Commissioned Millennium Falcon REBEL BASS Guitar

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

This is my second custom Millennium Falcon-based guitar. My original one was the first functional guitar that had been posted on the internet- and seeing my work had led to a commission from Australia. This time, it would be a bass, or as some people (as many have now been building Falcon guitars) call it, “THE REBEL BASS.” Which is awesome.

I gathered the parts, built the interior slightly differently, but still with a strong maple core. The ultimate recipient of the guitar (who currently is unaware of what’s coming, as it’s a gift) apparently is also a fan of the Hofner Ignition (McCartney Beatles violin) bass, which he doesn’t have. Once I learned this, I went after 2 Hofner bass pickups and a control panel.  Hopefully, this fills the void in a very different way. The best thing about using this with the Falcon is that the control panel features a number of switches, one of them including “SOLO” as an option. After some fine etching and the application of black paint, this is the only Rebel Bass with a “HAN SOLO” option. Please see the pics.

Using the Hofner Ignition style control panel, I had to decide where to mount it. I decided to replace one of the side panels on the ship to preserve the visual aspect of the Falcon. The retro panel might’ve looked a little too wacky on top; placing it discretely on the side, while not truly “handy” seemed more tasteful. So, you can see that “I’ve made a lot of custom modifications myself.”

The guitar features brass inserts in the neck to tighten the joint between neck and body, a TUSQ (simulated bone) nut instead of the stock plastic piece, and LED strips in the hyperdrive that accompany the LEDs that originally came mounted in this POTF2 edition Falcon body that I picked up.

The peg head has a simple design based on the ship’s body details. The neck plate has a hand painted “Travis Stevens Nerd Crafts Rebel Bass” logo with a comic-esque rendering of the Falcon in flight. The ship itself has been detailed for better movie accuracy. I was even able to keep the landing struts AND the original handle this time. All of the lights are powered by two C batteries (as came standard on the original and POTF2 toy) and the LED strips in the back by 2 9 volts strapped conveniently into the cockpit for quick replacement.

Thanks for the commission, and I hope it goes over well!

See my original Millennium Falcon guitar here.

Zombie Apocalypse Strat Renovation

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

This is the zombie strat I recently renovated. It features:
Seymour Duncan Blackouts active pickups
Fender locking tuners
blocked tremolo (a la Clapton)
mini-toggle boost switch (connected to jumpers on middle and neck pickup)
Henessee strap locks
machined brass inserts in neck joint
distressed finish
bullet casings
zombies breaking through barricade
bullet shell position markers
blood spatter pickguard
Walking Dead homage back plate
apocalypse-battered headstock
 maple neck
3 joined piece body (alder or ash)

Pittsburgh Penguins Strat

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I was recently commissioned to create a Pittsburgh Penguins themed guitar…

Based on the money invested, I bought a used Strat to renovate. The final specs include:

*Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish
*Tinted neck, finished as above
*Custom peghead artwork
*90’s era 3d Penguins logo pickguard
*Simple gold matching paintjob
*Special shielding and rewiring- according to
Seriously… this is an amazing mod. With standard Strat pickups, you get rid of your 60cycle hum!!
*TBX tone control installed
*String Saver Saddles
*Fender locking tuners (as used on the nicest U.S. made models)

Lord of the Rings Strat: “One does not simply ROCK into Mordor…”

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

This guitar was commissioned for my best friend’s brother (by his fiancee). She was able to sneak his old Squire Strat away so that I could revamp it. I had previously created a Middle Earth map on an electric bass for my friend (his brother).

This was a matter of repainting and refinishing the body; I don’t think I replaced hardware or messed with the electronics. The concept I eventually came up with was Sam and Frodo walking into Mordor, looking across the plains of Gorgoroth at Mount Doom, with Barad Dur and Sauron looming in the distance. Some Nazgul fly above and Gollum sits on a rocky outcrop waiting for the right chance to strike. I did some 3D carving that was enhanced by later painting; I etched the entire script from the Ring around the perimeter of the guitar. I airbrushed the sky and plains.

For the peghead, I did a relief carving of an eagle fighting with a fell beast. Around the perimeter I wrote the Dwarvish text from the Lonely Mountain map in the Hobbit. (Not completely appropriate for the scene, but it looks good.)

In addition, I ordered some “Eye of Sauron” eyes on eBay to make custom knobs with some cut down Strat knobs and Sculpey. Finally, I inscribed Tolkein’s symbol at the 12th fret.

Looking Back: The Original Millenium Falcon Electric Guitar

A few years ago I saw a picture online. It was a Bass guitar neck stuck on a vintage Star Wars Millenium Falcon playset. I looked at it and saw the challenge posted below the image – daring someone to build a functional version. I decided to do it.

After gathering the parts, it took a few weekends to put everything together. As this was one of the first major guitar projects I had done in a while, my wife became acquainted with “the mad scientist.” The guitar was built with a low budget just to see if something reasonably playable could be made. I opted for a single. coil-sized humbucker for best sound quality and the least “damage” to the Falcon itself. I even installed super bright LEDs in the hyperdrive (and on the front mandibles) to really capture the Falcon’s essence and gave it a movie-accurate paint job.

The peghead of the guitar featured a “light speed” paint motif with a Micro Machines Millenium Falcon serving as the truss rod cover.

It has been a few years, and I’m suddenly realizing I didn’t actually put the guitar in my guitar blog. After Cole Stryker posted the original photos on things really took off… unexpectedly too. I was interviewed on live TV in California.

