Custom Guitar for Josh: Quilted Maple, Twin Humbuckers, Burled Walnut Veneer, w/ Gold Accessories

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Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 08-05-2010 11:07 PM 6789 views 9 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Custom Guitar: Six Sting Electric Solid Body guitar

Body: Mahogany with Quilted Maple Veneer on the Face. Stained with Reddish/Brown dye stain, finished with stringed instrument lacquer.
Neck: Mahogany neck with burled walnut veneer on Head
Nut: Elephant Ivory
Pickups & Hardware: Twin Humbuckers with gold-tinted plating on all the hardware
Carved Back of Body: Josh routed his name on the back, and tried his hand at some scroll carving. The lighter colored wood is the same veneer we used on the Head, but Josh didn’t want to wait any longer to have it air brushed with the dark fade coloring. For some reason, I missed air brushing the color fade on it during the finishing process with the rest of the guitar, so it was left natural in color, Josh couldn’t wait any longer, and I understood.

Project Story:
Today completed about 7 months of work, here and there, to build a custom guitar with my neighbor’s teenager named Josh, who plays in a three person band in the Cottonwood Falls, Kansas area. Here is their Facebook page with a link to play one of their new original songs. Listen to it, their pretty good I think.

So, we started the guitar with a kit, and tried to dress it up a little, and had a lot of fun in the process.

We strung it and “set it up” today and plugged it into my small Yamaha amp in the shop. Wow, sounded great, plays great, and Josh took just enough time to shoot some quick photos in my backyard before he headed home to practice and get ready for his band’s practice time this afternoon. He’s pretty excited, not many guitar players make their own guitar, and not many have one that looks as great as this one does.

Josh worked with me in the shop two or three years ago learning to make custom hunting knives. His parents saw my custom knives and asked if I would be interested in teaching their son. I found him to be a quick learner, and very talented with his hands, and he quickly learned custom knife making and some scrimshaw artwork, all that I could teach him anyway.

Since then, he has gone on to build quite a few knives that he’s sold, even one knife that is serving in Iraq right now. He told me this week that he even won the Grand Champion award for the Crafts division at the County Fair with a custom knife he made this year. I’m proud of him.

Every time we’ve gotten together the past two years, Josh and I have been batting around the idea of building guitars. I don’t get a lot of “hobby time”, but that sure sounded like fun.

Josh is a quick learner with guitar playing also, and he showed me “Sweet Home Alabama” this afternoon on his new guitar. That song took me back a ways, back to when I was his age driving around in a 1974 Buick Century with Mag wheels and air shocks listening to an 8-Track tape player. Remember those days guys?

The sad thing is that 30 years have passed, and I’m driving an older vehicle now, and I never did learn to play the guitar, nor build one. I did upgrade to an MP3 Player, and that sure beats carrying those 4 crates of 8-Tracks with me inside so they wouldn’t get too hot, or too cold, or stolen from the car.

Guitar Playing and Building is something I’ve wanted to do for many years, well to be honest, since I was Josh’s age. I’ve tried to play the guitar two times in the past always to drop it before I got past “Go Tell Aunt Roadie” and “Ode to Joy”. The second time I tried I did one evening where I lead the music at our Bible Study, and played the one song I had learned the chords to, “Our God is An Awesome God”. I learned that night that it’s one thing to plink around in my bedroom on an old six-string acoustic guitar, but yet another thing to have everyone looking at me while I’m trying to lead them in a song. That experience was so bad, that I put the guitar away and haven’t touched the guitar other than to move it twice when we’ve changed houses.

Still, that nagging to build one never went away.

Josh plays in a local contemporary Christian Rock Band, so this winter he talked with his dad, and we decided that 2010 was our year to do it. Since Josh is home schooled, he doesn’t have a woodshop class to go to. Heck, NOBODY has a woodshop class to go to in High School these days (but don’t get me going on that subject). With school finances as they are this year in Kansas, I’m glad just to have a bus coming to our house to pick up the kids… least at this point.

So, Josh’s dad and I struck a deal, and I decided to help Josh with a guitar this year for his shop time project.

I decided to make him struggle through as much work as we could starting with a kit, so we did some veneering, some inlaying, some air-brushing, soldering, working ivory, carving, filled finishes, dye stains, and he excelled in every area.

