I’ve played bass for years. Well, I’ve worn one in rehearsal studios, and occasionally on stages. Sometimes even in front of paying customers. There are recordings, out there somewhere, featuring noises I have made with a bass guitar – yet, I’ve never really considered myself a, you know…, a player. A musician.
A while ago, I stopped doing the nine-to-five routine and, with no need to commute in the regular sense, a whole two-hour-a-day hole, (in what office types like to call their “schedule”), became available. I thought I’d dedicate those two hours each day to a proper and concerted attempt to learn to play guitar. And all six strings instead of only four!!
With work nowadays, (and there’s less than there once was), I get to play around with lots of different types of wood – and on top of that, plenty of different types of finish. I spend days waiting for the next coat of paint or varnish to dry, and rubbing things down, and painting and filling and sealing. It occurred to me that finishing a guitar needed the same kind of patience and discipline, and many of the same skills. We all like a nice, new, shiny guitar from time to time. I just figure there’s a lot to be said in making it yourself.
I’ve always had that punk sort of DIY attitude. I believe everyone can do anything if they really put their mind to it. I’ve always found great satisfaction in making things, and in taking things apart to see how they work. Nowadays – there’s so much opinion, advice and tips and tricks knocking around on the web – it seems daft not to try and put a few skills together with some proper components, and try to bring it all together to build a truly individual instrument to add to the collection. Or at least learn how not to do it!
Now I don’t happen to have a whole load of routers and bandsaws and all that, knocking around the workshop. So I realised I’d have to begin with pre-cut components, and a whole load of off-the-shelf bits and pieces. Looks like my first attempts at guitar building are going to be, what’s known in the trade as, “partscasters”. Purists and experienced luthiers may mock – but there’s a lot to learn, and there’s plenty to do on the finish and assembly alone.
But what to build? I’ve had all kinds of guitars in the past, but I’ve never had a Stratocaster to call my own. I suppose I’ve always been a Fender sort of bloke and, besides, I don’t want to have to deal with all the set-neck business that’s involved with a Gibson, (yet). The Strat is an out and out design classic. Descision made!
Now, I do like a nice piece of oiled ash. Since it’s currently getting a little harder to obtain due to the effects of Ash Dieback, and since it’s also highly rated as a tonewood for Strats, I searched around for the best pre-carved body I could source, for a sort of medium budget. I found this two-piece swamp ash blank at guitarandbassbuild.co.uk.
I’m thinking, oiled ash body, maple neck, black scratchplate. Take my time – what could possibly go wrong?