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MIMF interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

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MIMF interview with Melvyn Hiscock, author of "Make Your Own Electric Guitar"

Postby Charlie Schultz » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:38 pm

This is an old interview (from 2010), extracted from the archives.

Suran, Deb date=11/09/2010
A couple of weeks ago a MIMForum member suggested that other MIMForum members illegally download books if they didn't want to pay for them. In response I asked a couple of authors I know, and who this member suggested stealing from, how they would like to respond, and forwarded their replies to him. He was unrepentant, and has since been banned. Out of that unfortunate incident, however, has come this interview. Melvyn may stop by to check this discussion and perhaps reply to it, but no guarantees. I append the interview below.

Searcy, Clint date=10/31/2010
In 1986 I was 16 years old and an avid guitar and bass tinker. That year I came across a brand new book from Melvyn Hiscock called "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" and I was hooked. For many guitar builders and tinkers "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" was a revelation. Written in a plain, easy to understand and many times humorous style with fantastic photography, the book became a favorite of mine. It was the first book I ever saw that showed how to build electric guitars and basses by simply documenting several builds step by step. I have bought many instrument related books since then but "Make Your Own Electric Guitar", now in its 2nd edition, still stands as a favorite. So it is my extreme delight that I have this chance to ask Melvyn Hiscock a few questions.
1. What was your first real guitar and do you still have it?
2. How did you get into guitar building?
3. What made you decide to write a book about guitar building?
4. Make your own Electric Guitar" is now in its 3rd edition. How has it changed over the years?
5. There are a lot of myths out there about what makes a guitar sound the way it does. Do you think the internet has added to those myths or helped to clear them up?
6. We hear a lot about movie and music piracy over the internet but we rarely hear about book piracy via the web. Have you experienced problems with illegal downloads of your book?
7. What can people do to help combat this problem?
8. Companies like Stewart Macdonald have made parts and tools easily available to most anyone. Are there any tools out today that you wish you could have used back when you wrote your first book?
9. Rumor has it that you have an interest in aviation; is that true?
10. Now that you are a publisher are you looking for other books to publish?
11. Are you still building guitars?
12. Tell us about your acoustic guitar building book.
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with the MIMF. Is there any other advice or comments you have?

Hiscock, Melvyn date=10/31/2010
1. What was your first real guitar and do you still have it?
OK (deep breath) my first real guitar? You mean not my first virtual guitar? I was about 8 at the height of Beatlemania and I was hooked. I wanted to be a Beatle. I even had the same birthday as John. I remember my older brother making a flat plywood shape of a guitar and putting fishing nylon onto it. We also had a plastic 'Beatles' guitar. I remember seeing a real solid guitar in a shop window when I was about the same age and thinking it was great but remember, this was England in 1964 and there was not much stuff over here, we had an import tariff on anything from the US so no Melody Makers and LP juniors... the stuff we saw was eastern european or German or possibly Vox.
My first guitar was 40 years ago last October 9. My 13th birthday. It was a 'Tatra' Classic, I think it was Czech and nylon strung with an action that you could safely pass a giraffe under without it having to stoop. I had no interest really in rock and roll then (shame) and so played folky stuff badly with sore fingers. The next step up (!) was an Eko 12 string (What was I ON?) These were quite popular for reasons that I now cannot understand. A bolt-on neck acoustic made of plywood and finshed in a polyester lacquer that was so thick there was a time zone half way through. It dampened the vibration so much that you could drive a train into it and it might make a dull 'Thunk' noise (note to everyone; all sound effects are inspired by a lifelong devotion to the cartoons of Don Martin....)

Then I decided that girls were not into folk music and if I wanted more (for 'more' read 'any') sex then I needed to be a rock god. I cobbled together a guitar from parts of an old Futurama that I admit were mostly stolen from a store I worked at part time, and to be honest if you knew the owner you would never pass judgement on that, and that even had Hofner pickups. It was truly horrible.

Then I saved up and bought a Shaftesbury Les Paul Custom copy. They were better than some at the time but that is like saying having your arm ripped off is better than having your leg ripped off. It was OK and I added a third pickup to make it look like the one Eric Clapton was playing in a poster on my bedroom wall.
Then I got a real job and bought a 1975 Les Paul Deluxe. It weighed 132 pounds, was made of an unknown number of pieces of wood and I loved it. I hated the pickups so changed them to full size humbuckers (why not P90s? was I that stupid?.........) and I eventually sold it when broke for way less than it was worth even then, and frittered the money on cheap beer.

