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

Thursday, 19 September 2013

New projects and current projects

The past few weeks, since my last post have been taken up with weddings, family does and awkward social situations. Unfortunately, I have had little time do dedicate to Scatter-Brain, so both my design and workshop sessions have suffered slightly (although they also haven't been helped by the fact I have  had an unrelated side project that I have been wrapping up as well, these past few weeks). Unfortunately, with a fresh new bout of weddings, family commitments and the odd chance I may actually get to do something social (between everything else and my full-time day job, it's a rare luxury!), it's not showing signs of letting up. However, neither is my passion for guitar building and for Scatter-Brain. Oh well, guess I might as well get on with it. 

Currently in production I still have SB2.7L as well as my second SB3 production prototype. SB2.7 is close to being as complete as can be at the moment (pending final sanding, installing the nut and finishing) as I think I may have mentioned before, we have decided to use a Hipshot bridge, however, these take about four weeks to ship so we are still awaiting this, for this reason, I am nervous to finish things like the the scratch plate. I have finished installing the frets (but not fully dressed) and I am planning one more session before I feel I can actually do no more! 

SB3, two updates to this new model, as you see pictured, I have now prepared the body to have the cavities routed, however, I had to stop there due to needing to develop my design before placing the pickups. The second new development is that this will be my first guitar using my new mitre saw to cut the fret slots. The saw it self is a basic (manual rather than electric) saw attached to a guide in the middle and is lockable at 90° to the guide, much the same as the more expensive fretsaws but at much less cost. I have made a few of my own adjustments, including hammering the the straight to give a finer cut. Previously, I had been using my own hand made jig, the results of which where very accurate but highly time consuming!
The shape of things to come!

I also have a new commission project, a headless, erganomic body guitar. I hope to do a dedicated post soon!

Bridging the gap

So the good news is, we have now received the new bridge for SB2.7L, expect an update soon!
SB3, after a productive couple of days, I seem to have the makings of a near complete looking guitar!
Production seems to have been quite speedy, I suppose this is in a large part due to me having worked out faster ways of producing the guitar from my first run through, I feel I also owe a debt of gratitude to my ever growing tool collection, the two that stand out however would be my electric planer and my mitre saw (although the results of this probably remain to be seen as I haven't fretted the guitar yet). Overall, I'm very happy with this guitar in terms of production speed and quality, the only issue I have had so far is that the cavities are not the neatest I've ever done, in retrospect (the single coil is OK, this will be covered by a scratchplate anyway, the humbucker cavity is however a little sloppy looking), I think this may be due to the new hard board I used to make the jigs. I think I may need to switch to using plywood or something more dense, however, the cavities still fit within the safe area to be covered by the scratchplate or pickup surrounds, respectively.
A comment often made of my past guitars is that the necks tend to be quite fat, I think this guitar has a sort of 'sporty' look, so I'm going to try to build a more appropriate neck.
Starting with a thinner profile neck, widening smoothly at the body joint. I am also going with a near-flat fretboard radius, gently sanded to an even finish. This method provides a gradual compound radius, widening out towards the neck joint.
That's it for now, I'm trying to kit out my workshop to keep working after dark, so hopefully I will be able to start doing more regular posts, when I find the time...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

SB2.7L Custom; Progress

Pleasingly, I have been able to to get in a couple of really productive sessions building SB2.7L, a custom build for Andrew, guitarist for progressive post-metal band, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster and a good friend! Following the past two sessions, I am pleased to say, that test fitting of parts and electronics seems fast approaching!
For the moment I have put my 24 fret SB3 model in the back burner in terms of production, this I feel may be for the best as I have decided to put a small scratch plate on to the guitar to mount the pickups on, so the guitar has to go back in to design and development for now.

This would ordinarily be the point where I waffle on about the progress made on SB2.7L but this time I thought I would let the pictures do most of the talking!


Positioning cavities with the templates


Most of the cavities cut and wiring tunnels drilled

Headstock planed before veneering, the grain pattern is so beautiful it seems a shame to cover it up!

