More and more of you guitar builders out there are asking for permission to use my designs, which is encouraging. More and more completed builds are also starting to surface on YouTube, on forums, and even as commercially available guitars. And most of you handle the intellectual property side of things well.
As I’m sure you are aware, my designs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license. This means that you have to state that you are using the design with permission from me, provide a link to my website and include my e-mail address. You also have to make your own enhancements/modifications available under the same license, so your website/YouTube video description/forum post should clearly state that others may use your modified design.
Regarding what you write, there is admittedly some confusion, since I changed the name of the legal entity that the business is operating under from “Strandberg Guitarworks” to “Strandberg Guitars AB” when I converted it into a limited company in 2012. Facebook will not let me change the name of the page for example.
But here are a few facts: .strandberg* is a registered trademark owned by me Strandberg Guitars AB. You should never use this except when referring to the guitars that are in fact built featuring this brand. When you are referring to them, you should always use it though.
Other trademarks owned by Strandberg Guitars AB are EndurNeck, GrooveNeck and EGS. If you ever feel the need to refer to these names, you must also state that they are trademarks belonging to Strandberg Guitars AB. EndurNeck is patent pending so is subject to a separate license agreement and is not licensed under Creative Commons.
Thanks in advance for respecting these rules and for contributing to the ergonomic guitar community!
Burl and spalted wood is very brittle and full of imperfections. Normally, I cut grooves into my tops along with the bend, then steam the top simply over boiling water for 15 minutes, before clamping into shape and let cool and dry.
But initial trials with scrap wood of spalted walnut snapped and broke, whatever I tried. I studied the tips I could locate and ended up soaking the wood in water overnight as in the image above. I did not cut any grooves into the wood since this would weaken the wood further.
A nervous wait ensued. I then steamed the pre-soaked top (which was literally soaked all the way through) as usual and it turned out that the top became very easy to bend. I clamped it, and heard no snap!
Tomorrow, we’ll see how the burl behaves…
Having implemented my guitars in serial production over in Ohio (see previous post) I finally had a picture of how things were done in larger scale. Two things stuck out, both driven by vacuum, and I brought materials back home with me. Now that I have them running, I don’t know how I could do without them for so long. But it took some experimenting…
I find that the biggest challenge in running a CNC is figuring out the ordering of the steps, from a construction perspective and from a tool change minimization perspective (my small hobby CNC needs to have tools changed manually). The next challenge is figuring out how to fasten the workpiece so that any screw holes will be milled away in a subsequent step, or hidden by another part. When I first got it, I broke several bits and ruined several workpieces by running into them and causing all kinds of mayhem. All in all, pretty tricky. Now, the second challenge is much easier to overcome, but having said that, I have revisit the first for every single operation…
First, here is the end result:
The front of #20 is being routed for cavities and the bridges, held to the table by vacuum.
And here is how I started. First, I milled the original table flat. Previously, I had a fixture on it, which was in itself milled flat.
The so called “spoilboards” I had seen in Ohio were made from chipboard, so that is where I started. I screwed one into the table:
And cut channels,
And put some sealing tape in the outer channel
It looked great! But it sucked… Literally. The porous chipboard would suck air through the material itself and the capacity of my vacuum pump was far from up to the task of keeping up.
So, start again from square 1, this time in PVC:
Using roughly the same program, but with much shallower channels:
I could then use a spoilboard made from chipboard, just like in Ohio, as long as it has only one hole in it:
But I made two better fixtures in PVC for more complex work. One of them, you can see in the top of the post, and the other is here:
But I quickly got into trouble. When I flipped the body of #21 (seen above) over, it refused to be held to the table tightly enough! #20 (Macassar Ebony) was fine, but #21 (Black Limba) was not… Turned out that the Limba is just too porous for my vacuum pump to keep up with the job. So, I taped the edges to prevent air from being sucked through, and now it actually worked.
I will post pictures of the vacuum bag in action in a future post. It works like a charm! Shortens glue set times and give 100% uniform pressure.
Most EGS guitar orders are for stainless frets, which, if you’ve ever worked with them, take a lot of effort to work with. Accurate seating of the frets makes for less leveling work, which in turns leads to less re-crowning work and saves lots of time. I have always hammered my frets in, which doesn’t always meet the above criteria, so I wanted to try pressing in the frets. Conventional presses (read Stewart-MacDonald) come with brass inserts for set radii. But with a compound radius fingerboard, or a multiscale fingerboard, there is a lot of variation of the radii across the fretboard. Additionally, the StewMac inserts are only 63.5 mm (2 1/2″) with isn’t enough for even a 7-string multiscale fingerboard.
After a lot of experimenting, I have come up with a preferred compound radius formula starting with 16″ at the zero fret and reaching 20″ at the 24th fret. For a 25.75″-25″ scale on a 7-string with a neutral 4th fret, the following picture shows the radius that each fret describes:
As you can see, the increase in radius between each fret is not linear, but less at the first frets and the last frets, due to the angles of the frets.
