Monday, 27 August 2012

My Guitar Building Blog!

A couple of years ago, I visited Bailey Guitars in Scotland - and over the course of seven days, I custom-built my very own guitar.

Instead of including photographs of every stage, I've just uploaded a batch at the end of the blog in case anybody is interested.

The body is book-matched mahogany, the neck is a single piece of mahogany with a beautiful snakewood fingerboard - and it plays better than my Les Paul.
It is custom cut-away in the back to fit my body, so it's a uniquely personal thing.

The circuitry is all custom wired, with 2 x volume / 2 x tone pots - very much like a Les Paul, except that on this guitar, the tone pots are push-pull for a bit more versatility and sonic control.

The pick-ups are Bare Knuckle Mules, and play very smoothly indeed.

Bailey HQ is owned and operated by two awesome awesome individuals, Mark & Carol.
Mark Bailey originally honed his guitar making skills at PRS, and these days offers courses where you go along to their workshop in Ayreshire, Scotland and custom build a guitar from start to finish from bare elements, entirely down to your own design and specifications

I could write about the build process for hours, but I'm sure it would probably bore most people to tears, so I'll just put down some basic information about key creative parts.

There is no guitar 'kit' to speak of. 
The whole thing starts by selecting your various woods for the body components - and they are selected from dried sections of raw, unfinished wood.

Surprisingly enough, the first thing I had to do was to cut the fingerboard into shape, and cut in the fret slots for later on down the line.

The neck was ripped from a single rectangular section of mahogany - rather like a big table leg.
We band-sawed the basic shape of a neck & headstock, and then ripped the excess wood out for hours, until the approximate size and dimensions were achieved.

A truss-rod cavity is routed into the front of the neck, and after the truss-rod was fitted, a fillet is then glued in place over the cavity.

After that, the fingerboard is glued and fixed into place, so we're left with something that starts to look like a guitar neck.

After that, the more detailed work starts, when fret-wire is cut to size, and individually fitted to each fret slot.
The fingerboard inlays are mother-of-pearl, and I wanted very subtle fret markers, so I used 2-mm dots for 3rd, 5th frets etc - with hidden side-dots for navigation.

Next was the body, which was made by joining two pieces of book-matched mahogany, which was later ripped into the basic shape I wanted.
Cavities are routed into the surface for circuitry, pick-ups etc.
On top of the body is fitted / glued a maple 'cap' or top, which is then carved by hand with chisels, spoke-shave, rasp and other tools until you get the desired carve depth and shape across the surface of the guitar.

The pick-ups and circuitry are later wired in, and you can get creative with your sonic control.

If you want some weird phase wiring on your pick-ups, - or if you want sexy custom ideas like Piezo pickups dropped in, then now is the time.

I opted for push-pull tones, and my usual kill switch (which my Les Paul doesn't have - because I can't bring myself to drill holes into that!)
The kill switch always comes in very handy for convenience and effect.

The guitar was simply stained bright bottle green near the end of the build, and right away I knew it was the right colour against the various woods.
It's a few years old now, and plays better than ever.

The green stained finish looks aged, which is exactly what I wanted, although I think it could do with a slightly fresher finish now, so maybe next year, I'll revisit Mark and Carol, and strip / re-colour the guitar to it's original vibrant green, - as well as repair a few little battle scars it has picked up over the last few years.

All in all - a truly amazing way for any guitarist to spend a week, and you go home with a totally one-off guitar made exactly to your specifications - and made by your very own hands.

Incidentally, I couldn't even touch the guitar for at least two weeks afterwards, because my fingers were absolutely destroyed from 7 days of cuts, slices, rips, slips & general finger / hand injuries.
A truly unique experience and well worth every second.

1 comment: