On Saturday, August 29th, I had an opportunity to attend the Falls Rock Guitar Building Workshop. It provided me with a chance for some hands on learning about the construction of the guitar. I was one of four people who participated in the class. Even though the class was in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, everyone in the class was from Pittsburgh. Each of us selected a body (strat or tele), body color, neck (maple or rosewood), pickups (made by Rock Falls Guitar School), and hardware color (gold or black).
For my guitar, I selected a tele body (as did everyone in the class) with its natural wood color, a rosewood neck, the Rock Falls blues pickups, and gold hardware. The first thing we worked on in the class was the frets. The necks came with jumbo frets on, which needed to be leveled, crowned, and sanded/polished. First we taped the fret boards as not to damage in between the frets as we worked. We used a leveling beam, moving it in a "zig-zag" pattern across the neck, to level the beams. Once that was finished, we crowded the frets by using a rotary tool. Then we polished the fret, first with a fine steel wool then with sand paper, and removed the sand paper.
The next was to install the tuners. The neck did have some holes pre-drilled. The big holes on the headstock, for the tuners, were already drilled. We lined up the tuners, drilled the necessary holes to attach the tuners, and fascined the tuning pegs in place.
Once the tuners were on, we attached the saddle. We lined them up in the slot, and sanded it to fit, if necessary. The saddle was then glued in place.
As the glue dried, we went to work on the wiring. I had read about potentiometers and capacitors, but had not worked with them before. The class really helped me to gain an understanding of what pots and caps do, and how to connect everything. The tele is has a fairly simple (or the simplest of guitars) wiring configuration, but I feel much more comfortable moving forward with more difficult wiring configurations. At the moment, my plan is to build a guitar with humbuckers that are wired for coil tapping and in/out of phase.
Once we soldered the wires to the volume and tone nobs, the capacitor, and the 3-way toggle switch things moved pretty quickly. We dry fit and taped the rest of the parts in place. This included the pickups, pick guard, bridge, and input jack. We then attached the pickups, grounded the bridge, and soldered the pickups to the volume and tone pots. The strap knobs were added, and drilled holes and attached all of the pieces to the body. Next we bolted on the necks, strung up the guitars, tuned them, attached the string trees (to guide the high E and B strings from the tuners to the appropriate saddle slots), and learned how the set up our guitars. We used a notched straight edge and feeler gauge to make sure the neck had the appropriate relief, measured the strings to the appropriate height, intonated our guitars, learned to adjust the pickup height to get whatever sound we're going for, and plugged in the guitars. I was pleasantly surprised that my guitar worked -- and it sounded great!
The guitar building class was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend it to anybody who is interested in learning how a guitar works. Being able to set properly set up the guitar is a huge benefit in of itself. The class gives one the knowledge to modify their own guitars. You also leave with a pretty nice instrument, on par with American made Fenders.
For more information on the Falls Rock Guitar Building Workshop, visit http://www.fallsrockshop.com/