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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #81 ·
Fretboard day!

Marked everything out in pencil for centerlines. 1/4" MOP dots. One of the things people typical skip that makes things way harder is using a wood awl to dimple their center points. If you do that and chase it with a bradpoint bit, you get as close to exact as you can when drilling a piece of wood. Works for the face AND the side dots.



Didn't take pics of the process but drill press for the face and drilled by hand for the sides. I see a lot of people use really complex jigging for side dots but if you mark and punch your centerpoints, you can drill for recesses by hand and get them clean every time.

The front dots I'd typically drill a sliver over 1/4" for an easy fit but my larger bit was missing, so I went with a clean 1/4" bit and just used the Irwin clamps to seat them with super glue. I leave them a little proud of the slot or just up to the edge of it, and the radius block with 100, 150, 220. No idea why but the Gorilla brand CA glue seems to take a lot longer than the Loctite brand I swear by. Either way, happy with the results.

DOTS!





On to the fretwork. I have a press that I spent good money on buying and modifying for pressing frets but it's crazy inconvenient and doesn't get as much leverage as I'd like. A lot of guys work with just a fretting hammer, which is nice but doesn't distribute impact evenly and is easy to mar your fretboard with errant strikes. Best compromise I've found is using the pressing caul and blocks, and hammering on that with the fret hammer. One or two on the center to get it to hold, then, up from center and down from center for the arch.



My fretwire comes straight, and it's semi-useable that way since some bending happens in the seating process but you still need to prebend them. Especially with stainless. This is a fretbender I made years and years ago that's done the trick. Most of what you're seeing is self explanatory but the cliff notes is that it's a piece of 2" aluminum flat bar with skateboard bearings and bolts, one side slotted to adjust the amount of relief. The feeder are a couple washers and a bolt, with a window crank as a feeder. This thing bends a 2' piece of fretwire pretty reliably in about 15 seconds. Sometimes I give it more than one pass to get there, especially stainless because it's springy.





Next was the actual fretting process, as described above. Not much to add. It's stainless jumbo. I used to cut my fretwire with a pair of long handled end nippers but the stainless fights it too much and I ruined a couple pairs, along with getting blisters. I switched over to a pair of mini-bolt cutters and they snip the stainless wire pretty effortless. This is how it looks after seating them, before final trimming, beveling, etc.

The neck is a hair flatter with rounder shoulders than my cushion. Had to do one pass with it in place with light taps, then second pass without it and pretty hard to get them in without it rolling. Kitchen drawer mats to keep the heel tenon and back of headstock from getting scratched with all the pounding.



After they were seated, I tapped the extra fretwire to round the edges more (typically the edges have more relief from the sanding process). Everything got clipped as close as I could with the bolt cutters, then sanded flush on the vertical belt sander (the Rigid one that converts to a spindle sander; it's worth it's weight in gold), and beveled around 30 degrees thanks to the variable deck on it. You have to be careful how much pressure and how long you keep the sander on the fretwire or they glow orange, burn the fretboard and discolor the fretwire.

After that, the frets get another couple taps to fully seat the edges and they're done. Typically you don't need a full on fret level on a new fretjob, but this will get taped up and the frets will be sanded/polished and fine tuned for level in the later stages.



Definitely nearing the finish line. The ebony is kind of a bitch because the dust breaks up like dirt and stains any unfinished lighter surfaces. I kept sanding the maple to pristine, then I'd fine tune the fretboard and have to clean up sand the maple again, ugh. Luckily that's pretty much done with. Neck is sanded up to 150, so one or two grits left and it's finish ready.

Neck is pretty much ready to take a break though. On to final sanding on the body and finish. I glaze/fillered the top to body seam as a final precaution, and I'm pretty much done with the actual sculpt as well as the relief on the edges. So pretty much sanding the sides and back and we're ready for paint.
 

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Premium Member
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That neck looks fantastic. :metal:
 

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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #83 ·
Minor, minor update.

OFR was originally ordered for a long term build for a guy. It sat for a couple years unpaid so I was just gonna use it but we dusted off his project, so it's now spoken for.

