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I haven't used illustrator in years, (and really only used it for laying out text and a bit of logo design) and my ancient version won't run on my current mac. I downloaded Inkscape (open-source vector software) this afternoon and was puttering about with it, and before long had started knocking up an idea that's been percolating in my head for a while.

It's a baritone guitar, inspired by the single-cut basses that have I've seen pop up over the last few years. I want to try something different (for me) on my next build. It's a 28" scale. I'm thinking alder back, (simply because it'll be a solid color, so the look of the wood doesn't matter, and I wouldn't mind getting to skip the grainfill stage.) I'm thinking possibly an alder top as well. It'll be a carved top (the "burst" is in the mockup is just to get a feel for the look of the shape with a non-flat top.) I've never carved alder, so a little experimentation there will determine whether I go with that or not, ( I don't forsee it being a problem ) as well as what woods I can easily obtain in the appropriate thicknesses.

I'm thinking black back, and an "Inca silver" finish on the top. (Probably re-ranch colors, at least for the top, unless I can find an easy way to spray a metallic finish with my gear.) Set neck. I'm thinking black hardware, and a cocobolo neck and fretboard. I'd like to teach myself to bend wooden binding and use matching cocobolo binding on the body as well. Probably do the same mitred "open squares" inlays I did on a build a while back. I've done some practice and think I can do a better job.

It's a 28" scale right now. 26 frets, mostly to accentuate the extended single cut look of it. I originally was going to do 30 frets, but it looked a bit ridiculous, and I'm not even convinced I can play all the 26 with the frets as close as they get up at the top.

Still debating whether going with a trem is a good idea or not. Wanted to try my hand at a Myka-esque archtop kind of thing, that sort of halfway between an archtop and a chambered build, simply because I think it'd be fun to try and I'd love to build an archtop in the future (so it might be applicable practice) but I think that's an exercise best saved for a more traditional body shape. So it may get chambered depending on weight. I really like chambering my builds, but I hate the tradeoff between how big a chamber you can make, and how big a tummy cut you can make.

Not sure if the cocobolo/inca silver/black hardware is the best option, either.

Started winding my own pickups, so I'll probably go with something different than the 'buckers in the mock up - I'm thinking humbucker-sized, but mounting soapbar style, with wooden covers to match the neck.

Need to find a better way to mock up the colors and woods and get an idea.

I've never played, nor built anything quite like this. It'll be an interesting challenge. I've got all winter before I really start building again, so plenty of time to pick this apart and play with it more. It still looks weird to me, and I can't decide if that's weird because something is wrong, or just weird because it's a bit of an odd shape. It's growing on me.

I wonder if I should square off the bottom horn a bit, like I did on the bass I'm working on.

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I think an ebony fretboard would be better.

On the trem, I would say no, but mostly because I hate trems. Lots of extra tuning work and all for a cheap trick.

The body shape could use some work. Maybe bring in the bottom side more. And I think the top side would look better swept backwards instead of forwards.

Looks like a good idea though.

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  • 2 months later...

Okay - so I'm still playing with lots of color and wood options and such; a lot of that I suppose is going to end up depending on what pieces of wood really speak to me at the lumberyard. I'm thinking solid color for the body, with wooden pickup covers and wooden binding to match the fretboard...

The possibility of 7 strings is tempting me too, after having gone out and played a few and realizing that I can actually play the darn things. I've been working on improving my playing and songwriting and I feel like it's getting to the point that I could make an extra string useful. Plus, it may allow me to move the songs we play on a standard guitar onto this guitar with less hassle or reworking.

The other option I've started thinking of is a fanned-fret instrument. I think partly I want to do it because of the interesting challenge, and I want to justify buying Strandbergs' cool bridge. Plus, it could make my planned inlay really interesting.

The 28" scale length on the low string is pretty much set. I made a mock up with a 26 inch scale length on the high side (I believe that was it - maybe it was 26.5) and printed out the fretboard. I made the perpendicular spot between the 8th and 9th frets.

