Back when I used to make lots of guitars I'd try a lot of new ideas that I thought might work for me as a player, and therefor maybe other people might be interested in them. Most worked, some were just stupid, but I still had to try ? This was an idea I had about stripping a guitar back to it's basics, with nothing that wasn't needed. This idea became my four string rhythm guitar I used in a band I was playing in at the time that played basic, three chord pop punk.
The idea was since I only played downstroked power chords, all I really needed was four strings. It seemed simple enough so I sat down and starting thinking of other things I didn't need. I thought "I don't need that" and "I really don't need that" ........
It is based on my Vibratone model, which was my first "production" shape. I made this model in a few different versions including an aluminium neck and aluminium neck with Perspex (acrylic) body and the deluxe version that I talked about last time.
I have small hands and I was a pretty lazy player in this band (I did sing as well) so I figured a thin neck with just enough strings to play power chords would work well. The neck was made from a scrap piece of mahogany I had lying around the workshop. As I shaped it I realized I actually needed some "space" under the G string to make it feel more natural. I also rested my hand on the neck on the B and E strings as I never played them so adding a small amount of space under the G string made it more ........ normal. I made the neck wide enough to run five strings with the four spaced from the top as normal. The neck is thin without feeling like you're not holding onto anything and feels "normal" pretty quickly.
The fretboard is laminated jarrah and maple which again, were offcuts from around the shop. I fitted 17 frets as once you get there playing a power chord, you're well and truly back where you stated, right ? I'm a big fan of zero frets so this was fitted with one and the headstock shape was influenced by Burns and some crazy Japanese guitars from the 60's.
I was originally going to go with a P bass pick up or blade pick up that didn't depend on string spacing (or quantity here) but eventually went with this custom made humbucker. The idea was to cut the ends of some single coil bobbins and wind two, four pole piece bobbins to make a small humbucker. This was fitted to a plastic plate to hold it all together and used to mount it to the body.
Keeping with the minimal theme I sent the pick up to an on/off switch and to the output jack. The idea was that if the guitar was feeding back between songs, or in the case of this band, we just talked too much between songs, I could turn the pick up off. It's a simple system I'm still a big fan of.
The bridge is simply a steel plate with a piece of aluminium extrusion with four Fender style saddles attached. The strings fed from the back of the body (Tele style) to alleviate the need for any high tension strength needed in the design.
The body was a piece of Honduran mahogany thin enough to still be able to run the output jack from the front. This makes for a very light and resonant body. Something I'm a big fan of in solidbody electrics. It was given a simple few coats of orange/red acrylic in homage to the Jagstang and then a couple of quick coats of clear to protect it.
I made this at a time when I was playing live a lot and making a lot of guitars and I used it live for a few months before coming up with the next stupid idea. As a light, simple guitar for playing power chords on it was very successful and quickly felt "normal" and I didn't need to relearn or adjust anything to suit the simplicity.
This could be used as a tenor guitar but it works well for what it was designed for. I run heavy strings in standard tuning but the number of strings makes the tension on the neck minimal and the very light body vibrates like crazy. If I was feeling particularly lazy I'd tune it to EAEA and play it with one finger. R'n'R doesn't get much easier than that, unless you're just a singer ................... but then again, we all know how hard they work, right ?