The idea of making the press insert out of a flexible material and adjustable had been brewing for a while, and here is the first prototype.
The insert is made out of PEEK, which is very strong, while still flexible. Glue squeeze out doesn’t stick to it, as an added benefit. The adjustment range is from 12″ to approximately 25″ and easily accomplished by turning the handle. I am planning on adding a counterweight to make the press itself balance. It has a 43mm mount, which is the same as most electric hand drill machine stands. I put my scales in the one pictured above and could easily accomplish 40 kg of pressure without the stand budging, and this was more than enough to press frets.
I made this for my workshop, but will be happy to have a batch made. Manufacturing cost is highly dependent on the number of units (i.e. the prototype you see was _very_ expensive). Let me know if you are interested, and if we get enough volume, it might be almost affordable. For reference, the StewMac Jaws fret pressing system costs $240, and the complete arbor press system costs $165. This will cost more for sure, just to set expectations.
Here is a short clip demonstrating it in action:
Here follow some instructions on how to get started with your very own EGS build. Feel free to e-mail further questions, and I will try to add to this guide and keep it up-to-date.
First of all, e-mail email@example.com and ask for permission. The materials on the site are licensed under Creative Commons. You may use them under two conditions: that you ask permission first and that you make your own enhancements public also under the same Creative Commons license.
Start by downloading the body shape outline.
Print it out in scale 1:1 and transfer to a paper large enough to hold your complete guitar, including the neck and any headstock you are considering.
Mark a center line and, along this, mark the location of the saddles, the 12th fret and the nut. The body shape outline that you downloaded needs to be adjusted in the neck pocket region and possibly in the bridge region, so it is critical that you do this on some cheap media (i.e. paper or your computer) before starting to shape wood.
In the bridge region, you need to leave sufficient material to mount the base plate while leaving room for your fingers to tune.
This means that if you are doing a fanned fret construction (mixed scale), the shape of the cut-away in the bridge region may need to be adjusted. In this case, you need to work out the exact placement and angle of the 12th fret on your drawing and measure the distance to your outer strings and mark the location of these.
To figure out where the bridge will sit, you ideally have the bridge at hand, but you can work with a printout of a drawing (you can use the installation instructions in the download section). Then, adjust the intonation position in a somewhat forward position (but not all the way, keeping some room for error) and figure out where to position it so that the saddle ends up at the line you drew. If you use fanned frets, each bridge will be positioned at a different distance from the nut (so the line you drew between the E-string saddle positions will not be perpendicular to the centerline).
The red lines in the image above show some examples of how the rear cut-away edge can follow the angle of the mixed-scale placement.
Another consideration is that if your instrument has more strings than 6, you may need to widen the cut-away. To get the proportions of the instrument right, you may need to actually widen the entire shape somewhat in order to accommodate this.
Also, in particular if you are designing a set-neck or neck-through instrument, sketch the guitar out from the side. The EGS bridge can be mounted in a two different ways: flat or on a radius.
Here, it is mounted flat (and recessed, which is not a requirement) and the saddles are used to create the radius. The other option is to recess the bridges to match the radius of your fretboard.
The effective adjustment range of the EGS bridge saddles is about 2 mm, but they will look at their best if they are placed in the middle of that range, so it is important to get this right.
The picture above shows how the angle of the neck affects the height of the fretboard/body join. Even a small angle will make a big difference, so take care.
Also, place the intended pickups on the drawing and check their positions. If you intend to glue the neck in, the neck pickup cavity can have an impact on how you design the joint.
Like the tuners/bridges, the string locks are mounted individually. If you mount them in a row, use a spacing of 7 mm.
If you are building a fanned fret instrument with an angled nut, make sure to lay the pieces out to check the layout.
This is an example for a slight angle that puts the holes in line with each other and the strings at a 7 mm spacing. I like to use a zero-fret, which ensures that fretted strings sound the same as open strings and also takes the guesswork out of cutting slots in the nut. If you mount the strings locks at an angle, a nut is recommended however, to ensure that the string spacing is exactly what you intended. Use this nut in conjunction with the zero-fret.
Another consideration is ensuring that sufficient material remains in the headstock for the mounting screws.
Shorten the outside screws if the neck has a radius at the mounting point.
Also, consider where the access to the truss rod is placed. If the truss rod access is below the centerline and a hole is drilled to access it (as opposed to routing a channel all the way to the front) sufficient material can be left to secure mounting.
Think about the height of the string locks in relation to a nut or zero fret.
Many operations are simplified if you have the correct neck at the onset. Fastening the neck is one of the absolutely most critical operations for the function of the guitar, so it’s better to fail early and start over rather than doing a bunch of work on the body and fail to rout the neck pocket at a late stage. I recommend that you start by purchasing or building the neck.
