Build Thread - Travel Guitar

DaveR

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The next day I did some more mistake repairing.

Trim router and pattern bit cleaned out half of this dowel rod.
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Sanded down my plug in the horn at the spindle sander. Not perfect, but I'll live with it. I'll do some dark grain fill or something on the ash to hopefully help hide this repair a little.
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This will be hidden most of the time, so no worries here.
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I measured and remeasured and drilled the second hole again. Turned out pretty good the second time. Spent a bunch of hours yesterday fine tuning the fit of the bushings and brass rods. They're tight. I need to make some kind of handle, I can't remove them with a machine screw alone, but I guess it's better to be too tight than too loose.
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Tonight I sat down and tried to calculate bridge position to allow for some range of adjustment of the intonation, but I really don't know what I'm doing. Took the tune-o-matic approach of measuring out the scale length and adding 1/16" on the treble side and 5/32" on the bass side. Prioritizing the low E because it doesn't have much adjustment range. I put it slightly behind it's max forward position and then I'm placing the top dead center of that brass roller on the line. I hope this work, but I'm gonna sleep on it and maybe drill tomorrow. A couple saddles are removed in this pic so I could trace out the screw holes.
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The best news about this bridge is that if I botch the install and don't have enough adjustment range, I can plug the holes and move the whole thing forward or backward a BUNCH and never have to worry about cosmetic issues because it will cover the holes.
 

Ripthorn

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Looking good, Dave! A little paste wax helps the rods move more easily. Also, a machine screw with vise grips works great when you don't have a handle.
 

DaveR

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Problems at the day job have been keeping me super busy. Also the poison ivy I got from that damned fallen tree and the oppressive heat in my shop has caused progress to slow way down.

I beveled the fret ends with my homemade jig (block of wood with a 35° angle slot cut in it for a single cut mill file) and taped off the fretboard for leveling and crowning.
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All done. I'll do a little more cleanup polishing before finishing the whole guitar, but we're good for now. This went so much faster than previous attempts because I now have a proper leveling beam, a good diamond offset file and some more practice and confidence.
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Hand drilled for side dots. And I do mean hand drilled, I just spun this new sharp bit with my fingertips. Dots are stewmac black round plastic stock. I stick it in the hole with a dot of medium CA and snip it off with my fret cutters.
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Strung up and working on a nut, which has proved problematic because of the design of this headpiece. And the headpiece pulled up a tiny bit under string tension, so I'm going to rework screw placement this week. I'll post more about that when I work out exactly what I'm going to do, but this thing is PLAYABLE and holds tune, which I was afraid of with the cheap bridge.
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Looks like I got the neck angle just right. I was able to lower the action properly with the rotating saddles on this bridge. I just need to get the highest three strings cut a little deeper into the nut, but this thing is playing pretty well. I haven't tried to intonate yet, but it's close. I have SOME range of adjustment of that low E, but might not have enough. After I finish the nut and work on the headpiece a bit more, I'll see what I'm in for there.
 

DaveR

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Haven't done a whole lot this week, but knocked out the last of the major "woodworking" aspects of this build. Routed the through hole and cover recess for my speaker and shower drain. I'm not happy with how it's touching the corner of the bridge, but a last minute design change of the bevel along the bottom edge forced my hand there. Originally the guitar was just going to have a 1/4" roundover in that area which would have moved the whole thing closer to the bottom.
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"Shower drain" fits well.
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Not pictured: to get the speaker centered up under the grill, I had to do all kinds of chopping on the inside with a Dremel and a chisel, but it fits now.

The headpiece had given me some trouble. Partly because the black coating scratches from breathing on it. I've given up trying to keep it pristine, and I'll probably wind up spray painting everything or touching up with nail polish before I'm finished.
When I was filing the nut last weekend, the high e slot in the headpiece didn't have enough clearance for my nut file and I was afraid I would break it. So I opened the slot up with a thin Dremel cut off wheel. Also the screws in the headpiece weren't holding it down very well and it had tilted slightly. This pic shows how I had it screwed in initially. Long screws in from the top, short ones in from the end of the neck (left side). This thing didn't even come with screws and the screw holes are inline with each other so no way to do long screws in both locations.
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The way these holes are drilled and countersunk, a long screw from the end of the neck goes up at an angle towards the nut. I didn't like that one bit.
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I used a countersink bit in the drill press to very carefully reshape these holes.
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Now I can get longer screws in from the front and they are parallel with the neck. The heads don't sit perfectly flush, but I can live with it. I haven't strung it back up yet, hopefully this holds a little tighter than the original configuration.
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I also had to do some drilling between the chambered compartments. This one was a bit tricky and I had to glue a temporary starter block on there to get my brad point bit going in the right direction.
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Had to open it up just a bit more. This was tedious.
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Finally, I noticed that none of my previously shaped cover plates fit their recesses any more. I'm no stranger to wood movement, and I've worked with air dried wood before, but never this species and I think I jumped the gun on removing material. The entire guitar body has SHRUNK across the grain by 3/32".
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That's way more than I thought it could and might make me really cool my jets on clear coating this anytime soon. I guess it's because I started with such a thick slab and removed a lot of material at one time. I should have thicknessed it close and let it sit for several months, but I was anxious to get moving. Surprisingly the neck mortise hasn't changed much, but it was cut a few weeks after the cover bits and I was constantly fine tuning that tenon for a while so I probably thinned it down every day to keep up with the shrinking. This crazy shrinking explains the cracks in the tail of the guitar too. Oh well, should have used kiln dried mahogany, and I'm finding that I don't really care for ash anyway.

