Hand guitars use polymer clay and other alternative materials to create psychedelic designs
Hand Guitars was founded by luthier JP Thomas, a self-proclaimed “tinkerer” who learned about guitars by taking apart his first guitar—a late-’40s Sears-Roebuck resonator. Before long we was rebuilding friends’ guitars, and then he landed a gig at an L.A. music store in the ’60s. Twenty years ago, he left the States for Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and finally to Hawaii.
“While collecting old pickups, I decided in 2003 to build my own relic’d guitars to hear the pickups,” says Thomas. “As guitar production progressed, so did my enthusiasm for exotic materials from previous projects in Asia—such as coconut shells, bamboo, and cinnamon bark. In October 2009, I had one of those ‘aha!’ moments: I glanced over at a gecko figurine on my desk that polymer-clay artist Jon Anderson had given me 10 years prior, and I envisioned those patterns on a guitar. That flash literally catalyzed the entire Hand Guitars project.”
The polymer-clay aspects of Hand Guitars’ subsequent projects were designed, created, and controlled by artist Anderson, who has been working with polymer clay for 20 years. Anderson applied his three-dimensional artwork and processes to create two-dimensional graphics that would work on Thomas’ guitars. “I took knowledge from my glass-making techniques to help transform the clay designs into something thin, audio-transparent, and applicable to the shapes and contours of a guitar’s body,” says Anderson. The polymer clay is bought, designed, and molded in a soft, Play- Doh-like compound that is then heated to create a 3mm-thick cap for a guitar body. The resulting polymer clay is more like the acrylic on pickguards than its original, gooey, molding state. (Visit hand-guitars.com/node/71 to see video of Anderson’s polymer-clay work.)
Naturally, gearhounds will want to know how the polymer clay affects the guitars’ tone. “The tone of our electric guitars comes from the thickness of the neck, the quartersawn Canadian maple, the rosewood or ebony fretboards, the TonePros, Gotoh, and Hipshot hardware, bushings that are deeply mounted into the one- and two-piece bodies, the Duncan pickups, and the vintage, paper-in-oil capacitors,” says Thomas. “For us, I think it’s important that we started with guitars that players already understand. The current line of Hand Guitars are certainly reminiscent of all the guitars I have ever owned and appreciated, but my sole design objective was to create shapes that were suitable canvases for the unique materials that Jon and I create.”
The Telepath model shown above is nicknamed “KoKo” and it has a two-piece tropical ash body that features a 3mm coconut-shell mosaic cap. It’s assembled with a slender, C-profile Sulawesi ebony neck with 21 jumbo frets. Other appointments include a coconut-shell composite nut, Gotoh tuners, and high-quality, medium-torque 250k Bourn pots. This one is fitted with Seymour Duncan Vintage Stack Tele single-coils.
This Strat-style model features a two-piece tropical ash body that’s covered with Anderson’s voodoo-influenced polymer-clay art and loaded with three custom, handwound pickups. It has a slender, C-profile maple neck topped with a 21-fret maple fretboard. The nut is made from a coconut-shell composite.
The 25 1/2"-scale Tonero features a one-piece East Java mahogany body with a Polynesian tribal-style polymer-clay center panel and a, three-piece mahogany neck with a Sulawesi ebony fretboard that has 22 jumbo frets. The hardware includes a TonePros ATVII wrap-around bridge, a choice of Hipshot or Gotoh tuners, and a coconut-shell truss rod cover. This particular model is equipped with Seymour Duncan P-Rails, but several pickup options are available.
Pricing and Availability
Hand Guitar’s handbuilt, one-of-a-kind custom guitars range anywhere from $1800 to $3600, depending on the complexity of the design and how much polymer clay is applied to the guitar. More intricate polymer-clay designs can go for as much as $6000. “We’re open to just about anything you dare to dream,” says Thomas. Currently, Hand Guitars’ wait time is about three months.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.