Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baritone/ Cello/ Guitar

I know.  I need another guitar like I need a hole in the head.  But this is different.  I swear.  When I was in high school I wanted a guitar that I could tune like a cello.  But I didn't know much about guitars back then.  In fact, I knew nothing.  I think I made a mistake in that, I went to the Florida Guitar Show with a friend, and the guitars I wanted, Gretsch archtops, cost $1600.  Remember, I was making $4.80 an hour back then.  That means, I was taking home $120 a week.  Then, when you figured with an amp and pedals, there was no way I could afford a guitar.

What I didn't know is that, there were guitars that were made pretty well, and didn't cost near that.  If I had gone to a few music stores, and talked to a few salesmen I would have learned a bunch.  I could have gotten a good archtop guitar for a pretty good price. 

Now it is years later, and I want to continue with my project.  Since I know more about guitars, and guitarmaking than should be allowed, so I've come up with what I want.  I found out that a regular guitar does not have a long enough scale length to suit a cello scale.  What I actually need is a baritone guitar.  That way I can put thicker strings on it, and it will have a longer scale length. 

After reading up on it, I decided to go with a Telecaster style guitar.  The single coils work well in a baritone, and help balance the sound out.  It basically keeps it from getting too muddy.  I am going to use a tele humbucker that is found in the 72 Tele Custom guitars for the neck position.  I have a Dimarzio Blue Velvet Stratocaster pickup that I will put in the middle, and a Kent Armstrong Tele slant pickup for the bridge.  This will give me a wide variety of sounds.

I can get the baritone neck I want from a number of sellers.  So that's not a problem.  I was having problem finding a tele body that would fit my needs.  I wanted a hollowbody like the 72 Custom, but the way the pickguard fits, it's impossible to put the three pickups that I want into it.  So I decided to build it myself.  It's not like I don't have a metric butt-ton of wood around here. 

I decided to make use of the Pau Ferro that I have had around the house.  It has had over a year and a half to dry in the Florida heat, and was completely dryed out.  I remember when I got that particular board.  It had just been cut from the tree, and was insanely heavy.  However, Pau Ferro is a very open grained wood, and holds a bunch of water when alive.  However, once it dries out, it loses half of it's weight due to moisture loss. 

This particular piece of Pau Ferro was cut near the outside of the tree.  So it has a bunch of white sapwood in it.  So it's not a uniform reddish brown color.  The wood grain is also not straight.  I has a bit of a curve to it, and a number of knots.  A lot of builders and woodworkers would not like this piece of wood.  However, I like this type of wood.  I think it adds a bunch of character to it. 

I wanted to use a flame maple top on it.  This way, I can route out the Pau Ferro, making it a Tele hollowbody, and use the maple as a beautiful top.  I can also add an F-hole to the top similar to the Fender Tele hollowbodies.  I still had the piece of maple that I used to make my second guitar, the neck-through hollowbody.  So I decided that I would use it for this project.  It is the one piece of wood that I actually paid for.  I spent three hours looking through a giant pile of maple to find.  Hundreds of boards, and it was the one board that I got.  The guys at the woodshop laughed at me and my Dad.  They said, "Three hours, and all's you got was one board?"  But in all honesty, it is a very nice board.  It has a nice amount of flame in it.

So far, I've got the Pau Ferro body glued up, as well as the maple top.  Right now, I am giving them both time to completely glue up.  I like to give Titebond 2 at least two days to completely dry.  (At the end of this blog are the pictures of the wood being clamped and glued.)  I am going to be very careful with the next step.  I will route the wood out, and then after all the routing has been done, I will cut the body shape out.  It's much easier to route that way. 

So, I've got a plan, and a new project.  I'm in no particular hurry on this project, but I will work on it when I can.  Or should I say, when I can afford to. 

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