Next Victim! A New DIY Guitar

Starjet

Look what UPS left on my porch: the neck and body for my latest ill-advised “parts” guitar project. I’ll be slapping it together in the coming days, but I couldn’t resist showing off the pretty parts. The body is Warmoth’s Mooncaster model, which is based on Fender’s semi-hollowbody Starcaster, a quirky cult guitar if ever there was one. But for the neck, I swiped an idea from Warmoth’s Josh Spataro, and substituted a reverse angled Strat neck. The tacky silver finish and extravagant binding are solely the result of my bad taste. (Josh compared it to a pinky ring, which is pretty accurate.) The body is korina, the neck mahogany.

If my last Warmoth parts guitar was a sort of Fender/Gibson hybrid, this one is more Fender/Gretsch. I’m planning to install a set of TV Jones pickups, and this will be my chance to try out a very different type of tone control scheme, one I’ve been thinking about for a while. If it turns out well, I’ll write about it. If not, I’ll probably delete the last few sentences and deny they ever existed.

This is my third Warmoth parts project since starting this blog. As before, I’m 100% delighted with the materials and build quality. Since I requested expensive options (like the vulgarly bound and finished neck) and I’m using fancy parts, the guitar probably won’t be vastly cheaper than if I’d bought it already made. But it should be unique and fun. Stay tuned β€” and I’ll hope the guitar does too.

34 comments to Next Victim! A New DIY Guitar

  • Sweet! I have to show this to my son who is fond of the Starcaster (via Radiohead). The offset acoustic look *is* cool and the reverse neck is a big plus. And I see NOTHING tacky about the color, Joe. But then I have a lime-green Hamer Phantom with black leopard spots (find the 80's guy). :^0 Warmoth is a WA gem too. In fact, I used to work for Boogie Bodies back in the day, which is where Kenny Warmoth got his start.

  • Looks cool! Bravo on the TV Jones p/u’s; I’ve got Powertrons in my partscaster-Cabronita and they’re awesome! Chimey, yet with a PAF-like fullness. Best of all worlds for my style.

  • That looks badass (or should that be badarse).
    I vote for a pickups in series switch option plus a phase reverse switch on one of the pickups.
    Dunno if its just me but I think humbuckers sound better in a semi than they do in a solid. Although I guess TV Jones (Filtertron style?) might be different.

  • Oh and I really recommend a Reverend Guitars Reeves Gabrels replacement Bigsby spring and don’t forget a roller bridge.

  • mike

    Joe – I love you! If I could be so bold as to recommend some future reviews, I’d like to see you weigh in on wide range humbuckers, hollow body guitars, compression, Electrical Guitar Company aluminum guitars, muchos gracias!

  • Sickie Riffer

    Killer ! I want one !

  • mwseniff

    Nice choice in body color not a lot of silver guitars around it should look cool under stage lighting (the world really doesn’t need anymore sunburst guitars IMHO. Is the head stock painted? It’s hard to tell in the picture. So what do you gain besides looking cool with reversed neck? Those TV Jones pickups should sound very good and it will be a nice contrast to your Trini Lopez (probably sound cool double tracked over one another on a recording). I looked at this body quite a bit but decided it wasn’t going to solve my hollowbody jones as it has a center block. I ended up buying an Epiphone Sorrento 1962 reissue (it’s a sunburst but at least it’s an olive sunburst so it looks odd but nice). It’s like an ES-175 with US made Gibson mini-buckers and no center block it really resonates evenly so feedback is easy to use. The mini-buckers sound great btw.I saved my labor for building a new pc to replace my crappy Dell laptop (that Dell service was unable to repair even after 6 tries) I much prefer building my own pcs from parts (they are dead easy to repair if you have problems). Now I can work on some tunes without the machine having a hardware failure and I am anxious to try the updated 64 bit Speakerphone VST plugin properly.

    I snagged a couple of cheap necks and bodies from Guitar Fetish’s big pile of guitar parts from their island of misfit guitar pieces. I am going to put together a couple of guitars this winter hopefully one or both will be fretless. I want to try some really hot/sensitive pickups in a fretless guitar not for distortion but more for a sensitive and responsive guitar. Anybody got a recommendation, I am even considering active pickups (eghads).

  • Oinkus

    Tell me there isn’t any finish on that neck please ? You know how I feel about a Bigsby but it is your guitar , the Gretsch twist is interesting. So you aren’t going to tell us what crazy wiring scheme you intend to use gee whiz ? Stainless Steel frets at least ? Looks like fun and you know there really aren’t any shortcuts to building a really good guitar , you have to use good parts and pieces. Best of luck ,hurry up and give us some video.

