Slicing a cow skull to make interior braces for a custom guitar. Photo by peckhammer Next to the 1954 Stratocaster (serial number 0168) sitting on my repair bench, I’ve
Slicing a cow skull to make interior braces for a custom guitar. Photo by peckhammer
Next to the 1954 Stratocaster (serial number 0168) sitting on my repair bench, I’ve got some materials for a few custom builds I’m working on. Nothing crazy, just some cow skulls, a big chunk of an ebony tree, and a handful of dried scorpions that I’ll entomb in the headstock of these guitars. The scorpions will be partially visible under the truss-rod cover. I’ve also got a bottle of invisible ink. My plan is to tattoo the black ebony with secret messages in Latin that can only be read under a black light. The cases for these instruments will contain an antique Bible, a wooden spike, and a vial of holy water.
I know a cow-skull guitar might sound strange to some players—especially those enamored with vintage instruments. I think it’s important to lighten up and have a little fun. Don’t be afraid of your imagination— you never know what you can come up with.
So, about these cow-skull guitars: I’ve got one coming along nicely, with the skull sliced up and ready to be used as interior bracing. It turns out skull bone is a perfect material for the job—it’s lightweight and super strong. And conveniently, I can run wires through the brain cavities. But most importantly, skull bone is creepy as hell! I like the idea of someone opening the back to change part and— yikes —there’s a jawbone and rack of teeth lurking in the shadows.
The reason I mention this guitar is that it makes a point. It illustrates my “don’t take yourself too seriously” credo and my “learn to master hand tools first” building philosophy. Digging deeper, it’s the result of what I was taught by a traveling gypsy guitar maker named Boaz.
Guitar critic, historian, and builder Rick Turner once wrote this about Boaz and his guitars: “What you see here is not the product of some 18th-century luthier who slaved away to meet the demands of a Spanish or French courtier. Rather it is the product of a virtual living time machine named Boaz.”
I remember reading that. I also remember reading stories about Boaz riding his BMW motorcycle through South America, eating monkey brains with the Amazon people, and building a guitar with a Swiss Army knife in Tierra del Fuego on a bet. I thought, “Wow—I want to know more about this guy!”
A year later, I found myself hanging out with Boaz—staying up late, drinking wine, and talking about girls and guitars. I listened to his stories about Paracho, a town in Mexico where almost everyone builds guitars. He described how a lot of the guys get bored, so they hide porn inside the guitars. He told me that, in Russia, the builders keep their woodpile outside where they urinate, and that’s why Russian-made guitars smell like urine.
He also gave me the best advice I’ve ever been given. He took out his Mexican knife (which I’m sure he made himself using only the wings of a bumblebee and a small twig), waved it in my face, and said, “This is all you need, man. Learn to make a guitar with a knife, and you will be able to build anything your imagination desires.”
And I did. So now when I get approached about making a guitar with a retractable mic or I get an idea for a theme guitar made from animal parts, I think, “Sure, I can do that.”
Back to the ’54 Strat on my workbench that’s sharing space with the cow-skull bracing and jawbone. The paint looks old. I’m thinking a nice new red paint job would look . . . Ha—relax, I’m only joking. In fact, I’ve actually got a question for PG readers regarding this guitar. Everything checks out on it, but it’s got one thing I’ve never seen and I’m wondering if someone out there can help me: In the tremolo-spring cavity, where the date should be written “5/54,” there is only a handwritten “#2.” I’ve found another equally confused guitarist online who has a ’54 Strat with a “#3” in the same spot. I’d like to think there’s something dark and mysterious going on here—like maybe somewhere there are two ’54 Strats marked #1 and #4, and they’re meant for the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But the explanation may very well be incredibly mundane, too. Regardless, if you’ve got an answer—or another question about the Dark Side of guitardom—please feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com. Meanwhile, stay cool.
Randy Parsons builds guitars for Jack White, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and other adventurous players using out-of-the-box materials like bone, flowers, copper, and solid ebony.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.