Watson Guitars
California, USA

Headless 7-string guitar Bolt on (Serial 09G031)
Call 951-659-8616.

Materials: Top: Curly Koa. Back: African Mahogany. Neck: Curly Maple and E. Indian Rosewood
Fingerboard: Gaboon Ebony
Pickups: EMG + Seymour Duncan Humbuckers plus Piezos in bridge
Electronics: Audere 4-band 9v
Hardware: ETS Headless Hardware from Germany (black)
Finish: Polyester Resin Gloss on body - satin on neck
Other: Custom Knobs. Scale length 27"

This guitar is an example of an instrument that has it all. It it was a car, it would be a Turbocharged Bentley cenvertible. we are building it for a customer of ours in Germany.

The guitar is a 7-string headless instrument using hardware from ETS in Germany. The bridge is fitted with piezos in the saddles, and we will have two magnetic pickups, one of which is splittable to single-coil, combined with a sustainer system. We'll also fit it with an on-board preamp. All this on a beautiful instrument with a Curly Koa top.

Highslide JS
Oputting a coat of oil on the fingerboard.
(1/8/11) I shot this photo right after I had treated the fingerboard with oil. The needs top absorb and harden overnight to protect the fingerboard. You can also see in this photo the set of Koa topped knobs which were stained to match the color of the top of the guitar. I'll probably need another coat of oil on the fingerboard - then set the nut and level the frets if necessary. We'll put the strings back on and adjust the bridge and truss rod for action.

Highslide JS
Knobs now have Koa tops.
(12/27/10) here we see the knobs now with their Curly Koa tops and I also added a white veneer pinstripe between the two woods to match the body. I'm still working with these to get them to fit just right, then I have to drill and tap them for the set screws. Once that is done I can apply a couple of stains to blend the knobs to the same color as the body of the instrument. That basically leaves me with the nut to file and seme setup work.

Highslide JS
Added the coil-split switch to the control panel.
(12/26/10) One small machining job I had to leave to the end was the drilling of the hole for the coil-tapping switch. We had to complete the wiring in order to establish how many switches we nedded so the drilling was left until the end. I drilled through the body and inserted the prewired switch from the control cavity side. Now all our controls are set in place. I need to get back to the knobs are they are holding me up from finishing this project!!!!

Highslide JS
Working on the custom knobs.
(12/22/10) Today we got started on the knobs for the guitar which will be capped to match the top of the guitar. We start by turning the bases for the knobs on the lathe. They have to be fitted quite carefully, especially in this case as all the potentiometers are different types and the knobs have to be custom fit to each. As soon as I am happy with the combination I will create top pieces for the knobs and I'll tint them to match the body.

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Top view showing installed controls and the new Seynout Duncan pickup.
(12/21/10) This is the new look for this guitar - the center pickup is a Seymour Duncan Blackout pickup which we feel will compliment the exting sound of the instrument by adding a new flavor. All three pickups on this guitar are selectable using a 5-position switch (Strat-style). The piezo signals from the bridge are mixed separately using a blend pot on the control panel. The result should be a spectacular array of tonal options.

Highslide JS
The daunting wiring job all but complete - I only have to drill a hole for a two-way switch.
(12/21/10) Success! After many days of very complex technical challenges we have finally succeeded in connecting all the components in this instrument together so that they work happily together, My sincere thanks to Don Put for his tireless work on making this happen and also to David Meadows for his willingness to provide technical advice so that we could send all these signals successfully through the Audere preamp,

Highslide JS
Some minor surgery required for the new Seymour Duncan pickup.
(11/27/10) This is not as bad as it looks. We made a decision to replace the Sustainer system with a 3rd pickup. The sustainer was not an ideal fit with the existing electronics package so we decided to add a Seymour Duncan Blackout Phase 1 pickup in its place. Th SD pickup was physically larger than the driver for the Sustainer so I had to put the body back up on the CNC to re-machine the pickup recess. All done very safely.

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The wiring challenge begins!!
(10/7/10) Yes folks, this is where the REAL challenge with this amazing guitar begins. Somehow the Piezo signal and the split-coil active pickup and the humbucking passive pickup and the 9v powered sustainer have to all come together and meet at the 9v powered preamp where we have to provide an active/passive option along with a single coil/humbucker option, mix in the sustainer and the piezo signal through the 4 band equalizer... and more..

