Saturday, April 13, 2013

LeSpork Prototype - Please Mister Postman

I been standing here waiting mister postman
So patiently

An early heatwave this past week made work in the shed difficult.  Fortunately, the heat coincided with a wait for the arrival of a few parts I had ordered.  On Wednesday, the same day I picked up a three-pack of Dunlop strings on my way home, I found the postman had left packages with a half dozen front pickup adjusting screws and a neck bolt kit in my mailbox.

With a coping saw, my Wen and a drill, I customized the Tele pickguard to fit LeSpork's smaller body.  After relocating the cutout for the switch plate, I trimmed off the cutaway return and added some countersunk screw holes.

The front pickup attached to the pickguard easily enough with a new pair of screws and latex retainers.

After removing the bridge assembly, I threaded the front pickup wire through, slipped the pickguard in place and attached the pickguard to the body with matching black screws.

Before soldering, I printed out and reviewed the wiring diagram I had picked out and and the switch wiring conversion chart.  Going with Tele-esque parts on this prototype, it seemed appropriate to use a Telecaster wiring diagram.  After reading up on the various ways Fender has wired them over the years, I decided to go with the current-day wiring method, so I could get a real tone control with each of the three pickup selections: neck, bridge and combined.  With this conversion chart, I translated the parallel pole locations from the genuine Fender switch type shown in the wiring diagram to the poles on the enclosed box inline switch that came with my prewired switchplate.  Many thanks to my friend and fellow guitar builder Max for help on making sense of these switch diagrams. 

After figuring out which wires belonged on which switch poles, I removed the switch plate from the body and started in on the soldering.

The biggest challenge in converting the wiring was relocating the capacitor from the tone pot to its new location between the tone and volume pots.  With that done, I added a wire to tie together the outer four switch terminals, grounded the bridge assembly to the volume pot, and attached the two pickup leads to the switch and back of the volume pot.

Before soldering the last two leads to the output jack, I bored out a hole to receive an output jack.  With the last bit of soldering done, I screwed in the jack plate and set the body aside.

After removing and reattaching the neck a few times during construction, I had already noticed a difference in how well the screws were gripping the neck.  My attempt to install inserts in the neck with a screwdriver so far were not successful, resulting in broken inserts that had to be turned out with pliers.  To overcome this problem, I bought a repair kit from an eBay seller.  As expected, most of the parts were very close to what I had bought at Lowes.  There was one major difference: the kit included a small bolt with an Allen wrench for twisting the inserts into the neck holes.

In addition to the tool that came with a kit, I used a similar but larger machine bolt to tap threads into the holes in the neck that receive the inserts.  This extra step made it easier to twist in the inserts with the tools that were in the kit.

After  final assembly, I put on a new set of strings.  This time, I used a 9-42 guage set, so I made the necessary adjustments to the bridge action and intonation.  This change to a lower string guage also resulted in a very flat neck with only the slightest amount of relief and no torque on the truss rod.  As this setup did not result in any string buzz, I left it alone.

As soon as I said I was done, my son and I were taking turns, putting this prototype through her paces.  Pictured above is my son, playing some power chords with LeSpork.  At 8-1/2 lbs., mostly in her chipboard body, she's a heavy and very unbalanced little axe.  We both agreed, she needs a cutout on the treble side of  her body to be a better player.  A set of buttons and a strap would help as well, and I'm reconsidering using a Strat-type output jack to make it easier when plugging and unplugging the patch cord.

At first glance, my daughter's reaction was that it did not look at all like a spork.  Through prototyping, I had intended to use graphics to make the tongs of the spork.  Using the same color for the pickguard, bridge, body and headstock paint, switchplate assembly and pickups will remedy that some.  Using a contrasting color for the negative space of the tongs will also help, as I've mocked-up in the edited picture below.

Is it just me, or does the black pickguard and switch plate against the white body make LeSpork look a little like Texas?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

LeSpork Prototype - Rock and Roll

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were musing about an art project of hers, and we stumbled on the thought of me building a guitar instead of just repairing one.  It was also about the time my son was getting ready to play in a talent show, and we thought how cool it would be for my daughter to design a guitar that I would build for my son to play.  The idea intrigued me enough last year to purchase a few used necks in need of repair, some pick-guards with pre-wired electronics and some other necessary parts, thinking I would design and build some solid bodies to marry the necks to the other parts.  The necks and parts sat in the boxes and mailing bags, near the corner of a room where I keep my collection of working guitars.  With the repairs to my Jay Turser all but complete, I started sketching out the concepts and details that had been fermenting in my mind for a few years.

The two guitar necks I picked up were from the Aria Pro II line and have the common Fender 25-1/2-inch scale length.  They apparently were inspired by the Red Rider BB Gun (you'll pole your eye out).

With that scale length in mind, I decided to stay with a the Leo theme, and went for some matching black Tele-esque parts.

The body shape and guitar name followed from something my daughter had often mused about, the spork.  Although Brian Jones never played a LeSpork, the body does bear a resemblence to the Vox Mark III model Mr. Jones once endorsed.

After pricing wood for body blanks, I decided it would be wise to start with something less expensive.  Still wanting to strike while the iron was hot, I went to my storage shed and pulled three pieces from a stockpile of chip board I had salvaged from old furniture.  I trimmed the pieces to length, made a cutout for the neck pocket, attached the pieces with some screws, bolted on the neck, and added some construction lines for layout of the shape and remaining cutouts for the first attempt at a body.

Seeing how the pieces looked, I made a tweak to the pickguard.  I decided it would look better covering the majority of the body, leaving a cresent shape between the bridge and end pin for a future graphics treatment that will make it resemble a spork.

Having the layout figured out, I cut out the shape and set the body aside so I could handle the neck repair.

It was a pretty clean break, and there were no missing pieces.  I pushed a popsicle stick into the break to hold it open.

I worked a generous amount of glue into the gap and clamped it up loosely in one direction, before removing most of the squeeze out glue.

With a pair of cauls and some more clamps, I applied full pressure in the other direction, forcing the front and back of the head stock to plane out.

After snugging up the rest of the clamps, I left the assembly to allow the glue in the neck to dry.  Moving back to the body, I made the cutouts and began adding on the remaining parts.

After an exhaustive search, I realized I was missing a pair of screws to attach the front pickup to the pickguard.  So, instead of soldering the electronics together, I decided I'd be better off leaving that for last.

The following day, after the glue had dried, I removed the clamps, cleaned off the excess glue, and put on the tuning pegs...

...and a set of strings!

Seeing the neck repair was holding with a set of strings at full tension, I check the constructed scale length and made some adjustments to the bridge height and intonation.

I left the LeSpork Prototype to lay on the bench and let her strings stretch for a few days while waiting for the front pickup screws to arrive by mail.