Based on my favorite original design - the iO - the iO Blackthorn is one beautiful solidbody guitar. Its most obvious feature is the gorgeous bookmatched walnut crotch top from my stash of walnut rescued from the Missouri River. Black walnut is a local hardwood and I work with it more than any other hardwood for my instruments. With the right cuts, selection, and careful arrangement of the grain, black walnut makes a fabulous guitar. Its dark color and grain variation provide a drama that's perfect for my carved and contoured instruments. It's also highly regarded in the luthiery community for its acoustic properties and I concur.
Beneath the top in this body is a layer of cherry, also a local hardwood. Cherry has such a nice closed grain with rich earthtones that can really deepen with time. Besides walnut, cherry is one of my favorites, not only for its carvability, but for its acoustic properties, as well. I love cherry necks. As far as I can tell, they're somewhere between maple and walnut where tonal properties and stability are concerned. The iO Blackthorn features a couple cherry stringers in the neck lamination, as I'll explain further below.
The title of this guitar is derived from its black horn, a block of ebony that I carefully fit to the walnut top before carving the contours. The scrolls are inlays of ebony dust and epoxy, which I also contoured to the guitar body.
The finish I'm using a lot of these days is a penetrating Danish oil that I also use as a wetting agent when I wet sand my oil finished guitars to 1000 or 1200 grit for a smoothness not often found on oil finished instruments. Danish oil soaks into the wood and cures there, hardening the wood somewhat. It's not as scratch resistant as lacquer or poly, but nothing beats the feel of wood that's not covered with a film. Once cured, I give it another rub with an over-the-counter mixture of orange oil and beeswax to keep the wood conditioned and lustered, which I recommend to the owners of my guitars for occasional application.
For the neck of this instrument, I've also applied a few coats of wiped-on Tru-oil - a high-grade varnish of sorts - for added moisture protection and an ultra-smooth surface for the hand.
The neck is comprised of a lamination of walnut, cherry, and black-dyed maple for super stability and tonal properties. To either side of the dual-action trussrod, I've permanently installed carbon fiber rods for even more stability and stiffness, two characteristics that have positive effects on sustain and the life of the guitar. This neck is carved in a soft V, but it is very thin, yet the laminations, the V-carve, and the carbon fiber reinforcement lend it a stiffness not usually typical of necks so thin.
As you can see, the neck on the iO Blackthorn is a bolt-on. While I frequently set (glue in) necks so I can contour them into the bodies for the sake of ergonomics and aesthetics, I frequently incorporate bolt-on necks, particularly when there is likely to be some neck maintenance involved further down the road in the life of my instruments. This is especially helpful for my fretless guitars to make it easier to plane the fingerboard after a lot of use. You'll notice, however, that I do contour and blend the neck tab on the body to be as comfortable and out-of-the-way as possible. With inset washers and bolt heads, it's not necessary to leave a big bulky neck platform to accommodate a large metal plate.
I've installed four brass threaded inserts in the neck, making it simple to disassemble without damaging the neck wood with the threads of the wood screws. These screws are cap-headed bolts, tightened with an allen wrench. The neck joint is tight and solid. I use the exact same tooling set-up to precisely rout neck pockets whether the neck is bolted on or glued in.
Electronically, this is a straight-ahead volume/tone/3-way switching set-up. The pickups are Rio Grande Texas and BBQ models, directly mounted to the body wood. Personally, I prefer the no pickup bezel look and as in this case, I install removable wooden tab covers in the pickup rout to cover the metal pickup tabs. Another good example of this was my Satyrn guitar. The Rio Grandes are two-wire pickups, but I can easily replace them with 4-wire humbuckers that can be split for a singlecoil sound. These particular Rio Grandes have a warmth that's perfect for blues, blues rock, and classic rock, though I'd also use them for jazz fusion styles and prog rock in a heartbeat.
The faceplate, hand-carved badge and trussrod cover are ebony.
The scale length is 25" with 24 frets and I've got the action set stupid low. The thin soft-V neck along with the low action makes the iO Blackthorn a definite candidate for some serious shredding.
iO Blackthorn Specifications
solidbody walnut/cherry w/ebony accents
Neck: walnut/cherry, angled 3x3 headstock, ebony faceplate, carved badge,dual-action trussrod, carbon fiber reinforced
Fretboard: ebony, 12" radius, Mother of Pearl sidemarkers
Scale length: 25", 24 frets
Nut: ebony (options available), 1.75" width
Rio Grande humbuckers
volume, tone, 3-way selector
Tuners: Sperzel locking
Finish: Danish Oil and Tru-oil
PRICE: $4,950 - includes basic hardshell case
This instrument has been sold, but if you would like to discuss a similar instrument, I would be more than happy to talk with you about building you your own unique instrument.
Please contact me via email or my dealer, Cliff Cultreri at Destroy All Guitars.