Sunday, July 10, 2022

Back in the Saddle

I've been a wee bit busy the last couple of years.... back in 2016 I fractured vertebrae #1 which put the kibosh on hobbies for a bit + family stuff + a pandemic + huge work projects + a partridge in a pear tree.

Getting back into the saddle, I have several projects in queue.

Up first we have a lovely little experiment. This is a bit of a mash-up of classical, electric, and prewar Martin guitars.  I used my classical guitar mold for the body - back and sides are from an old mahogany board a friend gave me. 

The top is a piece of red spruce I lucked into for cheap, bracing is a prewar Martin style "forward" X-bracing with the lower bout having fan braces ala Torres classical / PRS  acoustics.   

Neck is a wenge/mahogany laminate, meets the body 12th fret, and an electric-style mount + cut-out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


What do you do when you destroy the body of one guitar (thanks Mom!) and shatter the neck of another guitar (oops!) ?

Stitch the two together and bring it back to life! Mwah-ha-ha!

The original body is the "Cherry" guitar. As you're sure to notice, the top was damaged & replaced as well. The neck came from "Guitar No. 2".

This is no monster, it has great tone.

Scott Perry now owns this one.


Scott recorded a track with this guitar and was gracious enough to let me upload it:

Believe it or not, when you play this file with mpg123 (which I used to test the file before uploading), it gives the following warning:

Playing MPEG stream 1 of 1: Scott_Perry-The_Guitar.mp3 ...

MPEG 1.0 layer III, VBR, 44100 Hz joint-stereo
Title:   The Guitar                      Artist: Scott Perry
Album:   Scott Perry Plays The Guitar

Warning: Encountered more data after announced end of track (frame 8305/8305). Frankenstein!

This was a Frankenstein track.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


I have not posted in a year, but I have done a fair amount of guitar hacking. Working through the backlog, I'll start with the most interesting hack: the exo-skeleton guitar.

I was thinking about how interesting it would be to expose a guitar's internal structure. This is tricky in that the "internal" bracing tends to be thin, delicate, and precise - a "ding" in a brace would be very, very bad. After much experimentation, I came up with a three layer "sandwich" design, where the top braces are between a "lower" partial top and a "upper" partial top.  In this case, the "lower" is some scrap Cedar and the bracing and "upper" is new growth Fir (a.k.a. 2x4). To complete the hack, cotter pins were used in place of normal bridge pins and it has a floating bridge.

The back is "backwards", it is single piece of birch plywood that was cut and fitted into the inside of the lining. One big brace down the middle, two "flying" braces across pull the back into the proper curve.

The neck is made out of strips of plywood laminated together. Sides are a couple layers of laminated 'el-cheapo cedar fence board.

It is, believe it or not, a rather normal sounding guitar.

Pictured is my cousin Denver Gulliford, the proud owner of this rather unique axe.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

About time

I cannot believe it has been a year since I completed my last guitar. I have two in progress, just about finished up with the experimental one shown here, and have a another experiment I'm itching to build (an *exoskeleton* guitar, with all of the bracing on the outside).

The basic idea for this one was a travel guitar with a small body (classical), very sturdy, and can be assembled/disassembled without tools. Bonus points for being cheap, interesting, and sounding good.

Almost the entire thing is made out of a single, cheap, heavily flamed-maple board found at home depot; the neck, the back, and the sides. The top is "craft board" spruce from woodcrafters; they have been stocking reject guitar tops for cheap - great deal if you are willing to sort through a big stack to find a good matching set.


