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Through-neck acoustic guitar. Flame Maple neck, solid bear claw Sitka Spurce top, solid Katalox back & sides.
Completed December 28, 2017
The Through-neck Acoustic guitar.
The story of this guitar started as a concept just a few years after I started building guitars. As a novice builder, I would often sketch out various ideas of what I thought may be cool instruments. One of the well known tone arguments in the electric guitar world is that; through-neck guitars have better tone, and more sustain. I wondered if that held for acoustic guitars as well? Another issue with numerous older acoustic guitars is that the body flexes over decades under the tension of the strings, resulting in a misalignment of the neck to the body, and making them difficult or even impossible to play. Such instruments need to have the neck removed, the joint reworked, and then reassembled to the body. A through-neck design should prevent this problem. I've also noticed that guitars with big necks seem to have more punch. This design would have a huge amount of wood in the neck extending all the way through the guitar, incorporating the heel block and tail block as well - so a guitar with a huge neck.
Conceaving how to build such an instrument presented may construction issues, from how to have a proper glue joint at the position of the tail block, how to join the body sides to the neck, how to sculpt the curvature of the edge of the sides prior to jointing the top, and more. Even cutting the binding channels needed a modification to the procedure.
After a few years, my garrage band buddy Tony and I were now working on his first guitar. He was effectively apprenticing, doing all the grunt work on that instrument, a Malple backed jumbo. We often would get side tracked talking about music and guitars, including the usual concepts of why one is better than another. My ideas of a through neck acoustic would come up from time to time. It took a few more years rolling around build concepts in my head before I put pencil to paper. Tony was excited about the concept.
By the time I refined the Through-neck drawing enough that I was confident the build was doable, Tony's jumbo was long complete and he was ready for the next project. He got turned on to the idea of building the through-neck concept along side of my prototype. The problem was that I was back logged with so many other builds. I was planning to build a Mahogany neck, Mahogany back & sides, Sitka Spruce top version, so that an apples-to-apples comparison test could be done along side conventionally constructed guitars made of the same combination of woods. I still have not started that instrument!
Meanwhile Tony fell in love with a highly flamed Katalox back and side set I had here in my shop. I also had a stunning bear claw Sitka Spruce top set. Those were set aside for him. Now the cosmetic elements of the design began in earnest. His first guitar included inlay design art that made it a Pink Floyd tribute guitar. He now wanted to do the same making this one a RUSH tribute guitar.
The body shape was again to be a Jumbo, but this time a little smaller then the previous which was based on a Gibson J200. We also softened the curvature of the waist. This required a new form. The first photos I have of this guitar's construction were taken durning May of 2010 with the neck blank positioned through the form. The guitar was also to include a side sound port, a sculpted arm rest, a florentine cutaway, and an asymmetrical heel, but the floating bridge came latter.
The first milestone was finding a large enough Flame Maple board from which to laminate up the neck blank, which included two Blood Wood veneer layers, giving the look of pin lines down the neck. Blood Wood was also included as pin lines in the binding, the rossette, and for the tuner buttons.
Then we started the hunt for RUSH iconography that Tony felt he would be capable of reproducing in wood and shell. I was to be more hands off on this build, just giving dirrection when needed, only stepping in for the most difficult jobs. Those included cutting out the neck on the band saw, and making the dove tail jointed heel block, I bent the sides, I made the armrest, some of the binding, did the critical shaping on some of the parts, and cut out some of the more delicate sections of the inlays. That may sound like a large list but it is a small fraction of the work on a guitar. Tony diligently - and occasionally fed up - progressed through this build over the years, to complete this alternate prototype Through-neck acoustic.
Now seven years later, working on weekends and the occasional holiday, we can say, this istrument really does meet our expectations. It truely is a RUSH tribute with artwork that all RUSH fans will be familiar with. As a new instrument, the tone will be opening up for a while, but it is already producing a nice balance with a full middle, clear highs, long sustain, and outstanding volume.