Introducing "Rocky"...


New member

As a classical guitar player for several decades, I wanted to build something that would:
  • Ease my ergonomic re-adaptation to the electric guitar
  • Provide maximum tonal flexibility
  • Resolve several issues I remember from playing my pre-CBS Fender hard-tail strat back in the day

So here's how the build went together:
  • Chambered (for weight reduction) body with flame maple top
  • Roasted maple super-wide neck with 16" straight radius, ebony fingerboard, SS frets, and Graphtech Earvana compensated nut
  • Hipshot locking tuners with staggered post heights (hopefully no string tree required?)
  • Vintage Strat hard-tail bridge plate with Graphtech Ghost piezo saddles and preamp
  • Lindy Fralin split-blade humbucking pickups (vintage Strat wound)
  • NSF Free-Way 10-position selector switch for the mag pickups.

All of this was a tight fit in the Warmoth body, and I did need to rout out a small volume for the Ghost preamp.  This unit is wired to allow full passive mag pickup bypass, or blending both mags and piezos to the active preamp output using separate volume controls.  I can also use a stereo output cable and split the mags and piezos between two amps.

Initial test results are promising!  From the mags, I'm hearing several versions of "chime" and "quack" tones that I don't remember from back in the day.  I've got the pickups set fairly low to avoid the "magnetic pinch" detuning problem.

The Ghost piezo system does a really nice job of rendering the high frequencies and mechanical sounds which the mags naturally filter out.  Graphtech provided a warning that their preamp isn't always happy with a shielded control cavity, but this one is doing fine (painted cavity and copper pickguard shield).

I'll let the neck simmer for several months before final adjustment and dressing out.  The satin nitro finish on the neck gives it that "played-in" feel already.  The Ghost piezo saddles are very smooth and comfortable under the heel of my hand.

So far so good!


PS: If someone can tell me how to insert my images in-line with the text, as I do in other BBS systems, I would certainly appreciate it!


  • 20211015_225315~2.jpg
    929 KB · Views: 849
  • 20211010_160110~2.jpg
    3.2 MB · Views: 882
  • 20211004_180917.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 840
DAMN that's pretty! I would love to hear it in action if you get around to recording anything with it.
Welcome to the forum.

An interesting build and look forward to see it coming together.

As for images it is usually easier to host them somewhere such as Imgur of Flickr and then get the link from there and post it in the thread using the img tags. If you highlight the link for the image and use the camera icon this will provide the image tabs and give you this - I have used the link to one of your attachments in this case.

Edit 8 August 2022: Note this post was written for the old forum software. For the current software use the Image Icon that looks like a photo or use CTRL+P to either add an image or a link to it. Also pasting an image directly into the post now works.


And when posting it will give you this.



Last edited:
Interesting ...  in another post there's a discussion about the quality of the tops.  I think some people have unreasonable expectations.  This one looks nice and when that other one is finished it'll look nice too. 
Don’t we all have lowered expectations of SNL skits?
Oh wait, I read that backwards.  Dyslexia you know.

Carry on.

The Saga Continues!  Here's a tip for using the Ghost piezo pickup system which might affect the choice of neck style.  Graphtech warns that you can't allow these saddles to settle all the way down on the bridge plate, because this can damage the very delicate pickup wire leads.  The Warmoth neck I purchased with "Standard Thin" profile, when installed resulted in slightly high string action with the saddles as low as practical.  To fix this, I used a StewMac tapered neck shim with 0.25-degree slope angle.  This helped in 2 ways: a slight "lift" for the fretboard, and enough "tiltback" to get the saddles to mid-position with my favored action height.

I'm thinking that if I had bought a "Fatback" (vintage profile) neck, its extra thickness would probably make the shim unnecessary to get the proper saddle height.

Questions/comments welcome,



  • 20211022_142125_HDR~2.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 130
  • Neck Shims for Guitar - StewMac.jpg
    Neck Shims for Guitar - StewMac.jpg
    14.8 KB · Views: 105
  • Ghost_Saddles_Setup.jpg
    92.7 KB · Views: 122
A difference of neck profile between standard thin or fatback or indeed others would not make a difference to whether or not a shim may be needed. The heel dimensions are the same, what varies is the amount of wood from the fretboard to the back of the neck carve thickness to create the profile.

Heel dimensions.

One more construction note re: the Earvana nut. I initially found that the string slots were a bit tight for my D'Addario NYXL1046 strings.  I'm guessing the slots were cut for lighter strings, which would be quite reasonable in case lighter strings would be chosen.

