Lite Brite Acoustic Electric Guitar

My dad (who taught me the basics in all of my enterprises) had a junky acoustic lying around with a broken top. I had gotten the idea of a light up guitar in my head at some point, and asked if I could use it as an experiment. Thus began the Lite Brite guitar.

Originally, I thought about drilling a grid of holes (like a Lite Brite screen) into the top of the guitar. I realized that:

1. That would be a lot of work, and it wouldn’t turn out well. Some holes wouldn’t be perfect and wouldn’t hold Lite Brite pegs well. Geometrically, the placement wouldn’t be perfect and it would look sloppy.

2. Drilling so many holes in the top of the guitar would destroy the bracing underneath and render the already cracked top utterly destroyed; there would be no support for the tension of the strings.

So, I decided to get rid of most of the top and create an acoustic electric with an adjustable archtop piezo bridge. The top of the guitar would be replaced by actual Lite Brite screens. The bridge isn’t even in contact with the screens. I devised other “creative” means of supporting the string tension.

And that’s what I did.

Acoustically, there isn’t much sound. Plug in through the Fishman piezo system, and it sounds like a million bucks. I was very careful to place the bridge correctly for intonation. It’s a build that took some quirky problem-solving at all stages of the process, but it works! The final guitar features:

*LED interior lighting
*Fretlord Fretlightz LED at the nut
*Paua abalone position markers
*Fishman piezo pickup / control panel / tuner
*Grover tuning machines
*Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish
*Rosewood fretboard
*Rosewood bridge
*TUSQ saddle
*Camel bone nut
*Vintage Lite Brite screens
*Vintage Lite Brite modified box art on back of guitar

One problem I thought of later on: usually during a performance, there will be strong lights on the performer; this will mostly negate the charming Lite Brite effect. If you could get a nice dim coffee house, you might be able to really create a “moment.” Regardless, I like the idea and will try to find the opportunity to play or sell it.

Here is some footage of the guitar at work:

Steampunk SG

This is a custom Steampunk SG that I made using a knock off body and neck. Everything is handpainted and handworked into place. The pickguard is handcarved wood. The frets are scalloped beyond the 12th fret. It’s definitely the best Steampunk electric I’ve done, and  it has a bridge position H.S. Gretsch Filtertron with 1 volume and 1 tone. Grover tuners.


Custom Gold Leaf Strat

This is the homemade Gold Leaf Strat that I built this spring. I remember going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame about 10 years ago and seeing this guitar.  Knowing nothing about gold leaf, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at. Now I am.
Fender designed this guitar for Mr. Eric Clapton. The Fender Custom Shop will make it for you for about $6,000. I made it for less than that, and it was a pain in my… wrist. I sought out a custom-wired pickguard that simulates Eric’s wiring with Gold Lace pickups and specially designed tone controls. The inside of this thing is like a computer! And the sound is incredible because of it. Honestly, this is one of the first guitars I built to sell that I’m actually tempted to keep.
I put a V profile Fender neck on- the same kind of neck preferred by Clapton and used both on Blackie and the Gold Leaf Strat. It’s beautiful birdseye maple, and I did a vintage amber finish over it.
This guitar features ALL gold Fender hardware, not foreign knockoffs, FENDER. (Even though these Fender parts are made internationally.) IN ANY CASE, this is the good stuff: bridge, strap pins, neckplate, pickguard, backplate, string trees, and Gold Kluson tuners.
I did a lacquer finish over the body for a sleek, polished look. You can tell from the (poor) photographs that this thing glows.

1960’s Gretsch Anniversary Model – Phase II: Coloring

After completing Phase One, I ran over the body quickly with 400 grit, 800 grit, and finally 2000 grit paper to get rid of some irregularities in the remaining paint. I think someone had already tried repainting this guitar and did an awful job because the inside of the guitar is covered in this gross bluish overspray. It’s a shame, because he/she sprayed over the original label too. Also, this junk probably deadens the vibration somewhat, so I will figure out a way to get rid of it. Maybe some steel wool affixed to a probing arm of some sort. I tried using some MIXOL tinting paste to color the exposed maple of the Gretsch. I was originally going to use some high quality dyes, but I thought I’d try this first because it was cheaper and the description seemed to be right. This stuff worked out really well. It covers enough, but allows enough grain to show through. The darkened olive tint still works on the back and sides, but I used a lime green tint to get that funky green on the top. Also, there was a chip on the upper right corner of the headstock which I’m gluing a piece into, hence the blue tape.  See Phase Three, the completed project.

1960’s Gretsch Anniversary Model: Phase I

This guitar is basically my dream project: taking a vintage Gretsch archtop and restoring it to its former grandeur. This particular model was apparently a step down from the nicer 6120’s, etc., which means that it isn’t nearly as valuable. This means I can drill holes without guilt.


The original colors of this guitar (as seen above) were so heinous that a previous owner, in a fit of rage and disgust, stripped all of the paint and parts off, leaving the guitar for dead in its case. That weird light green vs. olive green? It’s certainly distinctive. And as a solid paint job? It’s weird, but not interesting enough to me. I want to see some grain. Since the guitar has been cosmetically abused, I will take some liberties.


I’m staining the natural wood approximate colors. I’m going to sand the body down slightly but leave many of the dark patches of color as a relic of what the guitar had been. The only significant physical alteration I will have to make will be drilling a hole for another TV Jones classic pickup to fit in. I will use 1 pickup selector switch, 1 tone knob, and I will drill a hole in the large pickguard to install a volume knob (without drilling into the guitar top). This might seem like a bad place for a volume knob as it may be hit if the guitar were being strummed, but I think it will be handy for quick volume changes and interesting technical effects. My picking / strumming style isn’t wild and loose, so accidental volume shifts should not be an issue.

See Phase Three, the completed project, here.

Retro Bandito Fender Stratocaster with Scalloped Neck

This is a unique guitar that I put together using ALL Fender parts. It has a vintage Western theme with an awesome handmade leather pickguard (that alone cost me over $100) AS WELL AS brand new Fender Samarium Cobalt noiselss pickups installed. Check out the specs:
* Relic’ed American Fender Strat body – check the photo. The serial # indicates it was made in February / March of 2000. Light wear applied to the finish overall, heavier wear over some of the contours to simulate aging and a lot of playing.
* Licensed Fender Strat PROFESSIONALLY SCALLOPED maple fingerboard neck. Before I had ever played a scalloped neck, I was concerned that this may cause tuning issues (by stretching the string too far, as the wood is carved out lower). After playing some scalloped necks, I have not experienced any tuning issues, even when playing chords. It really allows you to grab a hold of the strings for bending during solos and gives you better control. I love it!
* Chrome Fender / Schaller tuners- Avoids tuning issues that some people blame on the standard Kluson tuners.
* NEW Noiseless Fender Samarium Cobalt single coil pickups means no more annoying Strat hum in any position! Sound good? You bet it does.
* Chrome Fender tremolo bridge.
* Hand-made black and white LEATHER pickguard. This is one of the coolest things about this guitar: this pickguard is out of this world. If you are into rockabilly, the old west, 50’s era themes, this really sells it. The pictures hardly do it justice. The detail is phenomenal.
*”Bandito” neckplate- A very cool custom image on the plate that completely goes with the Western theme
*Matador pinup girl on the tremolo cavity cover- Again, that 1950’s era Western theme… it’s the details that really make a guitar stand out!
* All of the hardware is of Fender origin, including the tremolo bar.