the 12th day of September 2011 – the Crimson Guitars guitar building blog
The custom twin neck guitar we are currently working on is coming on apace, the necks, one 7 string and one 14 string, have their lacquer flattened.
When this is done and there is no need for more water the fret board masking is carefully removed. Very carefully, these necks ended up having three rounds of finish, the vicissitudes of lacquering knows no bounds, the end result was that the masking tape was on for too long and ended up leaving a bit of a sticky mess.
For starters the hard edge left where the lacquer and masking met is scraped down to a comfortable radius, a new scalpel is used followed by a few grades of sandpaper.
A small stitched mop begins the polishing process. This is mounted on a standard bench grinder, no doubt a dedicated,expensive, system would make the job a bit easier but this does me well.
Very well indeed!
The fret boards are cleaned, the bulk of the glue-gunk left by the masking tape comes off with some tissue and lighter fluid. After that the manual labour begins, first a few grades of wet and dry paper and then 000 and 0000 grade wire wool.
Leaving a really really nice fret board surface.
I like clouds… I also like smart phones that let you take pretty cool photos wherever you are.
The fret board is masked off carefully, I’ve only recently started masking the sides of the fret board as well and this small change allows me to really polish the frets! I get beyond myself though…
Firstly the frets are each blackened with permanent marker.
With a leveling file, after adjusting the truss rod, the frets are leveled, when the marker is gone from each fret you know that they are flat.
It also comes in very handy when the final profile of the frets is filed in, the trick here is to make sure that the silver line is even along every fret.
400, 600, 800, 1200 grit paper polish each fret.. on both necks.
A new small stitched mop comes out and using jewelers rouge the frets are polished to within an inch of their life.
The result will be a superbly comfortable instrument, the difference between old tarnished frets and those that have had the proper attention is surprisingly apparent when you start playing!
Another incredibly important part of the guitars user interface is the fret board, these new ebony boards had never been oiled, over a few days I saturate them, once this is done it will be up to the client to oil them once every six months or so to keep them playing perfectly.
After the first stage of buffing using the stitched mop it is on to a loose leaf mop.
More masking is removed and the 26 frets, and stainless steel dot inlays, are revealed in all their glory.
You’ve seen this all once before in this post, but here goes… lighter fluid cleans up the glue left by the masking tape.
Since the fret board is level with the lacquered body there is masking to do while the fret board is cleaned up with wire wool..
Here you see the ebony of the custom double neck guitars necks reaching saturation point, instead of the lemon oil being sucked in it starts pooling on the top of the fret board… ideal.
More masking of the bespoke Delta 1 guitar.
The frets are leveled, here is a custom handle I made for the leveling file, it makes life so much easier, a large part of any true craftsmans job is adjusting, improving or even just inventing their tools!
The reason for the masking, this is a messy messy job!
Jewelers rouge and a buffing wheel, being careful to protect my eyes from flying bits of polishing compound of course, the results are perfect frets.
Being careful not to pull away the lacquer along the side of the fret board the masking tape is pulled towards the middle of the board from both sides.
More polishing ensues, the joint between the lacquer and the fret board needs care and attention and is not perfect, a design flaw that I’ll not be using again I fear.
After two liquid buffing compounds the finish is the best I’ve ever achieved!
More fret board oiling and the Delta 1 is coming together nicely.
A change of material, I feel rather strongly that a guitar builder should at least be capable of performing every basic job that could be needed in a guitar, from making the pickups to creating custom hardware… here we combine the two, pole piece holes are drilled and threaded.
And the the P-90 pickup shape is marked onto the plate aluminium alloy.
A metal cutting band saw blade rips the basic shape out with ease.
With the leatherman helping to prevent burnt fingers the custom pickup cover plates are sanded to their final outline.
I love little drawers full of good tools, time for the mini milling machine!
The swarf flies as I cut grooves into the plates.
With an entirely bespoke and unique result.
The design perfectly echoes the frets and compliments the overall design ethos of this guitar perfectly.
now, to more closely match the curved top of the guitar the edges of the custom plates are filed down.
This also removes potentially painful corners along the edges of the pickups.
Cleaning out the channels created a problem but in the end my massive collection of needle files won through, they are not tools that often come to mind but when you need them you need them!
These customised Sperzel tuners need dismantling.
As they, the custom bridge and the pickup covers have an acid bath to take.. throw in a little electricity and some lead and anodizing commences.
While the acid is out I have one last bit of hardware that needs to be made for the bespoke double neck guitar.
The truss rod adjusters find their way out of the metal rod, I do so love my engineering lathe!
And there they go..
Once anodized, rinsed off and boiled for half an hour the Delta 1′s hardware is dried off.
I have nothing to say here!! :)
It takes some thought to figure out what goes where, every custom tuning knob is different, fitting when the guitar itself is so unusual.
The tuner holes are reamed, removing excess lacquer etc.
With the tuners fitted you see how the top and bottom knobs slip over the tuner body,
this is so that from the front they all look uniform.
More reaming, volume, tone, switch and coil tap: tone, tone and more tone!
And speaking of tone this guitar will have through body stringing, the ferrules for this are installed. The metal punch has a flattened end and fits inside the ferrules, there’s no point in damaging them as you install!
The customised custom wound pickups are installed next, they are not mounted on springs or foam but sit directly on the body, I may have to play with the heights later but the tonal advantages of this method should be clear.
The custom bridge is recessed into the body, some lacquer had to be pared away here but the fit is pretty damn perfect.
Still thinking about tone the saddles are Wilkinson types that, once adjusted, are bolted down to the bridge… no moving parts equals better sound.
The nut is to be, of course, custom made out of aluminium alloy, it could have been brass but the look works and I find that aluminium sounds a bit closer to the sound of a fret than the brighter tone you get from brass.
For a change I’m not going to scallop this nut, clean lines and curves are the order of the day here.
Oh yes! I love this bit of the guitar more than ever!
With the strings on for the first time ever the action is adjusted.
And a milestone is achieved, I have rarely enjoyed myself more, this unique guitar is a beauty and a challenge… what more could a luthier ask for?
All my best,
Crimson Guitars UK