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How to order a custom guitar

As a custom builder, I’m going to work with you to build something that is uniquely yours. I really derive a lot of my satisfaction from meeting a customer’s vision for thier unique creation. When you leave it up to me, I’ll build something great, but there’s that little tinge of loss that I feel.

First off, know what kind of instrument you want, that get’s us in the same ball park. But then let’s get the budget out of the way right way. I can do things to price point, and I’m good at it, but please don’t make me quote out the best of everything when you know your budget won’t accommodate it. Gimmie a target, we can always upgrade from there.

Next you’ll need to decide on a primary wood, generally maple or mahogany. If we’re building something special, we may pick out an accent wood that is highly figured. This can be anything from Spalted Maple to Curly Redwood. I love using great wood and work with some suppliers that can get some special things for not a huge ton of money. However, be aware that a nice set of matched wood can cost in excess of $100 by itself and can add significantly to the cost of your instrument.

Aside from wood, electronics are the second most costly component in a build. For example, a regular old gibson-branded humbucker can cost $120 by itself. I can get you an inexpensive import humbucker for $10, but that’s probably not what your looking for either. I’ll work with you to determine the sound your looking for and match that to an artisan builder like Randy Bretz, Ted Crocker, Bob Harrison, or Elmar Flatpup that will make some thing that will match the character and sound you’ve got in your head.

Finally, we’ll round out the hardware, bridge, tuners etc, to meet your budget and playing preferences. It may take an hour or two to get the details right, but it’ll be worth it. Build times run 6-8 weeks, i know that’s a long time, but this is a hobby business i do in my spare time and I price it accordingly. I do promise to keep you informed on the progress of your build on a very regular basis.



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Handmade Guitars

My preferences in music and playing styles have always leaned towards the earlier versions found in the genre. When I listen to punk, I like old punk. Reggae = roots, blues was born in the delta, etc. I’m also a huge fan of slide style playing both lap-style and bottleneck. Now that I’m building instruments, it’s only logical that I take that same roots-based approach.

I occasionally have guitars in stock and list them on my facebook pagesixer

However, doing customs are my favorite, write me a note and let me know what you’re thinking and I’ll let you know if I want to do it and how much it will cost. Guitars can cost as little as $250 but can go up significantly based on materials and labor and can take between 6-8 weeks to finish.

I endorse and use products from:

CB Gitty Crafter Supply

Ted Crocker Guitars

Old Lowe


The Corgi-uke

no stringsThe Corgi-uke

Like most out-there instrument builds, the corgi-uke halfway started as an idea but mostly as a joke, this particular lark played out on twitter.

And so the idea for the corgi-uke was born…

The problem was, I had already built close to 30 instruments in 2013 before September rolled around, and I was burned out. I kept telling myself that I would get around to it. I had just spent 6 weeks on a scooter unable to walk, I figured I’d be charged up to do it, but the truth is I was more charged up to do all the stuff I had been unable to do all summer long.

It was December before I really sat down to mock something up. I really wanted to use a silhouette of the dog like the picture in the twitter thread, but I was going to have to make the dog too big to have enough width on the body. I wracked my brain for a few days and had decided to do a head on version where the ears of the dog where like the wings on a Stratocaster. I had it mocked up inside of day, but then the holidays happened…

Before I knew it, April had rolled around, but in a fit of productivity, I got the body cut and glued, and figured out in no small effort, how to attach the neck. With the neck attached to the body, I had to in a real way deal with how I was going to do the graphics. The photo I had made the body pattern from was really too low resolution. Talking through it the situation with the client, Jane Bozarth, she had shared with me that her stepmother had done a painting from the original cell phone photo. I quick hi res photograph of the painting and we were back in business.

I had done vinyl adhesive graphics on an uke before, So I knew exactly where to go to get the graphics made up.

The last thing to do was to decide where to put the soundhole. I had originally thought of putting the soundhole in the nose and ears in the black areas, but I was concerned about cutting through the graphics. After consulting with Jane, we decided to put the hole on the upper side of the instrument facing the person playing the uke.  It worked out ok, but this isn’t the loudest one I’ve ever built by any stretch.

