A(lmost) a week in the shop

This week was meant to be about the assembly of the guitar #3 and #4, but I hit a bunch of small setbacks that have pushed things out another week. Whilst I don't wish to whinge, I think part of trying to document progress is explaining what to do when things inevitably don't go to plan.

First up, is the lack of standardisation on parts for guitars in terms of sizes. This is something that is in part down to my naivety: you'd assume that if you got part A for a particular guitar and part B for that same type of guitar that they'd just fit together; that after all is part of the benefit of starting out recreating a well known design, to simplify the process in part. But no, you often find this happens:

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Over time a lot of guitar parts have changed shape subtly, switching from imperial to metric, or just model evolution over time. Unfortunately, unless you are aware of this, you end up with surprises like the above. In fact, that was one of two such surprises I had this week, as on the orange deluxe it turns our the bridge I bought was a few mm longer than the standard too. In both cases a little modification to parts is possible, but for the want of a couple of days it's much nicer to get other parts that fit and then use the now spares on other guitars. Anyway, as a lesson for any would be luthiers reading this: don't just measure twice before you cut, measure twice before you order; the only problem being that a lot of parts don't specify these things, so you do in the end need to learn which suppliers use which sizes and find ones you like.

The other thing I'll take from this is that I should do a test assembly as early as I can so I don't find all this out at the last minute. However, the order in which I put things together as I moved from planks to guitars didn't lend itself to this, so I'll rework that flow next time.

The other setback I hit was one I documented here a couple of weeks ago: yet another screw split as I was screwing it in:

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As before this was another 2mm sized screw that came with a part, and I think the lesson here is that the screws that come with parts aren't necessarily the best, and if they're very thin and your wood is tough, then consider using screws you know to be good rather than the ones that come with the part (a lesson imparted to me by others now that I discussed this with them). Of course, sometimes things just go wrong, but two in a month smarts a little. I had drilled a pilot hole, I had made it deep enough, and so forth, but it still just snapped. Thankfully, having gone through this once before, I was able to recover it quickly using the same method, but it's still annoying and still costs me a day as I needed to let the wood glue I use as part of the repair set.

So a week of small setbacks, and a few instances of counting to ten slowly. I try in general to share the positives of progress on the guitar, and I suspect to some degree I make it look easy on my instagram stream by posting all the stages of completion as I go along, but it's not all plain sailing, and you have to expect the occasional setback. Part of what I like about luthierie is that it's a very different discipline compared to writing software or designing electronics: you can't hit undo if you make a mistake, you have to find a way to move on regardless. At times it is very frustrating, but then that's also in part what makes it satisfying as your design comes to life as a musical instrument.

Onto happier notes, guitars #3 and #4 are close to completion now, and starting to look wonderful:

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Hopefully next week will mostly be spent assembling the guitars assuming a smoother week than this one.

Aside from working towards the end of the current guitars, I've done some more work towards the first amp build. Mostly that has involved a combination of notebook sketching and continuing to learn how to use Autodesk Fusion 360. The build will be a 5W 1x10 combo amp for practice/rehearsal. For those not familiar with all that, it basically means it's a single box that'll contain both the electronics and the speaker (a combo), be reasonably quiet (5W is not enough to gig with, but plenty for home and practice use), and it'll contain a single 10" speaker.

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Having got the parts from various sources, the next thing I need to do is design the cabinate to house it in. The plan is to produce the design in Fusion 360 and then produce the panels on the CNC router I have access to at Makespace. To do that I've started first modelling both the metal chassis for the electronics (which also has the controls on it) and the speaker. This has been a nice introduction to Fusion 360 before I try building my own bits from scratch.

 

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Finally, as guitars #3 and #4 do draw to a close, note that I'm still have the slots for guitars #5 and #6 open, so if you fancy a guitar that is built for you, get in touch. Pricing and timing will depend on what you want: I'm pretty adept at producing t-style guitars now as you can see, but I'm itching to have a go at other solid body or semi-hollow body designs: perhaps an S-Type takes you fancy, or a Les Paul Jr for something a little more raw? Or even something that it's just hard to get like a baritone or a custom scale length variation.

Using a laser cutter to make fretboards

There's many ways to approach most problems when building a guitar, and the method you pick will be in part dictated by which tools you have access to at the time. As such, when it came to making my own fretboard for the first time, rather than buy new tools for the job, I first had a look to see what things I had access to at the maker space I work from that might help. This has resulted in my using a combination of low tech and high tech in a way I've not seen used anywhere else, so I thought I'd document the approach.

