Hey guys, here’s my new build
I call it “The Dreamsicle” for lack of a better name (I’m sure you can work out why – fun fact in the UK we don’t have Dreamsicles – we call them Orange Splits).
It’s basically a hybrid of a Strat and a PRS Custom 24-08 with some modifications to turn that 08 into 15.
It features Warmoth, PRS and Fender parts and has some original funky electronics with some unique modes.
Below is a fairly exhaustive build process, it’s really there as a journal for me but I hope you enjoy it too, and maybe some of my discoveries will help other newbies.
Bare in mind that I’ve gone into this with literally no practical skills in woodworking, guitar building, guitar electronics or anything, up till now I’ve paid people to do things or bought new.
Brace yourself, this is long.
This project started with just a set of pickups, the 85/15 MT Artist Package pickups from a PRS Custom 24-08 guitar. You can’t buy these pickups separately, and you definitely can’t buy the artist package. What luck.
This was quite exciting for me as these aren’t just any pickup. They come on the PRS 24-08, the 08 part being important because that designates the fact they have 4 conductors and are typically switched by 2 micro toggle switches (8 options)
These toggles, in on/on config flick between standard humbuckers, but in the other mode a single coil mode, but not a normal split coil. These actually add extra windings to the slug of the pickup to bring the volume up. So you get a kind of amplified single or flat double (or a single without the volume drop usually found on the normal 5 way switching of a PRS CU-24).
I actually own a CU-24 and I just can’t bring myself to do any mods to it to use these pickups with the micro-switch setup, plus I love my 59/09’s. So only one thing for it, a new guitar!
I can’t and don’t plan on spending too much money and know I wanted a Strat. Because, well I’ve had a few Strats. I’ve built a few Warmoth Strats too. But I end up selling them, and then buyers remorse etc…
Lucky Warmoth body find
So, with these new pickups in hand, and a plan, I took to ebay / facebook etc. looking for a warmoth bargain. I came across this lovely project by Nexrex (there’s a full thread here). Basically a lovely mahogany Soloist body with a flame Koa top and a nice black burst, very original.
Paul (who I’ve since become good friends with) wasn’t asking a lot however he was in Australia. As not a hurry we had it sent using the value service from Auspost (Which was still some $60 or so) and prepared for a bit of a wait.
Now for a neck…
Keen for a Warmoth neck I just had it in my head I wanted flame or bird’s eye maple. My original guitar teacher had a birdseye Axis Super Sport and I’ve always loved that, but similarly I love flame, I love Fender Custom Shops and the top end PRS Wood Libraries and they usually have flame.
I also hate lacquer, my last Warmoth was Wenge, I loved the fact it was unfinished. As I searched I found the compromise, roasted flame maple.
As I went down the rabbit hole I found the video tutorials showing the Tru-oil treatment of roasted flame maple. My god, no compromise. Now HTF do I get a roasted flame maple for a reasonable price?
I scoured the Facebook marketplace for Warmoth necks for a few days, and to my utter surprise a “as new, bedroom use only” neck with locking tuners and an LSR nut appeared for just £300 all in. Bargain (considering the import and customs charges to get a new one into the UK).
However joy quickly turned to disappointment, when it arrived I was confronted by significant description fraud. Around the nut the exposed wood had been chipped away, the tuners had been put in by Stevie Wonder and to make matters worse some of the orienting pin holes were 4mm wide, there were dings and scratches galore… FFS.
The problem was, I really quite liked the figuring and I also quite like a project so I negotiated a little, got 90 off, and after discounting the tuners and lsr that made the neck just £110 and that’s fine for a project.
So with files, sanding blocks and lots of patience I rounded off the rough edges, flattened the scratched edges, removed dings, dowel filled and sanded back the tuner holes and re-drilled properly etc… What I was left with was actually pretty great looking. I even actually quite liked the rounded edges of the nut area and it got me thinking, this might be a good time to try rounding over / rolling the fretboard so I went for it.
With everything prepped I decided that Tru-oil was the way to go so I researched heavily, after a few costs I was so happy with the results. This £110 neck was glorious, and was even nicer now, considering the work I’d put in.
The Warmoth body
Now, unfortunately we were into the start of the Corona pandemic and the body had already been in shipment for 2 ½ months. There had been no change on tracking and there was no reasonable feedback from auspost / parcelforce.
Knowing I would potentially have quite a lot of time to tinker, and potentially this package would be lost at sea for the foreseeable I started to consider alternatives for the neck / pickups, even if just temporary.
Temporary Fender Body
At this point Warmoth had announced their Capri orange Strat bodys. I love the colour orange. My life is peppered with it and I consider it generally good luck for me, the more vibrant the better.
Unfortunately I wasn’t about to drop £500+ on a Warmoth body for it to face the same shipping fate as the other one and so considered a cheaper option.
