DK Guitars: Serial #1

For those who don't know, 2016 is the the 42nd anniversary of CM as well as Jeff's 20th anniversary of owning the store ( He started managing the store in 1976.) As a tribute to the greatest local music shop ever and to the man behind it, I decided to make my first original guitar a gift to Jeff. 

This was my first official guitar build. There was a lot to learn but the journey was fun and very rewarding. 

First step was rough cutting the body blank and then using the templates I made to clean up the edges.

DKGuitarbuild

Routing the chambers.

Routing out the channels for wiring.

Book matching the top, gluing the spruce top to the body and routing the pick up cavities.

I salvaged the neck wood from a previous project I scraped. It involved removing the original fretboard. Also, you can see the headstock in its rough state prior to doing the scoop on the oscillating spindle sander.

Cutting the binding channels then bending the herringbone purling. The "Gibson" colored plastic binding goes over that.

The headstock is closer to being finalized. I fret the neck before carving since it is nice and flat at this point. I forgot to take photos while carving ( I was having too much fun ) but essentially it is done by hand with a rasp, files, and progressively finer sand paper.

I decided to do a cut away heel. 

The bridge is made of figured walnut as is the little string insert block and pick up ring.

I later shielded the cavities.

The finishing process was fun! I use Stew Mac's water base wood filler and a high gloss poly-acrylic water base finish. The tricky part were the decals as they kept ripping and I had to redo them several times.

Jeff with the guitar!

Winter Instrument Blues

Winter in the mid-west sucks....the moisture out of your guitar that is. The winter months, particularly January and February, can be damaging or even devastating to all wooden instruments. Cold air has less capacity to hold moisture, causing the air in your home to be dry. In addition this, forced air heat is dry if there is no humidifier in the system, further compounding the dryness in your home. This is what causes dry skin, itchy eyes, nose bleeds, etc. We are not worried about that stuff! We are worried about your instruments!

The negative effects of dryness usually manifest themselves in the form of fret poke and sinking tops first. This is when the fret board shrinks while the frets do not causing them to protrude. This leads to uncomfortable playing. The top sinks because as the top dries out, the wood contracts, pulling down the bridge leading to action that is low. This leads to a choked sounding upper register and fret buzz.

More severe or long term dryness can lead to cracks and bridges lifting. These tend to be more costly repairs and can effect the guitars structure. As mentioned before, the wood contracts and when one part moves and another doesn't, say near the pick guard or bridge, the wood will split, usually and hopefully along a grain line. The classic example is the Martin pick guard crack.

Martin Pickguard crack

Prevention:

Humidity levels of 40-45% at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal conditions for an instrument. This is hard to achieve in the winter, even when running an Aprilaire home system or room humidifiers. The easiest way to maintain your instruments is to keep them in  hard cases or at minimum quality gig bags with either a sound hole or case humidifier. These are readily available. We sell the Dampit, Herco, Planet Waves, and Oasis humidifiers. They all work. Some are easier to use than others but essentially, they are all some sort of moisture holding medium like a sponge or gel pack that is leak resistant and slowly evaporates inside the case creating a little happy place for your instrument.

When is it time to change your guitar strings?

Over the 40+ years this store has been in business, we have seen just about every guitar mod there is. We have had millions of conversations about tone, component quality, pick up swapping, brass nuts....the list goes on and on. One thing that often gets ignored, despite being the life of a stringed instrument....are the strings!  This is most often true of people new to guitar and young students.

In some ways, the guitar can really be dwindled down to a device that holds strings. Without them, there is no sound. This especially true of acoustic instruments where there is no opportunity to EQ or modify the sound hitting your ears. The guitar will not produce a sound that the string can't produce.

In addition to tone, intonation and tuning stability are affected when strings get old. Dirt and oil stick to the bottom of the string causing poor and uneven contact across the fret, affecting intonation across the length of the string. The metal also fatigues over time, losing its ability to maintain tension, causing the string to go out of tune. 

A typical guitar student, practicing about 20-30 minutes a day should expect their strings to last between 6 to 8 weeks, sometime longer or shorter depending on body chemistry. Perspiration, its acidity level, hand washing habits and relative humidity all have some effect on this. Don't be surprised if you kill a set of string twice as fast in July than say January. Pro players know when its time to change strings, typically between gigs or sessions.

All this being said, its time or way past time to change your strings when you experience the following:

  • "thud-like" tone on wound strings, lack of brilliance
  • any corrosion or significant accumulation of dirt
  • uneven response string to string
  • dents in the wrap on the underside of the strings
  • poor intonation
  • poor tuning stability
  • breakage

Fear not guitar players and parents of young guitar players! Fortunately, guitar strings are relatively inexpensive, running between $6 to $8 on average.  We will be doing a blog post on how to change strings soon! Also, we offer string changing services at our store for as little as $8 for a standard restring. Coated strings, featuring a micro-thin gore tech coating are also available.