Occasionally when people see the instruments I build, their reaction is something like, "Wow! You should do this for a living." This guitar is a prime example of why I most likely will never support myself by building instruments. I am so crazy slow at the process that if I were to try, I would be a lot thinner than I am today as I couldn't afford to eat.
The origins of this guitar started back in December of 2004 when I built the neck blank. Design and construction began in fall of 2006. The neck was completed a few months later, however construction of the body lingered on for almost six more years.
The body of the instrument is made from walnut harvested from my grandfather's land in Independence, IA. This is the land on which my mother grew up. So while the wood has some aesthetic defects, I feel this is outweighed by the cool factor of its history.
Here are the specifications of the instrument:
Neck Type: Bolt On
Neck Wood: Nine layer laminate of maple and mahogany
Truss Rod: Dual action Steward MacDonald "Hot Rod"
Reinforcement: Two carbon fiber rods
Headstock: Scarf joint with a 12 degree angle.
Tuners: Wilkinson 3+3
Body Wood: Walnut from my grandfather's land in Iowa.
Body Features: Hollow body design with traditional Tundracaster shape. 5 ply binding on front and back.
Fretboard: Rosewood 22 fret
Scale Length: 24 3/4"
Inlays: Abalone dots offset to the left rather than centered.
Pickups: Two GFS "Big Mouth" humbuckers
Controls: One volume control, one tone control, three-way pickup selector switch
Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer (body), satin polyurethane (neck)
Weight: Seven pound range (guesstimate)
Despite the body being hollow, the guitar weighs more than I expected it would. This isn't to say that the guitar is heavy, by any means. It probably weighs about the same as my Strat. I suppose the reason for this is because the body is made out of walnut which is on the heavier side of average wood weight.
The headstock is my Gen 3 design. It is the last guitar to feature this design before I moved to my Gen 4 design. I didn't cover the neck laminations with an overlay which means they're visible from the front. I created a matching truss rod cover from a piece of scrap I cut from the neck.
To be honest, I chose the Big Mouth pickups based completely on aesthetics. I loved the chrome and the huge pole pieces. They had the retro look I wanted for this guitar. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard them for the first time. These pickups combined with the hollow body make a great combination. The guitar has a powerful but vintage sound. I quickly discovered this guitar isn't for the person who likes the heavy scooped-mid dual rectifier sound. However, for the classic/vintage rock sound (a la Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Ted Nugent, George Thorogood, etc) this guitar sounds very, very good.
I used a standard Telecaster control plate, but I intentionally installed it upside-down. My reasoning is that I use the volume knob more often than my pickup selector. So the volume is now up where I can easily roll it with my pinky. The selector switch is a little further away, but still pretty convenient to reach.
A close-up of the back of the headstock gives a view of the decorative "volute", as well as my signature. I sign, date and number all of my instruments. The date on this is 10/2006, which indicates when I completed the neck. The body didn't get finished until 6/2012. The body is signed, numbered and dated in the pocket below the neck.
The back of the body is pretty clean, with only the neck plate and the string ferrules interrupting the wood. All of the electronics is loaded through the front which means there's no control plate on the back side.
This angle clearly shows off the two small knots in the wood. Actually, this is the same knot but because the front and back pieces are each made from one piece cut down the middle, then glued together (called "bookmatching") the single knot looks like two. Many times wood like this would get overlooked for an instrument. Usually I would pass on wood like this as well, but because the wood came from my grandfather's land I thought it added a touch of character.
I'm very happy with the way the guitar plays. The action is low and I took a lot of time cutting the string slots in the nut to the optimum depth. Chords feel like they nearly play themselves. The short scale length (24 3/4) makes string bending very easy. All in all, I am quite satisfied with this instrument.
This page last updated on 06/28/2018