2. How did you get into guitar building?
Well I was sort of too stupid not to. I started hacking guitars about at an early age and I had also read about this guy in a band in London called Queen, who had made his own guitar. I wanted a Flying V and could not afford one so tried to make one. It was awful. I also bought a neck for a Hayman guitar and made a body for that but had no idea what I was doing. At that time there was no information and you could not get parts easily. It is not like today when you can get everything you need in terms of parts, tools and information.
The first guitars that I made from scratch were through neck guitars as that meant I didn't have to make a neck join! They were based on a sort of Melody Maker shape that was the cutaway half of a Les Paul flipped so it was symmetrical.

After that I made a few more, got to know a few people and ended up working in London alongside Roger Giffin who has been a great friend for years and has been a huge help to me. He was also obessessed with Don Martin cartoons....

3. What made you decide to write a book about guitar building?
The book came about by accident. I had a customer called Bruce Brand who asked me how to make a guitar and I told him that he had to go to the library and get the book out.... He came back about a week later and told me that he had researched this and there were no books to be had. He then suggested I write one. I had never written anything of use and the last time I had even thought about writing was in English lessons at school! I thought about it and had some ideas, discussed it with a few people that agreed I should do it and then I mentioned it to a publisher who just accepted the book on the spot, which sort of meant I had to write it. It was started sometime in 1984 and I just hacked away until it felt right. Roger Giffin was great and let me use his workshop for the pictures which was a godsend.

4. "Make your own Electric Guitar" is now in its 3rd edition. How has it changed over the years?
Well, not quite third edition yet, although that is a possibility. The first Publisher was Blandford Press in the UK and they were really bad at keeping in touch. I had no real idea how the book was going and I wanted to do a second edition around 1995 and they would not play ball. I knew the book was getting dated and wanted to get ahead of the game. They were happy that it was still selling although it was slowing down. In the end we had an argument and they told me that if I thought I was 'that' clever, I should go and publish it myself. Well, I was working in pulishing then so it was no grat leap. It was interesting to be working at a publisher and starting my own company, that could have got me instant dismissal, but it all worked out.

The main changes were to bring it to the standard I wanted originally. I had been constrained by the size of book that was set out for me. I dropped one of the guitars made as a project and inserted another, added a lot more in some areas and just rewrote all of it so it had a more informative feel. I had learned a lot about writing in the intervening ten or twelve years.
That edition came out on October 9 1998, my 41st birthday! I had to start a publishing company to get it out and to get distribution around the place. I still have no distribution in Australia as the only person that spoke to me about it over there was offering terms that were a joke.

NBS Publications is just me, no one else. I write, produce and distribute the books myself. If you buy one in the US it travelled in my car to the shipping company in London. It has been a big investment.

5. There are a lot of myths out there about what makes a guitar sound the way it does. Do you think the internet has added to those myths or helped to clear them up?
Ha ha, no, the internet has a lot of information that it total rubbish. There is a LOT of 'Emporers New Clothes' stuff out there. The thing to remember is that most of this 'authorative information' comes with NO back up in research that is valid and much of it is smothered in jargon. Even some of the stuff that has some research behind it is flawed. I remember seeing a thing on TV over here about how someone had worked out that if you suspend a guitar top and excite it at the bridge area at various frequencies and then photograph it under special lighting conditions you could determine exactly how it will sound. Nice theory, shame about the science.... Firstly, the top was free and no attached to sides so that it was not supported around it's edge and therefore not as rigid as it would habe been on a guitar. Secondly, there was no bridge fitted which is a damping element on the front of the guitar; thirdly, there were no strings fitted so the top was not under tension behind the bridge and compression in front. Lastly, the piece of wood was, like all pieces of wood, not of exactly uniform density and certainly unique in being a piece of wood that will be different in many ways from the next slice that was taken out of the same tree, let alone another tree, so it was a flawed experiment.

Other stuff makes me laugh, people describe certain woods as having certain characteristics. Mahogany is 'dark', well, that the hell does that mean? I cannot hear colour! DO you mean any particular mahogany or one species? How does that vary with the density of the wood? Wood lower in the tree is often denser than the wood that grows at the top as it is compressed under the weight of the tree. How does this make the sound 'darker', 'lighter' or a shade more 'cerise'?

I have an alder Tele here that would confound most people's views of alder guitars. It was made of a very heavy piece of Alder. Rings like a bell, and sounds great.