To start with, I'm making necks with a maple back and a glued on fretboard, so I start with a piece of wood thickened to around 6mm that I'll use for the fretboard. I leave this wider than the neck itself, and I'll use a hand router to make it flush with the neck once glued in place.

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My aim here is to make very narrow slows so that I don't have to glue the frets in. Fretwire has a toothed piece called the tang which will stick into a slot in the fretboard. The tang is typically 0.5mm in width, so ideally you want your slot to be slightly smaller.

The main tool I have access to that my technique is based around is a laser cutter. A laser cutter is basically a machine into which you place a bit of wood and it has a laser head that can be moved over the piece in 2D to either cut or etch the surface, depending on how much power you provide to the laser. It's a really good tool for cutting sheets of ply wood or etching nice designs into thicker bits of wood. But the question is, can we use it to cut fret slots? To work this out, I spent an evening playing with various powers and slot designs until I ended up with something that worked:

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In the end I realised I couldn't reliably cut the slots using the laser. To cut the wood you need quite a high power beam, which will cause some charring around the slot, and it's hard to control how deep the slot is; normally you're just cutting through the piece, so it's not an issue, but there's no reliable way to specify you want to cut to a given depth, and even if you can estimate the right power, the depth would vary with the wood density and the mood of the laser cutter that day.

So instead I use a hybrid approach: I use the laser cutter to etch a 0.5mm grove that is tenths of a mm deep for each fret slot, and I use that as a guide for a simple back saw to cut the slots by hand. With a suitably narrow saw (I have a Japanese Dozuki back saw that has a 0.3mm wide blade) I can then hammer in my frets without needing to use glue to hold them in.

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The nice thing about the laser cutter for this is that etching the slots takes a couple of minutes at most, whereas if I'd tried to use the CNC router to do the same task it'd have easily taken an order of magnitude longer. You can get a sense of the speed from this video:

The final result works quite well, and I think is a nice combination of new tech to ensure the slots are accurately positioned, and old tech to cut the slots for that hand built quality that people want in a custom guitar.

So, if you have access to a laser cutter (a common tool at a community maker space, which is how I access mine), then all you need to do this technique a design file that'll generate the slot patterns to feed to the laser cutter. Which is why I wrote the fret design generator tool - simply tell that the scale length and fret count, select the laser etching option, and you have a design ready to feed to the laser cutter software. If you give this technique a go, do let me know, I'd be keen to see if it works for others as it has for me!

Another week in the shop

Once again I've had the luxury of being mostly in the shop this week, so again I'll take this opportunity to write up some of the goings ons.

This week guitar wise has been about getting those two necks finished and oiled. Monday was a repeat of the previous monday where I sanded the rosewood neck and finished off the frets so they're both nicely polished and feel smooth as you run your hand up and down the fretboard. Having then finally got both necks frets happy, I ran them both through setup: stringing both guitars up, checking the action, doing truss rod adjustments and so forth, confusing anyone who came into the workshop room at Makespace to see a bearded hippy playing guitar in there.

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This means both necks are now into the stage where I'm oiling them twice a day. For this I'm using the Crimson Guitars finishing oil, which I quite like as a finisher on maple necks. Although people expect maple necks to be lacquered and glossy, I find that half a dozen coats of oil (either the stuff I use or Tru-oil is the other popular choice) leaves the neck with a satin like smooth finish that feels to me much nicer as you slide up and down the neck. Ultimately it's down to personal preference, and the fact I don't have a spray booth.

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As part of setup, on both guitars I tried out my new nuts that I've 3D printed. The nut on a guitar is the bit of bone or bone substitute that sit at the top of the neck near the tuning pegs that guide the strings down the neck. Whilst not the hardest of things to make, I do find shaping and filing the them a bit tedious, and as is probably becoming a running theme in this blog, I like to see if I can remove tedium where possible.

So for fun, and as a way of giving me a project to learn more about designing in 3D and using the different types of 3D printer available to me in Makespace, I designed, prototyped, and produced my own guitar nuts. To do the initial design I used Autodesk Fusion 360, I did a rapid print using an Ultimaker 3D printer to get something I could test fit, iterated through that again, got something I was happy with, and then did a final print using the Form One to get something that is of more production quality than I can get from the Ultimaker. I use the Ultimaker for the test prints as they tak 20 minutes at high resolution vs 90 minutes on the Form One, and have a similar proportional materials cost, with a test print costing 5p on the Ultimaker vs 75p on the Form One. You can see all the stages here:

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On the left is a bone nut that I filed, then the first prototype which was too flat, the second prototype which had the right radius, and then a final print in resin to get a nicer finish for actually stringing up. Note the string channels are in the design to give me the correct spacing, though I do need to fine tune them with a file, it's way less work than for the bone nut.

