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Finished: Runecaster, Jörmungandr, and Mjöllnir

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General:

 The guitar build, the final entry...

What a blast of a project...  Challenging, fun, and a real test of skill.   It does make me appreciate just how good some of the craftsmen are out there that build some of these amazing "homemade" guitars.  I can honestly say there will be more, I don't know how I will ever resist the pull again.  My wife has other plans for me for the near future, unfortunately...  


 

Runecaster:

Casting runes (small stone tablets with Nordic Runes engraved upon them) is an old Norse way of divining the paths one can take and see the eventual outcome.  It's not fortune-telling, at least not in the sense most are used to... They were more to help you choose which way you should go.  It might not have hurt me to cast a few to see where I was going...

 I started with a plan to build two guitars, and ended up with three.  Originally, I was going to build a test neck out of some rather standard maple I picked up that was dirt cheap...  It was a good idea...  The "test" neck turned out well enough that I couldn't see not using it - so I quickly routed out a new body out of some alder, and this is what I ended up with:

It has an alder body, Gotoh vintage tuners (my favorite), and a Fender Original Vintage Telecaster Pickup set. The neck pickup is mounted to the body (not the pickguard) to facilitate using the truss rod, which is a vintage variety truss rod, adjusted at the heel of the neck.

I decided to go with a pretty standard Telecaster approach with the addition of some body contouring...

I like the contouring, though it might be against the grain of some purists.  Really, I wanted to try it out on this one before moving on to the Strat.

The finish is lacquer - I was shooting for a butterscotch color, though because the wood was alder, the wood grain really didn't show through well (most Telecasters that you can are made from lightweight ash...), so I went solid color.  That and it was tough to get the color I wanted.

 The first round looked too white - the next was so very yellow.. In the end, the magic mix used transtint honey amber with a little brown mahogany over what was basically a white base coat.

 The upside to this - you know when you go to the guitar store and you play a whole bunch of different guitars but there's that one you keep going back to?  Of the three I made - this is that guitar.

Now, I won't claim any great talent for playing, but here's a sample of this guitar.  There are three entries in the following:  the first is the bridge pickup, the second is both pickups, the third is the neck pickup.  Forgive the player, he's just doing his best....

Runecaster

It looks like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

If the player above doesn't load, here's a direct link to the file:

http://norsewoodsmith.com/files/images/casters/mp3/runecaster.mp3

I don't have the greatest recording equipment... Well, maybe the greatest you can have for <$100, so forgive the poor quality.

This is a fun guitar to play...  of the three this is my favorite player.


 Jörmungandr:

Jörmungandr is a sea serpent (a Viking dragon) in Norse mythology, one so large that he was able to encircle the earth and grab his own tail...  When you see an ancient Norse carving that looks like a snake eating its own tail, it's likely that snake is Jörmungandr.

On this guitar, I wanted to try a few different things. First off, gold hardware, a sunburst finish, and double binding  to dress it up.

 It has a black walnut body with a curly maple cap; the neck is from a 60 year old maple board I have in my stash. 

The tuners are vintage-style Gotoh's again, and the pickups are a Fender Vintage "Noiseless" Tele pickup set.  The neck pickup is also mounted to the body (not the pickguard) to facilitate using the truss rod, which is also a vintage variety truss rod, adjusted at the heel of the neck.

 The pickups have a bit more output than the single-coil Tele pickups on the Runecaster, though they still retain that vintage Tele sound.

I guess the "dressing up" must have worked some - this is the guitar everybody who has seen them likes most.   I will admit - especially on the back, the walnut looks grand:

 

 All of the wood in this guitar is from my own stash, mostly from the pile I've been saving for those "special" projects.


Here's a sound file of Jörmungandr in action - I tried to find some that seemed to fit the sound of the guitar best, unfortunately my playing isn't what I'd like it to be.  Again, the first is on the bridge pickup, the next on both, and the third is the neck pickup alone.

