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Design questions: [Back to contents links]

Why don't you offer the more standard, or traditional  type instruments anymore?
I have actually been pondering doing away with my more standard/traditional type instrument models for decades now.
Mainly because I just never felt right (or happy) building instruments  that I would not want to play or own for myself...
To put it simply: my goal has always been to design/build the ultimate instrument for myself; and this is exactly why I started building in the first place.
However, every time I had to build a guitar or bass with traditional fret layouts and/or standard sized frets, etc. it honestly felt like I was not only working for a living , but also like I was being pushed away from my goals as a musician/Luthier.
And to tell you the truth, I would rather quit building instruments then feel like I'm going backwards.
So that is why I now focus solely on my latest designs.

Frets and Fingerboard questions: [Back to contents links]
What (if any) is the difference between stainless steel frets and regular nickel/silver frets?
TK: The big difference is the stainless frets out last nickel/silver by about 10 to 15 years (or more!)
Seriously! These things are going to be hated by ALL repair shops because of the lost business in fret work.
So don't surprised if you start hearing all sorts of un-true bad rumors about stainless steel frets compared to regular frets.
I already hear rumors that they might "cut through your strings".
 Hmm.... That has never happened to me or any of my customers in the 10+ years that I have been using them.
These stories are just flat out NOT true... And they probably come from repair shops who do not want to break away from easier to install nickel/silver frets, and all the extra money that comes with the fret work needed to repair/replace nickel/silver frets.
Also; you might be interested in knowing that the so called nickel-silver frets have no silver in them at all.
They are actually a nickel alloy. The nickel adds hardness to the alloy and keeps it from discoloration.
So although you may hear rumors about stainless frets, don't believe anything you hear (as always) until you have tried them yourself .

There are also various types of stainless steel found in stainless frets; they come in come in the 300 and 400 types of stainless.
I generally prefer the type 300 series stainless because  it has nickel in the alloy, and I feel it accepts a better polish, and looks a bit nicer as well as works a bit easier then the 400 series.
I have been using the type #303 for over a decade on my larger frets (the rod type), and have yet to need any re-crowning at all.
I also use #316 and #304 stainless on my latest 5/32" rods
Standard stainless steel fretwire has been available in both 400 and 300 types.
400 type stainless is much harder to work with and is more grayish in color, you can tell what type it is what by placing a magnet up to it; If the magnet sticks, then it's a type 400 of some sort, if the fret is not magnetic, then it is a type 300 series stainless.
Is there a difference in sound between the stainless steel frets and the nickel/silver frets?
TK: I have read a few opinions on this, where some claim stainless is a bit brighter sounding than nickel, while others claim there is no difference.
I think you would have to build a test instrument where the fingerboard would have stainless frets on  the left side and nickel/silver on the right;
and  the instrument would have the same strings on both sides of the fingerboard as well, you might hear a difference then, but probably not much of a difference at that.

However, the huge frets (.075" high  x 5/32" wide), will have a brighter tone (sustain and string energy will be increased as well ), so if you want this slight additional high end to be filtered down, then you may want to choose a more mellow sounding fingerboard wood such as Goncolo Alves or Bocote...

Can you please explain the benefits of playing on those huge .075" high X 5/32" wide stainless  frets?
Of all the options/features I used to offer, these are definitely one of my favorites...
All of my clients who have added this option to their custom shop instrument, never even once regretted it!
(In fact some have even returned for a 2nd instrument loaded with this option)
Once they played on the 5/32's,  they just didn't want to go back to regular frets ever again.
Here are some reasons why:
Because the 5/32" stainless rod is approximately .075" high (above the fingerboard, once it is installed), your fingers rarely contact the fingerboard wood, thus greatly reducing friction between your fingers and the fingerboard.
The results of this are: effortlessly smooth vibrato, bends and  drastically improved two handed tapping and pull offs! (this is all due to the fact that there is no fingerboard wood to stop your fingers from attacking, and manipulating the strings in a friction free environment).

It should also be noted that  the added mass associated with the  5/32" stainless steel rods, noticeably increases sustain... So because of this increased sustain; you can back the overdrive/compression down a bit, thus cleaning up your tone as well as improving your overall dynamics.

