Take a deep breath….exhale.


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ben150

We all do it, we have a guitar that is a blank canvas, either a new custom order or a project guitar with no guts and loads of possibilities and we lose our minds… seriously!  ‘Okay’, you think, ‘I need a volume control and habit dictates a tone as well and of course a switch of some sort is essential.’  ‘Now, what next?  I’ve never really used my coil tap but it should be there somewhere, mini toggle or a push/pull pot, hey, what about a push/push pot, those are cool!  Ahh now, how about a phase switch somewhere?  Should I play around with the coils of my humbuckers or better yet, wire in a bypass so we go direct from pickup to the jack socket, supposedly bypassing all those pots and switches adds a certain je ne sais quoi…. But I just love my little toggle switches ok?!  Hmmm a kill switch, cool… Up about where I can actually push it and strum at the same time or down amongst everything else?  Now, of course I’m going to direct mount the pickups for that extra tone – that everyone believes in but no one can convincingly explain – but I also want to try those surrounds with the little switches in built.  Now, now, don’t get carried away, but MIDI has always been a cool idea.. yeah, add that, it’s only six or seven more controls… How about piezo’s for that acoustic sound? ..two nine volt batteries should do it, mmmm phantom power?? Shit, can anyone say ‘electrocution!?!’…’  Take a deep breath AND STOP BLOODY THINKING!!

At Crimson Guitars,  we really are open to experimentation and will go to any length to create the perfect guitar for each client.  In the last six months I’ve had to learn how to use gold leaf and even the basics of silver-smithing!  But at some point you have to say “NO” and say it firmly!  I’ve just had a beautiful guitar that I built a few years ago come back into the shop with a new owner and a new brief… ‘get rid of all the crap and give me the basics’.  The crap being the sustainer, kill switch, coil tap, phase switch etc etc.  The guitar was originally built for a young chap with too many ideas who simply would not listen to reason. (which of course reminds me of me, just a few years back) Anyway, he wanted about 10 different tone-woods, literally, and every switch you could think of, including a inch wide red led lit push button from an arcade machine… this is still in a drawer in my workshop; thankfully it was just too deep for the body.  I told the client that what he described should, in fact, be two different instruments, a Studio beast with every electronic option under the sun in which case he could do away with the multi-coloured tone-woods and stick instead with a cheaper, easier and more quantifiable combination of materials, or a performance machine that could be as visually stunning as you like but which should have simple, easy to find and operate controls.  Six months after delivery this £2000 guitar has a new home.  The original client wasn’t a studio guitarist by any means and couldn’t work any of the controls on stage without a torch* (*Editor’s Note: Flashlight)  and instruction manual, how rock ‘n roll would that be!?

Luckily the new owner saw the potential immediately, and being a guitar collector knew just what to do.  Call me and ask me what I was thinking letting the original client get away with the order!  After I begged for leniency we got down to business, the options were these…

1. An entirely new top, possible but expensive, time consuming and a waste of the lovely piece of flamed sycamore I’d used originally.

2. A veneer carefully applied to the top, cheaper but still a waste of the original and somehow a bit naughty; I’ve never really felt comfortable with veneering it’s too much like plastering distracting glittery makeup on a… well, you get the picture, sleep with the dogs and you’ll wake up with fleas! (Aerosmith..?)

3. Now, this would not have occurred to me before building the recent Plagiarist vine (demo video YouTube now..) that guitar was something special and I ended up going with an alloy vine inlay, from the bottom strap button all the way up to the headstock.   The idea, and final choice, is to inlay the bands logo; a nice screaming skull motif, across the bottom of the guitar in aluminium, this will also cover over the bulk of the superfluous holes while adding even more uniqueness to a truly custom guitar, over the top for some but in the end this beauty will be flashing around on a dark stage chugging out monstrous riffs while the audience try and figure out what ‘brand’ it is, our brand is uniqueness not uniformity, simplicity of design not built in obsolescence, and ease of use without needing to memorise a thrice translated instruction booklet, we are custom guitar builders and long may the craft survive!

All my best,

Ben Crowe

Crimson Guitars

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To find out more about Ben, click HERE

Ben's Column


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