TMI Vibratone

As part of my 20th anniversary this year I was going to make some guitars to hang on the wall in the shop. This plan, like so many others has taken a back seat to keeping this place going but I thought I'd do a couple of blogs on the guitars I'm hoping to make as and when I find time in the future.

I did a story on one of the prototype TMI guitars a while ago in a form I'm hoping to get going some time. That one was an MDF frame with a hybrid aluminium/polyethylene top and back. 

This other version I intend to make is very similar except all timber, although still hollow using a frame and spine like the other one. 

I have made a few guitars this way including the new Kim Salmon "flame" guitar that Kim has been using live. 

The Vibratone was the first Tym shape I made back in 1997 and was simply a flipped over Fender Jagstang with a slightly modified "bottom" horn for better fret access which I made in several different versions including metal necks, acrylic bodies and deluxe versions with German carves.

I figured if I was going to start making some guitars again, I should start with the first design I made. 


The body of this TMI is made of 100% sustainable plantation timber and is hollow, or chambered much like the hybrid offset version, although I made them in both MDF and this sustainable timber. This version is made from two pieces of 18mm timber hollowed out from the inside before being glued together to make the chambered body kind of like a Danelectro or Rickenbacker.

It has a centre spine which includes the neck pocket, pickup mounts and bridge/tailpiece mounts but is essentially hollow otherwise. The hollowing out process is time consuming but makes for a light, resonant body which is something I've always loved. 

The finishes are all acrylic which I mix and paint myself here at the workshop and rather than packing it on I'm just painting to where I'm happy with the overall look, leaving the grain showing through on the top and back just slightly. 


The necks are being manufactured for me to my specs with all the final shaping, finishing dimensions and painting done by me. This is one of the reasons I can make these TMI guitars as explained in the prototype post. I used to make EVERYTHING by hand for all my old guitars which I just don't have time for now days so getting these necks made for me, and using my friend Mick Brierley in Adelaide to make the pickups for me has cut the build time down dramatically. I'm also using Gotoh (or similar) hardware instead of making it all myself.

I am still making the vibratos (and neck plates) however, based on the classic offset design, to keep an amount of originality to it all. The bridge on this one is a standard Mustang style but I will use different options depending on the guitar and tailpiece. 


The P-90's in this are slightly over-wound vintage spec and combined with the hollow body and 25.5" scale make this guitar very sharp while having lots of bottom end. 

I really like how "alive" hollow body guitars are and trying to keep them under control with lots of volume and gain has always been an issue. By making the top slightly thicker and leaving the centre spine in these maintain the hollow body traits while being very easy to control feedback at higher levels. The necks are thin as I've always been a fan of thin necks (Mosrites remember) and over the years I've come to love the longer Fender scale more than the Gibson length, which I preferred when I was younger. 

While options will be available if I'm making guitars for friends, my plan is to make guitars in weird and wonderful shapes I love and hang them on the wall in the shop. 



Back to blog