I'll publish the design files once I've got some confidence this actually is sensible. The first resin version I printed was a bit too tall in the end, and the string channels a bit too wide, so I got some buzzing on the lower strings. My main concern with this approach is that although the resin can withstand the stress (at least so far) of being strung up, I'm worried about the strings cutting into the resin over time as the guitar is tuned up and down. So I'm not yet confident to encourage people to take this route, but it's still an interesting learning experience for me. Here's a picture of the nut in place: I quite like the clear look as it's both unusual but not distracting.

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The other reason I've not published the design files yet is just where to publish them. I could make a public link through Fusion 360, but I can't see a way to add LICENSE and README type files. I could use Thiniverse, but it's list of supported files doesn't include Fusion 360 archives, so I'd have to put up just the STL file, and I'd rather publish the original design as people will need to tweak it to fit their particular neck measurements. I could just use github as I've done for software (see below), but I'm not sure that's a good place for 3D models. If anyone can guide me here, it'd be much appreciated.

Moving on, I have a tutorial post I want to write about how I use the laser cutters at Makespace to make fretboards, but before I do that I needed a way to ensure other people could readily follow in my footsteps, which will require having a suitably made up fretboard design file. I did this by hand the first time, and I was going to just publish that design file, but I decided it wasn't that hard to make a tool to generate those files, so I spent a couple of days on that instead.

I made a simple webpage based tool that will generate fretboard design files so you can just enter the details of the neck you want to make, and the page will spit out either an SVG or DXF design file that you can then load into your design tool or CAM software. This was also an excuse to brush off my dusty HTML5 and Javascript which I've not had to use in anger for a while. I used MakerJS, which is an open source project from Microsoft that is aimed at making it easy to programatically generate parameterised designs that you can then send to 3D printers, laser cutters and so forth. It's really quite nice, though lacking in a couple of areas, but if those become an issue then it's open source so I can just go fix them and contribute it back. My fretboard design generator is also open sourced, and you can play with it here.

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Finally, I ordered the parts for my next project piece, a simple 5W 1x10 combo tube amp based on the old Fender Tweed Champ/Princeton circuit. The circuits for these are very simple and well understood, so I thought a good place to learn. However, it's not just the electronics I want to get back into (I actually did two years of this at Uni, but haven't touched it in two decades!), I also want to use this to push more into 3D design, modelling the cabinate in Fusion 360 and hopefully generating the tool paths for the CNC router for the panels from that. I imagine that will take a while, so don't expect this to be done by next week's post!

Fretboard design generator

Fretboard layouts are one of the more fiddly bits of building a guitar. Even if you're using CNC machinery as part of your workflow, taking the output of a fret spacing calculator and entering it into your design tool is very tedious.

For my first fretboard, I found an existing design file at the right scale length, but now someone has asked me about a baritone neck, so I was back to square one. Being both lazy and a software engineer, I decided to automate the generation of design files into a simple webpage, which you can access here.

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It's (hopefully) simple to use: you enter the details of the neck you want such as the scale length, the number of frets and so forth, you get a preview of you fretboard along with the positions in a table for you to confirm it is what you want, and then you can export the design as SVG or DXF. This means you can import it into most design and CAM software for final tweaking and then to production. Here you can see one imported into the tool I use for driving the laser cutters at Makespace:

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At Electric Flapjack Guitars we're a big believer in contributing back to the luthier community that continues to help us out, so this tool is open source for others to play with and contribute to. The tool was mostly created using MakerJS, a nice Javascript library from Microsoft that is targetted at people trying to make it easy to generate designs for the kit you find in maker spaces programatically. The library isn't perfect, for example it won't generate polylines in DXF, so you still need to close them in whatever other design tool you use if you pick that option, but overall it made it nice as easy to create this tool.

A tip of the hat to Matt of the awesome Fidelity Guitars who gave me some feedback on this to help improve it!

Making your own dot inlays

With the current pair of guitars I've been making the necks for the first time. Whilst I see nothing wrong with buying a well made neck if you're after a traditional style guitar, if you want something unique then a custom neck is the way to go. Of the two necks, one is a traditional maple neck with rosewood fretboard, and the second is going for something more unusual, with a maple neck again but using a lovely spalted tamarind piece of wood I found as the fretboard.