…and I’ve seen a number of awesome Falcon guitars that followed. I remember – there was one guy criticizing mine because it had 1 pickup. He had more than one, so he claimed it was clearly superior; his guitar also had Falcon parts like the radar dish glued on where they didn’t belong, no paint job, no lights; functional, but no style. After that I’ve seen many that are incredible, with much higher quality parts and attention to detail, and the end result is that much better. I’ll probably do another sometime, and try to figure out how to up the ante. I still think my movie-accurate paint job holds up to the competition, at the very least.

From that point, I’ve built more guitars and gotten more exposure, not always quite as dramatic, but still fun. I hope to keep building, and hopefully to receive more commissions. Here are the original pictures, and the original (AND TERRIBLE) video I made for Urlesque.

Han Solo in Carbonite Electric Guitar

This started as pieces of maple, mahogany, and basswood and now is a guitar body.

Mr. Ben Moody (Evanescence, We Are the Fallen) owns this axe. I never ever, ever expected to have a guitar end up in the hands (or on the wall) of a professional musician or as a feature in Guitar World.  My thanks to Rich and Kelly (friends that bought the guitar for Ben)!

1960’s Gretsch Anniversary Model – Phrase 3: Completion

I finally finished a project that has been near and dear to my heart: this early 60s Gretsch Anniversary. If you look in prior posts you’ll see that I had bought a derelict Single Anniversary that someone had unfortunately abused severely. All the paint was stripped off; the back even showed damage from a disc sander that had been used in the process. Some bozo had spraypainted the guitar an ungodly turquoise at some point, the evidence of which was all over the interior of the guitar, completely covering the label inside (meaning I don’t know how old it actually is). I had originally done some research that pinpointed it between 1961 and 1964 based on its Rosewood fretboard. That being said, the binding and structure of the guitar were entirely intact. The neck just needed to be reset, and so, I began the process of bringing this vintage axe back to life.

To have a guitar of that age and quality in such condition was kind of freeing; I really couldn’t go wrong unless I did something completely tasteless: like a Pokemon-themed guitar, or something like that. The Anniversaries were a budget model for Gretsch anyway, so no guilt. I went with something approximating the Cadillac-inspired original paint scheme and added a waterslide decal similar to another Gretsch Anniversary (that had its neck reset as well) online. All in all, I…

1. a. Steamed out the neck
1.b. Cleaned up the old glue
1.c. Rebuilt the joint on the guitar body and neck

2. Carefully reset the neck (not a job for an amateur on any high quality guitar, but I understood the basic concepts, and again, this was in such rough shape that it was a good learning opportunity)

3. Fixed chipping and damage to the peghead

4. Filled nicks and sanding damage on the guitar

5. Reamed out the tuner holes for Sperzel Locking tuners, filled old tuner screw holes

6. Glued and clamped the peghead that was starting to split

7. Cleaned up the binding (sanding it evenly, regluing specific areas)

8. Cut a second pickup hole

9. WEIRD CHANGE: Installed brass inserts into the bottom of the fretboard end over the body. I actually drilled screwholes through the neck block (after CAREFULLY checking the interior dimensions) and bolted the neck into place. Not conventional, but I wanted to add all possible support and stability. The neck was also glued and screwed into place by the traditional method as seen on the original model.

10. At the same time as step 9, glued the neck in (hide glue *IMPORTANT… adjustable with heat) and used the original screw in the neck block.

11. Reglued heel cap and binding near the neck joint

12. WEIRD CHANGE: Older Gretsches have been studied; they’ve found “trestle bracing,” which was a unique way of supporting the top of the guitar. Two parallel pieces of wood span a portion of the top, connecting to the back of the guitar. These pieces run right underneath the ends of the bridge and were found to contribute to a better tone. In my guitar, there were two parallel pieces of wood, but they did not connect to the guitar back. I carefully fit 3 maple pieces under each brace and glued them into place. After doing this, it occurred to me that using pear wood would have been a better idea; violin makers use this wood for such purposes as it is resistant to changes in climate. If the guitar starts pushing itself apart from the inside, I’ll have a good idea why. I really don’t think it will.

12. Masked binding and primed guitar

13. Painted lighter top color

14. Masked top and painted darker back, side, and neck color

15. Dyed peghead veneer darker black

16. Relic’ed the paint job

17. Applied Vinyl sealer

18. Applied thin Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish

19. Applied the waterslide decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol decal solutions

20.  Went through the sanding and buffing process,  boring.

21. Installed hardware

22. Installed TV Jones classic humbuckers. Electronically, this guitar is wired as a Brian Setzer Hot Rod- a 3 way switch, 1 volume, and that’s it! No tone control other than the 3 way.

23. Ordered a flame maple pickguard on eBay that was made from a Gretsch template. It was just a piece of wood cut to the shape of the standard Gretsch pickguard. I wanted to do something flashier than the original Anniversary pickguard… that green plastic thing doesn’t do anything for me. I dyed the wood a deep reddish-brown mahogany color.

24. Designed a GRETSCH waterslide decal to  go on the pickguard to make it look authentic. I paid a seller on eBay to  print the waterslide decal in gold foil and mail it to me.

25. Polyurethaned the brown pickguard. Applied the GRETSCH decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol. Then polyurethaned it again for a sleek, factory look.

26. Installed pickguard… AND DONE.

There were many steps, and the guitar is not perfect; but, it is playing, looking, and sounding MUCH better.  100% better.

See Phase One and Phase Two posts for more background on the project.

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: