A Partscaster Story by Joshua T Durand
This is the story of my first partscaster and how she came to be.
Since about the time I was 16 years old I wanted to be a luthier,
building guitars and making music. 16 was also when I received a
great present, my first acoustic an FG-360 model that sparked a 20
year love of playing guitar. But through no fault of my own when I
was 18 I was diagnosed as having a mental health disorder and my life
was put on hold. I spent the next 13 years in a series of ups and
downs and a contest of wills between what I WANTED to do and what
I knew I should do. Long story short, in March of 2012 I wound up
in the hospital again. 2 heart wrenching months of trying different
meds, etc. Furing this time the Occupational Therapists would allow
me to play and when I was stable those dreams of being a rock star
and building and playing guitars came back.
In August of 2014 I began sourcing parts for a build and found them,
a Squier Bullet body (hardtail) and an all maple Squier neck. I bought
all the hardware and pickups and assembled it but did not put the neck on.
I found a book later on that detailed how to but I was hooked. I couldn’t
wait to do one all on my own. My first electric was a Peavey Raptor I
and i wanted to recreate her so I bought all the parts and started
assembling and as I got to the neck part and debated how to start I
pulled the neck out of the pocket and saw the holes lined up with the
body so problem solved. I did all the fitting and adjusting of parts
to get it to work and put together my very first, done all by myself
guitar. I named her Phoenix as I was recreating her from an idea of
a previous guitar and as I had been recreated from the ashes of a
Jonathan S – contributor
A Partscaster story by Jonathan S.
My name is Jonathan. And I have a bit of an addiction to guitar building.
Since I was about 11 years old, I had an interest in guitars. I bought my sister’s Kingston® acoustic for the low, low price of $5.00 when she upgraded to a new one. It was something I played for a short period of time. Also, at that time, I was more interested in sports. So the guitar went by the wayside.
After high school, the music bug bit me… again. I bought an old bass from a friend. I played that for a few years and became fairly good. But at the same time, the allure of playing guitar was still in the back of my mind.
There was also a latent interest in building guitars back then. I looked at how much it would cost to build my own strat copy. After deciding that it wasn’t cost effective to just buy a bunch of parts, I bought a Squier® strat. And a second one followed. Then I bought a silver face Fender Champ® amplifier and a Dunlop Cry Baby® wah wah pedal.
Then, I fell on hard times and had to sell my stuff.
Move forward to 2005. By then, I was married, divorced, and married again. And I had two daughters. What I also had was the desire to build a guitar again. So, I got a Saga strat kit as a Christmas/birthday present. My plan was to emulate Stevie Ray Vaughan’s second guitar, Scotch. And I was able to find a white paint that had a bit of yellow in it. So, after some paint and some Deft clear coat, it was time to let the body dry.
I also shot some clear on the neck. But before that, I used some vintage amber in a spray can from Guitar Reranch. This was done while I lived in Minnesota. In the middle of January. Not a smart idea.
Finally, I was ready to assemble it in March. When assembled, it was barely playable. The action was high and I couldn’t set the intonation. After a while, I took the neck off and the body went into storage. Until 2015.
2015 was a pretty big year. I turned 50, my family moved from Minnesota to Nebraska, and I decided to rebuild that guitar that had been collecting dust. After a meeting with my pastor, I felt like playing guitar would be a great way to praise God.
The first step was to get rid of the paint and the obnoxiously thick sealer coat that came with the body. I tried to use chemical stripper with less than satisfactory results. So I decided to get some 100 grit sandpaper and go to town. Little by little, I got it down to bare wood.
The next step was to fill in the wood grain. Me being the frugal one I am, I was looking for a cheap way to accomplish that. After doing some research, I found a way to do it that is sourced from the refrigerator. Yes, I am talking about egg whites.
The reasons for this just made perfect sense. Luthiers used to use them years ago to fill wood grain. If you have ever just left egg whites in a dish, you know that when they dry, they become hard. And the beauty is that it only takes a couple of egg whites to grain fill a guitar body. It’s a very simple process as well. You sand the wood with 220 grit paper. But you leave the sanding dust on. That gets mixed in with the egg whites, giving a smoother wood surface.
Since the body was basically a 5 piece body, a sunburst finish was out of the question. So it had to be a solid color. Since I was deeply into surf music at the time, (and I still am), I decided on surf green. The only problem is, you have to go to an auto paint place to have it mixed. Luckily, I found a local place that works with the old paint codes. Here’s a link for Fender custom paint.
The painting process itself was interesting. Since I rent my townhouse, I couldn’t paint inside the garage. So, I had to use the great outdoors as a paint booth. The improvised setup consisted of a shepherd’s hook and a wire hanger.
