“Telemaster” Kit Build
While I’ve made instruments from scratch before, and also assembled guitars from parts, I’ve never built a kit from scratch… until now. I found out about PitBull Guitars from a friend and checked out both their kits and the forum they run and there were so many cool options I thought I’d jump in. The goal was to keep the cost as low as possible so I went with a basic Tele kit. I’ll update this post along the way to detail my progress.
And so it begins…
The TL-1 kit arrived at work yesterday arvo and was duly checked out by the other musos around me (one of whom is close to ordering his own kit, and another who has already got one!). I got home and did a check and everything looks good – a small dent in the body on the lower horn but nothing that will cause any problems. Very impressed with the neck (maple fretboard) too.
Now my plan with this kit is to do something a little different. I’ve always loved offset shapes, so I’m playing around with re-shaping this body: a hybrid Telecaster/Jazzmaster: a Telecaster. I originally wanted to do it to a strat body, but I’m not comfortable with the plan I have for that one yet, so the Tele gets to go under the knife first. I’m also really looking forward to the finishing process – I haven’t done much spray painting, so that should be fun. The plan is for a Sonic Blue finish.
I’ve got the French curves out to help get the right feel (I’ve always found them useful) and I’ve started marking some lines. Unfortunately I’m heading out for the rest of the day so the firing up the jigsaw will have to wait…
A quiet first weekend on the build front but did manage to get the headstock roughed out – freehand pencil sketch to get the shape then a jigsaw to cut it out. Yep, it is a Fender style, although not taken from a true template, more an amalgamation of the various official ones so no real nervousness about not getting it “right”. I’m not trying to shy away from a Fender feel on this one – right down to logo etc but we’ll see what happens there.
The plan for this week is to start on some shaping work with the body…
Got home from work and though, what the heck, let’s cut some wood… Still very rough (just a single jigsaw cut – it’ll look better with sanding etc) and I’m still unsure about the top horn. There’s part of me that feels it should be a little smaller, or tuck in more as it comes back to the neck (although that could be a bugger to get the right shape with). On the other hand, the lines look okay – and as I said, I feel a little nervous about my ability to get that top horn right if I start mucking around with it.
Little bit of work on it today – refined the shape a bit more. I think the extra bit taken out of the lower top horn helps a lot. Still thinking about whether to shave a bit more off the top of the top horn. The thing is, I’m not trying to “recreate” a Jazzmaster or the like, it’s more just making something pleasing to the eye!
A good build day so far! With the neck sanded to 1200 I decided on a whim that I wanted to stain the maple a little. I had some FeastWatson Old Baltic prooftint and tried it on a maple scrap – I didn’t want much colour at all, just a little warmth, and the Old Baltic stain worked well as long as I applied it very lightly with a rag. I did the neck, liked the result and figured the fretboard could use a little warmth too. I used the same technique and it seems to have worked okay. After letting it sit for an hour I gave it a couple of coats of Tru Oil which is where it’s at now. Hopefully tomorrow my decal paper will arrive and I’ll be able to get that bit done and then a few more Tru Oil coats to finish it off.
Next step was to make a body holder for painting…so I did! I had a piece of 70mm wide pine so just cut it back to 50mm for the pocket, and maybe 25mm of so for the handle part. Drilled a big hole in the top as I’ve got no idea where I’ll be hanging it during the painting/curing phase but figured a big hole wouldn’t hurt. One thing I saw on a video was the addition of the little groove to avoid paint cracking away where the holder sits in the pocket. A clever idea so duly incorporated.
Okay, time to Timbermate the body – another new experience, and surprisingly straightforward (I wiped/rubbed it all over the body rather than rollers or “scrapers” as I’ve seen mentioned), then sand back with 400, wipe with a damp cloth, wait to dry, then final crack with 400.
I then attached my neck holder thinga and started priming (using Rust Proof All Purpose White Primer). I did use painters tape to mask the neck pocket, but left the other cavities open to at least get some paint in them – still not sure if I’ll fill them with the colour coat, although not sure why I’m even thinking about not doing so.
