A kit with good neck joint and intonation
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Author:  hawkman [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 8:12 am ]
Post subject:  A kit with good neck joint and intonation

Setting the stage: New here and searching for a kit electric. I’m an acoustic player but have always wanted an electric. My woodworking skills are pretty good although equipment is limited and shop access is poor right now. I can solder to some extent and my do-it-myself-ness is at a high level. Of the three main styles, the LP fascinates me the most, then Tele, followed by Strat. My musical tastes range widely but I’ll want to be able to produce some heavy sound at times (overdrive, distortion, compression, whatever) so I have to determine what I need in pickups.

Question: the neck joint seems fairly important for any stringed instrument. What are the chances that a kit guitar will have a bad-fitting neck joint? Can I expect some makers to produce really well-fitting joints? The same goes for intonation.

Then, if would needs to be removed to make the joint fit better, how much can that affect the intonation - if the wood removal has to occur where the pieces butt up to each other, as opposed to the sides of the joint?

Author:  johnnparchem [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

The electric guitars you mentioned have a neck joint that is different than acoustic guitars. These guitars will bolt on and the neck fits in a pocket in the front. The neck angle can be changed with a paper shim in the neck joint. There are not heal cheeks that will change affecting intonation. Also the electric guitar bridge has intonation adjustments for each individual string. I put together a Saga Les Paul kit and it was easy to go together, really an assembly and finish project. A lot of what your looking for in sound happens outside of the guitar but I choose an EMG Zakk Wylde EMG 81/85 Pickup Set. These allowed a mix between a metal like guitar and a pretty clean sound. The 81 is great for heavy metal and the 85 delivers a nice clean tone.

Author:  Danl8 [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

Finding a good quality kit seems to be an important first step. I would think the neck joint fitting should be easy with most kits. Typically, electric necks are screwed into the body (at least my ES-335 was) and that gives the opportunity to use shims to get the right geometry rather than using chisels, etc. As for intonation, you determine where the bridge is placed or if the posts are pre-drilled in a kit, the bridge itself should have enough adjustment potential to individually adjust string length. My guess is that fretting and finishing could give you the most challenge.

Author:  JLT [ Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

I think that Stewart-McDonald was advertising an electric guitar kit they were selling in limited quantities. You might want to check that out.

Author:  MaineGeezer [ Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

Yes, the StewMac kits looks pretty good.

Author:  hawkman [ Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

Thank you very much. I’ve watched some videos to know that some necks are bolt-on and some are set. One video of a guy assembling a kit showed he had to add shims on each side of the neck nc the pocket was cut too big. Another video showed a guy removing wood from the heel (?) - the butt end of the neck, and I feared that any shortening of the neck may be disastrous towards the intonation.

I just have no experience with that. I know my old, cheapie Yamaha FG goes out of tune when you go up the neck, so I’d rather get the intonation right.

I did not know how some of these bridges work as some of you described, so thanks for pointing that out.

I’ve looked at the Saga LP kit - in fact one is in my Amazon shopping cart right now - along with a Swamp Ash (veneer)Tele kit. No humbuckers in that particular Tele kit, though.

Author:  Mal-2 [ Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: A kit with good neck joint and intonation

Personally, I have seen a lot of videos of people who are pleased with Ammoon Strat-type guitars, both kit and assembled. They're also super cheap (I paid $56 for a kit). You absolutely will want to replace the pickups, and I had to remove a large back bow from the neck on mine (by heating and standing on it), but everything else in the kit is serviceable, including the pots, switch, jack, and bridge. (The tuners are mediocre, but they mostly work.) The included strings should last through the build process (I think they're 9-38 or something similarly ridiculous on the bottom). The neck pocket on mine is actually quite good, but for some reason the rectangular part on the neck extends well past the neck pocket for no apparent reason. I filed mine down into a normal neck profile.

The tremolo bridge is specific to the Strat-style model, and it really only functions properly if allowed to float, or if it is wedged in a slightly relaxed position. Springing it all the way flat caused me problems with the action that I simply could not resolve, but lifting the bridge up about 1.2 mm in the back made it all better. (I still let it bend down, but not up, so that I can switch to Drop D and not have to touch up ALL SIX strings.)

Check YouTube for "Ammoon". They also have Tele and LP and SG style kits, though they generally cost a little more (still under $100 though). I'm not saying they're the best kit, but they're probably the best first kit, if you know what I mean. If you totally bodge the neck, a replacement runs about $25. Chances are, you won't stress out over anything because screwing it up won't cost you that much. It is also rumored that the LP kits are actually Epiphone parts that were rejected -- which could be bad if they're unfixable, or great otherwise.

The only soldering required on a kit like this is to attach the ground wire to the tremolo bridge (if applicable), and the two wires to the jack. Everything else comes wired up and mounted on the pick guard. Of course, if you change the pickups, you'll have to solder those in as well.

As for equally affordable pickups that don't suck, look for "Hot Rails" single-size humbuckers. You can get a set of three for about $25, and they are aptly named -- they are "hot". They also have coil taps, but they're not usable. As single coils, they suck as bad as the kit pickups. Just use them as humbuckers and you'll be happy.

Although setup, neck adjustments, and fret work are all equally as difficult on an electric as on an acoustic, everything else about an electric kit is Easy Mode compared to an acoustic. No glue (on most of them), and being able to set your intonation after assembly rather than having to get the bridge perfect to a fraction of a millimeter is almost a "get out of jail free" card.

Aside from the bowed neck, which (judging by other reviews) seems to be the exception rather than the rule, my only knock on the Ammoon kit would be that the body looks like what it is, four strips of lumber glued together and then planed. It is not at all pretty wood, and would be best served with an opaque paint job rather than a sunburst or something like that. (I used a finish that shows the grain anyhow.)

Right now, I'm suffering with a missing (broken) high E string, and therefore can't finish setting up the action, but I installed two Hot Rails pickups today and they sound reasonably good. The included pickup that remains is almost more hum than tone, and it's only there until the third pickup (which is a different color scheme and thus got shipped separately) arrives. They are rather microphonic, to the point where if I inadvertently tap a live pickup with my pick, it produces a very audible thunk from the amplifier, but they have that warm humbucker tone.

Here's a review of the fully assembled version, and he reaches the exact same conclusion I did, that new pickups are absolutely necessary. He even bought and installed the same kind for his follow-up video! (I guess there aren't too many worthy competitors at $8 per pickup.)

If you shorten a neck, you can compensate by moving the bridge back toward the tail the same amount (or just the saddles in the bridge, if the difference is small enough) and nobody will be the wiser. The pickups will be in very slightly different places (harmonically) on the string, but if we're only talking a couple millimeters of difference, it shouldn't be significant. Besides, pickup locations are only valid relative to open strings anyhow.

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