TMI Custom S62
With all that's been going on this year it's been hard to focus on things I love doing, like making guitars. I had intended on not making any this year after closing the shop and moving back into my original workshop but as the year dragged on, I needed something to focus on to take my mind off the world around me.
Although I'm lucky enough to make lots of things that occupy my mind and hands it was guitar building that really got me into all of this back in the 90's and it's still the thing, probably because of the concentration needed, that get's my mind away from stuff I need to be distracted from.
In October I decided I was going to start 2 new guitar builds, both heavily influenced by important figures who have sent me on this path and helped me understand what guitar building is all about. The other guitar will be finished next year as it's much more complex than this one so I'll leave it till then to introduce you to it and it's inspiration but this one, now finished, can be presented for your perusal.
This TMI Custom S62 (serial number 136) is of course heavily influenced by the single biggest influence on me as a guitar builder and designer, Semie Moseley. While I've written volumes about Semie and his wonderful guitars, his Mosrite products have always been my starting point for anything I do. His designs are the most beautiful in guitar history. His guitars (amps and pedals) are the closest to the tones I have in my head and how I want a guitar to feel and play. When you play something made by Semie, you're playing absolute quality in design and build.
So after years of making later Semie designs I thought it was time to go earlier. Pre Ventures in fact. Pre factory. The early, almost forgotten years of Semie in LA and early Bakersfield days when he was making guitars anywhere he could find space to put tools and timber.
This shape was loosely based on the single neck guitars he started making in LA around '56 although they were much more elaborate usually with his famous German carve and sunburst finishes. This design was a simple realignment of his double neck design and is obviously a more organic, rounder Tele type slab body.
In the very late 50's Semie would start making another single neck design with a slightly cut back top horn and these would be made with Semies new handmade pickups under the scratchplate angled to line up the pole pieces. This design however was kept and after making many of them, mostly with German carves and Semies "foil wrapped" pickups, in '62 this cut-down design was used as the basis for a guitar that Semie made for Californian amp company Standel. The story of this relationship is documented in my Mosrite section but these guitars were the 2nd attempt at making a production guitar for the amp manufacturer.
These basic guitars (by Semies standards) were solid basswood or alder bodies with a more pronounced edge curve than a Tele and a set 23" scale maple neck with rosewood fretboard. 2 of Semies hand made pickups based on a P-90 design were fitted with an elevated scratchplate which was usually sunburst, like the bodies and necks. Trussrod adjustment was at the non "M" style headstock end of the very thin neck with low speed frets. They had a handmade aluminium bridge and tailpiece and the separate output jack plate as Semie was sick of his acrylic scratchplates breaking at the jack.
So, when it came time to make my version of this guitar I started with the body shape but made in my usual TMI way of a chambered laminated pine body. The short "student" scale length is far too short for me so I decided to make my version with a more common and playable 25.5" scale and, as I've explained before, mine would be a bolt on for ease of manufacture and adjustment.
I made a 22 fret Indian rosewood fretboard complete with small dot markers, zero fret and Semies early use of a slotted fret as a string guide glued to a 3 piece mahogany neck with large volute and my usual TMI headstock, which suits this shape well. Being that I made the neck for this one it gets the TMI Custom logo as apposed to the standard TMI guitars that I use pre-made neck blanks that I final shape myself.
The body and neck were then finished in a metallic silver burst acrylic lacquer which is not only a nod to Semies 2 tone bursts but also may be indicative of the idea that I have been thinking of making a small run of these for my 25th anniversary next year making them very much like the 25th anniversary Mosrite Ventures Semie made for his anniversary that year.
I then made some pickup covers and built some P-90ish coils to inhabit the space under them with the bridge measuring at 16K and the neck at 13K with both using A5 bar magnets. These are wired to a 3 way switch and then to 1M pots to keep the clarity and top end. I have used 2 Guild knobs with the G scratched off just like Semie did back around this time.
I hand made the aluminium bridge and tailpiece with both being more substantial than Semies original design for more mass with the bridge being height adjustable and the tailpiece being screwed down hard to the body.
The simple scratchplate design is based on Semies original design although made of 3 ply plastic and secured directly to the body with the small elegant output jack plate made from the same stock as the pickup covers.
This guitar is very light (under 3KG) with a thin neck and low action with high output pickups which is all very much early Semie Moseley features and all in all I'm pretty stoked with how this turned out. While these early more primitive pre Joe Maphis/Ventures designs were more "student model" than high end professional instrument they still work REALLY well as a very playable, very versatile guitar that would be at home in the studio or live. Maybe someone can borrow it to record with so I can hear the results?
This really scratched an itch I had for early Semie design and I will eventually make a version of his other single neck from around this time with the cut back top horn complete with under plate pickup but for now, this will be yet another visual inspiration when I'm trying to do something and I inevitably think "what would Semie do?"