Sparkle

One thing I must have in order to build a guitar is inspiration or at least some sort of trigger, I doubt whether I could even start on a project for myself if I wasn't excited about it. For a long time I'd had this idea about building some split coil pickups but the whole idea was all a bit confused, the project got a bit fragmented as in the first instance I needed a pickup winder. What I came up with turned out ok, scavenged mainly from an old video recorder and the odd bit off ebay it actually turned out ok, it could do with a change of pulley to make it spin faster but apart from that all is good, if a bit Heath Robinson.

So the pickups got wound then the whole project stalled as I couldn't think of a design for the guitar, my guitar doodles were sometimes interesting but not very inspirational and then I started looking at some odd ball '60s guitars built in Europe and this combined with my fascination for art deco stuff fired up my imagination AND I'd always been looking for an excuse to do a sparkle finish.

Here's the "machine of a dream" pickup winder, the motor, pulleys and some other parts are from a VHS, the defunct counter in the middle is disused in favour of the purchased counter in the foreground that will go up to 10,000 turns, like I've said it is a bit slow and takes about 15 minutes to make 6000 turns. There are plenty of videos on youtube that show the technique for winding pickups and it really isn't rocket science.

The flatwork for the pickups I made from thin plywood and I purchased the alnico magnets which are a standard Strat size.

The internals built and dipped in lacquer, you do need to spend sometime sanding these very smooth and getting the eyelets for the wire connections nice and flush with the flatwork otherwise there's a risk of the coils catching when you wind the pickups.

Now the "nervy" part!...I know I'm sounding stupid in saying the obvious, but this wire is THIN and very easy to break and it's bloody annoying to get to 5000 turns and break it, there's absolutely no point in trying to make a joint just rip it off and start again...To avoid this get comfortable and try and forsee any problems that might occur and with a bit of practice you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Here they are after wax potting, I used pellets of paraffin wax melted in a jar which was suspended in boiling water, like I say there's tons of info on the web regarding building pickups and to be honest you can't go far wrong as there's nothing particularly controversial. I built two of the pickups reverse polarity, that is reversing the magnet poles and winding the other direction, I also magnetized the pickups after building them, I did this by passing them between two really powerful molybdenum magnets that I bought on ebay.

I really didn't know what to expect, I'm one of those people who'd rather try stuff than read-up too much, personally I learn stuff quicker doing it that way, there's a lot of info out there but an awful lot of "informed" people talking a lot of bollocks as well, after all a pickup is basically a magnet and around 6000 turns of wire and that's it. Although these pickups have 6000 winds around them I was never going to reach the typical resistance values found on normal 6 string pickups which is around 5k-7k ohms since the length of wire is going to be much shorter (only going around 3 poles), I'd have had to have gone to 10,000plus winds which never would have fitted on the bobbins, so we'll see what they sound like when the guitar is built.

A taster of the finished guitar, very art deco and quirky '60s

In order to speed things up I purchased a paddle headstock neck. The body is built from 4 pieces of tulip wood, I needed it to be a sandwich construction as I wanted to cut a rebated for an equator chrome strip.

The pickguard was a real mission to do, it's a clear sheet of plastic with separate pieces of tortoise shell and black pickguard material glued on, even though it took a age to do I really do love the look. The trem unit is a modified Jazmaster/Jaguar unit.

Painting the guitar, sparkle finishes are very messy to do. I used pre cat cellulose for this as it sets quicker with less chance of runs, although you can buy various colours of flake I used silver and sprayed over it with a tinted lacquer. the technique is to mix the flake in with the lacquer and spray enough coats to get the desired effect.

....And I wanted LOTS of sparkle!

Pretty excited about this one, it turned out better than expected.

You can see here that the back of the guitar is an off white with the chrome equator strip separating the two colours. The rebate I cut for the strip turned out to be a bit narrow so after painting it I cut the rebate with a knife into a slight dove tail, this gave the chrome strip a mechanical grip as well as being glued into place. The chrome strip was the sort that's available for cars.

One of my favorite parts of the guitar.

And here's the back

The pickup covers are cut down Strat and dipped into a lacquer with un-mixed brown and yellow dye, surprisingly effective!

I'm very pleased how this guitar turned out and I'll definitely be building another. Sound wise it's kinda quirky a bit like the whole guitar I guess. The wiring is actually quite simple, there are two 5 way switches, One switch selects from the three pickups on the thicker strings and one selects the three pickups on the thinner strings, so you can easily select any pickup configuration. The upshot is that most of the sounds I guess are good and some a bit odd!

I will definitely be building another as I've had some quite favourable feedback regarding the look of this guitar, so the next one is going to look somewhat the same but with a more straight forward pickup layout.