View Full Version : A steel string guitar I made

george wilson
05-07-2013, 9:02 AM
I haven't posted pictures of the finished steel string guitar. I had posted some pictures a while back during its construction. Unfortunately the overall picture seems to be too big a file to upload. I'll have to work on it.

The guitar is made of Brazilian rosewood cut in 1960. The top is German spruce,which was stamped 1968 on the blank top pieces. The peg head overlay is one I have used on the last several guitars. Bindings are curly maple. The fingerboard is Gaboon ebony,with diamond shaped and round abalone markers. The neck is good hard Honduras mahogany about 75 years old,when you could get the good stuff,exactly flat cut to resist the neck bending best,though the drill rod truss rod would handle that in any case. I did not make the truss rod cover.

The tuning pegs are NOS 1960's "butter bean" style tuners. Gretsch used them on the Country Gentleman guitars back then. They are hard to find these days. Very comfortable to use. I have 1 other set. The customer wanted them.

The picture was taken before I had glued in my label.

The bridge is the old pyramid style. That is,the wings have pyramids sculpted on them. You can see them in the picture of the top.A style used many years ago. I like small bridges as weight is the enemy of tone in bridges.

The customer wanted mother of pearl around the sound hole,and my little pearl inlay at the bottom of the body. The fingerboard is bound in celluloid,with a heart shaped end that overhangs the sound hole.

I like to make steel string guitars evocative of the 30's or 40's. The shape of the peg head is from this era. It also is bound in celluloid in a miniature version of the fingerboard bindings. Celluloid was used on the fingerboard since it is handled there. Lacquered curly maple would soon get worn through the finish and start looking gray and dirty along the top edge.

The frets go over the bindings,clear to the edge of the fingerboard. I can't play guitars whose frets stop inside the bindings,without the first string slipping past the edge of the fret. Les Paul made Gibson make his fingerboards this way,too. I have a beautiful Black Beauty Les Paul 1954 Historic Reissue that I can't play unless I remove the frets and make them go clear to the edge of the fingerboard. I don't see why Gibson makes them that way.

The finish is as thin as possible,sprayed over a well sanded layer of thinned out epoxy thinner.

The sound of this guitar is very powerful,with booming bass and sparkling trebles that ring harmonics from other strings. Very live sounding as if in a large auditorium with those ringing harmonics.

David Weaver
05-07-2013, 9:11 AM
Really super nice. It's so nice to see a guitar that has been finished without encasing it in a huge tomb of volume-killing and tone-thinning thick acrylic.

I know you're not taking orders, but I wish back when I had tons of money to blow and was buying guitars left and right that I would've come across yours. If you do ever decide to make another one, I'd like first crack at it.

george wilson
05-07-2013, 9:16 AM
The finish is nitrocellulose lacquer,as used on the old guitars. It has much more warmth and depth than acrylic. The resin in nitro is yellow. Acrylic is blue,giving it a cold look. I do not use water based finishes,or polyurethane.

O.K. David,I'll give you the first cracked guitar I make next.:)

If I make more guitars,I will just make them on speculation. I'm too tired all the time to be under pressure. I want to be free now that I'm retired. A dueling pistol case is next (on order). This guy has 2 French percussion pistols his father left him. They are really target pistols since they are rifled,and a smaller caliber than duelers. After that,no more orders,though the pistol case is small potatoes.

If you want to hear one of my guitars,Google ukejon you tube,playing "Someday soon" on a maple jumbo I made for him.

P.S.: I just listened to it again,and my new guitar actually sounds better.

David Weaver
05-07-2013, 9:45 AM
A stripped down unfinished spec built guitar would be fine, not that you really want to go to the trouble of building one. That's just a wish of mine, I think this is open wish hour...wish in one hand, and the other one will fill up with guitars. I think that's how the saying goes.

Joe Bailey
05-07-2013, 9:52 AM
Aside from the fact that "Someday Soon" is one of my all-time favorite songs, that guitar has an incredible tone.
It would have been enough that it looks as good as it does.

Derek Cohen
05-07-2013, 9:53 AM
Oh George, that is so beautiful. I wish I was a better guitarist. Instead I was the world's most enthusiastic ... but worst ... classical guitar student for too many years. Your guitars make me want to start all over again.

Regards from Perth


george wilson
05-07-2013, 10:02 AM
Thank you all. Derek,your mailbox is full. Yes,you told me that Chris Vesper was visiting. You invited me down. Hard for me to travel long distances with my back and neck problems. Besides,watching the toilet water swirl the wrong way would scramble my brain!!!

Derek Cohen
05-07-2013, 10:24 AM
I have deleted a few emails to make room for you George. You can squeeze in there now! :)

Yes, I recall now mentioning that Chris was coming over - senior moments, and it is only Tuesday evening here in Perth.