Granted, holding a cutout isn't the same as a real guitar - I'm going to have to stick this to a neck or some foam or something to get a real feel for it, and make sure I've got it positioned close to where the neck would actually lie where the instrument hanging on a strap. But my first inclination trying to pretend fret on this paper neck is that while it feels very natural as I move into the upper registers, the lower registers feel really weird for any sort of chord work. G and C shapes are odd, and first position barre chords seem like they'd be right out. Tuning the lowest string down a step in relation to the next two strings (like drop D) would help, I suppose, but I'm not sold on that idea.

So you folks that are big proponents of multi-scale/fanned frets - how are you setting things up? How much of a difference between scale lengths are you using? Where are you placing you perpendicular fret? I'm trying to avoid having to print out dozens of mockups of the fretboard to get a feel for things. Are fanned fret guitars really only suited to lead work? While I've been playing a lot more stuff that I guess would fit under that classification, I get there via chords most of the time.

Also - it just occurred to me - do these fanned fret instruments throw the whole idea of using a capo out the window? That may be a deal breaker for me.

Hrm - was going to post pictures of the design with smaller headstocks (for body end-tuning with Strandbergs bridge) and fanned frets, but I can't upload my files right now. Will do later.

Tried Keegan's ideas - still sold on the upper side being swept forward rather than back - I'm trying to offset the giant look of the thing introduced by the deep single-cut and high neck joint on the bass side. Have tweaked the width a little bit - interestingly enough, the bottom side was the closest to the centerline, but only by a little. Playing with bringing it in a little more, but I don't want it to be too uneven.

Trying to get my hands on a Bass VI or similar to experiment with the idea of tremolo in that tonal range. May just have to string my strat with the heaviest strings that fit and try and get close to that tuning and see what it sounds like...

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I like the body shape - though the single-cut idea works on a guitar only if you've kicked the habit of rolling your thumb over the top edge of the neck (especially when soloing). You could probably tweek the contour behind the upper bout to minimize this.

I also think an ebony board would complement the color scheme better - or ziricote. Though binding with either can be a nightmare - maybe go with plastic black binding (easier to scrape the paint off than wood binding).

I'm not a fan of angled humbuckers, but that's probably a personal flaw. :D

I don't think the Stradberg trem has enough saddle movement for a multiscale - you'd need to go fixed bridge. I think 1-1/2" difference between scales is about as far as you want to go on a 6-string, you could go 2" on a 7.

From a players standpoint, having made a multi-scale 8, I found it was more difficult to adjust to the extra strings rather than the multiscale - without really realizing it, I found that I mentally keep track of the root by registering on the top edge of the neck, so I could only make sense of it if I tuned the top string to drop-E instead of F#. It is still an adjustment, and still not intuitive over a year later - so now I am finding myself going back to the idea of a 6-string baritone rather than a 7-string or 8-string, and doing mental transposition.

Capo on an electric?!?!? :D Don't get me started....

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So you folks that are big proponents of multi-scale/fanned frets - how are you setting things up? How much of a difference between scale lengths are you using? Where are you placing you perpendicular fret? I'm trying to avoid having to print out dozens of mockups of the fretboard to get a feel for things. Are fanned fret guitars really only suited to lead work? While I've been playing a lot more stuff that I guess would fit under that classification, I get there via chords most of the time.

Also - it just occurred to me - do these fanned fret instruments throw the whole idea of using a capo out the window? That may be a deal breaker for me.

My prototype bari is 25.5" - 28", but IMO, that is too much of a difference in scale lengths. Palm muting over multiple strings is less than ideal, as are barre chords in the lower positions. I'll be going to 26" - 27.75" to straighten things out slightly. I set the perpendicular fret @ the 7th so neither the nut nor bridge are angled too radically.