I broke out the cover recess template again, fastened it to the guitar body in three different locations and touched up all the recesses with my trim router. Now the covers fit with room to spare.
 

Ripthorn

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Quite the ordeal! Doing a build this outside the box definitely requires lots of tedium. I know, I've been there :) Still, it's looking great! Keep up the good work!
 

DaveR

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Not much more to show here, I've just been working on setup and wiring off and on.

I did run into another snag as a result of the body shrinkage. When mounting the amp control board to it's cover plate I discovered that it would go into its intended space, but it was a very snug fit. Thinking that if that wood moves anymore I could wind up cracking the cover plate, I decided to open up the deeper route a bit more. And decided to do it by free hand routing. Not the greatest idea I've ever had, but the end result is acceptable and will be hidden from view. I was just way too lazy to make a new template for that. Also because of laziness and a desire to not ruin the screw heads, I left the bridge and pickup mounted while doing this work. The bridge even had strings attached.
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Anyway, I'm routing along and I saw some silver bits mixed in with my wood chips. My first thought was that something on my router was failing so I shut it down right away. Turns out I routed right through the tip of one of the pickup mounting screws. The bit is a quality Whiteside carbide tipped pattern bit and seems none the worse for wear, and I didn't even notice when the bit passed through the metal. I guess it's okay to keep using. Whooooooops.
:oops:
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I hope to have some good news to report soon as I intend to get this fully wired and make sure everything works as intended before spending any time on final sanding or finish prep.
 

ClashCityRocker

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Glad you're enjoying. It feels long winded and boring to me! Hah! I need better photos and less blah blah blah....
Naw its great. Im currently trying to learn repair and mod basics and this is inspiring
 

DaveR

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Some good news and some bad news to report....

I got the guitar all wired up and it works! I still haven't intonated it yet, but I was holding off on that until I could use a wired tuner through the pickup.

I've rigged up this guitar to be used in 3 ways.

1. Played through the onboard amp and speaker.
2. Speaker switched off and played through the onboard amp and headphones.
3. Amp and speaker switched off and played through a normal amplifier via the output jack.

Options 2 & 3 work fine and sound great. Maybe a little noisy, as I don't have a proper bridge ground currently, but they're fine.

Unfortunately, option 1 does not work as intended. It sounds fine at moderate gain levels, but at any type of high gain I have a horrible high pitched squeal noise. I tried adding in shielded wire on the signal lines from the volume pot to the output jack and from the jack to the onboard amp (only grounding one end of the shield which I think is right). This resulted in no change and options 2 & 3 never had any squealing at all, so this leads me to believe the problem HAS to be related to the onboard speaker.

I don't expect anybody here to have an answer, but it never hurts to throw it out there. I have a local buddy who makes amps for a living and I've sent him a few messages. I'm confident he could sort it out if I took the whole thing to him, but we're still kind of extreme distancing in my house, so that might have to wait a while.

It's possible I've created a ground loop or something. I've heard of this concept, but don't really have any practical knowledge despite having built a number off effects and amps. Never was very confident in those skills. I've tried moving the speaker as far outside the guitar as the wire length will allow just to see if it's a proximity issue and there was no change.
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Most of the ground wires come together on the far lug of this volume pot. The other pot that is mostly out of frame is a coil splitting tone knob (which seems to work fine). But I disconnected the cap to take it mostly out of the circuit while troubleshooting.
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I used a switching jack so if I ever plug into a real amp and leave the internal amp on by accident, the jack will disconnect the signal to the internal amp. Interesting to note, that under high gain, this didn't fully bypass, which is what led me to try the shielded wire.
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Here's the layout diagram I made to put this together. Not exactly a proper schematic.
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Meanwhile my wife is about to kill me for making a constant high pitched squeal sound so the pressure to fix it is on. She said, "can you hurry up and make it so it DOESN'T make that horrible sound?" And I was like, "What exactly is it that you think I'm trying to do right now?" Hahah. Being trapped together with our two kids for 4 months has not helped her patience levels.
 

tnt423

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Since it works at lower volume/gain settings, I'd think about simple feedback being the issue. Have you tried dismounting the speaker, putting in an extension wire and testing it? If that makes it go away I'd suggest putting some form of isolation between the speaker and the mounting area in the cavity, possibly neoprene rubber or small o rings.
 

