Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Taking a little more time

The Green Machine in its original state
So I have decided to re-fret 'The Green Machine' SB3 00007 I don't know that this warrants a full blog post but I had been apprehensive about selling this guitar for a while, for a few reasons; I had an idea about making a sister model using the other five piece neck we had in stock (which is now well underway) and using them as demo models, the sister being the modern two pickup, and 00007 being the more traditional styled guitar. The problem I had more over is that the guitar never played as nicely as I would like, I ended up spending a long time re-leveling the frets and such, to no great success. After some more tweaking, I managed to get the guitar playing smoothly although by this time it was clear that the fretboard was not level and to compensate I had taken off a fair bit of the frets. My fret ends also needed re-doing (sometimes with new guitars, the wood shrinks and moves a little which can mean occasionally needing to redress or re-roll the fret ends). Insight of this, I thought that stripping the fretboard, re-leveling and re-fretting with our new 3mm fretwire would be

Decided to thin the neck while re-fretting

I don't really want to blog about how I am doing this (although I will upload a video of the re-fret to my YouTube channel) as it is not the point of this post. I guess the point I'm getting at and it is something I have been working on in my personal growth as a guitar builder for a while; taking my time. It seems basic I know, but whenever I have had a project I deeply cared for, it has always been a problem for me to not rush the project, and worse yet, when a project is done, I need to take my time to properly revisit problems, in the long run it's usually quicker.

Further more this has got me thinking about direction, it has always been my plan to grow SBC in to a self-sufficient company, more over, I would love to grow SBC in to my only job. But this gives me a problem with direction. We have started batch producing guitars (or rather Hob's has, while I work on the customs and business stuff) to help us up production and keep end costs down.

But we find ourselves at a fork. We are very reasonable for handmade guitars (don't believe me, check out our SB3 pricing guide) but sadly, this competitive pricing is based on getting ourselves known, which kind of leads me to the ultimate point. I've never wanted SBC guitars to be in the 3-4k plus market, preferring to stay more accessible, without compromising quality. but that is hard to afford to offer in the UK, without living off of beans and mouldy bread at least, so...

Do we;

1, Look at something like the Chapman Guitars business model, UK designed but not built. This would probably mean some fairly terrifying business loans, or selling our designs to someone, but this would keep us to a similar mark-up, albeit, customs which we so enjoy would probably be out of the window.

2, We find a UK business partner to make the rough bodies, and we continue with the customs, and put together the batched guitars. I like this idea, and I think I  am leaning towards it. My worry is that this may compromise quality on some of the lower end models, without someone who knows what to look for in the wood, when making the blanks.

3, We keep doing what we do, but we dramatically up our price. Yep. Its a completely hypocritical thing to do, in mind of where we started the conversation on affordability. But in terms of accuracy, and taking our time to produce great guitars it makes sense. This works well for many great UK builders, but the problem with this is SB3. We realized something, our core concept for SB3 has shifted in its development. We realized recently that SB3 is not just a aesthetically tweaked Tele, but an ergonomically updated workhorse guitar with modern engineered parts for session musicians, touring artists and all round passionate guitarists, with an emphasis on comfort/playabilty, reliability, and versatility (and sound, although I would class that a s part of the versatility). It is the sort of guitar a working musician may invest 1-2k on, particularly if it can be provided to his spec (or a passionate player may splurge out on) but it is not (in my opinion) a 3-4k plus guitar (although, I don't believe there are many guitars truly worth this, save for maybe Strandberg and a handful of other fantastic builders) and was never designed to be manufactured as such.

Ultimately, I think we will head somewhere between 2 and 3. This realisation has completely up-ended my business plan.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

New Job, New Home, New Outlook

Okay, I've not been great about updating this blog. But a lot has happened in this last year or so, so here is a quick post to bring us all up to date.

It's a beautiful day, I'm now on the property ladder (though still in my old workshop) I'm itching to get in to the garage, a feeling that escaped me for a while.

Some of my newer SB3's
That last post was written about mid 2015 but never posted, because I'm a bad person. I have made several guitars since, including my first left handed SB3 Junior custom, and a highly detailed SB3. I have sold a couple of guitars and I have a few up for sale in a local guitar shop that I cannot recommend enough Electro Hill,  as B-stock guitars. The owner Richard, is a fantastically knowledgeable guy and also, I'm told, a great guitar tech, well worth the pilgrimage for any enthusiast!

Left handed, custom SB3
The body wings are tulip
I have a new an exciting custom build in the making, (details to follow) and I am working on my new model (2016) SB3 body shape. My original idea for last year was to have two body shapes, the one shown on the previous post and the junior (see the lefty SB3) which is an update of the original 2012 body (see the bound body SB3). But the bigger 2015 body shape with the back contours has proved  not overly popular, so I have decided to offer one body shape with room for multiple pickups, 24 frets and all the best ergonomic and aesthetic features of the previous models. Progress!

I think the biggest change so far is me. I have had several job changes, I am currently working freelance as a interior design contractor and promoting SBC, I am so much poorer but also much, much happier, working for myself and doing things I love!
My latest SB3 this is the 2012 body shape
I'm not really sure how to approach this as I don't want to cause any offense of anyone who may read this, but I realized while working in a previous job that I was suffering from depression. Everything felt like it was going to explode, I loved the work and the challenge of finding manufacturing and engineering solutions but the environment was toxic and damn near hard to work in, despite some amazing people. I left that job by choice with nothing to go to, it was a scary time, but I started building guitars while on gardening leave. It was amazing, I became quite prolific!
I nicknamed this guitar 'The Sex'
I was then approached about some contract work on a self-employed basis, which I do about 3 - 5 days a week, giving me time to work on SBC
 and I have never looked back!