I can also remember when people made guitars heavy for 'sustain'. These guitars are now universally derided but I have a '71 Les Paul '54 reissue that is very heavy and sounds great. I also have a '62 SG/LP junior that is stupidly light and sounds great too.

There are some general guidelines about how a piece of wood 'might' sound on a guitar but there are so many more influences on it. As an example think of two Stratocasters, one made of a heavy piece of ash, the other a lighter piece (so commonly and incorrectly, called Swamp Ash). Is the wood making the difference to the sound or could it be that one has Kluson tuners and the other Sperzels, one has a cast block in the trem and one has a steel, one has slightly stronger magnets in the pickups, which are set nearer the strings, one has a properly cut nut and one a plastic piece and one has brass saddles and one steel. One has a shim under the neck and the other doesn't. It all adds up.

Having said all that, there is a difference between how various woods 'may' sound but it has as much to do with the density of one piece as its species. As I said, you can have a 'rough' idea of what it might sound like and then it turns out slightly differently.

I have been playing with making guitar bodies from softwood so see that they are like and the low density is interesting. I have made a couple with Red Cedar bodies and I like them. I have one with a very thin maple veneer on and one with 1/4 of maple. They do not sound that much different acoustically, despite the tops, but the natural dacay of the string is good, but could I 'estimate exactly' the sound of a guitar like this? No, I could have a rough idea, but that is all.

Remember also that Fender only used ash because it was dirt cheap and then switched to Alder as it didn't need grainfilling so saved a production process, there was no thought about 'soundwoods' or any of that rubbish, it was a purely practical and economic choice.

The thing with the internet is that it is all too easy to be an expert. I have seen people with next to no experience spouting forth on matters and good luck to them, they will learn in time. If you are a newish guitar maker just remember, if you cannot trust some of what you find on Wiki then how can you trust everything you find on a builder's forum?

Of course, the internet is full of information and the good stuff is there if you look and there are some good technical things about wood properties. I still stand by what I say though, it is a good resource, but you need to think for yourself and question everything.

Lastly, and as a joke, I once gave someone my three rules relating to guitar writing.
Rule one: Everything written about guitars is 90% Bull
Rule two: Except what I wrote
Rule Three: Disregard rule two....

6. We hear a lot about movie and music piracy over the internet but we rarely hear about book piracy via the web. Have you experienced problems with illegal downloads of your book?
Yes, there are illegal downloads. I have even had people write to me and demand my book for free as it is a 'resource'! One problem with the internet is that people get used to just clicking on information without thinking about how it gets there. That is fine in some cases but over the last twenty five years I have put a huge amount of my time and effort into producing the book and it covers the experience I have gathered over a very long time in guitar making.

Now, most of us have jobs. If you work as an IT specialist would you consider working for nothing and paying for the privalege? Of course not, you want to be paid a fair amount for the work you do. My work is producing books on the guitar and, as I said, I have not only invested my time and experience into that but also a lot of money. Later on today I have to pay the invoice for the latest shipment of books. Now, as we stand today some of those books have sold and will ship immediately they arrive, but most have not so I am taking a risk in buying them so that when someone in Tierra de Fuego wants a copy, it is in stock. That is my risk and an investment I have to made as a publisher. What right has ANYONE got to expect me to do that for nothing?

The new book is another case. I have been working on that all this year and since i am my own publisher, I do not get paid for that. I only get paid when the book is out and selling. Therefore if someone decides to upload that book it is taking money I am owed for the work I have put in. It is stealing directly from me.

There is a copy of Make Your Own Electric Guitar for illegal download. The guy that uploaded it also boasts he took his time scanning it so that it is good quality and was sorry it takes time to download. I would like to get my hands on him! I would just like him to have to work for free, with me getting all of HIS money, for the time the book is online. That seems fair to me, I put the time in to produce the book and he thinks it should be free so he should sponsor that!

7. What can people do to help combat this problem?
As for what you can do to stop this, people such as Google and Yahoo are pretty good so if you see a download site for it, report it to them and they do tend to block them. At the moment I don't have the time to spend chasing all this down which is a shame, but reporting illegal downloads is about all you can do.

8. Companies like Stewart MacDonald have made parts and tools easily available to most anyone. Are there any tools out today that you wish you could have used back when you wrote your first book?
Oh yes, loads. Mind you, some of what I see in the catalogues are a bit over the top. There are some tools that you look at and think 'that is a complicated way of doing it'... I love stuff like the fret tang nippers, they have saved me hours, and the nut spacing ruler which is excellent.