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For both fretboards I wanted traditional dot style inlays: it's a classic look and keeps things simple for my first outing. For the rosewood this meant just buying some dot markers of the right radius. These have a nice pearl type feel to them and are made of plastic. However, for the tamarind neck I wanted black dots to stand out, and you can't buy black inlay dots (at least I wasn't able to find any; I assume because plastic will scratch to white, which won't show up on the white inlays but will on the black).

So, I decided to once again take advantage of having access to a laser cutter at my local maker space and make my own inlays, which turned out to be really simple to do. and look lovely. So for those interested, here's how I did it.

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Laser cutters are great things, but you need to watch for the thickness of the material you're trying to cut: too thick, and it won't be able to cut it, and even if it can, you'll end up with scorch marks due to the power you needed to get through. With inlays however we have the advantage that the dots only need to be a few millimetres thick, and as I'm after dark dots any scorching won't show up much.

Thus I got a bit of 3mm thick rocklite ebona (an ebony substitute) that was billed as a headstock faceplate. This gave me a nice dark wood and something not too thick that I'd need to plane it down before cutting. Next up I did some testing to work out both the minimal power I needed to cut through this bit of wood and the size of the dot (the dot is just a circle, and most laser cutter/CNC software should let you do this, so I'll not go into the drawing bit here). It took me a few goes to get the power to the smallest amount where it'll cut through, and I till had to prod a little to get them to detach. But as mentioned already, it's worth doing this as it'll reduce scorching on the edges of your inlay. Once I had the power dialled in I drilled a few holes in a bit of scrap wood using the same drill bit I'd use to make the holes in the fretboard, and starting at the "same" diameter as the drill bit I changed the size by tenths of a millimetre until I had a snug fit: I found for my 6mm drill bit I needed to set the circle size to 6.1mm.

As you can see, it worked a charm:

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A nice bonus is it takes very little material to make the ten dots required for a traditional 21 fret neck, even allowing for the test cuts; so for my outlay of six pounds for that bit of wood I doubt I'll need to buy more dot material for quite a while. It's certainly a lot cheaper than buying plastic inlays, and I think looks nicer too.

Note that although with a light wood you will get some scorching, it'll only be on the surface and should easily sand off as you radius theneck, so you shouldn't have any issue doing the inverse with a dark fretboard and light dots, just go easy on the laser power as much as you can and remember to do a test piece first!

 

A week in the shop

Normally the guitar building fits in and around other activities, but this week has mostly been guitar focussed, and to give you a taste of what's fun and happening, I thought I'd write up what the week entailed.

The main thrust is finishing off guitars #3 and #4 at the moment, so there was a lot of moving those forward. This pair of guitars are the first taken from plank to guitar, including building the necks from scratch for the first time. This has involved some fun using the laser cutter to help with the fretboard production. which I'll write up properly shortly so others can use the technique, but I just have an idea how to make it even easier I want to try that first. But neck building is just a lot of hard work for the most part - the body gets most of the attention in a guitar, but the neck is what takes the time to make sure it's right. And whilst I don't see anything wrong with buying in necks if that suits the build, building them yourself gives you the chance to build something special, like this amazingly pretty spalted tamarind fretboard for guitar #4:

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So pretty much a day was spent just levelling, shaping, and polishing the frets. Slow progress, but worth it. Hopefully this will get quicker with practice.

I also took the neck from guitar #3 and reshaped it, having made it quite chunky first time around, and after some playing I decided I wasn't happy with it. As someone who has built digital hardware and software for the last couple of decades, free hand neck carving was something that I was scared of the first time: there's no undo if you take too much off. As a result I was a bit timid on this neck and left on plenty of wood, but it was a bit too much for comfort up around the 1st fret. So, to make things a lot easier I brought back in guitar #1 and measured up the neck with calipers, and then took a rasp back to my first neck and slimmed it down a bit, making it much more comfortable.

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I spent some time learning how to use the FormLabs Form-1 3D printer that is in Makespace (Makespace being the maker space in which I do my guitar building). Although I've used things like the Ultimaker before, which is what most people think of when they hear about 3D printing, the resolution on those isn't great, and the finish isn't smooth, so whilst they're great for prototyping, they're less useful for production quality parts. The Form-1 works a different way, firing lasers into a tray of resin to cause it to solidify where the lasers intersect. Whilst you still get some artifacts, you can do good resolution with the Form-1, and it's much easier to sand down to a smooth finish. The flip side is it's a lot slower, more expensive, and a lot more temperamental, as I discovered when my first print failed to make what I wanted, and instead made a random blob Still, I got there in the end and the results are great. I definitely want to use this to start printing my own knobs etc. for the guitars.

