Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adding a 105 Gauge String To My Hellcat VI

So the first thing I noticed when I took my brand spanking new Schecter Hellcat VI out of the box was that the lowest string (usually tuned to an E), was too flappy for me. The Hellcat VI comes from the factory with the following string gauges (low to high) .095-.075-.055-.044-.035-.026. I asked around on a Hellcat VI Users Facebook page and was recommended going with .105-.085-.065-.050-.040-.030. I went to my set-up guru at Guitarville in Edmonds, WA and he agreed the .095 gauge as a bottom string was not working, especially tuned down to my regular Eb. He also suggested filing the nut a bit as he thought even the .095 low string was up a little too high. So I bought a standard .105 individual Earnie Ball string from him and went home to modify the Hellcat. Now the reasoning behind modifying this bass to accept a large ball bass guitar string is that it will always be easier to find large ball strings that have the diameter and neck length that this instrument requires, than kustom ordering sets for every borken string or string change. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to get an HC to take the BIGGER BALLS!

Since I didn't have a nut file- I took a drill bit similar in diameter to the new string and wrapped it in 100 grit sand paper. I have used this technique before, and although it is not perfect, it does work in
a pinch. I would recommend getting the right size file to do this mod.

This is the filed nut. A bit sloppy around the edges, but overall a working solution. Make sure to check the string repeatedly, because if you over-file the string slot your toast.
This is how much bigger the string was for the old hole. The area where the large ball bass string wrapped into itself was even too big for the original hole.

Before I drilled the tail piece hole- I ground a little material off the string where it wraps into itself. 
If you grind too much material away the string will be weakened and could break in time.

I drilled out the tail piece string hole to accept the larger string. I also scratched the guitar by not removing the hardware before I did this mod. If I drill out more of these holes I will remove the 
hardware to save the Hellcat's glossy finish.

I also had to drill out the tuning peg string hole to accept the larger diameter string. I started with a smaller diameter bit and then worked up to the bit that was the same diameter as the .105 sting.

It is hard to see in this picture, but the new string sits half way down in the nut. It is so hefty that it doesn't bend easily going from the nut to the tuning peg. I also overwound the string a little bit, which didn't help. Less wind would reduce this bending effect. Still the string sits in the neck well and plays excellent. Much more of a bassish tone than the .095. Now I can play dub bass on the Hellcat VI!

This is the view down the body. The .105 sits nicely on the bass, but it is a little jarring going from a .105 diameter string (now tuned Eb) to the next up .075 diameter string (now tuned Ab). Eventually 
I will go a bit heavier on all the remaining string diameters.

When examining your nut filing, fret the third fret of the string you are testing and see if the string clears the first fret. There should be a very very small gap between the string and the first fret. I lucked out and 
was actually very close to over-filing the nut. 

Currently the bass plays and sounds great. A bit strange going from the Eb to the higher strings but I feel comfortable enough with this set-up to start recording. If I can't get the remaining strings easily in small ball ends, I will drill all the remaining strings holes and go BIG BALL STRINGS. I mean- hypothetically if I am on tour and I break all my strings (that would be freaky), I wanna be able to get replacements easily. 

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