Jörmungandr

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If the player above doesn't load, here's a direct link to the file:

http://norsewoodsmith.com/files/images/casters/mp3/jormungandr.mp3

This guitar probably taught me the most, what with the sunburst and the binding.  


 Mjöllnir:

Mjöllnir is the hammer of Thor;  in some translations, it is an axe. It seemed an obvious choice for a name to me... 

If you haven't guessed it already, it is basically a copy of David Gilmour's (of Pink Floyd fame) guitar.  You can read all about the Black Strat on the David Gilmour Gear Guide on Gilmourish.com.  Here's my version:

Fender also makes two versions David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster, a NOS (New Old Stock) version, and a "relic'd" version.  You can see them here:

http://www.fender.com/features/gilmour/

There are two basic differences on mine - I haven't yet installed the shorter tremolo arm (though I will), and I didn't install the extra switch that can turn on both the neck pickup and the bridge pickup at the same time though I may at some point in the future.  Truth be told, I have the switch - I just didn't have the patience to install it, I wanted to get the thing together and play it...

 

It has an alder body, the maple neck is from the same 60 year old maple as Jörmungandr.  The neck and middle pickups are Fender Custom Shop 69' Strat® Pickups, which should approximately match the 1968 pickup in Gilmour's guitar.  The bridge pickup is a Seymour Duncan SSL-5 over-wound pickup to match the pickup Mr. Duncan himself wound for Mr. Gilmour that was subsequently installed in the Black Strat.

The hardware after that is the standard Stratocaster appointments, including the vintage tuners (same as above).

 The truss rod is adjusted at the head of the neck, different from the first two.

Being this is a tribute guitar, it seems only fitting I played something (attempted to, anyway) from whom it was that inspired it.   Here's the two guitar solos from Comfortably Numb, from Pink Floyd's The Wall album.

Comfortably Numb 1st Solo on Mjöllnir: 

It looks like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

If the player above doesn't load, here's a direct link to the file:

 http://norsewoodsmith.com/files/images/casters/mp3/Comfortably_Numb-1st_Solo.mp3

Comfortably Numb 2nd Solo on Mjöllnir: 

It looks like you don't have Adobe Flash Player installed. Get it now.

 If the player above doesn't load, here's a direct link to the file:

http://norsewoodsmith.com/files/images/casters/mp3/Comfortably_Numb-2nd_Solo.mp3

 Keep in mind I don't have much of recording studio - all of the recordings above were piped directly through my Vox VT-30 amp (no pedals or effects other than what's in the amp) into the computer using an M-Audio Fast-Track interface and recorded using the Pro-Tools M-Powered Essential recording software that came with it.  The backing track for Comfortably Numb is courtesy Gilmourish.com.


In any case, I learned a lot with these, and am hoping to apply what I did to a future project soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

Leif


Comments

Comment: 

 

Hey, a little Chuck Barry there....I like that!
 
All three guitars are outstanding. If I had to, not sure I could choose between them. I do favor the all black Mjollnir though. Choosing one over the other doesn't take away from the other two regarding your workmanship. 
 
Your guitar playing doesn't sound too shabby. Hellava lot better than a lot of what I've heard on Youtube. Takes a lot of sore finger tips to get that good. At one time I suffered through that early process of learning some cords. Gave some thought to learning to play a steel guitar instead.
 
Did you keep track of the number of "Leif hours" you have invested in them? 
 
Thanks for sharing,
Marv    

Comment: 

Hey, guys - thanks!

Marv, so you could tell what song I was playing?  That's always a good sign...  ;-)  I've been playing forever, but it's one of those things I know I'll never be that good at.  Kinda like making money...

I'm afraid I'm also more of an acoustic player than 'lectric...  guess it;'s the same reason I have a penchant for hand tools...  Still, it's fun.  Espcially now that I own three more...  It's a real trip to play something you've made yourself.

I didn't keep track of hours, I rarely do.  I'd be too stunned at the amount of time I spend at meaningless tasks I do, I think...  The reality is that at my work, it's all about billing time, and it gets to me.  Projects like these are all about getting away from that.