Do the 5/32" stainless rod type frets take some getting used to?
 I have noticed that just a few individuals who are new to these  5/32" frets, sometimes tend to push too hard on the frets... This will of course cause the intonation to go sharp.
It seems that due to years of playing an instrument with small frets, the tactile part their brain can develop a strong familiarity to feeling fingerboard wood under the fingers;
 so some will occasionally get a feeling as if  the action is somehow higher than that  of an instrument with much smaller frets (when in fact it definitely is not).
The fact is that  these frets require so much less effort to play on once your brain develops the realization that you no longer need to feel  fingerboard wood underneath your fingertips.
Now, most find this to be almost instant, but some may take a bit longer to get used to the feel.
My general experience has been that even the most seasoned players of standard sized frets will tend to mature into the feel of the 5/32's after a month or so (but often much less).
If you really think about it carefully, common logic will prove that these frets will improve your playing in MANY ways.
I guess that if you are a player who just loves the feel of small frets, then these just aren't for you...
However, I can not recommend these frets enough! They really do make such a huge difference in your technique and tone.

Because my belief in these frets is so strong, I will be making ALL of my Signature Series Guitars (as well as a few Basses) loaded with these frets.
These instruments will be sold on my site, on the Gallery page   so that you can try them out at *no risk [*other than shipping costs of course.]

Are the 5/32" stainless rod type frets available as a custom modification on my [non-TK Instruments] Guitar?
I have been asked this question many times, and unfortunately due to the design of  these frets, it is just not possible to install these onto any instruments other then TK Instruments.

Can you explain the benefits of a Compound Scale fingerboard?
I wish I could explain this with the use of diagrams, and graphics, but I don't yet have a way to do that, so I will just try to do my best.
A  major benefit  with a Compound Scaled instrument is that -everything is balanced out correctly- in that the string tension is more even from low to high, due to the differing scale lengths in each string. And because the string tension is more equally balanced, the tone is also more balanced throughout the spectrum of the instruments overall range...
The ergonomic lay out of a Compound Scale fingerboard is also very balanced (natural feeling) as well; in that your right hand lays naturally on the angle of the slanted bridge, and your left hand pivots naturally with the compound fret angles to the length of the entire fingerboard.

What is the intonation like on a Compound Scale fingerboard?
In general it seems to be more accurate from fret to fret compared to a standard fret layout...
Again I would use the word "balance" here.
The main reason for this is: [This may be hard to understand without the use of diagrams, so please be patient while reading this:]
The lower and the higher frets have the most extreme angles in a Compound Scaled instrument:
The closer the frets are to the nut the more they angle towards the nut, and the closer the frets are to the bridge the more they angle towards the bridge.
{And here is where it becomes tricky to explain!}
So, these differing angles that increase towards the bridge and nut, actually increase the overall width of the fret surface thus slightly "pushing back" intonation (or slightly causing the intonation to go slightly flatter as you move towards the nut (low frets) or towards the bridge (high frets).
The closer you move towards the nut the flatter the intonation gets, the higher you move towards the bridge the flatter the intonation gets.
Now keep in mind this is VERY subtle, but it's still just enough to compensate for the ADDED TENSION needed to fret the strings in  these areas.
In other words: as you play towards the bridge (high frets), the overall tension to the strings is increased due to the fact that  the bridge is the highest point on the instrument.
And so these higher fretted notes require higher tension as they are pressed to a fret, thus the intonation (on a standard fretted instrument) will be slightly sharper as you move towards the bridge. because the frets on a standard instrument do NOT compensate for this additional tension.

The same rule applies to the nut: The nut is the 2nd highest tension point of action, so therefore notes played nearest to the nut will be slightly sharper on a standard fret layout.
Where as on a Compound Scale fingerboard the fret intonation gradually becomes slightly flatter because the fret surface becomes slightly wider as you move either towards the bridge or away from the bridge.

If you can understand this, you will understand how it clearly proves that intonation will be slightly improved along the length of a Compound Scale fingerboard.
Is a Compound Scale fingerboard difficult to get used to?
"You have nothing to fear but fear itself" and this is SO true with the Compound Scale fingerboards....
I have yet to hear of anyone freaking out over the way they feel, (even after  playing on them for the first time!).
True this is not the type of thing I would recommend to the "hobby player" simply because it's benefits are most realized by the more seasoned musician; but even less advanced players are often impressed by the natural (balanced) ergonomic lay out of a Compound Scaled instrument.

