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Custom guitars have always been a vital part of the business. There has generally been less of a tradition among guitar players as far as the desire for a custom instrument. This has been changing in the last decade, as the new generation of players is less indoctrinated with the need for using the big brand names. Likewise, rising prices among the more famous guitar brands have put their factory produced guitars in direct competition with hand-made pieces. Guitarists have traditionally been willing to adapt their playing styles to the instruments they desired. The concept of shaping an instrument around the natural abilities and goals of an individual is almost a revelation to many players that contact me. The ability to have an instrument that can perform more than one function is a huge advantage for a player, as it allows for the player to focus on the music, rather than the limitations of each guitar in a collection of factory made single-purpose models.

Guitar   I have found that every guitarist that orders a guitar is looking for something unique, and that has kept me from putting out specific designs. There are three standard shapes that are frequently used that are shown as "models". These are really starting points for custom designs.  For now, the guitar page will reflect the custom, one-of-a-kind approach to guitar building that has been my path for the last 15 years. This will continue to be true in the future. Although personalization is the main reason players seek out boutique makers, the other factor is customer service. The ability to speak to, and consult with, the person that made the guitar is a huge advantage for anyone that intends to own and understand a guitar for a lifetime of use and enjoyment. From time to time I do make stock guitars, which are listed in the "in stock" section of the website. These generally are based on the most popular designs that are custom ordered.

 

Details:

CONSTRUCTION

Electric guitars can be constructed in three different ways. These are all related to how the neck joins the body. On a “neck-through” guitar, the neck continues through the entire instrument, with the body attached to the sides of the neck. This can be left exposed, so the neck is seen on the front of the body, or it can be hidden with a “full facing”. On a “set-neck” guitar, a separate neck is glued to a completed body. This has been the most popular method of construction among higher priced guitars. It removes the look of a bolt-on neck while maintaining an easier mass production than neck-through construction. A “bolt-on” guitar means that the neck and body are separately made, and the neck is bolted to the body when finished. This is the easiest method of construction, and has the advantage of allowing the neck to be replaced if it breaks.

Construction

Each of these methods of construction has distinct tonal characteristics. Bolt-on and set-neck are the most similar, generally creating a quick attack to the note that cuts through well in a louder situation. The set-neck will typically have a bit more sustain than the bolt-on, due to the stronger connection that allows the body to help with the note resonance. Neck-through will have a less punchy, and more smooth and balanced note duration. It’s important to note that the woods play the most vital role in creating the guitar’s tone. The difference between the construction methods means that different ratios of woods can be achieved, which will affect the overall tone. A bolt-on maple neck with a mahogany body will have more mahogany and less maple than a neck-through guitar with the same combination.

All Stambaugh guitars are made with a modern two-way stacked truss rod, with two graphite rods in the neck. Details of fret size, number of frets, nut and bridge width, neck thickness and profile, tuner layout, and body contouring are all determined by the client.

HARDWARE

A variety of hardware can be used when designing a custom guitar. The bridge is the most important factor, as it affects the feel and tone of the instrument. The three main styles of bridge are stop-tail, tremolo, and hardtail.
Both stop-tail and hardtail bridges come in a variety of styles. The main factor between the two styles is the height of the strings off of the body. For players that prefer a high string height, stop-tail is the correct option. For players needing a lower height, hardtail bridges are more effective.
Tremolo is a whole different animal, and the options are wide. Through years of experience using different styles, I prefer the Kahler design for the full floating style of tremolo. One of it’s advantages over all other tremolo designs is the very small hole it requires. This is unlike the massive amount of material removal necessary for traditional tremolo designs. Not only is this easier to use and mount, it also allows for more wood to remain on the body. The amount of wood removal for normal tremolos reduces the tone of the instrument, and forces the tremolo bridge to be the main tone factor.
The client can also spec the style of tuner. The headstock layout can also be individually designed. It will typically reflect the style of design that the body indicates; either 3 x 3 or 6-in-line are possible.
Hardware

 

WOODS

Woods Wood selection is the most important aspect to creating a successful custom guitar. Not only will it determine the overall fundamental tone, but it also creates the desired appearance. There are three aspects to wood selection that affect the tone and feel of the guitar.
The body wood has the most impact on the tone. This is simply because there is more mass and volume on the body than on the neck. The instrument vibrates as a whole, and the densities of varying woods can be blended together to sculpt a tone unique from any single wood source. The most popular wood for guitar bodies is mahogany. It creates a distinct warmth to the sound that is generally desirable to help counteract the bright nature of electric guitars. Swamp ash can be used, and creates a bit more of a hollow punchy tone. For the brightest, most intense sustain, a dense wood like hard ash or maple can be used. High quality guitars are typically capped with a “facing”, which refers to a decorative piece of wood laminated to a body core. This is done both for tone and appearance.
Neck woods are generally limited to either maple or mahogany. The maple produces a bright attack, while the mahogany adds depth and warmth to the overall tone. Maple is stronger than mahogany, and can be used when more strength is needed. Most necks I do are multilaminate. This means multiple pieces of wood are glued together to create a larger piece from which the neck is carved. This has two advantages. One is that the use of varying woods can sculpt a tone in between the single wood tones. The other is that the multiple pieces work together to prevent the neck from warping over time, adding strength and stability. The stripes can also be done for a more deluxe, beautiful look. The fretboard is the last area of wood selection. The three most popular selections for fretboards are maple, rosewood, and ebony. Maple produces the most immediate attack to the note. Rosewood produces the warmest tone, while ebony offers clarity and sustain. The fretboard has the least impact on the tone, though it is still an important factor. It’s also important to note that the size of the frets can impact

 Woods

FINISH

The finish on an instrument can be just as crucial as any other element in contributing to tone, playability, and appearance. I offer a variety of finishes to suit different needs. The accepted finish for guitars and basses has traditionally been lacquer. This is the thick, high-gloss coating that most factories still use. This can actually be achieved with a few different materials, including nitrocellulose, urethane, and two part resins. For gloss finishes, I typically use urethane, thgouh nitrocellulose is available. Many players feel that vintage instruments sound better over time. Some attribute this to the nitrocellulose used at the time, but this is not due to any inherent superiority of the finish. The nitro breaks down over time, turning yellow, brittle, and cracking. This separates it from the wood, allowing the wood to breathe and vibrate freely, creating a better sounding instrument. It is the inherent flaws of the finish that are it's best attributes. Rather than waiting thirty years for this effect to take place, other finishes can instantly start this vibration tuning process. Rubbed oil has become a popular finish for basses in the past few years. It readily allows the wood to breathe while providing moderate protection against the elements. Oil finish also creates the feel of bare wood under the hands, which many players find extremely comfortable. Clients regularly report that after only about six months, there is a noticable improvement in the tone, as the wood has "opened up." Both the varnish and the tung oil can be reapplied very easily, making maintenance more simple.

Finish

ELECTRONICS

When designing a custom guitar, the electronics play a vital role in creating a personalized sound. Any pickups can be used, and I often defer to the client’s taste for pickup selection. I do promote Aero pickups when possible, as they bring a level of clarity and quality that players appreciate.
Most guitars are wired passive. Active preamps are available for those looking for more ability to sculpt the EQ of the signal. A product that I recommend is the Stellartone Tonestyler. This is a passive tone control that offers a wide range of tones, far superior to the standard passive tone. Coil tapping, series/parallel, and phase shifting can all be specified.
Electronics

 


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