guitars

To fit the machine heads was pretty easy. Of course I had to make the holes bigger since they were 8mm and not 8.5mm as I was first told. I used a piece of wood to keep everything straight and to make sure they lined up. Then a tiny little pilot hole with the drill and in with the screw.

Kluson style machine heads I originally wanted a 70’s decal and modern machine heads but I think I start to prefer the 50’s logo and the Kluson style machine heads

Mighty Mite Telecaster Time to fit the neck

I read somewhere that this was a good trick to make sure you get the neck in the correct angle before you drill the holes. A piece of string through the body and around the two E strings to make sure that they are evenly spaced. I marked the holes with a hammer and a screwdriver before I drilled the pilot holes and then tried my best to keep the drill straight. A lot of people claim that you have to use a drill press but it works fine with a normal hand held drill.

Mighty Mite Telecaster Last thing to do, fit the pickguard

Of course the pickguard didn’t line up perfectly in the end so I had to cut out a bit more around the control plate. I used a knife and then smoothed it out with sandpaper around fat marker pen. I probably should have used a drill to make the pilot holes since the old nail and hammer tended to crack the lacquer in some places.

Mighty Mite Telecaster Last screw being marked out with a hammer and a nail

Mighty Mite Telecaster The Claescaster is finally finished

The Claescasters The old and then new Claescaster together

Look at the grain on the top one, the new swamp ash Claescaster, amazing. It weighs around 4.5 kg so a pretty fat little baby but it feels amazingly solid and nice around the neck. The old one, which is most likely basswood, weighs around 3.2 kg.

Earlier parts of the Claescaster story can be found here 1, 2, 3, 4.

The Claescaster

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This is what the final Claescaster might look like

Last week I started to put the new Claescaster together. I have never built a guitar before so there has been a bit of figuring stuff out. I decided to go for CTS pots since they are supposed to be the best but regretted my decision as soon as I got them. It turned out that CTS pots, and I guess most things made in the USA, doesn’t fit things made in Europe or Asia. The shafts of the pots was too big for my control plate so the first thing I had to do was to drill the holes bigger. That worked out quite OK with the help of my boss Ralf, someone had to hold while the other one drilled. However, since the shafts were bigger than all the other pots, washers and nuts I had lying around at home I couldn’t take any spare parts to make sure that not too much of the shaft was sticking up. It wasn’t too much work to force on a push on knob, but a lot harder to remove it. I went for a normal import 3-way switch since it cost 3€ and seemed solid and reliable. I bought all the electronics from Stringsfield in Valencia, really cheap and quick delivery.

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Fancy CTS pots from the USA that turned out to not be Asian friendly in size

Next problem I had to face was the size of the holes on the back where the strings come through. All my other strings through body guitars has 8 mm holes to fit a 8.25 mm string ferrules but not Mighty Mite. They decided to go for the rather unorthodox 7 mm holes so neither the small 6.3 mm or the big 8.25 mm string ferrules would fit. Thanks a lot. I stupidly tried to drill the hole bigger, which of course cracked the lacquer and made a complete mess. I’m not sure if I used the wrong drill or if the wood is harder than stone but since it was only 1 mm difference the drill just dug in and got stuck in the hole and of course cracked the lacquer when I tried to get it out again. I first tried sandpaper on a pen that made very little to widen the hole. Then I found this round file in the kitchen drawer at work, it looked like a knife sharpener but it’s actually a round file. It took some time and it was hard to make all the holes equal and straight but it worked. I managed to gently tap in the string ferrules with a block of wood over to protect them and a firm stroke of a hammer. It doesn’t look perfect and I wish I would never have thought about trying to drill them bigger but hey, you learn from your mistakes. Or like Bob Ross put it, “we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents”. I’m pretty sure the back will soon have plenty of buckle rash from my big country belt buckles and other battles scars from being happily used over the years. Who looks a the back anyway?

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I had to slowly and painstakingly file the holes bigger to fit the 8.25 mm wide string ferrules

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The damage done, cracked lacquer and some missing gold

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Tonerider Vintage plus pickups in gold and Wilkinson Vintage telecaster bridge

It was pretty straight forward to fit the bridge and control plate. I had to put the pickguard on and a neck to keep everything in place and then just make sure it all lined up. I drilled pilot holes for everything since the wood seems really hard to screw in. To fit the neck pickups was a bit more of a nightmare than I first expected. I think I will have to redo it once I get the neck so I can fit the pickguard and make everything line up properly first. I hope that the Tonerider Vintage Plus pickups are going to sound amazing because I wasn’t overly impressed when I realised that the came with chrome coloured screws and no plastic on the neck pickup. I had to tape it with cello tape not to scratch it when I fitted it. Luckily I had some gold pickup screws lying around so that was easily changed.