In addition to learning the 3D printer, this also started me off trying to learn Autodesk Fusion 360 properly. I want to move away from using familiar guitar shapes to my own eventually, and this is the tool my friends are recommending to me. It's free to use for the hobby makers and small buisnesses, so it's cheap to get started too. I also really like that I can send my design straight to Cura (the tool for printing on the Ultimaker) or PreForm (the tool for printing on the Form-1) without messing about with intermediary file formats.

I also got around to ditching transfers on the headstocks, and laser etching them with the Electric Flapjack logo instead. Again, the advantage of hanging out in a maker space is they have kit like this I can use where otherwise it'd not feasible to justify buying it for such a trivial use. But given I do have it, it's great. I just took the Adobe Illustrator file I generated last time which I sent to a transfer printer, exported it as an AutoCAD DXF file, imported into the software that controls the laser cutter, and after a number of test runs on a spare bit of maple I had (measure, measure, cut remember!) I got the laser power to where it was strong enough to etch the maple, but not burn it too much, and the results are great.

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All the above makes it seem like I had a wonderfully productive week, but I also lost a lot of time learning to recover from a thing that went wrong. People don't like to talk or share what goes wrong, but it's inevitable and you just need to learn how to cope. My disaster was when mountin the machine heads into the nice tamarind neck pictured above, the head on one of the screws sheered off leaving me with the rest of it embedded in the maple without enough exposed to be able to grab it with some pliers:

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So what to do? Well, this is where you find out the community of luthiers and makers is a lovely set of people. I posted this picture on instagram, and I got people telling not to fret (ho ho) this has happened to them, and then giving me suggestions on how to tackle this.

In the end the screw was removed successfully. Given I had a bunch of options that all looked tricky to pull off neatly, I applied a scientific approach to the problem: I got similar screws, embedded them in maple (which is a very dense wood, so it'd not be representative had I just used pine say), cut their heads off (many screws died for this) and then tested all the techniques. Having found one that worked repeatedly for me, I then executed that on the neck successfully with minimal damage to the rest of the neck. In the end what I did was drill two small holes next to the screw on the side where the machine head is, and manaeged to use needle nosed pliars to wiggle it lose enough that I could grip the screw and rotate it to come out. I then filled the holes using cocktail sticks and wood glue so I can re-drill it, and all the repair work is under the machine head, so won't ruin the look.

Many thanks to all that suggested techniques, and especially to Matt of Fidelity Guitars who suggested the technique I used in the end!

 

IKARI at King Tut's

’m a very proud brother: my brother Tristan and his friends, known collectively as IKARI played their first gig at the famous King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, and really knocked it out the park.

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They played a six song set as part of a four band line up at King Tut’s that evening. They executed their songs flawlessly, they sounded great, and the audience packed (by far the biggest audience of the evening). They even had the audience singing along loud to their single Ghosts and the as yet unreleased Ocean Waves.

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I was also a wee bit proud for another reason: Tristan used the guitar I built for him on stage. That guitar, which was a labour of love for the better part of a year, has featured both in the single IKARI recorded and now their live set: I feel truly honoured that this thing I’ve made has been a part of IKARI’s story. In software we have the concept of shipping our products: I’d say this guitar has definitely shipped :)

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Super proud of my brother and his pals who together have formed the band IKARI, who have their debut single launch today, Ghosts.

You can snag it on iTunes and Spotify etc. They’ve done a superb job, a great professional production.

I’m also just a wee bit proud too that the guitar my brother is playing on the single and in the video is the one that I built for him: it’s amazing to have built something that enabled him in some small part to create this single.

If the single takes your fancy then IKARI are playing at King Tut’s in Glasgow on August 11th, go to their site to get tickets!

Custom Tele Build #2, or how to pick up something new and not get overwhelmed

I put together a short video about my second guitar build (for those keeping count, I’m currently building 3 and 4). This guitar was a build for my brother, who currently is playing metalcore band Ikari, and wanted something that was atypically metal, so I made him a tele that sounds like something more grungy.

This guitar really took way longer than I expected, and was way more challenging that I had anticipated. Partly this is due to work getting in the way, but partly because I unintentionally broke my own rule of keeping things simple and only incrementally stepping out if my comfort zone. This is basically the rule that should prevent me trying to do too much and being overwhelmed in a project: each time (in this case, each guitar) stick with what you know but change just one thing to something new that you don’t know how to do.