I'm glad because the neck sits way low in the pocket and the non-recessed FR sits WAY high, and the OFR is an especially tall version of the floating trem. I can shim the angle pretty good but the less I have to shim, the better. Decided to go with a Gotoh FR because even the standard model has slightly shorted deck and saddle height, but nobody had any in black in 36mm block in stock, so I had to wait and wait.

Finally someone had the right one, it came in mid last week, so I drilled for the trem mounting studs and mounted them. The body is kinda thin surprisingly, so the locking Gotoh studs were too tall to fit without bursting out into the trem claw cavity, so I swapped them with the OFR ones and even then, I took them to the belt sander to take off 3-4mm.

No pictures of any of that because it was a slog but I'll include some of that in the next update. I also drilled and mounted the locking nut, so technically I COULD string it up now if I wanted to. I considered it but I don't want to waste a set of strings, any fine tuning it needs could be done when it's time for final assembly TBH.

Neck is sanded to 160, all tool marks out. Needs to be sanded up to 220+, black lacquer for the headstock face and whatever I'm doing for the logo, tung oil on the back. Body needs sealer, sand, sealer, black basecoat, prolly a gesso or similar medium for the skulls to get painted on, then white paint, grey/yellow drybrush, black lower areas, then either nitro or satin poly depending on how I'm feeling.

Electronics is sort of a hold-up right now while I get some stuff straight. I also did a couple small supply orders and had to buy/sell some stuff for the shop, so it's been orders in, orders out, etc. the last two weeks, waiting for the dust to settle. That's along with helping out at my parents house, removed and rebuilt two decks and two roofs/overhangs to go along with that, some landscaping etc. I'm almost hoping for some rainy days so I have an excuse to get back into the shop more :lol:

Speaking of my parents, I was at their house in the attic rummaging around for some storage bins and found my old band memorabilia stash. Found this in there, which is from the night I got to play George's Skull and Bones. Bet most of you forgot his goth phase. :lol:

 

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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #85 ·
Apologies for the delays! I had a shit ton of issues with delivery on stuff, so got side tracked on other projects, etc. Not a comprehensive of an update as I would've liked but should get us up to speed.

ALRIGHT, so I decided to shift over to electronics on this and considering it's just one pickup, a pot and an output jack, the biggest 'thing' hanging out there was the pickup really. A Screamin' Demon would've been an easy choice, as would a CS Hunter, and then the Duncan Distortion as George used in the 80s.

The plan was to use a vintage Duncan Distortion, as that would be the most 'true' to the build and would've also been the cheapest option because I had a mid-80s DD, but unfortinately that came up missing. I'd been considering winding something myself for a while and this kinda became as good of an excuse as any to do just that. Unfortunately, I've always had kinda meh results on the winding machines I've build, so this seemed like as good an excuse as any to upgrade.

Enter the CNC Pickup Winder!



The cliff notes is that it's two NEMA stepper motors, one to control the spinning and one to control the traverse. It's software controlled 'set it and forget it' or manual feed if you choose. I'm obviously a fan of having machines to do stuff consistently, which was my biggest issue with manual winding, so this thing solves some of that. SOME.

That came in the mail pretty quick but then I spent a few weeks experimenting with winding bobbins, fabricating flatwork, cutting up old pickups, all kinds of shit. That ate up some time, just experimenting.

Anyway, time to pick the wind. Still centered on the mid 80s Duncan Distortion as the framework for this, down the rabbit hole I went. So, for the uninitiated, the Duncan Distortion, the JB and the Invader are essentially the same pickup with different magnets and poles. As such, they mostly had the same DCR values around the same eras, so the WIDE range in their sound mostly came from those two differences. In a nutshell, the DCR somewhat predicts output but the inductance level is more accurate in terms of evaluating what the wind is doing, what the magnets are doing and what the other ferrous items in the magnetic field are doing to it. Filing that away for later.

Anyway, in my research into the DD, I happened across the 'Dokkenbucker', which was the Duncan Custom Shop code name for the mid-80s spec Duncan Distortion they offer. Found a pretty good blog about that here, for those that are interested.

Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Dokken Humbucker - Darth Phineas

The main takeaway is that it's a 16k humbucker, one slug coil, one screw coil, an oversized ceramic magnet and a nickel silver baseplate (which is pretty much ever SD and few other major brands/models, so it's an important feature). Then the less significant but present items, the keeper bar and spacer.