I think he had as much fun as I did. Since he couldn’t come over as much as what it takes to spray a ba-jillion coats of lacquer, sanding in between, I ended up doing most of the spray finishing work for him. I learned that spraying instrument lacquer is not much like spraying anything else, and it had a pretty good learning curve to it. Josh did the faded staining, and the tinted-lacquer air brushing work, and the tedious taping job to keep the binding color natural. The kit fit pretty well, just took some time to fit it exactly and get it all to come together. I’m itching to try a semi-hollow body now myself. My ultimate goal is to build an Arch-Topped Acoustic using Benedetto’s book on the subject.

Here is my Electric Bass Guitar:
Click for details

Josh tells me now that he wants to learn to carve gun stocks. He’s an avid and accomplished hunter also. Then he wants to build a Flintlock or Percussion Cap Rifle, and maybe a wooden bow & arrow project. He wants to learn flint-napping, and taxidermy also. Good thing he doesn’t have time for girls.

Next year he’s headed off to college, so I don’t know that we can get all of that finished before he wraps up high school, so hopefully he’ll settle back in the area after college and I can teach his kids. Sounds like a plan to me. That is of course if the Band doesn’t take him away….....

I’d be a great trust-fund kid, just jumping from building one cool thing to the next, but I have to stay focused to pay our bills here. Still, even without much time to spare, I’ve gotten my own new 4-String Electric Bass coming out soon, a couple of solid body 6 string guitars I’ve rebuilt, and several vintage guitars that I’ve been restoring and repairing.

I’ll try selling them when they are finished, and maybe I’ll get some more time to work on guitars.

As for playing the guitar, I’m still not very good…..but I’m still trying.

Thanks for reading,
Mark DeCou

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

35 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3335 days

#1 posted 08-05-2010 11:33 PM

Excellent project and a great way to help out a friend and neighbor. I will be listening on the radio for his hit album.

View Tomoose's profile


422 posts in 3400 days

#2 posted 08-05-2010 11:47 PM

Very cool guitar – I hear ya’ on learning and the frustrations that go with it. I finally decided to do semi-private lessons and I am about 1/3 way through it. Tough to find time to practice when you have to split up precious “free time” one more way. Keep up the good work. BTW where did you get the kit?


-- “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 3973 days

#3 posted 08-05-2010 11:48 PM

Nice looking axe! I’ll bet it plays well too!

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6859 posts in 4006 days

#4 posted 08-05-2010 11:49 PM

Beautiful job Mark.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View twissty's profile


26 posts in 2878 days

#5 posted 08-05-2010 11:51 PM

thats a sweet guitar!
what kind of kit did you start with?

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3749 days

#6 posted 08-05-2010 11:52 PM

That’s one beautiful guitar and a wonderful story about it’s new owner. He’s so fortunate to have people like yourself to help guide him and to have the energy of his youth to want to learn and create. I can see he will go far with his life’s journeys with his hunger for knowledge and appreciation to being a craftsman.

The two of you did an excellent job! I’ve been admiring the work of luthier craftsmen and maybe one of these days I’ll venture there too. Great job!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View CampD's profile


1675 posts in 3512 days

#7 posted 08-05-2010 11:53 PM

Very nice!!, great story

-- Doug...

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2907 days

#8 posted 08-05-2010 11:55 PM

Yes, very nice of you to share your woodworking skill with Josh. Sweet looking guitar!

A bit of advice my mother gave me about playing an instrument: “If you don’t stop picking that, it will never heal!”

Which, is the point…. ;-) isn’t it?

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3554 days

#9 posted 08-05-2010 11:56 PM

Keeping the bar high in your life and craft. Very cool to see these portions…..........Oh, great guitar! Lucky Josh! Wish him all the best….....................

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3621 days

#10 posted 08-06-2010 12:05 AM


-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View NaFianna's profile


523 posts in 3053 days

#11 posted 08-06-2010 12:21 AM

Beautiful. I ahave thought this would be a creat project but I am too scared to start. Well done

-- Cad a dheanfaimid feasta gan adhmad.......?

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#12 posted 08-06-2010 12:40 AM

Mark: What a teacher. Sharing your knowledge and skill to an upcoming woodworker.

A great job he has done on the guitar.

God bless Brother.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

702 posts in 3096 days

#13 posted 08-06-2010 01:12 AM

love it

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4245 days

#14 posted 08-06-2010 01:43 AM

Gorgeous, Mak….simply gorgeous!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View DAWG's profile


2850 posts in 3163 days

#15 posted 08-06-2010 01:55 AM

Looks very nice. Thanks for sharing.

-- Luke 23: 42-43

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