Can I choose something different than Compound Scale fingerboard?
Although I understand there are players out there who are just "set on what they are already used to playing"; this something that I would rather not be flexible on...
The Compound Scale fingerboard is one of the signature trademarks of a TK Instruments guitar or bass.
If you feel a Compound Scale fingerboard just not something you want on your instrument,  then you are probably better off purchasing another instrument from another maker.
(Obviously this does not apply if you are having me build you a Cello or Vicellotar)

Why do you only use non radiused fingerboards?
most of this answer will come direct from my Anatomy of a TK page:
Have you ever noticed how  most guitars "die out" when doing bends?
This is due to the fact that most traditional instruments (guitars and basses) have radiused fingerboards.
A radiused fingerboard will tend to  "fret out" due to the fact that when you bend a string,  you are pulling your string at an angle over a curved surface, thus causing the strings to come in closer contact with the frets...
However, when you bend on a non-radiused fingerboard the action remains the same. Even if you could bend the low -E- all the way to the high -E- it  would still not fret out, or lose sustain...
One way to try to compensate for this, is by building with compound radius fingerboards.
While this does work better, it's still not perfect, because you still have a curve to deal with when bending a string.
Not to mention it's nearly impossible for human hands to perfectly crown and level the frets on a radiused fingerboard.
Fingerboards with NO radius, can  be perfectly flattened much easier by human hands.
(I use abrasives mounted to a granite surface plate that has a flatness accuracy of .00025" to flatten all my fingerboards as well as level my frets),
The same thing applies when it comes to fretting, leveling and crowning.
There really isn't a more accurate fretting method available.
The classical or Spanish guitar has remained with a flat NO radius fingerboard  for hundreds of years, because the master builders understood much more about a musicians technique then most Luthier's do today.
It kind of makes you wonder why we ever changed to radiused boards in the first place..
Other more subtle benefits of the flat fingerboards are:
Less buzzing at a lower action (due to the precision in which the fret crown and level is able to be done compared to radiused boards)..
Cleaner more precise hammer-on's, pull-offs, alternate picking (or "chicken picking") ,finger picking (or "claw picking") slap/funk style (this is all because the strings on a non-radiused fingerboard are all the same level, so you will not accidentally hit an adjacent higher string or miss an adjacent lower string...
True this is a subtle difference, but it's all these subtleties that make a huge difference as a whole, in an instruments playability.

Can I choose something different than a non-radiused fingerboard, like a radiused, or compound radiused fingerboard?
Although I understand there are players out there who are just "set on what they are already used to playing"; this something that I would rather not be flexible on...
The flat no-radiused fingerboard is one of the signature trademarks of a TK Instruments guitar or bass,
If you feel a non-radiused fingerboard just not something you want on your instrument,  then you are probably better off purchasing another instrument from another maker.
(Obviously this does not apply if you are having me build you a Cello or Vicellotar)

Hardware questions: [Back to contents links]

What material(s) do you offer for the nut?
TK: I usually use Delrin as my main nut material.

Do you ever use or install roller nuts?
This is one of the more tormenting hardware issues for me, because I build all my guitars with non-radiused (flat) fingerboards:
 I REALLY wish someone would design a roller nut that is fully adjustable to any radius.
However, as much as I like the "problem free tuning" of a roller nut, I am not a fan of the tone of them.
They are brighter and thinner sounding than the Carbon fiber  material I use, not to mention they do not have any adjustability to them as all.

I know Bob Sperzel (Sperzel tuners) has been planning for quite a while, on building  a self adjusting roller nut that will work with any radius fingerboard.
So, maybe we can all E-mail Bob (sperzel@sperzel.com ) and ask him to PLEASE hurry and build them for us!!

Why don't you offer  tremolo [vibrato/whammy] systems on your guitars anymore?
This is kind of a complicated answer, but I will do my best to explain it here:
But really the main problem is that there are just *no tremolos that will work with a true compound scaled fingerboard.
My 25"x 27" compound scaled Signature Series Guitars are a true compound scaled instrument.

*Kahler is now building their famous beloved tremolo systems for ( Compound, "Multi-Scaled", "fanned") fingerboard instruments.
Prices will be high, but it might be worth it to you,  just to have a tremolo FINALLY available for these instruments!

What I mean by "true compound scaled instrument" is:
 the bridge, frets and nut need to have a compound angle that leans out in both directions (see photo below) in order to be considered a "true compound scaled instrument".
In the past I have built a few compound scaled guitars that could be very carefully fit with tremolo systems.
However, the compound scale lengths needed to be drastically reduced on these guitars in order to be properly fit with a tremolo system.
The scale length reduction needed, was a full inch and a quarter less then the  25"x 27" scale length that I now use on all of my Signature Series Guitars.
Although it's difficult to see in this photo (below), this 24.75" X 25.5" compound scaled guitar's tremolo is not at nearly the angle as the fixed bridges are on the  25"x27" true compound scaled guitar seen above.
So, although I do occasionally enjoy a guitar with a tremolo (when used sparingly and tastefully of course) the 25"x 27" compound scale really makes far too incredible of an instrument to be compromised just for a tremolo...
However, my goal is to always build a better instrument; so perhaps in the future, either I or someone else will machine a decent tremolo system, that can be used correctly on these guitars.
Until then, I guess that my fixed bridge Signature Series Guitar will just have to rule the world!!!

