No pickguard?

I notice that many of your finished instruments do not have the large pick guards covering the top as they would if they were "factory".  So appealing, but there are very few pictures of the backs of those guitars.  Do you make custom routed control cavities and covers for all of these?

Yep! As more guitars are built, you'll see that my influences are more from the Charvel/Jackson era than before. Definitely more bodies are rear-routed than not. I do make my own control cavity covers, for sure. I'll be sure to post more pictures!



Foist of all, yer videos are entertaining and educational...although you should drink a better beer. :)

Moving on, while I have not seen ALL of your shows, I "think" I saw one where you said that you don't do your own electronics.  (and I don't blame you!) What I want is ONE (1) "Fender type" Jazz Pickup and an output jack!

That's it! No Volume control! No Tone control! Not two pickups....ONE! One Pickup, going full HOT to the  output jack! Nobody seems to accomodate what I desire as far as ONE cheap Jazz PU, let alone tells me how to wire ONE directly to the jack.

I KNOW it has to be rather simple, and I know VERY little about electronics. What I desire is to use a " Fender JAZZ" NECK" P/U and route the cavity at an angle to make the E string more towards the bridge, and the G more towards the neck. Again.. NO TONE OR VOLUME CONTROLS!  Just an output jack....and a ground.


First things first....Guinness is damn tasty. I'll hear nothing to the contrary!

I do my own wiring, but I did have a friend help with the P-Rails/Piezo setup on an LP that I rehabbed. The wiring you're describing in theory is super easy; wire the hot output from the pickup to the output jack's hot terminal, and wire the pickup's ground wire to the ground terminal on the jack. Easy peasy. The only issue is making sure you got enough lead wire from the pickup. Worst case scenario, you extend the wires a bit.

Z-Poxy and color

Your videos are great and often just in time.  I caught the one on grain filling and your use of the Z- Poxy.  Now I have some of my own, but before I use it would like to know if this will still allow me to  wipe on alcohol based aniline dye over the filled wood ?  ...or do I have to spray with the dye in the clear ?  I have a pile of 5A quilt maple that I really want to do the black thing, sand off, then go over with the yellow or amber, etc. before I burst the edges.  Will the Z-poxy block this plan ?   Tell me your secrets, oh great one. The veneer vacuum is on its way and life is so short !  ;)

Once applied, the Z-poxy is essentially a thin veneer, so you'll need to spray over it with the dye in your clear. That said, keep in mind that you don't need to grain fill maple; I'm reading your question with the thought that you plan to put Z-Poxy over your maple top. There's no need for that; maple's grain is tight and not porous like Ash, Mahogany, Walnut, etc. 



Pore filling Walnut?

I've recently embarked on my own guitar project and all is going well so far, however I'm a little confused about the whole grain filling and clear coat process.
I have applied a Walnut veneer to the top of the body, but does this now need to be filled?


 Yep. Walnut has open pores in the grain, much like mahogany (and ash, and Spanish cedar). There are tons of things you can use for pore filling, but I’m a fan of Z-Poxy resin. You can get it here.

How do I get started?

I am a 14 year old boy and i just fell in love with the idea of starting to build guitars. I was wondering if you had any advice for me, and I was wondering if I were going to build guitars where I would get the supplies to do it.

Now this is a message that makes ol’ Sully proud! Reminds me very much of myself at that age; I got a Les Paul kit for Christmas when I was 14 and was super excited to build it. I glued the neck in and painted it, but learned that the neck was twisted. Soul crushing. That said, the pickups that I had for that guitar were later used in my first good electric guitar, so good times!

 Anyway, you weren’t asking how I got started; you’re asking how YOU can get started, so let’s move on!

 My best suggestions are to start small; look for a book called How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great! By Dan Erlewine. This will give you information about how to properly set up your guitar so that it plays well. There is another book called Guitar Player Repair Guide that is awesome. Lots of great stuff there. It also breaks information out to various skill levels, so that’s cool too. You can probably find them in a Barnes and Noble or on Get an understanding of how to set up a guitar so that it plays well (how to make neck/bridge/nut adjustments), then maybe take on some basic wiring projects like a pickup swap, maybe build a guitar from pre-made parts. Is there a music store near you that does guitar repair? Maybe introduce yourself to the person that does repairs and ask if you can watch as he does some repairs and stuff.

 More than anything else, learn as much as you can; Go to and read their Trade Secrets articles; there’s a lot of neat stuff.

 I hope that helps!

Refinishing a bass...

