Archive for the ‘Guitar Building’ Category

This Hurricane is ready to go

Monday, January 31st, 2011

This Hurricane that we’ve been chronicling is complete. It’s ready to go; ready for someone to make some noise with it! Way back when we started it, we set out to make a unique looking and sounding guitar that would be a show after show workhorse. This one should do the trick.

It’s relatively light weight thanks to a basswood-core body. It has quite a unique look with it’s blue tiger maple finish. The high output Bill Lawrence Dimebag pickups give it plenty of voice, although it’s a bit harsh. All in all, this is a pure menace.


  • Nut width: 1 5/8 inch (Les Paul size)
  • Scale length: 24.75 inches (Les Paul)
  • 22 Frets, medium size
  • Standard thin neck with a double barrel truss rod
  • STORM custom peghead  with 3×3 tuning machines
  • Tiger maple veneer over basswood body
  • Bill Lawrence 500XL Neck pickup
  • Bill Lawrence X500XL Dimebag Darrel Bridge Pickup
  • Nashville Tune-o-matic bridge
  • Though the body stringing
  • Volume & Tone control (500K pots for both)
  • Bridge/Neck/Both pickup selection switch
  • Translucent blue nitrocellulose lacquer finish

This was an experimental design with the  basswood core and tiger maple top/back. We wanted to test out how the body would come together in appearance, feel and sound. So, we built it and we played it and played it and played it. It handles great, sounds great and looks great. We like it in all respects and will use this technique on future models.

So, who’s this aggressive beast going to? Well, that’s kind of up to you. Since this was an experimental prototype and we played it quite a bit, we’re going to put it on E-Bay as a demo model. That means someone is going to get a monster of a guitar at a pretty fair bargain.

Signature Series

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

You’ve seen them: signature series guitars. Instruments that are made to the exacting specification of a prominent artist. The headstock may even be adorned with the signature of the player. Pretty impressive, to be sure. These few have made it.

It’s especially cool for the artist who’s name is carried on the guitar. People’s jaws drop when they pull it out of the case. Other musicians are green with envy. You’ve got to be pretty famous to have your signature on a guitar. You’ve got to be pretty influential in the music industry to have a manufacturer make one exactly like you want. Everybody knows that.

It might just be time for you to realize that you’ve made it. You might be one of the few whose signature is on a headstock. Literally. That’s right, we’ll build your guitar to your exact specifications and put your signature on the head stock. Then you can decide on whether it’s a one of a kind or a signature series that we’ll make more of. We’ll even promote it on our web site. Who knows? It might even make it on to a STORM Shirt.

Talk about bragging rights. Let’s get started. Send us an email with your idea.

Yeah, we’ll definitely make a shirt. Bill might even wear one.

Polishing Time

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The body has been sprayed with blue, black and twelve coats of clear nitrocellulose lacquer at this point. We’ve left it cure for over two weeks to dry thoroughly.

It’s not done yet! The lacquer looks good at this stage, but we still have more work to do yet. Now it’s time to wet sand the guitar with 2500 grit sandpaper.

Wet sand doesn’t mean drenched-wet sanding, however. It’s a careful process with minimal water to protect the finish. Automobiles were finished with this type of lacquer until just a few years ago, so the finish is actually waterproof. We minimalize the use of water to keep dampness out of the holes and cavities and we don’t want to remove too much of the finish. The goal is to create a smooth, even finish.

The next step is to buff out the finish and polish it to a glass-like appearance.

Finish Applied

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

This photo shows the translucent blue finish over the tiger maple body. It’s turning out just as we planned, despite me arguing with myself over leaving it natural.

The translucent blue finish is created by putting a blue dye in clear lacquer. It take some experimenting along with a bit of trial and error to get just the right color. Different types of wood will hold the color slightly different, so the only way to get exactly the desired finish is to test and test.

The black sunburst effect is not completely finished, however. This body will require a another light coat, or maybe two, of black lacquer along the edges to deepen the effect.

Ready for Finishing

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Now this Hurricane is really starting to look like a STORM Custom Guitar. The binding is in-place, all the control knob holes and the jack hole are drilled. The body has been lightly smoothed and it’s ready to be finished.

Even though the plan all along has been to finish it with a translucent blue lacquer, I kind of think it might look fine just clear coated. I like the light tiger maple wood accented by the black binding. Hmm…

No changes! I’ll stick with the original plan and finish it in blue. All the hardware is chrome, which will go with the blue very well.

All we’d have to do, though, is order new hardware in black to keep the body natural. That’s the great thing about making truly custom guitars – almost anything is possible. The combinations of wood, finishes and components are so varied that the possibilities seem endless.

All Tied Up

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

After the channel was routed along the edges of the guitar body, the binding is put in place with an adhesive. The we wrap the body with giant rubber bands to apply pressure. This holds the binding in place while the adhesive dries.

