Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beginning Pictures

By popular request, here are some pictures of my guitar before any work has been done. Click on the pictures to see a bigger version in Picasa. First off, here's a generic shot of the front:

And the back (this one's a bit dark, but you get the point):

Here's a close up of the front. You get a better look at the "glorious" paint job this way. Also, you see the problem I'll have with the neck pickup. The route on the guitar is the same width as the pickup itself. Most replacement pickups have a little "lip" in the side, requiring a slightly triangle-shaped route. Hopefully I'll find a pickup that I like without that lip so I don't have to get it routed.

And last, but certainly not least, a shot of the loverly rewiring job that was done. Note that the leads were not unsoldered and then resoldered. The leads themselves were cut and the ends twisted together and covered with electrical tape. Please, for the love of God and all that's holy, never rewire a guitar this way.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Second Opinion

I took my Model 7 to a local guitar shoppe tonight. Besides fixing the short so I can noodle with it while I wait to order new parts, I also had the tech check the neck (ooh, the alliteration!). He said that I have a couple of high frets, but the neck is not twisted. That's a load off my mind. I really didn't want to have to deal with that. The frets might be able to be tapped down or, failing that, a little fret dressing should take care of it. Good news.

I also went to ye olde Radio Shack and picked up a soldering iron with a station, some 60/40 rosin-core solder, and a solder wick. I think I'm going to start first with the push-pull pot for the Donahue mod and a new four-way switch. That way I can test out my soldering skills before ripping the rest of it out. I may try rewiring everything properly instead of having just a bunch of wires twisted together.

I'll at least have to have a pretty good idea if I'm getting single coil or humbucking pickups for this before I order the new pot. I'll need to figure out if I want a 250K or 500K one.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

All About the Charvel Model 7

The Charvel Model 7s were only made for a few years in the end of the 80s (1986-1988, I think). I believe that mine is from 1988. Here's the specs:

  • Made in: Japan
  • Serial #: 313180
  • Bridge Pickup: J120 Jackson USA Telly Single Coil (originally), the previous owner replaced it with what I believe to be an OBL humbucker
  • Neck Pickup: J100S Jackson USA Single Coil
  • Body: Basswood (sunburst finishes were Ash)
  • Color: Hot pink (originally), now blue
  • Neck: Bolt-on maple with a reversed headstock
  • Fretboard: Maple (12"-14" compound radius. The 1988 catalog says 12"-16" but the Model 7's neck doesn't get that flat at the 22nd fret)
  • Bridge: Black Gotoh Telly Bridge
  • Nut: Black plastic (originally), replaced with a bone nut at the String Instrument Workshop in Green Bay, WI
  • Tuners: Jackson die cast

Some people consider them to be collectible because they are relatively rare and I believe that they were the only guitars in the Charvel Model series to have a reverse-swept headstock with a maple fretboard. Charvel made a similar guitar starting in 1989 called the "Legend." As far as I can tell the only difference between the two guitars is that the Model 7 has the guitar-shaped Charvel logo whereas the Legend has the "toothpaste" logo with Charvel spelled in big cursive letters.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Part 1: The Beginning

This blog is going to document my trials and travails upgrading (and hopefully improving) my Charvel Model 7 Telecaster-style guitar. Back in the summer of 2000 I decided to finally learn to play electric guitar. In grade school I had taken acoustic lessons (because my parents wouldn't let me have an electric). Sadly my acoustic was cheap and was like trying to play a cheese slicer. I quickly gave it up. In high school I took up bass. Now was the time for the noise I wanted to make all along.

Whilst on vacation in Saginaw, MI, I purchased this Charvel. I was drawn to it by the pointy headstock which reminded me of my misspent youth. If only I had known anything about guitars, I wouldn't have bought it. The nut needed to be replaced. I had a local luthier take care of that. It now has a nice bone nut. The guitar was originally hot pink but was crudely repainted blue. The neck has a slight twist near the third fret which adds some buzz and a difficulty getting perfect intonation. The bridge pickup was crudely replaced with what I believe is an OBL rails-style humbucker. It was wired incorrectly so in the middle position, the pickups are out-of-phase with each other. Oh yeah, the switch was installed backwards too. Beyond that it was perfectly alright. Thankfully, the guitar didn't cost me much. I believe I only paid $125 for it. By way of comparison, Model 7s in good condition will bring in $400 or more on eBay these days.

My goals are these (in order of importance)

  1. Completely replace all electronics and install new pickups. I'm looking to install a Fender four-way switch an a Jerry Donahue mod.
  2. Strip the finish and repaint it. I'm either going to go with blue or red. I haven't fully decided.
  3. If necessary, replace the neck. I'd like to keep the reverse-swept pointy headstock. This could be the most expensive part of all. A new neck will likely cost me at least $200. (Update! As of my post on February 27 I won't have to do this. See that post for the details.)

My goal is that, by the time I am done, I'll have a unique guitar that is just the way I like it. The only things that will be original by the end of the process will be the body and the bridge. Along the way, I'll learn a lot about wiring, refinishing, and other guitar-related tasks. I've done some soldering in the past, but it's been a long time. I have no time-frame for all of this. I'll be doing it as both time and money allow. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do and learn from both my successes and my mistakes.