I returned yesterday from two exciting days at the 2009 edition of the FUZZ Guitar Show in Gothenburg. Last time I attended a music related trade show was roughly 20 years ago. At the time, I exhibited my guitars in the booth of Uppsala Musikverkstad (which is now 4Sound Uppsala), and the show was also set in Gothenburg. Imagine my surprise when I realized how little had transpired in 20 years. Sure, I don’t have things like the width of Floyd-Rose locking nuts for different brands of necks and things like that committed to memory any more, but I don’t feel at all like I have missed anything during this time (unless something has happened and disappeared again).
I have to give credit to the organizers for putting up a well organized show. I didn’t exhibit, so I don’t know how well the logistics worked, but as a delegate I had a pleasant experience. The café on the exhibition floor served high quality food at very reasonable prices and had a packed schedule of performances by a great range of string-related performers. The few points of criticism would be: cash-only entrance, poorly signed up-stairs exhibits and the fact that some exhibitors were allowed to be very loud at the expense of conversations in the vicinity. I haven’t heard how many visitors attended, but the target was for 3-4000 visitors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that target was surpassed. The lines were quite long outside the entrance for a lot of the time during the two days.
This show is purely about guitars. Interestingly enough, I was most impressed by a german kit of drums… The Klang Initiative percussion blew me away.
The effect and sound of these wooden square boxes is amazing. I had a similar experience many years ago when I heard a Xaphoon, which sounds ridiculously close to a saxophone while looking like something else completely. The guys in the picture above did a good job of demoing it as well.
A huge portion of the show was occupied by vintage guitars. Not being a vintage afficionado myself, I don’t quite see the point, but I have no objections. It seems that a lot of visitors came only to look at these old gems. Something else that I am not, is strongly opinionated. I rarely try to enforce my opinion on others, although I do often have views and very concrete goals and targets set for myself. I will say though that I am very saddened by the utterly pointless trend of “pre-worn” fake vintage instruments. To those who succumb to it I can only offer my condolences.
I don’t really mind absence of innovation. There is no point in innovating for the sake of it. If there is a good design that works, leave it alone by all means. I don’t mind simplicity or a back-to-basics approach. Let me draw a parallel: I like cycling a lot. I ride my bicycle(s) both as a means of transportation and exercise. I have a utility bike that can load a lot of stuff on, with splash guards, 24 closely spaced but reasonably low gears, and pedals that work with both regular shoes and SPD clips. My second bike has narrow slicks, 18 closely spaced heavier gears and specialized pedals and no other features. Neither is innovative, but both serve their respective purposes. My current bike fetish (for more discussion on fetishes, see elutherie.org) is “fixies”, or fixed gear bikes. They have only one gear and the pedals turn as you roll, so there is no rest. The purists don’t even have brakes. Why? Back to basics. This is how the first 2-wheel bikes ever were made. They are almost unbreakable because there is a minimum of parts that can break. The trend is going back to those roots with leather saddles, antique geometries, etc. But would I want a replica of an 1800′s bike, sanded down to look old by some low-paid worker? No thanks. Enough said.
Some positives were meeting local (Scandinavian and European) luthiers and being impressed by the level of quality that is available. My guitar-related highlights were:
Anders Thidell, the inventor of the True Temperament Fretting System. Here is innovation at its best, and it’s Swedish. Anders also happens to be a very humble and nice guy who freely shares his innovation process. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do like Steve Vai, Claes Yngström, Steve Kaiser and many others and go “True”.
The automatic guitar tech, by Guitar Labs, was impressive. This type of thing happens to be my day-job, i.e. software controlled mechanical contraptions, so it appealed to me in more ways than one.
Le Fay make amazing bass guitars, including all hardware. In the picture, their metal fretboard “Remington Steele” can be seen. Reiner and Meik also happen to be two friendly and fun-loving guys.
Johan Lundgren, of Lundgren Guitar Pickups, makes me proud to be Swedish. He started small but has grown to feature world artists on his roster. He has his complete range (which is huge) mounted on plug-in units that can slide in and out of his test setup (pictured) in seconds. Incidentally, Michele Benincasa, covered before uses Lundgren pickups on his Butterly build which is pictured below.
Edin Alidzanovic, of Edin Electric Bass Guitars, is faced with the challenge I had 16 years ago, with running both a family and a lutherie business, but is still going strong.
Michele Benincaso’s Butterfly build (see here for more pictures) featuring my custom string anchors.
The Butterfly being demo’ed by Michele. He had quite a lot of traffic in his booth. He had kindly let me put my brochure materials there and referred a lot of traffic my way.
So, thanks to everyone that gave me an interesting couple of days and see you next year!