9. Rumor has it that you have an interest in aviation; is that true?
Yes, just slightly.....
I started flying about 18 years ago and should have done it years before, it is what I always wanted to do. I bought A 1939 Rearwin Cloudster that needed a full restoration and started that ten years ago, finishing five years later. I also write for some aviation magazines over here, commentate at airshows and on aviation DVDs and this year I flew a couple of shows too. I am also involved in a great assication in France called the Memorial Flight Assication and have been a member for over 20 years and we rebuild, replicated and fly original and replica World War One aeroplanes. I am very proud of what we have achieved over the years and I was in France last week making pieces for a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a. I would be over there more often in the coming years hopefully and may even go and live there.

Talking of France, I am even looking into doing some guitar-based lectures. A friend lives in Brittany and she is talking about organising a sort of guitar festival where I go over and talk abouy looking after your guitars and some elements of building them. It could be fun. I would like to do more of that and perhaps some in the US also.

10. Now that you are a publisher are you looking for other books to publish?
I have thought about it but it depends on the finances. It is an expensive thing to do properly. I have spoken briefly to someone about re-doing a book of theirs which could be fun and I am still working slowly on a book about making drums but the author has little time to finish it. It does not need much work, just some time. If someone approached me with a project I would certainly think about it.

11. Are you still building guitars?
I try not to, to be honest I don't really enjoy it. With the greatest respect to everyone on here I have been doing it for almost thirty years and I don't have much left I want to do. It is a case of not only 'read the book, got the T Shirt' but I WROTE the book too! haha. From time to time I have a little play with things and I made some acoustics last year, but nothing major planned. The last solid I made was a double cut with two TV Jones filtertrons and made from Cedar with a douglas fir neck. I felt like demonstrating that you don't HAVE To use hardwood on necks, it is about stiffness not species! I would much rather be out playing them now rather than making them and trying to catch up with all those girls I failed to get when I was 13!

Either that or going flying...

Perhaps with some of those girls that have been so wowed by my playing....

or perhaps not.

12. Tell us about your acoustic guitar building book.
Well, I thought it was about time I wrote something new. It has actually been a tortuous and hard book to write for a number of reasons and I estimate it is about 8 years late. I started it a long time ago and there were a lot of other things going on, I was working on the aeroplane and that cost so much money I HAD to get it finished, I also split with my long term partner after 26 years (she got the house and the cats, I got the aeroplane and the guitars, I miss those cats...)

So a combination of writing it in stages, a major life upheaval or two and lots of other things going on meant that it got started and stopped a number of times and that just made it very bitty and not at all structured. I dropped it all completely about three years ago and then was talked into redoing it which was correct. Carol, my ex and with whom I am on good terms, said to me a couple of weeks ago that she thought I would never completely drop it and would always go back and each time it would be more difficult. She is right. I decided about a year ago to just devote everything to it and get it done and that was problematic too! More life upheavals and at about Christmas last year I completely rewrote it. I also re-ordered everything and started laying out pages. Even this was fun, because it had taken so long a lot of stuff was on an old Mac and that was running out of memory. To give you an idea about what goes on, the photos were taken as JPEGS and the pages formed in Quark X-Press. If you use JPEGs the Quark files get so big they are almost unuseable (at least in the version of Quark I was running) and so all the pictures needed to be changed to TIFFs and that took a while too. My plan was to have it at the printers in May, have the arm operation I needed in July and then life would be rosy. The problem was that it all took much longer, the book was not ready to go until September and even when it was about to go into the post it STILL had problems. I had to rush to get to the post office to get it out on a Thursday as I had to go to Jersey in the Channel Islands the next day for a paying job (rare and much needed) so I dropped the two memory sticks into a padded bad(one for MYO Electric reprint and one for MYO Acoustic) and I typed a letter to go in the bag. At that point the printer decided to throw a wobbly and churned out six pages of code! I was like Basil Fawlty when his car broke down, I was about to thrash the printer! However, turning it off and on worked and I got it to the post office with about ten minutes to spare. It was funny, right to the line it was hard work!

I finally got the arm operation last month!

So, what is this new book?....

What I have tried to do is the same as Make You Own Electric, and that is to take the problem and break it down into smaller parts and offer ways of getting the job done. As with the previous book I am not going to include plans, this is about making YOUR guitar, not MINE, and so it covers design and I try to cover all those little things that make you stop work and have to think how to get around them. The making of the different parts are covered in chapters on their own, so Tops, Backs, Sides, Necks etc, all get a chapter of their own and then get assembled, binding and bridges are covered, then finishing, setting up, all the usuals with (hopefully) a lot of common sense advice.

