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(Building a) rosewood pickguard

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Post by anaerobe Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:49 am

Yep, a wooden pickguard. I was faced with replacing a very beaten plastic guard on the oldest guitar in my collection - a '73 Yamaha SG35. Over the years and countless hours of playing, its met its maker. There are few (if any) stock parts floating around for this old guitar, so I decided to make a new guard out of rosewood.

This pic gives you an idea of what I am working on - this is the stripped body with a couple of coats of tru oil.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2033-2

The old pickguard has lots of cracks and one sharp end was broken.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2053

I bought a 1" plank and had the shop cut it lengthwise and cut one edge perfectly square so that I could bookend the two pieces. On my garage workbench, I made a jig and glued them.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2042

The ends of the cut rosewood were pretty rough. Nothing was even close to flush on the side I wanted to use. However it bookended nicely, with some mismatch.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2047
(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2046

It was time to visit my buddy and neighbour Grant S. He is, among other things, a master of cabinet building. He offered to help me by planing and drum sanding this sucker.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2045
(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2044

The planed and sanded piece is now about 3/8" thick - a good start point for the final routing etc.
At this point we used a band saw to cut the rough shape of the pickguard - I had a trial run blank (cherrywood - nice but I messed up the neck cutout) that I cut with a Sears jigsaw. We used this as a guide.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2052

Careful now...

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2051

And after a bit of sanding just to get the contours right, the penultimate product!

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2054

When I get the guard drilled and pickups in, I will post more pics. At that point I will dissemble it to apply tru oil (gun stock linseed polymer) - and am guessing it'll stain very dark, for some contrast to the SG's mahogany body. More to come...






















Last edited by anaerobe on Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:04 am; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Westbone Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:10 pm

That's some handy workshop you have there.

Loking forward to the next episode! Smile
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Post by Barry Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:34 pm

Great idea Ian! Should look remarkable when you're done. I'm a wee bit concerned as to durability though. I'd hate to see pick scratches across that beautiful grain. Crying or Very sad

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Post by corsair Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:43 pm

Yep; nice... Very Happy
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Post by anaerobe Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:01 am

Thanks for the encouraging words!

Barry - when I considered this build I thought about a number of issues - eg, looks vs durability vs tone. The guitar itself is a strange design. The original plastic pickguard functions more like strat than anything I can think of, certainly not very SG like - and it may play a role in regulating the tone on this guitar.

To be honest, thats where this axe fell down. This was partially corrected by some fantastic aftermarket pups.

To digress a bit wrt tone issues - on these very early SG models (precursors really to the SG1000/2000/3000), the original stock bridge and stop were not very good (OK they were crappy) and probably equally to blame for flatness of tone. I have now purchased some quality Gotoh pieces from allparts to replace those. Hopefully these changes will help to produce a more open-sounding instrument. Expensive, yes - but as this SG was my first guitar, I think the investment is warranted.

Back to your point: Rosewood is about the toughest wood I could think of for this project. The $40 plank that I bought for this project was literally about as dense as concrete! Second, the finish will be Tru Oil which is a cheap bastard's dream as it goes on easily, is durable, and best of all can be repaired easily.

When I say easy, it really is. The method is that you take a soaked piece of cloth and simply schlop on more of the stuff and wait for 24 hours for it to polymerize - it will fill in scratches and with 5 min of rubbing, is indistinguishable from the original finish. I picked up a bottle (liquid form) for 8 bucks from a sporting goods shop (Cabella's). If you use 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper and mineral spirits to rub between coats, you can get a highly polished, almost glassy finish. The main body of the guitar has 16 coats, the neck has 6. I'll throw on about 6 coats to the pickguard.

So - time will tell. The best part is that I only used half of my plank, so I will make a backup. Smile


Last edited by anaerobe on Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:29 am; edited 5 times in total
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Post by anaerobe Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:08 am

Hey I just thought to ask - can you spot the glue line in the final picture?
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Post by Iceman Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:50 am

You definitely made a good choice with the Tru-oil. I am also a self taught gunsmith and can attest to the wonderful things it can do to a really fine piece of wood. Any professional smith will usually swear by it as it can really bring the grain alive. Straight linseed oil will really nourish a wood like nothing else and that is the real secret of Tru-oil. Seems to me you are really gonna have a star in your hands!! bounce
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Post by Iceman Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:54 am

anaerobe wrote:Hey I just thought to ask - can you spot the glue line in the final picture?

