Sunday, 25 September 2011

A guitar that works

What started as a testbed has turned into a nice, playable guitar.

For the first time, I've made a working guitar that I believe suits my position and style better than anything I could buy. This was the problem, that initially, some four years ago, got me interested in ergonomics and the possibility of building your own, very personal guitar.

That's something of a milestone, actually.

[Blogspot insists on rotating the image on the right. I have no idea why, and I can't fix it]

Things I like about the guitar:

It's comfortable to play. There's still much adjustment (and probably replacement of some wooden parts) to do, but it's more comfortable than any other guitar that I've played.

With the Seymour Duncan pickup, it sounds at least decent. My first impression is that it's a bit shrill, probably due to the steel body.

It's modular, meaning that I can replace components when I want without taking the whole guitar apart.

It's easily adjustable, making it possible to try different positions.

It's thin where it matters ...the area of the body around the bridge pickup hole is only 20 mm thick. And that's the place where it matters, because this is the area with which the guitar rests against my chest. This means that I can have it close to my body without having to reach my arms around it.

Everything on it works. Tuning, intonation, action, pickup adjustment, neck bow, etc. Some parts work really well (the bridge and wooden arm and thigh rest), while some could use improvement (the tuners and the strap horn).

The roughness and homemadeness are style elements, which are imposed by my lack of workshop skills (and the fact that I don't much like to spend money on having a professional doing it for me (because if you spend money, you have to work more, and I'm not particularly fond of that, either)). But I've come to like the roughness and the fact that you can see that the parts are made from stock metal. There's a certain honesty to it.

Things I'm doing these days:
  • Playing the guitar
  • Tuning the guitar (I'm dissatisfied with the tuner system, but it works well enough for now)
  • Moving and adjusting the wooden pieces
  • Adjusting action and intonation. That's pretty easy on the two part bridge, but I am going to make an improved version with the saddle piece at the rear, and fixing and adjustment screws towards the neck. That'll give more room for the new tuner.

Things I might do next:
  • Add some copper tubing for the pickup wires. 
  • Copper jack cover plus master volume and switch. I plan to use the principle of copper "cups" that Rick Toone made.
  • New tuner system (see picture)
  • New bridge
  • Make a wide copper pickup cover that covers the bridge cavity.
  • Shape and smooth the wooden pieces. They're quite rough and lack a common "theme" of shapes and curves.
  • Blue the body
  • Test my current transformer pickups on the guitar (after all, it's thought out as a testbed)

But first, I have to buy some more tools and some more metal.


Kåre said...


G L Wilson said...


Alexander Gorm Øst said...


Bertram said...


bernard said...

very nice ..been following ur blog n it got me thinkinh on possible headless guitar tuning alternatives.....

i have a klein styled body,which was recessed floydbose cavity.but i have already have it filled i am thinking of tuners to fit the scheme and i am trying to avoid gearless tuners as its quite expensive...and also as much as possible i do not want to remove much wood to accomodate e tuners

i think ur final tbeam tuners had very interesting concept but yet simplicity in was the process of making it?

Bernard said...

btw, my email is :)

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

I think the principle would work well for you. One of the drawbacks for me was having to use the two pieces of brass going parallel with the body (because my "body" was only a steel box profile, ending around where the bridge is). The principle of the tuners are clearly more suited for a more traditional wooden body.

If you have a full, wooden body, you only need to make room for the two flat pieces of brass (or any material you prefer) holding the tuners - plus of course, room for the strings.

My version of the tuner bracket was quite hard to make. I tried to solder it, but it broke, and is now held together with screws.

Bernard said...

am having several sleepless nights trying to figure it out. i even thought of doing a bottom extension for th e tuners on the klein body, ala a gancarz fan fret guitar

picture of my guitar nw with the 'gancarz extension theory'

if based on your spanish tuners , it will work similar with the gancarz fan fret....

what bout the tbeam final tuners that u did...hows the tuning like?

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

Nice Klein type guitar! But I think the design lends itself to my design rather than the Ganrcarz layout - the body already has the hollow area behind the bridge that's necessary for the strings to go to the holes in the tuner pegs. Btw., you don't have to slant the two bars holding the tuners like I did. If your bridge has sufficiently deep notches for the strings, the strings can be allowed to spread out a little on their way to the tuners.

If you deepen the gap behind the bridge somewhat, you might be able to place the guitar upright without it resting on the tuners.

The T-beam tuners work nicely, though they'd improve with a finer thread (the current one is M3, and I believe M4/.35 mm would make tuning a bit smoother). Mounting the strings is a bit more complicated than with the Spanish tuners, as the string is fastened with a screw on the "plunger". Plus, there's a lot of cutting, filing and making threads involved. Overall, I believe you have a better chance to get a functioning system with the Spanish tuners.

Bernard said...

thanks for all the help..that could help.....! am just thinking of the string angle...btw, have u seen the tuning concept on lowry guitar? that cld work too..

Alexander Gorm Øst said...

Yes, the Lowry layout looks sensible, but must be difficult to do - drilling the holes for the tuners must be close to impossible unless the body is split in pieces.