Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08
Mentor: Diane Giardi
Title: Custom Guitar
For my senior project I designed and constructed my own original solid body electric guitar. I researched popular guitar models, wood, pickups, and other hardware, and discovered how each aspect affects the instrument. I studied the process and came up with a creative design to craft my desired sound and image. I have learned about the woods that I am using and how to wire a guitar, as well as how to properly apply the frets. My guitar will be displayed for people to see in addition to a recorded sample they can listen to. I will demonstrate the sounds the guitar can make and explain the process of building the design.
I first imagined my senior project before I even got here. Before my high school career, I had started playing guitar. I heard about Senior Project soon after I thought about applying to this school, and the first thought happened then. I have been playing the guitar for a few years with the main focus of songwriting. I wanted to become more intimate and more in-touch with the instrument I play. I thought this project would be a great opportunity to do so.
I started with doing a bunch of research on line and through my book sources on guitar construction from scratch including information about every single material needed, woods, and pickup information. My most important resource, Alen Bennet, who I cannot thank enough, meant the whole project to me. He is a cabinet maker and has made quite a few acoustic guitars in his day. He is a friend of the family who lives on the island near my home. My second most important connection I found (thank God) through Diane. She had invited me to a gallery opening in Springs where some Ric McCurdy guitars were on display. I had the pleasure of meeting Ric who invited me to his workshop in Manhattan where I learned how to fret the fingerboard and wire the pickups.
Wood: Maple, Mahogany, Rosewood.
Shape: Shaped like a PRS! (Most influential guitar model)
Pickups: HSS setup. DiMarzio Virtual PAF- Seymour Duncan Duck bucker-DiMarzio Area 58'
Bridge: Floyd Rose licensed tremolo.
Headstock: 3 by 3. Custom circle region with world map inlay (mother of pearl)
I've learned so much from this project. For the basics I learned a lot about long term projects, planning, and organizing. Most of that was learned through mistakes. I learned the entire solid body electric guitar construction process from start to finish. I learned about wood concepts and the work of a luthier. I practices different techniques and learned how to use some power tools. I learned how to inlay and many other aspects of the guitar. There are too many mistakes to list during the construction, but I learned that anything is/is nearly fixable. The most valuable skill derived from this project is the ability so see the guitar in a totally different perspective. I could never look at a guitar the same way.
The whole process started with the design. Brainstorming and researching and consulting with Alen to see which ideas would work and what kind of sound and look I wanted. I had to choose my supplies carefully; there's a lot of nooks and crannies to this little guitar. As soon as the design was complete, I spent the next few months in the shop doing hands on wood working, measuring, cutting, sanding, routing, dying, binding, more sanding, saning for hours and hours. As soon as the final shape was complete, I began the finishing process with an epoxy filler that fills the woods pours and any mistakes I make. Then about 10 layers of lacquer were applied. After the guitar was dry enough, I went to Ric to guide me on my fret job and wiring. Everything was set in place, strings and bridge installed and ready to play!
I am very proud of what I have accomplished and my mentors are as well. There are somethings I would like to go back and change, but overall the project came together planned for the most part. I have definitely accomplished my goal of getting closer to the guitar and I had fun through the whole process.
Bennet, Alen. Personal interview. Autumn 2007.
Brosnac, Donald. Guitar Electronics for Musicians. Omnibus P, 1983.
Hirst, Tom. Electric Guitar Construction. Anaheim Hills, CA: Centerstream Pub., 2003.
Hiscock, Melvyn. Make Your Own Electric Guitar. Basingstoke Hampshire: NBS Publications, 1998.
Hunter, Dave. Guitar: a Complete Guide for the Player. CA: Thunder Bay Press,2002.
McCurdy, Ric. Personal interview. Autumn 2007.
Robinson, Larry. The Art of Inlay. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005.
Smith, Doug. Telephone interview. Oct. 2007.
Community Member (Details)
Alen Bennet lives on Shelter Island and works in Wainscot doing cabinetry work. A wood crafter as a whole, Alen was able to guide me through my project with his skills and knowledge. In Alen's past schooling he attended guitar making school and has made several acoustic instruments in his lifetime.
Ric McCurdy is a professional guitar maker who lives and works in Manhattan. He also owns property in Montauk. His apartment and his workshop are in the same building. He makes excellent guitars by the order of the consumer. I recommend checking out his web page.