Wood questions: [Back to contents links]

Can you explain to me exactly what Maple sounds like compared to Mahogany, or Purpleheart, or  Ebony compared to Rosewood etc. etc.?
I get asked many questions about wood and it's relation to tone...
People most often want to know what a particular wood species sounds like.
Unfortunately these types of questions are very difficult to answer.
I mean it requires a vocabulary similar to that used in wine tasting, just to describe it!
I.E. warmth, snap, muddy, brite, thin, presence, woody, airy, etc. etc...
So what does any piece of wood sound like?
To answer this, we need to ask each piece of wood!
Seriously; every piece of wood I decide to use for an instrument, is first tested for tone response, by placing tuning fork to all sides and ends of the wood along with tapping the wood, and listening to it's tone.
I listen to each piece of wood, and I decide which side will carry tone better.
This sounds a bit odd, but some cuts of wood will actually carry tone better on one side compared to the other side.
So, if one side sounds better, and if it's a body blank, then the "sweet side" becomes the top.
Or if it's going to be neck wood, then the fingerboard is placed on the "sweet side".
Some wood sounds the same on both sides, so it all depends on the piece.
I believe that these "tone tests" MUST be done on each piece of wood used for an instrument, because even in the same species of wood, the tone will vary greatly.
Some Mahogany's, will be "brighter" (more highs) with a bit more "snap" (upper mid's) then others.
For example: a light weight piece of the same size will be warmer (lower mids) and often more resonant (louder) then a darker heavier piece of Mahogany.
However, these are just generalized guidelines to go by; as each piece has it's own unique tone, in ALL species of wood.
So because of this, when I compose an instrument, I start by considering the wood tones first, then I build an instrument based on the tone the individual wood components will have as a whole.
For example: if I want a warm sounding guitar, with a well balanced snappy midrange, and just enough highs to add excellent definition, I will start with a very airy light weight body wood, such as a nice aged light weight piece of mahogany.
Then, to bring out a nice upper mid range snap, I prefer a well figured maple top plate (bird's eye, flame, quilt, etc), different figures or no figure will play a huge part in maple tone, so this is always considered.
Now depending on the tone of the body with the top glued in place, I will then make a choice of neck woods.
So if a body is still a bit in the lower mid range tone, then I might prefer a maple neck.
The type (grain, cut, figure) of maple neck wood I choose, will depend on the tone of the body.
If I want more "snap" (or high mid's) then I want a harder tighter or heavier maple, so perhaps a quartered tight flame, or even no figure at all, it all depends on the mid range tone I'm looking for.
Once a neck wood is established, then I look for a finger board wood.
This again depends upon the body wood, top wood, and now the neck wood combined.
You should also keep in mind that larger frets as well as stainless steel frets will produce a bit more highs;
so if this is a concern, then perhaps a "darker toned wood" such as Bocote or Goncolo Alves, would be a preferred choice.
{although I personally -really- love the 8kHz to 20kHz tone that the stainless frets bring out of an instruments strings, just as long as it is -balanced out- with nice warm, punchy mid ranged body and/or neck woods}.
If I want even more "snap" and I am satisfied with the briteness (highs), then I will add a maple fingerboard, or maybe if I want just a bit more highs, I can add a Purpleheart finger board, or even an Ebony, even certain varieties of rosewood species as well have more highs then others.
Again it's NOT just dependent on the species, but rather the individual tone of each unique piece wood, that must be considered , before each instrument is assembled.
Because of space I can't go into adhesive tone, hardware tone, and finish tone, but all these are considered, when building an instrument as well.
So with each piece, not only is the tone examined for tonal superiority but the grain, stability, and moisture content are also carefully examined before any specimen gets cut out into the neck, body, top, and finger board blank

I noticed you say  that only certain species of wood can be used for certain parts of an instrument:
For example: Macassar ebony should only be used as fingerboard and ornamental wood, but never as a top back or neck wood..
My question is: Can I use these woods as a top or back or even a body or neck wood even if they are not recommended on your site for that use?
(after all, I have seen other builders do this, and it looks incredible!)