There are five guitars made for this book, a Martin kit guitar which Martin very kindly supplied, a guitar from reclaimed materials, a twelve string, one with a cutaway and electronics and a resonator. The last chapter is a photo essay of a factory visit to Martin to show how they do a lot of the jobs. It is interesting to see them using ordinary household pegs to clamp kerfings as they are just the cheapest and best clamp for the job yet they also use CNC routers for rough carving necks 28 at a time and neck blocks and sucklike are made very accurately on CNC machines. I was very impressed with Martin and the lessons that anyone could learn from a visit to the factory. I think they were also very generous in letting me publish the photographs too and they could not have been more helpful.

So, at this moment there is a delivery of books on their way from Singapore to here and they will arrive in about two weeks. It is a bigger book that the electric one at 288 pages and it is all in colour this time which was been interesting to do.

If anyone else has any questions I am only too pleased to answer

Suran, Deb date=11/01/2010
Thanks, Melvyn!!

Searcy, Clint date=11/01/2010
Thank you so much Melvyn. You're a class act! <g>

Barth, Andreas date=11/02/2010
Yes, Thanks Melvyn! I count my self as very fortunate to have found your book when I was getting into building. It was more than helpfull, it was inspiring, and lead to my first build, a Firebird hybrid. Years later I used that same guitar to back up Mojo Buford on a gig! He liked the sound, too.
Thanks tons for lighting the way.

Erickson, Ellie date=11/04/2010
Melvyn, Of all the tools in your shop, which one is your favorite? The one that you use most?
When you're wrenching on planes or building guitars, what tunes do you listen to, if any?
And if you weren't doing the books and the airplanes, what would be your dream job or situation? Like climbing the Alps, living on the space station or making the world's greatest rhubarb torts?
And have you ever felt like you were abandoned by alien parents on a planet full of restless and nearly moronic humans as a baby?
Thanks for doing this, by the way. It rocketh mightily. <g>

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/05/2010
Melvyn, Of all the tools in your shop, which one is your favorite? The one that you use most?
The one that makes things easiest. Anything that is sharpened to the point you can cut yourself from nex door, there is no substitute for sharp, actually, fave tool is probably the fingers, it is where the memory and any remaining skill is kept.

When you're wrenching on planes or building guitars, what tunes do you listen to, if any?
Suprisingly boring stuff, like having the radio on. I do have a very wide taste in music and so can like cheesy pop stuff as well as things that are more 'cutting edge' There are things that I just like, like goods blues, Jeff Beck and Jimi, Danny Gatton and some strange stuff. I can always listen to Beatles as that is what got me going. I listen to goods radio comedy and we have a lot of that over here.

And if you weren't doing the books and the airplanes, what would be your dream job or situation? Like climbing the Alps, living on the space station or making the world's greatest rhubarb torts?
I just love flying and have been involved with the history of WW1 for years. I used to like my cats until I lost them with the house (shame) Guinness the Cat became quite famous, he was a cool dude. I like travelling, enjoy people, love mountains and volcanos. I like the company of good friends, that is something you cannot buy or fake.

And have you ever felt like you were abandoned by alien parents on a planet full of restless and nearly moronic humans as a baby?
No, I feel like I came from the planet moron and have been making up for it ever since

Thanks for doing this, by the way. It rocketh mightily. <g>
Thanks

Cunningham, Ian date=11/09/2010
You seem like a cool dude and your writing style is awesome. I love writers who let their character shine through.

Gouldsberry, Nathan date=11/10/2010
Melvyn, I have appreciated your book for years. Started building with it as my main reference in school, used the first Edition until the covers fell off, put it in the cabinet, then bought the second Edition. Haven't yet transferred all of my sidebar notes to the new copy, and I still pull it out at least weekly to look at your ideas on certain things I'm planning to do on a build! All this just to say thanks I guess.

Lord, Nathaniel date=11/10/2010
Hey Melvyn! Thanks so much for this interview and your fantastic book. I got my copy for Christmas when I was 15 or so (4 years ago) and I have been hooked since. I've built three on my own and just took an internship with one of my all-time favorite companies. Hopefully this will pan out as a career for me, it is definitely one of my strongest passions. I really appreciate the wealth of information you and the people on forums like MIMF have provided for people like me. I wouldn't have a clue if it wasn't for people such as yourself. Great interview as well. I have always admired your writing style for its combination thoroughness and readability, often mixed with the just right amount of dry humor to keep things from getting too serious or overwhelming. Thanks a lot Mr. Hiscock!
Nate Lord

Williams, Tristan date=11/10/2010
Hi Melvyn, thanks so much for your book! My copy is now dog-eared all over and well worn, even though I've only built a couple of guitars before (and a few bodies). Its an amazing resource.

