My boss has been playing guitar for something like 30 years. So, unsurprisingly, we talk about guitar a lot since I started down this path. One of the things he likes to do is modify and rebuild guitars and that is a subject we keep coming back too. All that talk got me itching to build a guitar of my own. Besides, it’s one of the cheaper ways to add another guitar to my collection. Like I need another guitar. Needless to say, I bought a kit and put together a guitar. There were some ups and downs, lessons were learned, and patience was tested. In the end, I’m pretty satisfied with the result. Let’s talk about that process.

I looked at a bunch of kits for different guitar styles; expensive kits and cheap kits. I decided to stay on the cheaper end of things for my first try at this. That way, if things went badly I wouldn’t feel too bad about throwing the whole thing in the trash. TheSaga TC-10 would be my guinea pig. Not the cheapest at $160, but not anywhere near the expensive kits.  It’s a simple, single cut (cutouts only on one side) telecaster style kit. All the electronics are pre-soldered and have plug-in connectors. All that there is to do is cut the headstock shape, finish the thing, put it together, and tune it up. There you go. Ready to play. Sounds simple enough, but I had some ideas. Things I wanted to change. Adjustments I wanted to make. Of course I did. I wouldn’t want this to be too easy.

I didn’t want to go with the typical Fender headstock design, so I had to come up with my own design. I felt like the body was a little bit too much of a slab, so I wanted to change it up a bit with a few cutouts. A few other ideas came to me as I worked through the project, some of which I implemented, others I decided against. There were some successes and some failures. Let’s start where I did… the body shape.

I did not change the classic telecaster outline, but I did add some sculpting to the back side, a belly cut and a neck cut. The first for more comfortable playing and the second for better access to the frets at the bottom of the neck. I also did a half-inch roundover along the entire body just to soften the look and feel of the thing. I liked it so much that I ended up doing it on the front as well. Also on the front I beveled the body to add a little more comfort for my strumming arm. I used my router for the round over, but a combination of my belt sander and a few wood files took care of removing all the wood for the other modifications. Once I had that worked out to my liking, I sanded it down to 220 grit, primed it, and set it aside to work on the headstock.

I sketched out a few different designs for the headstock before settling on the one I liked. I wanted something original. Something of my own. I did not want the same Fender design that I see all over the place. I was going for something sorta knife-like. This was actually based on one of our kitchen knives, at least that’s how it started out. Once I had my design, I taped the template to the neck and went to town with my jigsaw. So far, so good. I cut it a bit large and then used my belt sander, strapped to the workbench, to smooth out the cut and get the curves right to the line on the template.

The part where things start to get dicey is that I wanted the headstock to be two tiered. The intention was to use the factory thickness for the tuners, but then to step down an 1/8-inch and taper it down to about 3/8-inch at the outside edge, sorta like a knife blade. I started with the dremel, chisels, and an assortment of sandpaper. This mostly worked, but my lines were not crisp and the initial cut wasn’t very clean. I had the ‘brilliant’ idea to use the palm router to clean things up, which it did, quite nicely. But I was doing it by hand and without any sort of jig to keep the blade from wandering. Which is why the final design is notably different than the template I was working from, the blade strayed from my marks in a couple places and the design was changed to accommodate those incidents. I don’t hate the final product, but it isn’t exactly the design I was going for.

 

With the body cut and the headstock formed it was time to move on to the finishing of the guitar. 

I knew it was going to be yellow. That was never in question. I knew the headstock was going to be painted. I even knew which Rustoleum paint I was going to use, Sunburst Yellow. What I didn’t know was how much work was going to be involved in getting a nice finish. I primed everything with a white primer to keep the yellow nice and bright. Then I sanded the primer smooth, sanded through the primer in a few spots, reprimed those areas, sanded them back to match the rest of the work, and it was ready for paint. Or the beginning of the real headaches, whichever way you want to think about it.

