A Month in and Out the Shop: Hästen

10 Jun 2024

Tags: hästen, pick-guard

As promised, here’s part two of my trying to catch up: this time we’re looking at Hästen, another build that’s been a long time coming. Hästen was started back when I made a small batch of Mustang style builds around 2019, but I was struggling with the other builds, and so this one was delayed, and then I had to move workshops, covid hit, and I started to question my ability as a builder, so it got put on hold for a while. Thankfully the friend that commissioned this guitar has been quite patient, for which I’m quite grateful. I do think for that they’re getting a better guitar now that I’ve had time to grow as a builder, but then in theory that statement should always be true and isn’t really an excuse for not shipping.

I’ve told this story before in these notes, so why am I reiterating it again here? Well, because Hästen has, like its sibling guitars, finally hit a fairly major milestone in my drive to clear out my build backlog.

Inner beauty

The first act of this set up updates was a fairly gentle one: apply the copper tape to the electronics cavities to provide some electromagnetic isolation. On Verkstanden in last week’s update you may have noticed I didn’t use copper tape, as on that guitar I’d used conductive paint for lining the cavities, but not on this build, so it was back to the copper tape:

A photo of an offset-style solid-body electric guitar body on the workbench. The body is painted light blue and inside all the cavities cut out for parts to be added it is lined with copper tape that is reflecting the light to create a glow. Next to the body is a lot of bits of tape backing cast to the side.

Whilst this is more fiddly to install, and once the guitar is put together no one will ever see this, I love this look, the hidden inner beauty of the instrument.

At this stage I also drilled the hole to let me connect the bridge to the lining to provide ground to the strings. This was a bit fiddly, as although this body is quite light for swamp ash, it’s still quite dense, unlike the almost too soft poplar I used on Verkstaden. So getting the hole through was hard work, but I got there in the end. I really need to remember to add this hole before I do the finish on the body, as it just adds to the stress.

With the cavities lined and the bridge ground wire added, I could add the bridge itself, which is a custom 3D-printed carbon-fibre bridge part, as I’ve been using on all these recent builds:

A close-up photo of the same guitar body, and now there is a dark plastic looking bridge plate attached with three torx-screws showing.

With the bridge on, I then added the strap buttons (well, the bottom half of these Dunlop locking strap-buttons that the guitar’s eventual owner requested), and with that on went the neck:

A photo of the guitar body now with a birds-eye maple neck attached, which has tuners, frets and a nut installed. The bridge plate now has chrome plated saddles installed too.

And at this point it’s starting to look a lot like a stringed-instrument, but it’s missing a little something…

Strings on

It was time to finally add strings to Hästen! As ever, a magical moment when a collection of bits actually becomes a musical instrument.

A photo of the guitar on the workbench again, only now despite the lack of pick-guard and electronics still, there are strings installed.

I did about half a set-up on the guitar, getting things like the nut and bridge saddles to roughly the right position, but I’ll let them settling in before I go any further. Still, it was enough for me to have a quick noodle on the guitar, and it feels like it’s reasonably close to where I want it.

As with Verkstaden, I went for the double string-tree arrangement on the headstock:

A close up photo of the headstock of the guitar, showing the brids-eye maple in detail. You can see the tuners, the nut and the two strings trees (along with the strings). Laser etched into the headstock is 'M W Dales' and 'Hästen'. Next to the headstock on the workbench are a set of tiny files for cutting slots into the nut.

With that, the guitar will sit under tension for a week, and then I can hopefully add all the missing electronics. But for that, I’ll need one more piece of the puzzle.


I originally cut a pick-guard for this guitar back in February, but I wasn’t happy with the spacing:

A top down view of the body with the pick-guard and bridge in place. Between the bridge and the pick-guard there is an uneven recess that has a narrow gap on the sides, but a much larger gap on the top, and looks odd due to these different proportions.

The gap between the bridge and the bottom edge of the pick-guard doesn’t match the gap to the sides. This is a sign of me learning: on the original Mustang style builds I placed the bridge a bit too far forward, meaning to intonate them correctly I had to bring the saddle on the low-E back to the very edge of the plate. Having learned more about how to position a bridge, I’ve now moved the bridge further back, but it does mean I need to update the pick-guard design.

Although I measured it in the workshop, I didn’t want to end up wasting material with pick-guards that didn’t look right, so I took Hästen for a road trip back to the maker-space where the body was first made, and make a bunch of paper-prototypes on the laser-cutter there:

A photo of a sheet of A4 paper on the bed of a laser-cutter, with the outline of a guitar pick-guard marked into it.

This is one cut at the original size:

A photo of the paper-cut pick-guard placed onto the guitar we saw earlier in the location the final pick-guard will go. Where there is space for the bridge in the pick-guard it can be seen there is more space on the top edge than on the two side edges, making it appear sloppy.

Kinda reminds me of an old Fender Esquire with the thin white pick-guard with no pickups in it.

With that done, I then made a new one updated for the new measurements:

Another photo of the guitar with a different paper-cut pick-guard installed, and this time the spacing between the pick-guard is uniform following the smaller spacing that was just on the sides before.

That feels a bit more harmonious. I might yet tighten up the radius of the corners, but at least I know the spacing looks good. Now I just need to get some more material to cut the plate from and we’ll be good to go!

Soon Hästen can leave the paddock!