Attention all Music Lovers…
We are having a R.F. Ohl custom guitar built by Mike Stanley, a local musician and producer at Royal Jam Music USA. Check out the progress of this fantastic project right here. We will be updating this blog post with the latest info and pictures.
The lucky winner gets to choose between a DJ Gig or a package of guitar lessons. The DJ Gig is worth $400 and lasts up to 4 hours. The Guitar lessons are weekly lessons for 3 months, valued at $300. Click here for complete details about either prize.
This guitar will have locking tuners, strap locks, a 3-tone cherry burst finish and a black P90 single-coil pick-up. It also will have a dual bridge arrangement instead of a wrap-around bridge because they’re just better. The neck pocket was pre-cut to match the neck from the factory in Sacramento, California. It’s going to be a glued-in neck, like real Gibson Les Paul Jr’s have. However unlike a Gibson, the R.F. Ohl guitar will have a belly carve in back so it doesn’t dig into your ribs like their guitars can.
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First 2 weeks
Here is the design prototype and a look at some of the parts:
Once all the parts came in, the body carving began. with over 40 years of experience playing Les Paul guitars, the team agreed that a belly carve for comfort would be nice. Something that is lacking in a production Les Paul. Additionally, a cutaway carve for a little more extended access to the high frets. the R.F. Ohl guitar is getting exactly that.
Next, top was planed down and a book-matched flame maple cap was placed on the mahogany body. Also, the neck pocket, bridge posts, pickup and the lighting cavity were routed out. This photo shows this process halfway completed. You can start to see the flame figure in the maple top. The figure was slanted to give it a “bone-yard” appearance.
A flame maple face was placed on the headstock to match the flame maple cap on the body. The headstock will be shaped into something more pleasing than the “paddle” it started as.
After testing a variety of LED arrangements, a decision was made to use a small breadboard and an assortment of flashing white and RGB LEDs. The contraption will run on a 9v battery for about a week constantly without killing the battery. If your performance is that long, you need a better agent!
Seriously, these are really bright LEDs. They make very little heat so there’s no danger of them being in guitar, but they can light up a room or cut through stage lighting easy.
With the electronics designed, a Perspex square was cut and fitted into the lighting cavity. The idea is that the LEDs in the cavity will light up the flame part of the RF Ohl logo that is on the cover plate. There will also be a little push button on the cover plate to turn the LEDs off, so the battery should last way longer than a week.
As you can see, the guitar’s body work is almost done. Just a little sanding, and then it goes off for dye and paint. Here’s a photo of the guitar as it is at the week 3 mark.
The build is proceeding on schedule, though with a few minor set-backs. Here is a detailed recap of the week from Mike Stanley:
Over the weekend we painted the RF Ohl logo onto the body, black first then gloss white on top. All the other logo colors end up on the flame plate in the “O”. The logo came out pretty close to the way it appeared on their business card, I think.
The neck has been final shaped, sanded, dyed and glued in. Neck setting is a critical part of the build process because if the neck to body joint isn’t straight and true now the guitar will never play properly.
It’s one of those nervous moments for a guitar builder I suppose. I glued her up, carefully placed the clamps so the glue can cure for the next 24 hours, and then went to bed.
The next day while the glue was curing I worked on the flame plate that covers the LED array. When the LEDs are on the flame in the RF Ohl logo is supposed to light up and flicker a bunch of different colors. This means parts of it are opaque enamel paint and parts are transparent acrylic paint.
I masked off the flame area and shot gloss black enamel on the back of the plate, then hand painted the flame in acrylic.
After masking off the letters I shot them in gloss white enamel on the front of the plate. Then I test fit the push button and plate into the body cavity to make sure there would be room for everything.
Guitars are my life, and I understand them. When it comes to electricity however, not so much. I soldered up the circuit board that carries the LEDs; I had already wired the design up on a breadboard and let it run for a week straight with no problems but once I soldered up the actual board and connected it for a test, the 9v battery heated up dangerously!
Guitars spontaneously catching fire are cool and all, but it seemed prudent to fix that before we inadvertently exploded the RF Ohl showroom with art. I’m no business genius but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be good.
After a redesign of the circuit with the help of my amplifier tech Dave Willauer (who IS an electrical genius, BTW; he used to design circuit chips for Lucent) that battery heating issue is solved. And I’ve resolved to stick to making musical instruments and let Ohl’s do the heating stuff.
But the incident inspired a name for this guitar (we name all of our hand-crafted instruments out of the Royal Jam Custom Shop, of course); “The Spark”. Seems like a fitting name for a guitar designed for a home heating company.
There was another minor setback, while I’m confessing. Seven years ago I had ArmorAll’ed one of the padded folding chairs in my shop. After laying the guitar body on the chair to take a pic that old ArmorAll seeped into the wood on the back, and I had to sand all that down and re-dye the back or the clear-coat would bubble up like Budweiser in a bucket.
That was a delay and hassle, but easy enough to fix. Thank Heaven! And way to hang in there, Armor All!
We’ll have the clear-coat on the whole instrument over the weekend, so here she is right before she gets all shiny. From here on in the build will progress much faster.
Guitars are always an adventure, no matter which way you encounter one. I’ve been building, playing, fixing and customizing them since 1977, and every one of them has its own personality. Just like whoever ultimately winds up behind them!
Here is the next update from Mike Stanley!
The “Spark” guitar is progressing nicely, with last week’s technical problems now solved we moved forward with renewed momentum. If all goes to plan this instrument is completed within the next two weeks.