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The solder inspector came around to make sure that I was doing my job

Down to what I like best, soldering. I’m glad I bought cloth covered wires, they are really stiff and nice to work with. I fitted a TAD Vintage Oil Cap 0.05uF which I think might go well with the CTS 250k pots. I decided to go for two audio pots in the end, instead of one linear and one audio. I hope that was a good choice. I also bought a backup Orange Drop 0.033Mf just in case I don’t like the oil cap. I did the 50′s vintage wiring, as I did on the old Claescaster since it keeps the treble pretty well when you turn down the volume. I’m not sure if it’s my soldering iron that doesn’t get hot enough but I had some problems soldering the ground wires to the top of the pot. I even sanded it before, maybe the material is different on the CTS pots because I didn’t have any problems with the Alpha pots on the old guitar. The solder inspector, my cat, didn’t approve either so I eventually gave up and decided to try again this weekend when I hopefully have the new neck and machine heads too.

The Claescaster

It’s finally here, my new Claescaster! The Mighty Mite swamp ash body that I ordered from USA just arrived to my office after spending a month in Spanish customs. It’s not as bright and lovely looking as in the eBay picture but I didn’t expect it to be either since it was a photo taken with flash. It still looks really nice, the grain is just amazing, the 3-tone sunburst is even and the weight is great, it feels really heavy and solid. Now let’s see if the neck from the old Claescaster and all the new hardware and electronics I bought fits. I ordered the Tonerider Vintage Plus pickups from Northwest guitars about two weeks ago but they managed to send out a pair in nickel so I had to send them back. Hopefully the new gold ones will arrive this week so I can spend the weekend putting the Claescaster together. Happy times.

Mighty Mite Swamp ash Tele body Mighty Mite swamp ash body

Update: Tuesday 23rd April 2013
I have slowly started to put the Claescaster together, pretty much everything is fitted now except pickups and neck, I’ll try to get some images up. I had a lot of problems with the neck. First I thought I could use the old Claescaster neck until I could afford to buy an Allparts TMNF-FAT, they cost around 280€, but it didn’t fit. I carved off 1 mm on the bottom side and managed to get the neck to fit in the pocket but the holes didn’t line up. To fill and re-drill the holes felt like too much work, especially since I eventually would like to put it back on the old guitar and still have the original Claescaster as a backup. I took off some of my other guitars necks but nothing fitted, maybe it would have been weird with a big headed Strat head on it anyway. I searched eBay high and low for cheap necks but the big problem as always is the decal, I kind of like to have the fake Fender logo on them and people tend to charge a lot for fitting a decal, if they can do it at all. I guess I could have fitted one myself but since I want a layer of lacquer over and I don’t know where to get that here it was easier to find one with a decal already fitted. I emailed First Avenue Guitars, the kind Yorkshire lad that I bought the old Claescaster neck from, he did a great job with the decal last time. He managed to dig this neck out of the basement for me, 50’s decal fitted and 8.5 mm holes for the machine heads so I can fit vintage Kluson style tuners. It’s a 22 fret 2-piece neck of Canadian maple, I would have preferred a 1 piece without the overhang but for £58 (70€) including shipping there wasn’t any point in arguing. I got some gold machine heads from Northwest guitars and now I just hope that it will arrive before the weekend so I can finally get my new Claescaster up and running. I received the Tonerider Vintage Plus pickups this morning so I might fit them tonight if I get a chance.

First Avenue Guitars The new Claescaster neck from First Avenue Guitars

Claescaster I managed to fit the old neck back on my original Claescaster and patch up the damage pretty well. The part I carved out to fit on the new body has been painted black and then filled with some black tape to keep it snug in the pocket.

The Claescaster

Late last night I bought a new body for the Claescaster, or rather I got the first part of my new Claescaster. The idea is to build a new guitar from scratch with the best bits I can afford after the specifications of a Seventies Fender Telecaster. I have thought about this for a while and I really don’t like the grain and look of my Morgan Telecaster, especially not now when she has darkened so much since I moved to Spain, and now I found my ideal body. It’s a Mighty Mite Swamp ash body in 3 tone sunburst and I haven’t seen any Mighty Mite bodies, not even on their website, in this lovely red sunburst.

