Pickguard Inlay

TK Smith

Inlay on guitars goes back almost as long as guitars have been made. Some people feel it’s vain to put your name on your guitar but I’ve never felt that way. While in high school, I worked at a machine shop and my first boss had his name neatly engraved on all of his hand tools and cases. A guitar or bass are tools, especially for working musicians so I think thats why I like inlaying a name or a custom design on them.

TK Smith

 I started doing inlayed pickguards for my guitars years ago before I ever considered doing it for other players. Pat Capocci was the first player to ask for it and it kind of snowballed from there.

TK Smith

I’m especially fond of the block letters done by Paul Bigsby and possibly a helper. All of our lettering is hand drawn and cut with my 1937 Delta Scroll Saw.

Bigsby-Keith Holter Steel Guitar with inlayed name plate

 Of course with custom builds, like most companies, we inlay our headstocks, fretboards and continue to do a lot of pickguards. I’m lucky to have artist Ernie Brooks in our shop who has taken over a lot of our inlay work and does an amazing job. We’ve taken hundreds of photos of some of the inlay done in my shop in the last few years. You can see many of them here and a few below.  Read The Rest

Edris House-Palm Springs

TK Smith

This past weekend was the opening of Palm Springs Modernism Week. When we first moved to the desert, this event was a little weekend show based around modernist vendors selling their wares at the convention center over one weekend. Now its turned into two weeks consisting of the show the first weekend, plus hundreds of lectures, house and building tours, fashion shows, music events and parties celebrating and educating on the mid century architects and architecture that have made Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley famous worldwide. TK and I always try to attend at least one event. If you don’t choose early, everything sells out.

By the time we thought of it this year, we were thrilled that the tour of the Edris House by architect E. Stewart Williams still had openings. We have driven by and photographed the outside of the house many times. Its one of our favorite mid-century homes in Palm Springs. E. Stewart Williams, his father and brother made up the firm of William’s, William’s & William’s, and were responsible for many of the architectually significant buildings in Palm Springs and the surrounding area, most notably, Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate in 1947.

The Edris House, designed in 1953 for Marjorie and William Edris from Seattle, appears to rise from the rocky landscape. Its a great example of William’s philosophy that architecture should appear that it comes from the earth rather than being placed on it. Everything in the house is original with the exception of the carpeting and furniture. With the materials used in construction, including knotless Doug Fir, glass and local stone, it suits the lot perfectly. Fortunately, the current owners have done a great job of preserving the original condition and in 2004, the Edris house was designated a “Historic Building” by the Palm Springs City Council so it will always be protected from alteration.

New tours have been added if you can get to the desert. Check the Modernism Week website to see whats still available. There are many photos of this amazing home out there, but its always fun to take our own. Here’s a few that TK took during the tour.

Change

TK Smith

If you’ve visited our site before, you may have noticed some changes around here. TK’s focus has shifted in the past four years from general fabrication to almost exclusively focusing on custom guitars, guitar parts and all that goes with the design and manufacturing process of these products. Therefore, we wanted our website to better reflect what our business is about today. With the help of our friend Ryan over at Atomic Industry and of course The Jalopy Journal, we’ve been able to do that. (Thanks Ryan!)

A few things that won’t change:

TK and team will continue using our vintage American made tools to fabricate the highest quality guitars and accessories, at times in our somewhat hillbilly methods, because we feel that made in America does matter and new is not always better. There are faster and cheaper ways to do things but that’s not who we are.

We will continue to share music from, and stories about some of the best players from today and yesterday, from all over the world, who continue to inspire us to be better at what we do and to keep practicing every day.

We will continue to share photos, stories and videos about architecture, art, cars, tools, other interests and the crazy and beautiful desert we live in because these are the things that make life interesting to us, and hope that you may find something interesting in these stories too. There really is no separation in our work/life so we share it all.

When you love what you do as much as TK does, it’s a gift to be able to go to a space everyday and create something with your hands that another guitar player gets to eventually enjoy for many years to come. You know the difference when you hold and play an instrument that has the soul of the maker in it. Thanks so much to everyone who stops by from time to time and for your comments and conversation!

Smith Jersey

TK Smith

We wanted to produce some new shirts this fall as we hope to do each year. We have new T’s on the way, and with fall/winter upon us, we decided to produce a heavier shirt inspired by vintage motorcycle wear.

Read The Rest

The Chambered Maple Pancake Guitar

TK Smith

I used to work with a grouchy old timer who referred to all flat-type guitars as pancakes. So until I come up with a better name, I’m calling these pancakes.

 This is the first of two guitars that I’ve recently built, loosely based on Deke Dickerson’s ‘’Jodie Pilliod’’ guitar built by P.A. Bigsby.

Frank ordered his with a 24.625’’ scale and features my C.A.R. pickups, custom vibrato arm and vibrato.

 A few photos…

TK Smith

TK Smith Guitar

TK Smith

TK Smith

TK Smith

TK Smith

Alexander Construction Co. Palm Springs, CA

TK Smith

We never get tired of driving around Palm Springs looking at mid-century architecture. Last week I was feeling un-inspired so once again, TK suggested we go take some photos of both the Twin Palms and Las Palmas neighborhoods. I don’t know if it’s the timeless beauty of the clean, simple architecture against the beautiful desert backdrop, or the thrill of standing in a strangers front yard taking photos of their house like a stalker, but  as always, it was a mood changer.

Read The Rest

The C.A.R. Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

At the end of last year, I had the privilege of working on a vintage Bigsby pole piece guitar pickup for Deke Dickerson. I’m not sure where he got it but it’s going on the “Butterball Paige” guitar that is currently being restored. The work that I did required the pickup to be fully disassembled. At that time I was able to take notes on how it was constructed, accurately take all the measurements of the magnets, bobbin, base plate and aluminum housing. I think it’s obvious that I’ve been a Bigsby nut for a long time now, so with all of this information, the next logical step was to make my own reproduction of this legendary guitar pickup.  Now I’m offering it for sale as the C.A.R. Pickup.

TK SMITH C.A.R. ROUTER SCHEMATIC

The first step was to make the wood patterns for the aluminum pickup housing and trim rings. (I’m offering the trim rings in two sizes at this time, a 1/8’’ flat one and a 7/16’’ raised one). Before I started I calculated how much aluminum shrinks in the casting process and added a few thousands for clean up and polishing to my measurements. I used some mahogany I had laying around to make the patterns. Then I found a source to make the magnets for me to the exact dimensions and material as the originals. All of the other parts (bobbin and base plate) I fabricate at my shop with my antique tools and somewhat hillbilly fabricating methods. The clean up and polishing of the cast aluminum pieces is also done at my shop so I can ensure a nice fit of the trim ring to the pickup housing.

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

TK Smith Pickup

It took a few months to get all this to happen but I finally got a few assembled and mounted on my Telecaster. It’s a great pickup that I’m completely happy with. Perfect for anyone playing traditional Jazz, Swing, Rockabilly, Travis picking or Blues. Mounted at the bridge position it’s perfect for that ‘’Grady Martin” sound. At the neck, it’s a great pickup for Jazz, Swing and Blues. It has that distinct hollow, wooden, almost buoyant tone that floats so well on top of what a good rhythm section is doing. Here is a quick demo of the C.A.R. Pickup at the bridge position.

Wood Grain Concrete Planter

TK Smith

Fortunately, TK hasn’t had time to work on any fabrication other than guitars lately, so when the owner of the “It House” wanted one of our Concrete Planters, he was happy to oblige. Even though it snowed in the desert last night, we’re already thinking about Spring, warm weather and what we want to accomplish in the yard this year!

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