TMI Custom JRS V-2

Well, 2020 really messed up some plans including me starting to make some guitars for humans again after many years of not doing it. I had worked on a bunch of TMI prototypes and guitars for people the previous year and a half and was ready to start making a few when .... BAM. The world fell apart and I only made 2 guitars this year. The first one was WAY back in Feb and was a present for a friend. And now this one which was a present for me.

I've been wanting to make this guitar (or one very much like it) for many years. Back in my Wosrite days this one was always on the "to do" list but never got built. 

The design and aesthetic for this guitar is firmly borrowed from my guitar building hero, Semie Moseley, from a guitar built for my guitar playing hero, Johnny Ramone back in 1988.

Johnny had of course played a Mosrite for his entire career (except for a short stint with Hamer) and by the late 80's Semie was looking for endorsers who weren't the Ventures to inject some sales blood into the brand. Of course, the Ramones were not a huge draw card by then and were certainly not going to get "the kids" playing Mosrites but Semie was well aware of the band and thought he'd give it a go.

Semie made a black Ventures with 1 pickup and hardtail and a kind of SG Jr scratchplate but very few pics of this guitar seem to exist. Then in '89 Semie gave Johnny a white Ventures model with 1 pickup, and hardtail and a different scratchplate that went above the neck and ended in an extreme point on both upper and lower horns.

 

This guitar became Johnnys back up to his Ventures Model II and was used at least once live. This guitar ended up on display at Guitar Centre in New York where it still lives as far as I know.

Semie would go on to make at least 4 "official" Ramone's guitars before his death in Aug '92 and a handful more were assembled by Loretta, his widow in the years that followed although these didn't have the Ramones logo on the headstock. A couple of these were sold to Japan under the Mosrite Equalizer name, which was actually a different guitar (I own both of these models and they're not the same guitar at all) also based on the Ventures model.

This guitar was used in a couple of film clips including the I Don't Wanna Grow Up clip (along with a white bass Semie had given CJ) but was never advanced to his number one and in '96 the band "retired" and Johnnys gear was sold off.

 

Being Ramones and Semie Moseley obsessed this guitar has always been a "wouldn't it be cool to .." kinda thing for me so last year when I was making bodies and necks to start (limited) production of some new TMI guitars I made and painted the body and neck and then let them gather dust for a year.

I actually didn't want the EXACT guitar like Johnny had as, and this is hard for me to say, I actually think it's one of the few (VERY few) times Semie's eye for design strayed slightly. I don't like the angled pickup and I don't like the squared off scratchplate under the strings. I do however like the scratchplates top point more than Johnnys black guitar so since I was starting from scratch, and had access to Mosrites as templates, I made this instead.

 

This TMI Custom version is my hollow body (the original Mosrite ones were hollow) multi laminated design with internal bracing like all of my TMI guitars with the body traced straight off one of my '65 Ventures models. 

The neck is an ash spine with Asian mahogany sides laminated together for strength with a rosewood fretboard with zero fret, just like Mosrite. I found a lot of rosewood blanks I bought back in the late 90's/early 2000's in the workshop about a year ago so all my TMI Customs will be using this nice old rosewood.

 

Back in my Wosrite days I made everything 24.75" scale unless a customer could convince me otherwise as I was a Mosrite purist and I preferred that scale. Once I started playing Jazzmasters I was converted to the longer 25.5" scale and now it's the scale I gravitate towards so this, and all my TMIs (unless a customer can convince me otherwise) are 25.5". 

I decided to keep the fretboard as clean as possible but in a nod to Mosrite I used just 2 small dots at the 12th fret. I considered binding the neck but then wanted the body to be a slab body like the original Mosrite model II Johnny used so I carried the neck over from that model and left it unbound. The old me wouldn't have been able to make a non German carve Ventures body but this was going to be "my" version of Johnnys guitar and the slab body Mk II is what I think of when I think of Johnny.

The pickups are my hand made FMF T-90's which will be standard in all (or most) TMI guitars because, well, I love them. The bridge is wound with #44 to 14.5K and the neck is 9.2K, both with A5 slug magnets. These high output coils should be a little muddy but the metal "claws" inside the covers focus the magnetic field (FMF) and give them plenty of definition and treble while really punching through like a Mosrite pickup.

 

The tailpiece was the next consideration as I was going to make the aluminium/timber tailpiece Semie designed and made on many guitars but as I looked at a Mosrite on the wall of the workshop that has the Moseley hardtail fitted, like Johnnys original, I thought, why don't I just make one of them? I used to sand cast these for my Wosrites but can't find any here.

I took a piece of 4mm aluminium plate and 12mm aluminium square section and worked them into a tailpiece. Once shaped I hit it with the wire brush wheel on my bench grinder to give it the "sand cast" look and there it was. I actually think Semies original Moseley hardtail is a work of art but this does a reasonably convincing job.

The bridge is an aftermarket roller bridge I use on a few TMIs as they have a narrow string spacing (50mm) and I do like my necks narrow and thin. 

 

I drew and cut the scratchplate and fitted a volume for each pickup so they can be blended to give the desired tone. More bridge for treble, more neck for bass. It's a simple and effective set up that doesn't require a pickup switch which I didn't want on this guitar. 

 

The body and neck are finished in my usual acrylic lacquer 'cause it's easy to use and wears well. It's my choice finish for all my guitars. I decided on a matching headstock so the TMI Custom logo stood out against the light paint rather than the darker striped timber, and , matching headstocks are cool.

 

I took this into the shop last weekend and was really amazed by how much people loved it. I have always made guitars for ME. I tend to make what I want in a guitar and sometimes other don't get it, sometimes they do. This is a very "Mosrite" guitar in feel and sound and a couple of people who I know aren't really Mosrite fans loved it, which is nice. 

I realized while taking these pics that I didn't stamp the serial number into the fretboard before attaching the neck like I normally do. This is serial number 134 so I'll have to get the stamps out and give it a number. 

Anyway, this was a birthday present to myself after a strange and stressful year but when (WHEN) I get time to make guitars for people again I think this might be a thing. When ...... 

Dec 11 2020 Written By: Tim Brennan