Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Custom parts

I'm nearing the finish line and so now I'm spending some time working on the little details.

Selector Switch Knob:
I created some custom switch knobs out of walnut.  I started with a 1" diameter rod, cut it to about .7" and then drilled a pocket in the middle.  Next, I used some needle files to smooth out and shape the inside of the hole to match the plastic knob tip that is usually mounted to the selector switch.  Then I glued the plastic knob into the wood piece, and shaped the outside contour.  Shaping the outside would have been easy with a lathe, but I didn't have one so I did it the hard way.  I used gouges to cut the rough shape until it was small enough to put in my drill chuck.  Then I spun the piece using the drill, and used needle files & sand paper to smooth it out give it the final shape.  Finally, I applied about 3 coats of clear Danish oil finish.  The Danish oil on the walnut looks awesome and if I create another carved guitar, I'm seriously going to consider making it out of walnut.  I ended up creating two of these because the plastic core I used on the first one didn't fit the selector switch I'll be using.  I thought it was standard sizing, but it wasn't.  So I made a second one (which came out better anyways):

Here is the first knob I created

Here is the second knob I created which actually fits my hardware
Here is the small plastic piece inside the wooden knob
Whammy Bar:
I got the idea to do this out of shear frustration.  When I ordered my hardware, it came with a white cap to put on the whammy bar.  This would stick out like a sore thumb, so I ordered a black one instead which would be a little more subtle.  When I tried to put it on my whammy bar, I could not for the life of me get it onto the steel rod.  Typical cheap Chinese crap hardware.  So, I found a scrap dowel rod (I have no idea what kind of wood it is) and made a new wooden cap.  Again, a lathe would have been clutch, but I again had to resort to my ghetto methods.  I cut the dowel to length, held it with a vice, and drilled out the center.  I ended up drilling straight through the entire thing on accident, so I had to plug the end with a little chunk of wood.  Next, I put the hollowed out piece into my drill, and turned the speed up as high as it would go.  Using sand paper and needle files, I shaped the outside and reamed out the inside until it fit my whammy bar.  After sanding and smoothing, the plug on the end blends in with the rest of the piece and you would never know it was a hack-fix.  Finally, I slapped 4 coats of clear Danish oil on it.  I really like the way it turned out (much better looking and custom than a black plastic tip):
Custom whammy bar wooden cap
Pickup Covers:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I bought some Fender Custom Shop Texas Special single-coil pickups for the guitar.  They come with white pickup covers which would look awful on my guitar so I bought some black plastic covers.  But even that would look too off-the-shelf for this custom guitar, so I decided to make some wooden pickup covers.  I started off with a 1/16" thick walnut blank, and sanded it down to about 1mm thick.  Next, I traced the pickup cover shape & holes onto the blank.  Using my Dremel and the 1/16" end-mill bit, I cut out the pieces.  This was not as easy as it sounds and took a steady hand.  I should mention I screwed two of them up and had to re-make them.  After they were cut, I sanded them down and attached them to the black pickup covers using 3M 468MP adhesive tape.  I use this stuff at work and once if bonds, it's extremely difficult to come apart so it should be good and rugged.  Finally, I cleaned up the edges using needle files to make it flush with the covers.  Finally, I hand-rubbed 4 coats of the clear Danish oil onto the cosmetic surface.  Here is the result:
3 single-coil walnut covered pickup covers
Notice that in the middle pickup cover, I swapped the direction of the wood grain to go side-to-side instead of up-and-down.  Not sure if that was a good idea, but thought it might look cool.
Wood grain directions alternate
Pickguard Assembly:
So there you have it.  I also attached the electronics to my rosewood pickguard, but it turns out the potentiometers are too large and don't fit in my guitar cavity.  I ordered some smaller CTS pots which are better quality anyways, and those should arrive on Monday.  Then I will be ready for final assembly.  I also just go the rosewood knobs for Volume & Tone, so those will go on next week as well.  Here is the pickguard with the hardware installed (no V/T/T knobs yet):
Still missing the Volume/Tone/Tone rosewood knobs
These pots are too big...I'll have to swap them out


  1. Nice darryl! Do you think the covers on the pickups will mess with the sound at all?

    Have you thought about using a small custom PCB to mount surface mount precision pots? You could probably provide even better shielding that way...

  2. Haven't thought about a custom PCB w/ SMT pots. I'm not sure how that would work (not to mention the added cost). The CTS pots I ordered are smaller and supposedly much better quality (at least that is what everyone online is saying). They have higher tolerance precision than the crap stock pots.

  3. Did you take the roll of VHB from the red cabinet at work? I was looking for a specific roll of it today and couldn't find it...

    Also, I think you should stain the body of the guitar a darker color to hide the blotches. I think it would look a lot better. You don't have to go as dark as the pickguard but maybe closer to this:
    Just my opinion...which I'm sure you wish I would just keep to myself.