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.
Production of stock models is under way! The current operation of full custom builds will remain as-is, but as most of you know, the wait list is quite long. Here comes your chance to snap up a 100% .strandberg* guitar without the wait!
The first model out is based on Tosin Abasi’s #17:
These will be offered directly to those of you already on the wait list, and to select dealers globally, at a reasonable price point. If you are interested, contact email@example.com. The current plan includes two variations each of 6-, 7-, and 8-string models, all bolt-on.
Last week was spent in Ohio, with Jim Lewis, president and CEO of Strictly 7 Guitars (S7G), as the host. I met with their staff and immensely competent network of suppliers throughout the week and spent day and night doing knowledge transfer to the people who will be building 100% genuine .strandberg* guitars going forward.
S7G will do the final assembly and oversee the process. In case you haven’t checked them out lately, you should. Although an S7G instrument is radically different from a .strandberg*, we share many philosophies, and on a personal level I have just hit it off with Jim and everyone else on staff. This company is going places for sure, and by leveraging our strengths and pooling our resources, we (including you, the customer) are in for a win-win-win situation.
Here is a short pictorial of my week, including some of the amazingly skilled people I met throughout.
On a lighter note, Akron just happens to have some of the best hamburgers on the planet. Here with Allan Marcus and Nick Cetrone of S7G.
Rob Saurer will take care of some of the wood selection and gluing operations.
One of the gluing rigs
Vacuum bags are an efficient way of laminating tops
There are only two machines like this in existence, the other one is owned by Gibson…
Here, a laser driven by the CAD program is used as a guide to line up the template, or spoilboard as it is called.
The first operation is prepared. Vacuum is used to hold the workpieces, and the black lines in the picture show the tape that holds the vacuum.
Here, the first trial piece is cut, and the back is being prepared.
And lastly, the top and cavity cover are cut from the same piece.
After gluing the top, it is brought back for routing of the final profile, pickups, neck pocket, etc.
The body is then flipped over and the back is cut
You know it’s got to be good when the scrap pieces look like this…. For trial purposes, we took a cherry top that Rob had found on another job. The body is poplar, which is not necessarily the prettiest wood, but it is a good tonewood and the grain on these particular pieces form a “wave” when looked at from the rear for a cool effect. You may spot a tiny glitch in the programming, which was subsequently corrected.
Dean is talking Jim through some of the intricacies of neck profile programming.
A happy Jim is showing Wayne the finished product after a successful neck run (on the first attempt!). We now owe Dean a steak dinner.
The neck jig after successfully running the first neck.
Dean ran the machines and did all the programming supported by yours truly over the course of three days.
Rick does engraving and inlay work
Joel does binding, painting and some other work
So your future guitar is in good hands! As said above, these are stock models with set specifications. We are aiming for a short turnaround time on orders. Custom work will be served by the wait list as before, although efficiencies in purchasing, material preparation and gluing will help increase the pace of the custom builds as well.
I am designing a new gig-bag, taking into account my own thoughts from having traveled by air, land and sea, as well as commuted on bicycles and trains with my prototype.
The image above shows the prototype, which is a conventionally shaped bag, just 100 mm shortened in the neck portion. One thing that I like in particular is the laptop pocket and “fully loaded” organizer pocket in front. I have biked to the day job as well as gone on business trips with laptop, iPad and all other necessities in this bag alone. In addition, the shoulder straps are comfortable and can be fixed to the back of the bag with velcro strips, which are cleverly hidden when not in use.
The one thing I noticed is that when I ride my bike (and I do most of the time, and I wear a helmet too) the bag hits me at the back of the head, especially when wearing a helmet. Also, when the bag is squeezed into its waterproof SKB shell as in the picture above, the remaining space could be used more efficiently. The new design addresses both of these issues:
As you can see, the bag is asymmetrically shaped, as some hard cases are. It comes with rubber feet on both the side and the bottom, so you can rest it on the floor without having to “jerk” it or use both hands to get it into an upright position when it needs to be put down. This also leads to a larger available space in the SKB shell. Lastly, when worn on the back, the neck portion will not hit the back of the head (is the idea). Remember that a typical .strandberg* guitar weighs only 2 kg (4 lbs), so the fact that it is not symmetrically placed should not be that much of an issue.
Comments are welcome if they are quick – the order will be placed in a matter of days.
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:
I am designing bass hardware on a tight schedule. If you want to take part and influence in this process, and make sure it meets your requirements, contact me ASAP!
The baritone hybrid prototype neck is finished enough to mount on a guitar, and I chose #4 since it has a conventional scale. Since this was an experiment, I built the neck in the cheapest possible materials so I could throw it away in case it didn’t work, but it looks like I will not have to do so!
A close-up of the headstock:
This neck is destined for another demo guitar that I’m building, which will feature the new tremolo. So, as soon as it is finished and someone has figured out how to play it, I will get some sound samples up.
Here is how I mounted the string locks, showing just how flexible they are:
In preparation for Tosin Abasi’s (and John Mason’s + possibly more) I have been prototyping the baritone hybrid concept to work out the best way of carving the “headstock” and placing string locks. I could develop a new string lock especially for this, that is more out of the way, but I really want to use the standard one to showcase its versatility. Here’s what I have come up with so far and at least with my playing style, it will work. I aim to get this onto #4 ASAP to try it out. Scale lengths are 28.66″ – 25.5″.
Note custom colored (~bronze) hardware slated for Tosin’s guitar, which will have flamed maple top and rosewood neck.
Another world first: an easy to use dual-mode locking mechanism for a top-mount tremolo. While at NAMM, Ziv Cohen, Creative Director at an internet outfit, came around to the .strandberg* booth. After seeing the two holes in the new tremolo (giving the option of mounting the tremolo arm on either side for optional left-hand use), he said that “why don’t you give an option to mount a screw there to make it non-floating?” What an awesome idea! I could easily supply an extra wood screw that you could screw into the wood just under where the hole would end up, and then mount a screw in the hole. By tightening the springs and adjusting the screw, the position of the tremolo can be adjusted, and it can be made dive-only.
But on the flight back, I thought a little more. So, here for your comments, please check out the “Tremolock” option for the EGS Pro tremolos.
In the unlocked position, the tremolo pivots freely, both down and up:
Turn the knob a quarter of a turn to make it dive only:
Turn the knob a half turn to lock it completely:
The Tremolock consist of a small plate that is mounted flush in the body of the guitar, against the mounting post, to ensure that it is placed in the exact correct position, and the rotating locking axle (the white pieces in the images above). It remains to be worked out how to manufacture this in order to obtain a smooth and firm action throughout the life-time. Suggestions are gladly accepted – I will be prototyping this in the very near future.
Along with an easy-to-use spring tension adjustment mechanism, there is no telling how good this tremolo will be. Note that you don’t even have to limit yourself to headless constructions – just don’t use the tuners on the tremolo if you have conventional tuners on the headstock.