Our Last Time, Except For One

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Long-time readers of this site will recall my ill-fated MelodyBurner project. We had a great product, great publicity, strong enthusiasm from the customer base, and the potential for some major-name celebrity endorsements. The only problem was this: my partner in the project, Chris, didn’t want to do it. So the MelodyBurner thing is done. If you have one of the guitars, you’re a lucky S.O.B.

Between December of 2011 and September of 2015, I commissioned six guitars from Chris in addition to the MelodyBurners. I sold two of them and retained two for my own collection. Those of you who are particularly adept at math will notice that two plus two does not equal six, and you’d be right. There were two guitars that I ordered back in August of 2012 that just never showed up. I let Chris slide on this because he was (supposed to be) busy with MelodyBurners. Once that project ended, I lost my patience and called in my marker.

This past weekend, my two guitars arrived. One of them is kind of a mess; it’s unfinished and will require some major re-work by another shop to make right. The other one is the guitar you see above. There’s kind of an interesting story behind it, which I’ll share after the jump.

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About four years ago, Chris did a hollowbody replica guitar for somebody that required a solid wood rim with maple sides and a walnut center. The only way to make such a thing for an 18″ hollowbody guitar is to glue up two big pieces of maple to a walnut center strip, creating a square that is about 20″ by 20″, and then route the body out of the center. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of wasted wood in that process. The biggest piece of that wasted wood was a maple/walnut/maple sandwich that was basically the inside outline of an 18″ hollowbody guitar.

I arrived at his shop on the day that he was going to throw that piece of wood away. “Dude,” I said, “that looks like it could be a great Les Paul Special body.” I convinced him to build it into a guitar for me by adding a three-piece laminated neck. I then ordered a custom fretboard for it featuring the symbols of the various planets. My idea here was to create a sort of Seventies Les Paul that would have been at home on the bandstand for Earth, Wind, and Fire.

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Chris dawdled with this thing for more than three years before finally handing it over. It bears all the signs of a last-minute rush job, particularly with the finish which is somewhere between “lazy” and “deliberately bad”, but I don’t care.

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Seeing the completed article justifies my original idea. It ended up costing a lot more than the $800 budget we’d originally set, but these things happen.

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I’d specified a Gibson headstock, but Chris decided to save a buck (or ninety) and use the brass O’Dee logos that I’d commissioned during the MelodyBurner project. Which is fine, because the logo is a collaboration between my friends Ryan and Carl to my specs.

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The pickups were the first-ever P-90 patterns built by Sheptone. They are now regular production items but mine are the prototypes. They sound great. The whole thing sounds good, although the intonation is a bit, ahem, vintage.

Does the final product justify the four-year wait, all the expense, and the hassle? Probably not. It’s just a guitar. But I’m happier now that I have it in my possession. I think the word here is “closure”, even if I don’t believe in the idea of closure. A project guitar, from a project friend. Everybody’s okay in the end. And if the story didn’t go quite the way I wanted it to, that’s on me, isn’t it?

13 Replies to “Our Last Time, Except For One”

  1. One Leg at a Time

    I think the project is worth it. You said yourself that you are happier now that you have it in your possession. The guitar is gorgeous work, despite the indifferent finish.

    I love the fretboard; but I would love it more if it included Pluto.

  2. DirtRoads

    I am a woodworker, and although I am a patient man, I haven’t the patience to build a guitar. On the other hand, I own 7 of them. One I bought in pieces off eBay, and assembled with various parts from StewMac. I call her Sadie.

    So I think I “get” the whole “is it worth it?” not being a valid question. All guitars have a soul of some sort, except possibly the cheap Chinese knock-offs. And I personally could never justify buying a multi-thousand dollar guitar because I just couldn’t make it sound that good. They do, however, make me sound better. 🙂

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Ha — no way I will ever answer that question on the public record.

      Let’s say “too many”. 🙂

  3. Ark-med

    There’s stuff that I’ve accumulated (and tossed) that you’d call frivolous, spending sums totting up enough to get a new Porsche; yet the proceeds from which — if auctioned today — might get you a brown, manual, 23-year-old Honda wagon w/o AC and a musty interior redolent of a “doobious” past.

    And yet.

  4. -Nate

    I couldn’t play the Guitar if my life depended on it but I do know the value and satisfaction/sorrow of completing a project .

    Kudos Jack , it looks very sharp .



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