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Westone Thunder 1

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 6…Finally finished!

I can’t believe that last update on this subject was December 31st 2008!

Sorry for the massive time lag, in truth the guitar was finished months ago but I had been busy writing on so many other subjects I just forgot to tie this subject up.

In the last post I alluded to the wiring issues I was facing. It took a bit of head scratching and some advice from a few knowledgable friends to finally solve the issue I had with an earth type buzz. It turned out I had bought a stereo jack socket and wired it wrongly. Once that was solved, and I found a great wiring diagram from the fantastically useful Westone Info site I was sorted. I used new shielded cable for all the new wires and resoldered all the joints on the existing wiring.

All that was then left to do was restring it and set it up. After a little tweaking of the string heights it was playing great.

It’s a heavy guitar..almost in Les Paul territory..and this adds to the feel of solidity when you play it, although I think the shape is more comfortable than a Les Paul. The pick ups are gutsy, and the coil tap switch adds a nice dimension, allowing some decent “thinner” single coil tones through for clean picking. The worn lacquer on the neck sides adds to the “patina” of playing an older guitar, and the paint finish, although not perfect, is certainly a big step from the way it looked when it arrived!

Overall its a versatile guitar and well beyond the feel of being the budget instrument it was originally marketed as.

Since this project started I have been approached to do another westone rebuild, a Cutlass, which is in much better shape. I’ll be filling you in with the details in the next post.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on this project, particularly the guys and girls over at the Westone Forum for their advice and encouragement.

Rebuilt Westone Thunder 1AT

Rebuilt Westone Thunder 1AT back

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 5…Rebuilding

Now the body has been sanded and polished out, I can begin the rebuild, using a selection of old and new parts.

First thing to go back on was the neck. When I got the guitar it only had 2 screws holding it in place, instead of the 4 it should have.I managed to find two more similar screws, and using the old neck plate I re-attached the neck.  Although the edges of the lacquer around the frets is a little scabby, I sanded it lightly to take the rough edges off and left it alone. I want to retain some “patina” of age.  I did give the frets a good clean though, and also treated the fingerboard with a healthy dose of lemon oil.

I also stuck in a new nut, using 2 part epoxy glue, guessing the position. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to break the glue joint to re-position the nut, and luckily I got it right first time..phew!

headstockThe original machine heads were reinstalled before the neck was re-attached, using a flat washer to replace the one missing one. I also tightened up the tensioning screws, and the work just fine, although the chrome is showing its age somewhat.

The one cock-up I made was in polishing the truss rod cover…I thought the lettering was indented, and in my enthusiasm polished it a little too vigurously, losing a little definition on the letter edging…oh well…

The bridge went back on next, then the pickups, with new screws and pickup rings. The wiring was fed through to the cavity, but left for now. I also fitted the new pickup selector switch, using the original brass lock nut, again, feeding the wiring through to the cavity.

The next post will be about my wiring adventures, but here’s a sneak preview of the insides…Thanks for reading!


The re-built guitar from the rear

The re-built guitar from the rear

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 4…Painting

As I said in part 3, I have decided on a Volvo car colour for the body, a dark blueish grey metallic colour from an aerosol can.  ( I can’t remember the colour name!) I bought grey primer, 2 cans of blue and 2 cans of clear lacquer from my local Halford car parts shop as well as some 600 grit and 1500 grit wet and dry paper.

The body was filled, sanded, filled, primed and sanded as described in the last post, until I had an even base of grey primer. I didn’t get the body immaculate…there are still a few small dings, mainly on the edges, but it’s a whole lot better than it was, and perfection wasn’t what I was aiming for…just a decent looking usable guitar bought back from the dead!

Finally, I started laying down the base colour. I hung the body on my washing line in the garden and heated the cans of paint in hot water until they were warm. This raises the pressure in the can, allowing the paint to flow faster anD to cover more evenly. ( A trick I learned from my model car building buddies).

I laid down a couple of light “mist” coats to begin with, until the whole body had an even covering of the metallic blue, then built up layer by layer, allowing the paint time to dry in the warm (indoors) for a few hours between each coat. This allows the paint to “gas out” which lets the solvents used to propel the paint from the can evaporate between coats, which in turn helps the whole drying and paint hardening process.

I gradually built up the paint layers, getting a wetter, heavier coat on each time, but also making sure i didn’t get any runs in the paint. Eventually I had used two full cans of blue on the body, and I had a pretty even, semi-gloss finish.

As the paint is metallic it needs a clear lacquer coat to bring out the shine, so after a day or two of drying in my warm office, I repeated the whole process with the clear coats. After the first can I did give the whole body a light sanding with 600 grit wet and dry to flat the surface back, taking out the worst of the unevenness from the finish. This can be a scary process, as the paint goes totally matt again, but if you are careful enough not to go through to the colour coats, it will add to the smoothness of the final paint job.


The painted and polished body

The painted and polished body

 After the two full cans of clear had been used up, I left the body to dry and gas out for a few days while I started gathering the new parts needed. The next part will be about the new bits, but to finish up the body, after the drying process I polished the clear layers with my special polishing kit…again, another model car item.

A polishing kit is a series of small pieces of glass paper, going from 1500 grit right up to 12,000 grit. (which feels like velvet). The process is to sand the body (with water) removing any high spots in the cleat coat. This again will make the paint look matt, but will leave a very smooth finish. After the initial sanding with the 1500 grit, you move to the next finer paper (1800), and repeat the sanding process (always wet, dipping the glass paper in water and using the supplied rubber sanding block to wrap the paper around).

