Here we are, the last day of 2009; and I started something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time. Make my own guitar.
OK, so this is only what we might call the advanced prototype for that guitar. About 5 years ago I was given some very nice lumps of cherry wood from a fallen tree at the festival of wood in Westonbirt arboretum. Those lumps have sat around waiting to have a guitar happen to them all this time (seasoning if anyone asks, OK), however they are just raw lumps of wood, and I don’t have the workshop or skills yet to start completely from scratch, so before I start hacking them up and completely ruin them, I thought I’d better start with something a little easier.
The concept of this guitar has been in my mind for a long time; (pop quiz: What two things do these three guitarists have in common: Frank Zappa, Tony Iommi, and Deke Leonard. Answer – a) They were all powerful musical influences on the young Sean mind, and b) They all played Gibson SG’s when I saw them). I just love that ‘pointy’ body shape, and they sounded pretty good to my ears. Thus, I always wanted a ‘proper’ Gibson SG. However I’ve never gotten round to actually shelling out for one. I did have a nice Epiphone one on loan for about a year though, which scratched the itch briefly.
However I have also always really liked the Telecaster neck and headstock (although I’ve never owned a ‘proper’ one of those either). In fact my own electric guitar is a pretty rare beastie. A black Ibanez custom artist; which is a bit 70’s glam-rock, if you know what I mean. Now if beastie was in pristine condition I could probably trade her in for a genuine SG, but two issues with that. Firstly I’m pretty attached to her, despite her somewhat idiosyncratic looks, and secondly she’s what one might generously call a ‘player’ and not a ‘collector’. Meaning she’s been round the block a few times. Although basically sound she has taken a few dings over the years (mostly before coming into my possession I hasten to add). Beastie has fat little humbuckers, great tone and sustain; but she is also bulky and weighs a lot. So another design consideration is that I wanted something a bit smaller and lighter and the SG shape is nice and light. I also want a fairly natural wood finish, rather than a shiny plastic looking one. I primarily expect to be using this guitar for MIDI input as opposed to running it through a stack of Marshalls (although if I ever get the chance….), so I’ll be using Telecaster type pickups, and possibly just fitting a neck pickup, natural tone is therefore less of an issue here; but I’d still like to have a good basic sound.
Thus, since clearly Fender and Gibson aren’t going to be joining forces any time soon, I present to you Sean’s GhettoCaster (SG – geddit).
Mocking it up in Photoshop quickly (not proud of that neck join!), here is the concept picture I came up with:
Next problem was finding the time and money to put the thing together. Well, money was sorted by an unexpected little bonus from work just before this Xmas season; and as I generally take a couple of weeks around the holidays, I started doing some internet research. As usual, eBay came up trumps, and I sourced a finished Telecaster neck and unfinished mahogany SG type body. The electronics and gold hardware bits came from an online shop.
Today the last of the bits arrived:
So, with a bit of measuring and marking up, here’s what it looks like roughly placed together:
Pleasingly close to my design vision I think. The ‘pickguard’ here is just cut out of a bit of A4 paper, I’ll be ordering a custom pearlescent one when I get a bit closer to the end. The neck seems set a bit too much into the body in the picture. One of the points of the SG shape is access to the upper frets, so I’ll probably move it back a bit in the final design.
Now this project is one step up from a kit, in that there is a genuine design vision going on here. I felt that since this thing is probably gonna end up costing me as much, if not more, than going out and buying a readymade SG or Telecaster clone, there wasn’t any point in making something which is a direct copy, although I’m sure that would have taught me a lot too. Secondly there is a little more involved here than just bolting together off-the-shelf parts, the neck pocket is going to need reshaping to fit the Tele neck, the rear routing for the electronics is the wrong depth and shape; the body is pre-routed for wide Humbuckers, and there is no routing for the bridge Tele pickup. So there seems to be enough of a challenge here to make this a genuine custom project for a first timer. But not so much as starting with a bit of ex tree-trunk.
So, that’s it for part one of the Ghettocaster story. Join me some time in the New Year for the sequel, when we get down to the actual work.
Happy new year,