Capo on an electric?!?!? :D Don't get me started....

Hey, I've used a capo on my fanned-fret 5 string bass :D

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I use a capo all the time...I like the added jangle of the open strings.

I'm seriously considering building a baritone too -- it'd be perfect for the band I'm in now. I'm trying to decide on the scale length -- do you think 28" is long enough to make a real difference in sound? I'm tempted to go to 30". Since I've never played a baritone, and haven't found one in the reason, it's hard to decide.

I like the body shape though, the idea of extending the horn up the bass side like that.

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Capo - I just do not play by "chord form" - if I capo-3 and want to play an open G, I won't think "E form", what I always end up doing is wanting to fret exactly where the capo is (or behind). The damn thing just gets in the way!

I went 28 to 25.5 on my 8-string, and I think it is *ok* but mine would have been better if I'd made the perpendicular fret #7 instead of #12. The angle is a bit too sharp at #1. Certainly 28 to 26 would have also been better (for 8 strings), and could be OK for a 7 (but too much for a 6).

Also - in accumulating skills for an eventual archtop, building an acoustic is better training than building a chambered electric.

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Extend the scale, and the tension and gauge of the strings increase to achieve a specific tuning. That also changes the sustain and harmonic balance. Longer scales and higher tension achieve a more "piano-like" timbre, apparently. It's satisfying playing big resounding chords with crunch madness if that's what they mean :-D

I think that an instrument like a guitar (which we naturally like to bend the strings on to achieve character and flavour) needs a degree of looseness, so extending the scale - in my opinion - is better for fighting flapping strings or impractically high gauges at lower tunings.

I've not played on a 28" scale baritone before I think it's reasonable without resorting to silly gauges. My BEADGB baritone 27" is close on 12-52s. 30" on my eight (F# through E) is quite toight.

goldmember.gif

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On a regular 6 I am using my own version of "skinny top heavy bottom" strings - basically a 7-string set (10-56) with the wound-G dropped out. I really like the extra tension for power chording, and wish my 8 were more like that - except I would need a 100 (and a bass tuner....) for the drop-E instead of the 85 I have now.

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I've tried tension calculators and broke my lazy brain....I think it's easier to just try gauges and see how they feel, but that's a difficult cart/horse situation from an initial design standpoint if you don't have a direct frame of reference of course!

A single scale over 28" might mean a custom set of something like 8-54 to maintain reasonable string bend flex on the top strings. A compound scale of 28 over 26 or even 25.5 is easily do-able with single-saddle Strandbergs suitably offset of course.

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Okay, thanks for the input guys. Especially helpful hearing from people who have these wierd extra string and fanned fret things.

I still have a lot to mull over. But I appreciate everyones input.

I guess I'm sold on the extended single cut, as silly as it looks, but that may just be me. I figure a lot of folks aren't going to like that look. I am thinking of toning it down somewhat, though. It's not actually that high, it's more that the treble cutaway is very extended.

I'm thinking a totally different pickup situation than what's pictured, that was just handy because I had already mocked those up for something else. I'm not feeling the angled humbucker either.

The points about rolling the thumb over are well taken - while I have been known to use my thumb to fret the low E when fingerpicking, by the time I'm up to the 12th fret, I've got my thumb along the back of the neck.

I think my plan at this point is to make a "neck" out of foam or basswood or something, and stick printouts of different fanned fret scales on it. Just to try and and see what feels right and if I want to go there or not. It's not a real neck, but at least I hope it will give me an idea. Does this seem reasonable?

FWIW, I was planning to tune in standard guitar intervals, with the lowest of the six strings tuned down to the A of a bass. I seemed to think that was achievable at 28" without ridiculous strings. I know I did research using string tension calculators - but now I don't have my notes handy.

Perhaps the best thing to do is a mock up with a bridge, a nut, some tuners and a plank to get something of an actual feel for what the tension would be over that length and those notes?

