Projects and Musings

Finally, the Model 3 prototype has arrived!

It’s been a long time coming, but finally it’s finished. It’s been through a few iterations, the most recent of which was a bolt necked version that ended up in the Netherlands with a regular customer. This is somewhat different to that guitar.

The similarity is the swept rear, but really, that’s where it ends. I went totally back to the drawing board for something more organic and ergonomic.

Most importantly, it had to be a design that could be replicated regularly at full specification for working musicians for under £1000, and prove absolutely reliable in use.

I wanted a design that stuck with some of what my original offered - simple interface, balance, access to the higher frets, stability, string life and a range of tones.

I took the original design from a decade ago, and then overlayed the ‘balanced sweep’ onto the rear. This gave me a shape that was acceptable, but not entirely balanced visually. It was a bit ‘heavy’ at the front. I took the waist and pulled it in a bit and thinned out the upper horn. This created visual balance and made a piviot for the guitar in the seated position.

So then to make the guitar. I chose most of the materials because I had them in the workshop. I knew I would be keeping the prototype so I wasn’t worried about weight, but I needed a range of sounds for the gigs I play. I had Sapele, and for me that added the bonus of density, which tends to highlight attack and sustain. As someone who likes both Single and Twin coil pickups, I like that clarity. In choosing a coil tapped Humbucker, AlNiCo II is therefore usually my preference. I didn’t have any MOP, so dots and inlays are maple, the Snakewood fretboard was simply a result of having a large block of it, unused for many years.

As I progressed, the guitar clearly didn’t look right with black plastics on the front - so I cut pickup rings from leftovers of the body wood, to give it a consistent look.

For hardware, as I knew I was keeping the guitar myself, I chose my default configuration. A roller bridge with the ES1275 6 string tailpiece. It’s quick to string on stage, and very reliable. After 10 years, the old No 1 guitar has still never broken a string with this setup.

I put in a medium jumbo fret and decided as with other recent projects that the fret ends should be hand shaped and spherical for the widest playing surface and comfort.

In the end, this is just a platform now for other ideas. maple, mahogany or ash body, maple neck, Locking or two point tremolos, different neck rake angles for a carved top, pickup choices, even scale length changes - all these things are possible as they proved to be with the Model 2 design from 2012. But this is how the first prototype was finalised:

Specs:

Body : Sapele 2 piece.

Neck : Sapele (Central block and glued wing headstock), Full width glue joint

Fretboard : Snakewood

Finsh : Satin Nitrocellulose

Scale Length; 24.75”

Frets : 22 Nickel Steel, Spherical ends.

Nut : Bone

Truss Rod : Biflex, adjust at head

Inlays : Maple

Tuners : Gotoh standard high ratio

Bridge : Rollermatic

Tailpiece : ES1275 style

Pickups : 2 x Alnico II humbuckers (Uncovered Zebra) 4 conductor. Common coil tap (pull on tone)

Electronics : CTS Vol, Tone (Pull coil), 3 way Switch

Strap Locks

For completeness, here’s the raw sound clips from the demo video. I recorded all of these in one hit using just one setting on the POD XT floor I use for teaching. It’s a JTM45 simulation, with a tube screamer and a little delay. All the tonal variation comes directly from the pickups and the volume control and coil tap. There’s a huge range of dynamics here just from the guitar itself.