I started learning how to play guitar when I was about 20, but before then, I was avidly in to taking things apart, and putting them back together, especially bicycles. I also enjoyed building things out of wood, and had amassed a pretty solid collection of tools to take care of pretty much anything that came up around the house, or if I needed to build something like a shelf.
I Didn’t know how to care for the instruments properly when I started. I ruined an acoustic guitar, my first 12 string, by leaving the strings all up to pitch and resting the guitar in it’s case near a radiator. Always learning things the hard way! This guitar was set aside and eventually fixed, years later.
My first electric guitar was a Kay strat-style guitar that I picked up from a Salvation Army thrift store. It wasn’t the best guitar, but after months of playing it, I became curious and eventually familiar with the various adjustments that can be made to help guitars play better: the saddle height and string length adjustments, neck pitch, nut height, and the truss rod tension. Eventually I got that guitar playing like a dream.
My second electric guitar was (and still is) an Ibanez S370, with a purple sparkle finish and a Floyd Rose tremolo. I quickly dug in to the hardware in order to extract the best action I could from the guitar. The Floyd Rose was a tricky beast to learn. The tension of the strings at pitch must be perfectly balanced by the spring tension in the control cavity on the back of the guitar. Eventually I got the feel for it, and that S370 plays like a dream now.
Some months after that, after I had just played the S370 for a few hours, I set the guitar down to admire it. As I was taking in all the bits and pieces, suddenly I had a realization: guitars are made mostly out of wood! And I have tools to cut and trim and clamp and glue wood together! Perhaps I can build a guitar that is every bit as good as the guitars I’ve played already, perhaps even better! That was the beginning of a long road of collecting more tools, learning new tricks, and healing from the occasional slip-up.
I started building my first guitar in 2010. It was a long process, as I learned along the way. I wasn’t making a lot of money at my job, and so for many months, the pattern was: paycheck, buy a piece of wood; next paycheck, buy a new tool to work on that wood; next paycheck, buy another piece of wood; next paycheck, buy the next tool I need …. It was a slow process. Eventually I got that guitar built, and it felt like a dream. Being able to hold and play and make music with this instrument which I built from scratch was an otherworldly feeling.
After that guitar was built, I spent a long time experimenting with guitar electronics, and building pedals and various experimental circuits to modify the signal that we get from these instruments. Unfortunately, almost all of those circuits were built on breadboards and not soldered together into something more permanent. I don’t know of any examples that still exist now, but I did learn quite a lot about how all those discrete parts mesh together to make the sounds we expect from them. I was starting to get the feeling that I wanted to build guitars and pedals and electric circuits for other artists, but I didn’t have the vision or drive to make that a reality yet.
I started building my second guitar with a simple goal: I just wanted an electric guitar that could do everything. Not too much to ask for, is it? So I started plotting and planning and picking up more lumber. And more tools to make certain parts of the build easier. It was going to be another neck-through guitar, but this time with a five piece neck instead of just one. And the electronics cavity was going to be huge to accommodate all the electronics I had planned. Seymour-Duncan P-Rails and a Vintage Hot Stack Plus for maximum versatility in the magnetic pickups, and a Schaller-Hannes bridge with built in Piezo pickups which is the base of the hexaphonic system in the guitar. Each pickup has it’s own volume and tone knobs, stacked, with a push/pull for phase selection. The hexaphonic pickups are mated to a preamp of my own design, which pushes the 6 signals out of the guitar to the brain box for further processing, and also sums the signals and feeds them to an Acousti-Phonic for acoustic guitar emulation. It’s got extra knobs onboard for MIDI/CC signaling to the brain box. It took some years of on-and-off work, a couple books, lots of reading, and lots of learning to get it all working properly. I have a series of youtube videos that document some of the work that went in to getting it all going.
The third guitar I made was envisioned to be a more dynamic kind of a guitar. Less crazy electronics to get lost in, more straightforward. Something that anyone could pick up and feel confident about using. A fast, thin neck, and the lowest action possible without unwanted buzzing. It was largely a success, and it’s still my go-to electric guitar.
After finishing the third guitar, I resolved to make my dream of building guitars for other people a reality. This site was built and I started getting everything that you are reading now all typed up. I’ll be building a fourth guitar shortly, planning for some fancier things there. Binding on the body and the fretboard, perhaps a bit more inlay than the last one had. And still with the straightforward electronics, and a neck-through design. I also have a fifth guitar planned that will be a fully hollow body guitar, in the style of an archtop jazz instrument.
If you have a vision for a guitar that does not exist, and you want it to, I’d be glad to make that happen for you.