Archive for Custom Guitars

Can’t Stop The Music

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 27, 2012 by hamerblog

In our Ain’t That A Shame post we told you about the tragedy that was Ottawa and how it wreaked havoc on a number of Rick Nielsen’s guitars. We had previously repaired the headstock of the Checkerboard Standard on a number of occassions so the Ottawa storm took an especially hard toll on it.  The Checkerboard Standard now has another companion.

Can’t forget the checkerboard pickups!

Insuring that the pickup checks align with those on the guitar.

And they do!

The guitar wouldn’t be complete without matching knobs.


Mother of Pearl Bow Tie Inlays

The pickup surrounds have been cleaned up.

On this guitar we painted the Hamer logo in both black and white.

Can’t forget the neck.

Complete and ready to rock.



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.

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.


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.

Free Bird

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 15, 2010 by hamerblog

 When we were approached to build an FB, we gave it some thought and decided…why not?  In the past we had built this body style both for guitars and basses.   The first FB was built in March, 1986.  We actually built more basses than guitars, which may well have been due to our relationship with Nikki Sixx.

We don’t have the original tooling for the FB series so everything had to be laid out and routed by hand.  Note the pencil lines extending from the neck route.

Rather than building the body from three pieces of wood as would be typical for a guitar like this, we built it from one massive piece of mahogany and then routed the wings down, leaving the raised center section.

Final routing the body perimiter.

Here we are plunge routing for the pickup tabs and height adjustment screws.  Typically, the guitars had two pickups.  This order called for one humbucker, making the woodworking somewhat more complex.  Because the neck continues for the length of the entire fingerboard and we retain a very tight neck joint we can build the guitar without a neck pickup.

Did we mention that it was ordered with a reverse Standard headstock?

The neck has been bonded to the body and the guitar filled with grain filler.

Measuring and laying out for the bridge position.

Drilling for the bridge.

With a single pickup and one volume control, the electronics cavity is sparse.

Taped up and ready to for paint.  What color will set this bird free…


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 1, 2010 by hamerblog

Throughout the years we have been graced with a pheonomenal assortment of highly skilled luthiers, spanning Hamer’s various eras and guitar styles.  This didn’t happen by chance.  We sought out the best and most talented individuals and then began a relentless undertaking of cultivating them with Hamer’s spirit and luthiery techniques.

The result is that over our 30+ year history we have been able to instill an unsurpassed commitment to quality in our team to build the Ultimate guitars.  These are the people who create our guitars; these are our Masterbuilders.  Execution at this level of luthiery is no easy task. Very few can do it.

Many question which era of Hamers were the best.  Much hinges on the style of guitar you are drawn to.  Regarding build quality, we feel that we are at our pinnacle.  However, we would have said the same thing in the past and probably will do so in the future.  That’s because we are never satisfied; we always want to improve.  At any point in time our guitars are generally the best that they have ever been.

This Watson may be from another era but it was definitely created today. The neck cavitiy is chiseled open for a seamless neck joint.  Add a blended heel to the equation and you have unsurpassed access at the highest frets.

Speaking of frets, we’ve reviewed sanding of  both our woods and finishes, we’d like now to review how we sand, or level, our frets.  The process is not unlike sanding wood or a finish in that we use progressively finer grits.

The first step in a Hamer fret job is to straighten the neck. We then take a custom built aluminum honing block with 220 grit cloth and just touch the frets to determine whether they are all level.  Then, starting at the nut, we lightly sand the frets with the 220 cloth on the honing block so that each fret is ever so slightly lower than the fret before it.

Using a diamond 320 crowning file we then remove any flat spots on the crown of the bead.

We then go over the frets with a jitterbug sander using 240MX paper.

 Next, we hand sand with 800 grit paper.

This is followed by another hand sanding, this time with 1000 grit sandpaper, a very fine grit with which to sand metal.

Finally, we polish the frets with 0000 steel wool.

There’s a very high skill level required to effect this process.  The trick is to take off only the bare minimum of fret material with each progressive sanding.  This is how our luthiers create the silky feel that is a Hamer fret job.  

Finally the neck and the body are bonded together.  

This is luthiery.

This is masterbuilding.