This was one of the most unique builds we’ve done in awhile. Not only is this our first electric guitar build, but it is a 15 string, electric harp baroque lute. Nomenclature is not our strong suit but custom design is. The instrument falls into the category of electric harp guitars for us, and we were thrilled to be a part of making this design a reality for our customer.
Originally he sent a full scale drawing, as shown, that we were able to get re-sketched into CAD to start the process of figuring out neck alignment and where the hardware will install. Although I did not commit to assembling the electonics, I did need as much hardware as he had for me to complete the design including the tremolo bridge and custom 9 string and 7 string pickups. I knew there would need to be a close alignment of the stirings to where the pickups would be so the poles would line up with each string. This meant that I did need to completely design the pick guard with the pickups placed according to their string spacing. He sent gold sparkle pick guard material for me to cut, but I ended up only cutting a plywood template for him so he can do additional pickup alignment when he finishes the assembly. The pickup pockets are over sized and will have room for slight alignment changes when he cuts the final pick guard.
You can see his original harp peg head sketch was not really going to work for standard tuners. This had to be re-designed. He wanted to keep the “swan-like” shape of the body theme, so we settled on another shape that made it look more like a wing. This allowed a straight line for the 7 sub tuners to be in line. We also had to figure out a different tuner to use on the neck. We ended up going with the gearless Steinberger tuner that is accessible from the back of the peg head for the lowest 4 strings of the neck. The other 5 right side tuners are Grover sealed geared tuners.
Our first CNC cut was an MDF body and a walnut neck to see how the strings would align and make sure I was on the right track measuring everything precisely. Thankfully we did this because I was pretty far off on the first sketch for the alignment to work, I was nearly 1/4″ off at the nut which completely threw off where the bridge would be and where the pickup pockets would align. Essentially they would not align at all and I needed to find my mistake. Somewhere during sketch-up I did not properly dimension the nut width and that was the culprit of the error. That meant starting over on the neck design, which was not too much additional work. Another alignment I missed was measuring the centering of the string holes on the bridge he sent. The prototype body bridge pocket was off by another almost 1/4″ because of that. Measure twice, cut once as they say right?
Apart from the couple of sketching mishaps, the overall build came together quite nicely. The neck fit super snug into the neck pocket. We used neck bushings and screws instead of a neck plate because of how wide the neck is. We designed an extra inch or so of width to the neck simply as
reinforcement for all the additional string tension load there was going to be. Since it was a 9-string neck, it was already going to be a wide neck, so this did not affect the playability. There is 1 truss rod installed with the nut access on the first peg head. We considered installing 2 truss rods but decided the neck was going to be strong enough, and where the 2nd would have to be placed would not add much asymmetrical adjustment. The bass side of the neck is much thicker so it will end up staying straighter in the long run. The truss rod will help the treble side when it eventually relieves.
He had custom 9 pole magnetic pickups made for this instrument, all 3 slightly different pole spacing so they would line up exactly with each string depending upon how far from the bridge each one was. The custom 9 string tremolo bridge was a surprise to see as well, everything gold plated. Unfortunately there were no pickup coveres for the custom 9 pole mags, so I offered to have them 3d printed by a friend of mine. Suprisingly that worked out better than expected also.
More is yet to be seen once the customer takes the instrument to its conclusion. We sent him a working, playable electric body and neck ready for finishing and electronics to be installed. We are excited to see the end result, are you also? Let us know in the comments below.
Super Lute: Electric Solid Body Seventeenth Century Lute Style Instrument
Fret board: Morado
Scale: 25.5″ (Neck) 33″ (sub basses)
16 Strings Total – 9 Fretted and 7 Harp.
Fretted Strings – A1, D2, F2, A2, D3, F3, A3, D4, F4 (From Low to High)
Gauges: .056, .052, .038, .030, .019, .014, .012, .09.5, .08
Harp Strings – A1, B1, C2, D2, E2, F2, G2
Gauges: .054, .052, .048, .046,.042, .038, .036