Regards from Perth


Dennis Peacock
05-07-2013, 11:09 AM
Beautiful. Just beautiful.!!

It baffles me as to how the inlay work is done to that level of detail. I've always wanted to be able to do inlay without the use of a template and a router to follow the template.

How can I learn to do inlay work like that? I'm asking...because....I want to build my own electric bass guitar.

Jim Koepke
05-07-2013, 11:14 AM
Beautiful guitar and playing.


george wilson
05-07-2013, 11:28 AM
To do the inlay,I mostly saw it with a jeweler's saw. To inlay things like fingerboards,lately,since I now have a quiver in my hands, I have been lightly gluing down the little diamonds,scribing around them carefully,then popping them off. Then,I rout the cavity with a 1/32" end mill in my drill press set on 10,000 RPM(1963 Craftsman with the hi-low speed attachment). Then,I chisel out the sharp corners by hand,and finish up to the scribed lines. Some use a Dremel router. I can see the work better in the drill press,but you'd better have the RPM's or the end mill will easily snap off. If you get some of those down cutting spiral end mills from Stewart McDonald(sp?),they do not raise a fuzzy line on the wood,so you can get better visibility.

Marquetry,like on the 17th.C. Italian marquetry guitar I posted here long ago,was all done completely by hand while in public as musical inst. maker,sawn with a deep throated wooden fret saw I made. Here it is with a few original drawings for the inlay. I'd xerox the drawings,paste them to the wood,and saw them out.

Patrick McCarthy
05-07-2013, 12:25 PM
George, very, very nice. I have yet to see anything you posted that isnt just exquisite. Excellent, as always. Thank you for sharing. Patrick

george wilson
05-07-2013, 12:47 PM
Here's the missing picture. Except,now its too small. What can you do?

Jim Stewart
05-07-2013, 4:21 PM
Beautiful work George, I am always amazed.

James Sellards
05-07-2013, 8:02 PM
Beautiful guitar, great attention to detail. Hope to see more of your guitars and maybe some of your process.

Regarding the binding on the old Gibson's. I've built several 59 spec Les Paul's and the years worth of research I did on the 59's showed the frets stopping at the binding but the binding had little nibs that extended the fret. Here's one I removed in case that explanation makes no sense.

http://i.imgur.com/yuAGT.jpg (http://imgur.com/yuAGT)

It sorta gives the feel of the fret overlapping the binding even though it doesn't. The problem is the high E string over time would start to slip in-between the binding and the fret. I agree with you though, I much prefer the fret over the binding but people get hung up on original vintage specs sometimes.

Paul Saffold
05-07-2013, 8:34 PM
Beautiful George. How many guitars have you made? What other stringed instruments have you made?.

george wilson
05-07-2013, 9:41 PM
I have not kept count of the number of guitars,which I should have. I've been building since 1954. Before getting into the museum,I built mostly classical guitars,flamenco guitars(made 1 for Sabicas,World's best flamenco guitarist, in 1967),and started making steel string acoustic guitars about

1965. I also made several banjos and mandolins. I had begun to make lutes about 1967,but the instrument that landed me the job was an Italian style harpsichord. Williamsburg wanted a harpsichord for their music teacher's shop which was opening soon.

As Instrument maker,I had to make 18th.C. style instruments,including lutes,harpsichords,spinet harpsichords,violins,18th.C. style guitars the size of the inlaid one pictured a few posts back,and also made citterns,English guitars(a type of late cittern),viola daGambas,even an orpharion(which you'll have to Google!) I continued to make modern acoustic guitars of all types on the side.

Ron Bontz
05-07-2013, 10:09 PM
My sincere compliments, George. The bass is just dark enough to carry very well. But keep a nice balanced tone. I would guess those cost a pretty penny.

Bruce Haugen
05-08-2013, 12:48 AM
All I can hope for, George, is that just one thing I've made would approach the skill you display with everything you have.

george wilson
05-26-2013, 4:30 PM
To tell the truth,I can make money a lot easier and more quickly doing little machining jobs and mechanical antique repairs. Glad you all enjoyed the guitar.

Sam Murdoch
05-26-2013, 10:19 PM
Lovely and humbling. If I wore a hat it would be tipped to you George.

Chris Padilla
05-29-2013, 4:42 PM

I embedded the video. Very nice, George!

Jim Stewart
05-30-2013, 6:30 AM
Wonderful guitar..wish I could play. After watching the video a bunch if Ian Tyson videos came up. He was one of my heroes when I was younger and into the horses. Got a plastic knee and bad wrist joints now...but it was fun.