    • joe

      Oh man β€” just when I thought I was going to make you happy with the fact that I finally ordered a neck with stainless steel frets, I go ahead and ruin it by getting the neck finished β€” a move that was tacky, expensive, and, apparently, disappointing. πŸ˜‰

      Yes β€” the whole frickin’ thing is silver sparkle except the fretboard. πŸ™‚

      The wiring trick (which I’m still fussing with on breadboard) uses a dual-concentric pot. One part routes signal through a cap to ground, per usual, while the other fades between two cap values, one large and one small. In other words, one pot cuts treble, and the other specifies the cut range. Someone must have done this before, but I’m not aware of a specific case. (Anyone else know an example?) Plus, I’m going to have a bass cut pot, per the “PTB” tone control. And other shit.

      • Evil

        I’ve actually done the two-pot tone knob thing in the past – I don’t recall what values I used, but it wasn’t as useful as it seemed in theory – and I never really came back to it to try and make it work.

        I could see it being useful if you had pickups that were voiced radically different, and have caps that are far outside the normal range of usage as your cut-shift end points.

        • Jermaine Eyum

          Possible problem with using a pot to fade between two tone caps in a guitar, is that the resistance of the pot flattens out the peak when it’s in the center. You really only would get that peak at the ends of pot travel, in which case a switch is probably just as useful. It’s not like having a variable cap, which is why they sell those 16-caps-on-a-rotary-switch dealybobs.

          • Evil

            That’s about what I figured (after I had learned more electronics theory) – I’ve never even bought one myself, but maybe a balance/blend pot where you have center = no tone, and then have different cap values as you roll either way might produce more useful tones…

      • mwseniff

        Silver sparkle headstock woohoo IMHO all head stocks should match the body color or at least contrast with the body color (just one Matt’s opinion). I have never had sweaty hands when I play (I sweat everywhere else especially my head) so I’ve never experienced that sticky guitar neck syndrome. Friends that have this problem seem to have found all kinds of sprays or powders to alleviate it, one guy swears by the stuff pool players use. They also seem to spend a lot of effort keeping the guitars clean as some of their anti-sweat stuff builds up. i count myself lucky to not having to deal with the sweaty hands issue.

        Joe be honest here just how close were you to having the new guitar covered with long pink fake fur?

      • Hi Joe,

        I think your variable amount, variable frequency, tone control will act in a rather weird way that may not be useful.

        You intend to have half the pot wired as a normal variable resistor for the amount and then wire that variable resistor to the wiper of the second half of the pot, with each end of the second half wired to ground via a different value capacitor to change the roll off point?

        For one thing I think you would need to have the first half of the pot log as usual and the second half of the pot be linear. Even then the two controls will interact in weird ways. For example if you have the amount set for full treble cut (min resistance) when the second pot is in the middle (assuming it is a lin pot) then it will be like having a normal tone pot turned most of the way up for a fairly bright sound. Then as you turn the second half of the control in either direction the treble will be cut.

  • Oinkus

    Hey , I am the one with paint issues . If you like a neck that sticks to your sweaty hands that is fine by me too! Might just be easier to put a Tonestyler in this one too , more expensive but pretty great for a semi hollow.

  • F

    Panning between two caps … such a mix of ‘clever’ and ‘why didn’t I think of that’. What about the same dual concentric arrangement on the bass cut knob? In general, how different it ends up being from the usual ‘swap caps with a 6-way rotary’ approach? It seems simpler and even more effective, any downsides?

  • Vami

    I like your choices of parts. I guess you’re installing Classics, which are great but it’s hard to go wrong with TV, he somehow manages to take away harshness out of all pups and leave only good things in.
    I’ve been recently obsessed with his single coil T-Armonds. Can’t wait for him to start selling them in the filtertron housings.

  • soggybag

    If you’re going Gretsch you need a zero-fret. I have been thinking about the zero-fret for a while, and seems to be a better system in theory. I want to put one on a guitar to try out. You should try one of these and tell how it works out.

    https://www.zeroglide.com/

    I’ve been tinkering trying to make one on my own.

    • Vami

      I like zero frets (have it on one guitar) but that fret will need to be pretty soon replaced as it wears much faster than others.

