Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by hamerblog

Sometimes the biggest things come in the smallest packages.  That’s certainly the case with the Impact Bass.  Hamer started working with Kip Winger in 1989, creating the Impact Bass in collaboration with him. With such a small body style, the working name during the development phase was the “Compact Bass”.

The Impact bass was historically built with a solid mahogany body.  Kip initially specfied a white bass with grey bevels. The custom Impact Bass that we shipped to Kip in June 1989 was the trademark Copper color. 

The customer for this bass wanted none of that.  Rather, he requested a flame maple cap over the mahogany body with a cherry transparent finish.  One of our concerns was to maintain the maple cap with the beveled edges.  The customer agreed to beveling through the maple to the mahogany if need be.  We were able to execute the bevel without that occuring.

The 24 fret rosewood fingerboard on this instrument extends all the way to the end of the neck.  Yes, the customer requested a rosewood – rather than ebony – fingerboard but retained the Boomerang inlays. The tenon is hand fit into the neck route.

There’s still a good deal of carving to do to achieve the seamless blend between the neck and the body.

As with all Hamers, this neck was pitched by hand.

The blending process starts on the vertical sander.

Dave has penciled out the parameters of the blend that he is looking to achieve. 

Dave Brown starts the neck blending process.

Tools of the trade. Luthiery at its finest.

Here we’re grainfilling the mahogany back in preparation for spray.  Due to its hard dense nature, the maple neck does not require filling.

Gary Pirro brings some color to this beauty.

Once it has dried for two weeks it was time to finish sand and buff out the compact bass.

Todd is fitting the bass with EMG P/J pickups, just like the original.

Dave’s carving paid off.  Check out the transition from neck heel to body.

It may have a compact body but this Impact Bass has a hammer of a sound.


Special So Special

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2011 by hamerblog

The Hamer Special is an outgrowth of the Sunburst, our original double cutaway model that we introduced in 1977.  Simple, straightforward and leaning heavily on heritage, the Special was designed to be a working musician’s guitar. When our long time friend Tommy Williams called asking if we could build him another Special for his upcoming Hooters European tour, we knew that it was a perfect fit for him.

The Special has been through a number incarnations.  It has been built from solid mahogany and from African Limba (Korina).  We’ve fitted it with humbuckers and soapbar P-90s.  It’s had a Tune-O-Matic style bridge with a stop tail piece and it’s sported a wrap around bridge.  We offered the Special FM, in effect a dot inlay Sunburst with the body binding stripped off. 

However, we’re especially happy with this particular version. It has a one piece slab Honduras mahogany body with our trademark mahogany three piece stressed neck system with a vintage neck carve.

Here we’re pitching the neck to the body. We pitch each neck individually.  This guitar has Pigtail wrap around bridge.  Our normal wrap around bridge neck pitch is 21/32″ from the top of the frets to the face of the body at the bridge. To accomodate the Pigtail, we pitched this neck just over that measurement.

We’re outifitting this guitar with a single pickup Jason Lollar dog eared P-90 pickup.

Recently many of the guitars that we’ve been building have been highly customized.  While they are both interesting to build and challenge our luthiery skills, it’s refreshing to reach back into our past and take on a basic and straight forward guitar that is simply made to be played. 

Maybe it’s the simplicity of this guitar that makes it so special.  Now it’s got to have some attention.


Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2011 by hamerblog

Typically Hamer necks are crafted from Honduran mahogany; the Talladega and our multi-string basses feature a rock maple neck.

We recently received an inquiry from a customer requesting us to build a very custom Chaparral Custom. His specifications included a neck made from Wenge wood.  Similar to Rosewood in nature, Wenge is a hard, stable wood often coming from Cameroon in Africa. Needless to say, this dense wood has some weight to it. 

Here’s the three piece Wenge neck blank. The opposing grain pattern that enhances stability is clearly visible.

Tom Maule is a high skilled woodworker. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy and studying carpentry, in 1977 Tom began his professional woodworking career, working in several architectural millwork firms with increasing responsiblity. When Tom applied for a job with Hamer in 2005, we knew that we could not pass him up. His woodworking skill level, attention to detail and upbeat demeanor are a very difficult combination to find in any one individual.

Tom is running the neck blank over the shaper to cut the truss rod channel. 

Here Tom is drilling the truss rod anchor hole.

Our neck blanks yield two necks. Tom has marked out the neck blank and is taking it to the band saw.

The neck blank band sawn into two usable rough necks.

Because the blanks are not wide enough to accomodate the entire peghead, we cut two “ears” from the same blank and bond them to the sides of the peghead.

We use pipe clamps to bond up the neck blanks as well as to bond the ears onto the blank. While other clamping methods may be more efficient, we have found the the use of multiple pipe clamps results in a tighter bond with absolutely no seam gaps. We actually use a total of nine pipe clamps to bond one three-piece neck blank.

