Early Days

The Collection

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Jazzy Stuff











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  In the Workshop.
  Hofner :  New Custom Archtop.
  1.  A new Body - a new Neck!
  Hofner supplied a new German hand made archtop body and a new John Lennon neck.   Both are perfect  -  the body has the usual high quality, straight grain Spruce top with a gently flamed Maple back and sides.   The JL neck allows me to create a modern style, short scale guitar.
  2.  Modifying the neck and body.
  The 60's "Art Deco" headstock will will define the overall style of the finished guitar.  
  Frets are all good but will need a precise fret-dress later.
  The John Lennon neck is a little "chunky" for me.   I prefer a more slender profile.    It has the truss-rod adjustment at the heel.   I shall need a long truss-rod spanner for this guitar.
  Checked and all working fine.
  Re-profiled and ready for finished sanding.
  Sanded ready for spraying.
  I prefer to play small body jazz archtops these days  -  much more comfortable and balanced.
  Just a few minimal corrections to the arch contours.
  Trial fit  -  cant wait to see how it will look.  
  I want to use the same neck set, pickup height and bridge height as La Provençale.    The tailpiece is for a Jazzica but is too long so needs to be shortened to suit a 24.5"  scale.
  Nice heel joint.   I am pleased with this.
  3.  Thinking about the design and choosing all the right parts.

I have had it in mind to build this guitar for many years so there has been plenty of time to think it through,  get the design right, and source the parts.

It will be my final Hofner Custom archtop -  the guitar that Hofner never built  -  a smaller sister to The Jazz Café  (see #058).

The Shadow AZ pickup on The Jazz Café and on La Provençale are so good that I shall also use one on this guitar although I plan to fit an AZ 49,  the ring mounted version, coupled with a Schatten thumbwheel volume control hidden beneath the pickguard to match the Jazz Cafe!These AZ pickups are so rich and mellow that I don't want t add a Tone control.   I prefer to let the pickup speak for itself and set up my Amp for any small tonal adjustments. 

The Art Deco logo on the headstock will be reflected in the design of a new, hand carved pickguard and tailpiece.   I have a choice of Rosewood with a strong straight dark grain which should look good with the fingerboard or I may select Ebony to match the pickup and headstock.    Perhaps I will make one of each and see how they look.

What I am aiming for with this guitar is a full voiced jazzy instrument without f-holes (to suppress any tendency to feedback - always a consideration with the small body hollow guitars).

  4.  Back from spraying and ready to build.
  Nice, new clean carpet for my newly sprayed guitar.   I specified a cellulose finish so I have to be careful now!
  It is always exciting to reach this stage  -  a brand new guitar ready to be built.    It was sprayed for me, very nicely,  by Martin Harrison of Hania Guitars.
  5.  Ready to start the Build.
  Firstly,  I like to make a jig, tailor made for the guitar.
  Glued and screwed, and lined with carpet, the guitar sits exactly firm in the jig and can't move.   
  The jig is heavy enough to keep the guitar steady and I can move it around my bench to enable me to work on the guitar from any angle.
  Care and precision is required to centralise all components.
  Getting the pickup right is critical.
  The "cut-line" has been scored careful with a scalpel to stop the cellulose chipping.
  First, a pilot hole to look inside with a light and mirror.    Don't want to cut any braces!
  Then, the precision cut (by hand)
  I always seal the cut edge with hand applied cellulose to seal the grain and to reinforce the cellulose around the cut.
  Now I can select the most appropriate bridge.
  5.  Getting the playing dynamics right.    It's all about the Nut and the Bridge!
  Getting the fingerboard and frets exactly right is critical to the playability and musicality of any guitar,  but I always pay equal attention to the accuracy and fit of the Nut and the Bridge.   These components control the string dynamics and make all the difference in getting the best quality vibrations possible.

So first I want to concentrate on getting the string dynamics right.    Then I can deal with the playing dynamics.

  Hofner fitted the Nut and it is good (after all there is a zero fret and I must get that right, but later).    The body has a pronounced arch, however,  so I shall need to carve a new Bridge.    I have decided to modify a new Jazzica Bridge.

So, firstly,  I must be able to string up the guitar.   Time to make some choices about Tuners and Tailpiece.     Tuners will be Schaller M6 but I need to modify the Jazzica tailpiece (above) to fit the reduced scale length and smaller body. 

  6.  Making the hand-carved pickguard and tailpiece.
  This is the phase I love.  This is where I can express myself,  where I can create something unique.   Here are the options:
  Left:  a conventional Short scale Hofner Tailpiece,  middle:  the Jazzica Ebony Tailpiece which was the donor for the Gold tailpiece I have modified and, right: the modified golden Jazzica tailpiece sitting in the routed Rosewood blank.
  The headstock and pickup will be black and the neck is Rosewood.  I have a clear idea how I want the finished guitar to look but I could make the tailpiece and pickguard in Ebony, to emphasise the black, or I could select Rosewood to harmonise with the neck.
  OK,  decision made.  This is the same Rosewood fingerboard blank I used for carving the tailpiece and  pickguard  for The Jazz Cafe.   The idea of Brother and Sister guitars really appeals to me.   I am very happy with that outcome!   A baby Jazz Café!    I like it!!
  Back to - In the Workshop