New! Effects Pedal Building Workshop Open Now

 Register here.

This new guitar’s title is the Ãœbercaster. It is called so because I think it has everything one can possibly put on a guitar (or at the very least it has a lot).


This commission sends me in a different direction from my usual design ethos. The guitar has 24 frets with a deepened cutaway for access to the very last fret, twin-carbon fiber neck reinforcements and a chambered basswood body with a highly flamed book-matched maple cap for the lightest possible weight. It will also have two Lindy Fralin high-output humbuckers with coil taps, a Wilkinson vibrato unit with hexaphonic saddles with midi interface outputs and piezo acoustic output as well. Oh, and there is also a kill switch.

You can see the finished instrument here.

This custom ukulele is being built for an electric ukulele player living in Key West, Florida. It is embellished like John D’Angelico’s New Yorker guitars made in the 1940s, complete with cursive pearl logo, stepped “Key Wester” engraved marker, and pearl position markers on the neck. The body will be black like a Les Paul Custom and feature a special new custom bridge and our superb magnetic ukulele pickup.

Here is a slideshow of images taken during the building of this little beauty. You can see the finished instrument here.

This octagonally fluted horn shape began as a drawing. The simple juxtaposition of two curves imbued with a rigid octagonal format automatically established this elegant shape. Nature utilizes simple geometry to create elaborate functional structures and so does the little horn. Perhaps this is why these shapes seem to have grown this way.

Once the basic three dimensional silhouette is established I can derive the flats by draping and embossing moistened paper over the skeletal structure. Once I have my set of templates, flats are cut out, steam bent like the sides of a guitar body and assembled using dryer lint, baking soda and cyanoacrylate glue. This prototype is surfaced to its final form and a mold is taken from it. Horns can then be layed up in whatever material desired. We have used both fiberglass and urethane with excellent results and continue to experiment. You can see pictures of the finished Little Horn Speakers here.

I just thought that the world could use another look at a fine meat and potatoes, pre-CBS Telecaster. This one has been “ridden hard and put away wet”, but is still so beautiful and functional. The body has been refinished several times without stripping. This gives it an almost archeological feel. I will count the annular rings in the pickup cavity and let you know what I find. I know, someone changed the tuners. Things happen. It is still beautiful. Note the strangely worn fretboard at the body end by the date stamp.

I remember when you couldn’t give these things away. Today, this guitar represents a comparative rarity from the Norlin-owned era of Gibson that proves there actually were some engineers employed there that were awake, sort of.

Lots of controls manipulate an exotic (for the time) low impedance pickup system. In contrast to the Electar amp, this piece has all the bells and whistles, whether you want them or not, all in a fashionable mahogany peanut butter finish.

This amp looks like it has been in a time capsule. I would guess it is from the early to mid-1940s. Anybody out there have a clue? The tubes are unfamiliar and the socket pin count is squirrel-y, with extra cap connectors on some of the tubes. Each tube also has a three piece “man in the iron mask” shield that clasps around it.

The construction is so bullet-proof that it is no wonder it survived. It has a field coil speaker that predates the common use of permanent magnets. This field coil also doubles as a power supply choke. Ingenious! Beautiful simplicity, and it sounds terrific to boot. Gutsy, yet open.

Tags »

I guess I remain a little hard headed still wanting to do things by hand after all this time. People have been suggesting I use computerized routers and pantographic duplicators etc. for years. Since I don’t have large production quotas that warrant it, every Specimen is carved and fitted by hand and the advantages of this are perfectly fitting neck joints and string alignment. Circumstance as opportunity. The Luddite is a modern electric guitar with the appointments and build quality of an older world. Sensible hand craftsmanship made one-at-a-time.

You can see images of the finished instrument here.

A student of ours inherited this exceptional guitar from his grandfather in France. Inside the body it is labeled Guitare “Gelas” 192?.

Essentially, it is a guitar within a guitar. There are two intersecting tops that create an angle that force a negative pitch. It uses loop-end strings that attach to a tailpiece at the end of the body and descend down one plane where they meet a double saddle that arrests the strings. They then ascend along another plane and over the sound holes, that’s right, TWO sound holes— two guitars in one! The strings are actually pulling upwards on the sound table like a harp.

This guitar is truly an amazing piece and I am convinced that it played a part in Mario Maccaferri’s creation of his Selmer guitar designs. The sound hole rosette is super multi-ply colored stripes just like a Maccaferri.

The guitar is due back in the shop in several weeks when we will begin restoration work. I can hardly wait to hear it strung up.

The electric lute is for Michiel Niessen a prominent lute player from the Netherlands. His instrument will have ten strings, three of which share a longer scale and are fret-able drones. The neck is exceptionally wide compared to a guitar and embodies three carbon fiber reinforcements for stiffness.

This prototype is taking the shape of an oversized Maxwell guitar which I realized is actually shaped like a lute with horns!

While building this instrument I had fantasies that I would be able to get around this instrument as a player, you know, make a quick adaptation and get \”early”. As it turned out, this was not the case. This E-lute is a completely different instrument in its intended tuning. I think this makes the project all the more significant as it truly is an anomaly in the modern world. I cannot wait to hear what Michiel does with it. I think there are great things in store.

You can see images of the finished instrument here.

The electric mandola is being reproduced as a viola with frets. These photos show the typical construction of a Specimen aluminum body. Notice the aircraft girder style ribs. These are cut out of 1 ¼” aluminum. The top and back are then bolted into tapped holes in the ribs. All of the hardware is carved out of solid aluminum billet.

You can see images of the finished instrument here.

My hi-fi audio line took shape after years and years of servicing musical instrument amplifiers and using these devices endlessly. To me it is simply second nature to plug into the front of an amp and reach around to the back to flip up a switch to turn it on. It’s just natural.

My speaker outputs are on the back as is my fuse holder. This allows for a straight flow of the signal path from front to back. Laying out the parts was almost automatic with two channels flanking a central ground bus. The amp is dead quiet. You can see images of finished stereo tube amp here.

After the initial process of establishing a shape, the next logical step was to enlarge it by 400%! This resulted in a rather unwieldy construction going together but once the last seam was closed, the final shape was amazingly rigid. We added reinforcement layers and a quick finish for Andrew Bird’s Millennium Park Labor Day show in 2008.

This was a test run for Andrew to see how a horn this large would work on a large stage. The results were amazing. I was in the audience about 200 feet back from the stage and the sound projection was stunning. After the show Andrew ordered a pair and I had a mold made of the prototype. The original prototype was shredded to bits coming out of the mold, but the mold lives on an we are able to produce these magnificent horns for special applications. You can see images of finished horn speakers here.