TK: I have experimented many times over the years with all sorts of woods.
And one of the most important things I have learned in building instruments for well over half my life now, is it's VERY important to try to avoid choosing wood based on it's appearance.
 I have made some beautiful instruments in my life, that sounded terrible, because I just had no experience in wood/tone composition at that time.
Now I use tuning forks as well as tap tone testing on wood before I even begin placing the tonewoods together for an instrument.

For example: Macassar ebony is a very hard dense wood that is best used on fingerboards...
If you were to use it as a top, it would "look" stunning, but the sound would be degrading to the overall resonance, as well as the body midrange tones.
I'm not asking you to take my word for this; get yourself a nice tuning fork and head over to any exotic wood store and try it your self.
(it's actually a very educational and even fun experiment!)
These woods (Ebonies Rosewoods, and other very dense woods) are best used as fingerboards (because of their hardness and ability to add sustain) but they are not a good idea to be used as tops, because the overall surface mass is just too much for a top.
So because I am putting my name (The TK Logo) on these instruments I really want them to sound incredible, because it's my name that's at stake here.
I think in the end (if you are a real musician and not just a "guitar collector") that you will agree that tone matters far more than looks...
To help you more with this: the following Wood list will show what woods ( often available on my site) should be used for:
Standard Tonewoods:
Honduran or African Mahogany (used for body, neck, and top and back body plates only)
Ash [hard and soft] (for body and/or top and back body plates only)
Alder (for body and top and back body plates only)
Maple {Non figured} (for neck, fingerboard, top and back body plates only)
EXOTIC Tonewoods:
Birds Eye Maple (for neck, fingerboard, *ornamental, top and back body plates only)
Quilt Maple (for *ornamental, top and back body plates only)
Flame Maple (for neck, *ornamental, top and back body plates only)
Spalted/Figured Maple (*ornamental, top and back body plates only)
Macassar Ebony, (finger board and *ornamental only)
Purpleheart (fingerboard and *ornamental only)
Rosewood's [a wide variety] (fingerboard and ornamental  only)
Bocote (fingerboard and *ornamental  only)
Cocobolo (fingerboard and *ornamental  only)

* What is "ornamental" wood?
These are woods that are often used as decorative enhancements on an instrument.
Examples are: pinstripes, tapered center stripes (as seen on the tops and backs of the Hollow model instruments), truss rod covers, control covers, tremolo covers, fingerboard binding, etc. etc...
I usually choose these woods to be figured and/or colorful.
Any wood that may happens to be available, can be used as ornamental wood, because ornamental woods really have no effect on the tone.

Inlay questions: [Back to contents links]
Can I have a different inlay installed then the inlay choices you offer?
 I am not much of an inlay person, simply because I feel it only makes the instrument look better, but really does nothing for it's playability or tone
However, I can also totally appreciate the beauty and skill in fine inlay.
And although I have done a few inlay pieces myself, I would rather send most elaborate work out to an inlay artist.
This could get very complicated so, I would just ask that you do most of the research on your own, such as:  finding an inlay artist that you prefer, as well as the artwork, and where on the instrument you would like the inlay to be placed etc.
I will assist you with any questions you might have about what areas can be inlaid ( fingerboard, head laminates, body, neck, etc.) as well as ship (at the customers expense) any parts to the inlay artist of your choosing.
However, please understand that I can not be held responsible for any parts after they leave my shop to become inlaid.
Basically: I can only be responsible for my own  work; not the work of another artist modifying my work.
Please don't worry about this though, because we can do allot to make sure these wont ever happen.
I won't let my work go out to anyone else if I feel they are not a quality professional at what they do.
Electronics questions: [Back to contents links]
Do you allow any other electronics options other than what is seen on your site?
In rare cases I do allow other types of setups, other  than what is offered on the Gallery instruments .
However, chances are that I wont be able to quote you an accurate  price on the  installation of  the components until I have the actual components in my possession.
Unfortunately, pictures, and wiring diagrams don't really help enough to give an accurate price quote, but they are some what helpful in giving a rough price quote.
 I wish I could offer a more accurate method of pricing this out for you, but there are just too many possibilities out there to just take a guess on something that I have not installed before.
Also: -IF- the components you send me will not fit into my standard control cavity, then the price will be raised for the added labor of building  custom cavity routing templates.

Please be aware that ANY custom modifications to a Gallery instrument will result in a termination of the 3 day satisfaction guarantee return policy.

Pickups: [Back to contents links] I will try to get more pickup information up here (such as Piezo, and bass pickup info) in the future...

