Tuesday, July 5, 2011

'The Chief'

I mentioned a while ago in another post that I had purchased an old cathedral-style radio at a yard sale, and was going to use it for an amplifier.  Well, I decided not to chop it up.  But, the design of it is so cool that I decided to build a guitar in that design.

Here it is.

(The inspiration for the guitar design)

The project started with a concept, and finished with what you see here.  But, along the way, it was really interesting, especially since this build is the first from the ground up.  Everything from concept to completion is my own personal design and application.

It is a 4-string electro/acoustic tenor guitar with an on-board battery powered GuitarFuel amp harness and speakers (http://guitarfuel.com/), which were supplied by my friend Ty.  There is also a headphone jack in the back panel, so the only person I annoy with my lousy playing is myself.  Ty encouraged me to do the on-board thing . . . I usually build the amp separately, but this is such a sweet application that I'm sure it is not my last.  And, it sounds awesome.  Thanks Ty!

I started with a drawing of the basic radio design and transferred it to a large piece of 3/32" maple for the front and back of the guitar. 

After cutting out the two pieces and opening the relief areas and sound holes; marking locations for the neck, pickup, speakers, etc., I covered all the openings with a dark brown fabric, which looks like wood.  I also cut an access opening in the back panel in the basic shape of the guitar body.  I need this to get to the electronics inside the body.

Then I commenced to install interior bracing and handmade purfling on which to cement the side pieces.  Once I had this done, I glued the front and back structure together.  The sides are made up of  one-piece of 1/16"  mahogany cut to give the body a 3-1/2" thickness.  This piece was cemented to the basic body structure, as was the back piece, and  voila, I had myself a 'real' guitar body.  The body was then finish filed and sanded to completion.

Next was the completion of the walnut neck, maple fretboard, and corian nut and saddle.  The walnut, maple, mahogany stock, and corian were supplied by my friend Matt, who owns a local counter top shop. 

The headstock was designed in the basic shape of the body with a very thin piece of balsa used to accent the design and to carry the TotalRojo logo.  After the pieces were cemented together, the shaping and finishing was done by hand, until I was satisfied with how it looked and felt in my hands.  Frets were added to the fingerboard, and the finished neck was laminated to the body.

The bridge is a piece of Spanish cedar designed in the shape of one of the body openings, on which the saddle and oak filled brass tube string retainer is laminated.  Inset into the bridge is a 1935 Indian Head nickle, which gives the guitar its name, 'The Chief'.

I chose a bass guitar pickup for this application, because of its compact size and design, and it works very well in this instance.

Gold tuners with wood grain knobs were installed in the headstock to adjust the strings over the 25.5 scale neck.  And, a custom designed brass string tree holds the strings in place, when riffing a hard blues number.

Finally, eight hand applied coats of poly, hand sanded between applications, finish off the guitar.

The A-D-G-B (5, 4, 3, 2) strings from a standard set of medium acoustic guitar strings are tuned D-G-B-D (open G tuning) for a bright and lively sound and tone.

The amp is fully adjustable from a mellow, earthy sound, to a quite loud and twangy presentation, and a lot of options in between.  This is very cool setup with the amp on board the guitar . . . no messing with a cable and separate amp.

If you like what you've seen and read, leave me a comment, or email me with your comments.

Thanks for visiting.

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