Finished, it’s as cute as can be, I’m just hoping Thomas the Corgi approves.

Piezos and Preamps

I have been told that I’m pretty opinionated about a few things. One of those opinions is my almost universal disdain for the piezo disk as an instrument pickup. This is partially hypocritical, I’ve used them in the past, I’ll likely use them in the future, but I’m not typically pleased with the results. Most piezo disk applications sound thin and brittle to my ears and have a shrieking overtone to them that feels like a dentist drill on my last nerve. However, you can’t argue the facts that piezo elements are:

  1. Inexpensive
  2. Easy to fit in tight spaces
  3. Sound more “acoustic”
  4. Can be used with bronze phosphor strings

And for those facts alone, sometimes they are the best option. However in these situations, I must insist that all piezo elements, both disc and rod varieties be used in conjunction with a preamp or preamplifier.

Most amplifiers with the exception of a relative few designed specifically for piezo equipped “acoustic” instruments, are designed  for a range of impedance (resistance) of a magnetic pickup. The impedance of piezo discs are comparatively much lower. This leads to a mismatch between what kind of signal the amplifier is designed to handle and what it is being given. The result is that thin and brittle sound that I’ve come to resent with such fervor.

The solution is to use a battery-powered series of capacitors to buffer the output of the piezo element to be closer to what the amplifier is expecting. This is also known as a preamplifier. While these devices won’t completely eliminate the sound characteristics that are inherent to piezo elements, to my ears they are least make things tolerable, and are thus required equipment.

For those reading that are dedicated to the cigar box variety of instruments, you could argue that it’s a cigar box and it’s only going to sound so good no matter what. To a certain extent you are right, but there is a difference between lo-fi and bad. The addition of a preamp isn’t going to change the character of the sound, but it will go a long way to controlling the frequencies that lead to listening fatigue.

Tri Cone Ghettoshorty

This is a fun little 19″ scale instrument tuned GDGB at the moment but i may try it in 5ths GDAE like an octave mandolin.

Brian Romero made the cones, bridge and cover for this one and he really did a great job. Dan Sleep at Humidor Guitars did the fretboard, OLd Lowe tail piece, and that’s a Bob Harrison deco rail pickup.

The back is some of the great old growth mahogany from Pete Lynch, the top and neck are more common Honduran mahogany. I did a v profile on the neck and the action is pretty low and even on this one.







Cigar Box Ukuleles going to Afganistan

These are a couple basic 15″ concert scale ukuleles that are going to some service members in the 43rd sustainment brigade. I have to admit they are pretty fun but aren’t as loud as my ghettoshorty ukes. There is some novelty value to the cigar boxes though. If you would like one of these, I’ll make one for $100 plus shipping. Better yet, buy one to donate to a service member.

Going Pro (Again) motorcyle racing content

greg on xrI’m turning 40 this year and some days there seems to be some doubt as to my ability to walk when I reach 50. Yet a good friend of mine, Greg Hutcheson, is returning to professional motorcycle racing north of 50. Thanks to Wes Orloff at WFO racing, Greg has the use of a beautiful Harley Davidson xr1200 that he will be campaigning in the xr1200 AMA spec class this season.

Greg was a professional racer earlier in his life before a horrific crash at Daytona cut his dreams short. I think it’s an awesome testament to his love of racing that he has no come full circle. Needlesss to say, racing is super expensive. If you’ve ever wanted to be part of a great of come back story, here’s your chance. the donate button below links to his racing effort.

What is Scale Length and how does it affect fret placement?

Scale length is simply the distance between the bridge of the instrument and the nut. It represents the part of the string that vibrates which is sometimes referred to as Vibrating String Length or VSL.  Your total string length is a fairly inconsequential measurement beyond the geometry of string angles approaching the nut and bridge.

On a western chromatic or diatonic fretted instrument, scale length determines fret placement. With the 12th fret position being exactly the half way point between the nut and bridge and one octave higher than the open note. For a complete explanation of intonation on a fretted instrument, please see my article Intonation for Everyone.