Highslide JS
Big step forward, got the bridge, tailpiece and 3 pickups mounted on the body - looks nice!
(10/6/10) Things are moving along despite some unanticipated techno-mechanical issues. Bridge is on, tailpiece is on, and both are successfully grounded. Also - the sustainer pickup is mounted, as are the two EMG pickups. All wiring from these 3 pickups are routed to the control cavity. Next, I have to try to install the circuitry for the sutainer and the Audere preamp. This involves a lot of thought and wires. Wish me luck!

Highslide JS
Installing the bridge - routing 7 piezo cables and one ground wire through the body.
(10/1/10) My current task is to correctly position the bridge and the tail piece and attach them to the body while feeding the piezo wires and a couple of ground wires into the control cavity. I have marked and drilled the holes for the 14 (!) screws that hold down the bridge assembly. Next up is to attach the tailpiece onto the body. Once that's done, I can install the pickups and sustainer unit and the components for the control cavity.

Highslide JS
we are now working on installing the bridge and tailpiece.
(10/1/10) We have drilled and fitted the neck and body together and finished the work on the string retainer which involved drilling a hole for truss rod access. We installed the recessed locking strap buttons, copper shielded the two back cavities, installed magnets for holding the various covers and are now in the process of fitting the bridge and the tailpiece to the body of the guitar. These have to be carefully alingned with the neck.

Highslide JS
Serial number has been set into the body.
(9/30/10) We are continuing with copper shielding (cavities are all but done now) and installing strap buttons and other hardware. While that is going on I set a file up on our laser and cut the serial nimber tab. This was then installed in the recess for the lid of the battery compartment. We'll do some final work to the neck tomorrow and hope to have it bolted on to the body. Nut has been cut - all it needs are the 7 slots! Almost ready for wiring.

Highslide JS
Copper shielding is now in the 3 pickup recesses.
(9/29/10) Before I can start attaching hardware and electronics I have to completely shield the cavity areas inside the guitar. This prevents interference from outside electrical sources and keeps the instrument quiet. There is definitely a skill to applying this material - especially in tight areas with sharp corners. It is well worth the effort for the finished product. Photo shows the 3 shielded pickup cavities - now I have to shield that back cavities.

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Got the neck fitted so we can see what the complete instrument looks like.
(9/28/10) I spent some time today cleaning out overspray from the neck pocket. As a result I was able to fit the neck into the body and get an idea what the complete instrument looks like. Without a traditional headstock the instrument looks very compact. I like the look of it - one of my favorite headless guitars to date. I still have to drill holes through the top for the switches, I didn't do that pre-finishing because I wasn't sure how many we'd end up with!

Highslide JS
Covers for the 3 cavities are being fitted.
(9/28/10) One of the tricky and slightly stressful jobs at this stage of a guitar's development is fitting the covers. The lacquer tends to go places you don't want it to despite careful masking, so I have to go around all the areas where parts fit together and carefully clean them up. I do most of this work with a cordless dremel but it requires concentration and a steady hand because one slip will mark the finish. Fortunately all went well!

Highslide JS
String retainer is now part of the neck.
(9/26/10) This is a photo of the string retainer attached to the end of the neck. Because I customised it and reduces quite a bit of its mass, it does not add much weight to the end of the neck in this condition. I still have to drill a hole for access to the end of the truss rod. This will require careful positioning off the hole. Next is the installation of the Graph-Tech nut. That will complete the neck of the instrument.

Highslide JS
String retainer in its Rosewood block.
(9/10/10) One of the challenges on this guitar was the interface between the neck and the string retainers. The headless hardware manufacturer provided us with a very large and heavy brass block which was designed oversize so that builders could modify to their needs. I ended up machining much of the brass block to remove mass, and embedding it in a carved piece of East Indian Rosewood which allows me to make everything fit together elegantly!

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The requested 7-string pickups have arrived!.
(8/10/10) This guitar has a significant amount of electronic components built into it - all of which have to work harmoniously together. These are the two EMG 7-string pickups which were selected by the customer. One will be split-able to single coil. These pickups will be combines with the output from a Piezo bridge, and also a Sustainer system. All of this will run through a 3-band preamp. Quite a challenge but we'll make it all work!

