Marooned

Several weeks ago our friend Mike Buffa called, asking if we would like to attend the Maroon 5 concert at the Mohegan Sun Casino here in Connecticut.  Prior to working with lead guitarist James Valentine of Maroon 5, Mike worked first with Jane’s Addiction and later with Nuno Bettencourt.

We had heard that James Valentine had a connection with Hamer in the past but we didn’t understand what that connection was. It seemed natural to try to determine the history.

The rich history of Hamer guitars and the people who have played such an integral part in making that history does not cease to astound us.  The support has come from a wide range of people.  It starts with all of those at the shop itself, from the original basement workshop in Wilmette, Illinois to our shop in Palatine continuing to our much expanded shop in Arlington Heights and finally on to our current home in New Hartford, Connecticut.

Most are aware of the principles at Hamer Guitars, fewer know the names of the people who built so many of the guitars, from our original builders such as John Montgomery continuing through to those who we feature today.  Throughout, we have built on what we learned from those before us.  That is why our build quality has only continued to improve.

Our history has of course also been very much impacted by the musicians who have played our guitars over the years. These musicians have come from all styles and genres of music.  Some are household names, others are not. They all have added something to our history.  We may create the guitars in our shop but it is the musicians who bring them to life.

The music dealers too have had an influence on Hamer.  Our strongest music dealers have generally been those who shared our passion for Hamer Guitars. One such store was Dietze Music in Lincoln, Nebraska. In talking with James Valentine, we learned that his connection with Hamer Guitars dates all the way back to when he taught guitar at Dietze Music.  As such, James was surrounded by Hamer enthusiasts and had ample opportunity to play early Hamers. We had discovered his connection and it reached back. 

Of our current offering, James was immediately drawn to the Talladega. However, he was looking for a humbucking version.  We sent both a Talladega and a Talladega Pro for James to try out on the road.  As expected, he went for the Talladega Pro.

The Talladega Pro that we shipped was finished in Amberburst.  James wanted the guitar in black but was concerned that putting a hard rock maple cap on it, like we normally would do on a black guitar to minimize finish sinking, could alter the tone.  Therefore, the first step was to select a top.  We had three pretty spectacular tops, any one of which would do the trick.

We settled on “C”.  It has has an outrageous flame that we hope will be noticeable from stage.  We then milled out a back and set to work bonding the maple top to the mahogany body. Here’s a clear shot of the chambering that we do on a Talladega Pro.  You’ll notice that, unlike a Talladega, the mahogany “island” extends from where the neck cavity will be routed to bridge. 

We use a paint roller to spread the glue over the mahogany.

Rather than using clamps to bond the mahogany and maple together, we use a vacuum membrane, appropriately called a Membrano.  Here, Dave is loading the Membrano.

By using vacuum, we get even pressure over the entire surface.  This is very visible once the vacuum has been activated and the air evacuated.

After the body has been bonded and bound, we rough cut the arch in the top.  Notice how we tape down the body binding so that it won’t tear away during the routing process.

There’s still a significant amount of hard carving and sanding that goes into the top.  Here we’re using an random orbital sander.  We start with 80 grit paper, continuing to 120, 180, 220 and finally 320 grit.

We pay particularly close attention to the horns.  Some guitar companies flap sand their tops.  This results in a rounded look.  We like to see definiton in the horns.  Here we’re using a Dynabrade sander to remove the mill marks.  After the mill marks are removed, we’ll final sand with 220 no fill paper.

Naturally, the same process applies for the back as well.

Nice.

Hand drilling the strap button hole.

Because we apply shielding paint to our electronics cavities, here’s something that you won’t see every day on a Hamer, the contrast between the figured maple and the mohagany viewed from the back.

The body is completed.

Meanwhile, Tom Maule is pretty far along on the neck.  Here he’s using a heat gun to make the celluloid binding more pliable to insure a snug fit to the peghead.  As celluloid is higly flammable, Tom has to be careful how much he heats up the binding material.

Tom starts with several pieces of tape to hold the binding in place.

By the time he’s done, the entire perimeter of the binding is securely taped in place.

After the neck and body have been bonded together, it’s time to give James Valentine that black guitar that he wanted.

The back, sides and neck will be opaque black while the top will be black transparent.  This way James will get a black guitar but with the same sound that he liked so much from the Amberburst guitar that he first played.

After the first coat of stain is applied, we sand it down.

Only to apply a second coat of stain.  Much of the finishing processes at Hamer are quite traditional.  We apply many thin coats of finish and repeatedly sand it down flat.  This is how luthiers have been applying finishes from the onset.

The top took the stain beautifully.

The guitar is ready for the spraybooth where Gary Pirro will perform his magic.

3 Responses to “Marooned”

  1. Dayum! Always great stuff from the workers at Hamer. You keep outdoing yourselves. Thanks!

  2. denmark intal Says:

    great workshop here

  3. Sarah Bradley Says:

    this is going to sound very random, but i was at the maroon 5 show tonight and ran into Mike Buffa, who I haven’t seen in years but we didn’t really get a chance to catch up and when I came back looking for him he was gone. If you could help me get in touch with him or pass on my information to him, it would be appreciated.

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