The first coat of yellow went down either heavy or two many coats too far apart. Whichever was the cause, I ended up with some weird wrinkles in the finish around some of the curves where the paint looked like it sagged. And then I picked it up before it was dry enough and left fingerprints embedded in the finish. So, a bunch of sanding later and I had the flaws removed and I added another couple coats of paint to clean things up, but I went to heavy at the top and ended up with ripples in two spots. To add to my issues, a bit of paint the size of my thumbnail chipped off the head stock between two of the tuning holes, that needed to be fixed as well. More sanding. More paint. Finally satisfied I set to smoothing out the paint. If you’ve ever painted with spray paint from a shaker-can you’ll notice that it dries with a bit of an orange peel texture to it, it’s not quite smooth and that’ll really show once you add your gloss coat. So, level-sanding is the process where you wet-sand it just enough to level out the paint, but not so much that you sand through the paint. I did this by going from 220 to 300 to 400 to 600 grit sandpaper. I was very happy, and quite surprised, to not ruin my paint job while doing this.

Not satisfied to put a regular clear coat on this project that had absorbed so much time and effort, I went with a 2-part clear coat. The reasons for this are; faster dry time, harder finish, smoother application. All good things. The other side of that coin is this stuff is $25 a can as compared to $5 a can for regular high gloss clear spray. I ordered a 2-pack and got a slight discount on the price. Good thing I did, too, because I used both cans before this was done. Much like the paint, the clear went down but took a couple coats due to wrinkles that needed to be sanded out, sanding through the gloss coat, and like the paint…. let this dry completely before you ever touch it with sandpaper. If you don’t, you’re going to have a mess. Once I had a nice, consistent, shiny coat of gloss on the body and headstock, it was time to scuff it all up by level sanding to flatten the finish.

On the clear coat I level sanded with 1000, 1500, 2000, and finally with 3000 grit sand paper. This was just as nerve wracking as level sanding the paint, but actually went pretty well. After that I used a polishing liquid and a sponge applicator to buff the whole thing to a shine. This was disappointing. I don’t know exactly why, but I did not get a high gloss finish. I ended up with a nice smooth finish, but it’s more matte than gloss. Eventually, I may take the body appart and try another polishing technique on it, but for now I’m just glad it’s done and doesn’t look bad.

A couple lessons learned and the big mistake.

I used water slide decal paper to put the Rampant logo on the headstock and it took six tries before I read the directions to learn that you have to spray the printed design with two layers of clear coat before you apply the decal. If you don’t do this the paper has no strength and wrinkles uncontrollably which has the added benefit of having the inkjet design float right of the paper in a million tiny specks. So, spray it and let it dry before you try to cut it out and apply it. Second lesson about water slide decals, you’re going to see the edge of the paper. This is a peeve of mine. Had I thought about it I would have cut the design large enough to cover the whole headstock and then trimmed the paper around the edges once it dried. I think that would have eliminated the lines where the paper edge shows through. It’s not terrible, but it’s noticeable.

A different, but related issue, is that the white paint I used on the headstock is noticeably different from the white on the pick guard. This is partially due to the paints I had on hand, but I also think that the clear coat has a slight yellow tint to it. I wish it was a better match. If I ever work up the gumption to make any changes to the headstock design, repainting it and fixing the decal will be on the list of things to fix.

Through the body strings.

Use a drill press to make sure you’re holes are in a straight line. I didn’t and it shows. I used a drill guide and tiny 1/32 bit to drill through the holes in the plate to back on the outside holes. Then I moved the plate to the back, lined it up with those two holes and drilled the 1/8-inch holes, again using the drill guide. Still, not quite a straight line of holes. Looks sloppy. Not the way I’d do it in the future. I’d use a drill press.

After I set the ferrells and tapped them into place I noticed that they were not quite level with each other. I had the idea to take a steel block, set it across all the ferrells and tap them level. That is where those cracks come from. Doing this caused me to shatter the finish around the head of the ferrells. It looks terrible, but lesson learned and nobody can see the back when I’m playing or when it’s hanging on the wall.