      As Joe’s guitar goes a more Gretsch-y thing would be a bar bridge to go with the B5; they look primitive but function well and influence the sound more than anything else besides pickups on an electric. Tru-Arc and Compton are good aftermarket choices and they both make them from several different materials. It’s amazing how much different materials change the tone and increase sustain.No affiliation with either Tru-Arc or Compton, just a happy customer.

  • Marco

    Hey Joe, I’ve been curious about the Mooncasters but after seeing yours I definitely know that I want one. I like addition of the B5, I’m planning to do the same. Some guitars just look better with vibratos.
    Did the B5 cover the tailpiece holes or you had them install the Bigsby at Warmoth?
    Cheers,
    Marco

    • joe

      Thanks! Right now the guitar is of a Gary Brawer guitar repair, where Gary is sorting out the mess I made trying to install the pickup selector. It’s almost impossible to get a Les Paul style pickup cover in that narrow gap, and there’s no rear access hole. I managed just barely to work it in β€” but the process disconnected a pickup wire. D’oh!

      Warmoth doesn’t do trem installs β€” but if you purchase a bridge from them, or send the studs from one you’ve purchased elsewhere, they install those. Since Warmoth doesn’t stock roller bridges, I ordered a TonePros and mailed Warmoth the parts. Yes, the Bigsby covers the tailpiece holes, but it doesn’t sit flush against the curved top. It doesn’t look bad, and it seems to send fine, but I’m not sure yet whether I’d use a B5 or a B7 if I were starting from scratch β€” TBD.

      • Vibramate make an adaptor plate for the B5 which bolts in to standard stop bar inserts. They also make the Spoiler – a shaped plate that hooks on to the Bigsby string pins and converts them to easy drop in top loading. And other groovy stuff.
        Callaham makes some cool ‘fix your Bigsby so it works’ parts too.

      • mwseniff

        If you don’t already have one get an assorted set of heat shrink tubing. Heat shrink can help form a stronger mechanical connection if put over the solder connections on switches. You can also use a larger piece of heat shrink around the wiring for the switch to hold them all together for strength and neatness. Heat shrink needs a good heat source I recommend the type sold to strip paint etc. but you can get by with a blow dyer for hair set on high. Heatshrink is also a good way to mark cabling using colors as well as the clear type with printed labels shrunk inside the clear tubing. Heat shrink looks much prettier than tape for insulation, it also holds up to heat pretty well. Heat shrink is more rock and roll than you think ;-).

  • Jimbo

    In regard to the limited access issue so common with semi-hollow bodies and hollow bodies…

    …if you know you’re using the guitar as a tool for working gigs, is it so bad to consider cutting an access hole in the back for occasions where wiring may need repair or pickups are being swapped?
    I am currently considering having a local luthier do this very modifications to two hollowbodies and a semi-hollow that I own.

    • joe

      LOL β€” funny you should ask! Right now Gary Brawer is drilling a big-ass access hole in the back of the guitar behind the pickup selector. That’s my sole beef so far with Warmth’s beautiful work: It probably should have occurred to them to add access here. To be continued! πŸ™‚

  • The keyhole surgery required to fit electronics to a semi is such a PITA! Access plates should also allow screening to be added fairly easily, probably the only way to screen a semi without holes in the back is to try and keyhole paint with conductive paint.

  • I am really curious to see how this turns out. I love the finish- what can I say- I’m a Buck Owens/ Don Rich nut! And I have very little experience with TV Jones pickups. Should be cool!
    That aside- I have always enjoyed your articles, even from as far back as what I think was your first one for Guitar Player- the Screaming Blue Messiahs dude? Your writing has always been so informative and mature. And your videos are great- way better than all the other youtubers. I have just started to write a guitar blog, and not being a writer, it is a bit intimidating, feeling confident throwing words out to the world. I like your conversational tone and style.
    I’m glad that I found this site!

    • joe

      Hey Skot β€” thanks! Funny β€” that Screaming Blue Messiahs story was the very first thing I ever wrote for a music mag β€” like, literally thousands of articles ago. I loved that band to pieces, but now the truth can be told: He was really mean to me, absolutely terrorizing the novice writer. (“Look,” he said in reply to one question, “I’m not going to write your article for you.”) I later learned that it was kind of a Brit thing, a reflexive fear of being perceived as a “muso.” After that interview, all the others were easy! πŸ™‚ Anyway, you and I go WAYYYY back. I’m glad you’re here too.

  • Way Gorked

    I have the same body and pickups sitting in my office right now, waiting for the Xmas break to be put together. I’d love to hear yours. Looks great!

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