Introduction: Building a Kit Guitar
Here's the story. Several years ago, my brother-in-law had to sell his Fender Mustang® guitar to pay the rent. We were talking a few nights ago, and he regrets ever doing that.
A common thing with musicians.
SO, since I owed him a Christmas gift, (the one I ordered from Etsy never arrived...) I figured I would build him one!
Step 1: Ordered a Kit...
Ok, I ordered two guitars from a company, that I won't mention them here because they were really nice, but the kit was terrible.
The Les Paul copy I sent back.
The Telecaster copy I kept and decided to work with. As you can see from the pictures, the body was dinged up, nothing major, but still. (The Les Paul was worse)
The kit came with a nice solid mahogany neck and I figured I would give it a go.
Step 2: Reshaping
The Fender Mustang looks like it was a hybrid from the Fender parts bin. A little bit of this, a touch of that... The body resembles a Fender Jazz Bass, the pick guard looked like a Telecaster, the neck headstock off a Strat.
You get the idea.
So I needed to reshape the kit body to look more like the Mustang. I hand drew some lines, and went to the band saw.
Step 3: Bodywork
Initially I was going to paint it red, but the wood actually looked decent. A very light ash. So I stained it red. I used Minwax® Express color and did a couple coats. It brought out the grain nicely.
Step 4: The Stripe
The Fender Mustang had a racing stripe.
What I should have done was get some thin tape and do all the lines at once. What I did was the thin stripes first, then the middle stripe. A bit of a pain to wait and not rush the job. But I was happy with the result.
You'll notice I tapered the body a bit, giving a nice place for the forearm to rest.
I then gave it several light coats of lacquer. Giving it a satin finish. The lacquer was automotive finish, not water based.
Step 5: Headstock
The kit comes with a flat paddle headstock. I drew out the Stratocaster style pattern, and cut it on the bandsaw.
Plenty of sanding, but a nice finished shape.
Step 6: Tuners and Headstock Finish
On the company website where I bought the kit, it clearly says, "No directions" and it also suggests upgrading the hardware that comes with the kit.
Good idea. The stuff that comes with the kits from China are cheap. Good to start with, but upgrade if you can.
With the maple headstock, pre-drill all the holes for the screws that hold the tuners. Maple is VERY hard and will snap the cheap screws. Ask me how I know.
Now, my brother-in-law Fred, has a thing for monkeys. He collects them. (my nickname being "Monk" has nothing to do with this... I hope.)
So I decided to call this a "Freddy MONKEYCASTER"
I ordered up some decal sheets that can be printed on a laser printer. They are the type that slip off the backing when wet, just like model airplanes.
The Fender font was found on 1001 free fonts. The logo and headstock were then given several coats of lacquer.
I left the rest of the neck un-coated. With the goal of just using lemon oil on the back and front of the neck.
Step 7: Bolting It Together
I like a bolt on neck. The kit had pre-drilled holes and we secured that nice and tight. No glue. And it was actually straight! no adjustment needed.
Step 8: Strap Hardware
Easy enough, the ash didn't need any pre-drilling. It's pretty soft.
Step 9: Pickups and Wiring
Again, there were no instructions for this kit. So off to the interwebz.
The distance from the nut on the neck to the bridge is 25.5"
The wiring is such that when the switch is forward, the neck pickup is used. When the switch is in the middle, both pickups are used and when the switch is to the back, the bridge pickup is used.
It was at this point, I upgraded the pickups to actual Telecaster pickups. A friend had upgraded his Telecaster and had the stock pickups, the body needed a slight adjustment to fit the pickup, done real quick with a Dremel tool.
From there everything was installed and tested. AND EVERYTHING WORKED! weird!
Step 10: Final Thoughts
Would I build another one? Perhaps. It was very satisfying to see the finished project and hear it play.
I set the action and intonation according to a guide I found online using a tuner. I won't go into that here, you can either do it and learn how, or get a guitar tech to spend an hour on it. It's easy, but a lot of back and forth patience to get it right.
It made for a great gift, it took a little time to get it right, but it's a one of a kind custom.
The price for the kit was just under a hundred dollars, I had several hours of work into it during lunch breaks and after work, and it actually sounds pretty good and plays well.
And of course, Fred is happy.
Hopefully he'll remember the little people when he makes it big.