Archive for Guitars

Ain’t That A Shame

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 8, 2011 by hamerblog

Many of you may have heard about this summer’s Blues Fest in Ottawa where a violent storm erupted causing the collapse of the stage. Cheap Trick was playing at the time, barely escaping injury. The police cordoned off the area, treating it as a crime scene.

While the band was safe, the same cannot be said for the gear. That’s why we ended up with some of Rick’s guitars in need of TLC.

While the Hamer 5-Necks are known throughout the world, perhaps the most iconic of Rick’s Hamers is the Checkerboard Standard with bow tie inlays and that curious truss rod cover. Rick has always had a thing for the checkerboard design. When he first approached us in 1978 to build this guitar we knew it would be a daunting task. Naturally we took it on. At the time, the idea of a checkerboard guitar was a compelte novelty. Actually, it still is.

 Many of you have seen Cheap Trick in concert where Rick regularly changes guitars during the set. The checkerboard Standard was featured on the cover of Dream Police. This guitar is featured on stage when Dream Police is played.

The constant touring has taken the toll on this guitar. The weather in Ottawa compounded problems, resulting in the peghead splitting. We’ve since repaired the headstock and replaced all of the electronics (save the pickups). You’ll be seeing this most road tested guitar back in action in short order.

An iconic instrument.

We’ve done a number of Beatles themed guitars over the years. The Sgt. Peppers guitar was perhaps the most dramatic interpretation on the theme. Luckily, this guitar did not suffer extensive damage. It probably got the most exposure during Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper’s run at the Paris Resort in Vegas. We were able to get it back on the road in time for the band’s Dream Police shows in Milwaukee.

We all know what song this guitar is featured on. The rain really took its toll on the Gonna Raise Hell Standard. The finish is flaking off of the back of the neck. We’re reapplying the original finish and coating over it to retain its original look. It’s a major project.

Uncle Dick is also back in the shop. This guitar was to be a caricature of Rick Nielsen (isn’t Rick Neilsen already a caricature of Rick Nielsen?). We built it to accept interchangeable heads but only got so far as completing Bun E. Carlos.

These guitars have traveled around the world and are still working hard. We think that it’s time for them to have some company. More on that later.



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.

Black Beauty

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 25, 2010 by hamerblog

Our earlier post on this guitar detailed the woodworking that went into this beauty.  Jason Dumont is now taking this Standard through its final stages of sanding, buffing, assembly, wiring and set up.

We use random orbital sanders to sand, or level, the top and back.

We hand block the sides

and the peghead face.

Black is one of the most difficult colors to buff.  Every scratch shows with black so attaining a high gloss finish is vital. Having a hard rock maple top on this Standard provides a solid base for the finish and results in a flatter finish that will sink less over time.  With the hard rock maple top and lack of a sound chamber this guitar has some heft.

Like many at Hamer, Jason has a keen interest in guitars.  We welcome our luthiers building their own guitars as well.  There aren’t many jobs out there where you want to do the same thing at home that you do at work.  Such immersion is testament to the passion that our people have for guitar.

In Jason’s case, his  interest led him in a bit of a different direction, building lap steel guitars.  What started out as a project has become a top lap steel guitar line, Lap King.  Check out Jason’s website to see more:

As always, the electronics cavity is shielded and hand wired.

Jason installs the gold covered Jason Lollar Standard Imperial pickups called for on this guitar.

By tightening the machine head bushings by hand we are sure never to overtighten, which can cause finish imperfections.

The four ply .020″ binding, such as we use on the Improv, sets off the peghead.

This Standard is fitted with a black pickguard and lots of gold hardware.

The four ply binding extends around the fingerboard as well.  The genuine mother of pearl crown inlays look right on this Standard, providing a vivid contrast with the jet black ebony fingerboard.

Here Jason is hand cutting the nut for the string slots.

While we do measure for the string action, we also extensively play test every guitar.

This guitar actually sounds…

better than it looks.

That says alot

about this Black Beauty.

