Lyndon Jones has a nice Squier partscaster for stage use but it could do with one or two little tweaks to make it perfect. Huw Price takes on the project and shows us how it’s done
3- NEW BRIDGE LOCATION
Fitting a new bridge can bring up all kinds of problems. Inevitably, the screw holes didn’t quite line up, and the new bridge was slightly shorter in length. However, we were able to re-use the centre screw hole at the back of our bridge, so that provided a useful location point.
Matchsticks are ideal for plugging screw holes. We simply coated the ends of some matches with Titebond Original wood glue, gently tapped then into the screw holes and left them overnight. The following morning we snapped off the excess and shaved the top smooth with a Stanley knife blade.
A strip of masking tape was placed under the area of the string holes and the new bridge was held in place with that single screw at the back. Since the original screw holes were only a couple of millimetres out, it was easy to align the new bridge by eye and mark the position of the string holes with a fine-tipped pen.
Here the outer string holes are drilled, and four out of the five original screw holes are filled.
The masking tape is used as an alignment guide4 – FITTING THE STRING FERRULES
This was by far the trickiest part of our project. The difficulty with ferrules is getting them lined up straight with perfectly even spacing between them. You might think that using a quality press drill would be a guarantee of success, but drill bits always have a tendency to wander. Misaligned ferrule holes can be a sure-fire sign of an ill-prepared home build project, but it can happen to the big boys too. Check out some photographs of really early Telecasters… even Fender themselves struggled with it!
Simply drilling through the body from the marks we’d made on the top wasn’t an option because the holes on the back would all end up slightly skewed. Instead, we drilled the two outside string holes using a backing board of scrap wood to prevent chip-out when the drill bit cut through the rear of the body.
We used a 3mm drill bit and set the drill to its slowest setting to try to minimise wander. Without having access to a decent drill press, we used a drill guide that we bought from Axminster Tools. The drill clamps into the guide and it is securely held square to any drilling job. We didn’t press the drill too hard, and when we flipped the body over it turned out that the distance between the two holes was only slightly narrower than the 2 3/16″ we needed.
A strip of masking tape was placed over the holes and a guide line drawn straight along the centre line. The centre point for each ferrule was then marked with 7/16″ between each centre point. A 5/16″ drill bit was required to make the ferrule holes, so we marked out a 5/16″ square around each centre point and shaded the surrounding areas to make the drilling target easy to spot (see picture top left).
Rather than risk using a drill press, we used the drill guide to make a 5/16″ hole in a piece of 18mm plywood (second picture, left). This guide hole was very carefully aligned over each square, then clamped in position. A torch was needed to shine into the guide hole and alignment was re-checked after clamping (third picture, left). With the 5/16″ drill bit in the drill guide we proceeded to drill each ferrule hole. It wasn’t a fast process but we ended up with six perfectly-aligned holes. Take care when removing the masking tape because a brittle poly finish will flake off quite easily.
The ferrule holes were much wider than the string holes, so that allowed for some margin of error. Using the guide, we drilled the four remaining holes with the drill bit marked for a depth slightly less than the thickness of the body. Each hole came through almost dead centre, and we pushed the ferrules into position. Ferrules with a lip are suitable because any untidiness around the edges of the holes will be concealed.
Marking the locations for the ferrule holes with 5/16″ squares
A 5/16″ hole in a piece of 18mm plywood is carefully aligned over the ferrule location to guide the drill bit
The plywood is clamped in position with our drill mounted in a special drill guide that positions the drill dead square
All the ferrule holes ended up in exactly the right places and the fit was so snug we didn’t need any glue to hold them in place