Monday, 26 March 2012

DIY Fretwork

See this guitar here

That is my "Nunostrat" - as I call it.  It had been about some years before that name stuck which was when I stained the body the colour it is now and due to the hand staining and teak oil finished neck, Strat look and twin humbuckers I thought it a bit like Nuno Bettencourt's (Extreme) famous N4.   However it's origins lie in about 1981.  I decided building my own guitar better (cheaper?) than buying one.  I was young and foolish.  Now this was in the days before lots of DIY guitar stuff was available but inspired by Brian May, Stephen Delft (magazine articles in International Musician) and Adrian Legg (Customise your guitar book) I bought a body and a neck from Touchstone Tonewoods and hardware from all over the place.  My Dad helped the initial assembly which was good since at the time I'd have probably made a complete hash of it!  Why a strat with two humbuckers?  Well in 1981 you couldn't buy one like that and Allan Holdsworth played on a little like this at the time, which was another part of the influence.  Originally it had DiMarzio PAFs on it, like Allan's.

It has had more than one facelift in it's life.  Possibly because the neck is only oil finished and therefore not sealed totally it had developed some high frets cause chocking of notes etc.  So I've done a fret dress on it to level out the higher frets.  I have a fret levelling file and a fret crowning file both bought from StewMac in the USA. 

I taped up the neck with masking tape. Got an aluminium straight edge and credit card to determine the worst offending frets and got filing.  Using the right tools helps!  The fret file doesn't need much effort at all.  After that the crowning file restores the shape and gets rid of the worst of the burr on the top.  I then used wire wool and a lot of elbow grease to polish all the frets.

Result?  A much more playable guitar no chocking out of notes and better bending etc all round.  In fact I sat playing it throughout an entire rugby match on the box and was more and more pleased with it as it went on.

Fender have just announced a limited run of hand finished ash bodied strats - which could almost have been my signature guitar based on this old workhorse, funny I must have missed them calling to suggest my scrawl was on the top of the headstock ;-)

Currently it's spec is for the Nunostrat is

Body - Solid one piece Ash
Neck - Canadian maple with skunk stripe on rear, rosewood fretboard, 21 frets, 12" radius (i.e. a lot flatter than any Fenders).  Bullet style truss road adjuster.
Bridge - chrome plated Mighty Mite hard tail unit, through body stringing.
Tuners - Spertzel locking tuners 6 a side
Two Swineshead pickups (sadly now defunct bespoke pickup maker from Lincs.  These have mahogany bobbins that match the body well) - 2x vol 2x tone with coil taps on each pickup
3 way SG style pickup switch
Schaller strap locks


  1. I think that wins the Nerdtastic Post of the Month award! :)

  2. Your Nunostrat is lovely! i've always been in love with natural wood solid-body guitars. My ex-husband had a '66 Fender Mustang that he'd painted -- PAINTED -- black when he was in high school (sigh).

  3. Wow, how cool is that? As someone who knows NOTHING about guitars, I am well and truly impressed..!

  4. my brother made bespoke guitars before he died... simple minds had one as did Mike Peters from The Alarm!
    this post reminded me of the fact

  5. I know nothing about guitars but you are clearly passionate. Good for you! :-)

  6. I don'tknow much about music, and f*ck all about guitars, but I do know woods.
    A lovely piece of Canadian Maple can take a gorgeous finish, nd really showof that rippling grain. Have you ever tried sealing/oiling it with Danish Oil. It goeson like an oil,but soon polymerises to a sealed finish. If you apply it with 00 Grade steel wool, it give a lovely lustre.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the Danish Oil - I'll look into it

  7. It looks beautiful. Even though you did appear to be speaking a language i didn't understand I can tell a lot of love and hard work has gone into that instrument.I do live with guitars as my son has a number , not hand made but he loves them just the same . His current faves are a Washburn accoustic and a Schecter electric (which he adores more than is quite normal... I think its a boy thing)
    Gotta love a guitarist :)