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Machining the neck pocket of one of my aluminum guitars is a true joy of mine (LOL). I use advanced digital technology, that is, I use my fingers to turn the cranks on the milling machine to achieve the proper dimensions. My mill is a 1940s Linley Pattern Maker’s Mill. It’s been mine for twenty years, and it’s still going strong.

Each neck pocket on a Specimen Aluminum is machined to precisely fit the neck heel of the actual neck going on the instrument. This arduous procedure may be somewhat superstitious (as opposed to using generalized templates) but it ensures a perfect fit and superior assembly on each and every guitar.

This guitar model is my Specimen Aluminum Esquire. With the neck block machining safely behind me, I can now embark on fitting the bridge and then “honey-combing” the frame to reduce weight and create a secret, internal beauty.

You can see images of the finished instrument here.

Back before the Sonic Arboretum opened, Time Out Chicago Kids ran a nice feature in their December/January issue. It gave Ian a chance to talk about how his childhood, specifically working alongside his Grandfather, influences his work.

Photos taken at Specimen Products during the building of the Sonic Arboretum Exhibit for MCA Chicago We were delighted that Time Out Chicago Kids reached out to us. The feature turned out very nice and Erica Gannett, who came out to photograph the shop for Time Out, took a series of lovely photos of the shop. Check it out!

Believe it or not these two Epiphone guitars are actually the same model: The Mighty Epiphone Olympic. The 1940s instrument on the left came in for a full restoration that required a neck set with a substantial revision to the neck geometry in order to get the bridge elevated enough to elicit some of the monster tone lurking within this box. This is prickly business with the traditional dovetail neck joint (still my favorite regardless).

Once the neck was set, it was completely re-fretted. The trapeze attachment plate had also exploded and needed to be re-fabricated. To do this, I unfolded the broken parts until they were flat and then made a new template.


I then cut the parts out of a sheet of brass and folded it and rolled it back up using the subtle persuasion of an anvil, a few small blocks of hardwood, and a ball peen hammer. Next I fabricated and fit a new bridge. It all went together well and once the instrument was setup it produced a great volume and gorgeous sonority.

We may never how the three on a side headstock morphed to a bat wing headstock on the more modern instrument on the right. This instrument had an unfortunate tuning machine replacement and had some chip-out on the headstock face which I drop-filled and buffed out so that vintage-style tuners could be re-fit.