Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The aluminium bars have arrived

The flat bars of aluminium, which I ordered, have arrived. If I arrange them as a T-beam and add the other components I have already bought, it looks like this.

The guitar is almost complete, right? All that's lacking is some wood.

Not exactly. I can see the following steps ahead of me:

  • Plan exact geometry of the T-beam.
  • Decide/calculate placement of bridge and pickups
  • Cut and route top flange
  • Cut and route bottom flange
  • Bolt and epoxy glue the two flanges together.
  • Cut fingerboard and epoxy glue it to top flange.
  • Mount frets.
  • Design and make locking nut from a piece of brass.
  • Level and dress frets.
  • Drill holes for bridge and mount bridge
  • Put on strings, test how much too high the action is.
  • Route recess for lowering bridge.
  • Cut wood for neck and body
  • Sand wood parts
  • Stain and oil wood (I'll probably use spruce for the first version, but I'd like it to look like walnut).
  • Mount wood parts.
  • Wire electronics (pickups, pots and jack).
  • Mount electronics.
  • Mount strings.
  • Play.
  • Adjust.
  • Play some more.
  • etc...
If you can think of anything that I've left out - or a better sequence of steps - please let me know. I haven't been explicit about it in my earlier posts, but I've never built a guitar before.

I guess it'll take more than just a couple of months before this can actually be called a guitar. That's all right. I'm not in a hurry.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Visionary lutherie

The other day, I stumbled upon an interesting and very inspiring website: KTL guitars . It is run by a Norwegian luthier, Knut Tore Ljøsne, who builds a number of very different guitars - different from one another as well as different from all the rest.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the possibility of using traditional tuners behind the bridge and having the strings go through the top of the guitar. Knut Tore actually did that on his Evil Axe guitar. He reports some tuning stability problems, but thinks that without a vibrato arm (which the Evil Axe has), it would be pretty simple to make it work properly. Since I've never been particularly fond of vibrato arms and don't intend to have one on the T-beam, that makes his approach very usable for a possible future guitar of mine (the first version will use a Schaller fine-tuning bridge).

Close up of the Evil Axe's tuners, copyright Knut Tore Ljøsne, used with permission

The Evil Axe is a remarkably beautiful instrument. Especially since everything on it - the arm rest, the horn for the strap, the two horns making up the thigh support - are there for a purpose (yes, I am a form follows function guy). It has no fancy elements "just for decoration" - perhaps except for the Strat-headstock-esque end holding the tuners, which nevertheless looks brilliant.

Evil Axe guitar, copyright Knut Tore Ljøsne, used with permission

Another of Knut Tore's guitars is the Magnum 648, Which is a lot more futuristic in its design. The body is made from a combination of wood and aluminium. Like the Evil Axe, it is a headless guitar, but it uses a Floyd Rose bridge instead of the Evil Axe's traditional tuners. Knut Tore has used an ordinary hand held router and woodworking routing bits for the aluminium part - just as I intented to do on the T-beam - and has kindly provided a couple of tips and tricks, which I look forward to employing when I start metalworking myself.

Magnum 648 , copyright Knut Tore Ljøsne, used with permission

Knut Tore's approach to guitar building involves a lot of computer modelling before the actual build. This allows for the wide variety in his guitars, since there is a greater probability that a guitar with a new design will actually sound good. Without modelling - or a very good ability to predict the acoustic characteristics of a new design - most luthiers are confined to more or less using the same proven formula for every guitar they build.

There are other very visionary and beautiful (and beautifully sounding) guitars on Knut Tore's website. I've just mentioned the two, which have most things in common with my own project. Go have a look.