Evo Pro Build Diary – Part 11
It’s been quite a long, but I hope interesting, insight into how I approach electric guitar construction and now we reach the final installment. Polishing, wiring and final assembly of the Evo Pro before it heads off to Guitar Buyer Magazine for review.
With all the woodwork now complete the headstock face can be stained to match the body prior to being lacquered. I use the same technique that I used for the body.
Headstock face with stain rubbed in and ready for spraying.
The burst is applied with a spray gun before the top clear coats are applied. Before that can happen though, the colour from applying the burst has to scraped from the pearl logo and the binding. A little tedious!
The finished lacquered headstock face.
With the headstock face complete, I turn my attentions to the neck itself. In this instance i’m not going to spray the Wenge. When oiled Wenge has a wonderful organic smoothness, almost silky to the touch and unlike oiled maple necks it doesn’t spoil, in fact it tends to polish with use.
The neck, oiled and ready for its hardware.
The body on the other hand has been left sprayed and hardening for some time. I can now flat off (sand flat) the top coats of lacquer prior to buffing on a wheel. Final flatting is done manually using very fine grit wet and dry. The coarser grit is used to flatten the surface layer, the finer grit removes those grit marks and makes polishing easier.
Polishing the body on a buffing wheel.
Although the buffing wheel polishes the lacquer it is still abrasive and great care has to be taken not to ‘burn through’ the lacquer coats. The Evo body is set aside for a while before being finally buffed by hand. This includes polishing areas that cannot be easily reached on the wheel. This is when the figure in the wood and colours applied really start to show themselves.
Final hand polishing of the body.
The body is now set aside and I can return to the neck and fit the tuners and nut. In this instance I have opted to use Sperzel locking tuners, they are good quality and aesthetically the satin chrome finish should sit well with rest of the instrument (the tremolo is a satin finished Gotoh/Wilkinson VS100). Unlike most machineheads on the market Sperzels require an anchoring hole on the reverse of the headstock for location of the anchor pin, no screw is used to fix the tuner. The holes are carefully drilled and then the tuners fitted, taking care not to mark the finish in any way, on both the guitar and the anchor nuts of the tuners.
Using a socket to fit the tuners.
I can now make the nut. This is made from a slab of Graph Tech nut material, a graphite impregnated composite designed specifically for musical instruments. The slab is milled down to the thickness required and cut to exactly the right length. I then dry fit the nut and mark out the slots using dividers. The slots are then roughly cut using nut files and will be finish cut at the time of final setup.
Using a pair of engineers dividers to mark out the nut slots.
When the nut is cut I can return to the body and start on assembly and wiring. The majority of the Evo wiring is done on the bench rather than in the guitar, this reduces the risk of heat damage to the guitar and makes for a tidier and easier wiring regime. Components are wired and soldered on a board that matches the layout of the guitar and then installed. Obviously any components that require wiring through body cavities etc have to be connected when the components have been installed in the guitar, that includes the pickups and the jack socket connections.
Wiring up the switch and pots outside of the guitar.
Before I started the wiring I masked off the body and sprayed the inside of the control cavity with Nickel RFI screening paint. This is a specialist conductive paint which when earthed will help prevent external electrical noise being picked up by the wiring and consequently being broadcast to the masses by your amplifier! This paint is force dried with a hair drier as this improves its conductivity. The wired up components are then fitted to the guitar.
The screened cavity and components installed, just pickup and jack socket connections to do.
Once the wiring is installed I fit the pickups and the jack socket plate. The jack socket is fixed to the mounting plate and dry fitted to the guitar so that the screw holes can be marked out. Once done I use a cordless drill to drill the pilot holes. Most of the hardware is fitted this way, though in this case the floating tremolo only requires the post stud holes which are done as part of the build process rather than assembly.
Drilling the jack socket plate pilot holes.
When the jack socket and pickups are fitted there is still plenty to do but the end is in sight. The tremolo is fitted, starting with the spring claw and then, along with the strings, the tremolo itself. With a floating tremolo the string and spring tension hold the tremolo in place, unlike a traditional six screw design, so fitting and stringing work in unison. Before this happens the neck is obviously joined to the body and the frets are properly dressed and polished, some of which was shown in a previous article. Once the strings are on, and the guitar roughly tuned to pitch the setup process begins, including cutting and trimming the nut, setting the neck relief via the truss rod, intonation, action, tremolo pitch/spring tension, pickup heights, truss rod, control and tremolo cavity plate fitting etc. Oh yes, strap buttons, they can be quite useful – I fit those too!
Stringing up before the Evo comes to life.
I hope you have enjoyed and gained some insight into my work process on electric guitars. I set out to achieve a few specific goals with this build, and I’m happy to say I think I achieved all of them. I am very taken with the Sidewynder Pickups I fitted to the guitar, perfectly suited to the wiring scheme I prefer and, they bring out all the tonal characteristics I was striving for, so many thanks again to Alan Lang at Sidewynder, if you haven’t tried them I can’t recommend them highly enough. This Evo Pro was sent to Guitar Buyer Magazine for review and is featured in this months magazine, Sept Issue 121. It’s a great review and I thank Alun Lower and the crew at the magazine for their efforts.