Aware that Fender MIM Player Strats had recently been launched with similar specs to the american versions (including the same 2 point trem, I took to ebay to see if I could get one cheap.
Luckily Stratosphere had been selling brand new Player bodies in the US, and some soul had bought one, cancelled the project, put it back up AND had it listed with ebay’s global shipping program.
So, I managed to snag the body for $180 + $52 tax and amazingly $16 postage. To my surprise this body made it from the US to the UK in just 10 days, fully tracked and insured!
During this time I spent a lot of time planning the aesthetic and the hardware / config.
I won’t go into this too much here but the entire discussion and conclusion for how I would wire up the guitar utilising the extra winds and proper coil splitting can be found here:
Here’s the different combinations and their various resistance though:
Red/White 7.99 (ignores extra winds on slug to make two relatively balanced coils)
Green/Black 5.77 (ignores screw coil but includes all the winds on slug to beef up the output)
You can connect them to sound like typical humbucker split/tap if you want a wimpier single coil tone:
White/Black 3.9 (tapped slug only)
Black/Red 4.09 (screw only)
You can even connect them to be super wimpy or super beefy if you want (maybe not useful):
White/Green 1.88 (extra slug winds)
Red/Green 9.88 (all the winds)
I decided what I had seen for Capri orange with the Player versions was that white pick-guard was a little too stark and bright and so decided parchment or off white would be better. I ordered those guards in line with my drawings (just 2 pots and space for two micro toggles).
When the pickguard arrived it was way too bright still and so I ordered a new guard, in aged white – this then meant that I could use the fancy aged white soft touch Strat knobs I’d seen, so all good really.
I ordered up all my parts and spent the next few weeks getting my head around electronics. After much trial and error in design I decided I’d go for a 3 way switch, and so went for the old school CRL as I like the spring loaded nature of them, and during my research on DPDT switches and the pickup wiring it dawns on me that I’d be able to easily have three modes, normal humbucker, single coil with the extra winds AND the new mode in the middle position.
This actually gives 15 different voicing options before you even touch the tone knob….cool!
The Warmoth Body Arrives
So as a surprise, after 3 ½ months the body did indeed arrive. Sadly though it did not survive it’s time at sea unscathed and had a nasty large ding in the top horn.
It was wrapped in quite a few of layers of bubble wrap and the box had some packing peanuts in but sadly the cardboard box was very dented and crushed by the time it had made it’s way here and of course every knock then went through the bubble wrap into the body. I think the lesson here is that single walled just isn’t up to it. I was disappointed, but I’d also assumed it was lost in post so I’d kind of already gotten over the fact.
I did attempt a fix using dyes, and building up the lacquer (stewmac method), it looked ok, but I knew it was there and it was on the top horn so I’ve sandbagged that body for me to do some refinishing practice work on at a later date (tbh I don’t really like the black back and burst all that much, especially considering I love mahogany and know there’s probably a nice piece under there). The back is odd, it’s not sprayed and lacquered, it’s just sprayed glossy, there is no lacquer layer.
I’m tempted to go for a natural finish with only oil now I half know what I’m doing. Still, a problem for another day.
Back to the Build
Once I got everything together I did a small test solder job and immediately came across an issue. Everything I thought I knew about soldering doesn’t work for DPDT micro switches. They’re so small they don’t cope with being tinned and excess heat, you have to solder them dirty, put the pickup wires in, hook around and just go for it. Repeat a few times to try your best to avoid a cold joint. You’ve got 2 seconds at 400 degrees before the lug is floating.
Everything else was easy with my diagram in front of me. Lots of time in planning and understanding the electronics meant that for every thing I was doing I understood why but also I knew how to test with the multimeter. This was imperative when you have no confidence as you can test if everything you have done has worked at each stage. Soldering and doing electronics to schematics without understanding is hard, because you cant see or test your mistakes, or ad-lib if you need to find another way (for example getting a ground to another spot because you’ve run out of room).
As I started the build I suddenly remembered that Graphtec made TUSQ saddles that would be a great colour fit, and potentially improve the guitar. As I obviously had to do a full setup and intonation it made sense to just get the saddles and do it with them in place.
Obviously nothing difficult there.
So that’s it, full BOM is:
Warmoth Roasted Flame Maple Neck (£110)
Fender Capri Orange Stratocaster Body (£200)
Fender Locking Tuners (£60)
Fender LSR (40)
Fender American Series 2 Point Tremelo (£85)
Graphtec TUSQ Offset Saddles (£45)
Custom aged white pickguard (£13)
Fender soft touch knobs (£15)
Fender Vintage tremolo springs (x5 to deck bridge) (£10)
Fender Output Jack (£7)
PRS 85/15 MT Pickups (£195)
CTS 500k Linear POT for volume (£13)
CTS 500k Modern Taper POT for tone (£13)
Orange drop 0.33uf cap (£3)
180pf cap on volume (£3)
Waxed single core cables (£10)
22 AWG PVC cable for body ground (else it’s a PITA to get pickguard back on) (£5)
CRL 3 way Switch (new lug layout) (£25)
2 x on/on/on DPDT micro toggle switches (£8)
Lots of patience, disappointment, fulfillment and relief.
