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Rick, your ingenuity never ceases to amaze me! It's always a thrill to come on and see what creations you have uncovered and what traditions you've blown out of the water. Keep up the good work!

I am in love too!
You just can't stop with innovations, can you?


I am speechless.

Please post some sound clips soon otherwise I am taking a first flight to New Jersey! ;)

You are truly the most innovative luthier around! Every single thing you come up with is strange and beautiful. I love it!

I do agree with the pickup issue. That's why I love piezos: no routing required under the strings. Also, the Lightwave Optical pickups allow the strings to vibrate without additional magnetic damping. Have you tried those?

I am amazed with your ingenious and innovative approach on the construction of your instruments. Keep up shocking us Rick!

your work is amazing!!!

I always liked brave luthiers and you are the bravest!!!

I was wondering: with such a "double-layer" body structure, would it be possible to use the space between the two soundboards to locate a set of sympathetic strings, just as is done in a Sitar or in some particular acoustic guitars? If the guitar body is so strongly resonant, it could give excellent results...

Still, I'm just a curious guitar player, not a luthier — what do you think about it?

Alberto — absolutely.

I've got some designs headed in that direction — with a few twists — so now it is a matter of finding time to build them.

Your headstocks are really simple and elegant!

I take your point about pick ups needing updating, and that huge routed pu. cavities make no sense. Is there any reason why individual wound pole pieces can't be sunk individually into drilled holes in guitar bodies? Maybe they could have spring loaded contacts at the bottom of each hole and a metalic cover-slip on top... a bit like batteries are held in place in a torch body... and for the electrical connections to be made this way? Instead we have these big ugly lumps....

If the diammeter of these pole pieces could be standardised, then interchangeability would be easy. OK, I realise you are a custom builder; but wouldn't it be nice if you could change pu.s as easily as changing 6 'AA' batteries?

Another suggestion might be designing 6 individual pu.s to run along each string, underneath but parallel to them. With a lot of opportunity for energy transfer from vibrating string to pu., then I guess these individual pu.s could be made very long and thin... rather like a shortened knitting needle, parallel to each string from bridge to neck?

If these 'parallel pu.s' were made extendable ('telescopic' fashion) then players could physically shorten or lengthen them instantly, either individually or all at once.

This would be an alternative to switching between neck/ mid/ bridge pu.s

Hello there, it's me again, with another silly question...

i noticed you mentioning the body of the uni-neck prototype being made of birch plywood (i don't know about skele's body, though). recently, i have been struck by a new quirky model taken out by gibson, the Zoot Suit SG, which is actually a solid body guitar, perfectly SG-styled, composed of several layers of laminated birch, the layers are actually coloured in different hues, so you get a result that is somewhere in between appealing and appalling...though, as a Cream fan, i always dreamt to have a strange-coloured SG.

so it caught my interest, and i really would like to know what you think about the use of plywood, usually associated with cheap acoustics: do you think it can give good sonic results in a solidbody electric?

i know you don't have that much to do with mass production brand (i appreciated the "this is something very different" statement), but i had this question buzzing around my head, and i don't know any luthier to whom i may ask.

Alberto — you ask good questions, and I enjoy thinking about them. Please feel free to continue to share your observations.

Any material — metal, composite, solid wood, plywood — has a dominant resonant frequency based on density. Additionally, it will have a frequency "fingerprint" that includes secondary frequency peaks as well as harmonics.

How that material is used will also contribute to the sonic "fingerprint" of the instrument. The shape of the instrument and where the materials are employed structurally both make a difference.

Can you imagine how an instrument would sound if the neck was made out of balsa wood vs. the body out of balsa wood?

In my opinion, plywood is not bad. Again, it depends on how and where it is used. Plywood is usually more stiff and stable than solid wood.

From an OBJECTIVE perspective, plywood is simply a material with characteristic frequency peaks. Everything, including pickups, can be designed to interact effectively with plywood to create a pleasing sound.

