Here’s the most recently shipped Smith Special. Michael had requested gold-plated hardware which took extra care while assembleing. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Its a great feeling and challenge when my customers ask for something that we haven’t done before. It keeps the work interesting and fun. Ernie, who works in the shop with me, did a great job on the inlay for both the top and bottom pickguards.
I only got a few photos of the guitar before it left the shop. Michael sent the last photo of his Smith Special in it’s new home with his set up. Its always fun to add an element of surprise to each build. You can see in his shot how we inlayed the word “custom” in the upper cutaway of the guitar. I hope Michael enjoys it for years to come.
Here’s a clip of Rodney Gene Jr. playing ‘Hot Guitar Rag’ by George Barnes on his recently finished Tele. Have a great weekend!
This is the first single cut Smith Special, obviously for Mark Barreca.
Below is Billy Pitman’s Kay with original finish. We made a new neck, pickguard, installed a set of my new Summertone pickups (available in our store soon), the guitar features a volume control for each pickup, a master tone and an out of phase switch.
We’ll post complete specs for both guitars soon.
Stewarts guitar arrived safely in the UK. We just got a clip of him playing some Grady Martin licks. It looks like its in good hands. Stewarts using Thomastik .012 flatwounds, a Tweed Bassman amp and an Alter Ego delay pedal.
Blake Wright, the publisher of online magazine Gearphoria, recently came by for a visit. It was a pleasure spending the morning talking shop with Blake and then of course, lunch at Pappy’s. Here’s what came out of it. Thanks Blake!
Jimmie found this unfinished new old stock Trini body on eBay a while back and sent it over for a neck, paint, pickups and hardware. He also said “do whatever you want” which made it a lot of fun and challenging at the same time.
I have always wanted to do a tobacco sunburst paint job and thought Jimmies guitar was the perfect candidate. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. The tailpiece is a vintage German made Hofner unit. To add something interesting, we made the cast aluminum banner in the shop to say “Custom”. I used my C.A.R. pickups, binding around the inlaid pick guard and also inlaid a small mother of pearl diamond at the back of the neck. In case anyone is wondering, the lower switch is an out of phase switch.
I had hoped to create a really classy custom instrument that would look right at home being played by such a class act. Here are a few photos of the process.
Just got this clip from Dan Nosovich in Australia using my C.A.R. pickup along with the note below. Nice break in my day.
“Mark aka @juniorjukewalters took this clip of us doing some Johnny Guitar Watson on my tele. Bridge pickup straight into a Bassman RI. I’ve been playing my own (dodgy) takes on rockabilly and instros on the tele in other bands but enjoyed how it went in these fellas.”
We’re lucky that many players and customers come through the Joshua Tree area on their way in or out of Los Angeles, and many come to play at our great neighborhood bar, Pappy and Harriet’s. When they do, we love having them come by the shop to hang out, play and talk guitars. But we get asked all the time if there is anyplace on the East coast that someone can see or play our guitars in person. We’re excited that now they can.
We just sent Smith Special #003 to TR Crandall Guitars in New York City. Located in the East Village, Tom Crandall and Alex Whitman have earned a reputation for providing some of the best repairs and restorations available, but also for creating a completely unique experience for musicians who stop by their shop. Not only can you hang out and play their well curated collection of vintage guitars, you’ll get an education about each ones history and what Tom has done to bring each instrument to spot on condition before putting them on their wall for sale. Its not often that you’ll find a shop owner who is also one of the best Luthiers in the business. So on a quiet street away from tourists, we’re proud that our friends on the East Coast can now go to TR Crandall to play and purchase a Smith Special in person, and get the service and experience I want as a musician.
I was recently asked about a guitar I used to call the Frankencaster and thought I’d post some pictures and tell its story. Mainly as a brain exercise to see if I could remember.
The guitar started out as an early eighties ’52 reissue, one with the super thick urethane finishes that I couldn’t stand. I bought it used around 1990 and shortly after, I striped the paint off the body and re-sprayed it copper with a spray can. I used the guitar that way until I left the Fly Rite Trio in ’92.
The body was one of the heavy ones and I was always thinking about chambering it to make lighter. Plus, I had been thinking about putting a guitar together that matched the Summertone amp I had built a few years earlier. So at that point, I took the guitar apart. I started by milling 5/16’’ off the top of the body and then cut four chambers to shave off a few ounces. For the top I used a piece of knotty pine because I loved the look of Gretsch Roundups and added a piece of 1/4’’ rope for binding which seemed like a good idea at the time, hahaha. I finished the body and the neck with shellac. I later found out that shellac wasn’t the best finish for necks because I wore through it in less than a year.
For pickups I used a set of old Carvins that I had and made some Bigsby looking covers for them. That’s when I discovered that the cover has more to do with a pickup than just appearance. I used a B-5 for the vibrato. I ended up cutting the tension bar off shortly after I put it together and went with the neck shim angle/ bridge height that I still use today for my tele conversions. I played it for number of years with my band Smiths Ranch Boys during the mid nineties. I was constantly changing pickups and experimenting with pickup covers.
In 2004 I needed something to test out an original Charlie Christian pickup that I had so I took the guitar apart again, planed the pine top off, made the chambers larger and glued a new top on. I got a lot of play out of that guitar. Below is a photo of the remaining parts and a video of one of the first Smith’s Ranch Boys shows at Linda’s Doll Hut (it looks like a DeArmond for the bridge pickup). Who knows, maybe some day it will get put back together for the next phase of its evolution. On second thought probably not.