Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

Headless guitar (Serial 09G030) SOLD to Andrew
Call 951-659-8616 for special pricing.

   
Materials: Top: Curly Koa - Back: Goncola Alves, Neck: Ash, Koa and East Indian Rosewood
Fingerboard: Pau Rosa - fret markers are "Cosmic Ice" shell block inlay
Pickups: WATSON Split Coil Humbuckers (switchable to single-coil)
Electronics: Passive
Hardware: Strandberg EGS Headless Tremolo bridge - Black
Finish: Polyester Resin Gloss on body - satin on neck

Based on the success of our last headless guitar we created another one. This guitar has a very sleek look with its Koa top and co-ordinated woods in the neck and the body. The center of the body and the neck are made of continuous pieces of ash, koa and east indian rosewood.

One of the unusual features of this instrument is the Strandberg aluminum headless tremolo unit. I believe we installed the first production one of these (at least in the USA) and we have been working with Ola Strandberg to develop and use more of these units in the future.

The tremolo spring cavity is covered by a magnetic cover carefully harvested from the core woods of the body section. This creates a continuous grain on the back of the instrument (not easy to do!!).

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Detail shot of the string retainer at the end of the neck and the "Cosmic Ice" shell inlay.
(2/14/10) Left: this is a photo of the string retainer at the end of the neck. The strings are securely fastened using set screws inside the assembly. Between that and the Strandberg bridge it's pretty easy to change a set of strings. Right: Better detail shot of the Strandberg tremolo hardware.
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Strandberg tremolo - Watson Pickups splittable to single-coil.

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Shot of the back showing the two cover plates which are secured by magnets.
(2/14/10) Left: This photo shows how nicely the continuous grain wood cover blends in with the back of the guitar. It pops off and on with magnets. Right: Full shot of the guitar with the tremolo arm attached. The woods all work very nicely together and the "Cosmic Ice" inlay adds a nice contrast.
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One of the glamour shots we were able to take before we packed the guitar up for shipping.

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She's finally strung up for a test drive. A few more adjustments, some polish and a new set of strings and she's off to Florida!
(2/2/10) Strings (a test set) are now on and I an able to make the necessary adjustments to the bridge and nut to get the action down to a comfortable level. At this stage I level the frets to eliminate ant fret buzz and tension up the tremolo unit. Once I have it close I will polish the fingerboard clean up the instrument and put a new set of strings on it ready for our customer. Hopefully we will also have time for a few glamor photos before we ship it out!

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Neck is on, guitar has been wired up - now we are working on installing and setting up the Strandberg Tremolo.
(1/30/10) We are now much closer to completion. I recently assembled the pickups and fitted them into their pickup holes. Now it's time to install the Strandberg Tremolo bridge and finish the nut so we can string up the guitar and start making the final adjustments.Once we have her playing we'll level the frets if neede and adjust the action. We're getting close to being able to ship this one out to our very patient customer!

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Here we are in the process of adding copper shielding to the control cavity.
(1/4/10) We have just added the copper shielding inside the control cavity. This also has to be done inside the two pickup cavities. Most of the work right now is involved with fitting parts together - fitting the neck to the body, pickups to the pickup holes, covers into their respective recesses. Next we will be installing all the electronic parts and wiring them all up together. The wiring also need to be grounded to the tremolo and to ach pickup cavity.

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Back of the guitar immediately following finishing.
(12/16/09) Here's a look at the back of the guitar body with the two cover plates in position. As you can see, we spent a loittle bit of extra time making sure that the wood grain was continuous on both covers for a more complete look on the back of the instrument. Since these covers will be attached with magnets, they will not interfere with string changing as the pull off and snap back on in a second!

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Front of the guitar right after the finishing process
(12/16/09) The polyester resin coating has been applied to both the neck and the body of our guitar. Now the assembly work begins. First of all we have to carefully remove any overspray on the neck and cavities. Then we start fitting the neck to the body and attaching the hardware. While all of this is going on we are winding the split coil humbucking pickups. This guitar will be making a brief appearance at the 2010 NAMM show and then off to its owner.

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Here's the front of the guitar and the neck with its "Cosmic Ice" shell inlay
(11/29/09) This is the "front view" of the guitar right before it went to finishing. The "Cosmic Ice" block inlay is a special feature we added because this guitar will have a brief appearance at the NAMM show. The fingerboard is Pau Rosa from Brazil. We decided to apply a finish with a subtle amber overtone to bring out and blend the colors of the woods. This should result in a very attractive instrument with beautiful warm colors!