One of the other changes that I made was to fill the predrilled holes for the cord jack, expand the passthrough, and install a recessed jack plug. This may have been the only modification I did that had no complications or miscalculations. I feel like the holes could have been better filled and smoothed, but it turned out nice.

Another lesson that has more to do with painting and not necessarily guitars, when spray painting in the garage build a tent. I through down some tarps on the ground and covered some of the stuff on my work bench… this was insufficient. There is yellow paint overspray on everything in my garage. That stuff drifts around quite a bit. Yellow tint to the stainless refrigerator in the corner, yellow on the outlet covers, yellow on my lawn tractor, pretty much yellow on everything. I would have benefited from hanging a plastic sheet from the rafters and created a box. I’ll remember that in the future, because if the garage was finished I would be pretty upset with myself.

I did not have any problems putting the poly acrylic on the neck, but I was a little surprised at how many coats it took. I think I ended up applying 10 or 12 coats of satin finish, wipe-on poly to the neck. Sanding with some 300 grit sandpaper every couple of coats just to smooth things out. It turned out pretty good, not great, but I’m impatient. 

I sanded the fret board the wrong direction initially and it looked like ass. The easy way to sand is between the frets, going parallel to them. But this is across the grain and really shows up when you oil the wood. I learned that the hard way. So, don’t do it like that. Take the time to sand with the grain but don’t scratch up the frets or you’ll be polishing them afterwards. Once the fretboard was nice and smooth I applied some lemon oil to finish it off. Really brought out the rosewood and that dark color looks very nice with the yellow and white colors.

With all the all that done it was time to add the hardware and assemble the parts into a whole. This was an easy task. All the predrilled holes were in the right spots on this Saga kit and the solderless electronics made this a snap. I did have to get online for one little bit that wasn’t clear in the assembly directions, that being where the ground wire goes. Simply strip it back a bit and it gets fed up behind the bridge. Once you tighten the bridge down it’s secure and not going anywhere.

I’ve never strung a guitar or intoneated one, hell, the whole set-up thing was new to me. Setting the string height, the distance between the strings and pick-ups, tweaking the neck, and adjusting the bridge. It was all a bit of a challenge that involved lots of assistance from Google. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it tunes up nice, surprisingly stays in tune, doesn’t buzz much, and plays pretty nice. You’d never mistake it for a guitar from the Fender factory, but not bad for my first go at it.

There are a few things I didn’t do.

I didn’t level sand the clear coat on the headstock and as a result there is a noticeable difference in the sheen between it and the body. The headstock is really shiny, the body is more matte. I like both, but the look I was going for was shiny. Again, I may be able to polish the body up with a bit more work… someday.

I purchased some extra pickguard material with the intention of making a truss rod cover, but decided not to go that route. The bright white of that material would just emphasize the color difference in the whites. And I couldn’t come up with a design that looked good with the headstock.

One thing I didn’t do, but might still get around to, is have the neck plate engraved with the particulars of this build: the kit number, serial/build number, Rampant name and yelocaster model. I just think it’d be a nice touch. But at some point I just wanted to put the thing together and see if it played, so that didn’t happen.

I had some fun building this kit, spent way more money than just the cost of the kit, learned some things, and now I’ve got a pretty nice little addition to my collection. I’m quite satisfied with the results.

 

 

It’s kinda ridiculous how much time I have spent today trying to think of something to put on this blog. And yet, this was the best I could come up with. The worst part is, I haven’t even finished the Guitar Build post I’ve been working on for two days. What’s the deal? I used to be able to do this, hell, most of the time I was flying by the seat of my pants.

What to Write?
What to Write?

I reached out to a drywall guy on Facebook Marketplace about finishing the drywall in my garage. He said he could get to it the second week of October. I had to tell him that I appreciated him getting back with me, but that even as slow as I am at drywall, even I could have it done by October. I had better have it done by October.