What brand of pickups do you recommend?
I mean do the expensive pups really sound better then the Duncan's, Dimarzio's and EMG's out there, or do they just sound different?
Unfortunately, this very popular question just can't be answered by any -one- person...
It seems to be answered individually  by the person who has found his or her "ultimate pickup"...

So how do you find your own version of the "ultimate pickup"?
The best tools for evaluating pickups is of course -your own- ears.
It helps if you know lots of musicians out there that have tried lots of different guitar/pickup combos, and are willing to let you try their instruments on your own personal setup.
You can also go to music stores and try out several instruments as well, but often too many music store employees have little information to offer you on what type of pups are in the instrument you happen to be trying out.
You should also read as many reviews out there as you can.
But even then,  the most popular pickups are of course going to get the most reviews.
Also, you need to realize that the pickup that gets the most reviews, is probably also the pickup that has been around the longest, and sold the highest.
All in all,  most musicians I've talked to are pretty happy with pretty much all of the  "popular pickup models" out there.
So -maybe- the answer is to start out trying/buying the most popular/longest running pickup brands/models out there.

If you have already done that and are still unsatisfied, then there are many  boutique hand made pups available that might be a better choice for you.
Although with the boutique pups, often the price can be an issue...

I hate to make  your search of the "Holy grail pups" sound so hopeless here, but the fact is that you might get "lucky" and find the pups that you love within one or two trials, or you may even live a costly cursed search of one pickup after another , and yet never find the "holy grail of all pickups!!"
Although at that point I would suggest that you might want to look into trying a different instrument.

And that's where I come in!
Mainly, because my focus has always been to  -first- make the instrument sound as best as it can sound with out any pickups on it...
Then, (if at all possible) fasten the pickups directly to the body wood; so that as much of the instrument's tone will make it's way into the pickups.
In short; that's my main philosophy towards any pickups used in my instruments.
Anyway, I guess my whole point here is:
I know finding the "perfect pickup" is probably the most frustrating thing about getting a guitar built, but I think that if you can just find a pickup combination that you really like on another instrument, then chances are VERY good that it will sound even better in the TK!
Here are some important notes on pickup placement:
The closer a pickup is to the bridge the brighter the tone will be.
However if you move too far from  the bridge (especially with humbuckers) the tone can get muddy.
The most tonally noticeable position however is in the bridge positions, because as you move the pickup closer to the bridge it becomes rather bright in relatively short distances.
In the same way that frets get closer together as you go higher on a neck, the tone gets brighter and brighter as you move the pickup towards the bridge.
In other words:
If you are far from the bridge (like a neck pickup is) then movements of around 1/4" will hardly be noticeable, but if your pickup is close to the bridge already, and if you were to move that pickup 1/4" nearer to the bridge, then the tonal change would be very noticeably brighter compared to moving the neck pickup.
Sorry to "over explain this" but I just want to make it clear that bridge pickup placement is much more sensitive then neck pickup placement.

So what exactly is my favorite bridge pickup position?
Most popular guitars with bridge humbuckers are placed too close to the bridge for my taste;  I personally feel that certain popular brands can be kind of bright sounding (it's not just because of the thick arched maple tops).
You will notice that most HSH or HSS type guitars  have their humbuckers placed further away from the bridge -saddles-.
This is mainly because the tremolo routing, and the extended front end of a tremolo makes it necessary to do this.
I personally  like the bridge tone on those guitars, because it's often allot thicker and warmer then on most popular fixed bridge HH carve top guitars.
For that matter,  I think that the pickup placement on my old Dolphin ST-29 is pretty close to what I like best .
Although my ST-29  is a guitar that is made of hard ash and Birdseye maple, so on a softer wood guitar I might back the bridge pickup towards the bridge just a bit closer, to bump up the treble.
But my general experience with building other guitars has been to place their pickups very close  to same position as on my Dolphin ST-29, and it seems to work out rather nicely for achieving a thicker warmer tone in the bridge.
If you take a look at the guitars on this site, those instruments are very similar to my old Dolphin ST-29, in regards to bridge pickup placement:
[NOTE:when viewing these instruments,  just remember to look at the -saddles to pickup distance- and not the bridge plate to pickup distance]:

Neck pickup positions?
Unfortunately on most of my own personal guitars I often sacrifice my neck pickup tone for extra notes (my personal guitars usually have 29 frets).
This is just me though; you don't have to do this...
And YES I do wish I could have both a killer neck pickup tone, and  yet still get away with at least 27 frets...
The best compromise I have came up with so far is the 24X27 fret cutaway, so that at least the neck pickup tone will remain deep on the lower strings...
But in reality the best neck tone (for guitars anyway) would be found on 22 fret guitars, where the neck pickup is placed just under where the 24th fret (or octave) would have been.
For those that must have at least a 24th fret and still need the best possible neck tone, then I also offer the 22x24 fret cut-away...
Because most players only use the 24th fret on the B and high E strings on those frets, so it is no loss to just cut away the frets on the lower strings, in order to achieve the best possible neck pickup tone...