ClashCityRocker

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Since it works at lower volume/gain settings, I'd think about simple feedback being the issue. Have you tried dismounting the speaker, putting in an extension wire and testing it? If that makes it go away I'd suggest putting some form of isolation between the speaker and the mounting area in the cavity, possibly neoprene rubber or small o rings.
I'm thinking this also. Sometimes I'll play through a little 9v powered HoneyTone amp when Im travelling or whatever. If I'm turned up all the way and I'm facing it/really close it will sometimes give off a high pitched squeal - not at all "useable feedback". Just super annoying.

Honestly though - I rarely turn the little thing up past 5 or 6. The gain sounds good at low volumes and its not like Im trying to play it for more than a couple people (often just myself).
 

DaveR

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Spent some more time messing with the guitar this weekend and I have good and bad news here...

The bad news is the problem is just feedback from having the speaker too close to the pickup. You guys were right. As suggested, I moved the speaker far away from the guitar with a long piece of wire and the problem went away. On the high gain channel (ch 3) of the Katana Mini, there is feedback with any significant volume or gain if the speaker is within 8" of the guitar. Unfortunately there's no way to mount them further apart. I don't know if this problem can be lessened with shielding or a different grounding scheme, but I'm thinking not.

The good news is, the guitar has a perfectly usable range of tones. The dirty channel (ch 2) is stable throughout most of its range and only has feedback when fully cranked. The clean channel (ch 1) works fine at all settings. Channel 3 is only usable at about 50% gain and fairly low volume. The pickup that I installed has coil splitting and the single coil is a bit more unstable than the humbucker as far as introducing feedback under gain, but not bad. I wish I had gone a little more budget friendly on pickup choices. The one I put in there is probably way too nice for this guitar and since I sprung for gold pole pieces to match the KD bridge, won't look appropriate in any of my other guitars.

I knew going into it that the whole project could be a bust, but did not anticipate this turn of events. At each milestone, as things turned out better than expected, I let my expectations grow higher. The Chinese hardware WORKS and stays in tune! The removable neck pins actually work and hold the neck securely with very decent sustain! The scrap wood I used has turned out to be very decent looking! I'm not sure how much I'll actually use the guitar, but if I'm being honest, I barely play ANY of my guitars anymore. And it's not about the destination but the journey. Thanks again to @Ripthorn for the inspiration and all the advice along the way!

I'm glad I built it, as it has rekindled my interest in this forum and building guitars, and it really progressed quickly! I now have all kinds of plans for further builds that are rattling around my head. Hoping to get some kind of finish on this guitar and make a video demo before flying off into another project. Might be a few months until those things get done though as I'm not sure what kind of finish to go with. I'm concerned that a traditional high gloss wouldn't work out well around the removable neck pocket. Too much opportunity for chipping/cracking.
 
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SlingBlader

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Even if it didn't turn out exactly the way you wanted, it sounds like you learned a ton. :thumb:

It has been a lot of fun to watch the progress on this project. What a massive design/engineering problem to tackle! I would have never attempted it and I think it's amazing that there are folks such as yourself that have the ability to do so. Bravo! :applause:
 

Ripthorn

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It's all functional and relatively small issue if you ask me. I would say shield the speaker, amp, and pickup cavities well. It should help quite a bit, as the EM radiation is likely the primary culprit, as opposed to actually exciting the strings.

EDIT: Oh yeah, great job!
 

tnt423

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Well that is the first step, now that you know it's a gain issue, you can test it with no strings on to see if it still occurs. If it does then isolation between the speaker and body with something flexible will help, as what I believe happens in that case is the coil in the pickup itself is moving and causing the noise. The Alvarez Scoop guitars had an issue with this in the early nineties and the manufacturor sent out o-rings to place between the pickup base and the springs to solve the issue. It worked mostly. This has been a fun one to follow.
 

DaveR

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Well that is the first step, now that you know it's a gain issue, you can test it with no strings on to see if it still occurs. If it does then isolation between the speaker and body with something flexible will help, as what I believe happens in that case is the coil in the pickup itself is moving and causing the noise. The Alvarez Scoop guitars had an issue with this in the early nineties and the manufacturor sent out o-rings to place between the pickup base and the springs to solve the issue. It worked mostly. This has been a fun one to follow.
I did have the same problem with the neck removed. Strings were dangling from the bridge but not under tension. Pickup is direct mounted to the wood, but has a piece of foam under it to give a little springy height adjustment.

I think it’s definitely proximity related. With the speaker outside the guitar I could still get the same feedback if I moved the speaker and pickup too close together while the gain was turned up. Kinda like when the singer shoves his mic in the stage monitor.

I think I have some rubber washers to try isolating parts. I also have some copper shielding tape, but it’s going to be hard to enclose the cavities entirely because of the chambering inside. If I get time this weekend I’ll mess around with it a bit more and see if I can make any further improvement.
 

ClashCityRocker

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Im sure there's cheaper brands of this but this might allow you to shield all of your cavities and whatever chambering is accessible. Not sure if its as effective as the foil-type shielding or not - maybe you could double up even
Stew Mac Conductive Shielding Paint
 


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