‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Guitar Building, Strandberg Style Headless Guitar Kit

After my first go at making a guitar, which was the Telecaster style, from Pitbull Guitars, here in Perth, I couldn’t resist having another go and I wanted to try something that I didn’t own. I was interested in the headless guitar, as it is such an unusual style and was originally ergonomically made to fit into the lap whilst played.

Early stage of wipe-on poly finish

I chose a cheap Chinese-made kit from Muslady Guitars. The reality is that almost all guitar kits are made in China, but the cost and quality can vary a great deal. The kit contained everything necessary, apart from detailed instructions, particularly regarding the wiring. The neck was maple and the basswood body had a flame maple veneer.

After my first venture into this hobby, I felt I wanted to experiment with the stain finish to the front and I had seen examples using Angelus leather dyes. The guitar required considerable sanding, but great care had to be taken with the very thin veneer. It would be easy to sand through the surface. When this was done, I masking-taped the binding and edge and then applied a black dye. I was a bit alarmed at first, as it was so dark. I allowed it to dry and then sanded it back to reveal the black ribs of the flame maple. I then applied a red dye, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t create the effect I wanted, but I gave it a second coat and a light sanding. The next stage was to apply the wipe-on poly. I have found the wipe-on poly to work well, but it requires patience and about forty or fifty coats, several sandings with wet-and-dry paper to get the best finish. I am in no rush nowadays and I find it quite relaxing.

The Headless Guitar Neck

The neck I sanded, masked the fret board and then again applied coats of wipe-on poly. After about six weeks or so, the guitar was looking quite impressive. The surface looked like enamel and I had left the body plain with the poly finish. Any stain that got on the binding had to be scraped off with a knife blade, but it is easy to do.

The neck was a bolt-on and is easy to fix, but care has to be taken with the drilling for the screws. The bridge was a bit of a mystery, though. Due to the lack of instructions, I searched the internet for an explanation of how to dismantle the bridge, an Overlord of Music bridge, which was not too forthcoming. Eventually, I discovered how to disassemble it so that I could fix the mounding bracket onto the guitar. There is not a lot of room to position the bridge, but care has to be taken to ensure it is in line with the fret board. The way to do this is to attach the head on the top of the neck and string both E strings to check they line up. This can be done loosely, without the bridge being screwed in, to ensure they are straight.

When this was done, the guitar was taking shape, and I was quite pleased. The next stage was what concerned me. The wiring of the pickups and switches I thought would be challenging without a wiring guide. I searched everywhere for a plan for two humbucker pickups, a tone, volume control and a three-way switch. I couldn’t find one that really helped, but I attempted to make the wiring connections. The Muslady website was of no use and it was very frustrating when I couldn’t get it to work. Finally, I gave up and ordered a pre-wired set up. This cost about twenty-two Australian dollars, about ten pounds sterling. Two weeks later it arrived and now I only had to wire the pickups to the switch and an earth wire to the bridge.

This didn’t sound too bad, but there was no pre-drilled hole to the bridge so I had to do that myself, which was no issue, and I had read that the paint needed to be scraped off where the earth wire connected to the bridge. I soldered on the wires and it was time to test if it worked. I couldn’t believe it when the pickups worked, the switch, volume and tone switches worked. There was no earth hum, and I was delighted and relieved.

The Finished Guitar

I screwed in the jack socket and the fixing plate, which had to be bent to shape as it was convex and needed to be concave. This was easy, as the metal was quite pliant.

I had decided to oil the fret board with Tung Oil and that was straightforward, but took a bit of time to cure. When completed, I strung the guitar with the strings provided. This was a mistake, as after playing for half an hour, the fret board was going black with dirt off the strings. Off came the strings, and I had to sand down the fret board stains. Several coats of Tung Oil, a new set of quality strings, and I was back in action.

The guitar has a wonderful low action and, despite what I had read, it is easy to tune. I have the bridge locked and don’t use the wammy-bar as I can’t see how it will stay in tune, but maybe I will try that. Muslady produces a range of kits at good prices. I believe mine was about 80 pounds, 177 Australian dollars. If you enjoy a bit of woodworking, then this is well worth a try, and I seem hooked and am well into my next semi-hollow bodied Les Paul style guitar. Each project takes about four to five months and so far the quality has been pretty good. The quality of the electronics and pickups I am sure could be better, but if this is an issue, then parts can be bought to replace the kit ones.

My latest novel which is a thriller. Set in the south of Spain it is a fast-paced read.

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