Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

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Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:42 am

This year I'll attempt two side-by-side builds. This is the second, more adventurous, build. It will require a lot more techniques that are new to me, so I'm unsure if I'll be able to finish in time or on budget but I figured hey, might as well push myself!

For a while now I've been wishing that I had an instrument that would let me play in both bass registers or guitar registers, as the "band" I play in lacks a bassist. I've also been listening to a little bit too much music in the so-called djent genre, and my 7-string just isn't enough to get those really low notes.

So here are the specs so far:
  • 8-strings
  • Bass scale 750mm, treble scale 650mm (~29.5" -> 25.6")
  • Carved flamed maple top
  • Flamed maple neck & fretboard
  • Walnut back
  • Bridge humbucker, single coil in the neck - both will need to be home made
  • Custom bridge

For styling, I've long appreciated the Iceman style. Its been a bit unusual without being too silly over the top. So I used that as a starting point and then tried to make it a bit less 70s-cheesy. I rounded off its shape some in an attempt to make it a bit more classic, and went with a reverse 8-a-side headstock in an attempt to continue the flow of the angled frets over to the headstock. Overall I like the way the angle of the body and the angle of the headstock continue the visual cue of the angles of the frets, and the headstock is reminiscent of a Gibson hockey stick headstock but with a little swoosh to tie it together more with the swoosh in the lower cutaway of the body.

I would like to make this my first attempt at a carved top. I will also need to machine my own bridge for this, but I might take the saddles from a couple of cheap ebay bridges. We'll see. The budget will be VERY tight, so I'll have to do some creative scrounging to pull this off.

The design so far:
8string3.png


This is super-ambitious, and I'll have to make a lot of my own parts, but it'll be a fun challenge :D
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:53 am

Here is a shot of the beautiful slab of flamed maple I have. I paid 5000€ per cubic metre for this, so a 15mm thick top should be around 11€ worth. The neck & fretboard should cost about the same, although if I laminate the neck with a strip of walnut it will drop the price some.

flamedmaple.jpg
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:32 pm

Alrighty so today I got cracking on this build after a week of "planning" (read: procrastination). Since I'm using walnut for both of my builds, I chose to do the body resawing all at the same time. I started by crosscutting enough walnut and roughly cleaning it up to better see what I was working with:
IMG_20120407_160719.jpg

Measuring up, I realised that if I would still have enough for the two bodies if I first ripped 3cm off the side - so I chose the side with the straightest grain and ripped it off to make a neck blank. This might actually become the basis for the neck of this guitar, with a central maple lamination. We'll see.. Anyway, I then set about bookmatching the main chunk. This is a pretty serious bit of sawing for a hand tool shop - ripping 35.5" of 6 3/4" wide stock is a real workout! For this I used my Big Bertha saw - custom made 29" sawplate and a home made thumbhole handle:
IMG_20120407_185418.jpg

Note the wedge holding the kerf open and copious amounts of wax on the saw! My technique here was a bit sloppy today, I haven't done a rip like this in over a year, so I strayed from the line in a couple of places. I will have to sacrifice some thickness as a result. Anyway, here are the results of the day's sawing, straight off the saw. Enough 25-30mm stock for two bodies, and a 64mm wide neck blank. There is some neat grain swirling around :)
IMG_20120407_220112.jpg

A question for those with more experience with walnut: I think the sapwood there on the neck blank will look great on a guitar - will I have any strength/stability issues if I try using it?
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Louie Atienza » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:45 pm

Tristan... you're an animal! Looks like a fun way to spend the day... :D
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:09 pm

Louie Atienza wrote:Tristan... you're an animal! Looks like a fun way to spend the day... :D

And I still have to do the maple! Fun fun fun...
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Eddie McRae » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:25 pm

You've got WAY more ambition and determination than me! If I had to resaw by hand, I'd probably quit building altogether! LOL As for your question about the walnut, I don't see where it would cause any issues. Especially if you decide to laminate with maple. Looks good!
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:09 pm

A few hours more sawing this afternoon! I got started on the maple. I've got here a 54mm thick slab of nicely figured maple, it is 40cm wide at its narrowest, and around 130cm long. I got to ripping, first sawing off enough width to get some bookmatched tops:
014.jpg

Next I ripped an 80mm wide strip from the centre for neck blanks. I figured that if I'm careful I ought to be able to get two 20mm slabs for neck blanks and a 6mm slab for fingerboards out of this, so I marked up and then carefully did a side-by-side rip. Much of the time and effort in thickness ripping is actually in flipping the stock regularly to avoid deviating too much from the lines. Ripping to two lines simultaneously goes faster than doing a full rip twice.
036.jpg

Ripping like this I tend to lift the stock up and alternate between a very low angle of cut to establish a kerf and help guide the sawplate, and a higher angle for more rapid stock removal. The low angle also gives a bit of a breather as its not power work, its precision work.
The result of my hard work was a nice pile of sawdust, several litres of water drunk, and some planks of wood:
043.jpg

There ought to be enough there for four necks and two fretboards :)
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:12 pm

Here's a gratuitous shot of the figure:
040.jpg

I'm super excited to use this wood, this will be the first guitar that I've built with figured woods :)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to consume some protein in the hopes that these aching arms will bulk up and make next time easier ;)
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:57 pm

I added the pickups to my CAD drawing:
design.png
design.png (8.7 KiB) Viewed 9989 times

I'm currently thinking of making the humbucker actually two "normal" single coil pickups, so that I can split them for a more Strat-like tone. The plan is to make the polepieces from 5mm mild steel, and attach 5mm*1.5mm Neodymium magnets to each. I've been intrigued to play around with these magnets in pickups. I'm planning to make the bobbins from wood - perhaps curly maple, although I do have a huge number of beech sticks in a very convenient shape.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Mark Swanson » Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:02 pm

