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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blog Update

I've just added the Blogger "reaction" element to each post.

As you read the blog entries, please tick a category depending on whether the entry has been interesting (but not much else!), helpful to you in some way ("thanks"), or just a complete waste of time ("no thanks"!).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kawai Guitars - Rock'n'Roll Star

A quick update on my fascination (or obsession) with Kawai guitars. The website, cunningly called has resulted in quite a few emails from other Kawai owners around the world, looking for info on their Kawai guitars. Some I can help, some I can't.

Last week I received an email from Toddy (bass player with BlondieUK) who was repairing a Kawai Rock'n'Roll Star. This model is basically a single cutaway acoustic with steel strings and a humbucking pickup. Apart from in the old Kawai guitar catalogues, I'd never seen one before. Apparently it's in a sad state with the finish flaking off, some additional holes drilled in the body, and generally needs some TLC. A lot of TLC.

Fingers crossed that it finds a good home!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's done - new build your own guitar is finished

This one has had a bit of a troubled build ... it started as a simple, standard Tele-ish guitar with plain bi-coloured Ash body and a pre-made Warmoth birds-eye maple neck.

I didn't like it (I've gone off Teles I think) so I re-made it.

Carved the back, and the front of the body. Re-profiled the neck, taking about 3.5mm off the thickness. Stained the body, and then rubbed it all off, but left a "dirty grain" effect. Changed the neck pickup for an Iron Gear Jailhouse Rails, swapped the pick-up selector switch with a blend pot and added a coil split mini-toggle for the Jailhouse Rails.

This guitar now sounds amazing ... real powerful "oomph" from the Jailhouse Rails through to traditional Tele twang from the BKP "The Boss" pickup in the bridge position.

I shouldn't really say this (as I built it!), but I really like this guitar a lot ...

Guitar Tone?

As part of my learning curve (it's a long and steep curve, with no end in sight!) about building guitars, I've been reading a lot of "stuff" about how different woods affect the tone of a guitar.

And I'm sure that they're right - each piece of wood has its own unique characteristics, some of which will affect its tonal properties.

But - and this is my problem - there are so many other factors which affect how a guitar sounds, that I wonder how much the qualities of a piece of wood can really affect the sound that is eventually heard out of the amp's speakers?

I don't question that the acoustic sound of the guitar (and the sound of an acoustic guitar) will be affected by the quality of the wood, but the sound of an electric guitar is affected by so many other factors (such as the amp, speakers, pickups, etc, etc, etc) that I wonder whether the basic material is that critical?

And if not, does it really matter - purely from an outputted sound perspective - whether the guitarist is playing an original 57 Goldtop or an 09 Chinese Epi replica? Could they both be made to sound the same by tweaking the settings on the amp or fx boxes?

I started a discussion here (, but I'm not sure that there's an answer ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The truss rod slot

For me, building guitars is a great learning process, challenging, frustrating and satisfying in almost equal measure.

Yesterday was particularly satisfying ... there's something inexplicably pleasing about cutting a nice neat channel in a piece of wood.

Three necks, ready for truss rod insertions. From the left, that's mahogany, maple and a walnut/maple/walnut laminate.
See a perfect fit ...

Just need to get some silicone sealant to run inside the channel to stop any vibration/rattle, though I don't think that there's actually enough room in the slot for the truss rod to vibrate!
Almost seems a shame to cover that truss rod slot with a fretboard, but I think it might help playability if I do add the fretboard.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Staining the guitar body. Ooops.

Not my most successful weekend in the workshop. I decided to try to stain the newly shaped body. I'd sanded all the surface oil away, and used some wire wool and white spirit to try to penetrate a bit further into the body ... but judging by the splotchy staining effect, I didn't get all of the oil out of the wood.

So, out with the sandpaper again and remove the stain. A few hours and a bit of sweat later, and a not-unattractive (in my eyes) "dirty grain" effect is revealed. So, add a couple of coats of oil, and this is what I got ..

Staining the back of the body actually worked quite well - a good even effect, and the colour that I wanted. So I left that alone!

My next task is to work out what to use as the cavity cover, and whether to use a scratchplate ...
But I learned a few things ... like stain before oil ...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quite a lot of guitar building in the workshop

Having done the work on the guitar neck (see previous post), I decided to do some work on the body too.

The original guitar body was standard Tele - slab sided with no shaping/carving. Plus the cavity cover looked "like something you did in your shed" according to one on-line critic. As I pointed out, it was not created in my shed at all.

I did it in my workshop. But his point was right. This was the starting point ...

It was OK. It played OK, it sounded OK (BKPs!!), it looked OK. Ish. What's the point of making an OK guitar? So, time for some re-work.

The first task was to add a small belly carve. I the only person likely to ever play this guitar, so it obviously only needs a small carve to accommodate a small belly.

And then for something a little more dramatic ... some edge carving to the top ...
I used a router - freehand - to take about 3mm off the top of the body, in a curve more-or-less (I did say that it was freehand) matching the outline of the body. I then replaced the round-over, and spent a lot of time - a LOT of time - hand-sanding the ledge formed by the router to blend it into the rest of the body top.
That left a body with quite a thin waist ...
And something looking fairly different to the original Tele body.

Next - how to finish it?