Highslide JS
The body right after the finish was applied.
(8/1/10) We have been busy getting the body shaped and sanded ready for the tinting and polyester resin finish. We decided that a Sienna Sunburst would best suit the colors of the instrument. The grain of the Koa really catches the light and the slight brown/red sunburst of the Sienna color is a perfect match for the woods we have used. The end result looks great! We'll be posting more photos in the next few days.

Highslide JS
This is the string retainer supplied to us by ETS of Germany.
(6/1/10) While the other work is going on in the background we are looking at the brass string retainer which is part of the ETS headless hardware package. They furnish a rectangular block and as soon as we establish a finished cross-section for the end of the neck we can cut this block to suit the neck contour. It's probably safest to leave this until the neck has been coated with its polyester resin so that we have final dimension to work from.

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Working on the fingerboard, antique white side dots going in.
(5/24/10) The fingerboard is off the CNC now. We cut the compound radius, fret slots and nut slot and also the recesses for the pearl dot inlays. I have now added the gold peral dot inlays and we are now adding the side dots along the edge of the neck in an antique white color. Once that's done and cleaned up we'll install the stainelss steel frets (stainless frets are a lot of work!) and the fingerboard will be ready for guling onto the neck!

Highslide JS
Clamping the bookmatched Koa top together.
(5/20/10) While the work on the fingerboard is going on I took the opportunity to clean up the joint faces on the two Koa top plates and get them glued together. It's always a little tricky to keep an good amount of lateral clamping pressure on the joint without risking movement on the flat surfaces so I stabilize everything by clamping the pieces to a flat surface. This way nothing gets distorted while under pressure.

Highslide JS
machining the compound radii onto the fingerboard.
(5/19/10) Today we were able to set up for cutting the compound radii onto the ebony fingerboard. This will give us a very accurate and straight form for the fingerboard. We'll clean up the surface and when that's done we will set up for cutting the fret slots and the slot for the nut. We have a special configuration for the fret markers which we will also machine while the fingerboard is set up on the CNC machine.

Highslide JS
getting started on the fingerboard - Gaboon Ebony.
(5/18/10) I have a really nice piece of Gaboon Ebony for this guitar. It is currently being machined on one of our CNCs. First step is to establish the perimeter of the fingerboard which in turn establishes the centerline. After that we'll machine a compound radius onto the board and then cut the fret slots. When that's done we'll have to machine the fret markers into the ebony in preparation for the inlay.

Highslide JS
first body half being assembled to the core section.
(5/25/10) Now that the various veneers have been added to the joint faces we can start gluing the two mahogany sides onto the core section of the body. The clamping process requires that the pieces are held down on a flat surface while they are also held firmy together, so it can be a little elaborate but woth the extra work. I'll leave the joint in this condition overnight and finish up the body assembly tomorrow.

Highslide JS
Body halves are getting prepped for assembly.
(5/23/10) We want to complete the body now, and in order to do so I have machined the joint faces perfectly flat and square. next step is to glue on some decorative veneers to match those used in the construction of the neck and the body core. As soon as the glue has cured we will trim off the veneers and attach the two African Mahogany body halves onto the center core. This will give us a complete body to work with.

Highslide JS
Here we are gluing Carbon Fiber rods into channels in the neck.
(5/21/10) It's time to secure the carbon fiber rods into the neck. There rods are very rigid and also very lightweight, so they are a very effective way to add further stability to a guitar neck. We use aerospace grade epoxy to bond the CF rods with the wood and leave the assembly clamped overnight to make sure everything is properly cured. When this is complete we will remove the clamps and clean up any squeezed-out adhesive.

Highslide JS
Body halves have been rough cut and will soon be attached to the core section.
(5/19/10) We have some really nice African mahogany which I wanted to use on this guitar. The top and bottom body halves have been rough cut to shape. We will have to machine the joint faces in order to get them ready for assembling onto the body core. The mahogany will balance out the overall sound of the instrument adding some warmth to the mid-tomes while all the maple in the neck will contribute to a bright high-end.

Highslide JS
neck is now up on the small CNC for truss rod slot, carbon fiber slots etc.
(4/5/10) The neck part of this guitar is now set up on the CNC. We started by machining a nice clean joint face on the top of the block, this will be the surface we use to glue the fingerboard onto. Next we machined the perimeter of the neck to its final length and widths. Now we are in the process of cutting the truss rod slot. Following that we will cut two slots for carbon fiber reinforcing rods. At that point we can remove it from the CNC.