This neck truly is custom. Add to the Wenge neck a Virtuouso reverse headstock! It’s a wild combination but we think that it will look good. Wait until you see the fingerboard…

The customer for this guitar did not stop with the neck. He also called out a figured Koa arched top to be bonded to a chambered mahogany body. He wanted the Koa to be exotic as well, a simple flame top would not do.

We were very fortunate for a period when we were able to bring in figured Koa from Hawaii for the Mirage models. While flame Koa for thin acoustic guitar tops can still be found, figured Koa in the two inch thickness that we need for an archtop guitar is increasingly difficult to locate.

We contacted a long time friend in Hawai who cuts some of the nicest Koa for discriminating luthiers and asked if he could help us. He said that he had a couple of choice Koa billets that he would shortly be putting in the kiln.  After about four weeks, we received them in the mail. We emailed photos of both billets to the customer. This is the one that he chose.

Beautiful dark Koa with unusual figure.

The bookmatched set is exquisite.

We’ll keep you updated as this Exotica continues to move through the Woodshop and into Finishing.

Setting the Standard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2010 by hamerblog

For over 30 years Hamer has been setting the standard in electric guitars.  Over the years we have refined our earliest models while introducing many new ones.  Our first model was the Hamer Standard.  It has remained our flagship ever since.

Some may speculate that our glory years are behind us. Ohers may be misinformed as to our history. We look at Hamer as a continuum, learning and moving forward while remaining true to our heritage. 

This Standard epitomizes that philosophy and is very much like the original, a bound body with a dot unbound neck. A primary difference is that rather than bonding an eastern curly maple veneer to the body we use a massive big leaf (western) flame maple cap; we view this as an improvement.

What a phenomenal top.

We’ve also upgraded our wiring, paying as much attention to those parts of the guitar that you can’t see as those that are visible.

Quite a few years ago we changed pickups from DiMarzio to Seymour Duncan.  While we have collaborated with both companies to voice pickups specifically for Hamer, we have left the winding to them – it’s what they do best.

We like to show off our tight neck joints.  Our luthiery remains unsurpassed.

As our production is limited, we have the luxury of using only the highest grade Honduras mahogany. It has to be wide enough for a one piece Standard body.  We’re discriminating in our choice of woods –  just like you.

In the late 1970s we made a decision to change from Grover Rotomatics to Schaller machine heads.  Like Schaller, Grover has a storied history.  However, Schaller continues to manufacture their tuning gears in Germany, as they have all along. Sadly, neither Helmut nor Rene Schaller are still with us.

The logo on this Standard is like the originals, a paint transfer at the tip of the headstock.

Setting the standard with simple understated elegance brought to you with the highest level of craftsmanship. This Standard is ready to rock.

Brand New Classics for a Modern World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 3, 2010 by hamerblog

While there’s been lots of fun along the way, what we most enjoy doing is designing and building guitars. On occassion our love for our craft truly shines through. It warms the heart to be recognized as doing something special. Here we are featuring two guitars we completed this week. Both are siblings to the original models within their family. Both have earned respect in their own right.

Newport Pro: We’ve been building the Newport for over ten years now. It was in February 2000 that Guitar Player magazine put the original Newport through its paces in one of their bench tests. The Newport did very well in the ratings game, earning an Editor’s Pick award with five picks (the highest rating) in all six rating categories: Tone, Playability, Workmanship, Hardware, Vibe and Value.

By the time the Bench Test was printed we had already introduced the Newport Pro, an adaptation of the Newport but with two significant changes. The original Newport was fitted with Phat Cat single coil pickups. On the Pro we replaced the Phat Cats with Seth Lover humbuckers. We also replaced the Bigsby tremolo found on the  Newport with a Tonepros tailpiece.

Much, however, remained the same. We retained the spruce top and mahogany back and sides, the 24 3/4″ scale length and fingerboard appointments, the twin f-holes, the interior sound chambers and the electronics.

After three separate levelings, Todd Gencarella buffs out the guitar, also a three stage process.

The real deal.

First time, every time. Despite our thin finishes, we take pride in seeing our guitars go through the first time – no errors or rework.

Time to install those Seymour Dunan Seth Lover pickups.

All done by hand in the Hamer Guitars workshop.

We use AAA Stika spruce for the tops on the Newports. This is the same high quality spruce as is found on the best acoustic guitars. The difference is that we have to find billets that are two inches thick so that they can be resawn and bookmatched. Sourcing fine woods has long been a challenge that we have embraced.

Another view.

While we have employed a number of different systems, the jack cups that we currently mount on the side of the guitar are the most functional to date.

The Newport Pro has certainly earned its place in the Newport family.

