As part of the attempt to make some TMI guitars next year I have decided to also take on some commission guitars from people who want something ..... different.
The first one I decided was going to be this guitar designed and conceptualized by my friend, and Melbourne artist Lluis FUZZHOUND.
While I've made custom TMIs before for friends like the Flame guitar for Kim Salmon, I decided that it would be nice to make some guitars for people that can't just go out and buy what they want or is in their head.
Lluis is a good friend and my friend Raul's brother who does great animation and artwork in Melbourne. He also plays in several great bands including the Cha Cha Chas, a two piece where he plays guitar, plays drums and sings all at the same time. Yeah, in know right ....
So when he asked if I could make him a guitar with built in effects 'cause he can't turn pedals on and off due to playing drums I thought it was a cool idea. I have fitted effects to TMI guitars and other guitars plenty of times but this seemed more .... legitimate than most reasons.
Lluis plays a couple of cheap Japanese guitars and loves them so he's already right up my alley in terms of guitars and since I knew he could draw and design I said "why don't you design something rather than I just make something already out there?"
We toyed with ideas for some cool shapes and then he said "I'll draw something and post it up"
The drawing that arrived was .... awesome and way outside anything I would have come up with. He wanted it small like his Japanese guitars but also because he sits down while playing so it couldn't be some bulky, weird shape with a big body. Once I had the shape he pretty much left the rest up to me.
His original headstock design was HUGE and didn't fit on my paddle that I get made for me blank necks so he redesigned that and quite unknowingly sent a design that I have used before on Tym guitars almost exactly. I originally stole it from a vintage Japanese guitar so it worked well here.
Lluis didn't exactly know what pickups he wanted except to say he didn't want humbuckers, which made perfect sense from someone playing vintage Japanese guitars.
With the rest left up to me I went about designing the guitar to "fit" into his design and concept.
I cut and glued the body in typical TMI specs with this one being essentially the same as the 127 with four layers laminated to give me a hollow 43mm thick body with internal bracing and centre spine.
The new headstock design was sent through and I traced and cut the neck to suit and then shaped it ready for painting. These are narrower than a Fender neck and the pocket is thinner and shallower with the neck angle cut into the pocket to suit whatever bridge I'm using. This saves on shims and alignments during assembly (unless I change my mind)
Because Lluis wanted to tour with this and take the neck off to fly with it in his back pack like he does with his other guitars I decided to fit the neck with inserts and metal screws. This means no matter how many times he removes and replaces the neck the holes won't become chewed out and eventually lose. This way with accurate drilling and fitting in both body and neck the neck will go on and off many times in exactly the same place.
I decided to make some special pickups for this guitar and I sat down and thought about something i hadn't really made yet. I'm a fan of blade pickups and decided to make three blade style T-90s with tortoiseshell covers to give the guitar a vintage Japanese or Italian feel. These are hand made by me with A5 bar magnets and #42 wire reading 6K for the neck and 6.8K for each bridge pickup.
I originally planned to make the two bridge pickups humbucking single coils with both on but after assembling and testing them out they were just too .... huge for this guitar when on together so I opted for them to be out of phase to give them a thinner sound which beefs up with the effects on.
Laying out the controls so I used the least amount of wire possible with the space i had was a little tricky. These being hollow bodies meant I had all the room inside the body under the spine but I still had to get three pickup ON/OFF switches, two effects PCBs and pots, two effects ON/OFF switches, a volume pot and an output jack .... and a battery.
Lluis left the colour/aesthetics up to me so I mixed up a blue that reminded me of Ricky Wilson's Mosrite, and only occurred to me after finishing it it is very similar to one of the Wilshires I made for his brother Raul. I was going to put a tort plate on it but with the pickups already being tort I thought it looked too much.
Once it was painted and polished the body I shielded the control cavity and fitted a Tym ODP666 overdrive PCB and a Tym Buzzrite PCB and pots and wired the whole thing up. The three slider switches turn each corresponding pickup on or off and the metal toggles turn the OD and/or FUZZ on and off. The effects pots are preset and can be adjusted to suit by removing the back plate. Lluis didn't want knobs everywhere so this seemed like a good way of him still be able to fine tune the distortions without messy knobs everywhere. It's just a simple volume control, pre effects so you can wind back the fuzz, and an output jack.
I made the tailpiece and string bar and decided to fit a Tune-o-Matic bridge which is bolted in place so when he takes the neck off it doesn't just fall off and get lost on a dark stage. The tailpiece is also mounted to the body so it doesn't come off either.
This was a fun project and something I'd like to offer. Making things for people to fill a hole appeals to me so from next year if you have a similar idea that piques my interest get in touch and we'll see if it's something I can and wanna do. Please don't ask me to make a Strat or a Tele. There's enough of them in the world and for some reason people keep making more of them ...
I will also be making some signature TMI guitars starting next year with two already underway. Apart from that read my previous blog for more info on this and enjoy the pics.