MvR's Self-made Guitars (Mark van Roojen's Guitar Page)

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In the past twentyfive odd years I have made three guitars. The idea was that I would be so proud of my work that I would be unable to put it down. And, having a guitar in hand, I would learn to play. Well, I am proud of my work. Proud enough to want to display some photos below even while admitting I still can't really play.

Pictured here is my first guitar, a copy of a Fender Telecaster. I did quite a bit of research while building this, reading lots of books, and haunting music stores with a ruler. I was in grad school at the time I built it. The body is of cherry which has similar physical properties to alder - a favored wood for telecasters tone-wise. The neck is maple with a walnut infill. The pickups are Seymore Duncan replicas of old tele pickups. The bridge was fabricated with my dad's help as was the bi-directionally adjustable truss-rod. I put an active preamp in it, but I mean to rework that some day.

This is the acoustic I built over the course of several years, also during graduate school. I chose to do an acoustic after an electric because building and bending a hollow body required skills not needed for a solidbody. It is a D-size guitar with back and sides of curly claro walnut, neck of regular walnut, ebony fingerboard, bridge, headstock overlay and soundhole ring, maple trim and abolone inlays. There is supposed to be a sort of fallen arch motif in the fingerboard markers and bridge shape. When I got the whole thing together it sounded very nice, but the neck was a bit club-like. So about a year after having built it, I took it off and reshaped it using a spokeshave. Now it has a much nicer feel to it.

Finally, still while in grad school, I built a small guitar for my nephew. As I recall the scale length was around 20 odd inches long, about 4/5ths of a normal guitar. I modeled it on a Fender Stratocaster, though with the small size I could only fit two pickups. The body is of oak, ebonized with dye, and filled with white pore filler to get a negative effect. The neck is mahogany with maple infill and marker dots. The pickguard is Plexiglas. The result is a bit garish, but I like it.

Other than the tuners and knobs, all of the components were entirely manufactured by myself. I wound the pickups myself, built active electronics into them, and encased them with epoxy resins. Ripping off (or perhaps satirizing?) EMG, I put my initial in small script on the pickups. You can just barely see this in the closeup of this guitar at the top of the page. Sadly, I did not really put enough windings on the pickups, but they are usable as they are. The bridge I made with my father's help once again.

I gave it to my nephew when he was six or so. Not too long after that it was stolen from a storage locker in Olympia, Washington where he lived. I had marked it with his name in key locations (Toby van Roojen-Logg) and I posted here that I would pay a substantial reward to have it back. Several years ago someone contacted me to say that a friend of theirs had it. I paid the person who had it $300 to get it back. The electronics in it were pretty trashed. One pickup remained but since it was an active pickup and I no longer had the plans for it. So I made a new set of pickups for it and a new preamp and with my nephew's permission gave it to his much younger multi-instrumentalist sister. This was some 30 years after it was originally stolen.

1999, 2022