This photo shows the back of the guitar body with the electronics cavity visible. One of the logistic difficulties of the Hurricane body is packing four potentiometers and a switch in to the cavity. The body’s design limits the space slightly compared to more traditional guitars. We make it all fit, though.

We’ll let the adhesive dry for a day or so before unwrapping the guitar. This would be a great time to take a break and play some guitar. I’ll be playing a STORM Custom Guitar, of course.

Neck Fit

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The body is roughed out and the neck and pickup cavities are routed. So, let’s try the neck out just to see what it’s going to look like.

Hmm…It looks like it fits. They always do at this stage. Neck fit is perhaps one of the trickiest parts of lutherie. On a guitar like this Hurricane, the neck has to be straight along the guitar’s horizontal axis.

Since this Hurricane will have a Nashville Tune-O-Matic bridge, the neck angle has to be right so that the strings clear the pickups and rest nicely over the bridge.

Visually inspecting the guitar at this point also gives us a check on how the overall appearance will look. Sometimes something catches the eye and that gut feel takes over. It can be impossible to correct an issue later on in the process. Feeling good about the instrument the entire way through the construction process is what makes lutherie fun.

Routing the Binding Channel

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

At this point the tiger maple veneer has been applied to the body. The fine grain of the maple is clearly visible in this photo. In this step, we are routing a channel in the body for the binding.

We chose a basswood body with a tiger maple veneer for two reasons.

First, the basswood is light. A maple body would be very heavy compared to basswood. Heavy isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not what we wanted in this particular instrument. There’s not many guitars heavier than a mahogany Les Paul. As I said, heavy isn’t bad.

Secondly,  we wanted a warm tone. A maple body would produce a brighter, crisper tone. Bright and crisp isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not what we wanted in this particular instrument. A swamp ash Strat is bright and crisp. As I said, bright and crisp isn’t bad.

Now, on the matter of tone, we’ve selected some Bill Lawrence pickups to give this Hurricane a pretty harsh voice. Yes, an X500XL Dimebag Darrel will be going in to this one. It could be dangerous.

Rough Cut

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

In this photo, the Hurricane body has been roughed out on the band saw. The edges have been sanded with a drum sander to smooth things out to match the signature shape of this style guitar.

We’ve also routed the pickup and neck cavities. This body is made from bass wood, which is lighter and somewhat softer than mahogany or ash. That just means that we have to be a little more protective of the piece while we’re working on it. There’s still some more sanding and shaping to be done.

Then, the next steps on this guitar will be to apply a tiger maple veneer to the body and then rout a channel for the binding. The finish will be  a translucent blue lacquer with black sides and a sunburst effect on the the edges.

Planing is not enough

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

After the blank stock is planed, we still scrap and check to make sure that its as flat as possible. This is probably and excessive step since the body will be sanded and re-sanded.

How much attention to detail to too much? It’s hard to tell what too much looks like, but you can certainly too when there’s too little.

They don’t start out pretty

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Hurricane BlankWe all love to see, hold and (most importantly) PLAY beautiful guitars. That’s what lutherie is all about, to us at least. There’s nothing better than creating an instrument that looks spectacular and sounds just as good. How many times have you heard “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Well, I think we can extrapolate that out to “Beauty is in the ear of the beholder!”.

Unfortunately, guitars don’t start out life looking as great as the luthier envisions them to be. Take this freshly glued up blank for instance. It doesn’t look too exciting. It doesn’t play real well either.

The challenge is to craft a visually appealing and sonically appealing instrument from this ordinary wood blank. This particular blank is destined to be a Category 1 Hurricane. That’s the work horse of our custom designed line. A guitar that turns head and ears alike. A guitar that you play night in, night out, gig after gig.

We’ll chronicle the progress on this particular Hurricane all the way from start to finish. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the process as much as we do.

A Cyclone is Forming

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The slab has evolved into the rough form of a Cyclone. The body on the right is solid maple and will be hollowed out alomost completely. We’ll leave a spot to mount the Bibsby tail piece, but the electronics, bridge and pickups will be on the top.

The top is shown at the left and is AA Sitka Spruce. It will be shaped in a concave form to match the unique shape of the Cyclone body. Of course, with a semi-hollow body, the top isn’t a crucial as with an archtop or flat-top acuostic. Extreme care must be exercised so that proper tonality is expressed when the instrument is being played.

It’s always exciting to see a new guitar taking shape at this stage of construction. It’s a bit difficult to envision this instrument with gold hardware and shiny black laquer finish right now.

What a slab!

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

This particular guitar doesn’t look all that exciting right now. And, truthfully, it’s not too exciting; it’s just a slab of wood. That’s the humble beginning for them all. That’s where the excitement starts. We never get tired of selecting wood and envisioning the guitar that’s going to emerge.