Buy or make a routing template for the neck pocket, draw a centerline, rout the pocket, fasten the neck and then double check/adjust your centerline based on how accurately you were able to attach the routing template. To check the neck alignment, fasten two pieces of string at the E-string positions and pull them tight and ensure that their respective distances from the centerline are the same near where the bridge would sit. Then, using a ruler, measure from the nut to the 12th fret. Mark that exact same distance from the 12th fret towards the body end on both E-string positions. Draw a line between the two points that you just marked and leave this line there until you have drilled the bridge mounting holes. The line signifies the position of the saddles, without taking intonation into account. You also need to check that the depth (and possibly angle) of the neck pocket places the string at a height at the bridge that works within the height adjustment range of your bridge.
For a neck-through body like the EGS Pro, I do things in the following order:
For a neck, I would do things the same order, with the neck being completed at step 10. Then, I would complete the body with the following steps:
The same screw that mounts the string lock in the wood is used as the seat for the string. This means that it can be replaced if it ever gets worn. To access the screw, remove the locking screw. The string lock itself is secured against rotation by a 2 mm diameter locating pin. So, to mount the string locks, you need to drill two holes: a 3 mm deep 2 mm hole for the locating pin and a 14 mm deep 1.5 mm hole for the mounting screw.
The EGS hardware is anodized, which is a process that renders the pieces not conducting electricity. So to ground the strings, you need to remove some material from the bridges. Follow the instructions in the FAQ section on http://guitarworks.thestrandbergs.com. A zero-fret will help ground the other strings if only one bridge is grounded. Otherwise, it is possible to use a piece of wire or aluminium/copper foil to create contact between each of the string lock mounting screws. This will then connect each of the strings with each other electrically.
ENJOY! And don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Many players have contacted me and been curious about how the EGS guitars sound with “normal” pickups. Johan Lundgren of Lundgren Guitar Pickups kindly lent me a pair of Heaven ’57 humbuckers for a test.
Getting this done was not as straight-forward as I had hoped. The Alumitones are a few millimeters smaller (36 x 65 mm) than a regular humbucker (38 x 68 mm), and for aesthetical purposes I had cut the pickup cavities as close to the original Alumitones as possible. This meant that I actually had to get the router out to enlarge the holes for the test. Another interesting fact is that the two Lundgren pickups weigh 250 grams and the two Lace pickups weigh 90 grams. With the EGS#1 guitar weighing in at about 2kg, it still results in a fairly light instrument, but the increase in weight is quite large percentage-wise.
You will have to judge the results for yourself. The larger frequency response of the Lace pickups allow them to be equalized into any type of sound using tone controls and effects, but the clips are recorded with the same settings on the amp.
Some comments from Jonas – his personal views and reflections:
Slightly distorted sample:
I rigged the neck and routed a channel for the string locks last weekend already, but didn’t have time to post the pictures. I used an old pickup router template.
I created a drilling template since I did not have access to the milling machine that I usually do and hence had to cut the holes manually.
The larger holes are for the guiding pins and the smaller to hold the screws.
Ideally, you would keep the neck square in section where the string locks sit, to give room for the full length of the screws. In this case, the neck is round and I have to cut the outer screws quite short.
Anodized aluminium is not very conductive to electricity, which can lead to string grounding issues. It is quite easy to overcome though, and with recent and future orders, I am including the necessary materials. However, I do not want to make any assumptions on how you would prefer it to work, so I am not grinding off the anodization as described below.
Drill a hole into the control cavity as usual and run a bare wire through it to the bridge.
Next, grind off the anodization (using a Dremel for instance) from underneath the base plate.
As well as on top of the base plate. Take care to check an approximate intonation first though. You want to make sure that the area you grind off will be completely covered by the bridge when it is mounted. The ground off portion should sit straight under the saddle.
Lastly, insert the supplied spring into the bridge and re-mount it. The saddle will have full contact with the ground off anodization through the spring, and on to the ground wire that sits under the bridge plate.
Today, drilled the fastening holes for the neck and could for the first time test out the balance of the instrument. It was a nervous moment the first time I put it in my lap, since the body is so incredibly light and the hardware and pickups add very little weight. The neck on the other hand, being made out of wenge and ebony, felt like a rock in comparison.
However, I needed not to have worried. I’m happy to report that it balances perfectly and exactly according to plan.
I started with an alignment test setup that was left sitting all the while I was drilling the holes.
Then, the three main positions were tested:
Look ma, no hands!
Lastly, note the angle of my index finger and how it follows the angle of the frets.
The guitar obviously doesn’t balance itself in this position, but it is very comfortable nonetheless.
I can feel that the comparatively heavy neck and the trapezoidal neck profile (contact Rick Toone for more information on this neck profile) seems to address the “headless wiggle” problem. I can’t wait to string it up, but the mounting plate for the string locks is off for finishing along with the rest of the new hardware.