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Searls Guitars - 2015


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Hey guys, Allan Searls here from Searls Guitars.

If you're not familiar with my work, I'm based in Victoria Australia and build electric guitars. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll be adding Acoustics to the lineup as well.

You can see some previous years build pics at: www.facebook.com/searlsguitars

Rather than babble on, I'll just post some pics, I'm sure you'd prefer that anyway.

First up is a SS6 I'm building for a gent named Michael. It's the second "Searls Guitars" SS6 for Michael and on this one he's requested a bit more of a personal touch in the form of a 12th fret inlay, his name in Eldar Futhar Runes.

This fingerboard is Queens Ebony with a Gidgee inset, then inlaid with Brass, Malachite and Mother of Pearl.


There is also a matching Truss rod cover with Malachite inlay. The cover itself is made from Queens Ebony to match the fingerboard. You can see it sitting on the rear cavity cover which is made from Australian Blackwood.


I'll post more pics of this guitar as the build progresses.

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Another build I have in the workshop at the moment is a SS6 for Kade.

This one features a full fingerboard space scene which has inlaid Rosewood, Cocobolo, Bocote, Black Limba, Paua shell, Black Mother Of Pearl, Gold MOP, White MOP, Abalone and Malachite.

Here is a progress shot, but there is still a lot more work until this board is finished.


The body of Kade's SS6 has an African Walnut top, Flamed Maple center, African Mahogany and American Ash body with Indian Rosewood stringers.

Action shot:


Fresh off the mill, lots more handwork to be done:


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This is going to be fun to watch. I gotta find some popcorn.


Thanks for following, I appreciate it.

Yesterday my new jointer arrived so I'll be able to move on with the neck progress for these two builds

The new jointer is a updated version of my old one I sold at xmas, however this has a helical (spiral) cutter head. All I can say is, spiral cutters, where have you been my whole life! So much win with this upgrade. Not only is it smoother to pass timber over, it's much, much quieter and such a nice clean cut. Definitely worth spending the extra dollars.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The butt pic. See how the book matched Ash creates a V at the center line:


The back: Maple neck meets Ash body after a bit of assistance from a rasp and sandpaper:


Figured Qld Maple neck hot off the press:


CNC action shot - Michaels SS6:


Michael's SS6, hardware test fit:


Kade's Space Scene inlay:


It's been a while since I got to tinker with this Acoustic project that I'm building for myself. Making this bridge is the only progress I've made as I've been busy with customer builds


Anyone who follows my facebooko page has seen the computer mockups I did last year of the New neck slot layout, well here it is in the flesh, two carbon fibre rods and a stainless steel 2 way truss rod. Michael's SS6 is about to get the neck and board mated as one!


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Few more updates.

Justin's heel carved, now in need of sanding:


Working on the back covers of the "Space Scene" guitar:


Side dot instal:


Justin's frets are in:


50 Shades of Luthery! - Kade's SS6 about to get it's radius:


Kade's frets are in, this guitar was fretted to the tunes of Slayer!!


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Man, you've got a lot going on in that fretboard. How much time you reckon you got in that? Even with the CNC that had to take some time fitting and filling all those inlays.



One thing about CNC is, it takes so long to program everything, that unless you plan on doing multiples of said thing you are better off doing it by hand. Nearly all of that inlay was done by hand. To be honest i don't know how long it took as I did it in bits and pieces, I should've paid more attention.

Another note on the CNC, I'm still doing most things by hand, I'm using it to rough radius, but then I finish the radius by hand. I'm using it to rough carve the neck, but I'm finishing the carve by hand. I'm using it to rough the heel etc on the back, but, you guessed it, I'm finishing it by hand. So for these tasks it's really only removing the bulk and I'm still doing the work by hand the same way I would as if I didn't have the CNC.