Thanks again!

Leif

Comment: 

Damn, Leif--- how cool. I've been booking R & R bands in Denver area now for 11 years, and some of my guitar-loving buddies are gonna love this.

 
Keep 'em comin'!!
 
Kathy DeMars

Comment: 

Fantastic, simply fantastic.

 
Congradulations, well done, they are beautiful, both to see and hear.
 
Well Done.

Comment: 

 Sweet..! Kinda like them store bought gitars I sead them fellers playin at the hootenanny last week.  Excellent craftsmanship and sound. The Jormungandur still my favorite. so are those Numbererd 1, 2, and 3? And number 4 will be a,,,,,,Thunderbird? Good job, and extra share of ale for ya.

Comment: 

Absolutely stunning. Each one is a piece of art. I wonder how long you looked into the parts and pieces wood bin and thought of grabbing a piece and playing some Pink Floyd on them. Great Work.  Brother FRANK

Comment: 

Outstanding craftsmanship. And the playing ability ain't to shabby either. Congratulations. I have always admired and envied your abilities and once again you have made me proud. Thank you for the gift of your music bro.

 
Terry

Comment: 

Leif, this was way cool to read about and I think the recordings rock!  Great job on the guitars, I wish I had this kind of talent. "yeah I just grabbed some wood from the garage and ripped out 3 awesome guitars and then ripped out some music on them.  Very, very cool.

 
Nephew Steve

Comment: 

NICE!!!!

I wish I had the time and ability. I picked up an acoustic in college and got to the point where I can play a lot of chords and songs, but nothing cool yet if you know what I mean. You've made me want to pick it up again and start practicing. Maybe some day when I hit the lottery I'll remember my dear uncle Leif and commission you on one!!! Dan

Comment: 

It was Blues Traveler right after Chuck Berry, right?

Comment: 

So people can tell from my vain attempt at playing....

On the Runecaster, the songs are:

Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode
Blues Traveler:  Hook
Led Zeppelin:  Ten Years Gone

On Jormungandr:

Blackfoot:  Highway Song
Doobie Brothers:  Long Train Runnin'
Nazareth:  Whiskey Drinkin'  Woman

On Highway Song - I'm used to playing it bare-fingered travis picking style on an acoustic guitar, but that didn't sound right on an electric - so I'm using some fingerpicks that I'm not used to...  so I missed a note or two on it...

I tried to pick songs that seem to fit the sound of each setting best...

Leif

Comment: 

 

Leif 
Hlusta á þig spila Norse gítar gerir mig bæði stoltur og vandlátur. Falleg vinna, get ég beðið eftir að sjá þær í eigin persónu. 
Ég myndi segja að ég er meira að hluta til Runecaster eins og það er meira eins og gítar á tímum mínum. 
John 

Comment: 

You bring goosebumps to us just listening to your playing. The guitars are absolutely beautiful Leif, you should be proud of your work as I am to be able to brag about them!!! Love this site, I wouldnt have thought of a better use of 60 year old wood than to make it into something that sounds that good! You would make dad proud! Love ya, Your sister, Rori and Kevin

Comment: 

i want you to build me a viking guitar.. i have the money when you have the time let me know my email is p... [at] yahoo . com i want a truly original guitar i will tell you the details i have a few basic ideas but i want you to add your own touch to it.. please consider my offer.. my price range is one that will supply you with all the materials you need and will compensate you for your ingenuity and time well spent sir. for you to take the time to build me a viking guitar to play my folk and viking metal on.. thankyou. see you in valhal

Comment: 
<p>Came back to check out this blog on the guitars again.&nbsp; Still so impressed at the craftsmanship.&nbsp; Would love to be able to play like that, especially on a hand made guitar.&nbsp; We got Annika an accoustic for Christmas this year.&nbsp; She seems interested and has been watching how to video&#39;s on Youtube.&nbsp; I hope she picks it up and runs with it.&nbsp; Merry Christmas Leif...Nephew Dan</p>


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