The Semi-Solid was conceived as a variation on the Big Orange solidbody guitar. While the overall shape of the two instuments are similar, they are vastly different guitars in many ways.
The Semi-Solid's body is nearly 2.5 inches deep. To counter all that mass and to save weight the mahogany portion of the body has been chambered to allow for a very resonant tone. Technically still a solibody guitar, the trapeze-style string mounting and modified teardrop f-hole hint at something else.
Because of the overall thickness of the guitar I was looking to set the neck deeper into the pocket than on my previous effort. Consequently the tune-o-matic bridge forced the string action too high. The remedy was to rout a pocket for the bridge allowing it to adjust deeper than hte face of the guitar if necessary.
The strings pass through the back of the guitar and are held in place by standard ferrules. Brass sleeves are set into the body to serve as channels for the strings and to keep the strings from digging into the maple top as they make their way up to the bridge saddles.
Modified teardrop F-hole.
The body was cut from a single solid piece of mahogany. Mahogany was chosen as the main body wood due to its warm sonic characteristics. The mahogany portion of the body was routed using custom home made templates to produce tone chambers and to lighten the weight. The center strip remains solid except for the pickup cavities, reminiscent of Les Paul's original log guitar.
The highly-figured birdseye maple top is nearly half an inch thick. An modified teardrop F-hole was cut into the top to reveal a tone chamber beneath—giving the guitar the look of a semi-hollow instrument.
The body is a string-through design, meaning the strings pass through the back of the guitar and the ball-end of the strings are seated into ferrules set into the back of the guitar. The strings then pass through the bridge and over the bridge saddles.
The birdseye maple neck is capped with a birdseye maple fretboard and is bolted to the body using a standard four screw mounting plate. The back of the headstock is hand carved to provide a smooth unobstructed playing of open chords.
Seymour Duncan Soap Bar pickups and Tune-o-matic bridge.
The pickups are Seymour Duncan P-90 Stacks. They are contemporary dual coil pickups engineered to sound like traditional vintage Gibson P-90 pickups. They are a stacked humbucking configuration meaning that they provide the tone but not the unwanted noise association with a single coil pickup like the vintage P-90.
I opted for the cream covers as the color scheme is traditional, although black is often used with red guitars. I prefer the cream as the black is too visually heavy in my opinion. The pickups mount directly to the body into cavities routed with a standard template from Stewart McDonals Lutherie Supply.
Each pickup has its own volume and tone control and selection is made via a standard three way toggle switch.
Headstock is carved on the backside for easy open chords and dyed red to match the body.
Grover tuning machines are used, as well as a Gotoh tune-o-matic style bridge. The bridge is set into a routed cavity to allow for low string height associated with a typical Fender-style neck pocket.
This guitar was full of challenges, but aside from the challenges presented by the chambered body, string-through body setup, and inset bridge, my main challenge was the sunburst finish. Without any specialized spray equipment it is impossible to apply a tradition sunburst finish. I experimented with alot of scrap wood and analine dyes before coming up with a plan that I thought would work.
I applied the dye starting with the yellows and followed with progressively darker red, applying wet on wet so as not to soak too much color into any one area. I re-applied many coats to build up the graduated change in color from yellow to red and finally a dark rich red around the sides and back. The guitar was then finished in clear nitrocellulose lacquer.