I’m happy enough with the Fender Play online guitar course that I’ve renewed it for another year. It seems to be the course that is setting the standard, based on the reviews I’ve read. And since I’m not taking in person lessons any longer in keeps me on a lesson path. The problem with YouTube is that I tend to skip around all over the place doing the fun stuff and not having any rhyme or reason to my practice time. So, for the next 12-months I’ll be dedicating myself to the Fender system and see how much I can learn and how much improvement I can make. I aim for at least 30-minutes a day of practice and most days I get that in.

I’ve been using Instagram lately. Not sure why, just started putting up a picture of something I’ve made each day. We’ll see how long that keeps up.

I’ve been having issues with my external monitors. Not sure if it’s the monitors, my new Pixelbook, or the usb adaptor. I’ve had both monitors working for brief periods of time. I’ve replaced the MCY adaptor with two different types. This morning I got fed up and have gone down to a single monitor, well, two if you include the Pixelbook screen (which I mostly don’t). It’s going to take some getting used to. I’ve been using dual monitors for a lot of years.

Enough rambling for today. Tomorrow you’ll get a long post about building a guitar kit. Later.

I’m trying this again. Probably, you figured that out already, as this site has been back up since April. This time around I’m using DreamHost as my web hosting provider. I picked out one of their dedicated WordPress plans. As part of that plan I have access to the BoldGrid website builder, which I’m unfamiliar with and works differently than anything I’ve used before. Plus, everything seems to have moved to blocks, something else I don’t have a lot of experience with. I’m telling you all this as a heads-up that things may change unexpectedly as I learn about new features and/or break the site.

Every post prior to this post is subject to the rigors and foibles of relocating a poorly backed-up and organized website. Some images are missing. Some images are broken. I’m sure there are a bunch of links that go nowhere. References to pages and things that may not exist any longer. It’s a mess back there. You’ve been warned. I’m sure I’ll get some of those posts fixed and some of them never will be. I’m not going to lie, there’s a part of me that wants to go back and start with the first post and fix everything… wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice clean back-up… but that is a project that will probably never happen. There are a lot of posts back there.

Lets just move forward and see how things go.

Ronn

I made it through the Covid-19 plague of 2020 without getting the disease, without losing my job, and without getting any time off. It was a bit of a scramble in places, I used up all my PTO filling holes in my work week, and a lot of my clients shut down, but mostly things just kept on keeping on. 

This year has been an adventure in getting old and falling apart. Probably, not being in great shape has contributed to this. A couple trips to the hospital started the year off; once for an infection in my leg and once for a bad allergic reaction… Yes. They were related. No. Neither visit resolved the problem. Really, I spent a lot of this years PTO in the first two or three months of the year dealing with a swollen leg. They did an outpatient procedure on the veins in that leg a couple weeks back and things are definitely improving.

Most of my projects around the house have been impacted by this series of medical inconveniences that have kept me hobbling around, so not much has gotten done. Though, I will say that the period where I was on Prednisone steroids was a wild ride. I attribute the completed craft/guest room to those drugs.

I’ll do a post on that room and the process sometime in the near future, but here’s a peek at how things turned out. One side of the room is a bed and side table set up for guests. The other side of the room and the closet are set up for crafting projects. There’s a computer (which is hooked up to the vinyl cutter in the closet), shelves full of crafting supplies and tools, a steel table on one side and a laminated top for the other. The closet doors are sheathed with a metal sheet and then painted with chalkboard paint, and then my paint rack is attached to one side. There are shelves in the closet full of other stuff and a shelving unit against the back wall with even more bits and bobs. I’m very happy with the whole thing, but I need to address the terrible lighting in this room. It seems fine, right up until you try to do any sort of project.

Here’s a peek.

Should work nicely for my statue work, miniature painting, and whatever else. That window came in handy when I was putting polycrylic on my guitar project… it let me get rid of the fumes. That’s another post for another time.

So, I’m back. The website is back. Things will continue on as they have in the past; intermittent posts, unrealized projects, and crazy ideas are all forthcoming. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to see, questions you want answered, or things that are unacceptably broken around here. Thanks for reading. Later.