 I've used a thick ebony veneer on the headstock to give a measure of extra strength to its sewn 10 degree pitch.

To make sure I achieved the correct alignment on the fretboard and neck I decided to glue them together before shaping. Once dry, I traced the neck shape from the template and rough cut it on my bandsaw.

image to the left shows where the fretboard overlapped the body. This I carefully trimmed off using a straight edged saw. 

Neck shaping begins


Andy asked that I give his guitar quite a steep cutaway so as he has good access to the hard-tail style bridge as he is usually used to playing guitars with Tune-o-matic style bridges.

That's it from me from for now, so go check out Tacoma and check back here soon!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Back to work

After taking a bit of a forced break (sadly I had nowhere to work for about a month and a half), I have just recently been able to get in my new dedicated workspace! There is something brilliant about not having to your work space with your parents (I am sure they would agree)! Now I can go to my garage and find everything where I left it (again, I am sure they would agree)! Now, if I want to, I can squeeze in a few hours of more quiet work (no power tools, fret slotting, hand sanding, things like that). So has this increased my productivity? Well no, not at the moment, it is still taking me months to complete a guitar! However, at the time of writing, it is currently reaching highs of 33℃. I should mention also though, that I have had a couple of repair jobs more recently as well. This is a very exciting new development as it has come from the development of SB3 and handing out my business card to practically any one I meet! The first job was replacing broken nut on a Percussion style bass. Needed for a day or two later for a gig. I didn't have a replacement nut, however, I always stock some uncut bone, from which I made a replacement.
Additionally, I also had a fret leveling and set up of Squire Strat which had just recently had Quartertone  frets installed! The guitar itself, was second hand and was fitted out with the slightly odd frets buy a carpenter. The frets where fairly well fitted, but not leveled so required grinding and re polishing. The other major flaw with this guitar is mainly just that it needed a proper set up, the intonation was quite off, the neck seemed to have a slight kink and the action was set so high most of height adjustment screws were barely in the saddles and as a result, some were slightly bent. Fortunately, all of the screws went back in to the saddles and I was able to lower the action, this made the intonation issues instantly better! In addition to loosening the trussrod to match light gauge strings, the guitar was made highly more playable! The really interesting thing about this guitar was of course the additional 12 frets per octave. I am still reading about the uses of quartertone/microtonal guitars but it is my understanding that the origins of this increasingly popular modification come from Turkish music and that by retuning using quarternotes, you have access to a host of new scales. After leveling the frets, I fmput the guitar in to standard tuning, I found the new frets made conventional open chords and bar chords very difficult, however, when playing single notes and power chords, for my somewhat limited talent as a credible guitarist, came into it's own! Sure enough, this guitar modification has found a niche home as well with rock and metal players!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Sales and lettings

SB3 is now officially for sale. In the heart of London's Denmark Street, Wunjo Guitars have kindly agreed to sell SB3 for me. The feeling I must say is somewhat bitter sweet. I had taken SB3 to Wunjos' before (I have had dealings with them before and they have always been good to their word, furthermore, owner Brian set me up many years ago building my first guitar, with a beautiful bit of ash and a set of wired pickups from a junked Ibanez, so it seemed fitting), on that occasion, reception had been positive, the only negative comments being change the pickups (I originally installed Wilkinsons) and the intonation was a little out on the high strings. To rectify the intonation, I installed the pictured bridge, the saddles are roller type saddles, individually mounted to the bridge to allow a greater range of intonation adjustment. Additionally the whole bridge can also be moved forward or back on the posts. The pickups are Seymour Duncan SP90-3 Customs, which are essentially high gain, over-wound single pickups. The Wilkinsons where quite crunchy, though they seemed to struggle to throw out the harmonics and the single notes which tended to disappear in to a muddy distorted sound. With the Duncan's the mud is still there but you really hear every note and every squeal in a well balanced blend of drive and tone! I really hope it sells, at the same time I'm gutted to see it go but I think I would be more gutted to see it returned to me, so go to Wunjo's and buy it!
I recently moved a few weeks ago and I have been bad about keeping this blog updated, I also have a stack of other media I have been meaning to update my website with, such as sound files and photos of the completed SB3. Hopefully, soon however, I should have my own workshop and office in our New flat so I can step up my production times and cut out costs of travelling to my parents to use their garage!