I'm a mad-keen aviation buff, especially WW1-era planes! I've been flying RC planes for years and I've now got my sights firmly set on getting my full sized fixed wing license. The added complication is that I'm living in Finland and don't speak the language yet, so I need to learn it before I can start. I've had some introductory lessons though and loved every moment.
What is your favourite WW1-era plane to work on/fly?

Apart from Douglas Fir, what other softwoods have you experimented with for necks? I've been tempted to try one from spruce as it is readily available locally and very stiff.

Mashek, Terry date=11/10/2010
Hi Melvyn,
Add me to your list of fans. I bought your book and memorized it to the point where I used to be able to recite the page number upon which a certain topic would be addressed. A couple of years ago I loaned the book to a friend whom I'm helping build his first guitar, which reminds me I should get that back from him.
When your acoustic book is available for sale, you can be certain I'll be purchasing a copy. I don't know if I'll ever build an acoustic, but regardless I want to own the book for the enjoyment. Then again, when I bought your last one I didn't ever think I'd actually build an electric guitar either.

The fact that you're a Don Martin fan is bonus.

For my question(s):
1. How many guitars have you built total?
2. Of those, which one stands out as your absolute favorite?
3. Who's your second favorite Mad magazine artist?

Ball, Shawn date=11/10/2010
Melvyn -
I have to say, that your book has been the single best guitar-related purchase I've made. I bought it (I believe through the MIMF and/or Amazon) probably 10 years ago, and I've consistantly re-read it every couple of years.

I just finished re-reading it about a month ago, and I'm still amazed at how much I learn and how I refine my building process as a result of reading your book. I just re-tooled many of my jigs as a result of my last read-through.

Thank you, sir, for all of your contributions! Should you come out with a new/updated edition, know that it will be on the top of my list for purchase.
Sincerely,
Shawn.

Kingma, John date=11/10/2010
A friend of mine who has been woodworking for eons has decided he wants to try building guitars. I told him the first 2 things he needs to do is 1) join this forum and 2) buy your book.
Thanks for the very insightful and entertaining interview.

Heuvel, Keith VanDen date=11/10/2010
Melvyn,
Thanks for taking the time out to answer our questions and thanks again for taking the time to write and publish the book in the first place. I got my copy about nine years ago and have used it heavily on all five of my builds. Whenever someone discovers that I build my own guitars and they ask me where I learned how to do it, I reference your book as the primary source of information. Best of luck on the new book and in all of your future endeavors.

Dotson, Mike date=11/10/2010
Cheers Melvyn, your work is in large part responsible for a shop full of expensive tools and an entire bedroom full of wood. I bought mine in '87 or so. Back when stealing it meant sticking it under your coat!

Bryan, Rodger date=11/10/2010
Melvyn, I just wanted to say a quick thanks! "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" helped me to understand different building processes and gave me the confidence to begin building my own designs.

Swanson, Mark date=11/10/2010
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Melvyn! I own your book too, and it helped me and taught me quite a bit back in the day!

Carter, Greg date=11/11/2010
Deb, I presume we will see Melvyn's MYO Acoustic book in the bookstore when it comes out?
Please? Please?
Melvyn, thank you for all that you have inspired.
Greg

Suran, Deb date=11/11/2010
But of course!

Wilkinson, Austin date=11/11/2010
Hi Melvyn - firstly just to thanks so much. Your book gave me the confidence to tackle making my guitar, and I'm so pleased I did.
Second, a rather strange question: I notice that you said you'd made a body for a hayman neck early on. Now strangely I bought a guitar in the '70s from a Southend music shop which had a hayman neck but a custom body (sort of shrunk les paul shape). This isn't yours is it?!

Hehnke, Daniel date=11/11/2010
Wow, this is great! Your book is the only guitar book I ever bought, and I reference it every time I build a guitar. Whenever someone asks me how I learned to build, I tell them it was from a book. They usually look at me like I'm either a big nerd or a martian, but they don't know how good of a book it was. I picked it up during college while getting my engineering degree, and started building so I could use my hands and be creative, I was so burnt out on sitting on my butt in front of a computer. It was a great outlet to have, and if the book hadn't been entertaining and full of good information I don't know if I ever would have gotten started. Thanks!