From a SUBJECTIVE perspective, your ear may or may not like the sound of plywood. But it again depends on the skill of the designer and if these other factors were considered.

it's not prudent to invite me to ask more question, i could seriously deluge you :)

Anyway, your answer is clever and open-miinded as always...

i don't think the folks at gibson have put that much research into the Zoot Suit pickups, even though they've got a strange looking new cover, that exposes the coils (the only research they made in the last 20 years is auto-tuners, midi output, that already existed, and a sound-modeling guitar, that variax made in the eighties. but i'm being bitter to them)...

i've seen the guitar in action on a youtube video, though, and unplugged it had quite a strong and brilliant sound. i wonder how's the bass response...


Actually, there are a bunch of not-cheap guitars made with plywood - Most of the upper-end Gretsch hollowbodies, and Gibson's ES-175 and related models were done with this material. Jim English makes some nice Gretsch-style hollowbodies, and does his own laminated tops and backs from scratch. His book on the subject has a funny photo of him using his Ford van as a laminate press!

I agree with you about the Zoot Suit SG. IMO it looked almost like Gibson's solidbody take on the 60's Fender Wildwood semi-hollowbodies, to which I had the same reaction.

Thank you for the information, Mark, i didn't know the wildwood series by fender, but it seems interesting... Anyway, another way of discovering that not everything they tell you is bad is ACTUALLY bad. And i love the trippy stripy colors. Too bad that i can't afford it.

Rick, concerning your UNI-Neck, do the edges of the titanium tube "dig" in the wood after a certain time ?

How would you compare the overall rigidity of the plywood+titanium tubing to let's say a vigier neck or any non-trussrod necks stiffened with carbon round rods/rectangular bars.
Comparing also sound transmission and sustain between the two types of necks??


Oh and a little note to those who talked about the Gibson Zoot: it's plain'old DYMONWOOD , STRATABOND from Rutland plywood co, they buy it wholesale and cnc it.Concerning their pickups, they just used a transparent plastic (pmma or polycarb for ex), like the FREDs from Satch's pmma JS.

Nekros — there is a substantial difference in tone between different types of neck construction. You can clearly hear the difference on an instrument like Orchid (bass) as notes ring with piano-like clarity, despite the short-scale, where traditionally you'd hear mud.

We are exploring this topic — physics, ergonomics & construction techiques — in great detail at eLUTHERIE.org. You have an inquisitive mind...if you're serious about building, consider joining us and taking your lutherie to the next level.

hi, steve here. what a cool and intivating neck design. in regards to neck stiffness, did you build other necks w/different rods/shapes/materials? i know everything is a compromise but i'm curious what were the findings regarding tone from different materials vs. stiffness vs. flex load.

Steve — thanks for your questions.

Yes. Absolutely.

I experiment all the time...constantly trying new combinations of shapes and materials. Some favorites are emerging that are proving consistently excellent for both superior tone and neck stability.

I'm documenting all of this research in the Design & Technology Exchange at www.eLUTHERIE.org — where other members are also adding to the findings. Come join us.

Mark Frith and Ola Strandberg have recently completed instruments using variations of this emerging technology.

This is an exciting time period of innovation, and I feel fortunate to continue to meet new people passionate about the future of lutherie.

Mike, from the UK here. I think it might be time to coin a new term for this genus of guitar, where the main sound producing elements are all in one core linear piece.

I think of them as 'Armature' guitars, a term used in a variety of disciplines to describe the core component of something.

I am actually an electronics engineer, and I like the concept for another reason: it is a classic systems engineering 'cut', decoupling components in a way that allows greater flexibility. It might be possible to have the actual alloy armature CNC machined, to bring economies of scale, but for individual guitars to be hand finished and completely different. If the neck profile was internally a "Tee" or "Pi" section, then it might be possible to fit different backs to it, depending upon the player's ergonomic preferences.

A few minor thoughts, but I do like the term 'Armature' to describe what you're doing. Uni-neck, whilst descriptive, is a also a bolt together.....

I find this site very inspiring from an engineering-as-art perspective, and am stunned by the beauty of some of the instruments, and the elegant vision behind them.

Best wishes


Mike — thanks for your comment, and sorry for the delay. If you get chance, please drop me an email. I'd like to learn more about you and your interesting background. Cheers!

Rick - were you in anyway influenced by Les Paul's original "Log" with the removable wings? You've obviously taken the neck design to a new level that will require a pickup paradigm shift.

I'm glad I stumbled upon your site and enjoy your ideas and design rationale.


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Rick Toone

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