The external experiments include:
  • fan frets, with the 5th fret straight; 24.9" scale on the treble, 25.5" scale on the base
  • floating bridge
  • strings attached to screws on the soundboard
  • two "half" sound holes at the top of the body, spilling over the sides a bit to function as a cut-away
  • raised neck, with internal neck mount
  • flat top and back, no radius
 The interesting inside bits include:
  • extremely rigid, reinforced internal neck mount - held in place with thick maple pates on the top and bottom of the upper bout
  • extremely rigid,laminated neck with a graphite core - no truss rod
  • the neck will hold itself in place, but I added two bolts with wing nuts just to be sure
  • the neck can be easily "flipped around", making it airplane carry-on sized (like this one)
  • extremely rigid, three-layer thick sides - it is strong enough that I strung the guitar up and played it before gluing on the back
  • classical guitar-style fan bracing with a pair of much beefier middle braces to handle the extra stress of steel strings
  • light-weight, laminated spruce and maple bridge plate which is a little longer than normal and the rear portion has a couple extra layers of laminate to hold the string screws
  • I didn't take measurements, but the total bracing and bridge configuration "felt" lighter than the X-braces and rosewood bridge I made for another guitar

Now just to break it in... initial impression is good, it has a lot of volume and sustain.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


For the first time I've designed and built a guitar for someone in specific. The requirements for this one was to be as cheap and durable as possible.

The top is scraps of spruce left over from other guitar builds, as is the cherry neck. The back and sides are 1/8" Lauan laminate. Fret board and bridge are purpleheart.

I used my classical mold and used a shorter 24" scale. The top slopes downward, giving room for a raised finger board. The neck sits in a mortise on both the front of the body and on the top - it should withstand some serious abuse.  The upper bout and the sides are reinforced with Lauan as well.

For fun stuff, I started off with a pinless bridge - but it broke. Rather than steam it off and build a new one, I sanded it down the damaged portion and inserted some short stainless steel screws. To make it a bit more attractive, I filled the X's and put on a coat of pearl-essence finger nail polish. I really like this design and may very well try it again. Super easy to change the strings and should help strength the top since the screw sink into the bridge plate.

The bracing is from my favorite 2x4. I opted to go with a Tacoma style Big A bracing pattern rather than the Martin style X. Since there are fewer braces on the A style, I could make them heaver than normal with compromising the sound too much.

But in this case I did not want to put the sound hole in the upper left bout, as is usually done with the A-style bracing. The problem is that putting the hole in the middle means cutting through the braces. So what I did was put three layers of the Lauan laminate around the area where the hole would be cut, more or less extending the bracing around the hole.  Not only was this easy to do and worked well, but I really liked the visual results as well. Next time I'm going to try this, but heavily radius the inside of the sound hole to make a more visible rosette.

The head is a carved, sorta classical style. Hard to see in the photo, but I like the looks of this design.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shake it

One of the problems with prototyping guitars is that you have to play them quite a bit before they fully develop their sound. It can take a while, at least six months of constant playing before they *really* start to sound great. For the first couple of hours, even the greatest guitars I've made sounded quite marginal...

That is a bit of a bummer when you are doing rapid prototyping. Using plywood back/sides & little concern for aesthetics, I can toss together an experimental guitar over a weekend. I won't know well the modifications worked, however, for a couple of months.

I also feel bad giving someone a relatively new guitar and say "here, play this one for a couple of months - I hope it will sound good".

So I splurged on one of these things:

Basically what this does is vibrate the guitar in a manner similar to playing it. If you play a guitar an hour a day, this little gizmo will get a month's worth of playing in 24hours. Just slap it on a new guitar & come back in a couple of days...

It works.

Table legs

Mark Skolnick had some walnut table legs from a desk he had made 30 years ago. It was just enough wood, if I sliced and diced it carefully, to make a guitar body and neck.

The sides are three strips of walnut, the back twelve. I am very, very tired of joining small thin strips of walnut ;-)

Everything except the soundboard & bracing are from this walnut. The soundboard is reclaimed fir siding from the Rebuilding Center & the soundboard bracing is from an old growth fir 2x4 that John King pulled out of his garage.

This guitar uses several of the ideas from the experimental guitars, including the "Tacoma" bracing that wraps around a centered sound hole.