• Stewart Turner

DeepSet 1 Build Story

I started this project in about 1999.

I bought a block of wood (padouk) and a lot of the hardware, and designed the circuit.

I put the project on hold when i got to the bit where the block of wood needed to become guitar-shaped. I didn't have the equipment and wasn't going to buy it for a one-off task. Not long after that, children came along and the project went on hold for a while...

In early 2021 I came into contact with a bona fide carpenter and he offered to cut the wood and rout the neck socket and pickup holes for me.

My original circuit design has some pointless elements and it turns out that it didn't work anyway, so I redesigned it and built a circuit which allows each of two humbuckers to be on or off (push/pull pot). Each pickup can have its two coils in series or parallel and there is a phase reverse switch on one. It's a passive circuit but has an independent lighting circuit with 3 bi-colour LEDs to indicate pickup selection, state and the phase. I built the circuit on an old guitar mock-up and it worked well.

I started to sand down the wood of the body, and my goodness, what a beautiful piece of wood I have been seasoning for the past 20 years!

I decided to buy a high quality pre-made neck for simplicity. Supply was quite short but I eventually found a roast maple telecaster-style neck with rosewood fingerboard from GuitarAnatomy. I wanted it to have truss rod adjustment at the headstock end, which limited the range, and many places were sold out - COVID lockdown pushing forward all those guitar build projects?! It looks really good, frets are level and true, edges nicely finished. The maple looks good and the rosewood fingerboard could almost be ebony it's so dark. I have added a set of Gotoh locking tuners and it looks very cool!

Here's a picture of it in dry fit stage:

Next job was to reduce the height of the bone nut. After the dry fit I realised that teh set-up would only be as good as I wanted it to be if I reduce the height of the nut. Carefully breaking the bond between the nut and the neck meant that I could file the underside and lower it significantly. Here's the before and after:

Next was the scary process of drilling and chiselling the inside of the cavity to be thin enough for the controls to reach through. Fortunately no disasters!

I absolutely love the colour of the padouk body, and didn't want to use a finish that will alter it too much. After much research I decided to use Osmo PolyX gloss hard wax oil. It's designed for wood flooring so should be pretty hard wearing.

Before applying that, I needed to get the finish as smooth as I could. I sanded the body through the grades. An enormous amount of red dust and a lot of elbow grease later, it's looking great. I started it off with my belt sander to get the curves right, then moved onto hand sanding from 80 grade, then 180, 280, 360, 400, 600, 800, 1000. Then I gave it a wetting down with a cloth and once dry, started with the 1000 and through a set of sanding cloths I have had in store for many years. They go from 1500 to 12000 in about 8 steps. Definitely overkill, but it felt amazingly smooth at the end!

So then I start applying 2 coats a day of Osmo PolyX hard wax oil. It's great stuff, the colours have popped very nicely and the finish looked amazing from the first coat. The picture below was 4 coats in...

By the time I declared it finished, I had applied 14 coats, with a little light sanding every few coats. The end result was very pleasing!

I declared the finish finished and started putting it back together. The neck alignment needed a tweak so I carefully filed a bit of the side of the neck pocket. Slipped with the file and put a dirty big scratch across the front face of the guitar!!!


Too upsetting to photograph.

So, took it all apart again, sanded out the scratch and started layering up the finish again. Where I had sanded along the scratch there was a bit of a dip, which I filled with the Osmo stuff and let it pool. A day later gave it a light sanding and a couple more thin coats and the finish was restored. CAREFULLY sanded a bit of the neck pocket and widened the holes in the body for neck screws. Good alignment achieved. Phew!

Next step was to shield the cavities. The electrical signals in a guitar are tiny little voltage fluctuations, and can suffer interference from other electronics, even lights. Humbucker pickups like this are less susceptible than single coils but I wanted to make it as good as possible, so I shielded everything. In any case, copper foil looks great!

Then I attached all the controls and put the guitar back together.

Unlike some builders I have never been too fazed by the challenge of electronics and soldering. I did electronics at school as a separate subject and have always enjoyed soldering, so I enjoyed designing the complex circuit that this guitar uses. It has a separate circuit for the lighting, which i think looks great!

My very old cheap soldering iron gave up part way through so had to nip out for a new one. It's not quite as neat and tidy as I had imagined, but pretty good. The main thing is that I was methodical enough that it worked first time.

After that, it was just a case of setting up neck reliefe, string height, intonation etc. Pickup height took a little while to get right - the out of phase option sounds best when the level from both pickups is well matched.

I made this table to describe the different switching options. There are 13 options if you include both pickups off (which is pleasingly silent!). I haven't used a split coil option - my original design had 2 more switches and lights for that (20 more configuration options!). I concluded a split coil would sound close to the parallel configuration so ditched that idea.

The top and bottom switches turn each pickup between being wired in series or parallel. Series is a classic humbucker sound, and series sounds more like a single coil pickup. The LEDs next to the switches are red or green depending on the choice. The middle switch flips the phase of the bridge pickup so you get a phase cancelling effect when both pickups are on. Again the LED shows the state of the phase.

The pickups are selected by push/pull pots on the volume, which switches the LEDs on or off too.

And the result? Easily as playable as my Fender Baja Telecaster, or even my Parker P36 (not quite as low action as my Yamaha RGZ Custom, but that's a bit of a different beast with through-neck etc). Despite weighing about the same as a Les Paul, it has a definite tele "twang". The bridge pickup being so close to the bridge ensures that!

I hope you like it.

See the gallery images here.

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