Went to specing out how do this, I probably *could* have bought all that stuff but luckily I've got a big pile of old pickups and parts to work from, so I decided to what I could make 'in house'. To the parts bin!





Found a set of coils from an old Washburn that fit the bill, along with a cannibalized Duncan Design for keeper and screws.



Harder thing was finding the ceramic magnet, which was going to be tough considering even new it's hard to find non-standard spec magnets. Luckily, I had a no-namer that was perfect. Here's a picture of it side-by-side with the Washburn magnet.



So, I've got all my parts. I calculated it a few different ways and came up with ~6600 winds of 44awg to get to the goal of 8000 DCR per coil. The 80s DDs I've seen are low 16k, the Dokkenbucker was 16.77k but in the same range. I think ideally I end up around 16.5k



Now, the original was wound by hand. I'd stop short of necessarily saying it was scatterwound, but hand winding is going to reasonably inprecise, which is something to consider. The main thing that comes from scatterwinding or loose hand winding is that the wires zig zag across eachother, causing uneven layers and lots of tiny pockets where potting wax or whatever doesn't get to (lack of potting = microphonics but in small pockets, is more like cross talk) and that's a little bit of a factor in the EQ of the pickup.

The CNC machine ideally wants to calculate every single strand laying right next to the other for an efficient wind, but that's not necessarily 'accurate' to what I'm after. So the compromise is mixed 'turns per layer', where basically you have varying winds over the duration of the width of the bobbin, so that it mimics the inefficient winding someone does by hand. That works two fold, first there's the fact you do criss crossing layers in one TPL pattern that will have loose pockets, and then you change the patter which will cause a different pattern of loose pockets. That's honestly as close to hand winding and just as similar as one wind will be to the next but in this case, you can duplicate your results from coil to coil.

Anyway, dialed up a pattern I liked.



Then gave it a spin.


One coil, two coils. Check them on the multimeter and I've VERY happy with how close the coils came out, considering the fact you tension them by hand, plus you have a couple manual winds at the beginning and end, then the start and output wires to consider. And, almost right on the nose for my 16.5k goal!





This next part is what took the longest, honestly. I have done some sheetmetal work on the CNC and by hand before, but haven't done any plating. I measured some baseplates I had and looked at what was available online, looks like 22 gauge is the usual stat. I got some 22 gauge sheet metal, expecting to cut it and plate it.

First I ended up having a bunch of starts and stops on the sheet metal part, as the machine REALLY didn't like having to cut this stuff. Had to experiment with feeds and speeds, broke some bits, smoked other bits, knocked the workpiece loose, so on. Finally found a combination that worked but it was still a slog. Then I spec'd the baseplates WRONG (thanks Dimarzio and SD for shitty technical drawings!) and ended up making two baseplates that were trash, then breaking out the calipers and measuring some on my own.

Eventually I got it right, and decided to inclue a little engraving as well. It didn't come out as clear as I wanted, the V carve bit did NOT like cutting the steel and I cut it too deep twice, this was third attempt and still too deep but usable. It was supposed to be two baseplates out of the sheet but I stopped after the first since the machine made a lot of not happy noises.



I was happy with the results there, for the most part. Then took it to the vice and anvil to bend the tabs and the retainers. I didn't get as crisp of lines as I wanted, but that'll work. I sharpened them up some more and did some more sanding after this pic but I was beat, so didn't take a follow-up photo.



That sorta takes us to today? I ordered the metal plating stuff and that took three fuckin weeks to get here no idea why. It took so long I just got busy with some other projects (more winding, some 3D printing, rearranged and cleaned the shop, did some renovations and landscaping at my parent's house, etc.), so I haven't touched any of that yet in the last few weeks. I got a couple other projects taking up space on the workbench right now, so now that I've got the plating stuff here, I'll jump back on this when I get them cleared out. I believe next step on the body and neck is sealer.
 

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OldSchool Blacksmith
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I think I learned more about pickups from that one post then months of internet info-trawling and decades of jamming. Wow. Great job, Randy.
 

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Dream Crusher
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Damn, dude. This is amazing. Hope you are enjoying the process as it sounds like a lot of fun!
 
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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #93 ·
Thanks again folks!