In Production
Currently, I have my left handed SB2.7L, a seven string SB2 custom. Expect a dedicated blog post shortly. I am also producing a thicker bodied SB3 with a classic Humbucker/single pickup combination.

Design and Development
A 70's Hagstrom
I have been working on the shape and form of SB2 this has included re-sketching the shape hundreds of times, right through to hacking off bits of my SB2 prototype! To aid me, I have also been researching and studying other hotrod inspired instruments from 50's 60's and 70's. Sure there are the obvious, Teles and Strats, Gibson's Firebirds and Thunderbirds (which really appeal for their early through-body status) but I have also been looking further afield, at the likes of the Futurama guitars, Kay and Hagstrom
who where brilliant at making guitars obviously influenced by Gibson and fender but uniquely styled.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Back on the build

For those who like there guitars grotesquely massive, with too many strings and upsidedown, Scatter-Brain salutes you!
And for those who like there guitars with small bodies and over sized necks, well, you get the picture.
After a little pause after completing  SB3 with full branding I have taken a little time out to work on my Facebook page, research my website (although I am yet to do any updates) and do a little promotion, I'm currently looking at getting SB3 on display/sale in Londons Denmark Street... More to follow.
I have started building my next SB3 model. Design changes I have decided to make on this are; a fractionally thicker body at 34mm instead of the previous 30mm, I am also not shaping the back of the body, so as to allow more wood around the neck joint. Additionally, I will be limiting this guitar to a mere 24 frets as opposed to the previous models 27. This should however facilitate a change in the electrics. My plan is to put another Tonerider Hot Classic Tele style neck pickup. I was dead impressed with this pickup when I installed one on my first SB2 model. It's a warmer version of the classic vintage Tele model with great mids. On the bridge I'm going to put a higher gain humbucker with a coil tap. At present, I'm seduced by the idea of Seymour Duncan's P-rail humbucker or an SH-4. My other leaning is to keep it British with some Bare Knuckle action, maybe the Aftermath pickup...
Continuing my current run of firsts I've also now started my first left handed, 7 string comisioned guitar. This Tele-inspired monster has a longer

fret length than I am accustomed to working with resulting in this behemoths overall increase in size by comparison to the traditional Tele (and especially compared to SB3)! For the body wings I am using iroko, it has a deeper, more aged look than the traditional Ash or Alder. Although it is less common on mass produced guitars, it is a wood cropping up on many boutique guitars. The through body is some specially selected black walnut. Finally, inspired by the awesome blog I was recommended, Telecastle, I've decided to change the attention to detail I give to my templates and thinking more about the ways in which I use them. Stay tuned.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Stop the press!

What press? Who prints a blog? That's not a blog its a newspaper!
Good news! Scatter-Brain has its first commission and by jove it's exciting! Guitarist in the awesome post-metal band Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster and good friend, Andy Vernon has approached me to build a custom left-handed 7 string! He is very specific in what he wants, Tele-style cool with big tones and a good range of switching options and my personal favorite, through body construction! Stay tuned folks.
Also in the news, I finished the re-fretting on SB2, which I am very happy with, however, I think I may redress them one more time, as I feel the fret leveling could be smoother. 
Oh, I also went to an open mic night at my old local, drank to much, played double speed, fumbled my way through the first verse of Where Did You Sleep Last Night then stormed off stage and hid in the garden with my beer until closing. Anyway, point is, it seems that I am already a better luthier than performer!