The remaining frets above or below the 12th fret are on a graduating scale, and the shorter the scale length the closer the frets are too each other. While there  are formulas you can use to mathematically figure out fret placement, it’s much easier to use a computer program. I use a free program called wfret. You can download it here.

Most guitar manufacturers use the same scale length on most of their instruments. Fender uses 25.5″  lentgh where Gibson uses a slightly shorter 25″ scale. Martin uses a more esoteric 25.34″. However, many import makers use metric scales that are close to 25″ mark but my not be exact. An easy way to reverse engineer scale length is to simply measure from the nut to the 12th fret and double that measurement. For example if the measurement is 12.5 from the nut to the 12th fret than the scale is 25″.

When designing an instrument, You should decide the scale length first as it will dictate bridge and fret placement that will be critical in the overall layout of your instrument. To long of a scale and the neck could be heavy and out of balance to the body, to short and you won’t be able to play on the upper frets. If your building a box guitar a yard stick can be handy tool to give you the feel of what scale length you should use with a given size box.


Blondie the Resonator

294783_10150278750204520_5018330_nSince very few people reading this are independently wealthy, including me, I try to keep my costs down. In order to that I try to buy some of my wood at Menard’s which is a big-box home improvement store that has a pretty good hardwood selection. However, having the right species of wood doesn’t mean it’s good wood, I only buy wood that is straight and has some figure to it. The result is that I spend 30 minutes to an hour every time I go to the store looking through piles of Maple, Mahogany, Walnut, and Cherry, and I only buy wood maybe 1 out of every 4 trips. It’s definitely a labor of love.

One day I spot a super curly piece of maple out of the corner of my eye, but it’s 12′ long and 1×3, Too long to fit in my car and kind of weird size, but I had to have it. One of the ways Menard’s keeps prices down is they don’t have cutting stations, etc, but my wife persuades a guy to cut it for me, and I take it home.

While I luck out with bargain store lumber from time to time, I also have a private reserve of very special bookmatched top wood as well. Getting that curly maple at a bargain, really triggered in my head that I could do an all maple build with a set of matched ambrosia maple I had, and Blondie was born.

I knew I wanted to make a Squareneck lap guitar and that I wanted it to be a resonator. I also had a funny idea about resonators. On the “scrappy” resonators, I noticed that they sounded better with cover plates that without. My theory is that the cover plates tie together the edges of the cone and help vibrations resonate more evenly across the surface of the spun aluminum cone. but I couldn’t  bear the thought of cutting a giant hole through the top of that gorgeous ambrosia maple top I had picked out. I got thinking about speakers  and how similar they were to resonator cones, except instead of an electromagnetic voice coil, resonators had a mechanical bridge and strings, essentially a passive radiator. Most speakers can be mounted from behind the front face of the speaker and in some cases it can help them interact with the enclosure a little better, so I decided to test that theory with a guitar and mounted the cone to the back side of the sound board. I’m happy to report it works!


The finished guitar  features the curly maple sides and fretboard, ambrosia maple top and the back is made from some old growth maple flooring. the bridge is brown ebony from Randy Bretz at MojoBoneWorks. The pick up is a single coil Downunder hand wound by Ted Crocker with a rosewood top bobbin. This guitar is for sale and ready to ship. $450 offers and trades considered.

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Trade and Barter

Times are tough, I get it. I also get that a guitar a never “needed”, They are wanted. I also have “wants” which always include musical instruments but also have to do with my other hobbies which include:

  • Surf and SUP (want SUP)
  • HiFi audio (marrantz/onkyo/emotiva/linn/vandersteen/etc)
  • Photography (Sony/Minolta AF 10-20mm wanted)
  • Motorcycles
  • Bicycles (want adjustable fluid/mag trainer)
  • Jeep (JK platform. need new tires, want new wheels, light bar)

I’ll consider trades dollar for dollar, and I’m not opposed to kicking in cash for something that is a pending purchase for me anyway. If you’re local, I’m also in need of some landscaping help, as well as some remodel assistance.

Cash-free economy works if we both have something the other “wants”.