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Reader Guitar of the Month: Three Prototypes

Reader Guitar of the Month: Three Prototypes

Don's first prototype

Reader: Don Baker

Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Guitars: First, Second, and Third Prototypes

This reader has two patents for his innovative pickup circuitry designs, which he’s implemented in two out of three of the prototypes he shares in this story.

I’m much less a guitarist or luthier than an engineer and inventor. I came up with a neat way to wire matched single-coil pickups into humbucking circuits (U.S. Patents 10,380,986 and 10,810,987). For two, three, four, and five pickups, you get one, six, 25, and 90 distinct humbucking circuits. For three pickups, you can get six more distinct circuits with hum. For humbucking (HB mode) you just add the outer line pickup(s) to the inner line on the 6-way switch label. Hum mode shorts out the inner line pickup.

The guitar industry has shown no interest, so I’m taking the long route, like Mr. Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream Inc. He started off selling plans to make his travel trailers. I planned on making a lot of mistakes, and used Photoshop to design a versatile plywood guitar body using a minimal amount of wood. It has a bolt-on neck (Saga Music Golden Gate S-94, with an unmodified headstock), a central spine below the pickups, two arcing ribs to enclose the electronics cavities, and laminate front and back covers. I make my own round guitar knobs, and do it all in my apartment and balcony (routers are very dusty). Anyone with a decent woodshop can make one.

A closeup of the switch and knob configuration on Don’s first prototype.

The first prototype, a white guitar, has three P-90s with N, S, and N poles up, bridge to neck, tone pots for each pickup, a 6-way switch with a 2-way mode switch (HB and Hum), a preamp to equalize the output amplitudes with switching, a volume pot, a moveable middle pickup, and a power LED which lights with the preamp when the guitar cable is plugged in. The second prototype, a black guitar, has three Allparts Vintage Chrome humbuckers, phase reversal switches on the neck and bridge tone pots, pickups moveable to any place between the neck and bridge, and over 20 distinct circuits.

“I’m writing a highly illustrated DIY journal on how it is made, including most of my mistakes.”

As I build the third prototype with three fixed-place Jazzmaster pickups (with the middle pickup poles inverted to S up) and Spanish cedar veneer front covers, I’m writing a highly illustrated DIY journal on how it is made, and including most of my mistakes. (I’m trying a lot of new things.) I’m up to about 24 chapters and a few hundred images. This time I’m thinking I’ll use just six humbucking circuits with a preamp. In exchange for buying the book, I intend to grant the right to make two patented/patent-pending guitars with non-amplified switching, and then sell the preamp separately.

Don’s second prototype.

It’s going slow. Since a drunk driver nailed me in 1985 when I was 39, I got old and only have a few productive hours a day. But every day, I do a little bit more.