Installing Grover Tuning Machines and Finishing the 7-String LED Guitar Neck

It’s final assembly time for the LED 7-String guitar!  In this first part of final assembly, I’m going to finish off the guitar neck.  To do this, I need to do three things:

  • Install the Grover Tuners
  • Install the Floyd Rose locking nut
  • Install the Floyd Rose string angle guide bar
Let’s get to it!
Here’s the guitar body and neck, just waiting to be assembled.  I started with the neck, as that would be the more straightforward of the two to assemble.  The body is going to need a LOT of wiring, mounting of things, measuring and drilling.
The first thing is to make sure that the tuning machine post holes are thoroughly cleaned of any lacquer buildup.  In the picture above, you can see the rough edges around the post holes.  I simply used a rat tail file  to gently work the holes back to their proper diameter.
 Once the holes were cleaned of excess nitrocellulose lacquer buildup, I gently worked each of the Grover Tuning machines in place and gave them a rough alignment.
Using a straightedge, parallel to the top of the guitar headstock, I aligned each of the tuners.  As you can see, the flat bottom of the Grover tuners made this pretty easy to do.
To secure the tuners from the back, and to stop them from rotating out of alignment, each one had to be screwed in with these tiny little screws.
In the final assembly phase, it is VERY important to pre-drill your holes.  Doing this will prevent you from causing any cracks in the wood or the lacquer surface.  Since I didn’t want to drill to deeply, I measured the depth of the screw with a caliper, and marked the end of the drill bit with a piece of tape.  This would give me a good visual cue to not drill too deeply.
Once the tuners were drilled and screwed in, I put the nut and sleeve screw on each post on the face and tightened easily.  If you tighten these to much, you run the risk of cracking the lacquer on the face of the headstock; too little and your tuners will wobble.
This is one of the things I’ve been most excited about, a 7-String Floyd Rose guitar tremolo system!  I’ve never owned a guitar with a Floyd Rose Tremolo setup, nor have I owned a 7-String guitar.  Soon I’ll have the two, combined into one!
Installing the Floyd Rose locking nut was a snap.  Just two screws and two washers.
Next up, I needed to install the string guide bar.  To do this, I laid the bar in position, making sure the screw holes didn’t interfere with the run of the strings.  Once I had this in place, and using a very technical specialized clamp (my hand), I drilled the two post holes.
 The grand unveil!  Here are the two post holes!
And last but not least, I’ve got the string guide bar in place.  Consider the neck finished!

Drilling Holes in the Guitar Neck

So this was the part that I was very much not looking forward to.  This is the first neck in which I will be drilling fresh mounting holes, and I sure didn’t want to mess it up!  As it turns out, it was a lot easier than I had anticipated!

This body features an “easy access” heel.  This means that the outermost edge actually slopes down, toward the guitar neck.  In the picture above, you can see the slope.  Because of this, I could use full length mounting screws in the back, but needed to use shorter screws in the front so as not to pierce the fingerboard.  In order to test the length, and take accurate depth measurements, I installed the neckplate, and put the screws in.  What I didn’t show, was that I put the neck in place, secured it with a clamp, and lightly tapped the screws into the neck to mark my drilling locations.
 Next up, I set the depth measurement on my drill press.  After that, I put my neck, next to the drill bit and extended the arm fully.  This was to ensure that I didn’t drill too deeply.

Next up, drilling the actual holes.  This part was easy, as I had already marked the neck positions, and set my drill press depth.  I took my time, lined up each screw marker, and carefully drilled the hole.  Note – If you are using a handheld drill, it is important to make sure to drill as vertical a hole as possible.  You don’t want your holes wandering off to the side! 

So after all that worrying, I now have four, perfectly aligned drill holes!  Note, the picture above makes the top left hole look out of place, but that must be just the angle of the photo.  The holes line up very well!  One note though.  I would have drilled these holes before finishing the body and neck so there was less chance of damaging the finish, but I didn’t have a drill press at the time.  I knew I would be getting one, so I held off drilling until I knew I could do it accurately.

Sanding and Polishing the LED Guitar Body

It’s been about four weeks since the last time I sprayed lacquer, so the body and neck of the LED Guitar should be fully cured.  It is important to wait a good amount of time, of else wet sanding will do nothing but mar and gouge the soft finish.  One way to judge if the body is dry, is to smell it.  Over the course of a few weeks, you will begin to notice the smell of lacquer disappearing from your guitar body.  This means that the volatile compounds are evaporating, and the finish is hardening.

I’ll save you the dull action shots of my wet sanding the body, but I’ll give you a quick rundown.  I leveled the surface of both the guitar body, and neck, with 500 grit sandpaper.  This was by far the most time consuming  part of the finishing process.  The goal is to sand, until the surface is completely even, and no shiny spots are left.  A few notes on this process:

  • If your sandpaper starts to feel like grits of “sand” are scratching around while sanding, stop and rinse your sandpaper.  These hardened bits of residue can actually scratch your finish more than you had intended.  
  • Be careful when sanding the edges of the guitar body.  Due to the nature of the spraying process, the lacquer is actually thinnest and so it is very easy to sand through the finish.  
  • When you are sanding, work in opposite directions for varying degrees of paper.  This will help you to see if you are removing the sanding marks from the previous paper.
  • I used the following levels of sandpaper: 500, 800, 1000, 1500 and 2500.  This works for me, but I encourage you to experiment and develop a technique that suits you best.
Here’s a shot of the finished guitar body!  It took me four months to get to this point. Hopefully the next one will only one or two if I don’t make the same rookie mistakes. 

Here’s another angle, and you can see the top of the headstock.  I neglected to take pictures of the finished neck, so I’ll have to post those later. 

 I don’t have an expensive buffing arbor, so I used these drill mounted foam pads from Stewmac.  They come in varying sizes to make it easier to get into the guitar’s tight spots.
 Here’s a larger foam pad that makes buffing the guitar body faces much easier.
I started with Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound.  This removed almost all of the scratches from the sanding process.
I then used Meguiar’s Swirl Remover to give it a more professional shine.  Lastly, I used Meguiar’s Show Car Glaze, to brighten and protect the surface.  I’ll add a picture later.