One light coat and now I sit and wait for an hour or so before doing another. With any luck that will have me able to lightly level it off with 600 in the morning, and then perhaps a first colour coat after work tomorrow!
The good news is my decal paper arrived yesterday so I printed out some logos and applied one this morning. Much easier than I thought it would be so quite excited to have made some progress, albeit small, in the build!
With the return to sunny skies I’ve started on the colour coats. The colour looks pretty solid at this point (I’m using MTN94 spray) but the surface looks a little like 1200 sandpaper – smooth but with a very fine texture.
So this morning I go back to view my handywork and I’m a little disappointed. There was a very subtle “striping” across the body as a result of the way I’d sprayed. As I mentioned I’m using the MTN94 cans. When I ordered them I did notice they sold different “heads” for them, including one with a rotating nozzle – but no, I didn’t get one. Instead I was spraying with the standard nozzle which meant quite a narrow flow of paint. After two colour coats I did think I was done, but I couldn’t live with the “striping” so I did another colour coat this morning and it seems to have pretty much fixed the problem – certainly something to be aware of in future.
Later this afternoon I very gently used some 800 to flatten off the colour coats and started with a fine gloss mist, and then a more substantial gloss coat half an hour later. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to get a few more on during the week, but it’s a nice feeling to be on he home straight in the finishing department.
Knowing I’m going to be heading into the curing phase before long I’ve already started thinking about my next kit, or more to the point how I’ll go about modding my next kit!
My latest potential problem has occurred with my gloss coats. I’ve got four coats on but there are a couple of “ridges” on the body. I’m thinking it may have happened as it was quite cold when I was painting (yep, impatient!) and my overlapping got a bit out of whack. Eventually I decided to wet sand them back with 1200 grit – very lightly and it seemed to do the trick.
I’ve been slowly but surely applying gloss coats – trying to keep them thin and even. I’ve had to do a bit of very light sanding along the way and I’m now up to 9 coats and I think that’s enough. Now it has to cure for a couple of weeks before I start cutting and buffing! In the meantime I’m trying to work out what to do with the pickguard!
After 10 days of curing (yep, I know that may not be enough!!) I couldn’t help myself and decided to do some final cutting and polishing. I figured doing the back would be the best place to start just in case anything went wrong so I broke out the 1200 wet and dry and started cutting back on the gloss coats. All seemed good so I moved on to 2000 before breaking out the Maguiers compound and then swirl remover. After several hours – and aching arms – it’s looking pretty good. There’s one very small point on the edge where I’ve gone a bit deep, but I’m chalking that up to rookie lessons. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do the rest of the body over the coming week or so…
It’s been pretty slow going on the build with other commitments (yep, I know I need to get my priorities in order) but last night made some good progress. I’ve finished the body now with the 1200/2000 wet-sanding and then Maguiers compound/swirl remover. I know I could do more but it’s hit that point where I’m generally satisfied. I then shielded the cavities with slug tape and started re-shaping the lower horn pickguard (I had to cut off a bit to match the re-shaped body). Getting it just right was harder than I thought but I’m getting there. I still need to work out what to do at the bridge end as the cutout where the bridge goes doesn’t fit right (it’s about a centimeter too short from the factory and looks a little weird). I’m sure something will come to me eventually!
Done! Yep, in a flurry of acrtivity yesterday afternoon after coming home from a weekend away I managed to get everything done! The only thing I really needed to do pre-assemble was to shape the pickguard a little more, but once that was done everything came together very quickly. Also happy to say that it sounds pretty good too – I’d always planned to stick with stock electronics until the end and then assess whether to switch out for better components and while the three-way switch is a bit scratchy it’s overall very nice. Can’t wait to play it some more – in between getting going on my next build! This is was first Pitbull Guitars kit build and the overall experience has been really great – from the quality of the TL-1 kit supplied through to the fantastic support the brain’s trust on the forum supplied.