my guitars

Around 1993 I decided to build my own guitar. I couldn’t afford a real one and thought, “how hard could it be?”

I still have that guitar but since then have built four more. I also embarked on winding pickups and some of my guitars feature my own windings. My guitars are objects, not people, so I give them numbers instead of names. I don’t think they mind. If they did I would probably have to go back to giving them names. No, that would still be silly.

Number 11-1

The body is solid mahogany and the neck is two-piece maple. To keep things simple – at that time I never used a tone control – I went with a single volume, a capacitor switch and coil split switch. The locking tuners and floating vibrato are both Gotoh, but I replaced the original saddles with Graphtec Stringsavers.

I originally put in two Seymour Duncan pickups – Custom in the bridge and Jazz in the neck, but have since replaced the Jazz with a handbuilt P90, and swapped the ceramic magnet in the Custom for an AlNiCo 8. What a huge difference that made! The pickup now sounds fantastic! It sounds like a real single coil when split and nice and jangly when combined with the P90.

Weight is a hefty 4kg but the strategically placed strap makes it reasonably comfortable to play.


Number 2

2-1
This is my design for a lighter, hollow strat-style guitar.

The alder body is chambered from the back, with maple panels covering the chambers. The neck is two piece curly maple and birdseye maple. I thought I’d go with a standard 25 ½” scale.

Pickups are from Irongear – Pig Irons in the neck and middle positions and a Platinum 90 in the bridge. Together they sound found fantastic. Having bought and played Seymour Duncans for years, I can highly recommend Irongears.

Controls are volume (with push/pull to wire the bridge pickup in series), 6 way selector (bridge, bridge+middle, middle, neck+bridge, neck+middle, neck) and Greasebucket tone.

Weighing about 2.5kg it is fantastically light and easy to play.


Number 3

3-1
My third design was meant to incorporate a few ideas I had been thinking about for a while. The most notable one is that it is electric and acoustic, thanks to the LR Baggs X-bridge wired to its own volume control and stereo output. I also wanted to hide the controls on the top of the body, similar to an acoustic.

The body has a hollowed alder back and bookmatched walnut top. The neck is curly maple with a cocobolo fingerboard.

The neck pickup is a Seymour Duncan ’59 and the bridge pickup is my own, hand built AlNiCo V mini humbucker, wired to a concentric volume tone. The 5-way switch is wired for neck, neck+capacitor*, both, bridge, acoustic only. *This gives it a mellow, jazz-like tone.


4-1
Number 4

Each of my guitars was built for a purpose or sound. I didn’t want to copy anyone else’s work, but number 4 was my take on the Telecaster with a 25″ scale.

To chamber the ash body, I used four pieces, two for the top and two for the back. The neck is maple and birdseye maple.

I handbuilt both pickups; the neck is neodymium (since replaced with a Wilkinson P90) and the bridge is an AlNiCo V. The 5-way switch gives you the usual bridge/both/neck combinations, plus series (lovely warm and full) and out of phase (lovely nasal and thin) sounds.


Number 5

5-1

No. 5 was designed to cover as many sounds as possible, from big, thick humbucker tones to Stratocaster-like single coil tones, in particular the ‘in-between’ sounds. I think I achieved that. I also wanted to try a 24″ scale, which I’ve found to be very comfortable. The through-neck construction was a first for me too. I originally wanted cedar for the top, but when I saw this piece of yellowheart, I quickly changed my mind.

Electrics comprise volume, tone, split coil switch and five way super switch (neck, neck+middle split, neck+bridge, bridge+middle split, bridge). The neck pickup is a hand built humbucker made with pole piece magnets to give a genuine single coil sound. I have since replaced the middle pickup with an Axesrus TT73 and the bridge is now an Axesrus The Purist. Axesrus make fantastic pickups, hand wound in the UK.

Lots of shooting-in-foot went into building this, and after much trial and error it will probably be my last guitar. I don’t mind, as it sounds and plays beautifully.