Joe Bonamassa

Haze Blue Collar: The Making Part 1

OK, if you missed the article about me and Joe Bonamassa, have a little look back (partly because I love mentioning it).  Essentially, Joe has been my guinea-pig as he received the prototype of a new Haze Guitars model: the Blue Collar.

Haze Guitars Joe Bonamassa Guitar

Haze Guitars Joe Bonamassa Guitar

The Haze Blue Collar is a stripped-back, no-nonsense guitar, designed to rock in the most workmanlike manner.  No bells, no whistles, just a couple of nice chunks of wood and a beefy pickup.  This is old-school.

I thought I'd step you through the making of a Haze Blue Collar. My assumption (possibly flawed) is that everybody is as much of a guitar geek as I am and is therefore interested in seeing vaguely guitar-shaped pieces of wood get nails hammered into them. If that sort of thing doesn't interest you, I don't know what's wrong with you but you're weird.

Haze BC-1 Ash Body Blank

Haze BC-1 Ash Body Blank

This is how it all begins.  A couple of chunky pieces of ash.  This being an instrument of pretty straightforward construction, I like to select timber with a bit of an interesting figure or grain-pattern.  Unadorned doesn't need to mean unattractive.

The Blue Collar has a 2-piece, book-matched ash body.  Here, the two wings are centre-jointed to form the body-blank.

This wood has some nice, dark streaks of sap-wood peeking through at the edges and even a little flame.  Pretty.

Haze BC-1 Ash Guitar Body

Haze BC-1 Ash Guitar Body

Once jointed, the actual shape of the body is drawn and the blank is cut approximately to shape on the band-saw.  It's taken to its final shape with the router against a pre-made template before being tidied up on the spindle-sander.

Then it's back to the router to round-over the edges (where appropriate) and to cut the pickup and control cavities.  The neck pocket is also cut but this is complicated slightly as the wrapover tunomatic bridge that will be used requires a slight neck-angle. Routing for the neck cavity is done at an angle of 2.5 degrees to introduce back-angle when the neck is installed.

This sort of neck angle is a little unusual on a bolt-on like this but it accommodates the chunky tunomatic bridge and feels pretty comfortable. It avoids silliness like recessing the bridge or installing the neck in a shallower pocket (to the detriment of tone).

The eagle-eyed reader will have spotted my note to myself on the face of the guitar.  After a realising a couple of times, during assembly, that I'd forgotten to leave access for a string ground wire, I now tend to leave myself a little reminder to do it as soon as I drill for the bridge. It's not a big deal to do it later but I prefer to get any drilling done before finishing happens.

Here is the partially complete Blue Collar body resting on a couple of other in-progress bodies.  Guitars to be.

Joe Bonamassa With A Haze Guitar - Holy Crap!

You see that smug looking guy beside Joe Bonamassa? That's me, that is. Why would I be so smug looking? Well, because I've just presented Joe with a guitar that I've made here in Haze Guitars. A custom guitar, hammered together by my own tired and calloused hands. That's him holding it.

Joe was here in Dublin for a gig and I got to meet him before the show to let him have his very own Haze Guitar. It was nerve-wracking to say the least but it all went rather well and I believe Joe was happy with his new instrument.

As you can see (and click the photos to embiggen), I've gone back to basics with this guitar. My thinking is that Joe isn't exactly short of guitars and those that he plays most often are pretty lavish and sumptuous. I figured, therefore, that taking the opposite tack might be a good way to go.

With that in mind, I've gone workmanlike on this one. I love the stripped back, bread and butter, vibe of the single-pickup, Les Paul Juniors and Esquires and I've tried to capture a little bit of that here. In my brain at least, I've tried to meld those two guitars and I've come up with this.  The body size is smaller than a Telecaster/Esquire and the lines are altered - it's got a narrower waist, an altered upper-bout and the horn is shorter.

The body is ash (and a good solid example of it). A black-white-black pickguard holds the volume and tone controls - chicken head knobs for each, in keeping with the no-frills approach. It's fitted with a wraparound Tun-O-Matic style bridge which gives great coupling and sound transfer and helps get some of that LP-Junior vibe. This does require that the neck, which is a bolt-on in the usual fashion, be installed at a bit of an back-angle which always seems a tiny bit odd on a bolt-on.

This guitar's neck is maple and the fingerboard rosewood with only side position markers. The board's installed with 21 wide/high frets and a bone nut. The neck itself is quite chunky - Joe likes a handful - although it's carved slightly asymmetrically with more of a curve along the treble side. This makes it feel a little less of a handful than it actually is. Action is left slightly on the high side, again to suit Joe - he told me he likes a guitar to fight him - and it's strung with 11-52 gauge strings.

A single Duesenberg Domino pickup takes care of the power. This takes things in a slightly divergent direction. The Domino is Duesenberg's attempt to shoehorn a P-90 pickup into a humbucker-sized housing. It looks fantastic; all chrome and black and it sounds really fantastic. It's not quite a P-90 (it gets a lot of the way there) and it has an amazing tone all of its own. It's raw and powerful without being shrill or messy. I love the wonderful noise it makes and Joe (thankfully) seemed to be quite taken with it too.

There's much more sustain in this than you'd normally expect from a T-type guitar and even acoustically, this guitar rings quite nicely and cleanly. Powered up, the Domino fills out the sound but still keeps an edge in the highs. The tone is powerful and full but there's plenty of definition. Personally, I love it and may well have to build one for myself too.

Joe's got a great ear by the way and is very knowledgable about guitars. He spotted little things right off the bat and we were able to chat about the impact they had on the ultimate sound of the guitar. Joe played for quite a while before his manager reminded him he needed to get some dinner before the show. I'd have happily sat and listened to him for hours.

All in all, I'm very, very happy with how my presenting Joe with his Haze Guitar went. Joe genuinely seemed to like the guitar and said a lot of nice things. He was also really generous about letting me snap gushing, fanboy, photos as he played. Custom guitars aside, it was great to just hang out with Joe and have a chat about music, guitars, touring, fish and chips, etc.

Yeah, we really did talk about fish and chips. Random, eh?

It’s amazing to know that this guitar, made by me, has joined Joe Bonamassa’s stable. I realise that’s a big stable but even thinking that he might pick it up every now and then, just for a noodle about, is a great feeling. Anything more than that would be a crazy bonus but just thinking that’s enough. More than enough.

Thanks Joe.

Joe Bonamassa In My Virtual Shop-Window

I'm off to see Joe Bonamassa play in Dublin's Vicar Street next week (Thursday, 7th if you're interested). This is a very good thing. I like Joe Bonamassa - for some musicians, the guitar is a tool only; a means to an end. Best I can tell though, Joe Bonamassa is a guitar geek. And, as a guitar geek myself, I like it when I see it in others.

So, when I had a call asking if I'd mind popping some flyers up in my workshop to help promote the gig, I was happy to help. And I figured that, since this site is my virtual shop-window, I'd pop up a flyer here too.

As well as being a guitar geek, Bonamassa's not half bad at playing the thing either and it seems that, if you haven't already got a ticket, you might still be in with a chance to do so.

Now, if I could just get him to play one of my guitars on stage…  ;-)