Glue line??? What glue line???? Wink
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Post by Barry Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:15 am

Nope, no glue line.
Thanks for the Tru-Oil tip, I'll be on the look out for it now.
I've had very good results with Tung Oil which will also dry to a solid hard finish but this sounds like it may be better on fine or expensive woods where the intent is to really highlight the grain.

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Post by anaerobe Sat Mar 05, 2011 12:24 pm

Iceman: Thanks - in truth I just borrowed on my Dad's experience - his firearm collection is extensive, and he knows his stuff.

Barry: Tung Oil is good too - Lee Valley sells a Tung Oil kit ($$$$) that's chemically coaxed into polymerizing like Tru Oil - but the truth is that Tru Oil is easier to apply than Tung Oil because its a lot less glutinous. It spreads on like H20, and its relatively harmless to biological items like seasoned guitar players.
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Post by anaerobe Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:33 pm

Minor progress: I reinstalled the neck and laid on the pickguard to check for fitment.

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2056

You can see discrepancies in the curve of the guard, but that's what Mama Yama did thus there go I. Note the open grain of the mahogany body. Hopefully the oil will darken up the guard to a similar hue as the fretboard. (Guitar in the background is a '74 FT-130 Epiphone (Caballero)).

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Post by Iceman Tue Mar 08, 2011 4:11 pm

Did you toy with the idea of following the body contour?? It does look rather sweet anyway. You are hoping the guard will stain darker than the body? Can't wait to see your new love all dolled up!! :!: :!:
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Post by anaerobe Fri Mar 11, 2011 10:33 am

Yep - I toyed with that idea, but realized the routered cavities in the body follow the lines of the current (and original) plate. I'm reasonably sure that it will stain darker than the body with Tru oil.

I need to sand another 1/8" off the back of the plate this weekend - and then will try to bevel the edge. I hope I don't make a hash of it.

Keep you posted.
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Post by Iceman Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:11 pm

....ohhhhhh, this is gonna be good :!: bounce bounce bounce bounce
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Post by anaerobe Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:54 am

Westoners

A bit more progress to report. In a nutshell, I have:

i) taken the thickness of the plate down to a more manageable 1/4"
ii) carried out a 45* bevel of the top edge, nothing too fancy there
iii) did a test fit - all good
iv) now in the process of routering pickup mounts, etc
v) decided on my final pickup choice - Artec Giovanni PAF-type neck 'bucker (nice articulation and inexpensive) and a Seymour D "pearly gates" in the bridge. (The original Yamaha pups were not great, so they go into my tackle box of parts. They can be described as hot, but no definition - very very dark tones from those. MMK45s are far brighter, by way of comparison).

I want to wire the current choices for a coil cut, just like the later SG models, so that I can wrestle some stratty sonics out of it as well. This is where I am sitting at the moment.

P.S.

I recently tripped over a wonderful old Tube amp - Univox U-1246 bass @ 60 watts (B series) - shades of Jeff Beck - The circuit is kind of a cross between a JTM 45 and a Bassman - Everything is totally stock including the (brit-made) Mullard preamp tubes @ 12 au7, 2 x 12ax7s and the 2 x GE 6L6's in the power section (solid state rectified). Massive output tranny!! No one around here seems to know what these can do, so I paid a price well within even my meager budget. I am playing with it a bit (thinking about retubing at least the preamp with Tungsol reissues), the plate voltage is good. However like all cathode biased amps, she is biased very cool - I've asked my tech to mod it to a set bias per se, much like an old JTM 45. THese old bass amps can actually make very good guitar amps, very sweet overdrive tones when properly biased.

I'll post more on this later in a separate thread.

Ian

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Post by anaerobe Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:11 pm

Update - This project is back on line after a couple of delays.

Pickup guard - I have all the pots' holes and pickup mounts carved out. I applied 8 coats of Tru Oil to the guard. I placed it on the main body last night and it did stain a bit darker than the mahogany body.

Pics to follow... stay tuned!!

Ian
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Post by Iceman Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:13 pm

YES !!!!!

Wondered where you had stumbled off to Ian. Glad to hear you are still picking away at it..

