Black Korina Tele Warmoth Build - 2012

This is a description of a Warmoth guitar build I worked on from November to December 2012.  I initially called it my "Cali Warmoth" since I built this guitar during my one year living in San Francisco.  Here are project specs:

  • Chambered Telecaster Body, Black Korina on Black Korina
  • Tummy Cut, Contoured Heel, Forearm Contour
  • Mahogany Warmoth Pro Neck, Ebony Fretboard
  • Schaller Golden 50 Pickups, volume with push-pull coiltap, 3-way switch
  • Vintage Schaller West Germany Machine Heads
  • Schaller 456 Fine-Tuning Hardtail
  • R2 Floyd Rose Locking Nut
  • Birchwood Casey Sealer, Tru-Oil, and Wax

Day 1

The body and neck have arrived!

Nice bod!


The ebony is nice and dark.

The mahogany will need a little fine sanding. The "standard thin" Warmoth profile is actually pretty damn thin. I hope I like it!

The body. What surprised me is that Black Korina is actually pretty dense and pretty heavy, even chambered.

Back view.

Pocket and heel view. The heel is contoured so there's a warning to use shorter neck mounting screws.

Dress Rehearsal 1.

Day 2

In all fairness, you could play the neck as is; the fret ends aren't really sharp. I like to bevel my frets more and roll fret edges.
I use a handy beveling file from Stew-Mac and a Dremel with a steel wool disk attachment.

Workin' it..

A view of the rolled fretboard.

Steel wool to smooth out the neck prior to painting.

Day 3

Marking the body to drill out the hole for the LP-style switch. I am trying a Brad Point Drill Bit which supposedly results in a clean entry hole.

Using my trusty Dremel to thin out the electronics cavity for the switch and potentiometer.

Alfie lending a paw!

Dress rehearsal 2.

Day 4

Marking the locking nut mounting holes.

Measuring neck thickness to ensure I don't drill through.

Drilling nut mounting holes. In general, I only used hand tools for small jobs like this.  This Stanley "Egg Beater" drill is excellent.  

Fitting tuners; this Wiha driver is a great addition for any guitarist or luthier.  

Aligning tuners.

..and marking the mounting holes

Let's drill!

Mounting holes done. In all, I wanted to drill things out prior to painting.

Screw this! My wife laughed at me for buying 8 pounds of mixed screws from a guitar store going out of business.
Sorting took days, but now I won't need to buy guitar screws for awhile. There's a second level in there too.

Masking off the board and truss openings prior to painting.

Making a harness for manipulating and hanging the neck.

Ready for the first sealer/filler coat! Mahogany is super porous and I will need to use a few sealer coats.

View after the first sealer coat application. In all, a very productive day.

Day 5

I am using a set of NOS Schaller Golden 50 Humbuckers; the bridge is about 10 years newer than the neck.
On a pursuit of magic tone!

I experienced a delay and some frustration trying to thread the neck pickup wire through the pre-drilled channel.
I finally attached a piece of hard wire (orange) which I used as a guide to pull the cable through.

Dress rehearsal 3.

Measuring / marking pickup mounting holes.

Drilling initial holes. Plastic baggies keep my hardware and pickups free of sawdust.

Holes are drilled; almost perfect, but no cigar. I didn't remember to start the drill in reverse for one of the holes.

Dress rehearsal 4.

Mounted my electrosocket input jack. Drilling the mounting holes at a slant was actually kind of hard.
I like the jack, but may opt for a square one down the line.

Parallel workstream--using steel wool on the neck prior to sealer/filler coat 2.

Applying the second coat of sealer / filler. I've only worked with maple necks before--and boy, does mahogany drink a lot!
The neck is nice and actually has some flame to it. More to come!

Day 6

Quick job today--finalize the wiring diagram and measure the resistance of each pickup. All my tools are in order,
but the only beer on hand is Hefeweizen..not my favorite.

Stripping the pickup wire...I recommend an automatic wire stripper like this one. Insert joke here.

Measuring impedance of the bridge hum. 8.12kOhm, not very hot--I hope I dig it!

...and the neck. I was happy to see that the neck is a bit weaker.  The balance between the pickups will be good!

The master plan, for another day. Incidentally, Schaller had changed their wiring method and wire coloring codes in the 90s:
"New" Schaller:
Yellow: Hot
Green/Bare: Ground
White/Brown: Tap

"Old" Schaller:
Yellow/Brown: Hot
Green/White/Bare: Ground

Day 7

Let's wire!

First pass at wiring the harness before the pickup leads are soldered to the terminals of the switch.
I am using a heat sink from Radio Shack to prevent burning out the switch.

Wiring is largely complete, before the assembly is placed back inside the guitar.

View of the guitar's wiring. I used wire ties to keep the cables neat. In all, a clean job.

I used copper tape from Stewmac to shield the cavity cover; Aluminum or copper insulation sticky tape from a good
hardware store works as well. The masterpiece is signed.

Got the electronics cavity cover on. The body is complete!

Day 8

Went over the neck with 000 Steel Wool again. The sealer has filled imperfections nicely; the neck is starting to feel like glass.

Now it's time for a series of Birchwood Casey Oil-and-Wax treatments. The recommended approach is to leave the Tru-Oil
on for 5 minutes, and then use the Wax. There is real bees' wax in there and it comes out the consistency and color of honey.

The view after one coat of Tru-Oil and Wax. I will repeat this several times, Steel Wool between coats.

Days 9-10

More of the steel wool and oil-and-wax treatment. The neck is feeling great.

Applying the last coat! I will let it cure for a few days before using steel wool one last time.

Day 11

Cleaning up excess oil and wax with steel wool. The neck feels amazing and totally smooth now.

Removing masking tape residue with this Rockinger fretboard oil. It's petroleum based and smells a lot like naphtha.

All cleaned up!

Getting the tuners on, this is one of the most satisfying parts of the project.

Schaller machine heads are on.

Getting the Floyd Rose nut mounted..

Marking just one side, with wires used as rough guides; I will measure and draw a straight line for mounting the other side.

Measuring the head thickness and drilling..careful, the right side is thinner!

Mounting one side of the string retainer.  


String retainer is on!

Got the foil Warmoth logo on. Unfortunately little "Made in the USA" letters didn't stick. I will revisit my method in future projects.

Finally--the neck and the body are joined. I will get a fancier neckplate on here shortly.


Day 12

The guitar has been strung! First impressions are that it sounds great unplugged, sonorous and full. Distorted, it has a nice tone and
harmonics--and a growl that cuts through the mix nicely. I like it!

Now it's time to work with a tuner to adjust intonation on the Schaller 456 bridge.

I have tightened the Floyd Rose locking nut. I am not 100% happy with the string retainer placement, lessons learned
for the next project.

Day 13

About a week later, I took the neck off to make some truss rod adjustments--and to install this custom neck plate with gasket.
The project is done!

Back view.

A view of the guitar--now completed. It sounds, plays, and looks great. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey!

Update: 2014

I have been thoroughly enjoying this guitar, but never bonded with the Schaller Golden 50 in the bridge position here-maybe due to the tonal qualities of koa.
After doing some research, I replaced the bridge pickup with a Seymour Duncan P-Rails, as well as the Duncan Triple Shot Pickup ring.
Check out the little switches in the pickup ring, which allow me to go from series to parallel, as well as turn each coil on/off.

A current view--I am very happy with the Duncan P-Rails and the switching options available with the Triple Shot pickup ring.
Now this guitar kills on both clean and distorted channels!

Last addition: I had a custom neckplate made by Doug's Customs to immortalize my pal Alfie on the guitar.
Now the project is truly complete!

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