I have worked with neo magnets in pickups, much as you described. I can tell you that the first ones I made had larger iron slugs, about the size you mentioned. It didn't work too well because I had too much metal in the core, this increased the inductance too much and caused my pickups to have a ton of hum. I made some others with a smaller iron rod, about the same size as a regular pickup with alnico magnets and it was ok.
You also need to watch out for using a neo magnet that will give too much pull. Experiment and see if you can get a neo/rod combination that gives about the same amount of strength as a regular alnico and you'll be fine. Just be aware that the neo magnets can give too much pull and cause troubles.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Samuel Hartpence » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:58 pm

Will there be any issues with having the same pickup for regular and bass registers? What are the "typical" stats on a bass pickup and a regular guitar pickup, and what are the compromises made when trying to mesh one into the other?

Most of the multi-scale instruments that I've seen that combine guitar and bass have to separate and specific pickup systems for both. That way they can turn one or the other off if needed, have multiple outputs for two amps, and have a pickup designed for their intended purpose.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:17 am

Mark Swanson wrote:I have worked with neo magnets in pickups, much as you described. I can tell you that the first ones I made had larger iron slugs, about the size you mentioned. It didn't work too well because I had too much metal in the core, this increased the inductance too much and caused my pickups to have a ton of hum. I made some others with a smaller iron rod, about the same size as a regular pickup with alnico magnets and it was ok.

The 5mm I mentioned is 0.197" - roughly the same diameter as the alnico slugs in a normal single coil.

Mark Swanson wrote:You also need to watch out for using a neo magnet that will give too much pull. Experiment and see if you can get a neo/rod combination that gives about the same amount of strength as a regular alnico and you'll be fine. Just be aware that the neo magnets can give too much pull and cause troubles.

Thanks for the info Mark. What size did you settle on in your experimentation? I have a whole bunch of 5*1.5mm disc magnets (0.197" * 0.059") that I use for all sorts of random things, I figured I'd start with those. My gut feeling is that they'll be too weak, if anything.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:36 am

Samuel Hartpence wrote:Will there be any issues with having the same pickup for regular and bass registers? What are the "typical" stats on a bass pickup and a regular guitar pickup, and what are the compromises made when trying to mesh one into the other?

I too would be interested to know what really separates a bass pickup from a guitar pickup, design-wise. I should think that if your pickup has a wide enough frequency response and the string spacing doesn't mess things up (blade pickup perhaps?) then you could use it for either. I should really get Jason Lollar's book.

Samuel Hartpence wrote:Most of the multi-scale instruments that I've seen that combine guitar and bass have to separate and specific pickup systems for both. That way they can turn one or the other off if needed, have multiple outputs for two amps, and have a pickup designed for their intended purpose.

The goal of being able to play some bass parts is secondary to the goal of having a massively extended range guitar. I toyed with just building a baritone 8-string. I'll be fine with just some different effects through a guitar amp for the extent I want to use it. Eg a song like Muse's Starlight - the verses don't have guitar, just some distinctive bass notage. It'd be nice to be able to play those parts as well as the chorus. If I wanted to play real bass parts through a bass amp with proper bass tone then I'd do as you say and use a separate pickup system and jack for the bass strings, ala Charlie Hunter's Novax 8-string.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Mark Swanson » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:17 am

I don't have any idea if your magnets would work or not, you'll have to see! try putting a magnet on the bottom of a slug and then comparing it to an alnico by testing it's strength in different ways. Try and get a neo magnet that will match the same strength. I set up a little jig with a paper clip tied to a string, and used it to suspend the paper clip a certain distance away...this will give you some kind of idea of the magnet strength. Try and get the neo magnet/slug combo to respond the same way the alnico does.
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:03 pm

Mark Swanson wrote:I don't have any idea if your magnets would work or not, you'll have to see! try putting a magnet on the bottom of a slug and then comparing it to an alnico by testing it's strength in different ways. Try and get a neo magnet that will match the same strength. I set up a little jig with a paper clip tied to a string, and used it to suspend the paper clip a certain distance away...this will give you some kind of idea of the magnet strength. Try and get the neo magnet/slug combo to respond the same way the alnico does.


Thats a neat trick Mark, thanks for the tip :)
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Markku Nyytäjä » Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:44 pm

Tristan, I notice you have a similar plan to build your pickups as I do. Biltema neodymium buttons have about the same strength as AlNiCo slugs, so they should work fine.

Your design looks cool. mine will be a lot simpler, if not downright coarse. :D
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:29 pm

So after staring at the maple for a few days I decided not to risk ruining my wood by resawing by hand, and instead took it to the local community college workshop and resawed it there for tops. It was much easier, but now I feel like I've cheated ;)
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:45 pm

Here is the top blank after resawing:
DSCN0280.jpg
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:49 pm

Beautimus!
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice
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Re: Tristan Williams - 8-string fanned fret Iceman-ish

Postby Tristan Williams » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:49 am

Hmm, I've hit a snag so I've had to have a rethink: I had my doubts about the walnut, so I had a luthier friend look at my lumber and assures me that it is black walnut, rather than European walnut (which is what I purchased it as at the lumber yard). As far as I'm aware, that means it has come from the US. D'oh!

So, I need a new plan. I wandered my local lumber yard yesterday afternoon to get some ideas. Here is the new plan:
  • Flamed maple neck & carved top
  • "Thermo-wood" pine body core ("roasted" pine takes on a glorious golden brown colour)
  • Plain maple rear cap
  • Finnish oak fretboard

Should be fun!
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