Cannot wait for the pics... bounce bounce bounce

Is that the other saw you used in your avatar?? Razz


Last edited by Iceman on Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by hobster Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:51 pm

First time i've seen this, what a cool idea and a great job you've done. I can't wait to see the pics! Very Happy
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Post by anaerobe Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:28 am

Thanks...its getting pretty exciting, now that I'm on the penultimate step. The game's afoot. :bball:

I applied a couple of extra coats of Tru Oil - the stuff is like magic @ 8 bucks/can. It works well on rosewood and mahogany, thats for sure.

I am away for a week - travelling across the border down to Pittsburgh, PA of all places. My daughter is setting up for University down there.

Pics when I return, boys and girls.

Ian
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Post by anaerobe Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:29 am

Iceman... That saw was the one I used on the prototype. scratch lol!
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Post by anaerobe Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:21 pm

Images to whet your appetites sunny

(Building a) rosewood pickguard Yampickguard2
Top view - 8 coats of Tru Oil - showing all of the mounting screw holes (I'll seal at a later date)

(Building a) rosewood pickguard Yampickguard3

Backing view - 2 coats of Tru Oil -Showing all of the control mounting holes
Showing the mounting holes for the pot tabs to keep the pots from spinning ala the original

(Building a) rosewood pickguard Yampickguard1a
Backing view II - 2 coats of Tru Oil - Showing the counter sink required because the jack barrel is too short to run through the new guard!

yeah!


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Post by Barry Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:01 pm

Lookin' close to very scary Ian!
Great stuff my man!

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Post by anaerobe Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:41 pm

Thanks!

While the conception of the plan is mine, a great deal of credit should go to my two buddies Grant S. and Jake J. Grant knows just about everything about woodworking and loaned me a bunch of tools needed to carry out this plan. The kind of guy who will drop his stuff and give you his time. Jake is a phenomenal bass player, a great luthier and one of the best guitar "gear" guys I have ever met, a real guru. He did a bunch of the critical cuts, was indispensible for locating the new Gotoh TOM and stop on the body, and advised me on materials. There is no one that I know who knows more about putting together a great guitar than Jake. I learned a ton on this project.
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Post by Barry Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:58 pm

With my luck, I think I'd be scared to death of the wood splitting with so many holes! Probably while drilling the last one. pale

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Post by Iceman Fri Sep 09, 2011 12:59 am

...that is just...................wow

(tears welling up, he logs of quietly)
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Post by Warrn Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:52 am

Wow. That is just stunningly gorgeous. Very Happy
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Post by Westbone Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:52 am

Looking forward to seeing the whole guitar back together.. Smile
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Post by Iceman Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:54 am

Westbone wrote:Looking forward to seeing the whole guitar back together.. Smile

+1 bounce bounce bounce
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Post by anaerobe Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:51 pm

At long last, she is now in one piece! The tone is deluxe..... cheers I will try to get some pics this evening, so stay tuned.
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Post by anaerobe Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:10 am

OK boys and girls... as promised, pics of the final product (Yamaha SG-35 (1973)).

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2378
basic shot of body
(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2383
New Gotoh stop and bridge. The stop is aluminum.
(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2384

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2382

The neck pup is a new Artec Giovanni GVH. The bridge is an SD Pearly Gates.
I will try to get a couple more with different lighting.

EDIT

(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2389
Natural light makes it pop!

One more.
(Building a) rosewood pickguard IMG_2392
As is clear, there are no pickup surrounds. Things you cannot see include the original pots, new copper shielding inside, tidied up wiring.

Arg... my hand shadowed that pic. Anyway its done. Very Happy She is a bit heavy but sounds great. Cool


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Post by Barry Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:25 pm

Outstanding job Ian! cheers
Looks more like fine furniture than a gigging machine.

On a different note, how's the Artec pup for sound, and price? I got an Artec sound-hole pup awhile back for a couple of my acoustics and the quality is quite good (Bubinga). Price was more than reasonable. OK it was cheap!

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Post by anaerobe Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:54 am

Thanks again.

Its a good match Barry, because I am no gigging machine either. Smile

Personally I like some of the Artec stuff a lot - the quality is very good. I bought a set - bridge and neck - these are cheap. 60 bucks for the pair. Made in Korea.

