Friday, March 21, 2014

And now for something completely different (Dr. Teeth Bass)

We all have our guilty pleasures. Mine is Top 40 Radio and pointy guitars.

I had bought a surf green Stratocaster a couple years ago, mainly because I loved the way it looked. I don't really play much guitar but I hoped that this guitars allure would be the incentive I needed to move up to 6 strings instead of 4. Something about the sickly, sunbaked green and the tortoise shell pickguard was such an amazing color combination in my mind that I started thinking about all the short comings of the instrument itself and what I expected it to be just from its appearance. Something about the sarcastic weirdness of that color scheme got me thinking about how to make it even more weird and fun.

I love BC Rich shapes, some of them at least. Neal Moser designed a lot of their 80's pointy metal shapes and continues to maintain his own Custom Shop making high end, souped up versions of his original BC Rich designs.

 Bernie Rico aka BC Rich>>>

His designs are so over the top and intense that BC Rich has basically turned itself from the company Bernie Rico started into a niche market for the metal community. Unfortunately, these shapes are so stylized and dramatic that they never really made it past being a stage prop which is unfortunate.

As a two dimensional design, a lot of Moser's designs were very beautiful and elegant (in their own evil way). There are so many guitars in the world that glaze over the defining lines of the the shape of the body, which makes sense because in the case of these pointy metal guitars, they don't make a comfortable and erogonomic translation to a three dimensional object. Regardless BC Rich designs continue to hold a special place in my heart. I own a Beast bass that I added extra strings to to make it an 8 string. But something about that green Strat was still calling my name.

A personal dilemma I find myself faced with as a luthier and as a guy who loves to buy guitars is "Should I buy this or should I make this?" With cheap-o weirdness that appears in flea markets and Ebay listings, the unique appeal of certain instruments can't be passed up; a patch of crazing here, a big patch of paint missing there.. a ridiculous sticker or phrase scrawled on the back.. There's a reason many companies have jumped on the road worn craze - an instrument that has been loved and lived in invites you to play it and to use it. I've bought my fair share of guitars that fall into this category, almost all based on looks.

In this process of collecting weird crap, my brain collects a layers of residual feelings towards all these strange specimens that I hope to imbue into my own instruments. At a certain point it will inspire a new shape or an idea for a hardware modification but this time my brain said, "You need to make the ugliest, coolest thing" So I started with a list of adjectives that would define some parameters for how this thing would look. I came up with this :

All good ingredients for any guitar, right?

So here we have it. My Green Hilarious Pointy Muppet guitar. I wanted all my favorite things on it, Here are some specs.

Quartersawn Maple Neck, Ebony Fretboard with Mutant Inlay, Handpainted Dr. Teeth Headstock, Hipshot Ultralite Bass Tuners, Grover Rotomatic guitar tuners, Tusq Nut, Medium/Medium Fretwire, Mahogany Body, Tortoise B/W/B Binding, Mystery brand 8 String Bridge, Cruiser P-Bass Pickups, Ibanez Iceman Minihumbucker, Seymour Duncan SMB4d, 6 Way rotary switch and a 3 way coil selector for the Seymour Duncan Musicman Pickup. 34" Scale


Monday, March 3, 2014

Custom Walnut Boomer

New to the world in 2014 is this Custom Walnut Boomer. My initial thought when designing this model would be that it was an ideal option for those who crave sustain and clear articulation simultaneously. However, the request for certain modifications to this particular model have proven to give even more range and power to this already great model.

Here's a quick review from the owner: "First let me say that the whole process of  building this bass with Nick was excellent. I chose the Boomer body design, and from there it was deciding on what woods, hardware and electronics to use. 

To sum it up, I got everything that I requested.  I did not have to change or compromise on anything.   I knew that from the combination of all the components that the sound would be really good, but it exceeded my expectations.  This bass sings. The action and playability are excellent.
I’m looking forward to another bass build with Nick.  This time something off the wall! "

All the great standards are here: Hipshot Hardware, Mahogany Body with a Walnut Top, 34" scale and the soft C profile on the neck. Some of the upgrades that really make this bass really special are the solid quartersawn Wenge neck with a Ebony Fretboard, the Coil Tapped Seymour Duncan Musicman pickup, a Hipshot D-Tuner and the super solid, super beefy Hipshot Brass A Style Bridge. This bass was ordered with a custom reverse headstock with 1+3 Tuners for easy, unfettered access to the D-Tuner. My favorite feature is the Coil Tapped Musicman pickup, it has been strategically placed right up against the bridge for optimum tonal range. Most people would say one of two things to that; "Wouldn't cramming it next to the bridge cut the volume?" or "Bridge pickups get way too nasally that close to the bridge." While these concerns are definitely valid in most cases, this configuration defies those rules. With such a hot pickup, it manages to retain full volume capabilities with its height closer to the strings. Also, by seating it right next to the bridge, the tonal characteristics are much more dramatic when switching from the back coil to full humbucker to front coil.

On the aesthetic side of this build, I was given the opportunity to take some creative liberties with wood composition and matching covers. I have recently embarked on the venture of bringing psychedelia to woodworking. I love the incredible grain patterns that appear in roto-cut plywood.

The new owner of this bass was curious to see what I would come up with so I suggested that we incorporate this element into the binding, inlay, backplate and headstock plate. We're both pretty happy with how it turned out!  (PS - My shop isn't always this dirty!)