With the first guitar, I mostly took existing bits and tweaked them to build a guitar that is to my tastes. So whilst I did have to do some woodwork, it was nothing too scary, and mostly it was within my comfort zone. And that worked: I still play that guitar most every day. For the second one I thought I’d try to increment in two ways (as a guitar has two major parts, why not do a small step on both?): I made the body from scratch, and I did the fretwork on the neck. Turns out, both of these were quite bigger challenges than I’d anticipated, so I should, in retrospect, have only done one. As such the project dragged on and on and risked never getting finished as it became more of a burden than a thing of fun.

But thankfully my second rule of that I apply to this sort of thing saved the project: I had a customer. Had I been making this guitar for just me, then I’d probably have just stalled and it would have languished. But to try and make sure I had a focus for the build, I started out by deciding I’d make one for my brother (who is a totally awesome guitarist), and I’d make it to his requirements. This meant that when the project seemed not fun, I still had a reason to drag myself into makespace and take yet another run at those darned annoying frets.

The guitar was originally meant to be finished for last christmas, and it’s only now in late May that I’m finally handing it over to my brother. I still am not happy with the guitar: I can see all the things I’d do differently, but there comes a time when you have to just ship it, take those lessons, and move on. I have impossibly high standards of what I’d like to achieve, but the only way to get there is keep trying, rather than just endlessly refining on thing. Making this video was actually quite cathartic; for the first time I actually just enjoyed playing it in the endless takes that didn’t make the video. Would I do things differently if I was building this guitar again? Of course. But actually, making the video enabled me to see actually I’d made something pretty cool, that if you asked me 12 and a bit months ago could I build, I’d have struggled to believe you.

Which is a good point to reflect: I set out to build my first guitar based on watching too many youtube videos on luthiers about 12 months ago, having not done any woodwork for 25 years. by having some simple rules in place to try and make sure the project didn’t stall, I’ve actually built two guitars, and I’m in the process of building two more. When people look at my guitars they mostly look at them and thing, “wow, I could never do that”, which is what I’d‘ve thought 13 months ago. I now mostly preach these two rules of personal project management to people: you can do it, you just need to set yourself up for success correctly by limiting scope and having a delivery target to hold yourself to to get through the bad times.

Welcome to Nerdville

As part of my adventures in amateur luthiery, part of understanding what to build is researching what’s gone before, so I’ve been brushing up on my knowledge of vintage guitars. Less that I want a vintage guitar (although I’d not say no to a Tele from my birth year, if you happen to have a 76 spare), more I want to see what’s gone before to inspire me on what to build next.

I find it somewhat fascinating how little guitar design has evolved in the last half century; the popular guitars of today are now knocking on 70 years old now: the Fender Telecaster was designed in 1949, the Gibson Les Paul, came out in 1952, and the Fender Stratocaster in 1954. But then I guess classical string instrument design hasn’t changed much either in the last few hundred years, at least in terms of superficials.

Anyway, as part of that I’ve amassed a set of links I thought I’d share incase anyone else was interested in having a look at guitar history.

Book-wise, I can recommend The History of the American Guitar by Tony Bacon, and for my particular go-to guitar Six Decades of the Fender Telecaster, also by Mr Bacon. Neither book is vastly deep, but both give you a good overview over how things have evolved over the last 100 years in terms of guitars, both in terms of sound and use, but also the trends in both taste and business that have driven them.

As ever, YouTube is a treasure trove of things. For a quick look at a lot of vintage guitars, then I can highly recommend the Guitar of the Day playlist from Norman’s Rare Guitars. Five days a week they produce a five minute video showcasing another rare guitar they have in stock, give you a little history, and play it through a clean amp so you can hear it too (“all the EQs at noon, just a little reverb…”).

For a longer dive into the world of a vintage guitar addict, this programme about the buying habits of blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa is well worth a watch:

A hat tip to Andy Field for pointing me at that video. If you actually play too, then I also enjoyed this interview with Bonamassa on how he gets his tone to be like that of the 60s blues starts like Cream, Jeff Beck, etc.

Finally, if you like fiddling with guitars, I can also recommend the Mod Garage column in Premier Guitar; they have loads of columns about how wiring evolved for old Teles etc., and some variations to make them suitable for modern ears.

If you have any recommendations for other sources, please let me know!