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Fig. 4 - When you cut the plate with the coping saw you’ll find it goes through quite quickly, so best to cut slightly to the outside of the line, then file off the surplus afterwards.

a graphic program on your computer to create a great-looking shape? (If that’s not your thing, I bet someone you know will have a go just for the crack, or maybe a pint-based bribe.)

Once, you’ve got the plate shape sorted in

cardboard, I suggest you glue it face down to the back of your plate material. That way, you don’t have to draw round it, and it reduces the chances of damaging the front.

Because the plastic is quite soft, cutting into it

with a coping saw is fast work. (Fig. 4) In fact, it can be a bit too fast. I’d advise you to cut a little wide of the line and then file off the surplus later. (Fig. 5) If you cut too far in, you’ll probably need to buy another sheet of material, which is a real bummer.

Fig. 5 - You may find you need to cut chunks out of unwanted parts of the plate material, so that you can get your saw to where it needs to be to make the shape you want.

Just because you’ve figured out how to draw sexy curves doesn’t mean it’s easy to cut them on the plate material though! Next month, I’ll show you how you shape your scratch-plate so that it looks really slick. I’ll also talk you though drilling the holes for the controls, including the mind-bender: how do I cut that slot for a Fender selector switch? With the almost ready version of my new scratch- plate temporarily mounted on the fornt of the guitar, now we can see how good it will look when it’s finished. Cool, no? (Fig. 6) Meanwhile, my latest video on the Playmusic web site takes the scratch-plate further towards completion and has a lot of extra tips. PM



Could you please help me locate a source for a fret file. I have just acquired an old Azumi bass and I would like to keep my fingers intact

when I play it! The ends of the frets are very sharp. Colin Lewis

This is a common problem on less expensive guitars and basses. The good news is that you can fix this yourself and you don’t need any specialist tools. As the HotMod Setup Primer (a download on the Playmusic web site) explains, a fret file is used for restoring the rounded crowns of individuals frets after they have been flattened somewhat by ‘dressing’ the frets. A fret file is used along the frets; what you need to do is work along the length of the neck and therefore across the ends of the frets. The best tool for dressing the ends of the frets is the kind of oilstone you can buy in almost any hardware store, because its most common use is sharpening chisels and plane blades. (Fig.7) You need to run it carefully along both edges of the fingerboard until the ends of the frets are level with the wood. For a comfortable playing feel, it is then a good idea to tilt the stone slightly, so that the ends of the frets and fingerboard are rounded a little – check any decent neck and you’ll see what I mean. Finally, you can smooth and polish the ends of each fret individually using 600-800 Grade Wet Or Dry paper, followed Brasso cloth. (BTW, this operation is ‘dry’ until you get to the Brasso cloth. You only need oil on the stone when you are

sharpening tools. Your fingerboard won’t benefit at all from 3-in1!) Before you start any of this, it’s a good idea to take a good look at the frets because you’ll never get them to feel smooth if the are actually coming away from the fingerboard – a condition that is somewhat harder to fix.


Thanks for the advice. Worked a treat, although I found that I had to finish off the edges by rolling a small needle file carefully over them

to take the burrs off. I used a triangular one, to avoid filing the wood, and ‘rolled’ it over the end of the frets.

Now it feels more like my Rickenbacker! On another issue I have a hum, which goes when I touch the strings. I have checked that there is an earth wire to the bridge and good continuity from input to strings. Any ideas? Colin

Glad to hear you got your bass playing the way you wanted, Colin. Providing you’re careful, using a needle file to round off any remaining sharp edges is

a valid approach. Needle files are not very abrasive and the cutting surface is normally about 100mm long. They’re kind of ‘mini-files’ and are used a lot by model makers, as well as musical instrument makers. It’s a time-consuming job though (as you’ve just discovered) so you’d have a hard time finding a bass that left the factory with the frets dressed that way

Fig. 6 - My plate is still a work in progress but it has some nice, smooth outer lines. Next month, I’ll show you how those curves were achieved.

EXTRA ONLINE RESOURCES Even though we’re using pre-made parts on this phase of our guitar-modifying project, there are several extra details I’d like to share with you that there just isn’t room for in the magazine. So if you’d like to see a lot more tips and tricks that can make the difference between an OK guitar build and one that knocks yer socks off, please visit the web site for the videos and PDFs I’ve put together.

As for that hum, it’s actually quite common, which is why the earth wire is there and why it stops when you touch the strings. There isn’t a single answer to reducing hum; you have to look at the whole wiring scheme from the jack socket to the pickups. Basically – if it isn’t shielded, it will hum. There is a video about this at -, in which I show you how using conductive paint and ordinary kitchen foil can greatly reduce interference from external electrical sources. This project will cost you about a tenner, so it’s well worth it. PM

Fig. 7 - A good tool for dressing off sharp fret ends is an oilstone. With care, you can take the ends off the frets without messing up the finish on the neck itself. 439

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