Highslide JS
Neck and body core pieces have been glued together.
(3/30/10) After a few days of gluing we now have all the tapered laminates for the neck and the core of the body glued together. We will now move to the CNC where we will clean up the surfaces and start machining features such as slots for the truss rod and carbon fiber rods. While the neck section is taking shape, we will be working on the various parts of the body. Things should start to take shape quite quickly. This will be a very pretty guitar.

Highslide JS
The tapered body and neck sections are being glued together.
(3/23/10) Now that we have glued pinstriping veneer on both sides of all the component pieces of the neck and body cores, it's time to start gluing them together. In the photo to the left we have three of the body section laminates already glued together. There will be five pieces total for the neck and the body cores. After that we start working on body wings and the material that will be bookmatched for the top of the instrument.

Highslide JS
Gluing veneers onto the tapered laminates that will make up the core of the instrument.
(3/16/10) All the various pieces for the neck and body core have been cut, sanded and machined to the correct taper. We are now in the process of gluing the decorative veneers onto each of the components. Although this is tme-consuming work, the end result on the finished instrument is well worth it. Once all ten of these pieces have been veneered both sides we will start gluing them together to create neck and body blanks.

Highslide JS
Time to start machining wood for the neck and body.
(3/14/10) We are now able to get the component pieces of the neck onto the ornamental mill so that we can cut the laminates to the prescribed tapers. We do this to all the center laminates in the neck and the body. Once that is done we can apply some decorative veneer for pinstriping and after that we glue these core pieces together to create the blanks for the neck and body. Things will moe forward quickly for now on.

Highslide JS
Some minor mods to the drawing to allow access to the upper frets.
(3/12/10) In the process of calculating the correct thickness for each of the neck laminates I realized that I needed to allow a little more space on the lower bout of the guitar for access to the upper end of the neck. Because of the headless hardware - the bridge tends to sit further back on the body than traditional guitars, therefore the neck had to also move inboard a little bit. Not a major change - just making sure everything works together!

Highslide JS
All the parts for the body core and the neck have now been rough cut.
(2/22/10) We now have the component parts for both the neck and the core of the body rough sawn. Both sets are sufficiently oversize to allow for complete cleanup and any possible (but unlikely) movement during gluing. The next thing we have to do is sand both sides of each piece so that we have smooth and flat surfaces. We'll then start cutting tapers on the ornamental mill. There is quite a lot of work to the individual parts before they are finally glued together.

Highslide JS
Time go get some wood cut up - these six pieces will make up part of the neck and body core of the guitar.
(2/14/10) I just got hold of some nice curly maple which allowed me to start cutting up material for the neck/body. These pieces will make up the Maple components in the neck and center section of the body. I will also cut similar pieces of East Indian Rosewood as center laminates. These two woods always work really well together both for sound and appearance! I have drawn the insstrument to scale both from the side and from the top.

Highslide JS
This is the first draft of the outline of the body.
(9/27/09) Due to the requirements for the headless hardware, this guitar will have its own unique body design with accommodation of the rear mounted tuners. The image to the left is the first draft of the body design which we will now discuss and perhaps modify with our customer. Once the outline has been established we can start moving forward with the production of the instrument. There are still a few hardware items to purchase.

Highslide JS
We just received the 7-string headless piezo hardware from ETS in Germany.
(9/12/09) We ordered some special hardware from ETS in Germany for this guitar. It's a very custome setup as the instrument is 7-string and headless with piezos built into the bridge. The tailpiece/tuner block is a separate piece from the bridge itself which gives us more flexibility in the design and layout of the instrument body. The brass block is the string retainer for the end of the neck. I plan to integrate this piece somehow with the neck woods.

Highslide JS
The top of this guitar will be a nicely figured piece of bookmatched Curly Koa.
(7/16/09) This is an example of several pieces of curly Koa we currently have in stock, one of which we will bookmatch and use for this guitar. We'll be exchanging information with our custome about the specific design elements of the body design and the headstock design (which it may not need being headless). We'll wait until the ETC hardware, (which we have already ordered) comes in to make the final call on the finer design points..
Last update November 30, 2010