Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making a Telecaster out of parts (also known as a “Tele Partscaster”)

I put this together a while back, but never got around to posting about it. There really wasn’t much to it, to be honest, but I’m going to stick it up here anyway, in the hope that it’s of use to someone.

I really wanted to get a Telecaster and liked this kind of style, but also wanted to spend as little money as possible, while still getting a decent guitar.
I found a guy on ebay selling solid alder “loaded” tele bodies pretty cheap (where “loaded” means, as you might have guessed, that it includes the pickups, pots, pick guard, etc). I really wanted to take this approach this time around because when I made a strat, I was surprised how much I ended up spending on all the bits and pieces. This way I’d be able to build a guitar by simply adding a neck and tuners.

The loaded body:
This is the neck I got. It was a returned neck and sold as a “second”. The only thing I could find wrong with it was a very small nick in one of the frets way up the fretboard (on the 19th fret or something, where I’d hardly ever play anyway). The neck had been sealed, but not finished.
I ordered a set of Wilkinson tuners to put on it. Here’s what arrived. Ten points if you can tell me what the problem is here:
Here, let me give you a clue...

The seller soon sorted out the problem, by the way.

And finally, although I now had enough to make a complete guitar, I really wanted to replace the bridge with a Wilkinson one with compensated brass saddles. They really make the strings ring and improve the sound dramatically, not to mention improved intonation.
Here’s the guitar quickly put together:
As you can see above, there’s quite a colour mis-match between the neck and the guitar, but that’s not really an issue. However, I found after a few weeks of playing that the fretboard and the back of the neck got pretty dirty. I was thinking about making a decal for it anyway, so it seemed like a good time to deal with both.

First I made up a decal in Illustrator and printed it out on laser waterslide decal paper:
I cut that out and dipped it in warm water for a minute:
While I was waiting for that, I quickly gave the surface on the guitar a quick wipe with water:
Then slid the decal onto the guitar:
Gently patted it with a tissue to absorb excess water and also help to work out any bubbles.
And here it is in place:
Then I removed all the parts and hit the whole neck with some clear coat, including the fretboard (had it been a rosewood fretboard, I would have left that part untouched). Once the clear coat cured, I cleaned the tops of the frets themselves using 0000 wire wool, making sure to mask off the fretboard itself.
Here's the peghead once the lacquer cured and the parts were put back on:
And here it is all back together (again):
Making a partscaster, especially based on a Telecaster, is a really good way to start off in guitar building. It’s simple and can be very cheap (all in, this one cost me about £120). And if you decide to upgrade things later, it’s a piece of cake.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Making a simple DIY mini guitar amplifier

I recently bought a little electric guitar for my daughter. It had a few issues (more on that in a future post), but all in all it’s a decent enough instrument. I wanted to build her a small portable amp to go with it, and this one, based on a TDA7052 audio power amplifier, came recommended:
It’s a very simple, compact circuit, and theoretically you can fit it into a cigarette packet. However, I was happy enough to fit it into a plastic box, which allowed me to use a slightly larger speaker and also not have to worry so much about cramming everything into a tiny space. I also left out J2 (the output jack), since I have no intention of connecting this to a larger amplifier. Here’s the box, speaker, speaker grill (actually, it’s a fan grill from a computer, since I couldn’t find a suitable speaker cover), jack and veroboard.
First we drill (well, bore) a large hole for the speaker in the lid.

Centring the hole:
This is how it turned out, still requiring a little work with a file to smooth the edges.
A few more holes for the nuts and bolts, and here is the speaker in place:
Then in the box itself, we need an 11mm hole for the jack socket. For this I use one of my favourite tools – the stepping drill bit. I don’t know how I ever lived without one of these. They’re especially handy for drilling holes in stomp boxes.
OK, now that the speaker and jack socket are fitted, we need to think about the placement of the circuit itself. In this case I’m going to cut the circuit board to fit the box, since there are some very nice little slots to hold it in place already there.
I also cut a section out so that it doesn’t bang up against the speaker when the box is closed.
Test fit:
Now on to the circuit. Here’s the veroboard layout I drew up from the schematic itself (as with all images here, click for a larger version). Note that you have to cut the tracks between pins 1 and 8, pins 2 and 7, and pins 4 and 5 of the op amp, but you should NOT cut the track between pins 3 and 6 (I did originally, just out of habit, and then had to put a jumper wire in to correct the oversight). I've marked where the tracks should be cut with three "x"s.
Here’s a top view of the completed circuit:
And a bottom view (remember, unlike what you see here, you shouldn’t cut the track between pins 3 and 6):
All back in the box:
The battery, incidentally, was held in place with double-sided sticky sponge tape and wedged under the speaker. And here it is all closed up and ready to go:
It’s about as simple as you can get. No volume control (volume is controlled by the guitar volume itself) and no switch (the amp switches on automatically when the jack plug is inserted).

The sound quality is about what one might expect out of such a small speaker (tinny and easily distorted), but for a simple, highly-portable amplifier, it does its job. Battery life is pretty short too, so remember to unplug the guitar cable when not in use (you might want to consider wiring it up to accept a stomp box power supply, as shown here: If you'd like to make something with a bit more oomph, while still being very portable, have a look at this post: