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Reader Guitar of the Month: Beheaded Deacon

Reader Guitar of the Month: Beheaded Deacon

Name: John Haigis
Hometown: Tolland, Connecticut

Guitar: Beheaded Deacon

This reader’s onset health issues prevented him from building his guitar alongside his luthier friend, but in the end, his friend’s guidance helped produce the perfect headstockless guitar.

This guitar began a year ago as a concept to make a guitar with a luthier friend who was going to be moving away. So, I had a time constraint. He and I would frequently go mountain biking, design and build biking trails, and played in a band together—until, eight years ago, I started to have chronic health problems, which forced me to quit all of those activities.


A collaboration at my friend’s well-equipped workshop was nixed immediately, mainly due to my health, but also because his free time became limited, since his schedule was occupied with his full-time job and his project of building a house. As a result, the teamwork/consulting was going to have to take place via email.

My friend started me off with a very nice neck-blank sandwich of walnut and maple (from a tree that fell across one of our mountain-bike trails—bonus!) and a severely warped neck that was the donor for the fretboard and truss rod.

Ready for some headless hammer-ons.

I planned to copy a Traveler Ultra-Light Edge, which has an ingeniously designed tuning configuration and two-layer plywood body. But, by the time I finished carving the neck, I had decided that I would not be happy with a guitar body as small as the Traveler. I needed something more shapely and comfortable. The Ovation Breadwinner/Deacon shape won over a Klein Headless or Abasi Larada, both close runners-up.

The body took much longer to make than I anticipated. The in-body tuner arrangement is ideal for CNC fabrication, but it required a lot of planning and skill to make by hand. The body consists of two ¾″-thick pieces of plywood, so it was very convenient to chamber the insides before gluing them together. I mixed my own wipe-on polyurethane and added artist oil paint for a translucent tint. The finish was delayed by a month of frustration with inferior solvents due to new state VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) laws. My health limits my driving to only a few miles at a time, so I had to wait a couple of weeks until an anonymous helper could do a “moonshiner run” to a neighboring state for the good stuff (cue “Red Barchetta,” or more like “Blue Honda Fit!”).

“The body is lightweight, resonant, well-balanced, and very comfortable in both casual and classical playing positions.”

The circuit consists of a volume pot with a treble-bleed filter and a flush-mounted toggle switch for selecting single-, series-, or parallel-coils. The bare aluminum pieces (string-anchor headpiece, humbucker surround, string-roller mounts, and engine-turned neck plate and cavity covers) were made by hand using aluminum scraps. The volume knob is aluminum and zebra wood.

I am very happy with the result. The body is lightweight, resonant, well-balanced, and very comfortable in both casual and classical playing positions. It sounds great, and I love the translucent red color that accentuates the plywood contours. Although I didn’t get to make sawdust with my friend, he gave me plenty of advice during the process, and the neck is made from materials that he contributed, so I consider that a success.

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