Hal's Single Cut

Builder: Hal


I had a really nice Gibson SG about 40 years ago that I traded away, and I always had it in the back of my mind to get another electric guitar. I decided on a kit because I didn't see much point in spending a couple thousand dollars on something to hang on my office wall, and after researching kits, I thought I might be able to build one that is about as good as a lower-priced guitar anyway. And have the fun and experience of building it. This is the first guitar kit I ever built. My wood-working skills are pretty basic, what I learned in junior high shop class--sand, stain, and varnish. I did a lot of research on the internet about what types of materials to use. Since I began in winter and do not have a good place to spray, I decided on using water-based and brush able material, like Keda wood dye and Minwax Polycrylic clear coat. In addition to the TFW004M kit, I ordered CTS 500K pots, .022uF orange capacitors, a Tusq nut, and a set of Grover Original tuners.

I was very impressed with the overall quality of the kit. From watching YouTube videos and such, I expected there to be a ding or crack, or at least a fat neck. Nope, everything was very good. I'd guess that some people would not like what looks like a spliced-on headstock on the neck, or a two-piece mahogany body, but, hey, if you really required everything top-of-the-line quality you'd be looking at a kit that cost hundreds of dollars more. My basic plan was to take what I got and make the best as I could of it. I was trying for an autumn wheat or fresh maple syrup color on top, and brown sides and back--not too dark and not too Black face on headstock. And shiny. I think my final result was pretty close. Technically, the headstock on this kit looks about a half-inch shorter than what is on a Gibson or Epiphone. It took me two afternoons to file down the little curves on the top of mine. I made some big mistakes as I proceeded, but I just fixed those as best as I could and kept going. My first shock was after sanding the entire thing with 400-grit, I then read the Keda dye instructions that say to not sand very fine, because the dye will not soak in as well. Well, it worked anyway. Made many more goof-ups after that. I even drilled an extra hole in the top of the body, but you'd have to look hard to see it--the pick guard would cover it anyway if I put that on. Once when I was working on the headstock, clear coat seeped under the tape I put over the fretboard, and I thought it ruined the fretboard--it only took two evenings to clean that up. The CTS pots were the short type, and instead of getting long types, I sort of chiseled a better fit for a couple of those. I had to drill the holes for the pots a little larger to fit the CTS pots.

I did a lot of experimenting, such as trying a grain filler and using sanding sealer. I'm not sure I needed either of those and think it may have looked a little better without. I got a little frustrated trying to get an even, smooth finish with the Minwax Polycrylic. I spend $35 just on paint brushes, before I got one that worked best. I had put about six coats of clear coat on and sanded it way back a couple times, and was about to try the spray-on Polycrylic, before I figured out that I could just sand it down to a near-perfect finish. Sanded with 600-grit, then 1000-, then 1500-, and then 2500-grit. Rubbed it down with a clean cotton rag, and it looked fine. Then I took it up another notch by wet sanding with 3000-grit and rubbing it with Mequiar's Ultimate Compound. Here is another reason I am glad I chose the water-based Polycrylic: I bumped the can once and caught it, but not before it spilled about a pint all over the kitchen counter. Wiped up very easily. Wow, that would have been a mess if I had been using polyurethane or lacquer.

I found a couple good videos on YouTube that compared "modern" and "vintage", or "50's" wiring schemes. I chose the vintage wiring, because it is supposed to have a little brighter sound than modern, and I know if you don't want a bright, clear tone on a Gibson, just turn the Tone down to anything below "10". I found some diagrams on the internet. I think I count 33 solder points on mine. I tested the wiring as best I could with a multi-meter. Treated myself to a little, new amp. It worked on the first try!

My total build time was three months, not including about a month I spent researching materials and how to build a kit. I spent about a month just trying to get the headstock like I wanted. When the weather warmed up, I was able to use spray cans in the garage. I tried three different kinds of spray gloss enamels and two kinds of clear coats. They would either dry and start exposing small cracks of the wood grain, or else when I tried to spray a second coat or a clear coat, would cause the entire thing to sort of dissolve and deform. Cleaned that off to bare wood a couple times, and began again. Then I switched to black gloss acrylic lacquer, over a sandable automotive primer, and that worked great. Could build up the thickness of the lacquer, and it wet-sands well. Then the Mequiar's Ultimate Compound made that look pretty nice too.

I wiped the fretboard with boiled linseed oil two times, to darken the engineered rosewood. Got some different screws for the pickup rings and back covers at a local hard store. I dressed it up a bit more with a $3 LP-style truss rod cover from amazon.com, water-slide headstock decals from guitarfetish.com, and amber colored 24-spline volume & tone knobs from stewmac.com. I got a good fitting case at guitarcenter.com, a Musician’s Gear MC22LP. I like this one because it is slanted under the body and has a neck rest, so it is not hitting on the end of the head stock. I finished it with a set of GHS "GBL" 10-46 strings and a $75 setup at the local music store. There was one dead spot on one string, 15th fret on the B string, which I fixed by filing an upper fret just a bit. Looks good. Plays good. Sounds good. Great kit. Great project. I was not trying to build this as inexpensively as possible, but I gave my budget a ceiling of about $500, so I could make this turn out as nice as I could. With the new amp and case, I think I went over that. I'm calling it a success.

Link: Find the Flame Top Mahogany Single Cut here.