Claescaster

Tag: USA

How to… reset a neck

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960'sHarmony H-162, Made in Chicago, USA in the late 1960’s

This is a project that could have been done in two days but has taken two years. I guess it’s partly my fault, I wasn’t really sure how to reset a neck so I kept putting it off. I also have a 1.5 years old daughter and she is like a black hole when it comes to making time disappear. Anyway, now it’s done and everything worked out pretty great. I steamed off the necks back in April and then I had a lot of gigs and moved house in the middle and then last week I finally managed to get the guitar back together.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I drilled a small hole under the 14th fret and tried to steam it off that way but it worked really badly so in the end I got frustrated and just removed the fretboard and got the neck off that way instead. I glued the fretboard back straight away so I wouldn’t mix the parts between the two late 1960’s Harmony H-162 that I had lying around at home. Once the neck angle was corrected I glued the neck back with Tite­bond 506/​4 classic wood glue.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
The late 1960’s Harmony H-162 in parts, it was actually quite easy to reset a neck. It’s pretty worn but the solid woods are really nice, mahogany back and sides with a two piece spruce top.

Harmony H-162, Made in USA 1960's
I cleaned up the dovetail and heel with a chisel and then adjusted the neck angle with a file, it felt less risky than doing it with a chisel. I didn’t have to remove much for getting the action down and making it playable again.

 

How to… install a treble bleed

Claescaster New, Mighty Mite bodyThe Claescaster, put together in May 2013 out of a Mighty Mite Swamp ash body, Tonerider Vintage Plus pickups, Wilkinson hardware and a cheap but fairly fat China neck.

Last night I decided to change the pots and install a treble bleed on my new Claescaster, I never liked the feel of the CTS pots I had on. I’m still not sure if I like the new changes or not, in my head it sounded better before but I stupidly forgot to record it so I can’t compare the before and after. I think it had a clearer sound with more highs, now I feel that the neck pickup is more muffled. I’m not sure if this is down to cheaper pots, the treble bleed or the wiring. I changed the wiring too from a more standard wiring to Seymour Duncan’s suggestion for a ’66 wiring which matched what I had seen for the treble bleed. Maybe it has more to do with the changes in wiring than the actual treble bleed because before I had an old 50′s vintage wiring to help with the lack of treble at lower volumes and I was pretty happy with that. I’m so confused with all the different wiring options, I have no idea who’s doing what to whom, and where? I might just have to redo it again and copy the original wiring on my Greco TL-500 or my Fender TL52-75, they both sounds great.

How to... install a treble bleed, Telecaster, ClaescasterThe new Claescaster got a treble bleed and the ’66 wiring, bottom right photo shows the original wiring on my 1979 Greco TL-500

Claescaster, Telecaster,  50′s vintage wiring
Update: December 27, 2014,
Since I had the soldering iron out to fit the electronics in my new home built Claescaster I took the treble bleed out in this one and changed the wiring back to it’s original 50′s vintage wiring

The Old Claescaster

Claescaster, Morgan TelecasterThe old Claescaster before and after the transformation, well I just changed the pickguard.

I recently did a little order from my favourite Hong Kong site, EY Guitars. I wanted to change the pots on the new Claescaster, I’m really not happy with the fancy CTS pots I got and decided to put on some Asian ones instead. I also ordered a new black pickguard for the old Claescaster for 5€, I had grown tired of the cheap looking tortoise that has been on for 4 years. I also changed the knobs for flat topped gold ones so now the old Claescaster looks just like the new Claescaster, if it wasn’t for the Fender logo and the beautiful wood grain on the swamp ash body on the new one.

Claescaster, Morgan Telecaster, Mighty Mite bodyNow I have two Claescaster’s that looks pretty much the same. Boring perhaps but I really love the look of the 1970’s Fender Telecasters with their 3-tone sunburst, black pickguards and maple necks.

Fender Factory Tour 1959

Fender Fullerton Factory 1959
The Fender Fullerton Plant at 500 South Raymond Avenue in 1959

After including a tour of the K. Yairi factory yesterday I came to think of a video I saw about a year ago, a tour of the Fender Fullerton plant in 1959. Enjoy!

