Crimson Guitar Build – The Aftermath

It’s been a long time since the end of my course, and I’ve let my website lie fallow since early in the year, partly because there hasn’t been that much interesting news in the guitar world since NAMM and partly because of the lack of any kind of feedback or motivation to keep this going.  However, there are a few things that I will post today or in the near future.

One of the main things that slowed me down was my attempt at finishing this guitar.  As you may remember from the article on Day Six of the build, my guitar was not finished at the end of the course and I still had quite a lot to do.  I’m going to summarise that briefly here.

Firstly, I decided that the blue stain was a mistake, and that had to go, so job number one was to sand the top back down to the natural wood.  This took a lot of time, and unfortunately was not terribly successful.  In some parts of the grain, the stain has gone quite deep into the wood, and so there are still some traces of the stain that would require me to take off more of the cap than I was comfortable with.  It’s back to the natural colour more or less, but close up it doesn’t look as clean as before (you can see this on the first picture below).

Then, you may remember that there was a significant flaw in the wood on the top, just below the neck pickup.  To remove the stain from there, I had to dig out a big groove and it ended up looking rather ugly.  However, I then had a good idea, thinking that if you can’t hide something, it’s better to make a feature out of it.  I decided to make an inlay of an oak leaf to cover the flaw, so I ordered some metal inlay powders from Crimson Guitars and routed out the shape of an oak leaf.

Then I filled that with a mix of powders, and also made some lines for the veins in the leaf.  I’m fairly happy with the result, and I like the idea of including the oak leaf inlay somewhere on any future builds.

I had to find a way to fix both the back plate (control cavity cover) and the truss rod cover in place.   Following an idea I’d seen in some CG videos, I ordered some small magnets online, and mounted pairs of them in appropriate places.  This works very well for the truss rod cover (which I also finished), and moderately well for the back plate.

The biggest headache was the electronics.  I had been sent away with a few bits and pieces (a couple of pots and a blade switch), but I’d never done any guitar electronics – or any electronics, or soldering – before, so that was rather daunting.  I managed to work out an appropriate circuit design, with some help from friends online and from James at CG, and managed to do the soldering.  However, installing the components revealed a new problem – the cavity was not deep enough for a couple of the components!  Specifically, the push-pull pot and the blade switch were both too deep.  I managed to solve that by carefully routing out the underside of the cap, and also holes in the back plate, which doesn’t look very elegant but just about solved that issue.

I also had a problem with the Schaller preamp.  At one point, for no particular reason (I hadn’t dropped it or anything), one of the plastic connectors just fell off.  I tried gluing it back in place and it seemed ok.  When I installed all of the electronics, though, I got no sound at all through the preamp, either from the piezo pickups or from the magnetics.  I don’t know if that was due to the connector or another fault, but I had to send it back to the supplier, Thomann, for replacement – which to their credit they did without any problem.  This, of course, added a lot of time to the process of finishing the guitar.

After all that – and some other minor tasks that I won’t go into – the guitar finally seemed almost ready.  I’d installed the hardware, I strung it up and it was nearly there, although I still didn’t have a good signal from the jack, and was going to desolder all of the electronics and start again.  At that point, though, the neck developed a noticeable bow under tension from the strings.  With a friend, we were trying to correct this using the truss rod when disaster struck: the truss rod broke through the back of the neck, at the thinnest point around the first fret.  I’d already had a problem there during the build, and this now was irreparable.

It’s not very clear in the photo, but this is where the neck is broken.

Sadly, I think that my only recourse now is to remove the neck and make a new one.  I don’t have the equipment to do that at home, so this guitar will have to wait for a long time until I have the opportunity to do that.

I am actually going to return to Crimson Guitars in May to do a second build, and my son who made the cigar box guitar is coming with me, so we will each build a guitar.  I’m wondering whether to take this guitar along, but my priority will be to build a new guitar, and finish it on the course, so I don’t think there will be time to make a new neck for the first guitar.

In the end, then, the result was rather disappointing.  The experience has been interesting, though, and I hope to develop my guitar-making skills on my second course.  I’m going to make it a bit simpler this time, though, as I think I was a bit too ambitious with the first build/

I made one last video showing the major jobs that I did after the course, and the final result.  This also took me a long time, partly because there was a lot of video to edit down (I spent a lot of time on the guitar!) and partly because I wasn’t very motivated to do it, after the disappointment of what happened, but it’s there, and it shows the end of the story – at least for now!

I will do something to document the next build in May, although it will be less detailed than this one.  Come back and see how I get on!