As for a capo - a lot of times it's just to move the treble strings into the key of the rest of the song - it allows for use of a percussive jangle or snap on those strings played open, even if I'm playing up the neck. I also play a lot of songs with droning pedals notes, or open notes an octave or some range below the rest of partial chord as parts of the riffs, and using a capo lets me do that without writing every song in E. I don't use it all the time, but when I do, it's a useful tool. I've got a couple of capos set up to fret only some strings, too. It's nothing super amazing, but it's not like I'm just sliding my campfire chords up three frets, either!

Obviously, I have to go backwards - now that I've started to mull over other things that change the instrument radically, I need to cement how I want to move forward on that front, (number of strings, fret layout, etc.) and then rework the design around those changes. I think stepping away from the design for a while and coming back will help too.

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If you're a soloist, then the singlecut nature of the rear heel might teach your thumb better neck discipline for upper register playing, pretty much as Erik mentioned. I really like the shape as it's nice and slender - it would actually make a really fun 4-string piccolo bass design! It reminds me a little of Les Claypool's original piccolo bass on how it looks like it would sit very comfortably. In that respect, it would do so admirably for fingerpicking between the two proposed pickup locations.

I really like this design, or did I not mention that?

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I did a quick skip over other comments and I don't think anyone else mentioned this (Don't have time on my side tonight)

I think the bridge is too close to the base of the guitar. Which makes an awkward position when playing on the high frets

The Body/Neck join at the 12th fret would give a great deal of stabiliy but I think you could bring it back 3 or 4 frets and the neck would still be about the same length as a Les Paul

The result would give you better playability on the high frets (esp in standing position) and the shape would look more balanced

My humble opinion -

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FWIW - found my notes. Was planning to use .013-.056 strings (Was looking at D'Addario EJ22 set) at the 28" scale. Tuned ADGCEA, low to high, (low A the same as the A on a standard bass) the numbers I'm getting from a tension calculator puts the overall tension pretty close to what I get with a .010-.046 at 24.625" scale length. Although it seems like the middle strings may be a little tight, and the strings on the outside might be a little on the loose side compared to the numbers a standard sets going to give me. But the numbers seem to point to it working.

Crusader - I see your point. I usually play guitars where the bridge is almost right over my belt buckle - so moving it this far back is a little odd. But, I also play a lot of bass, where the bridge is way at the back, and seem to be able to transition well. I'm more concerned about not ending up with the first position too far away than I am about the upper registers being too close, particularly since I doubt I'll be needing all 26 frets. (yeah, they're mostly for looks.) But it's a valid concern, and something I hadn't really taken into consideration as much as I probably should. There will definitely be some sort of mockup of some sort to get an idea of how the string path will lay in relation to my body when in the standing position.

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  • 2 weeks later...

coco2.jpg

coco1.jpg

Inspired by rdiquattro's build I decided I really wanted to go with a cocobolo neck.

The colors not quite right, and the dramatic curve along the piece in the far away shot is a trick of the photo, but I picked up a nice piece of cocobolo at the local lumber shop. It's actually thick enough I might be able to squeeze a one-piece neck out of it, (well, one piece scarf jointed for the headstock) but the plan at this point is a separate fingerboard, (I prefer to pay for a slotted board) although I'll probably go cocobolo on that as well. It's large enough that I can hopefully get some matching pickup covers and maybe even some binding out of it. It's almost perfectly quarter-sawn and has a beautiful ring to it. (My girlfriend says I should make marimbas out of it)

Still a ways off from actually building this, but having a nice piece of wood around will help inspire.

After discovering Auto Air Colors, which should work well with the KTM-9 clear coats I've been using, I'm looking forward to being able to pull off the Inca Silver front that I had originally planned for this build. Probably a black back. I've got paint samples coming this week. If I go solid colors, I'm thinking alder for the body again. Although there was some really nice black limba at the hardwoods place...