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The back of this guitar is as beautiful as the front.
(11/29/09) We are ready to move this guitar along to the finishing process. Before we do - we wanted to take a couple of photos of the instrument in its "bare wood" condition. You can see from the photo on the left that the back of the guitar has several unique features. The neck and body match as if it was a true neck-throught instrument. The control cavity cover is continuous grain matching wood, as is the cover for the trem. unit (not easy to do!!!)

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Machining the recess which will hold the Neutrik locking jack socket.
(11/19/09) We're continuing to work on the guitar to get it ready to go to finishing in the next few days. Here we are machining the recess for the Neutrik locking jack socket. We will also be machining the holes and recesses for the screws that hold the neck to the body and the counterbores for the volume and tone controls right after this. After that - we have an inlay to place into the body between the pickups.

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These are the cavity recesses we had to machin in the back of the guitar to allow for the Strandberg tremolo unit.
(11/18/09) Time to get to work on the back of the guitar body where we needed to cut all the necessary recesses to house the lower half of the tremolo unit and the tensioning springs etc. We were able to fit everything into the instrument and also allowed for a recess for the matching cover plate which will allow easy access for string changing and adjustments. Now that this is done we have to spend some time on the fingerboard.

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we have machined the neck pocket and the two pickup cavities. Routing for the tremolo next.
(11/8/09) The body has been up on the CNC recently for a couple of additional operations. We have machined the neck pocket at the correct angle and then the two cavities for the humbucker pickups. Now the body is back up on the CNC so that we can start machining out the clearance for the Strandberg tremolo unit. This will have to be done from both the front and the back of the body. Once that's done we'll machine the jack plus socket.

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Fret slots are now cut into the fingerboard.
(11/8/09) Here is the fingerboard after the fret slots have been cut in. This will be a 24 fret fingerboard. We have yet to make a final decision on how we plan to proceed with inlay. Once that has been decided we will do some further machining for the inlay and the side dots or markers. We plan to have this instrument ready for its final finish in about 12 days. Quite a lot of work to get done between now and then!!

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The Pau Rosa fingerboard is now up on the CNC.
(11/5/09) Our customer was able to choose the fingerboard he wanted for his guitar based on the various wood options we had in stock. He chose Pau Rosa, a very colorful wood from Brazil which will match up nicely with the Koa top of the guitar. In the photo to the left, you can see that we have cut the fingerboard to size and machined the compound radius onto the top surface. We'll now proceed to cut the fret slots and the slot for the nut.

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This is the Koa top on the body - with a little denatured alcohol to show what the grain will look like.
(11/1/09) The body of the guitar is all but complete. The front is a very nice piece of curly Koa. We are currently working on the final shaping of the various body countours before we start cutting out the neck joint and the holes for the pickups. Some of the detail work we have to do will be at the tail end of the guitar where we need to shape the countour to allow adequate access to the tuners of the Strandberg bridge.

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We are gluing the Koa top onto the rest of the instrument body.
(10/29/09) The body of this guitar is now inside the vacuum press having its bookmatched curly koa top glued onto the rest of the body. It will be nice to see the body as one complete piece. The woods match very nicely so we believe this guitar is going to be very elegant when completed. Once the top is cleaned up, we'll be able to start machining features like the control cavity and the pickup holes. Next task will be the fingerboard!

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Body halves are now glued onto center core. That Goncola Alves wood is really nice stuff!
(10/23/09) Today we glued and clamped the second body half onto the core. The joint sat under clamping pressure most of the day. I took the photo on the left just after I un-clamped the assembly. The woods look very nice together and will look even better with the matching neck attached. The goncola alves wood on the back is a beautiful golden color very similar to the Koa which we will be using for the front of the instrument.

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We are now in the process of gluing the two body halves onto the center of the body.
(10/23/09) we're at the exciting stage of putting the parts of the guitar body together. In the photo on the left we're clamping and gluing the first body wing onto the central core of the body. It's a complex set of clamps as it is important to keep pressure on the joint while at the same time securing both parts firmly onto a flat surface. This will guarantee alignment and a nice square and clean glue joint. We'll complete the body tomorrow.

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Parts for the top and back of the guitar are having maple veneer glued to them.
(10/15/09) The backplates, which are made of Goncola Alves, are now ready to be attached to the Ash center pieces of the body. There are also two veneers (bloodwood and maple) between each piece of wood. In the photo to the left you can see these sub-assemblies in the vacuum press being glued together. Once this glue has cured we will clean up the two pieces and prep them to be glued onto the core of the body.