ClaescasterMighty Mite Swamp ash Telecaster body in 3 tone sunburst

It’s quite heavy for being a modern body, around 3.2 kg, which I really like. Most modern bodies I’ve seen weighs 1.5-2.5 kg, does all guitarist have back problems or why doesn’t anyone want heavy guitars any more? Or maybe it’s just the quality and density of the wood that has changed over the years and you can’t find proper wood nowadays. I’m going to build a nice blackguard Seventies Telecaster out of this with gold hardware, just because I love gold. I can’t afford a real Seventies Fender so the best I can do is to create my own, and I think I might enjoy building it too. I bought it from AZGuitarParts a US eBay seller so let’s see how it goes with import tax to Spain, I shouldn’t have to pay anything since it cost under 150€ but you never know. I bought all the gold hardware for the Claescaster from the US 2 years ago but that was a smaller package so it slipped through customs just fine, I just have to wait and see how it goes this time. I can’t afford to buy a new neck, pickups and all the hardware now so this is going to be my ongoing project over the spring. First I’m going to just change the body, meaning unsolder and move all the hardware, pickups and pots from the Claescaster and take that neck too. Then when I get some more money I will start to collect and exchange all the bits with parts I really like. Cloth covered wires, CTS pots, Oak switch and some swanky pickups, I was thinking of the Tonerider Vintage Plus, in gold of course. I also think it could be a good idea to practice soldering on the old Morgan pots and pickups so I don’t buy anything new and expensive and ruin it straight away. Then in a couple of month I will suddenly have two guitars, my Morgan Telecaster in it’s original form and the new Claescaster, a Swamp ash 1970’s Fender Telecaster copy built from scratch by me. My secret plan is to force my first born to learn how to play guitar on my old Claescaster and when they turn 20 they will inherited the new Claescaster. “Here is a guitar that I built 20 years ago and have been playing heavily ever since just too keep it warm, I built it for you”. How nice would that be, damn it, why didn’t my dad build me any guitars.

Fender Telecaster Sunburst 1977Fender Telecaster Sunburst 1977, the inspiration for the new Claescaster

Update May 6, 2013:Claescaster This is what the final Claescaster came to look like

The Claescaster

Avid guitar collector and average guitar player Claes is writing about his thoughts on buying and collecting guitars, fixing them up yourself and just general guitar stuff. Claes has never even met a real luthier and doesn’t pretend to be an expert in any way. He just believes that the best way of learning is by trying and he likes to share his experiences and mistakes as he goes along and learn more and more about guitars.

His first attempts to change anything on a guitar was when he decided that his Morgan Telecaster needed a wee bit of bling and it eventually became, the Claescaster.

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I bought Morgan back in 1998 in Uppsala, Sweden. She was just amazing, I’ve gotten used to refer to guitars as “she” since I live in Spain. For the money, she cost around 200€, she was pretty solid and well built and felt better than both the Squire’s and Mexican Fenders. Morgan was my third guitar. I had an old Hondo ll Les Paul copy from the Seventies that I had inherited from my father and learned to play on but I never liked the feel of so in 1993 I bought my first own guitar. It was a brand new white Fender Squier Stratocaster Made in Japan by FujiGen. That guitar served me well for many years but there was something missing, nothing really with the guitar itself, more about the model. I changed the pickguard from white to tortoise straight away when I got it to try to copy Hendrix Olympic white Strat, it didn’t work that well but at least it looked a bit more original than before. I wasn’t really a Strat guy, I had already figured out that I wasn’t a Les Paul guy, but when I played the Morgan for the first time I realised that I wasn’t a Strat guy either. I became a Telecaster guy and suddenly it was fun to play guitar again. Morgan followed me to London where I played in a couple of bands and then moved with with me to Spain. I actually never touched anything on her until maybe 1.5 years ago when I realised that the reason I favoured other guitars was because she looked boring. I did try to relic her when I first bought her by dragging her in the gravel outside my house to make her look less new, it didn’t work since I ended up wiping her clean after playing so she was always newly buffed and looked shiny and new. I remember that my step dad who is a bassist told me when I had dragged Morgan around outside that I would regret that one day and I ought to stop. I haven’t really regretted my feeble attempts to relic the guitar but I guess I wouldn’t do it again. I felt that Morgan needed a face lift and since I love gold I decided to exchange all the hardware for gold parts. I ordered some cheap bits from China and others I put a bit more money on so I ordered Wilkinson machine heads and bridge plate, which is amazing quality for the price, a real Fender ashtray cover and topped it off with a fake Fender neck from China. I found this guy in England on eBay, I bought all the parts on eBay, that had Chinese made fat necks with nice vintage nitro looking finish to them really cheap. He said he put a Fender logo on it for a fiver and the total with shipping and all was under 70€. The reason why I got a new neck for Morgan was mainly because I have never liked that light wood colour and on top of that the frets started to get worn. It didn’t sound too tempting to hand over Morgan to some luthier I didn’t trust and pay 250€ to change the frets when I could get a new neck for 70€. It was pretty straight forward to change the parts. I felt quite nervous when I had to drill new holes and fit the neck and I didn’t really know what I was doing when I had to rip of the chrome cover for the neck pickup and solder down a new gold cover but everything worked in the end. Well I did have some slight issues with the electronics. A cable came loose when I changed the jack so I asked a friend of mine to figure out where it was supposed to go and to solder it down for me. It didn’t really work out that well and Morgan spent a year and a half with faulty electronics and served me as my unplugged office guitar instead. Now she is back on her feet with a bit of help from Dani and Nurbert.

Morgan Telecaster, Claescaster