Wow! now I work that out yeah, it’s quite a lot of money, even with all the bargain bits. I could have bought a US Strat for that. Coming in at almost £900. But having owned 2 x US Strats I much prefer the sound and feel of this, not to mention the aesthetic.
This has been a fun project and I could not imagine a guitar which more closely fits my personal needs and wants. It’s like I hired the Fender Custom Shop team and Paul himself to build me my dream guitar.
The key thing though, is that it’s been a great amount of fun and I’ve gone from having absolutely no idea of what is going on with guitar electronics to pretty much understanding every aspect and being able to test each component with a multimeter. I’ve also learned how to repair and refinish a headstock from wrecked to actually pretty bloody nice and of course how to finish in Tru-oil (I won’t lie, I spent as much time sanding away and starting again as I did finishing.
The key here is (as is written literally everywhere) super thin coats, like just enough to make the surface look damp, let dry and build up. It takes days / weeks to get a really nice thick 3D effect, if you go on too thick it’ll just look horrid and lumpy. Good news is that it comes off ith sandpaper / micromesh really easily.
I’m sure my soldering could be tidied up, and my wiring neater, but for now, I’m just gonna enjoy the sound of this thing.
How does it sound? It sounds like a PRS. My OTT grounding worked well, it is absolutely silent and the pickups sing just like a real PRS. I love that I have the Strat scale length and neck shape, body contour but with a PRS sound. I wanted the best of both world and it really is that.
How does the new mode sound? Well bare in mind it’s effectively the full humbucker with ⅓ of the winds on a single coil. That;s exactly what it sounds like, a layered humbucker with a little single coil added. You get all the fullness and mids / bass of a humbucker with some elevated highs and treble of an extra single coil. It’s like if you had a really fat HB in the bridge and split single in the neck and you put them together, but here you can do that in both positions for a really full sound (with a lot of added treble).
I’ll get some demos together ASAP. This post is really a journal for posterity and if you’ve made it this far, goodness me Isolation really must be getting to you. I hope it’s been an interesting read if nothing else. It may not be your cup of tea, and that’s fine.
Big thanks to Malloc and Garrett on PRS and Paul (Nexrex) for their help.
For now, “The Dreamsicle” is everything I had hoped and planned and I’m stoked.
For not having any practical experience, you did a great job on the cosmetic repairs. And it does indeed look like a Dreamsicle. I love it!
Once again, Great job and mucho Congrats on it!
Thanks man, good thing about wood is that if it doesn’t go right, there’s always something you can do to get it closer to repaired. Learnt a lot with this one.
This has been a fun project and I could not imagine a guitar which more closely fits my personal needs and wants. It’s like I hired the Fender Custom Shop team and Paul himself to build me my dream guitar.
This is why people build their own.
Absolutely, it’s my third custom Warmoth Strat but this is the closest to absolutely what I want, previously I’ve just used wiring and guides that were easy, not what was right.
Amazing post and great axe. Love it!
I’ve got a warmoth raw roasted maple neck and have been wondering about the tru oil treatment. How does it change the feel of the neck? How does it compare with a satin feel or gloss or nitro?
I think that depends on how many coats you use and how you sand / finish it.
I have 3 different thicknesses here, on the fretboard about 3 thin coats, I hit with some 0000 white pad and it has a satin feel.
The headstock has 7 thin coats and is polished to a mirror finish.
The back of the neck has about 15 thin coats, it’s thick like a layer of lacuer but I did remove a bit of the gloss with some 0000 but not as much as with the fretboard.
The great thing about tru-oil is it’s easily sanded away or thickened, and when you add another coat it melt straight into the previous with a gloss finish unless you sand it away. Remember its not really an oil, it’s an oil based varnish, it dries very hard.
What you describe as unique with the pups, Dave at Zhangbucker has been doing for a decade that I’m aware of with his Splat option.
This blew my mind and I’m so glad you shared this. I love that physically they’re the same but Dave created his to get that effect that I’ve found by accident from trying to do something with the PRS that they were trying to avoid. Love it.
I like it! Man, that neck is really something. I’d love to hear what she sounds like if you have any sound clips of her!
I absolutely will, once I get 5 minutes where the kids aren’t climbing over me to set up the rig I absolutely will.
Thanks again y’all, glad to be back in the Warmoth fold. Should anybody spot a Capri Warmoth body in the UK let me know so I can snap it up.