1959 8mm Film by Forrest White. Digital Film Restoration by CinePost http://www.posthouse.com Edited by Ross Lenenski. Read the story behind this film in “Fender: The Inside Story,” by Forrest White available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fender-Inside-S… Music by Russell Eldridge

Movie of the day

Heartworn Highways poster

One of my favourite music documentaries is Heartworn Highways. It’s based around the whole Texas scene with Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Steve Earle, just to name a few. I thought it would be possible to find the documentary in full on Youtube but apparently not so you will have to buy it or download it. These are my two of my favourite clips from the movie. The first one because it shows how awesome session musicians were back then, check out Albert Lee on guitar playing a 335, recorded at Creative Workshop in Nashville. The second clip is because it shows how truly talented Townes van Zandt was as a songwriter.

Gibson Walnut SG Standard

1977 Gibson Walnut SG Standard
1977 Gibson Walnut SG StandardGibson Walnut SG Standard made in Kalamazoo, USA in 1977

I recently had the pleasure of having an awesome 1977 Gibson Walnut SG Standard at home to play with. Well the idea was to look over the electronics and make sure it was fit to gig with for Patrycja, a friend of Verushka that I sorted the Hondo II bass for. According to The Guitar Dater Project it was made at the Kalamazoo Plant, USA on December 15th 1977, production number 103. It was great that I got a chance to play around with a Gibson Walnut SG Standard from the Seventies, that’s exactly what I was tempted to get myself, see my previous post about Gibson SG. Luckily I tried one before I bought one and I realised straight away that I still prefer Telecasters, SGs have too much neck for me. It was interesting to try a 1970’s Gibson made in USA just to compare it to all the made in Japan copies in my collection. I have to say that the feel and quality of the Japanese guitars are right up there with the American originals.

1977 Gibson Walnut SG Standard
Everything seems to be original, except one pot, so I thought it was unnecessary to change the original jack just because of a bit of crackle so I cleaned it instead. I cleaned all the contact surfaces with wire wool and contact spray, it seems to be enough. I tightened the pots and all the screws on machine heads, strap buttons, pickguard, pickup rings, bridge and polished up the wood a bit.

1977 Gibson Walnut SG Standard
There was a fairly nasty cut in the edge binding on the 5th fret. You could feel it when you played so I masked it off and then filled it with wood filler, that happened to match in colour, then sanded it smooth and dropped a bit of nitro lacquer over it. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture when it was all done, the last picture is before the lacquer and the final sanding with 2500 grit.

1977 Gibson Walnut SG Standard
Patrycja wanted to keep the dents and scratches to the body and I agreed, it’s nice when a guitar shows it’s real age. However, nobody likes dents in the back of the neck so I did what I could to soften them a bit. I recently learned a great way of removing dents and scratches, or at least making them stand out less. Use a soldering iron and some wet paper folded up, the steam from the iron will make the wood swell and that way make the dent less deep. Sometimes this works extremely well, especially on surface scratches, and sometimes it makes no difference at all so it’s a bit hit and miss but it’s quick and easy and therefore at least worth a try. Make sure you move the soldering iron and just hold it down for a sec to not damage the surface. The last step was to polish the frets and fretboard, put on some lemon oil and then new strings. The action and intonation was already great so I didn’t have to adjust that.

Global Shipping Program

1968 Levin / Goya 163 head
Goya Model 163 , made by Levin in Sweden in 1968

You might have noticed that eBay have started with something new, well fairly new, called Global Shipping Program. Basically you pay all the import taxes and charges straight away and therefore don’t have to go through the customs when the item arrives to your country. I have had some issues in the past when I have bought things from the US, like my Claescaster body and my Goya T-18. It took the Spanish customs a month the process the item and deliver it to me and they charged me 40% of the original price including shipping in import tax and other fees. I recently purchased a lovely Goya 163 from Massachusetts using the Global Shipping Program and it took exactly 14 days to get it and I only had to pay 32.5 % tax on the actual price of the guitar, not final price plus shipping as they normally charge me when it goes through the Spanish customs in Madrid and best of all, no paperwork. So for anyone living in Spain I can highly recommend buying things from the States using the Global Shipping Program.

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

Claescaster
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.

Claescaster
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?

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

Claescaster
The damage done, cracked lacquer and some missing gold

Claescaster
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.

Claescaster
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.