Will I succeed? I hope so, but if I don't will I get back up and try again? Damn right I will. I'd rather live life as a failure than never tried at all.

SB3 Junior 2; Sentiment is a bitch.

SB3 Junior 2;
Sentiment is a bitch. 

The yew is from my grandads reclaimed stock, so is aged beautifully but has many defects, impart due to being stored poorly for nearly 30 years. This is likely the last guitar I will make featuring a yew neck, due to its complications but it serves as a good homage to the man who built my childhood home and much of the furnature I grew up with, who shaped my life so much with out us ever meeting. I don't know if I will sell this guitar, but either way, I am very happy I made it.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Long play.

I recently received back SB2.7L for some modifications, it was interesting to see how it was wearing and get some further feedback on it.
New wiring with the Orange Drop tone pot
I admit, I forgot how heavy it was.
Well, at least compared with my other guitars! Andy, however, still claims it is lighter than his Les Paul.
Fault lines in the finish
The first thing to strike me was the fault lines trailing around the guitar. I'm will freely admit, lacquered finishing is one of my weakest guitar building skills, though I had thought that I had done quite a good job (by about my fifteenth coat) of this guitar, considering it was my first lacquered guitar. I'm not sure if this is down to my inexperience or the quality of my chosen lacquer. Answers on a postcard, please!
Originally, this guitar had  dedicated volumes, the neck volume had a DPDT toggle for coil switching and a toggle switch for series/parallel switching on the bridge. Andy wasn't a fan of the series switching, so we redesigned the wiring, fitting dedicated volumes with DPDT coil switching and with the spare hole in the control panel we fitted a tone pot, using a spare Orange Drop capacitor Andy had. Simply put - it sounds f***ing sweet.
With some adjustment to the nut, the job is done, for now...

As an update, Andy seemed pretty happy with the new wiring!

Junior's a noisy little sod.

The prototype junior blank
If Scatter-Brain ever gets off the ground, I have no delusions about the fact that at some point, I will have to start charging a lot more for custom guitars, as sadly, it is very hard to turn a profit charging £400 - £800 for customs. But I don't want to loose the £400 guitars, especially while I'm still establishing myself. My idea is to start producing a simpler guitar with great playability.
I'm currently deciding on a spec for a constant production line of lower priced SB3 guitars. Based on my second SB3, it will be essentially a single pickup 'Junior' style arrangement, featuring: 24 frets of Dunlop jumbo fret wire, 25" scale, near-flat fretboard profile and my new Flat back neck shape for an effortlessly playable neck, supported by a slimline dual trussrod.
A common comment I got regarding my previous SB3 was that the bridge pickup was so versatile, it left the neck surplus to requirements. On future models, I plan on pairing it with a higher output P90, but for the junior, we are going bridge only. Don't worry though, there will still be plenty of knobs and switches to play with; I plan to kit this guitar out with either coil splitter or series parallel, treble bleed volume pot and tone with isolating switch.
The pickup itself will be something like the Simon k 65 Special I used in my previous SB3 or something like Seymour Duncan's P-rail (at cost). I've fitted a few of the 65 Special's in to a few guitars now, they are a highly versatile pickup with a vintage-hot PAF sound, flip the coil splitter and the single coil will do anything from soft blues and acoustic tones to garage punk with the right adjustments, but don't just take my word for it, have a listen!.
I'm going to have two base pricings for these guitars depending on construction. With an option of a one piece neck (at the time of writing I am thinking £389) and three piece (£439) through body necks.
Three piece necks, apart from being more figured -these will be a sandwich of different woods- should also offer greater stability against warping and general movement, where as one piece are generally easier to produce.
If anyone reads this and has any thoughts on this, please do get in touch.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Been away a while

So yes, it has been a while since my last post! And why? Well, in the last three months I've completed two guitars, had my first happy customer and traded my second SB3 for for an awesome little amp! I'm also close to finishing my second custom, a Klein inspired headless, and I have started another SB3. My in between time has been eaten by a multituse of mostly awesome but time sapping afares such as; my real job (dull), my social life (I may have been drunk), computer games (these are the devils work) and (of course) playing guitar (I have been jamming with another guitarist and a drummer, it's a rare treat!).
Outside of guitar building I have been trying to promote myself, initially I have just been using Facebook, this has gone really well, and resulted in the sale (exchange) of SB3 and put my in touch with some really cool people who have been very encouraging, many noting that they are keen to see where Scatter-brain is going!
I have also been thinking about training, but that may be a subject for another post...
In production, SB3H is now coming close to conclusion and I have another SB3 in the pipeline. I have only made the rough shaped blank so far, but already this is very different I've used a three-piece maple/sapele sandwich and book-matched some reclaimed mahogany for the top.
For the neck, I'm going to do a 25.5" scale, to be a little different, I have also been thinking about adding another string, for good measure! Although, I would probably prefer to have a longer scale should I decide to do this.
To get around a persistent issue of top heavy necks previous guitars have experienced I have found some light weight scheller tuners. I'm thinking of using a classic two humbucker set up (though I'm tempted to go P90 humbucker), something hot on the bridge and a bit more vintage on the neck. And I'm sure there will be some sexy switching options as well!
That's all for now, hopefully I will be starting to get some video blogs up of guitars in action as well soon!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Two guitars approach the finish as another sets off

It seems more and more of my time outside of production seems to be given to researching better ways of producing guitars, finding better building methods, researching better tools for the job.
This week I finally got round to buying a template cutter router bit and a drum sander kit. Neither will really help me on these current guitars but should help speed up the production on future guitars.
I've spent most of the past week pulling some of the finer details together on my current guitars in production, fret leveling