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What do you think I should be using for a truss rod on this build? I have some double action rods from LMI salvaged from a couple builds I parted out - both the 18" standard rods for electrics, and the 23.75" rods for bass. The 18" rod would go from the nut to around the 19th fret with the end of the 1" adjusting nut just below the zero fret - at that point the neck is well into overlapping the single-cut area; I would expect that having the neck being overlapped by the body for maybe a third or so of the back of the neck on the bass side would limit any movement in that area; but I'm not certain. The bass-sized rod would cover the whole neck, but would also go right into the pickup cavity, even with the adjusting nut past the zero fret/nut at the headstock end.

Can I get away with the 18" rod, or should I look into making or having made a custom length rod?

I've decided to keep things simple for now, and go with a standard fret layout - I'll be building a fanned fret guitar at some point, but it's not going to be this build. I'm still waffling on 6 or 7 strings. I'm going to borrow a 7 for a while and see how I feel about that idea.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Parts are starting to come together:

Fretboard from Erik (poor picture, but it's great.)

And custom Sperzels (matte black and nickel) via TK Instruments; drilled out on the lowest tuner, and a Hipshot bridge.

Also got carbon fiber rods, strips for the inlay, and a Luthiers Friend sanding station, but pictures of those are dull.

Tweaked a few things with the design, but I'm leaving it pretty much as is for now. Every time I try and take advice and change it I change it back. Will make a few tweaks once I get to working on the template, but otherwise it's going to be pretty close to the original plan.

Front

Shows the pickups in white - planning on making two humbuckers in wooden covers that mount like EMG soapbars. The planned tenon area shown too. Inlay mocked up, and headstock. Haven't figured out the headstock, whether I want it matching the neck, top of the body or back. Controls are planned as volume, tone, and rotary switch. Still deciding if top will be carved in a fashion that requires a neck angle, or if the neck will be parallel to the body like a fender, with a carve that just falls away from the playing surface. (I don't know if I described that in a way that makes sense.)

Back Shows the planned headstock back cap and chambering. The lighter areas show the planned roundover into a belly cut, as well as the area where the single cut is planned to fade into the neck.

No binding on either of these, but there will be lots of binding.

Okay, I'm going to go do actual work on this instead of tweaking mockups unnoticable amounts over and over. Hopefully next time I bump this thread there's something to actually show for it.

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Very cool, like the hardware and wood choices. I also like the shape and carving planned for this build.

I had one question for you, on that hipshot bridge are all the saddles exactly the same size. I fell in love with that bridge when I first saw it a while back, it looked just like yours except in chrome, however, since then almost everyone I had seen who bought it and all the places that carried it, carried a version where the saddles were different in size, some where smaller than others, I suppose set for intonation. I wanted to see if yours was the normal one I like and where you bought it?

Also, for a future build possibly since you said no binding on this one. Maybe try to do those same inlays, and try to make the binding the same, where you have say white in the middle and use a thin piece, like .020 on all sides of the piece of binding, so it mimicks the inlay concept somewhat, if I'm not explaining this properly let me know I could mock up a pick maybe. This would be especially neat on an ebony board using black plastic as the main piece and thin white pieces on all sides of the binding. Just an idea if you use this inlay pattern again on any future builds, actually the idea would be cool even without the inlays, but the inlays and binding would be best. Cool project, look forward to seeing it come together. J

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I ordered this bridge from Stewmac - all the saddles are the same size. On the chrome tremolo version of this bridge I ordered in '07 from Stewmac, the saddles are different lengths. I don't know if the trem has the different sized saddles and the fixed bridge doesn't, or if there's something else going on.

There will be plenty of binding on this build - I guess I meant there's not binding on the mockups, but the final build will have it. Wasn't clear.

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Cool thanks for the info, I think I misread the binding thing. Glad to hear you grabbed that from Stewmac, I really like that bridge. Look forward to seeing this project come together. J

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