Jul 17, 2016

"Blondie" the B-Stock Partscaster

As my third Partscaster build, this has been one of my favorite transformations from a pile of leftover junk into a surprisingly nice playing guitar all around and a pretty unique build from the paint to the wiring.

This guitar started out its new life with me as a truly junked-up body, a disassembled neck, and some various screws, a bridge with mismatched saddles, etc.

The body was an abused off-white painted over an EvH Frankenstrat (yup, the same design I painted over it's companion pictured below, although I think I did a much finer job, not that I would even consider bragging...), and the Frankenstrat painted over blue, over black, over the bare wood.  Tone-fiend's nightmare of paint.  I took off some of the paint with sandpaper to flatten out some of the dings and get the surface ready for painting.

Some fence posts screwed into the neck pocket and a wipe-down prep the guitars for painting.

Two wet coats of Rustoleum Enamel white smoothed it over and covered up all the nastiness beautifully, along with using up all the white left over from my Frankenstrat.

A fairly light coat of semi-gloss clear went over this afterwards.  A full can of true gloss clear would have made for a much more professional final finish... but I had to make do, and I'm not terribly picky.  Pretty sure all the clear was sanded back in the smoothing and polishing anyway, it was really only a buffer against sanding through the white.

After waiting almost a week for the paint to cure, I brought it in for work.  Some 400 grit wet sandpaper and a green Scotch Brite pad smoothed it out, but might have been unnecessarily rough and taken off a little too much paint.  800 grit followed by 1200 would probably be ideal

After smoothing and sanding, I found some "headlight restoring compound" - polishing compound, essentially.  Take an old sock or rag with some buffing polish on it, and apply elbow grease.

Because I didn't smooth it out perfectly before, and perhaps also because I didn't have enough paint/clear coat for thick coating, it resulted in a certainly imperfect finish afterwards.  However, this being my first time ever attempting a gloss finish, I'm fairly happy with how it turned out because it is still reflective, and given the sorry shape the body was in before, it's looking much better now.

Test-fitting the parts.  I did need to use the drill as a makeshift router and cleared out a little room in the non-standard body for the last pot; easy fix.

Wiring is always a pain, 'specially with the $10 soldering iron special.  I decided to go for a kinda unique wiring layout here; no switching, no tone, three volume pots.  All three pickups in parallel to each other with pots to control their volume, and diodes afterwards to theoretically allow one-way flow to allow completely shutting off certain pickups without shutting off all others as well.

The wiring is simple in theory.  It's a little trickier when working with solid copper wire from 1970-something.  Once getting it hooked up I had some unusual problems with uneven response from the pots... measuring with a multimeter showed some odd resistance values for the diodes.  I can't say for certain but I think I might have burnt out the diodes a bit while soldering.  Unfortunately I'm no electrical engineer and I can't say whether the design or the components were the problem.  However, I can say that swapping out the diodes for plain wire fixed it up right away (although sacrificing the theorized advantage of the diodes).

After an easy neck shim with a bit of sandpaper and an easy-enough install of all the parts, we have the finished guitar.

Made of:

  • Plywood body, at least four different paintjobs layered atop each other
  • Mystery Peavey neck with maple fretboard, Epiphone tuners
  • Original bridge with mismatched mystery saddles
  • Original input jack, ancient solid copper wires
  • Two Squier Strat pickups, one truly mysterious Strat pickup in the middle

Okay, so the parts sound like crap parts, certainly cheap ones.  Actually, scratch that, the neck is pretty nice and the tuners are decent.  As it turns out, that's where it counts.

Despite being apparently doomed to fail, this Partscaster made from all the scraps and leftovers sounds and plays remarkably well.  The wiring method yields an overall low output, slightly less than one single coil at best; yet the tone quality is quite good.  

I can't wholeheartedly recommend the "three volume" wiring because it's certainly not perfect, but does have its perks.  It's slower to switch than a switch of course, and it's also difficult to dial in "in-between" tones, as the pots tend towards an "on-off" switching, and are very sensitive at certain points.  However, in-between tones are still possible, and settings are at least as versatile as the "seven-way" Strat switching option, which adds "neck+bridge" and "all three" to the traditional five Strat settings.  While not a wiring setup I want on all or even most of my guitars, it is a refreshing change and a perfect fit for this Partscaster.

Ultimately, I couldn't be happier with this guy and I still find it a little unbelievable that a guitar this nice playing and sounding came from purely leftover parts from other builds, especially a Squier Bullet Strat and leftovers from a Frankenstrat.  Leftovers from a guitar specifically made from leftovers.  I couldn't have put more than $50 into this guitar and it's been a truly fun ride, hopefully more builds like this will come along before long as well!

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