I am using to cut the bridge, pickup and neck pockets to completion. The underarm and belly carves to completion, but they still need rough sanding to get the router bit lines out of them. I am using it to drill the tuner holes and a few other little jobs, but things like the guitar profile etc I still have to finish with the bandsaw and rasp as I'm not cutting it all the way through to help with the flip program.

So yes, having a CNC is cool, but unless you know how to do everything by hand in the first place its no good to you. In fact it's harder to build by CNC than it is by hand only. It's also probably slower in many cases as well. It's also only as accurate as the program and mounting and that is easier to say than do.

For example, I ran a flip program and the rear cut was out by 6mm. That makes the item useless. There's a LOT of things that can make this happen. I started by checking all the mechanical things to see if it was loosing steps. I then went and rechecked the 3D models. No answers. What had happened was when I modified the flip program (drills guide holes) for some reason it moved my centerline 3mm, I didn't move it, the software did while I was editing something else and I didn't notice. To glance at it, it looks correct. That 3mm when you flip it upside down becomes 6mm. Yet it took me several days to find the problem. Things are slow on CNC and problems grow big. It's a dream that turns into your worst nightmare very quickly.

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The inlays were done by hand, really? The one in the first post (runes) too? These are fantastic, I love the idea of the planets with the wood texture creating the "surface" texture of the planet.

One more thing that I like in these guitars is the bolt-on heel thats carved with a seemless transition from neck to body. For some reason I never saw that done before (though I must have missed it..), but to me this is how it should be done and I am myself gravitating in a similar direction. Or maybe its not really possible without shifting two bolts to be under the neck pickup? Thats another thing I like about the heel solution, I hadn't noticed it at first.

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The cavity of the runes inlay was cut completely by cnc, the cavity of the space scene was partially cut by cnc, but only a couple of the inlay pieces themselves were cnc, only three of the planets (there's about 160 planets on that board) were cnc cut and the visor for the astronaut was cnc cut. That is it.

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Huh. I never even noticed it was a bolt on. The vast majority of his stuff is neck through, and this one is disguised as one as well from the front. Goes to show you see what you expect to see.


When I started the CNC process I decided to take the opportunity to overhaul a lot of my design features. My cavities were long overdue. It was time for some new top carves, it was time for tighter pickup cavities, it was time I finally sorted my headstock out, I went from top to bottom and rethought everything and as part of this I've never been happy with my bolt on's, so I figured it was time to really put the time into making a bolt on that is "mine".

I looked at pics of every all access heel I could see but didn't like any of them for me, I liked how my neck thru carve looked and felt, so I started there and worked out how I could merge the two. I had no choice but to use the set neck style tang so I could delete pretty much the entire heel and still have something to bolt to. It was tricky working out the right balance to keep enough meat in the right spots and I'm pretty sure I've done it. The ones I mocked up felt solid and these two also feel solid, but as with anything time will tell. There's more meat there than a lot of big name set necks out there so I don't foresee any issues.

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Yea this heel design is really something special. I was thinking that going in this direction without redesigning the heel I'd be left with just 2 screws in the end .. I have to look into this more as I actually prefer the idea of having the neck detachable so I mostly build bolt-ons

As long as it doesn't look like mine then it's no skin off my nose!

It's not like flush joints is a new concept, it just doesnt get used much in bolt on guitar heels as everyone is so used to looking at the chunky 1950's style fender heels. A lot has changed over the last 65 years, except maybe fender.

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I've been tinkering with the acoustic a little bit more. Had a shot at the heel joint:





Also more coats of oil on these, light sanding in between coats:


Also starting another build!

Black Limba body, Indian Rosewood neck and a New Guinea Ebony fingerboard (Cameroon Ebony in first pic):



Dry fit of the Paua Abalone inlays, the shell is handcut, the pockets are CNC cut:



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Gotta love abolone.

I'll bet you're dying to hear how that acoustic ends up sounding.

Question: What oil do you use to finish your guitars with, and do you let a film build or do you let it soak for a half hour or so and then wipe the excess back off?


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