I bought a bass which has definitely seen better days and would like to have a go at rebuilding it. I am primarily interested in taking the pale white lacquer off the body and neck and ending up with an instrument having a natural wood finish (in matte if possible). The questions i would appreciate your help with, are as follows:

1) How can i take the lacquer off? Wet sanding? Other method? If wet sanding it, what sort of grade of sanding paper should i get and what would be the key points to be careful of?

2) Sanding the neck. The neck looks more challenging than the body. I wouldn't like to touch the fret board (take it off, that is)...Any tips about this?

3) Are there any intermediate steps between sanding the instrument and applying the varnish?

4) What sort of varnish or "protective layer" should i apply to the wood once woodworking is finished and how? (apply by hand or using a spray?). I am after a clear matte finish.

 Hey there! If you’re already familiar with woodworking, you can make quick work of the finish removal by using scrapers. That is, if you’re certain that it’s a lacquer finish, and not something harder, like Polyurethane or Polyester. If it’s one of the harder finishes, you could use a heat gun and a scraper, but it’s easy to wind up with burn marks on the wood. That would, I imagine, be counterproductive, considering you want a natural finish. There are also various chemical strippers that you can use to remove the existing finish, as well. The issue with that, however, is that it could interfere (stain/get into the grain) with the color of the wood. You can, of course, sand it all off, but forget wetsanding; get some 80 grit and go to town (carefully, of course). Use sanding blocks to keep everything nice and flat.

 As far as the fretboard goes; are you sure it’s clearcoated? If so, pull the frets and sand it off using a radius block that matches the fretboard. You could strip the neck, too, but if you have plastic inlays (or binding), the stripper will eat them quickly. If you don’t want to pull the frets, you could scrape the finish from the fretboard with scrapers or utility knife blades, but you run the risk of botching up the radius on the fretboard. So be careful with that.

 The entire paint process is a science and an art unto itself; I’d recommend going to and reading their article called Refinishing 101. It’ll answer a ton of questions, for sure.

 As far as the final finish goes, the easiest would be to oil it. I’d recommend gunstock oil (also called Tru-oil). It’ll give you the finish you’re after while allowing the wood to breathe, so to speak.

All of that aside, remember that there’s a reason why guitars/basses get painted with solid colors; what you’re going to find under the color most likely will not be gorgeous wood. You may find that the body is multiple pieces of uninteresting looking wood. You may not, but keep it in mind. Have fun!

Stainless steel frets?

Do you think it's worthwhile to use stainless steel fretwire? And do they last longer than nickel-steel? I was thinking about re-freting this old Ibanez I have , even though I've never done it before. Anywhoo, thanks for all the informative videos.

I like stainless steel frets, but they're hard on your hands when you're cutting them. They last a lot longer, though (as they're much harder than nickel) and always have a nice, slinky feel to them. 

Paint schedule?

I'm guess its seal grains - prime- sand- prime again?- sand- colour several coats- sands clear- then wet sand and buff? Do you really need to use a buffer or could it be done by hand?

 If you're doing a trans finish, then no primer. I mainly grain fill (when needed) seal -> color (usually just about 3 coats - you don't need a lot) -> clear -> wet sand -> buff. Some people like to buff by hand; I'm not one of them; you're not going to get all of the fine scratches out by hand.

Curing time?

how long do you leave the clear coat to cure?some people say 1-2 months but on the stew mac site he says you can begin wetsanding in a week?

It really depends on what you're shooting. Catalyzed urethane can be sanded the next day, nitro should be 4 - 6 weeks. Acrylic lacquer can be sanded in less time. With lacquer, the longer you wait, the better.

Clear coats necessary?

Is it necessary to have clear coats on the guitar if you want to buff it etc.? I am currently painting my guitar body with a nitrocellulose olympic white (Cellulose will yellow over time) and I have heard that without clearcoats the yellowing won't be that critical as with clearcoats. Hence why I am wondering if it's necessary to have clearcoats if you want to wetsand and buff.


 The shine of a guitar's finish is from the clear coats, and it's purpose is to provide protection of the color. If you're wanting to avoid the clearcoat yellowing, don't use Nitro. :)

Guitars for rhythm players?

Sully, ever though of doing a a guitar for rhythm guitarist? You make guitars with great fret access and 24 frets etc but.. Ever thought of something like a Les Paul/Sg/ES without any cutaways? :D

Vs don't have cutaways; does that count? :) Wouldn't build an SG, as I'm not a fan of that body shape. I wouldn't build a Les Paul, as there's no way of doing so without making it look like a Gibson copy. That said.... :) I have a design that is based on the LP, but with better fret access and such. I think it's a nice mix of a traditional look and something a bit newer, so it should (hopefully) appeal to a wide audience. I hope to have the prototype started early next year.