Maybe when times are better I may go for the Capri V2 and go for something rear mounted or maybe custom (Capri over a flame or something).
From the last few days I know I’ve really bonded with this thing, I’ve played more in 3 days than in 12 months on the PRS. It just fits me physically, and tonally so well. I think there may always be a Dreamsicle in my life now in some incarnation, maybe they all will be (Although I’m now realising that “Orange Split” not only makes more sense to me as a Brit, as that’s what we call Dreamsicles over here, but it also perfectly describes what this is an Orange guitar which focuses on splitting coils….I can’t believe I pandered to you Americans and totally let a perfectly good double entendre go to waste).
Hey, hi, how ya doing?
OK I decided that as my new neck is going on this build, it makes sense to add any work to this thread.
So, the flamed maple you see above is going on my Isolation project that you can read about in the link is sig.
Why change the neck, it already looks cool? Well I found this beautiful birds eye maple neck with Ziricote fretboard and I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
1. Bird’s Eye was the first exotic guitar wood I ever really saw. My guitar teacher had an EB Music Man Axis SS with an oiled BE neck and it was the epitome of luxury to me.
2. Ziricote is another wood I’ve always adored. I can’t afford a full Ziricote guitar but I loved the figure on this fretboard even though I’d never considered it as a fretboard wood. It’s dense and smooth like ebony.
3. The cream of the BE and the cream fret markers I felt would really work with the cream in this guitar’s design and add a little something extra to the design motif of Dreamsicle / Orange Split.
4. I’ve never ordered anything new from Warmoth and I’d just like that brand new neck experience, even if just once.
Cost was $310 for the neck (which I think is bananas for what I got, you can barely order a plain maple neck for that).
$90 for shipping
£81 ($100) for customs and tax.
Took 5 weeks to arrive in great condition.
After just 1 coat of Tru Oil (3:1 mix with mineral spirits – I’ll likely add about 20 and so it will get darker / deeper).
I wasn’t expecting any flame but the TO has made it pop quite a bit. Really digging this neck.
Still not 100% how I’m going to treat the fretboard, if anything at all.
Impressed with the fretwork. Getting a notched edge and a fret rocker end of the month for Birthday so I can start doing my own fret levelling / dressing but tbh I half expect this to be bang on. Using the tools I have to hand it seems very flat and I can’t detect any issues.
Defo gonna need to dress the fret edges though and probably will roll the edge of the fretboard, just because I think that makes it feel / look more premium and finished and certainly more comfortable.
In the end the only negatives I’d seen to a little light lemon oil was that it would darken the wood a bit, which is what I’d want so went with that.
Appears Ziricote takes a lot less lemon oil than rosewood, very similar properties as with ebony.
Think it looks great and a lot more “finished” than leaving it raw, ideal.
So, My birthday came and so did a bunch of tools. A wasted no time to put them to work.
Prior to any of this I decided I did want to roll the fingerboard a little to make it a bit more comfy, so I used my trusty blade to take the majority of the material away and then finished with some micromesh, being careful not to scallop or ding up any frets (which as we will learn was pretty irrelevant).
Prior to any of this work I’d tru-oiled the Bird’s eye quite a few times, and lemon oiled the ziricote a little.
so with my new levelling straight edge I got the truss rod tweaked to flat
I then used a bunch of this funky yellow tape to get everything nice and protected
Using my new beam I went to work getting that sucker level (the usual permanent marker technique). Anybody who tells you that Warmoth necks come good to go are either very lucky, happy to live with a very rattly guitar or just oblivious to what a level fretboard feels like. This was all over the place.
Using my nice fancy file I worked the now flat frets over to leave just a small level peak. I also spent a lot of time using the Stewmac method to get the fret ends looking all rounded and smooth without losing too much material. I wanted them to look like my PRS if possible. Here you can see the 3 stages of crowning, the black line showing the level area left after rounding over with the file.
Plenty of verification things were still sexy using the rocker
I then went to work with a selection of sanding paper and then micromesh to work out all remaining scratches
I was pretty happy with the results
So bare in mind this was my first ever fret levelling / crowning / dressing experience. I just followed online advice and used the right tools. It’s not very difficult but did take about 4 hours (maybe 15 different grades of sandpaper was excessive? I bet when I find my metal polish I can get them even better, but for now I’ll have to “live with” this (pretty damn happy).
Was it all worth it. Too right, setup was a breeze and it needed no adjustment at all to the truss rod as the string tension relief was enough to give the clearance. No high frets to buzz.
Overall think the new neck compliments this guitar really nicely. The cream dots, the cream back, the figure etc. looks lovely.
Don’t worry the Flame maple isn’t going to waste, it’s now going onto my next project after it gets some of the DrE levelling treatment.