I sprang for the StewMac nut file set which matched my string gauges, and just a couple of light passes on each slot did remove a bit of material.  I'm not seeing any more binding of the strings in the nut after this cleanup.

The jury's still out for me on the Earvana nut - I find that there are two good ways to tune the guitar with this setup:

[list type=decimal]
[*]Use a chromatic tuner with analog indicator, and tune the strings to the 3rd fret
[*]Just tune the guitar string to string (5th or 4th fret on the next lower string)

At this point, it sounds nice, if just a bit "micro-tuned".  Let's see how this sounds to me after some normal use and wear.

I am not sure why I did not notice this before but this is in the incorrect sub-forum. It should be In "A Work in Progress". Craig, perhaps you could ask a moderator to move it.

All Warmoth fitted nuts are likely to require fine tuning and adjustment especially with heavier strings. They sometimes need the slots lowering also to be truly optimum which also helps with proper tuning.

With Earvana (and MusicMan) nuts they are designed to just tune them to open strings and they will then compensate accordingly for the out of tune-ness that often occurs below fret 3 with a standard nut. Buzz Feiten also has a compensated nut system that does require a different tuning ritual but that is not needed for Earvanas. Though of course whatever works for you, works.

Hope the above is useful.

Progress report:  The neck has settled in and I've cleaned it up. Referring to the on-line StewMac nut setup guide, I set the string heights at the 1st fret to .020" (6th string) to .010" (1st string).  With the neck relief set at .008", the action at the 12th fret is now .070" (6th string) to .050" (1st string).

With the stainless steel 6150 frets, this guitar plays almost as if it has a scalloped neck.  It requires a light touch to prevent notes from going sharp due to pressing too hard behind the fret.  However, with the latest nut slot depth, I'm no longer hearing any unusual "micro-tuning" issues around the low frets.

The frets come from Warmoth "machine trimmed", so the ends were noticeably sharp.  I've slightly "softened" them without rolling off too much, so that I don't pull the string off the edge with lateral vibrato movement.  I finished them with 1000 grit sandpaper and fine steel wool - they now have a mirror finish (see pic below).

Now...time to get my old "classical" left hand to loosen up a bit...



  • Rocky_Fret_Ends_20220124.jpg
    2.9 MB · Views: 98
More tweaks from the settling-in process:  I was hearing just a bit that zingy "sitar" sound on the open high (plain) strings.  It would seem that the Hipshot "staggered-height" tuners weren't providing enough down force at the nut on the higher strings.

After a couple of attempts, I've settled on a pair of roller-type string trees (from StewMac).  These are medium height, and they seem to provide adequate break-over angle at the nut without interfering with the tuning process.

If I had to do it over again, I would still use the Hipshot locking tuners, but I would purchase 5 of the "medium height" (20mm) tuners, and only 1 of the "tall" (21mm) tuners (for the 6th string).  With these string trees in place, this would provide almost even break-over angles for all of the strings.



  • 20220212_190519_HDR.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 91
  • 20220212_190553.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 96
Just as a footnote a sitar type sound is often cured by correct  filing (fine tuning) of the nut slots.

Per the height of the staggered tuners for Hipshots I find the following three heights work well and no string trees are then needed. E and A, 20mm, D and G, 19mm and B and high E 18mm. So two of each size.

Just as a footnote a sitar type sound is often cured by correct  filing (fine tuning) of the nut slots.

Per the height of the staggered tuners for Hipshots I find the following three heights work well and no string trees are then needed. E and A, 20mm, D and G, 19mm and B and high E 18mm. So two of each size.

To clarify, I fine-tuned my nut slots with gauged slot saws, and was careful to slope them back toward the tuning heads, so that the bearing point of each slot is at the fretboard edge.

I never did experience any problems with the strings popping out of the slots (this was my first concern), however I'm sure that vigorous pick strokes were adding enough energy to the strings that they were able to "hop up and down" within the slots.

The standard Hipshot staggered tuner set (as shipped) does include 2 each of the 19mm, 20mm, and 21mm tuners.  I also used the backing plate which ships with these tuners - this locks them in place without any holes for wood screws. It also causes each tuner to be just a bit shorter than if they were installed directly onto the peghead.

If this guitar used a mechanical tremolo unit, I might forego the string trees to minimize tuning issues caused by friction in the nut slots.