10.10.18

Blank Canvas on an Autumn morning

I just happened to have made a Luddite neck blank with an extra long headstock graft. I then just happened to have a remnant of an ebony side set that was the same length as my long graft. I thought to myself “Why not?” I used this as the head plate. So here we have an extra long Luddite headstock slotted and ready to go. I am brewing up a number of possibilities for the project. Hmmmmmm…….

9.19.18

Specimen Repair Journal – Rickenbacker 208

On the repair bench is a Rickenbacker 208 double neck steel guitar, produced in the post-war era. An antique coveted for the sound of its pickups. The History page of the Rickenbacker website states that in the 1930’s and ’40s Sol Hoopii and Dick McIntyre, two popular Hawaiian steel guitarists, played Rickenbackers on influential recordings.

 

 

8.1.18

Joining a Buckeye burl body cap

Roughing out the book matched stack with a power edge sander

Behold the beautiful alignment of the burls outer skin

Using a shooting block to further tame and square the edges

Using the slab for the final truing against a fence

Using two fences clamped down tight with wedge clamp blocks to put the squeeze on. A center weight and two clamps keep the seam flush

Rorschach imagery of the finest kind

Locating the splendor of the buckeye burl within the silhouette of the translucent body template

6.28.18

Joining flame maple top plates

After Running the top plates through the jointer with one side reversed we have a truly matching joint but one with a little tear out that would leave pits.

By elevating the top plate and running a square shooting block along the edges we can get under the tear out.

Using yellow wood glue, wax paper, and tapered wedge clamps a perfect joint is achieved.

6.1.18

Aluminum Electric Ukulele

It is time again to unleash the bandsaw and drill press in the glorious ritual of machining aluminum for new Specimen bodies.

This tailpiece is carved out of a billet of aluminum

Holes are drilled to lighten the structure.

Old warhorses in repose

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1.10.18

Headstock Repair: SG

After cleaning up a bit, I waxed the truss rod threads and cavity. I then injected glue deep into the crevices, hoping for full penetration.

I clamped the break tightly

After cleaning up the joint with sandpaper and dowels, I sprayed primer, then black lacquer, then clear lacquer. After curing for a few days I buffed out the job and reassembled. The repair is invisible.

6.17.17

Q & A with Ian Schneller

What inspired you to build your first guitar?
I hate shopping. I don’t like crowds, driving in traffic, or the commercial selection of most things available in stores. Vintage instruments can be magic. You can feel their history and the thought that went into many of the designs, but they had started to become cost prohibitive to me even 35 years ago. I like unique things, and I have always had strong opinions about what I want mechanically and ergonomically from a stringed instrument. It just seemed like the best solution was to make my own.

What was your favorite guitar build, and what did you learn about the guitar making process from this build?
I think the Emerald Deluxe has to rank up there as one of my favorites. I made that for Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. The pick guard is made of 600 iridescent emerald beetle wings laid up like ceramic roofing tiles and vacuum infused with epoxy. The guard is about 5/8” thick, so it had to be recessed deeply into the body. This created a dilemma with the mounting of the custom pickups Alex had ordered from the Creamery, in Manchester England. The pickups were made before the intricacies of the pick guard were known, so the mounting feet were too short for the thick guard. This necessitated a novel mechanical solution which resulted in even more amazing tone from the instrument. I had to cut off the pickup feet and permanently mount them with steel reinforced epoxy at fixed elevations. The need for pickup height adjustment is very real, so I made the entire pick guard height adjustable by placing springs under each of the pick guard mounting screws. This solved the mechanical issue and created a sonic interface between the strings and the pickups that is nothing short of astonishing.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In this case it was absolutely true. The lesson learned here is that the stricture embodied within the discipline of luthiery and of design in general is often unforgiving. When we stray from the beaten path of well established parameters, we often have to pay the price of engineering from scratch, other parameters that we had taken for granted.
This time, I got lucky.

What are some of the differences between acoustic and electric guitar building?
An electric guitar needs to be geometrically worked out according to the tenants of luthiery. It’s performance is dependent on this. It’s tone is a byproduct of the materials it is made from and to a large extent the craftsmanship that goes into making it. One can argue endlessly about the tonal effects of various materials but I feel it is largely psychosomatic. I hear people say that Mahogany has a dark brooding tone, while Maple is bright with a sharp attack. I think it is funny how these descriptions sound as if they are describing the look of the wood as much as the sound. Coincidence? You decide

The selection of wood species and even the individual tree an acoustic guitar is made from has a profound effect on sonic performance. I made electric guitars for two decades before I felt like I was ready to open the can of worms of acoustic building. I then started with traditional formats and experimented from there. Subtle differences in bracing and thicknessing impact volume, transient response, frequency response, linearity, Etc. I still make more electric solid body instruments than acoustic ones, but I continue to delve into the acoustic realm.

Who do you admire as a luthier? who has influenced your craft throughout your career?
The usual suspects, Although I don’t consider myself particularly versed in the matter. Loar, Fender, Nathaniel Daniels, Bennedeto, Maccafferri, De’angelico, stromberg, Larrave, Manzer

What do you think about before you build a guitar?
Historical context, precedent, application, cross pollination

What is the thing that bugs you the most about a bad guitar build?
Sloppy work, ugly lines. Greedy stupid engineering. Obvious fashion decisions at the expense of functionality

2.28.17

The Art of Listening

A lovely new documentary called The Art Of Listening by directors Michael Coleman and Emmanuel Moran and is now available to stream. Among many other musicians, engineers and designers in sound, Specimen Products own Ian Schneller is featured in a segment describing his process of luthiery. His segment starts at the 8:32 time marker, the whole movie is a fascinating watch!

3.29.16

CHIRP Record Fair

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Join us at the 2016 Chirp Record Fair! We’ll be showcasing two 9ft Specimen XL horns along with our horn speakers, hifi tube amps and guitars. We’ll have a table right in front of the stage. Click here to RSVP and get more info. See you there!

CHIRP Record Fair
Saturday, April 9th
8am – 6pm

Plumbers Hall

1340 W Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607