Lately, I have been working with two Italian luthiers: Michele Benincaso and Paolo Scorpioni. What is interesting is that they both wanted custom tailpieces for Tune-O-Matic bridges. Michele wanted a replacement that would fit into his current build and Paolo wanted a solution to enable him to make a 7-string headless guitar.
Michele with his build when we first met. It is a truly beautiful instrument he is building. It will be composed of (almost) all Swedish parts, including pickups from Lundgren.
Here is the string anchor that I developed for Michele. The plan is that this will double as a string anchor for the double-ball end string solution that I am working on.
String anchors fitted. The effect is quite dramatic compared to what a standard tailpiece would have done.
Now, Paolo’s needs were entirely different. I have gotten my hands on a couple of discarded Les Paul Jr type guitars that I intend to convert into headless solutions like the Castaway Strat project. Here is a sneak peek:
I have simply enlarged the holes in the existing tailpiece and inserted my tuners. Stay tuned for more info in the up-coming LPJR conversion project.
Meet me and Michele at the FUZZ guitar show in Gothenburg the coming weekend, April 18-19. He is exhibiting the guitar above and a few basses (his specialty). I will have some bridges and maybe my converted strat with me.
As of today, the 14th of April 2009, I am sold out of fixed bridges. I am taking orders, but will need approximately 6 weeks to ship. As a consolation, I will offer free shipping (up to 20 EUR value) for any orders placed during this period.
I am selling off my prototype stock of tremolos, two black and two silver. One of the black tremolos has customized saddles to give it a lower action. They all have a hardened steel knife edge, which has proven durability and sound qualities but is not corrosion proof (i.e. it may rust). Part of the design, however, is that the knifes may be replaced and may be so by a later solution. I will extend the offer of free shipping to cover the tremolos as well.
To keep costs (and prices) down, I will from now on offer black as the standard color, which means that silver will be offered as a custom color going forward.
Please contact me with any questions, and preferrably always before placing an order.
Here are some pictures of the finished product. The work was no more complicated than any Floyd-Rose upgrade and the looks are, if you ask me, quite interesting.
I have not been able to weigh a standard Squier Strat, but the weight of this guitar (including tremolo arm) is 2,950 grams (6.5 lbs) in case you want to compare with your own.
I am receiving quite a few inquiries from people with Steinberger string locks that want to use double ball-ended strings. To date, I have turned them down since the string has to be threaded through the tuner and the single ball acts as a stop.
But as I had been working on a custom string fastener for Italian luthier Michele Benincasa (see future post) I got to think in some new ways. I realized that by very small modifications to my current tuner, I could indeed support double ball-ended strings. And, by no small coincidence, the length of the tuner housing is very close to that of a Steinberger R-Trem, which means that the string length will be just right. The pictures below show work in progress and are not finished.
The string lock. Michele wants to use six of these mounted behind a tune-o-matic bridge instead of a regular tailpiece. He does not want to run the strings through the body of the guitar, which is the reason for this design. However, these will work equally well at the head of the guitar! I do not have to rely on a Steinberger headpiece, but can continue to offer per-string pricing and packaging.
Here, you see the ball end of the string seated in the lock.
The modification to the tuner housing. I have drilled a hole and routed a slot.
A modified plunger. This will continue to work as usual with strings threaded through it, but also in this manner.
The action will be more than enough, since it can actually run through the knob. I will make a few more of these prototypes and send off for finishing in the near future, so stay posted.
Next steps are adjusting approximate string height and mounting the bridge.
First, I unwind the tuners to their maximum range.
Next, I thread the string through the tuner.
And fasten it in the string lock.
All six strings mounted.
All six strings fastened. The result is stunning! I have been very impatient to get some of this work done, as may be apparent from some of the woodwork, but it’s done and it works amazingly well.
Next installment will cover adapting a pick guard and finishing the guitar. I am not yet sure whether to mount the Lace Alumitones that I have laying around or if I should go more conventional.
After completing the routing of the body, it is time to turn to the neck. I have decided to keep the original neck with a minimum of modifications. Note that it is possible to mount my string locks in many different ways, including removing most of the head.
I begin by drilling 1.5 mm holes through the side of the head and through the bottom of the tuner holes.
I then enlarge the top portion of the holes to 6 mm.
Now, I can insert the string locks through the tuner holes. I insert the fastening screws through the side holes and tighten. These hardened screw heads will form the seat that the strings will rest against when locked. This provides good durability and they may also be exchanged if they ever get worn.
This is what it looks like from above.
Here, I have mounted all six string locks.
Viewed from the side, you can see the locking screws. Next installment will cover assembly of the complete guitar.
I decided to route a slanted “groove” in the body to allow for the fingers to reach underneath the tuner knobs.
I made it approximately 30 mm wide and 10 mm deep.
A tremolo fitted for reference. Next installment will cover modifying the neck to fit the string locks.