Friday, October 14, 2011

Making the Blue Angel Guitars Step by Step

It was probably 2 in the morning. We had just finished a Cowboy Mouth show and my crew and I were packing the gear. I was slinging stuff into my tech box when a business card fell out of the top drawer. I picked up the card, flipped it over and in big blue letters is the word "Boeing". That very instant I saw a flash of a guitar. This photo is the best way I can explain the flash I saw, but it was a guitar.

To actually put this idea on paper, I had to take photos of a model jet.

This is closer to the concept of what I saw in that fraction of a second. Now I have something to email to the name on that business card.

After several emails back and forth with my new friend Ghost, I made a special trip to St. Louis to meet with some friendly people here.

These are my new friends Paul and Ghost (you can't see Ghost, but he is there) in front of a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet "Blue Angel" model.

This is one of the model jets used in the Blue Angel photo shoot. There were 3 models used for this project. 2 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets and a C-130.
Notice the #15.

This is the model of the C-130 named "Fat Albert". It will show up again later. It's in a holding pattern for the moment.

1,000 shots (6 gig worth) to get the 7 photos I need. This project must be "Blue Angel Perfect". There is perfect, then there is Blue Angel Perfect. Trust me, there is a huge difference.

Now that I have my jet photos, it's time for the hard(er) part.. How do you get photos of a specific shaped vapor trail? I used shaving cream and a mirror.

This will be the first test print for the guitar body. At this point, I probably have 20 hours per jet.

If you have wondered how I did the finish on Guy Fieri's "PorkChop" guitar, it is a photograph blown up and glued to the top then clear coated. My friends at Staples on Ponce in Atlanta did the printing for that project so.. of course I am going to them for the printing for this one!
The printing is the most important part of this project. Getting and keeping the colors consistent will be extremely hard. The photo of these jets will be glued to the top of of a guitar body, cut just like the photo.
The image on the fingerboard will be a process that only leaves ink toner. (More than likely, I won't share HOW I do this part). The colors in this part must match the images printed at Staples. Then I will make paint to match both colors for the back of the guitars.
ANYWAY, my point is there is a lot of trial and error here
(A LOT!)
and there is no way I could do this without the help from my friends at the Staples on Ponce in Atlanta. They have donated all of the printing for this project. These prints are "Blue Angel" perfect!
I want to give a special
"Thank you!" to Shoner, Will and everyone else in the printing department!!! You do beautiful work!
Couldn't do this without you!

I present to you, the body pattern for the body of the Blue Angel guitar. I havnt decided how much of the sky I will cut away from the neck joint. That is why that area looks weird.
Now I can start on the bass.
Did you notice I said "1,000 shots to get 7 photos"?
Now you know why..

I wanted to get the very best hardware for this project. I contacted some amazing people at HipShot. They have been so kind to donate bridges and keys.
These keys are beautiful! Notice they are locking, but you can see the gears! Beautiful work of art themselves!
This bridge is a nice heavy chunk of metal! There is not a single machine mark anywhere! Not even on the bottom.
The strings go through the body on this bridge and the edges of the holes that the strings come out of are even rounded over.
I am completely honored to have HipShots help with this!
Look how pretty!!

Speaking of pretty, check out the gold EMG-81 and gold EMG-85 that were donated by EMG.
EMG has helped me with several projects. Not only are they great people, these pickups simply rock.
With HipShot in New York, EMG in California, and me actually making these guitars in Atlanta Georgia, these guitars truly are 100% American Made!

If I don't have the wood laying around, I'll go see my buddy Richard here at Carlton McLendon's in Atlanta.

He has everything and oh my God does it smell good in there!

So here it is!! I present The Blues!

12 inch wide, 8 quarter Honduras Mahogany. You can tell it's already glowing can't you?
That would be because every inch of this wood will be used.
The saw dust too, if I plan ahead.