Middle pickup positions?
If at all possible the middle pickup should be equally spaced directly between the neck and bridge pups, but this can change when the neck and/or bridge pickups must be angled due to a Compound Scaled instrument and/or fret cut-away setups...
Personally I am not a fan of humbuckers in the middle position, but if it is designed to be coil tapped then you can achieve many different combinations.
So it may be worth it if you like lots of pickup combinations.

Measuring the space between  the edge of the pickup to the edge of the HIGH -E- string saddle
Measuring the space between the edge of the pickup to the edge of the LOW -E- string saddle
By examining the above  photos, you can see that my high E string distance is .964"
where my Low E string is 1.188"
I happen to like the tone of this guitar's bridge pickup quite allot, but if the woods on this instrument were darker toned such as soft Swamp ash (rather then the hard yellow ash), then I might be more compelled to move the bridge pickup towards the bridge as much as 1/4" (maybe even more, it all depends on the tone of the woods used, strings, scale, etc. etc. etc).

What about Compound Scaled instruments and pickup positions? [Back to contents links]
We need to consider this situation quite a bit, because there will need to be choices made in regards towards "pickup angle" verses "nut and bridge angle"..
Basically, lets just say that if I were to build your instrument with a 25" X 27" true-fan layout, and you were to have me install the pickups in the instrument totally strait (in a non-angled pattern), then there would be an additional 1" difference between the bass side distance and the treble side distance from your bridge saddles to your bridge pickup.

So what that means in terms of  pickup tone is: a strait laid-out pickup  would be very brite on the treble strings and  gradually go to a more darker  tone on the bass strings.
Slanting your pickups to match either the bridge and/or the highest fret angle, will of course solve this problem.
Personally, I like to compromise a little, in that I prefer to match both pickup angles to the angle of the highest fret, or to the angle of the bridge.
This  "non compound" angled pickup layout (to me anyway) compliments the whole "Compound Scale" layout.

However, if you slant a humbucker then there will definitely be issues with the pole pieces aligning with the strings....
Therefore I have developed a way of re-assembling *most pickups on their base in a diagonal type format, so that the individual pole pieces will align under each string.
Or better yet, just use any "blade type polepiece" 7 string pickup under your strings (as seen in the instruments above) to solve all issues of string/polepiece alignment

*any 6 string type pickups that do NOT have 4 screws on the back plate used to fasten the coils onto the mounting plate will not be able to be modified, (such as EMG's or any other epoxy resin potted type pickup)

choose a pickup with a wider string spacing ("F Spaced") due to the fact that string spacing will be slightly reduced when a pickup is at an angle.

Photo questions: [Back to contents links]
Do the photos on your site look  exactly the same as the actual wood?
Believe it or not, these photos are of the exact same guitar...
The left photo was shot in very bad lighting and that's why it looks so "faded" compared to the photo on the right.
Note how the flames virtually disappear in the left photo, yet they are very heavy in the right photo.
Also take note of the extreme differences in color...
Actually, in low contrasted light (a very cloudy day), and at the wrong angles you can easily take a photo of  a 5A Quilt top that will look like pine!
Of course this is an extreme example of photo differences; and in most cases the flame on this instrument looks excellent (especially under nice lights!),  but you should realize ALL figured wood refracts light and that is why it can look so "3-D"in the right lighting..
As you can see from these photos, that the  color will vary greatly as well, (again depending on the lighting).
Please take note of this when selecting wood for your instrument.
These are important things to consider when viewing  photographs from -ANY- instrument company.

I try to use a variety of natural as well as artificial lighting (it all depends on the wood).
I then use color correction to attempt to bring back the natural coloration of the piece of wood  seen on the actual instrument..
This is often impossible to do perfectly.
And even if I were able to get as close to the "real thing" as possible, there are so many thousands of different monitors out there, that will change the way millions of people will be viewing these photos compared to the way the I do.
For example: A flat plasma type screen may add a more "matte" type finish to an instrument, where a glass monitor adds more of a glossy look to the instrument than it may actually have.
In other words, it is flat out  IMPOSSIBLE for ANY photo to look EXACTLY the same as the original.
So PLEASE be understanding of this when examining photos on this site, or ANY web-site.

