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Rudy A.'s guitar

This guitar dates back to 2001. BC Rich had recently introduced the “Beast”, and Rudy was interested in a premium-material version. He’s also left-handed. Since a vast majority of the guitar manufacturers nearly refuse to build an interesting lefty, he decided to go with a full custom with me.

The guitar was designed around functionality, exceptional playability and unsurpassed sound.

CONSTRUCTION

The guitar is of a neck-thru design, with a hard rock maple neck between mahogany sides, and the top is bookmatched AAAA quilted maple. It has an ebony fretboard with side dots and no inlays and a graphite nut. The headstock veneer is burled maple with Sperzel locking tuners.

The pickups are active EMG 85 and 89 with a pop-up battery compartment on the back. The electronic arrangement are standard Les Paul, with a 3-way switch and separate volume and tone pots for each pickup. The EMG 89 bridge pickup is also a split coil, so the bridge volume pot is a push-pull for coil tapping. The Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge is sunk into the top of the body for a low profile and no neck angle. Provisions were also made in anticipation of a future installation of a piezo bridge and preamp.

The rear electronics compartment covers are crafted from the same quilted maple as the top. These were then bonded to 18 ga copper sheets for rigidity and durability, which joins with the fully shielded electronics compartments to eliminate hum. These covers are held on with machine screws into brass wood inserts to prevent stripping out the wood.

The entire guitar was finished in tung oil to preserve the wood and bring out the beauty of its grain. This leaves a very comfortable and buttery-smooth finish on the back of the neck, which prevents the problems that arise when you combine a lacquered neck and sweaty hands.

The headstock and body were then sealed with beeswax, which forms a very durable smooth candy-shell to protect the wood. This treatment provides a very forgiving dent- and scuff-resistant surface, and most scratches can be buffed out. The beeswax also leaves a glossy finish, giving the appearance of a semi-gloss lacquer without the sacrifices in feel. It has the added bonus of being a renewable finish, whereas repainting a guitar requires a great deal of costly work and preparation.

DESIGN

We started with the basic concept of the body shape, but with a great deal of modification for practicality. While it is fun to have a guitar that doubles as a weapon, the pointyness of the original was a problem. Ever see a pointy 80’s guitar with paint on the tips in a pawn shop? Neither have I. The points take a lot of abuse, and since we were going with a natural finish, there is no touching up chips when clumsiness happens. The tips were squared up for sturdiness, but were then beveled and rounded over to appear pointy.

The crazy upper horn was toned down and reshaped, which along with the reshaping of the lower horn gives the guitar a sleeker profile. The “bite” out of the tail of the guitar was enlarged, and incorporated into the functionality of the instrument via the string-through design. The body edges were mildly rounded over, leaving the fewest sharp edges possible. The extensive redesign of the body leaves an exceptionally lightweight guitar.

Another very important factor to consider is tuning stability. There are few things more annoying than a guitar that constantly goes out of tune. This is frequently the case with nylon-string classical guitars, and also happens a lot with Strat-style guitars with vintage tremolos. This concept is addressed more fully in the Explanation of Terms section of the site, under “Straight String Pull”. Put simply, every point where a string comes in contact with something is a potential tuning problem. Every time a string has to turn a corner, it has the potential to hang up and snag, in addition to causing metal fatigue in the string. These points are where the string is most likely to break. You can see a typical example of this on the headstock of the black guitar below. The strings pass over the nut, and then turn a sharp corner to the tuning post, as well as being angled back on the headstock.

Ideally, the string would be a perfectly straight line from one end to the other. The string requires down force (toward the fretboard), pulling the string firmly against the bridge and nut, for the purposes of maximum vibration transfer as well as keeping the string seated in its appropriate grooves.

The headstock of this guitar is angled back 11 degrees, providing a fair amount of downforce on the nut. Sperzel locking tuners are installed to provide a high degree of tuning stability. A graphite nut is used, allowing the string to easily slide back and forth during tuning and string bends, finally returning to zero when finished.

The strings pass over the bridge, and after contacting the saddles they are angled back through the body at 15 degrees. This provides a similar amount of downforce and tonal transfer on the bridge, while incorporating the string exit into the design of the body “bite”. The ball ends are captured in ferrules sunk into the body, which are secured to the same piece of maple that forms the neck and headstock.

Overall, this means that both ends of the strings on this guitar are anchored into the same piece of wood, fully exploiting the benefits of a neck-thru design.

This ultimately means that the guitar has unsurpassed sustain and tuning stability. There is no glue to absorb string vibration between the ends of the strings. Rudy has reported that in 6 years since its construction, he has never once had to tune the guitar between restrings. It has merely required the normal seasonal neck adjustments, but these are kept to a minimum through the use of the graphite reinforcing bars and two-way adjustable truss rod.

And for those who think this guitar is identical to a BC Rich Beast, here is Rudy's guitar (image reversed) compared to a Rich. Note the less-pointy body tips and straight string-pull headstock design:

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