This hefty chunk of maple will become a semi-hollow body Cyclone. Yes, maple is a heavy, dense wood and isn’t necessarily the first choice for guitar bodies. In this case we’re building a semi-hollow body, so much of the weight will be eliminated. The maple will retain a strong frame.

Clear coating

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Clear coating Jerem\'ys bassIn this photo, Bill is applying a layer of clear coat to the bass guitar in STORM’s specially built paint room. On this particular guitar, we used Sherwin-Williams Ultra 7000 automotive paint and a matching clear coat. We selected this specific paint to achieve the look that the customer wanted. It’s a pearl white metalic paint with a nice depth to it. This paint is applied in an primmer, base coat, mid coat and clear coat format. Yes, it’s a complicated finish and that’s how we like to work. 

This finish material is not like your off-the-shelf spay can paint. It’s rather difficult to mix and handle. It also requires the use a NIOSH approved respirator. It’s nasty stuff to sniff, but its worth the effort.

Thick Stripe/Thin Stripe Wins

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

bass body and neck dryingWe proposed four possible styles of stripes for this custom bass. The customer chose the single thick stripe, single thin stripe design. It creates a good, balanced look for the guitar. Here’s the final product hanging in the paint room drying.

The next step will be to apply a tough, durable clear coat finish to protect the pearl paint. We’re anxious to see this instrument assembled with all of it’s gold hardware on. The pearl, maroon, gold combination should make this a very classy bass guitar.









What Style Stripes Should Go On Jeremy’s Bass?

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Here’s a prime example of the way we work with customers on key decisions for their instruments. Jeremy told us that he wants a maroon stripe to compliment the pearl finish on his custom bass. The question is just what should the stripe look like? We’ve come up with a couple of options to start the discussion. None of these are likely to be the final design, but it’s easier to see what you don’t want than visualize exactly what you want. 

Post a comment an let us know which direction you think would work best. Of course, the customer will have the final say and we’ll post a photo showing his decision.

Which Truss Rod is Right?

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

I’ve been talking about truss rods with my good friend Jim for a while. We keep going back and forth on the merits of double barrel truss rods versus the more traditional single rod style. Certainly, single rods have been time tested. I think, however, that there’s still plenty if room for innovation in guitar building. Double barrel truss rods are an innovation that we use at STORM.

Now, my buddy Jim knows a thing or two about guitar design and construction. I’ve learned a lot from talking with him over the years. So when he tells me that he worries about the pressure that a double barrel rod puts on the fret board, it makes me think.

This disussion led me to do some testing. I’ve learned that both styles of truss rods put pressure on the neck and the fret board, just in diffent places. Single barrels put more strain on the heel and the nut end because that’s where the are anchored in to the neck. Double barrels spread the strain out over a greater distance. This can mean that there is more stress on the middle at the finger board, but since the stress is spread out over a greater area the neck will bend more evenly.

Well, it all boils down to this: STORM Custom Guitars will build your neck with either style truss rod. As with everything we do, we build everything to your specs. Who else cares about this level of detail in YOUR guitar?

Bass Primed and Ready to Paint

Monday, September 29th, 2008


We have Jeremey’s bass all primed and ready to paint. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, though. This body has about 12 coats of white primer on it. It was then wet sanded with 400 grit sandpaper until the finish is like porcelain. Paint never hides anything on guitars, but it will show even the smallest imperfection. Notice that we have a “working neck” on the body for this part of the process. It lets us handle the piece with ease and clamp it into our painting vice.

The next step will be to spray the pearl base and mid coats on. It’s getting exciting now! 

Jeremy’s Thunderstorm Bass is Underway

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

STORM has a great opportunity to work with an exciting bassist to create a custom Thunderstorm. We’ve been looking forward to building the instrument for a while. It’s going to be cool, no doubt about it!

Cutting Jeremy\'s Thunderstorm

Here we’re cutting the body out with the bandsaw. No, we don’t cut one handed, it just looks that way in this photo. At the customers request, this bass will be built with a solid maple body to get a crisp, brilliant tone. 









Sherri’s acoustic is almost ready to wet sand & buff.

Monday, July 7th, 2008

After the final coat of nitrocellulose lacquer is applied to a guitar body, it’s imperative that it sits for at least a week before the final wet sanding and buffing. Well, Sherri’s custom acoustic has been hanging around drying for about a week now, so we’re anxious to get to it.

We’ll probably start on it tomorrow (8-July). First it will get sanded with 1000 grit and then with 2500 grit. Before the final hand polishing, the bridge will be mounted and the electronics will be put in.

Finally, after that we’ll buff it out with a wheel and finish it up by hand.

If you haven’t seen Sherri play live, you owe it to yourself to do so. Check out her website at