A family with a rich and deserving heritage.

Korina Junior:  Following a long Hamer lineage, the Junior is Special indeed.

The magazines raved over the original Special: “the Special’s combination of raw good looks, functional design and superb sound make it a truly exceptional instrument.”  On the Junior we lightened up the Special by using Korina (African Limba) rather than our typical Honduras mahogany.

A Tonepros wrap around bridge took the place of a Tune-O-Matic and Stop Tail piece from our original Special.

The Junior has a single dog ear P-90 with a tortoise shell pickguard rather than the two P-90s on the Special.

Truly clean Korina has become increasingly difficult to find.

However, we’ve always found character in each piece wood. It individualizes the guitar for the player.

We don’t make guitars like they used to. We don’t even make them like we used to. We make them better.

Custom Collage

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 by hamerblog

Throughout our history we at Hamer have learned much through the customization process. Many struggle with defining exactly what comprises a custom guitar.  We feel that pretty much every guitar that we build  is custom. Yes, we do have a line stock models; it’s the build process itself that renders the guitars custom.

We thought that we’d treat you to a collage of some of the guitars currently being started, in process and being completed. We’ll let you decide what is custom building and what is not.

Here’s a Korina Special in progress.  The double cutaway was our original production guitar body shape, introduced on our Sunburst Series. The Sunburst featured the Sustain Block bridge, a true Hamer innovation. We eventually moved away from the Sustain Block. However, ongoing custom requests led us to reintroduce it, most notably on the Talladega.

This Korina Special looks pretty custom built to us…but is it a custom guitar?

We also received custom requests for guitars with sound chambers. We adapted chambering to a number of models, such as this Newport Pro. We even began chambering our Standard with a honeycomb pattern.  Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, we receive custom orders for guitars without the sound chamber.

Here we are sanding the neck of the Newport Pro, a stock model.

Custom work?

We listened to our customers and decided to change our logos to be inlaid mother of pearl. We felt that it was a needed upgrade in the product line. However, some customers prefer that we use our original paint transfer logos placed in the position that we did at the beginning.

Here are some guitars nearing completion.

A simple Studio in cherry transparent.

The mohagany on this Newport is unique.

The Monacao Bass is part of our standard product offering but when we were building this one it it certainly seemed custom made to us.

While Hamer has predominantly been known for its guitars, some of our biggest innovations have been with basses.

There are a number of colors that were once considered custom and are now stock.

Blue Transaparent

Black Transparent

Tobacco Sunburst

On occassion we’ve turned down custom requests. While we try to remain consistent in our approach, there are varied reasons for such a decision.

At times we as a company were moving in a new direction and a customer wanted to hark back to guitars, or elements of guitars, that were not representative of that direction. Currently, we make every effort to accomodate such custom orders. 

Some requests involve us using a competitor’s trademarked features. Understandably we cannot undertake such work.

Sometimes we simply had not yet developed a way to deal with a given request. As a result, one day we couldn’t accomodate a given custom request and later, after we had developed a new process or procedure, we suddenly could.

Because they are so visible, artist guitars can present a real dilema. We have worked out arrangements with some artists to offer models that we jointly developed with them. Examples include the Steve Stevens and the Watson. With other artists no such agreement exists and so the instrument remains a signature guitar for the particular artist. On still other occassions, we have an agreement for one artist model, but not another. Examples of this are Glenn Tipton’s Phantom GT versus Glenn’s current more radical guitar and the Rick Nielsen model that we introduced in 1998 versus Rick’s five necks and checkerboard finishes.

We well know that with customs and customization lines get blurred and mistakes can be made; it seems to be the nature of the work. We’re doing our best to remain consistent and error free. To all of you, thanks for your support.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 2, 2010 by hamerblog

Since posting photos of some of our earlier guitars, we’ve been receiving custom inquiries for a variety of discontinued models. We recently were asked whether we could build a Virtuoso. As a result, we decided to hunt one down to refresh our recollection of  how we built them and to photograph it for future reference.

Paul Hamer designed this guitar in 1986, aptly naming it after the type of musician who would covet such an instrument.  The first Virtuoso was completed in January, 1987. We continued to build Virtuosos on a most limited basis into 1989. This one was built in June of 1988.  The lacquer checks reveal its age while adding to its personality.

36 frets on a scalloped maple fingerboard.

Reverse peghead, mondo logo, Floyd Rose tremolo

Can’t get enough of that fingerboard.

Smoothly blended heel.

Early Floyd Roses bolted through the neck. Hamer pioneered the use of the Floyd Rose on a “production” guitar. The Floyd allen key holder was mounted to the back of the peghead.

Extended cutaways for those who dare play past the 24th fret.

We’ll see whether we get an order for a Virtuoso some 20 years after it was discontinued.