Working Weekend

It doesn’t matter what day it is—sometimes I just like to be in the Workshop. The Sakura was starting to shape up, so I elected to continue working. I’m the boss anyway. Over the previous two days I’d been focusing on the detail work, like rebuilding and aging the Kluson tuners.

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Using a combination of heat, solvent and dyes, the appearance of the buttons was now exactly what I wanted. All of the mold marks on the plastic and metal have been removed by sanding. This gives the tuners a friendly feel with a look that invites you to touch them. The color is beautiful and warm.

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Up next was the elecrical wiring. I installed the polished CTS pots from my stash of NOS parts. The switch is a refurbished 1950s CRL 3-way which I rescued from an old switchboard panel. You can identify its age by the brown phenolic wafer and the two patent numbers stamped on the frame. I also utilized the original ’50s straight-slot screws to mount it. From my supply of vintage Western Electric cloth-covered wire, I chose a length of yellow wire with a nice patina on it. The tone cap is a Jensen-made, oil filled from Steve at Angela. For the ground wire to the output I chose a small length of Western Electric multi-color—also cloth insulated.

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I like to use the Switchcraft stereo jack. The extra prong holds the plug in better and provides a more secure ground. I also use a dab of red Loctite threadlock on the threads to reduce the chance of the jack coming adrift from vibation. The hot lead is a black, cloth covered wire with a bit of shrink wrap to eliminate the possibility of a short from wear or vibration over the life of the instrument.

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After all the wiring is complete and the engraved front plate is secured, I attached the bridge to get a look at the guitar. Then it was time to attach the back plate.

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Here, I’m fastening down the rear plate using stainless steel screws. After waiting almost nine months for the engraving to be finished, this was an exciting moment for me. I had to conciously tell myself to breathe as I worked.

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As long as the weekend was on a roll, I decided to do the cleanup cut on the perimiter of Hell’s Half Acre. Using a hand-cut birch plywood template, the overarm router is used to cut the final shape after roughing out with a .750” bit. I use a .500″ carbide downspiral bit to make the final pass to eliminate any cutter marks. The pickup routs and switch access are done at the same time. The neck joint is undersize and won’t be finalized until moments before the neck is fitted. This eliminates any problems with wood movement and ensures a perfect fit.

Not bad for a cloudy weekend. But now it’s a sunny and bright Monday. Maybe I’ll go for a walk in the woods with the dog.

 

 

Signature Finish Guitar Hardware

I just received my first pieces of variegated nickel hardware from Dwight at TonePros. We’ve been batting ideas around for over a year, and it’s finally coming together. Based upon the traditional TOM vintage bridge, the alloys have been massaged and the finish is unique as well.

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Of special interest are the tailpiece anchors. Machined from 1018 steel as per original vintage correct specs, they couple and ring out with a clarity that you don’t get from the cast pieces—or even brass for that matter. They are also the correct “long” length.

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The matching tuner hardware is awesome as well. They are vintage Kluson type machines, but with a few important differences. First, the tolerances are to a more modern specification that wasn’t in the originals. Second, they are locked down from the top with a nut to secure them to the headstock. I individually fit each tuner, starting with an undersize hole. This increases stability and couples the string vibration to the head of the guitar. Here’s the test fit on a dummy neck.

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I hand sand and buff each of the keys to eliminate any molding seams—this gives them a friendly feel like an old guitar. Then they are hand painted for a vintage patina. Then they are polished and fine-scuffed for a satin touch. I can’t wait to get these into the latest build. Thanks to Dwight and his crew for making this a reality.