Model Resurrection

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

Try as we may to no longer build some of our older models, ocassionally we get requests for models that have long since been discontinued. Though we feel that our current line up of guitars is stronger than ever and is most representative of what Hamer has developed into, we’ve been doing our best to honor your discontinued model requests.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing aesthetics, such as inlaying the fingerboard with mother of pearl crowns or spraying an old color. Other times it’s far more complex and involves building a guitar from the wood up.

For much of Hamer’s history we did not document our guitars with computer aided design. Even our hand drawn blueprints were somewhat sketchy. As a result, we decided to retain models of many of the historical  guitar bodies.  Using these rough prototypes we are able to recreate an accurate reproduction of the original design.

We thought that you might get a kick out of seeing some of these older models. Here we’re showing off guitars from the 1980s. We’ll leave it up to you to try to determine the original specifications.

First offered in 1977, the Hamer Sunburst double cutaway guitars provided the basis for a whole stable of new models. In 1980 we introduced the Hamer Prototype. Four years later we added a single coil neck pickup and had the Proto II, shown below.

Originally dubbed the Proto SS, the Steve Stevens model was an outgrowth of the original Protoype.

Naturally we had to follow up the Steve Stevens with the SSII.

The oringal Phantom came out in 1982. The Phantom A7 was fitted with a Roland G700 synth unit and is most closely associated with Andy Summers, who was integral to its development.

The 1984 Scarab guitar was a play on the design of the Hamer Standard. This Scarab I is routed for a Kahler tremolo.

Rick Savage fans will recognize the Scarab Bass, which came out a year after the orginal Scarab.

The 1986 FBII had a raised center piece, though it was a set neck design.

Here’s a Californian Deluxe body, which was introduced after the original 1988 Californian.  Note the alder wood.

We ran a series of guitars for the Miller Brewing Company in the mid 1980s; we’re not planning on resurrecting this model any time soon.

Hard Rock Standard

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 26, 2010 by hamerblog

When we get an order for a black Standard, as this one will eventually be, we switch over from our usual AAAA flame top to a hard rock maple cap. The reason isn’t simply because we don’t want to spray an opaque color over a beautiful maple top (though we don’t).  Rather, it’s because we’ve found that hard rock maple provides the flattest wood surface over which to paint.  As a result there is very little finish sinking on the guitar top.

Here’s Dave Brown rounding over the back edge of the Standard to a 1/8″ radius on an inverted router.

Dave started with Hamer in November 1989, working in the Arlington Heights shop. He began his career working “in the carpentry field for a home builder.”  When things got slow, his old friends Chris Nichols (who worked in the Hamer Neck Department) and Annette Ostrowsky (a long term Hamer team member who started out in the Finishing Department and ended as our Administrative Assistant) told him to “stop by, we’re hiring.” Dave earlier “knew that there was a guitar company in Palatine” (our prior shop) where he grew up. Needless to say, we were impressed with Dave and he’s been with us ever since.

In this photo Dave is drilling for the output jack.

Dave has worked in every area within the Woodshop as well as performing some work in the Finishing Department. “I started off in the Neck Department” he reflects, continuing that he then learned the “Neck Mill, Rough Mill…I went to fingerboard production and then just worked in customs and stuff like that in Arlington.”  Dave has definitely made a name for himself as a Hamer custom builder.

Dave is running a sheet of celluloid binding material over the jointer. By joining the binding he will have a straight edge to fit to the binding route itself, insuring no gaps between the body and the binding.

Dave “wanted to stay in the biz and there weren’t too many guitar companies hiring in the Chicagoland area at that time.”  Little did he expect that the journey he commenced on would bring him to New Hartford, Connecticut.

This Standard calls for Improv style binding and purfling, which is a four ply black and white layup.  As such, Dave had to customize the binding route to accept the wider layup.  As Dave says tongue in cheek: “binding is always a fun adventure, especially pegheads and multiply.”

Though there will always be a sweet spot in his heart for Arlington Heights, Dave prefers the New Hartford shop because of the “lower production, more custom work and traveling with the guitar all the way through.”  That is, he is involved with nearly every woodworking stage when he builds a custom guitar.

Tom Maule is lending a hand on the Standard, inlaying the mother of pearl crown inlays.