For spraying the paint, I used a Preval sprayer. They are less than $5 for a sprayer and bottle at Home Depot®. And the end result was actually very good.
One of the main reasons that I stopped playing it was because I hated the neck that came with the kit. EBay to the rescue. I found a suitable replacement for about $25 with free shipping. This one fit really well. And the fretboard has a really nice grain to it. However, it was a 22 fret neck. Since I wanted to get it as close to vintage specs as I could, fret #22 had to go. Then it was ready for lacquer.
After allowing the lacquer to dry for a couple of weeks, it was time for assembly. All was well until I got to attaching the neck to the body. I had returned the depth of the neck pocket to 5/8″ per Fender specs. In the end, I sanded both the neck heel and the pocket down so I could set the action.
The final step was to cut the nut slots. As far as playability goes, this was a huge help. A lot of people scream at the top of their lungs not to use torch tip cleaners. But I did. And guess what? It worked well enough. Since I don’t exactly have an extra $80 lying about for proper nut files, this was the best plan. And after a few months, the plastic nut was replaced by a bone nut.
But wait, there’s more!
Last fall, I went to a fundraising gala for my church. There was a silent auction. And it gave me an idea. Build an acoustic and donate it.
So, four days after Christmas, FedEx came to my door at about 9 am. It was the kit that I ordered from RAS Guitars®. They have an EBay store if you want to build one. The kit I ordered was an OM style. It has a zebrawood back and sides, and a very thin spruce veneer top.
The first thing I did was a dry fit to make sure the neck and body fit together. And they did. So I went ahead and glued it together.
After the glue dried, I decided to level and crown the frets. This was the perfect time to do it for two reasons. First, I hadn’t put the nut on. (More on that later!) Second, there was no tension on the truss rod.
For most people, this job is intimidating. And they think they have to spend a lot of money on tools. I would respectfully disagree on both counts. If you take your time, you can do it. And for about $15, you can make your own files. I learned how to do it from an article by renowned luthier Dan Erlewine in Guitar Player magazine. These days, you can watch a YouTube video and see how it’s done.
One of the things I wanted to do with this one is add a preamp to it. This meant cutting a hole in the side of the body. A dremel with a saw attachment would have been perfect for this job. But I don’t have one. What I wound up doing is drilling small holes in the corners and then using a broken coping saw blade for the actual cuts. After that, I taped off the hole with masking tape. After taping off the fretboard and binding, it was ready for clear coating.
Fortunately, we had a very warm February in Omaha this year. So it was the perfect time to do the clear coats. The problem I did have is that I didn’t grain fill the back and sides. So it took a lot more lacquer than it should have to fill in the wood grain. Then it was time to let it dry.
In the meantime, I ordered a pickguard, rosette decal, a bone nut and saddle. Then, after I finished sanding and polishing the lacquer, I installed the tuners. Then, I took a good month or so away from the build. The only explanation I can give is, well, life happens.
Then, about mid-June, I was able to start again. I had seen a YouTube video by Dan Erlewine (remember him?) on how to build a jig so you can set the intonation correctly. Once I did that, I taped off the area around the bridge. The reason for that is so it stays in place when you glue it. After scraping the bridge area down to bare wood, it was ready to glue. By that time, I had already glued the nut in place.
After the glue dried, it was time to drill and ream the holes for the bridge pins. This went great, except for one thing. I accidentally reamed out the hole on the low E string too much. So it was super glue to the rescue. And with that, I was able to fix a potentially big problem. And since part of the preamp has to sit under the saddle, I had to drill a hole for that as well. Then, the endpin jack was wired and soldered. After moving a wire ever so slightly, the preamp tested good.
Cutting and shaping the nut was something I had never done before. Certainly not from scratch. Since I had lost the plastic nut that came with the kit, I was flying blind. Luckily, the width at the nut on my acoustic is 42 mm; same as my strat. So I copied the spacing off of an extra Fender style nut that I had in my toolbox. Once again, I defied wisdom and used the torch tip cleaners to cut the nut slots. Granted, this way took longer. But it got the job done.
At this point, I could have stopped. But the action was higher than I wanted. So with the help of a file and a sander, I got the saddle height where I wanted it. And voila! I could finally call it done.
As I mentioned earlier, I did the acoustic build with the possibility of doing another one for a church silent auction. I’m confident it will happen. But probably not until next year.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the question; “how many guitars is enough?” The answer most given is whatever you have plus one. And yes, I plan on doing more. A tele style kit could happen within the next 6-8 months. Also, maybe a Les Paul style kit. My ultimate goal is to build a Jazzmaster® style guitar. The only problem is that the ones that are advertised are usually strat style electronics and bridges on an offset body. And a bass kit may also find its way into my house too.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. And hopefully I’ve inspired someone to try this fun and rewarding hobby. God bless you all. Peace.