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.

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