Two of the most beautiful MDX Guitars are about to jump out of it. The rest will be made into ink pens to benefit
The Mission Continues

Every time I talk about what these people are doing, it makes my hair stand up.
Please visit their site. It will explain why I am so excited about the Blue Angel project.
I have not even touched the subject of what the future holds for these two guitars, have I?
When the time is right...

VERY FIRST THING I did was route for the truss rods. I did both necks. It is much easier to get a perfect straight line on a larger, flatter surface.

This is the wood for the guitar neck. Notice the slot for the truss rod.

Next cut is the face of the headstock.

Then the hole for the truss rod adjustment nut. Not bad for a hand drill huh?

Truss rod in.

Level the top and glue on the fingerboard.

Fingerboard glued on and the back of the headstock cut.
Ok, for other guitar makers or people wanting to try to make a guitar, I do things in a weird order. I know it's "not what you learned in school" or whatever.
With this project, it will get a lot more weird than usual but trust me... I will try to explain why as I go. Or, maybe not. If you have a question, just ask. This is MY system and it works for me. I've done this for a long time.
Also, my system is very left handed.
If you are left handed, you know what I mean.
Up to this point, the block of wood is square and so is the fingerboard. Both still perfectly square, just glued together.

Painted everything white before anything is cut out. I know it's weird, but I know what I'm doing (most of the time).
If you don't believe me, stick around. If you do believe me,
Stick around, you might learn something.

While I am waiting for paint to dry, I figured it would be a good time to learn how to gold leaf..
These are Naval Aviation Wings that I will be putting on the guitar neck. This was my third try I think. I'll get it!

I was able to go see Miss Cindy at Binders Art Supply in Buckhead.

I mean, look at this place! There is something every few feet that can spark a new idea or new inspiration. I can spend hours in there just reading labels.
I am lucky enough to have Binders Art Supply donate art supplies for this project.
They have allowed me to take this to another level.

Art work is on the headstock and the fingerboard is taped off exactly where I want to cut.

Neck and most of the headstock cut out.

Doing the art up the fingerboard.
Yes, this is hard..
The back of the neck is still square.

The Blue Angel guitar headstock with pretty HipShot keys!

So, I had an issue with the collective perspective of the bass and guitar together. Each instrument was fine on it's on, but not next to each other, the jets looked like the were going to fly into each other.. I guess that's kinda what the Blue Angels look like they are doing some times but is not the effect I am going for here.
It took pages like this before I figured out where the problem was...

I have spent a lot of time getting my colors right. By that I mean the images being printed must be printed by different machines.
The colors from my machine don't EXACTLY match the poster printer colors at Staples. Also, the paper and amount of ink in the machine also play a part. They are close but when u put clear over it, the colors change.
Me and my friends at Staples
(mainly me) have learned a lot about this subject lately. Red on from a Canon isn't the exact same as a HP or whatever.
It would be ok if everything could be printed at the same time on the same machine, but that would be WAY too easy.
I am waiting on them to get in the same paper we used through out this whole project. I'm not taking any chances. While I'm waiting, I've taken the time to get good at gold leaf and bending these images around corners.
This was really hard, but so much fun!

The new prints are in and are stunning! All of the artwork is on the fingerboard..
Oh! The Naval Aviation Wings in gold leaf on the fingerboard.

While I'm waiting for all that to dry..
I'll show you the bass. I got a 4 string headless unit donated by Hipshot.
Here is a quick peek.

Now that the paint on the fingerboard is dry, I can fret it.
I fret my necks when it's still square.

Now, cut the back of the neck.

Now, the fun part..
I shape my necks, archtops and contours with a hand grinder.

The body is cut out and routed for pickups. The control cavity, battery box need to be routed and 30 holes drilled then I can glue together and start the paint job.

I glued a copy of the photo down first before I cut the body. Weird order oven for me but it made cutting out a lot easier.
I've chewed that photo up pretty good by now..

No comments:

Post a Comment