the Crimson Guitars workshop blog – 060212
A guitar builder has to be master of many skills to ensure the perfect hand made guitar, if he is not willing to outsource the bulk of the work that is, follow master luthier Ben Crowe at Crimson Guitars as he hand builds unique custom guitars in front of your eyes. Browse the video library of guitar demos, how to build guitar tutorials.. or you could lose a few weeks going back through the last few years of blog posts! Welcome to Crimson Guitars | redefining the custom guitar.
The beautiful thing about building a stock(ish) range of guitars is that I am entirely free to experiment and refine my craft in the process.. With the first batch of these hand-made guitars nearing completion it is time to start the binding and inlay processes..
Firstly the fretboard in question, a padouk one this time, is sanded over one last time.. this part of the build is critical and perfection is the only option.
Abalone.. this sheet is a composite of many thin slices of shell glued together.. still real shell but flat and easy to use..
I’ve opted for a clean and simple set of abalone strips down the neck.
As they are cut I mark around each inlay with a new scalpel.
It’s getting cold! 5 degrees below average for the time of year.. most annoying!
A good few other necks also have their fretboard radii finalised and triple checked.. the sort of job that you get into a zone doing and just flies by!
On to a wenge fretboard destined for a new Dissident guitar.. for starters the holes are drilled down the centre of the neck.. pretty standard so far..
The 12th fret inlay is a bar of abalone sandwiched between two strips of aluminium.. I love mixing metal with natural materials like wood and shell.
The dots, hollow aluminium tube, and the 12th fret inlay are glued in place… in the centre of the dots I glue small abalone dots just to keep the theme going.
After the glue has cured fully the excess material is all filed away.. being careful not to heat the metal up enough to re-melt the glue!!!
The current custom ordered guitar on the schedule is a very interesting detachable double neck guitar and bass combo.. the headstocks are roughed out on the band saw.
The final outline is achieved using the bobbin sander loaded with a Carroll quick change drum sander.. a beautiful tool!
As the headstock will have a section hollowed out of them, weight is an issue with double neck guitars of course, strength is an issue so I start preparing these padouk headstock veneers.. 4mm thick or thereabouts.
The truss rod access is cut out with a jewellers saw..
One last bit of additional strength, and prettiness, a maple veneer between the headstock and the padouk will be lovely.
bye and bye the veneers are glued in place and left to cure.
Now for the true fun!! What binding would do the aluminium inlays down the middle of the neck justice other than more aluminium? The last time I tried this, a very long time ago, it failed.. I’m a bit smarter now I think…
Superglue and a well keyed piece of metal and once taped in place I leave it there for a day to cure!!
Part of being a good guitar builder is good tools that are a pleasure to use.. this file is in need of a handle.. I roughly turn a piece of mahogany into a dowel.
And then carve and shape it to fit..
to fit my hand perfectly whichever side of the file I’m using.
Carefully the excess alloy is pared away from the wenge fretboard.. so far so good!
So perfect! :) After sanding down we are done here and i am a very very happy luthier!
I’m also loving how this one is turning out.. two completely different beasts.. I love my job!
All along I was thinking I would use this faux abalone as the binding.. I was wrong.. it looks rubbish!
Instead the outer layer of binding is padouk to match the fretboard and the inner a thin line of black.. understated..
and gorgeous.. I think? Tweet me with your thoughts? @crimsonguitars
The headstocks have cured..
and the bobbin sander comes to life again..
Finally the tuner positions are drilled out..
and the six string bass and six string guitar headstocks are pretty much there.. now I need to get my nerve up to cut that hole in them!
The bass design means that I can carve that neck once it is glued to the body.. the guitar however has a long horn that would get in the way so I start roughing that down.. the headstock width first.
Using the Holey Galahad tool I rough out the neck shape..
slowly but surely the comfortable shape is achieved and I sand the whole neck down with the random orbital sander.
Now, a chunk of honduras rosewood is roughed out.. I’ve often wondered how I would make a timber strat type jack plate..
It turns out there is a lot involved, but the disk sander helps things along nicely.
The final bit has to be carved by hand though.. it a good thing this wood is easy to work with a sharp chisel!
Good so far but a little square and bulky methinks.
So it is back to the chisel and carving..
finally a few coats of thin lemon oil
and we’re done.. too time consuming by half but a pretty thing nonetheless.
a set of scatter-wound pickups is installed along with all the other hardware.. the pickups are mounted through the body and the trem springs travel over the back of them
Stability is of prime importance so I use threaded inserts and machine bolts to hold the neck in.. a great improvement over the usual tuppeny wood screw!
And our new stratocaster type custom guitar is coming together.. the Yew body wood is lovely!
The fret board is masked off and the neck straightened..
and finally the frets are leveled.. though they were pretty much there already anyway! ;)
And the snow comes down.. ruining my lacquering plans for another week but that’s British weather for you!
With the frets now level they are each profiled and polished to a high glossy shine.. gloss = slippery, slippery = fast.. need I say more?
The Goncalo Alves fretboard is a little dry, with the frets all ready to play it is oiled.. repeatedly!
The ivory nut is carved and fitted..
Followed by the lightweight locking Sperzel tuners.
The neck is securely bolted in place.. note the extreme access afforded by the neck joint carve.
The setup is next, I’m on a roll and want to play this guitar now! the nut slot depth is carefully adjusted.
Next up is the 3d raised logo, in padouk.. next to the old script logo.. I much prefer the new one!
How about you?
I’m thinking it may look much better recessed in a dent in the headstock.. but this will do for now!
Before I plug her in for the first time the back plate is shielded.
and she is ready.. and beautiful!
And of course (if you watched the video above you’ll already know) the sound just doesn’t do it for me yet.. the pickups have to be swapped out for a new set made to suit the woods and construction method I used with this guitar.. nearly there though.. and she plays great!
all my best,
Crimson Guitars HQ