Monday, April 21, 2014

'Torano' and 'Devil Dancer' Go To Cleveland

I got a call recently from a really nice guy (John) from the Cleveland area, who wanted me to build a couple cigar box guitars for him.  The more we talked the more interesting things became.   John wanted one guitar for himself and one for his friend Tony.  

It appears Tony is a novice player and John wanted something Tony could play easily with a slide.  So, here comes 'Torano'.

'Torano' is a handmade electro/acoustic TotalRojo three-string cigar box guitar built on the platform of a very colorful Casa Torano cigar box. 

The neck is oak with scarf joint headstock overlayed with Spanish cedar. A maple fingerboard sports 21 medium/medium gauge hand dressed and seated frets. Brass position markers are easy to spot on the player side of the neck.  Soundhole covers are custom drawer pulls.  Open back tuners stretch the 5-4-3 strings from a standard acoustic set over a maple bridge to a Corian nut.  A Piezo transducer pickup is wired to an output jack for amplification.  String action is set up for either finger style or slide play, and the guitar is tuned to open G (G-D-g), which accommodates hundreds of songs.

A graphic of famed blues player Robert Johnson decorates the back of the body.


John wanted something a little more elaborate for himself. 

I chose a Padron cigar box for the foundation for 'Devil Dancer'.  

A scarf jointed walnut neck with Spanish cedar overlay carries a maple fingerboard with 20 hand dressed and seated medium/medium gauge frets, corian nut, and open back tuners.  A Indian head nickel finishes off the fingerboard.  A walnut string retainer tailstock guides the 5-4-3 strings from a standard set of acoustic strings over the Cocobolo bridge and saddle created from a vintage skeleton key.  

A TotalRojo magnetic pickup wired to an output jack amplifies sound.  But, this little devil sounds pretty good acoustically, too.

John told me he really likes the legend of Robert Johnson, Mississippi Delta blues player, who allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to learn how to play the blues.  

So, with this in mind, the graphic on the back of the body should rattle John's bass string.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Every Guitar Needs A Stand. Right!

I love building guitars, and I like to display them and to have them ready to play, but it's not very practical to have them stacked up in the corner or leaning against the wall to be knocked over by a renegade animal or grandkid.  Commercial stands are very practical, but they have the appeal of a shopping center bicycle stand.  And, it just seems appropriate that a handmade guitar should rest in a special homegrown stand.

I like to hang my guitars, but it's not a good idea to start drilling holes in the living room wall without the blessing of the person who really runs the place, my wife.  So, the next best thing was to create a stand that would keep 'Elvira' upright and safe.  

There's always a few leftover pieces from a build, or something that hasn't made its way into the creative flow.  In this case it was pieces of exotic Sapele and maple.  It's easy to build a simple guitar stand with a couple dowels, a base board, upright supports, and a back rest, but I wanted something that would be a bit different and that would compliment my guitar.

The darker Sapale contrasting with the lighter maple wood satisfied my idea of how the stand could look.  I saw a gun rack several years ago that was freestanding and I liked how it looked, so I incorporated some of the design into what would work for a guitar.  

The legs, which are attached to the angled and contoured feet, fit snugly against the upright shaft.  You'll notice the braces separating the feet and legs are contoured and angled as well, and the bottoms of the feet are also angled to sit flat on the floor (stability).  By accident, the shaft when viewed straight-on looks a little like a stylized guitar.  All pieces are glued and screwed together with buttons to cover the screws for a nice sanitary completion.

The neck rest extends out from the shaft just far enough to keep the guitar body from hitting the legs, but angled enough to keep it from falling over.  Strips of soft carpet glued to the feet and 'hand' protect the guitar finish.

I had to add the TotalRojo logo lest I forget, in my old age, who made the thing.

If any of you pickers out there need a custom guitar stand, I think I could fix you up.  Give me a shout and we'll work something out.

Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, & Warren Haynes Perform "I'd Rather Go Blind"

Do yourself a favor and start your day with this!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

4-String Tunings for the Cigar Box Guitar with Justin Johnson

I've been asked several times recently about tunings for a CBG.  This video by Justin probably explains it as well as any.  I hope it's helpful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

'Cella' Does Albuquerque

'Vintage Albuquerque', an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting arts in education programs and outreach activities focused on K-12 students in New Mexico, will hold its 23rd annual wine event June 18-21, 2014. One of the state's premier art and culinary events, Vintage Albuquerque's June Wine Week showcases the talents of local artists and restaurateurs alongside wineries and winemakers from top wine-producing regions around the world.

Sounds like a great event, right, but what does it have to do with TotalRojo Guitars?

Well, I volunteered to donate a special guitar for the art auction, after having my arm twisted by Cate Stetson, who is an event board member, and a friend.

I had never heard of Vintage Albuquerque, but it only took Cate a few minutes to share her enthusiasm for it, and to provide me with details that would result in the creation of 'Cella'.

'Cella' is going to be displayed with some very impressive company, so I had to come up with a creative concept that might keep pace with Meryl Streep and Ted Turner.  

What better foundation than a wine box for a body to kick start the project.

I chose to create an electro/acoustic six-string using a Fender Strat neck, which I dug out of my inventory of parts I keep around for special occasions, but that's where the commercial material starts and ends.  The neck had to be joined with the body, which required a bit of ingenuity and planning.  And, because the body is a two-part box with hinged lid, the hinges had to be removed and the lid had to be reinforced for strength and stability, ala, handmade scalloped bracing.

The neck is attached with bolts to a permanent base glued to the box.  Corner pieces serve as pillars to attach the top with screws.

In keeping with the theme of the event, I chose to create sound holes in the top that correspond to the event logo, which are grape clusters in the shape of a 'V' and 'A'.  These openings correspond nicely to the size of the box, which in turn offers strong resonance.

A magnetic pickup with custom wood cover is located under the strings above the name in the center of the top. It is wired to volume/tone controls, which are topped with hand-turned maple knobs.  The floating bridge is hand formed from Ziricote wood and sports a custom Corian saddle.  The tailstock is also hand formed from Ziricote resting on a base of Spanish cedar, which is glued to the top.  I kept the original box art intact, but added the walnut corner pieces to accomplish two things, i.e., to add a little more to the design, and the small maple buttons cover the screws which connect the top to the body.

The opening in the top, where the neck heel joins the body needed to be dressed up, so I chose to design a walnut plate that would follow the theme . . . grapevine leaves and logo.

The flip side of the box was very plain, which allowed for a little creativity, but I wanted to create something that would stay with the event theme without being redundant.

Cate suggested, in our initial conversation, that the New Mexico State Flag was a really cool design, which might look good.  I thought about it, but the idea of color just didn't get me excited.  Great idea, but how will I pull this off and maintain integrity of design?

The flag design is really cool, so I decided to create the image out of walnut burl and glue it to the box.  Added corner pieces similar to those on the top, and voila, Vintage Albuquerque and New Mexico come together to form an object that can be hung on the wall or played for personal enjoyment. 

The tailend of the guitar is as close to original as it gets with the exception of a maple strap button and the output jack placed in the holes originally intended for a rope handle, which I discarded.

I took 'Cella' for a test drive today and I really like the way she sounds acoustically, and when plugged in, she can rattle the windows.  Perhaps whoever wins her will find as much enjoyment as I've had creating her.

Thanks Cate, for giving me the opportunity.