As I play my very expensive PRS Johnny Hiland – I found myself thinking about the first musical instrument I ever owned – a guitar. I made it myself. Back then, parts for guitars were hard to find, so I had to be very creative.
It was certainly an easy to make homemade musical instrument – but it took many weeks of my time. All it needed was care and attention to detail – any home hobbyist would easily have the skills to do what I did…
The body was made from an old scrap post-war kitchen table. I copied the shape from an early Fender catalog of the Stratocater model, and scaled it up using graph paper. I cut it out very slowly using a fret saw (I broke many blades!).
The neck was a real challenge. Even back then, I knew all about bowing – and needed a very mature and stable piece of lumber… Lucky for me, the kitchen table legs were square mahogany – so I cut one in half lengthwise from top to bottom, and using my dad’s set of chisels, carved an approximate shape.
Several trips to my local music shop with a hidden tape measure gave me some basic dimensions.
I knew that the fret relationship was logarithmic, and with careful measurements and a metal two foot ruler the job was done. Boosey and Hawkes ordered me some fret wire – and I was on my way!
At the time I had started my training as an apprentice electronic engineer – so the electrics were fairly easy to fabricate. I bought a strip of 1/8th metal bar and magnetised it with an old and large magnet I had as a young boy. I made a plastic bobbin and glued the magnetic pole pieces into place with araldite.
I seem to remember I made the body of the pickups with plastic strip glued together. The scratch-plate was white plastic, with the controls (1 meg taper for the volume, and 500K linear for the tone control with a suitable capacitor for the top cut tone control.
The bridge was made filing and drilling out from a brass block, along with the string bridge pieces. The tuners I bought, and I sprayed the body using a pinky-red colour. I must have used 4 or 5 car spray cans.
I remember making music on that old lump of wood, and the first tune I learnt was Apache and Peter Gunn.
I sure wish I still had that guitar today….