Okay, I now see how photos can NEVER be an exact duplication of the "real thing", so how can I know -EXACTLY- what my wood will look like on my instrument?
One way that you can get an EXACT idea of the look, feel, and color of the wood you choose, is if you order samples of the woods you would  most like to be placed on your instrument.
 These samples are actually quite nice!  
I do the same quality of workmanship on the samples, as I do on the actual instruments. So all samples come with a fully polished Polymerized-Tung-Oil finish.

The samples can range from $25 plus shipping (for 1 piece of sanded /Oiled non exotic tonewood), on up to probably $150 plus shipping (a sample like this could probably have up to 6 or more wood pieces.)
These samples also make a nice souvenir to go with your instrument!
If you need  to keep the wood sample price lower: I can also make  samples where just the tops of the wood samples are sanded and Polymerized-Tung-Oiled and none of the pieces are glued together.
This will save quite a bit on labor, and is recommended if you need a quite a few samples to make up your mind.

Please note that although I do offer these wood samples, there are many cases where if I were to remove a sample piece of wood from a piece seen on this site, that piece might then no longer be useable for an instrument because it would then be too small...
If this is the case (and unfortunately it often is) then I will -definitely- not be able to make a sample from that particular piece of wood. So please understand the possible potential of this when ordering samples.

E-mail and contact information questions: [Back to contents links]

You seem very busy; so will it be difficult for  you to give detailed answers to all my E-mail questions?
This is one of the down sides of running a one man shop...
I really wish I could spend more time answering emails, and in fact I do ok with a question or two here and there,  but  really your best bet is to just visit this Frequently Asked Questions page, as well as the Anatomy of a TK page for the most detailed answers to most of your questions.

Do I need to have an instrument "reserved for construction" before I can further discuss the project with you?
Unfortunately yes... Sorry, but it just takes SO much time to discuss the details of any instrument, that I just can't afford to do it any other way.

Do you prefer E-mail or phone calls?
If it's going to be some complicated questions, then definitely a phone call is best for me....
One of the main reasons is: I have problems typing long emails and sitting at the computer for long periods of time due to a muscle condition called fibromyalgia (building this web site has just about crippled me at times!). So often a phone call is the best way for me.

Delivery time (completion time), shipping, and pickup, questions: [Back to contents links]
Can you please tell me how long it will take to build my Custom Shop (guitar or bass) or  Bowed (cello or uprite bass) instrument?
Believe me I can totally relate to the tormenting anxiety involved in waiting and waiting for a custom instrument to be built ( I go through this every time I build one for my self!)
However, this is always such a very difficult question to answer because there are always a million factors involved:
Example: There may be other custom instruments in the works at the time of your order, or I may have other instruments that I am planning on building on my own to sell on my site as "Gallery Instruments".

I also do repairs and sell some guitar parts for additional income, and that takes much up my time as well.
If I have little else going on at all, then I could  finish most instruments in under 2 months.
However that is never the case.
I really wish I could give you a better time estimate then this, but I just can't, so I just have to ask you to trust that I will do everything in my power to make sure your instrument is finished in a timely manner.

I am worried about my instrument being damaged by  shipping it  out to me; so can I come out to your shop and pick it up instead?
Yes..This is really the safest way to receive your instrument.
Not to mention, that if there are any small changes you want to make to your instrument, then I can do them in the shop while you wait.

Warranty, Payment,  and  Return questions: [Back to contents links]

These questions are best answered by carefully reading the information on the "Instrument Policies" page.

Other Questions: [Back to contents links]

What are the differences between the Custom Shop instruments and "Gallery Instruments"?
"Custom Shop" instruments are instruments that are Custom tailored to you, by you choosing from the variety of options found on the Custom Shop page or Bowed instruments page.

Also: please understand that since your instrument will be custom tailored for you alone,  there is of course, a -No Refund- policy on all custom made TK Instruments.

Gallery Instruments are instruments that are handcrafted by me, and designed to my specifications.
These instruments will only be for sale to the public as they are completed.. Then they will  be photographed and posted in the top row(s) of the Gallery, along with full detailed specifications, as well as the final price.
These high end Instruments will on average cost somewhere between $2000 on up. The final price of course depends on the model and specifications of the individual instrument (labor, hardware, wood, electronics, etc.).If there is no price listed with an instrument in the gallery, then that means it has been either sold, or is unavailable.
The Gallery instruments will be  sold with a full 3 day return policy