This process polishes the clear coat with finer and finer grades, making the finish super smooth and bringing back the shine. You work through the grades, 2400, 3200, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 12,000 until the final grade doesn’t appear to be doing anything at all. After drying the body and giving it a going over  with guitar polish the results can be pretty spectacular…A glassy shiny smooth paint finish, which should be just as hard wearing as the original.


Ready for rebuilding...

Ready for rebuilding...

As previously mentioned, the finish isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the results.

The paint cost me about £15, and I already had the other supplies so I’m ready to begin rebuilding in the next post.

Thanks for reading!

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 3…Analysis and Rebuild

I stripped the guitar down into its remaining component parts, as mentioned in the second part of this article.

Most of the damaged parts were then assesed and either thrown out (like the pick up rings) or attempts were made to salvage them.

The stripped down parts

The stripped down parts

The bridge was very grungy and rusty…the saddles were stuck tight, needing my cutting wheel to get two of them off and all the screws were chewed up and useless. The only answer was to replace the set.  I got some Graphtech “string saver ferra glides” which have a graphite insert to ease the possibility of string breakage, but were pretty costly at £19.95. I cleaned up the baseplate and tremelo block and re-assembled the whole thing.

The original bridge

The original bridge


The rebuilt bridge

The rebuilt bridge

The body was stripped of all parts and sanded with coarse sandpaper to remove the top coat of clear lacquer and give a good base for the wood filler I needed to use to fill the dents and gouges. I used some basic white plastic wood filler I found in my local hardware shop…The colour didn’t matter as it was being painted anyway. It was then a case of tediously filling, sanding, checking, re-filling, sanding, etc until all the big problem areas were smooth. Fingertips is the best tool for this job…your sense of touch is more reliable than sight when it comes to imperfections of this nature.

Here’s the body hanging on my washing line with the first “ghost” coat of primer, which gives a final indication of any rough areas before the remainder of the primer and top coat get applied.

The first coat of primer

The first coat of primer

Next post I’ll deal with painting the top coat and the hunt for spares…

Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment on my efforts…literary and practical!

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 2…The Damage

The guitar arrived safely, although frankly if it had been kicked to my house from 200 miles away the damage wouldn’t have been much worse! I unpacked it and before any stripping down, I took a few photos and got a basic overview of what needs doing. It’s a pretty extensive list…the issues are as follows;

  • Pickup selector switch broken 
  • Mini Toggle switch broken
  • Nut missing
  • Both pickup rings broken, and mounting screws all chewed up and rusty
  • Missing machine head ferrule
  • Bridge saddles rusted, all screws in nasty conditon
  • Jack socket missing
  • Tremelo cover missing
  • Tremelo arm missing
  • Some frets in poor condition
  • 2 neck screws missing, others damaged
  • wiring looks very idea if the pickups work
  • Body has gouges and scrapes, paintwork in very bad condition
So I have my work cut out for me! On the plus side, the body feels weighty and substantial and the neck looks good. I reckon all the rest is fixable with these two good fundamentals.
Close up of the damage

Close up of the damage

In a flurry of enthusiasm I stripped the whole thing apart, unsoldered the remaining wiring, removing the pickups and bagging everything for later investigation.
I had two pieces of luck straight away…my parts box gave up a matching machine head ferrule and I had a spare Tremelo arm, bought for my Squier Strat but the wrong fits the Westone perfectly!
The body will need sanding, filling and re-spraying, and I won’t be returning it to black…I feel like a new colour and the current condition  is so poor a refinish won’t harm the guitar’s value.
I’m thinking maybe a darkish metallic blue/grey colour I have seen…A Volvo car colour.
The wiring mess

The wiring mess

I have also toyed with the idea of metal pickup covers, but it seems pointless buying parts until I know if they work or not. I may need two new humbuckers.

Next post I’ll begin the rebuild. Thanks for reading!

Westone Thunder 1-T Rebuild pt 1…The Background

Many years ago I built a guitar from scratch, making my own body and using a Stratocaster copy neck.

My first home-made guitar

My first home-made guitar

It played ok, and was “of its time” but after that initial flurry of sawdust and bad wiring I didn’t really dabble in guitars apart from changing the odd pickup and general maintenance.

Over the years however, I have been a prolific builder of model cars, which has given me the ability to paint and modify stuff, and also a quite enviable collection of small tools and useful bits and pieces.

Just recently I have fallen in love with guitars again. I have never stopped playing (guitar and bass), but my son has become an avid and proficient player and enthusiast, which has re-awakened my interest in guitars and collecting.

So one day while surfing around Ebay I found a knackered old Westone Thunder 1T guitar being sold as a project. It was in very poor condition, with many missing bits.

As the buyer says in his own words..

“This guitar needs a total overhaul…It was working 10 years. There are  missing screws, nut, jack socket, 2 tuner ferrules and 2 broken switches. It is covered in scatches and dings. The neck looks straight (see photo). I do not know if the electrics work but they did, this was my sons first guitar, and was soon upgraded.”

The front

The back

The back









I won the auction for £46 plus £15 postage and the guitar was with me within 4 days.

Next post I’ll tell you all about the work ahead in detail, and my ideas for the rebuild.

Thanks for reading!