Monday, 14 January 2013

New Years Projects

In the absence of usable spare time time at the moment (more than about two hours when I'm not already warn out), I have been working on my repairs, sketching and drinking whiskey, but I'll get to that in a minute. At the moment, my latest creation, SB3 is residing at my parents, stripped of all its parts and most of its finish. My intention is to re finish it and add the rest of the parts including fret top markers (down the side of the neck and fretboard joint) trussrod and a new electronics cavity cover as well as adding graphics and refinishing.
In the meantime, using the tools available to me, I have been doing repairs work to SB2, my first experiment with through body construction. I was pretty happy with body finish, however the neck/fretboard is a little uneven and I had to level the fifth fret down to a state that it was nearly worn out. So much so, that when I first tried to use my fret rounding file, when initially I thought I could get away with just redressing the frets, the file couldn't  actually fit over that fret! I recently purchased some jumbo fret wire, something about this guitar, medium fret wire has never felt right and I figure this would be good practice to re-fret a guitar.
After pulling out the frets (which was actually not as nerve racking as I had expected it to be), I have began to sand the fretboard using a ruler as a guide to check how flat and even the neck is. I will keep my progress posted.
...And finally, whilst sitting with my sketch book, mulling over possible finishes for my new run of SB2 models with a glass of lightly peated whisky when my wife told me off (not for the first time) for using the bed as a table for my glass and I thought to myself; "she is right, I have been meaning to make myself a little slim side table." The problem is, it doesn't excite me, at most, it will be a box like construction with a minuscule amount of storage which ultimately I will do what I do with every other bit of furniture I own that doesn't excite me, I will pile receipts on it. So I poured myself another glass and admired my collection of tasty, tasty booze, when I was struck by a particularly selfish thought; "I don't believe this! I'm nearly 27 and I still don't own my own alcohol cabinet! What's up with that!"
Naturally, my wife thought this was a terrible idea, but the more I thought about it the more I thought about my total and utter lack of occasional furniture (to any one not middle class enough to have heard this term it relates to any bit of cabinetry not really essential to every day life, luxury items such as console tables, coffee tables, drinks cabinets, that sort of bollocks) in my life, no coffee table, no drinks cabinet, "hell, I don't even have a proper guitar amp! Oh, now there's an idea, coffee table/drinks cabinet/guitar amp..."
So there we go, repairs, SB2 production line and Scatter-cab/coffee/amp. Stay tuned, and if anyone actually reads this and has any ideas on the above, email me on;
Comment or find me on Facebook or Twitter @stuzzilla101.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Blog merge

Seeing as how I am rubbish at running two blogs, building and updating a website and simultaneously building, designing and developing my guitars (and doing a half arsed job of building the Scatter-Brain Facebook page) not to mention holding down my lovely dead end job...
I have decided to cut down my work load by combining my blogs in to one, so for the three people that read my other blogs, this is where you will find updates on SB2 and 3 as well as rants, rage's and revaluations.
SB3 is fundamentally finished! At the start of 2012 I had set myself a task to complete 4 new guitars, due to one setback or another, I completed two. I'm not sad about this I should say. SB2 (although it has a few aesthetic needs that need attending to) has been an outstanding success, it still needs a few little bits done, such as a proper plate on the back over the electronics, a trussrod cover and I plan on putting transfer logos on the neck, on the twelfth and, if I can, the 24th fret as well as dots down the side of the neck. At some point, I plan on re-wiring the guitar, as well as stripping it down and giving it a proper polish. Those parts aside (which sounds like  a lot more work than it actually is when written down) I've made a guitar that plays well, sounds good, is very comfortable to sit with and looks uniquely styled!
The one thing I have learnt from SB3 is that to produce it on a grander scale, I'm going to need a planner, thicknesser. The guitar, that aside, was surprisingly easy to build.
Going forward
My original plan was to develop SB3 and experiment with a three piece neck construction. I am still going to do this, but using my redesign of SB2, through body. This is mainly because I found a wood supplier who provides pre planed wood at the right thickness for SB2, further to this however, SB2 is of a simpler construction which should make production times much quicker. I also plan on taking the construction one stage further by running up blanks for 3 potential guitars, all the same shape but all slightly different.