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Parts for the top and back of the guitar are having maple veneer glued to them.
(10/14/09) Now that we have removed the control cavity cover and prepared the lower back plate we can take all four body plates and use the vacuum press to apply a maple veneer to the back of each. This maple will combine with the bloodwood veneer we applied to the body center to create a very appealing pinstriping effect between the body woods. It's a lot of extra work at this stage but we are always glad we did it when we see the final product!!

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we are now cutting the control cavity cover from the back plate using a micro carbide end mill.
(10/9/09) Today we set up the lower back plate in the CNC machine so that we could cut out the control cavity cover from its parent material. We want to have a control cavity cover that will have continuous grain that will perfectly match the wood-grain of the back of the instrument. First step is to cut out the cover using a very small carbide end mill. We then romove the cover piece by milling from the back of the plate.

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This is the awesome Strandberg headless tremolo which we will be installing on this guitar.
(7/7/09) Many thanks to Ola Strandberg for being so helpful and expediting the sale of this headless tremolo bridge assembly to us. The unit is not only well-built but is extremely light so this will halp us keep the weight of the instrument down to a minimum. Now that we have this unit on hand we can make the necessary calculations for the body to acommodate it. We are hoping to be able to use more Strandberg parts on our future instruments.

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Time to gule and clamp the Carbon Fiber rods into the slots in the neck.
(6/26/09) We have completed the initial CNC operations where we surfaced the neck, and cut slots for the truss rod and carbon fiber reinforcement rods. Next task is to fit the CF rods into their respective slots with enough aerospace-grade epoxy to fill the gaps, secure them firmly in place, and leave the entire assembly overnight for the glue to cure. We will then clean up the top surface and cut the back of the neck closer to the finished thickness.

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The neck section of the instrument is set up on one of our CNC machines.
(6/13/09) The neck of this guitar is now being machined on one of our CNC machines. We clean up the top surface which will be our joint face for the fingerboard, then we cut the outer profile of the neck to its finished size. We are ready now to cut the truss rod slot and the two slots for the carbon fiber rods. Once those tasks are completed we can start on the fingerboard and the body of the instrument.

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This is a very unusual piece of Koa which has a great deal of curly detail in it. Should look very nice with its final finish.
(5/22/09) I thought it would be informative to post this photo of the material we are using for the top of this guitar. I have had it in the shop for ages waiting for the right project. It is a very nice piece of curly Koa - the curls in the wood are small but very well defined so the top should look really nice when finished! The center of the body will be Ash which will match the outer edges of the neck, and the back of the body will be Goncola Alves. More pics to follow soon.

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This photo shows the laminates after they have been glued together. The short one is for the body - the long one will be the neck.
(3/27/09) This is the result of the first phase in our building process. We have two core pieces, one for the neck and one for the body. Each of these will be machined to size and will become the core components of other larger assemblies. We'll now proceed to assembling the component parts for the body wings and machining the neck surfaces so that we can install the carbon fiber reinforcing rods and the truss rod.

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Here we are gluing the various veneered laminates together to create the completed neck and body cores.
(3/21/09) Here we are gluing some of the laminate pieces together. We start at the center and progressively glue on laminates until the assembly is complete. It is always inportant to keep and even gluing pressure across the entire joint. These glued joints are usually left under pressure all day or overnight to ensure that the adhesive has properly cured. It takes extra time, but ensures that the joints are prefect before we move on to other operations.

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A set of neck and body laminates in the vacuum press where we glue maple veneer to the laminate sides.
(3/21/09) The various pieces that make up the neck and body (in this case 10) each have to spend time in the vacuum press having one or more veneers applied to the sides. These veneers become decorative pinstipes along the length of the neck and body when the instrument is completed. It's extra work but I believe the end results justify it! In the photo we're gluing maple veneer to the second side of the Koa laminates.

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In the early stages of construction we mill the body and neck laminates to a slight taper on the ornamental mill.

(3/15/09) Here we are in the process of cutting some pieces of Koa on the Ornamental Mill. In this operation we cut the laminates that will make up the neck and the center section of the body at a specific taper before the neck and body are assembled. We will also be gluing maple and bloodwood veneers onto the laminates for decorative purposes. Each laminate that goes into the neck and body has to be machined this way.

Last update February 14, 2010