Atienza, Louie date=11/11/2010
Melvyn, I have not read your book, but this was a great thread to read. Thanks for your time and insight!
I sometimes wonder what compels someone to, after purchasing your book, scan every page and distribute it to total strangers. I just don't see the point. Maybe everyone who owns a pirated copy will grow a huge nose with big blistering pimples on the tip! But I wish you well with your new book...

As for a guitar question, what do you think of some of the newer techniques and materials in use today, like Nomex tops, carbon fiber, etc...

Unden, Jamie date=11/11/2010
I can only see one reason to get the scanned copy and that is for ease of transport. I bought the second edition, but if I had a soft copy on my PC, then whenever there was some down time I could pop it up and read something over.

Senseney, Steve date=11/11/2010
Thanks for the interview and your book. Well written and appreciated.

Debelleix, Max date=11/12/2010
Hi everybody.
Mister Hiscock. Well first of all, thanks for writing your book. I admit i never bought it, as it was in the library of the newark and sherwood colege, where i did my city and guilds of guitarmaking, in 95/97. I'm more of an acoustic builder myself, and i'll be sure to check your new book whenever i see it.

Talking about planes, you know Jean Salis? He's a friend/acquaintance of my grandfather. He's the guy i first flew with. I haven't been at "la fert&#233;e alais" for a long time. But my grandparents and mum still live about ten miles from there. May be see you there one day. Doubtful, but you never know! :o I myself love mad planes, like the harrier or the ekranoplan.
Keep yourself well.
Max.

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/12/2010
Hi Melvyn, thanks so much for your book! My copy is now dog-eared all over and well worn, even though I've only built a couple of guitars before (and a few bodies). Its an amazing resource.
Thanks, it is also almost half my life! Quite scary really and that life itself has become a bit dog eared!

I'm a mad-keen aviation buff, especially WW1-era planes! I've been flying RC planes for years and I've now got my sights firmly set on getting my full sized fixed wing license. The added complication is that I'm living in Finland and don't speak the language yet, so I need to learn it before I can start. I've had some introductory lessons though and loved every moment.

What is your favourite WW1-era plane to work on/fly?
I've not flown anything WW1 era but I am involved in a group in France that rebuild and fly them. I think my fave is the Fokker DVII. Ours has a 185 BMW engine from 1918 that is 19 litres and runs at 1400 RPM, it sounds like a London bus in idle when it takes off.

Apart from Douglas Fir, what other softwoods have you experimented with for necks? I've been tempted to try one from spruce as it is readily available locally and very stiff.
Of course, Finland is covered in Spruce. You could try it, Fir is stiffer slightly, as I remember as in aviation it is a substitute for spruce but has a 10% weight penalty. You could try some fine grain spruce, it is just that is SO expensive here and Fir is dirt cheap.

The only thing to be careful of is carving the neck as if you go at it like you would a mahogany (or worse, maple) neck then you will soon be left with a truss rod hanging in mid air!
Good luck and Kiitos

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/12/2010
Terry:
For my question(s):
1. How many guitars have you built total?
I have no idea. It is certainly in the hundreds. I can't remember a lot of them. As I write this there are 19 in the room with me.

2. Of those, which one stands out as your absolute favorite?
Probably Doris, my semi acousic Les Paul. The wood on the front is stupidly flamed and birdseye and was a pig to carve. It is totally hollow except that the area under the tailpiece is joined to the back and the bridge area was left full depth so the bridge posts sit in just like an ordinary LP. It has no F holes and the only way it looks out of the ordinary is that it has no back plates. There is a pic of me playing it on my FB page. It has a Duncan 59 at the bridge and a real PAF at the front. It sounds excellent, a cross between a semi and a solid. Other than that, I love my cedar double cut with '52 P90s on it!

3. Who's your second favorite Mad magazine artist?
I used to love the film spoofs, they were drawn so well, but it was the inventiveness of Don Martin that appealed to me. Some of the ideas were just timeless.

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/12/2010
Louie,
I sometimes wonder what compels someone to, after purchasing your book, scan every page and distribute it to total strangers. I just don't see the point. Maybe everyone who owns a pirated copy will grow a huge nose with big blistering pimples on the tip! But I wish you well with your new book...

Oooh, a style of vindictiveness I can understand! Actually Big Blistering Pimples would be a good name for a punk band....

