Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1987 - Headless Build

Around 1987, I fell in love with the Steinberger P series guitar. So naturally this would be a perfect candidate for building a copy. I started this build in early 2012. Hopefully, I'll finish this one up in few months. I've routed the body for two Humbuckers. I've also routed an inset for the bridge. Steinberger's bridge is inset about 10 mm. The JCustom Bridge that I'm using is not as thick. As a result I only had to route about 1.5 mm.

Next up, I'll just need to route the rear access panel and an output jack. Then it's on to final shaping and sanding.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lap Steel Build

Last Summer, I started building an eight-string Lap Steel guitar for a friend of mine. I started with an 8 inch slab of Maple and a Birdseye Maple fretboard.

I then printed a template for a 23 inch scale. I used a carpenter's scale to cut straight lines. The cuts were filled with tinted black epoxy.

For the tuning pegs, I drilled holes from the side. And then drilled holes from the top, followed by a routing. This is similar to the set up on a classical headstock. However, the knobs will face up for ease of use.

I then strung up the guitar to line up the positioning of the nut, bridge, fretboard and pickup.

I then drilled holes for the fret markers and glued a black binding to the fretboard.

There a couple steps not documented here. I had to create a template for the pickup route. And then I had to route the rear control panel and the output jack. 

Next up I will clean up the sides, round the edges and do a final sand of the body before I move on to applying a Tru-Oil finish. Hopefully I'll have this finished before the end of the Summer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Red Special - Build Completed

In the mid 80's my guitar teacher in New Orleans, Austin Sicard played copy of Brian May's Red Special. I always liked that guitar. So, naturally when I started building guitars, the Red Special was on my short list of guitars to build. Here is my take on this classic. Instead of using 18th century Oak and Mahogany, I opted for Maple and Padouk. Yes, I picked the Padouk because of its natural red color. The Fretboard is a 25 inch scale instead of the 24 inch scale of the original. I also chose a Bigsby-type vibrato instead trying to replicate May's tremolo. To compensate for the brighter tone of the Maple and Padouk, I used 250k pots and a .047 uF capacitor.

Now after two years of work I have completed the guitar. Here are the stats:
Maple with a thin strip of Padouk Center
Maple backs with book-matched Padouk tops on the wings
Bolt-On Three piece Maple and Padouk neck with a Curly Maple fretboard
10° angle on the headstock
4° angle on the neck
Three Brighton Rock Vintage Spec Alnico Pickups
Three Phase Shift Switches
Three On/Off switches
Two 250k pots
.047uF Capacitor
24 fret neck
Zero fret
Bigsby-type Vibrato
Gotoh Tuners

This build was really more of a study in wood, electronics, sound quality and shape. The guitar has a bright crisp ring when plugged in. The phase shifting switches help create a variety of sounds, from a thin single coil reminiscent of a Strat or Tele to a thick warm Humbucker. I'm not too pleased with the Bigsby-type vibrato. I may replace it with a real Bigsby at some point in the future. I remember this the next time I see a good price on an ebay knock off.

As far as the shape is concerned, this is a stand up and play type of guitar. The bottom curve doesn't lend itself to sitting down and playing. I find myself having to use more of a classical sitting position with the guitar on my left thigh rather than my right. The neck is thinner than the one I built for last year's Tele. It feels faster.

Overall, I love the look, sound and feel of this guitar. And I've learned a great deal from this build. I've complained about Padouk before. And it will affect whether I choose to use it in the future. I discovered that the sawdust from Padouk causes sinus problems for me. In addition, pairing Padouk with Maple may not be a best choice. Padouk also has a tendency to bleed when applying shellac. But all of this aside, I love the look. Nothing like a naturally red wood.

Would I build another Red Special? And if so, would I do anything differently? Yes, and Yes.

First, I'd use a Mahogany back, with a book-matched Padouk top (yeah, I know. Did I mention how much I love the look of this guitar.) I'd use a three piece Padouk neck with a Padouk fretboard. The neck would be set and glued instead of a bolt on. 

Next, I'd like to try three on/off/on DPDT instead of the six switches. This way I could save some real estate while combining the functionality of two separate phase shifting and on/off switches for each pickup. I'd also consider using a concentric double pot instead of two pots - again real estate.

And finally, I'd spring the extra money for the copy of May's tremolo.