Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guitars and Stuff


My old guitar making skills have been so useful recently during my eco-exploits that I thought I'd write a bit about that stuff. Back in 1976 my best friend Stone and myself (check out the hairstyle!) set up in business sharing a workshop on a farm just outside Perth - Stone doing leatherwork, me making and repairing guitars. I did that for about ten years. Now I'm planning to make a small yurt for the garden here which involves a bit of steaming and bending wood so that should be bring back happy memories...


I've always liked to push the boundaries and do something a wee bit different to everyone else - this is my "Flying X" design - with another sketch for a guitar that never got beyond the drawing board.

This was the design I made most of - I just called it Model A. The guitar in the photo was an absolute cracker, though I say it myself, with a gorgeous flamed maple top and two Kent Armstrong pickups with alnico magnets. It played like a dream and had both really good Fenderish and Gibsonish sounds. At last I'd mastered the nack of getting a really good sprayed lacquer finish - an art in itself.

I wasn't above doing a bit of a copy though, here's another cracker, a copy of an old Les Paul, complete with Kluson heads and Seymour Duncan pickups (a Pearly Gates and a JB...oh yes, those pickups are something else - especially the Pearly Gates modelled for my hero, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top....). Though a copy it had a totally different feel to a Gibson - lighter and really, really extra howlin and bluesy. That's my old chum Jamie the Hutch ripping it up - are you out there Jamie?!

I made all sorts of guitars, eletric, semi-acoustic, classical, flamenco and steel strung acoustics. I made this one, sometimes called the "Wattaferri" in 1985 with the idea in mind of making a steel strung acoustic so lightly built that it would still have power strung up with light electric guitar strings - guages 009 to 042. I could never play those huge great dreadnought guitars with strings like Forth Road Bridge cables. This guitar is all pared down to the bone, 2mm thick back and sides, the top 2.7mm down to 2.0mm, all graded and scraped out reinforced with a double X bracing. The bracing itself is all scalloped out to keep the top tight but loose for range and power. It's always been a problem child that guitar, it's sensitive to changes in the weather and I took some things a wee bit too far - but it works and sounds amazing!

And it's the only one of the guitars I made that I still have. Here I am thundering out a bit of boogie on it 23 years later...

1 comment:

Hunchenfest said...

i'm loving that curly hair Ian! and the flying 'X' looks fantastic... great pics and thanks for your generous comments

S x