Black Gotoh 36mm block I think.
Thanks! Not sure I posted it here or not but I did end up getting a Gotoh, actually from the same Philidelphia Luthiery place I mentioned in another thread. I haven't gotten good pics yet but the studs have been mounted and the Gotoh sits in the route way better than the OFR did. Really nice looking/feeling trem, looking forward to seeing how it plays.

I think I learned more about pickups from that one post then months of internet info-trawling and decades of jamming. Wow. Great job, Randy.
I decipher all the bullshit on the internet so you don't have to! :lol:

But yeah, that's kind of the simplest but fairly thorough explanation of what's going on under the hood on a pickup. Anything ferrous or conductive inside a pickup or within range of the magnetic field has an effect, anything that isn't, doesn't; with the exception of empty space I guess but the empty space has to be inside of the coils for it to matter. If you look up some teardowns of Dimarzio pickups, you'll see all kinds of stuff like rubber gaskets, metal sleeves, steels slugs driven into the bottom of the coils, etc. that are all meant to effect the inductance of the pickup.

The AT-1 one is an 'everything including the kitchen sink' pickup, as far as all the stuff Dimarzio does to tweak a pickup under the hood, so it's a good lesson. Every company has their own little 'things' they do that are mostly not visible from the front of the guitar, but there's some that are (ie: Invader's large poles, Dimarzio or SD occasional dual screw pole pickups etc.)

DiMarzio AT-1 Bridge Humbucker - Darth Phineas
 

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OldSchool Blacksmith
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I decipher all the bullshit on the internet so you don't have to! :lol:
And that's a service you provide that I value. :lol:
 

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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #95 ·
Micro update.

Got the shop cleaned up enough to do some spraying today. Got this sealed up, there's a lot of ways to do it, my preference is thinned nitrocellulose.

So anyway, got the neck and body sanded up to 220 grit, and fine tuned some stuff around the back and sides with some glazing compound.



Seal coat is a 'wash' coat of nitro, which means I thinned it to 50/50 nitro and thinner and applied wet coats. Came out to about 4 coats on both, and ~6 coats on the front and on the headstock face. The main goal of the sealer is to raise the grain and let it sink in to keep it from raising anymore, and to keep the wood from swallowing the actual finish.

Anyway, this is after the last coat.



Doesn't look a ton different but it will make wrapping this up a lot easier. I had some places where the grain was flakey (especially around contours) and I should now be able to knock those spots down and keep them down on last sanding. So next will probably be sanding ~320 and black basecoat. Neck got nitro sprayed but I'll likely sand the neck back down and tung oil it.
 

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Dream Crusher
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What are you planning for finish?
 

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Señor Member
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Discussion Starter · #98 ·
What are you planning for finish?
TBD.

I used to swear by spot panel urethane and 2k in a HVLP sprayer, and in that case I'd buy a pint of black base coat and go that route. But these days, I don't have patience for cleaning guns and I hate wet sanding auto paint, plus I'm 'eh' about the way it ages (or doesn't) so I've been in the practice of spraying nitrocellulose lacquer with Preval spray cans/bottle. Since I switched I haven't done any solid finishes, haven't seen a non-overpriced nitro-based solid that I like, haven't found a solid pigment that works in nitro that I like.

So I'm not entirely sure. It's definitely getting 220 on the rough areas and 320 all the way around and some kind of black primer, most likely. After that, it's up in the air for basecoat. Then some kind of gesso on the boney parts, and I'm assuming acrylic paint by hand for the white and the accents? Maybe air brush for the white of the bones but I'm not sure how necessary that is with all the texture they have. I've got an old Badger siphon fed spray pen kicking around somewhere. Anyway, after that, the scratches and texture are prolly getting dry brushed for grey/black depth, after that's done, probably 3 or 4 coats of the nitro in satin or semi-gloss. Not entirely opposed to poly, depending on what finishes I end up with underneath.
 

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Discussion Starter · #99 ·
Hopefully these work, because imgur is being poopy on mobile atm.

Anyway, got these both primed and based coated. Two light coats of black primer, two coats of black automotive lacquer (whew, this stuff stinks). I'll let them gas off for a couple days, the headstock is ready for logo and clear after this, the body could use some sanding/filling on the back, more black base and then the skeleton.



 
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