Some 30 years ago I was an impoverished teenager still studying at school. My guitar collection at that time consisted of the Fender classical guitar my Mum had bought me, an Eko Ranger 6 steel string acoustic – again a present from Mum and now sadly missed when I see what they fetch secondhand, and a Columbus Strat copy.
Now the Columbus, as copies went, wasn’t too bad and by then I was already into “modifying” and had bought an Ibanez super 70 humbucker that I’d stuck in the bridge position after some hacking with a chisel, also the bridge pieces had been replaced with some brass ones that I’d got somewhere.
However it still wasn’t my “ideal” weapon and I longingly looked at Gibson Les Paul goldtop Deluxes in the local music shop windows, Hagstrom Swedes looked the business too. However I was strapped for cash and also had this desire to “be different”. So I cracked on the neat idea of building my own guitar – simple! Well Brian May had done it so why couldn’t I?
I actually went down the assemble rather than build route. I found a company called Touchstone Tonewoods and wrote to them for a catalogue and decided on a Strat looking thing, but I’d stick 2 humbuckers in it – at the time Alan Holdsworth had been filling his stint with jazz rockers UK and I used that loosely as an influence as well.
So I ordered an Ash body, hard tail; I wasn’t going to get into trying to set up a tremolo and besides this was to be a sort of SG meets Strat (or so I thought in my head). I coupled this with a maple neck but rosewood fingerboarded neck.
So these bits arrive, I bought some tuners and a Mighty Mite bridge from some where and ordered a couple of DiMarzio PAFs – the biggest expense. I attacked the body and my hacking with a chisel made it routed for two humbuckers and enlarged the control cavity so I could get a vol and tone for each pickup in.
Now reality set in – I knew stuff but wasn’t too practical. Luckily my Dad was a shipwright by training and so I explained scale lengths and how the thing should go together and in a couple of evenings he had mated the neck and body through a custom made neck plate (he got some metal made up at work) and positioned the bridge. He also cut out the scratchplate for me from some plastic he got somewhere. I then wired it up, bought fitted and butchered a nut and viola… a guitar but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped sadly, it lacked something.
For years it languished in the collection – it did find it’s way onto one solo I recorded for a home made album in the 80s. But as I got a job and money it slipped from use. The body was left unfinished and the PAFs nicked for other bodge ups… sorry customisations. At one point it had a Shadow guitar synth fitted to it.
About 3 years back I dug it back out. I refinished the body using a new stain which complemented the look. I found some new pickups via Swineshead pickups – a custom maker who can use wood for the bobbins… class. I rewired it all and fitted coil taps and some new tuners. Sadly still it wasn’t quite right and it went back on the wall for a while. Finally recently I took it to a repairer who for very little money traced my wiring cockup and made and fitted at last a decent tusq nut.
So 30 years on from its initial conception and the starting of it’s life it is playing and sounding better than ever. I call it my Nunostrat – coined as it looks a bit like the guitar Nuno Bettencourt has used for some years.
More than anything though – this is partially a tribute to my Dad, who passed away too early in 1984. The repairer was generous in his praise of my Dad’s work on fitting the neck and bridge. It may never be the best guitar in my collection but one thing is for sure it’s certainly the most unique and most personal.
Further On is a 46-year old amateur guitarist with a passion for music who has difficulty keeping his collection to a manageable size. Read more about Further On's love of music and guitars on his blog, Guitars and Life.