Sound-wise they are very cool. The neck pup is not muddy or terribly dark. It is somewhat percussive and punchy with great articulation. Like an SD Jazz, but better. Also better IMHO than a GIbson burstbucker in the neck. If you love jazz this is the pup for you. It is also a good match for the Pearly in the bridge. At 60 beans for 2 pups you can afford to experiment, yes? king

BTW the model I bought is the Artec GVH-1 ("Giovanni Vintage Humbucker -1"). I would favourably compare the Giovanni GVH-1's directly to other vintage PAF-style pickups in a similar SG styles guitars with the same setup (bolt-on or set neck guitars of mahogany). I like them as much or more to the stock SDs or Gibsons that come in guitars costing 10x more than my Yam.

EDIT: GVH-1s are an Alnico V type humbucker.



Ian


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Post by Barry Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:36 am

Thanks for that eloquent description Ian. I've been dragging my feet on possible pup replacements for my MIK Aria Pro II TA60. Can't make up my mind whether to go P90's or stay with HB's on that one. As well, the Spectrum DX and Spectrum S have those weak pseudo UBC's and I'm toying with something for those in case I can't locate MMK45's. Last year I found a pair for the ST and what a difference!

Finally, (maybe) I'll change the Stingers in my Parker PM20. They sound good, but ideally an SD Jazz/JB combo would be the duckz nutz! But too pricey.
You've reminded me of the Artec alternative so thanks. Together with GFS I should be able to find something affordable and good sounding.

Come to think of it, I believe Artec may be the supplier for GFS so it's all in the family.

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Post by anaerobe Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:05 am

I have also read that Artec supplies GFS. I think you are absolutely correct about those later Spectrum pups.... do it man.

Here is Artec's site:

http://www.artecsound.com/pickups/index.html

Here is another thread on a different forum where the pros and cons and comparisons are made. Interesting read.

http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/tonefreaks/69330-giovanni-artec-pickups.html





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Post by mortarman120gang11c Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:02 pm

I have been watching this one and I must say WOW WOW WOW.... That is an awesome looking Axe. The grain of the guitar and pickguard look great. Very professional job indeed.
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Post by anaerobe Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:17 pm

Thanks Motarman
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Post by corsair Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:52 pm

anaerobe wrote: I think you are absolutely correct about those later Spectrum pups.... do it man.

... with the usual caveat of keeping the pickups close at hand. It's a shame really, 'cause the UBC's in my (86) ST are, theoretically,the real McCoy, and they are screamers; really really good... I can't ell you values 'cause I never put a meter across them, but they almost sound overwound, if that makes sense.
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Post by anaerobe Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:55 pm

Absolutely. Its a cheap experiment at worst, and a nice surprise at best.
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Post by The Chad Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:00 pm

cheers Excellent job! Quite professional, as Mortarman said.

Now do that guitar a big favor and swap those old rusty screws for new shiny screws, that should really complete it!
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Post by anaerobe Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:47 pm

Good eye... those are rusty and original. I've got to seal the screw holes up with some Tru Oil.

Here is a question - stainless or black finish, what do you say?
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Post by Westbone Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:08 pm

Stainless, sets the whole guitar off better.
It looks and more than likely sounds excellent. Very nice job, stainless screws man. Smile
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Post by Barry Wed Sep 14, 2011 11:06 pm

anaerobe wrote:I have also read that Artec supplies GFS. I think you are absolutely correct about those later Spectrum pups.... do it man.
Here is Artec's site:
http://www.artecsound.com/pickups/index.html
Here is another thread on a different forum where the pros and cons and comparisons are made. Interesting read.
http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/tonefreaks/69330-giovanni-artec-pickups.html
Cheers Ian!

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Post by Warrn Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:33 am

That turned out even better than expected, and I was already thinking it was pretty! Fantastic work! Very Happy
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Post by anaerobe Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:36 am

Thanks Warrn Smile its been one of my favorite projects. 9 months is a bit long, but what the hey... Props to this unique and diverse membership of this site. Really - the advice and support are terrific and helps make these projects a lot of fun.

<ahem> Back to business.

Stainless screws it is, Westbone and The Chad. I will measure them up and start hunting.
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Post by The Chad Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:56 am

anaerobe wrote:Stainless screws it is, Westbone and The Chad. I will measure them up and start hunting.

Shiny new screws are the only way to go for that classic, they'll go fantastically with your new hardware! The magic is in the details, ya know. Cool
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