Sunday, December 30, 2012


I know it's the holidays and people are buckled down to recoup financially, but despite that fact I'm trying to move some guitars out of my possession. My Dad saw this guitar and thought the Japanese Imperial Flag pickguard was a detractor; while cosmetically and aesthetically it's cool, anyone with actual ties to the war and the era could be offended by its presence and prominence.

So, I fabricated another pickguard out of aluminum. Some snips, a hammer, my Dremel for engraving, some drilling, hardware, paint, and finish- and a new pick guard tribute to the Arizona and the lives lost onboard.


I found this Bradley Les Paul in a thrift store. It looked great, and had all of its hardware... perfect for a renovation. The price was right, so I asked the staff if they could bring it over. I wanted to check to see if it was solid wood or not (it's not worth spending time on plywood that no one wants) so I asked to borrow a screwdriver. I removed the cavity covers and found that it seemed to be solid wood! So, I grabbed it and took it home.

When I got it home, I stripped the hardware and finish; in the process I found that the body was solid pieces of a mahogany species which I was fine with, but the top was a bizarrely arched plywood- chintzy, and it cracked when I was pulling out the bridge stopbar posts. Great- an easy project complicated. I was going to turn it into a Goldtop Gibson, but that idea quickly went out the window. Time for another theme guitar!!

I chiseled off the top, used a belt sander to level it, went to Woodcrafters for some mahogany, came back with a mahogany species (sapelle), split it, glued the pieces together to make a wide enough piece,  cut the rough body shape, and glued it on. Once it dried, I used a belt sander to even it out with the rest of the body.

I carefully routed out the neck and pickup holes, and re-drilled the bridge posts according to the scale length. I also started the development of a special pick guard.

Here is where the guitar stands now; nothing close to what it will be. Hint: wood burning, leather stamping, victorian woodcarving.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Boba Fett Custom Strat

I bought a used Strat copy body and neck that I found in a pawn shop. It was to become another Star Wars guitar.

Strats can be beautiful, but the design (though ergonomic) can be a little boring. I love seeing Strats with custom paint jobs, exotic wood, custom pickguard appointments, even just abuse and damage. So, I took this knock-off and got to work.

I hand carved / hand painted all of the features on this guitar. To the best of my knowledge, this guitar has a solid basswood body with a veneer of something denser on the top and bottom. This is actually a great idea- basswood has become a popular tonewood, but it is soft; the denser wood helps protect it. The neck was strange; it appears to be some relative of mahogany. The fingerboard is rosewood.

Here are the specs for the guitar:

*Basswood body
*Mahogany neck
*Rosewood fingerboard
*Locking Fender tuners
*String Saver Saddles
*active EMG SA pickups ($200+ on eBay)- These are so cool and easy to install! Great clean sound.
*Interior shielding
*Custom artwork
*Basswood carved additions
*blocked tremelo for increased sustain (as seen on Clapton's guitars)
*braided Wookie scalps to hang off strap pin
* Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish
*Gold Mother of Pearl inlays

       Details to look for on the guitar: Boba Fett's 3d helmet, 3d jetpack rocket, 3d wrist gauntlet launcher, pickguard with Han Solo in Carbonite and Mandalorian symbol, backplate with Mandalorian symbol, Slave 1 ship schematic, simulated blaster wear / battle damage, "Fett-der" locking tuners (that's what the "F" stands for, right?), BOBA FETT STRAT-1 metallic waterslide decal, ship console control knobs, real leather belt!

Hear and see the guitar in action here!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

World War II / Pearl Harbor Electric Guitar

A few months ago I bought a used Epiphone Dot. I always loved this body style; the first electric I ever personally owned was a black Epiphone Casino with the Epiphone Bigsby-style tailpiece. Grrat looking guitar- I ended up selling it to buy my first Gretsch Nashville 6120. Which... I later sold. My collection has become a rotation of guitars. Moving on...

As seen previously in this blog, I bought this on eBay and the guitar arrived with a broken peghead thanks to some guy who likes to throw boxes somewhere in the shipping process. I've always wanted to learn to repair this classic mishap (because there are A LOT of awesome guitars out there with broken pegheads) and this was the ideal (and necessary) situation to work with.

I took out any removeable part, test fit the broken joint, masked off the truss rod (to protect it from being gummed up by the glue), and carefully saturated the break with high quality wood glue. On top of this, I inlayed steel supports on either side of the neck and filled the space with JB Weld steel epoxy. This neck will not be coming apart again. I will be doing a special "full metal jacket" over the back of the neck to provide even more support as well.

              Anyway, I added "rivets to the top of the guitar, primed, and repainted. All of the additions are to reflect a war-torn WWII / Pearl Harbor theme. You can see...

*WWII era pinups
*WWII Warhawk (shark mouth) fighter design
*"Battle damage"
*Map of Hawaiian islands
*Torn American flag
*WWII Japanese Imperial Flag pickguard
*Pearl Harbor explosion painting (based on famous photograph)
*Authentic WWII Naval dogtag on peghead (information included on this veteran)
*Authentic WWII USN pin on peghead
*military drab paint scheme
*Black pearl knobs

       The guitar has some major hardware upgrades:
*Chrome Sperzel locking tuners
*Duane Eddy style B6 Bigsby
*premium TV Jones Classic pickups
*Roller bridge for tuning stability
*1 volume, 1 tone

           Electronically speaking, this guitar is the Brian Setzer Hotrod Gretsch with the addition of a tone knob.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

COMPLETED Early 1960's Gretsch Anniversary Photo Gallery

Here it is- the finished project. An early 1960's Gretsch, rebuilt with some creative freedom.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

COMPLETED Early 1960s Gretsch Anniversary Project

I finally finished a project that has been near and dear to my heart- this early 60s Gretsch Anniversary. If you look in prior posts you'll see that I had bought a derelict Single Anniversary that someone had unfortunately abused severely. All the paint was stripped off; the back even showed damage from a disc sander that had been used in the process. Some bozo had spraypainted the guitar an ungodly turquoise at some point, the evidence of which was all over the interior of the guitar- completely covering the label inside (Meaning I don't know how old it actually is...). I had originally done some research that pinpointed it between 1961 and 1964 based on its Rosewood fretboard. That being said, the binding and structure of the guitar was entirely intact- the neck just needed to be reset, AND SO... I began the process of bringing this vintage axe back to life.

