Custom Instruments

Although just about every instrument we make is customized and unique in one way or another, some instruments just don’t fit any other category. Shown here are some examples of custom instruments we have made.

Xavier Padilla

Listen to Open Wings by Xavier Padilla

This bass is as custom as custom could ever be. Xavier is a man who thinks deeply – about his music, his technique, and his instrument. This is evidenced by his career, from backing up Celia Cruz as a kid to touring the world with the Gipsy Kings. After suffering severe pain from DeQuervain’s syndrome in his arm and subsequently receiving the maximum number of cortisone injections, he made some changes to his technique, and he also had a dream. He dreamed of a bass with a twisted neck to ease the pressure in his wrists and arms. He woke and told himself it was impossible.

The design of Xavier’s bass was a real collaboration. Thanks to the wonders of e-mail, we communicated back and forth from the United States to France, trading drawings and discussing and debating many details, material and philosophical. Both a friendship and a bass emerged.

The bass has many features that are unique, to say the least, and each one was done with careful consideration of its purpose. We plan to dedicate more space to Xavier and the story and details of his bass in the near future.

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Torzal neck for Klein Electric 6-string guitar

The Klein electric guitar is heralded by many as a masterpiece of brilliant ergonomic design. From the headless neck to the ergonomic form and function of the body, every aspect is design to better fit the body.

To take this design one step further and replace the straight neck with a Torzal twisted neck seemed only natural—a perfect marriage!

This neck features 14 degrees of twist. Starting at 0 degrees at the bridge it rotates to –14 degrees at the nut (or “zero” fret, in this case). All other dimensions duplicate the original Klein neck. This neck is made from hard maple with a birdseye maple fingerboard and stainless steel frets.

 

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WittenbergBass1

One-piece birdseye 30” scale 26 fret Torzal bass neck with ebony fingerboard

One-piece birdseye 30” scale 26 fret Torzal bass neck with ebony fingerboard. Commissioned by Bas Wittenberg, and incredible bass builder from Barendrecht, Netherlands. A wonderful collaboration – we made the through-neck portion, and he built the body and finished the instrument. Check out some of his amazing creations at www.bas-extravaganza.nl.

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jesandguitar3

25” scale Firebird style guitar

25” scale Firebird style guitar built for Jesse, co-creator of our website. This guitar has a 3 piece mahogany/maple/mahogany neck which runs through the body as a core, with the quilted maple body top and back covering both sides. The guitar has two Rio Grande humbuckers plus a TonePros/LR Baggs piezo bridge and saddles. For controls, it has: neck volume, bridge volume, piezo volume, and mag tone control. The upper horn 3-way switch selects the mags: neck/both/bridge. One lower 3-way switch selects mags/everything/piezo. The other 3-way switch selects outer mag coils/all coils (humbucking)/inner coils.
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Torzal 4-34 Headless

One of the great things about building custom instruments is having a steady source of inspiration from customers.  I always have a deep pool of ideas I hope to employ as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and when a customer brings an interesting proposal to the shore of that pool, then it’s the perfect time to dive in!

Torzal 4-34 Headless

A recent example is Benjamin LeRay’s Headless Torzal Std. 4-string. His main requests for the bass were that it be headless and as light as possible. The neck is three piece mahogany/maple/mahogany, neck-through construction. It’s actually what I like to call “set-through” because the neck goes through the top of the body but the back of the body is solid across.  The body top is spalted maple (very light), and the back is redwood.  He originally asked about basswood or balsa for the back, and I talked him into this redwood.  Along with being plainly beautiful, it is deceptively light.  The fingerboard is cocobolo, and though it’s unbound, it has a thin maple purfling line below it.  I carved a volute at the end of the neck, just to let your thumb know it’s at the end of the neck.  The headpiece blank is brass and was supplied by ETS. I added the truss rod adjustment in the center of it and otherwise shaped it to fit, then had it nickel-plated.IMG_6617smLogo-n-cocobolo

redwood back

The redwood has an interesting side story.  I got it from my dad Jon, but it was once part of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company water penstock in Northern California.  This from  Jon: “The current penstock is steel and in the same location as the old redwood one. It feeds the Inskip powerhouse in the Battle Creek drainage. We were told that the redwood penstock was put in around 1915. Back then it would have been the Great Western Power Company, which was later bought by P.G. & E. The redwood was classified as “pipe grade” — the highest grade of redwood. Whether parts of the penstock were replaced over the years  I don’t know. Can’t guarantee that all of it is that old, but I think it probably is. I’m sure the redwood would have come from the north coast of California. Humboldt County probably. We still have a pile of the iron bands that held it together and the iron fittings that sealed the butt joints where two boards met. Each board was 20′ long, I believe. They were staggered so that no two joints were together which made it a continuous 6′ diameter pipe. The contractor who removed the penstock cut it every 20′ with a chainsaw then lifted each section out with a crane, so the board lengths are random. You might look on the internet for ‘Inskip Powerhouse.’ There is a big salmon and steelhead habitat restoration project in that area and you should find maps and diagrams of the water systems there.”

Between the redwood, spalted maple, and mahogany, the bass itself was only about 4 pounds.  The ETS headless hardware, Nordtrand Fat Stack pickups, and Aguilar OBP-3 preamp added a few more pounds, so the bass overall weighed just over six pounds.  Because of the softness of the woods involved, I gave it an epoxy primer, followed by topcoats of my usual finish (Satin KTM-9).

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The body is my usual shape, but tweaked to accept the headless tuners, and the upper horn was extended to further improve the balance as well as compensate for some shifting that occurred in making room for the bridge.

Along with this bass I also built a custom Torzal neck for a Tacoma acoustic guitar for Ben.  Now that he has been gigging around France for several months with the bass, Ben has recently put in an order for a sister to the bass–similar shapes and wood combinations, but in an electric guitar (Torzal, with a head).

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Ben & the builder

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Guitars!

 

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Padilla-style Torzal with conventional hardware and pickups