Note from GuitarAttack:  This is a great story.  Pay particular attention to the guidance about drilling ferrule holes on the back of the guitar!

From Maciej Wieckowski

A SAGA T-Style Saga

I find your website pretty cool and I got some really good hints from other people who went through Saga guitar kit builds, so I decided to share my experience too. Also I attached some fair resolution photos to this email, feel free to post them on the website if you like. Here we go:

This was my first guitar build. It took me some time to get started on it - about six months of reading resources on the web. I also read "Make your own electric guitar" by Melvyn Hiscock which is a great intro into guitar building. Another book that I went through was "Guitar Player Repair Guide" by Dan Erelwine - it has a lot of really great hints on pretty much anything regarding guitar repair and maintenance.

When it comes to the build itself, I wanted to build a quality instrument, yet I didn't want to spend too much on the body / neck for starters as I had absolutely no previous woodwork / guitar building experience. After the kit arrived I put it together and tried playing it a bit. Unfortunately the quality of most of the components and the neck was really bad. The tuning machine heads didn't fit with the metal casings on, the neck slot was super uneven, I will not even mention the frets.

I wanted to build a nice sounding instrument, so I ordered some original Fender components that I could reuse in case the build turned out to be a disaster. I went for Texas Special pickups, fender neck plate and vintage fender tuners. I chose the vintage tuners as they covered all but one hole left by the mounting screws of "original" Saga tuners.

As I wanted a "real feel" Telecaster, I drilled through the body. As a warning - I wouldn't approach drilling through the body with a hand drill, without the drill press. I had access to a small milling machine which enabled me to do some precision drilling. I know there are some guys out there that have some hand drill "hacks" for drilling through the body, but I wasn't brave enough.

After drilling through the body and doing a good bit of work on the neck slot, I sanded the body with a 300 grit sandpaper to prepare the sealer for the first coat of white primer. I decided to go with the original Saga sealer even though a lot of people complained about it. I can't stress enough, if you want a good finish, you really need to prepare the base (sealer) to perfection. Any dents or bumps will be nearly impossible to work out at a later stage. There was a tiny dent on the front of the body that I didn't take care off and it is still visible after completely finishing the paint work.

After putting a few coats of primer, I covered the body with 4 coats of nitro lake blue placid. After putting every coat I was checking for any imperfections or runs that I neatly sanded down. I finished the body off with several coats of clear nitro. The body was left for 4 weeks before sanding.

As I mentioned before, the fretboard and frets were in a pretty dire condition. The fretboard was uneven and covered with some sort of orange sealer. I evened it out and cleaned it with steel wool. I then polished it with the finest grade still wool. The result was more then satisfactory. I leveled the frets with a fret leveling file and crowned them with a fret crowning tool. To make sure that all the frets were leveled, I painted them with a black marker and made sure I filed all the markings down. Also I applied a little bit more pressure over 12th fret as this allowed for a lower action. I then polished the frets with a fine grade steel wool. The result - a really nice low action.

The headstock is Telecaster like. I cut it out using a copying saw and some files. I finished it off with 200 and then 400 grit sandpaper. The original holes for the tuners were too small - I enlarged them using precision files.

I finished the neck in satin nitro. After applying several coats I left it alone for a few weeks, allowing the lacquer to harden.

When finishing the body, I used 600 grit wet and dry sandpaper. To prevent it from clogging I used plenty of soapy water too. It is very important to sand down all the high/low spots (the whole surface should be completely matte) before proceeding with the polishing. I did the same thing with the neck. To achieve a nice satin/matte finish at the back of the neck I simply didn't polish it. I only polished the sides of the rosewood fretboard and the front of the headstock. I polished the body of the guitar with medium and then fine polishing compound.

I insulated the pickup cavities with copper foil. I also applied it to the pickguard. I grounded it to the bridge. The effect is really good, there is only a minimal hum on the overdrive channel. I have a nice quality PRS SE with single coils and it makes 3 times more noise than my Telecaster.

I decided to leave the original bridge, but I upgraded the saddles with those from the Graphtech supercharger kit. The pots were replaced with CTS ones. I also replaced the switch and cabling.

All in all, I am fairly happy with my first build. I am already thinking about another one, this time a Les Paul.

Greetings from Ireland for all the amateur luthiers out there, and happy building.

Great job, Maciej -- Keep on building and send us more photos!


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