To have a guitar of that age and quality in such condition was kind of freeing; I really couldn't go wrong unless I did something completely tasteless... like a Pokemon themed guitar, or something like that. The Anniversaries were a budget model for Gretsch anyway, so no guilt. I went with something approximating the Cadillac-inspired original paint scheme, and added a waterslide decal similar to another Gretsch Anniversary (that had its neck reset as well) online. All in all, I...

1. a. Steamed out the neck
1.b. cleaned up the old glue
1.c. rebuilt the joint on the guitar body and neck

2. Carefully reset the neck (not a job for an amateur on any high quality guitar, but I understood the basic concepts, and again- this was in such rough shape that it was a good learning opportunity)

3. Fixed chipping and damage to the peghead

4. Filled nicks and sanding damage on the guitar

5. Reamed out the tuner holes for Sperzel Locking tuners, filled old tuner screw holes

6. Glued and clamped the peghead that was starting to split

7. Cleaned up the binding (sanding it evenly, regluing specific areas)

8. Cut a second pickup hole

9. WEIRD CHANGE: Installed brass inserts into the bottom of the fretboard end over the body- I actually drilled screwholes through the neck block (after CAREFULLY checking the interior dimensions) and bolted the neck into place! Not conventional, but I wanted to add all possible support and stability. The neck was also glued and screwed into place by the traditional method as seen on the original model.

10. At the same time as step 9, glued the neck in (hide glue *IMPORTANT... adjustable with heat) and used the original screw in the neck block.

11. Reglued heel cap and binding near the neck joint

12. WEIRD CHANGE: Older Gretsches have been studied- they've found "trestle bracing," which was a unique way of supporting the top of the guitar. Two parallel pieces of wood span a portion of the top, connecting to the back of the guitar. These pieces run right underneath the ends of the bridge, and were found to contribute to a better tone. In my guitar, there were two parallel pieces of wood, but they did not connect to the guitar back. I carefully fit 3 maple pieces under each brace, and glued them into place. After doing this, it occurred to me that using pear wood would have been a better idea- violin makers use this wood for such purposes as it is resistant to changes in climate. If the guitar starts pushing itself apart from the inside, I'll have a good idea why. I really don't think it will.

12. Masked binding and primed guitar

13. Painted lighter top color

14. Masked top and painted darker back, side, and neck color

15. Dyed peghead veneer darker black

16. Relic'ed the paint job

17. Applied Vinyl sealer

18. Applied thin Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish

19. Applied the waterslide decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol decal solutions

20.  Went through the sanding and buffing process,  boring.

21. Installed hardware

22. Installed TV Jones classic humbuckers. Electronically, this guitar is wired as a Brian Setzer Hot Rod- a 3 way switch, 1 volume, and that's it! No tone control other than the 3 way.

23. Ordered a flame maple pickguard on eBay that was made from a Gretsch template. It was just a piece of wood cut to the shape of the standard Gretsch pickguard. I wanted to do something flashier than the original Anniversary pickguard... that green plastic thing doesn't do anything for me. I dyed the wood a deep reddish-brown mahogany color.

24. Designed a GRETSCH waterslide decal to  go on the pickguard to make it look authentic. I paid a seller on eBay to  print the waterslide decal in gold foil and mail it to me.

25. Polyurethaned the brown pickguard. Applied the GRETSCH decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol. Then polyurethaned it again for a sleek, factory look.

26. Installed pickguard... AND DONE!!

                     There were many steps, and the guitar is not perfect- but it is playing, looking, and sounding MUCH better.  100% better.  Check out the before and after pics.

Monday, November 26, 2012

LOTR Strat: "One does not simply ROCK into Mordor..."

This guitar was commissioned for my best friend's brother (by his fiancee). She was able to sneak his old Squire Strat away so I could revamp it. I had previously done a Middle Earth map on an electric bass for my friend (his brother).

This was a matter of repainting and refinishing the body; I don't think I replaced hardware or messed with the electronics. The concept I eventually came up with was Sam and Frodo walking into Mordor, looking across the plains of Gorgoroth at Mount Doom, with Barad Dur and Sauron looming in the distance. Some Nazgul fly above and Gollum sits on a rocky outcrop waiting for the right chance to strike. I did some 3D carving that was enhanced by later painting; I etched the entire script from the Ring around the perimeter of the guitar. I airbrushed the sky and plains.

For the peghead, I did a relief carving of an eagle fighting with a fell beast. Around the perimeter I wrote the Dwarvish text from the Lonely Mountain map in the Hobbit. Not completely appropriate for the scene, but it looks good.

In addition, I ordered some "Eye of Sauron" eyes on eBay to make custom knobs with some cut down Strat knobs and Sculpey. Finally, I inscribed Tolkein's symbol at the 12th fret.

Dagny REALLY liked this guitar.