Friday, July 18, 2008

Assembly and Setup

I was anxious to get the bridge studs in after my trouble with them during the wet sanding and polshing phase. One ReRanch forum member suggested pushing them in with the closed chuck of a drill press, so I went back to my neighbor's house to do so. I got the first stud in and realized that it didn't go in as far as the Carvin directions suggested -- the holes weren't deep enough. We chucked the threaded stud insert into the press, and then pulled the stud out while holding down the body. I called up Carvin and talked to a tech on the phone. He said the problem must be fixed, either by drilling the holes deeper or sanding down the bottom of the studs. Sanding shouldn't be too hard, he said, because the studs are brass which is a pretty soft metal. So I just rubbed the bottom of the studs back and forth across 60 grit sandpaper until the bottom of the bridge height adjustment screw was flush with the bottom of the brass stud. It took about 5 minutes each which included a cooling break - they got pretty hot during the process.

I went back to Bernie's house to press in the studs, and... success!

My next step was to shield the pickup and control cavities with copper tape. I used up the remaining supply from Carvin and then started using the 2 inch tape that I had ordered from Stewart McDonald. The tape extends out to a few of the pickguard screw holes so that the shielding on the underside of the pickguard would be forced into contact with the tape in the cavities.

To mount the neck I spent some time carefully sanding the lacquer buildup in the neck pocket until the neck fit back in.

I installed the spring claw in the rear bridge route and then mounted the bridge. The bridge is held in place by the tension between the height adjustment screws on the front of the body and the force of the springs in the rear.

Here's a picture of the progress so far.

The black wire visible in the control cavity is soldered to the spring claw in the rear and is routed through a small hole between the rear cavity and the control cavity.

All that remained was to mount the jack plate and the pickguard. I used small plastic wire connectors to connect the positive leads from the pickguard wiring to the jack, and to connect all of the grounds (pickguard, spring claw, and jack). This will make it easy to disassemble the guitar without having to desolder, if I ever need to.

For setup I used my copy of Dan Erlewine's "Guitar Player Repair Guide - 3rd Edition". It has lots of information including factory setup specs for Fender and Gibson guitars, as well as the setup specs measured from guitars of well known players such as Hendrix, Claption, SRV, etc. Back in June I purchased the StewMac basic setup toolset, which consists of a straight edge, action gauge, and radius gauges. This set was expensive at around $85.00, and if I were to do it over again would only get the string action gauge. The straight edge is only necessary for determining the amount of neck relief with the strings off. With strings on, the strings themselves can be used as a straight edge by employing a capo at the first fret and holding down a string at the last fret. The radius gauges are not a necessity and can be easily crafted by hand (Dan explains how in his book).

Using the book and tools I checked the neck relief and set the bridge and string saddle heights. The neck is perfectly straight even after putting on the strings, tuning to pitch, and waiting a day. I chose to leave it like that for now, with the option to add relief later as a way to deal with string buzz if necessary. Lastly, I set the intonation using the tuner function of my PODxt-Live pedal.

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