One of the biggest problems I’ve always had with my website is that I don’t honestly know what I’m trying to project or have a cohesive message. Initially the brand was me, Ronn McCarrick, and then the brand became arohen and I’ve toyed with things like Blackmoon, Rampant Lion, Creative Investigator, 120nn HomeStudios, and 274 Studio. It is entirely possible that I just like coming up with names and logos.

But I don’t really have a product that I’m selling. The only real draw is me and my thoughts and interests. And, unfortunately, I’m not particularly intelligent or even particularly deep. I tend to flutter from topic to topic and from thought to thought without taking the time to structure or organize or plan so the entire endeavor has an underlying chaotic nature to it.

So what do I put on my homepage? I certainly couldn’t say all that, because that does not inspire you to continue reading. I would hope that I am at least somewhat entertaining, but I don’t I don’t think that this website is particularly humorous. My blogs are not quite rants, thorough, even me being angry would be entertaining. But that’s not what I’m doing. The podcast is just an overly long, rambling, stream of conscious on various things. And I never really know what to do with the videos, because, to make effective videos you really need a degree of planning, editing, and an investment in time, which I never seem to have.

 

Well, I put on jeans today to work on the garage for the first time this season. I guess winter really is coming and summer is over. Bummer.

installed back door to garage
stripped hall doors
removed window and installed wall HVAC unit
painted laundry room

I’m trying to make a decision about the future of this website. My hosting is up for renewal and if I don’t renew things will go dark on November 13th. For the first time in a lot of years, I’m considering letting that happen. I haven’t posted since my birthday in August (and that wasn’t much of a post), prior to that it was just images on Saturdays until that queue went dry. I’ve made a conscious decision to step away over the last few months, just to see what it felt like to not post–to not have a website. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was just something I didn’t do for a bit.

painted living room

I guess what I’m asking is, does it matter to anyone but me? I pretty-much already know the answer to this question. But I’m still struggling with the idea of letting it go.

anniversary picnic

There are other hosting options, both paid and free, but that’s not thinking right now. What I’m thinking about is, do I want to have a website or not? Is it worth the time, money, and effort? Are there other things that I could dedicate those three things too that I would get more reward from? I have a few weeks left, but I just thought I would share my dilemma with you.

guitar practice

Should I stay or should I go?

more guitar practice
i have completed yet another trip around the sun

Here I’m singin’ happy birthday
Better think about the about the wish I make
This year gone by ain’t been a piece of cake
Everyday’s a revolution
Pull it together and it comes undone
Just one more candle and a trip around the sun
I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinning
And it’s good to know it’s out of my control
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’
Is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go
No you never see it comin’
Always wind up wonderin’ where it went
Only time will tell if it was time well spent
It’s another revelation
Celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun
I’m just hangin’ on while this old world keeps spinning
And it’s good to know it’s out of my control
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all this livin’
Is that it wouldn’t change a thing if I let go
Yes I’ll make a resolution
That I’ll never make another one
Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun
Just enjoy this ride

Songwriters: Sharon Vaughn / Stephen Bruton / Alan Gordon Anderson

I haven’t posted much lately. This is because I’ve been keeping myself busy with house maintenance stuff. It’s too hot to go outside, so the garage is not any different than it was before the electrical panel was installed. This causes some distress, but it’s even hotter in the garage than it is outside… So, it can wait. Besides, I need to make a 4-inch change to the walls I built around the chimney. Apparently, there is supposed to be a 4-inch air gap between the chimney and the wall, or so says the building inspector.

The screened patio is being stymied by the fact that no one in Grand Rapids can get me the vinyl siding J-channel I need to match the house. Four years ago I picked up some siding for repair from Fox Brothers… but they’ve gone out of business or sold themselves or something. Whatever the case, I know what I need — Driftwood is the style and Canyon Clay is the color — but I can’t get my hands on it.

Which leaves the inside projects. I’ve been working on the basement while Lady Ronn tackles the front room upstairs.

well, now.
ceiling refresh
laundry room

patch and paint

Nothing is quite 100% done. But progress is being made.