As for a guitar question, what do you think of some of the newer techniques and materials in use today, like Nomex tops, carbon fiber, etc...
It depends on what you are trying to do with it. If you are using carbon rods in a neck for stiffness, for example, then that is one thing, it is something different when you try to re-invent the wheel and substitute new materials for the traditional ones. I have nothing against this at all, but you are not going to get a traditional sounding guitar. Some new materials and methods attempt to remove some of the idiosyncracies of guitars but in doing so you are always in danger of removing the heart and soul too. I have to say, for acoustics, I like good wood. My good friend Dave King, who makes excellent guitars, once said 'If you make a guitar properly from good materials it will generally sound better than a commercially bought one' and I think he is right.

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/12/2010
Max, I know Jean Salis very well and am also good friends with Edmund and Baptiste too. I was at Dover to welcome Edmund when he recreated the Bleriot flight.

Atienza, Louie date=11/12/2010
Thanks Melvyn! BTW here in Yonkers, NY we have a Hiscock Avenue. It's the most stolen sign in Yonkers by far! I could be a bit oddball about some of the ways I go about things but I definitely agree with using good materials i.e. good woods.

I suppose for the part-time adventurous one could almost expect somewhat non-traditional sounds. Just part of my journey. Don't necessarily want to reinvent the wheel, but I'd love to rediscover it...

Thanks again, I'm looking forward to obtaining your book!

Castellana, Ben date=11/15/2010
Thank you very much for this thread, both to Mr. Hiscock and the sysops. I've enjoyed reading it very much. I'm not sure which I liked better: the part about the wood myths or the description of the Fokker DVII.
Cheers!

gifford, julian date=11/15/2010
Just wanted to say "Thanks!" for stopping by. I bought your book from recommendations here on this forum. It's the only book I needed.

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/16/2010
Thanks Julian

Cook, Andy date=11/17/2010
Hi Melvyn,
I received your book for Christmas about seven years ago. It's great! I imagine you have a few amps to go along with those guitars, which one is your go-to amp? Thanks.

Hiscock, Melvyn date=11/17/2010
Hi Andy
I don't have that many. I have an old Riviera designed Fender 75 that I bought cheap and is OK, a 1970s AC30 and an early Boogie 22. The Boogie is a great low volume amp and big enough to fill some clubs and the AC3o is great when playing loud.

The Boogie is an interesting story, it is possibly the first that came into the UK, before they were officially released here and we got it at Giffins via one of the bands that were coming in regularly. I loved it and we sold it to a guy. Ten or twelve years later he was selling it in the local free ads and I didn't know it was that one but went and bought it anyway. He recognised me as having sold it to him so I have the one I played with for a couple of days at Giffins.

Day, Ian date=11/20/2010
Hi Melvyn;
I purchased a copy of your book back in 03 when building my first neck-thru bass. The style in which it was written gave me the necessary confidence to "give-it-a-go". Since then I've often referred to it. It is well thumbed and cherished!

Oh! my grandfather flew Avro Fe2B's in WW1 - I still have his old log books etc. Those guys were brave!
Thanks,
Ian

Porter, Andrew date=12/15/2010
Don't know how I missed this thread.
Thanks for taking the time to share, Melvyn.
Have you thought of publishing you book in CD format? I realize that could increase the ease of piracy, it would lower your material &amp; shipping costs.

Edmonds, Grant date=12/20/2010
Likewise, I'm wondering how did I miss this?
Melvyn your book helped me get started in guitar building when I was 16. I managed to build two functional guitars that were good enough to get me an apprenticeship, and eventually a job with a very talented acoustic guitar builder. While I've moved on to other professions since then, guitar building continues to be a very rich part of my life. I've kept 'Make Your Own Electric Guitar' on my shelf for the past 20 years. I love the design based approach of the book, and I'm grateful to have this opportunity thank you for writing it!
All the best,
Grant

Griffin, Jonathan date=01/11/2011
I got my copy as a young teen in the middle of the 80's. I made two or three bad guitars before they started becoming playable. I even got a couple of friends into this insan... uh, business by letting them borrow the book. It even survived a fire and the resulting water damage at a friend's place. My favorite part of the entire book was the step by step instructions on the one piece fender style neck. If Melvyn is still responding to questions.....

How did you figure out the one-piece neck construction technique? Did you cut apart a neck or was it trial and error?

Suran, Deb date=04/20/2011
This discussion is now closed. Thanks to Melvyn for the interview, Clint for conducting it, and everyone else for participating!
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