04/28/2009 @ 06:10 AM: April has been a productive month for custom guitars. After a relatively uneventful winter, I saw to completing two longstanding projects plus a couple others. One of those extended projects was this, Jeremy's Red Sparkle Ash Strat.
Built for my very good friend and former business partner Jeremy Ylvisaker, this guitar also served a practical role as the final buyout on our once jointly owned recording studio. Jeremy and I collaborated on many studio recordings over the years, and for about ten years we occupied two spaces and co-owned a large collective of gear together. In 1995, both of us in our early 20s, we combined our respective home-based studios and took a loan to buy a wealth of new equipment. We set up shop in Jeremy's place in St. Louis Park and adopted his existing name Greenhouse Studios. We stayed there until late 1999 when we moved into a new space in Bloomington, called Soliton. The new studio stayed operational until 2008, though Jeremy officially left the business and space for good in 2006. I'd always wished to maintain some sort of project studio whereby I could keep recording my own music and the music of others, so it was agreed I would buy Jeremy out. About a year ago Jer suggested we not even worry about the remaining amount I owed him--a relatively small but still significant amount. I told him that wasn't agreeable on my end, and he in turn suggested a custom AT guitar as the means of final buyout. I'd built several custom guitars at that point and had started to think about other players whose hands I'd like to put a guitar in; ironically enough, Jeremy was the first person I'd thought of just a short time earlier. If there was ever someone who would appreciate a custom guitar it was him. So needless to say it was a very easy agreement to make.
Jeremy had been impressed with my Blue Sparkle Ash Strat and asked for a similar guitar only in red. When discussing pickguard options he suggested tortoise shell, which at first seemed like an odd combination. We talked about other details a bit--the tremolo was to float so as to allow bends up as well as down, and the neck would be all maple--but otherwise Jer asked that I simply make it how I would like it. One thing I pride myself on considerably with regard to my custom guitars is the playability factor; the guitars I make are assembled with extremely careful attention paid to comfort, feel, tone, and durability. I like guitars that present ease of play and that don't carry any unnecessary functionality issues. I'm also incredibly picky about tuning stability, thus I consider very carefully the bridge, tuners, nut (a bone nut in this case, carved by my very trusted tech friend Ted Vig), and string trees, and ultimately the guitar has to be able to withstand hard playing but always find its way back to "zero." And so Jeremy's guitar is a combination of high quality parts and many of my favorite things--an oil finished maple neck, double humbuckers (absolutely my favorite combination of pickups) with a coil tap option for single coil sounds, and Schaller tuners.
This guitar was essentially completed in September last year, but a few issues, mostly related to the pickguard, kept me from declaring it officially done until they were finally resolved recently. In the end I opted to simply replace the pickguard with a new one rather than fight with all the issues the other one presented. The accompanying funny story is that while removing the pickups and controls to swap to the new pickguard, I heard a metallic "clink" as something fell into the guitar body control cavity route. The fallen item was in fact my favorite Dremel tool bit which had gone missing right about the same time I first assembled this guitar last fall. It had magnetically attached itself to the bottom of the neck pickup, and had I not opted to switch out the pickguard who knows what kind of ventures it would have eventually gone on.
Twin Cities musicians know Jeremy well for the countless bands he's played in over the years (you'd run out of fingers and toes if you attempted to count them all). He's currently involved in two of his most successful projects to date--as guitarist with Andrew Bird and as vocalist/guitarist/leader of Alpha Consumer. Whether this guitar will find its way onto work with either of those bands (or any others) remains to be seen; nonetheless, I'm damn proud to present this axe to one of my oldest friends and one of the best musicians I've ever known.
Pictures of this guitar in progress, along with my other guitar projects, can be found in the photos section of my MySpace page: www.myspace.com/andrewthomassolomusic.
Body: Mighty Mite Solid Ash; Red Sparkle Paint; Poly Finish (Factory)
Neck: AllParts SRO; C-Shape Profile; 12" Radius; 1 5/8" Bone Nut, Jumbo Frets (22); Graph Tech String Trees; Tru-Oil/Wax Finish
Pickups: GFS Dream 90 Single Coil (P-90) Bridge & Neck w/ Chrome Covers
Electronics: Alpha 500K Volume & Tone Potentiometers w/ Red Strat Style Knobs; 3-Way Pickup Selector Switch w/ Red Tip; Switchcraft Jack w/ Chrome Strat Style Jack Plate
Hardware: Chrome Modern Style 2-Point Tremolo; Schaller M6La Mini Chrome Tuners w/ White Pearloid Buttons; White/Black/White/Tortoise Pickguard; Black/White/Tortoise Tremolo Cover; Chrome Neck Plate; Chrome Strap Buttons