Here’s a great view of piecing together the miter joint of the Improv binding and purfling that is dressing up this Standard. 

Dave’s favorite “adventure”: filing down the multi-ply fingerboard binding.

Dave has “always liked the Standards and Vs.”  “I guess I’m probably more traditional.  The Studio Series and the Artist Custom always had a place in my heart.  They’re badass guitars that have always been a personal favorite.”

We previously had two separate serial numbering systems, one for Standards/Customs and one for our production guitars.  The Standards/Customs were wood stamped while the production guitars were ink stamped.  We now have one sequential numbering system, all of which are wood stamped.  The first digit indicates the year that the guitar was built, in this case “0” for 2010.

The body and neck are finally ready for glue up.  It has become increasingly difficult to find the high quality mahogany wide enough for one-piece Standard bodies.  Regarding wood, Dave muses: “It will be interesting to see what direction the wood industry will take, flame maple and mahogany big time.”  Dave also thinks  it “nice to see that Brazilian is coming back.”

Having dedicated luthiers like Dave Brown on our team gives Hamer the ability to allow you to realize your dreams with custom guitars such as this Standard.

Standard Brazilian Goes Green!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 19, 2010 by hamerblog

When we last showed you this Standard, we told you about some of the more subtle customizations such as the Brazilian peghead overlay, the Hamer mother of pearl logo being moved to the tip of the peghead and the wide flame maple top.

Now comes the not so subtle part, the green Sunburst finish.  Gary starts out with a light color coat.

We use gravity feed siphon cups when we spray our colors.

Here’s the guitar prior to bursting.

Gary’s darkening up the edges to achieve the Green Sunburst.  This is a green to green Sunburst, with no yellow involved.

The sides, back and neck are sprayed a matching transparent green.

We’ll try to get you some more photos as this guitar gets closer to completion.

Standard Custom with a Brazilian Twist

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 5, 2010 by hamerblog

The Brazilian rosewood peghead overlay is the first of some subtle (and some not so subtle) customizations to this Standard Custom.  Here’s a close up of one of our luthiers bringing the mitered celluoid ivoroid binding to the Brazilian peghead face.

Do you notice something different about the inlaid mother of pearl logo?  It’s been moved up to the tip of the peghead like early Standards.  The difference is the use of mother of pearl for the logo rather than the paint transfer process that we employed in earlier years.

To insure ultimate flatness, we hand block the peghead.  Using a block to sand the peghead results in superior flatness to a power sander.

Using a hand scraper, we flush cut the body binding to the top of the guitar.

Here we are hand fitting the fingerboard binding for a seamless transition to the peghead binding.  The fingerboard binding extends above the fret bead and then is filed flush with the fingerboard, another meticulous detail that we attend to. 

Here’s a shot of the binding after it’s been bonded to the fingerboard.

The neck heels on all Standards are hand carved into the body.  Using a rasp to blend the body and neck into one results in a high level of playing comfort at the upper frets.

Here we are filling the pores of the wood with paste wood filler.  After it is applied, we rub the filler cross grain into the pores of the wood. To insure that the wood pores are completely filled, we go through this entire filling process twice.  We refer to this practice as “double filling”.  We then let the filler dry for two days prior to bringing the guitar into the spraybooth.

This is a familiar site for Hamer afficianados: bonding the neck into the body cavity. Our neck tenons are massive, insuring unsurpased sound transmission between the neck and the body.

Because Hamer necks follow the taper of the fingerboard, they can only be fit into the body vertically, rather than slid into the neck route like so many other guitars.  An added benefit for this overengineered stability is that the entire fingerboard is supported by the neck.

The customer requested “wide randlom flame” maple.  He should be happy with this top.  Notice the mother of pearl crown fingerboard inlays, another tip of our hat to Hamer’s past.

We use a simple “C” clamp to hold the neck and body together during the bonding process.  Because our neck joints are so tight we don’t need anything elaborate.  Sometimes the tried and true methods work the best.

Wait until you see the finish on this guitar.  Unlike some of the other customizations, it’s not so subtle.