This past weekend we applied waterslide decals to the headstock, after a day we shot clear-coat 6 coats deep. Because we used enamel paint for the logo we’ve glossed in clear enamel rather than lacquer, so we then had to let the instrument cure for a few days before we did much else. Here she is in her candy shell.
After curing she got hardware, starting with the bridge and stop-bar posts. Some say you should install these before the finish coats of clear, but I bevel the top edge of each hole with a curved file, protecting that new finish from cracking. Trade tip there, I guess.
Once the posts were in I installed the LED system, first gluing in the rails for the LEDs, then running the resistor and power line to the battery in the control cavity. Notice the corner of the flame plate is under the stop bar, so the battery can be easily changed from the rear control cavity without having to dismantle the whole guitar!
While the soldering iron was hot the pickup, control electronics and output jack were installed, along with the Strap Lock pegs.
OK, there was one glitch this week, and it has nothing to do with the guitar. But we shop for parts constantly, and I buy USA if at all possible. This is an American made guitar. So if your eBay ad says it’s an American made part it better not say “Made in China” when UPS delivers it.
Nothing against the Chinese, I eat their food all the time. But I had to get a refund and order the right part again (from a different supplier right over in Barnegat, NJ, BTW) so the locking tuners are on order. Again. Be here in a couple of days. Kills me because I have perfectly good American tuners right here now, but they aren’t locking. And I want to put locking tuners on it, dang it.
There’s still hand buffing, fret polishing, oiling the fingerboard and making the truss rod cover, plenty to do first anyway so it’s not like I can string it up just yet. That’s what we’ll get done next week.
But all the other hardware is installed; the lights, pickup, volume and tone all function. So the headstock waits a little, but once the tuners come we can install strings and do the final adjustments.
Ah, it’s hard to be patient. We’re getting pretty close, really. She looks pretty too, my cheapo camera and shop lighting doesn’t do it justice.
Mike continues with his recap of how the R.F. Ohl “Spark” guitar is coming along;
“The Spark” is nearly complete, with a flurry of things done during the epic Great Snowpocalypse of 2017. I understand the weather channel called it ‘Stella’. I called it two feet of lost time spent shoveling the driveway, a good excuse to spring for a snow-blower, and a couple of days to install the remaining hardware and make all the necessary adjustments to this guitar.
There were a lot of them!
The long awaited locking tuners arrived on Monday just prior to the blizzard, along with a resupply of copper shielding tape. Initial testing of the electronics before shielding showed zero noise or interference, but I installed shielding in the lighting and control cavities anyway. Then I put on the tuners, finally!
The cool thing about locking tuners is you don’t have to wrap the string around the tuning machine post; it clamps in by tightening a knob on the back of each tuner. They stay in tune better, and they make string changes quick and easy.
We had a truss rod cover engraved in 3-ply (b/w/b) so I test fit that, though it came off again to do the eventual truss rod adjustment. Looks pretty sweet, and carries some of the white up from the body to really draw the look of the instrument together.
After getting the headstock hardware on, she is technically a completed guitar. Only, the job isn’t done. I still had to deal with the fingerboard.
And oh boy, did I ever!
I checked the leveling with a fret rocker, and this neck was ever so slightly up-bowed. I loosened the truss rod a bit, to give the neck a little relief before I strung it up. The fingerboard came with a decent fret job, but I like to round off the fret ends and make sure the whole neck feels comfortable.
Most of our necks come from a factory in California, and let’s just say the weather there is somewhat… different than here in Pennsylvania. At least in March it sure is. The neck may have shrunk a little from the dry winter air here, so I doused the wood a few times with Tung Oil and then taped it up.
I hand filed the fret ends, and then sanded them flush with the edge of the neck. I finished by polishing each fret with #0000 steel wool and then jeweler’s cloth.
At that point I put a set of medium gauge strings on and tuned her up.
Lights work? Check. Volume? Check. Tone?
TONE?!? …Oh crud. What’s the problem?
Searching, searching…ah HAH! Broke the filter cap stuffing it back in after the shielding install. If it ain’t broke, get paranoid and fix it until you break it, I always say. So I can fix it better, is the idea.
Uh…Well. I didn’t say it was a good idea.
OK, fixed that with another tone cap. Tone working now? Check. Set the string height…check.
So I moved on to setting the intonation. Do that stuff all the time, took 5 minutes, intonation…check. Play it…and she buzzes at the first couple of frets. Back to that truss rod!
You have to adjust truss rods gradually, and sometimes it can take a day or two for the neck to relax completely. You just have to wait. Which is what I’m doing as I write this.
Jim Markley wanted to see a picture of the flame maple top, (which still needs a final buff and wax) but here’s one that shows the figure pretty well.
So now at the end of Week 6 we are in the very final adjustments; as soon as they’re finished I’ll post some pix of the entire, finished instrument. Then it gets delivered to Ohl’s. Stop by there, maybe get a new grill. Spring is coming.
Sweepstakes Prize Details:
Either prize is full filled by Mike Stanley.
The DJ Gig is valued at $400 and lasts up to 4 hours. It can be at any location within a 50 mile radius of Lehighton, PA. Winner must provide 1 month’s advance notice to schedule the gig.
The guitar lessons are weekly lessons over a 3 month period consisting a total of 12, 30 minute lessons. They are held in Lehighton PA at Royal Jam Studios.
Terms and Conditions:
- This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook or Google.
- Only one winner will be selected. Winner can choose one prize, either the DJ Gig or the Guitar Lessons.