The plot for this story is based on the original Arcadia doublecutaway design of mine. I wanted to carve a more "goth" or horror inspired ornamental element without taking the theme too far and the Arcadia afforded me a nice canvas below the bridge in which to develop such a motif. I also chose to exhibit some restraint on this one, anchoring the skull and roses carving to the entire front facade with the inlaid lines of ebony, terminated in my whacked scrolls.
Beneath the maple top is a layer of 1/16" black-dyed maple veneer for a nice contrasting accent line. The inlaid lines on the top also tie into this feature. The whole piece has a nice, graphic, illustrative quality to it even though the carving itself is a 3-dimensional expression.
After I worked up the original drawing for the skull and roses design, the carving itself was executed separately and precisely inlaid into the top. In order to enhance the black-line theme, I gave the carving a consistent outline as part of that graphic style mentioned above. The heavier outline was a wonderful graphic technique in a lot of art nouveau illustration toward the beginning of the 20th century.
The back wood is walnut from my area, as is the bolt-on neck, which is carved to a medium V. The cover plate is dyed maple to match the top. Belied by the somewhat glossy sheen, this neck is finished in Tru-oil.
Here you can see that even with a bolt-on neck, I prefer a more streamlined heel and contour. The body carve or "belly-cut" is also obvious in this photo. This is typical of my body carves. I like to blend it with the rest of the guitar for an extremely comfortable and ergonomic playing experience. This body carve is one of the factors in the equation of my guitars that makes them assume what I can only describe as a symbiotic relationship with the player. My guitars become a part of you.
Beneath the wooden pickup covers, resides a set of Searcy String Works humbuckers, my favorite HBs in the known universe. Switching is simple: a volume pot and a 3-way switch.
The scale of this instrument is 24.625" with 24 frets. I'm using a hardtail bridge here, though if you're familiar with my catalog, I build with all types of bridges. What I like about the hardtail is the individual height and intonation adjustment for each saddle, giving you the opportunity for precise and separate tweaking of each string.
This project has been in the works for a year or so. After completing a lustrous Tru-oil finish on the entire guitar, I was just never totally comfortable with the contrast between that glossy finish and the more matte texture of the carved applique. I knew I didn't want a glossy coating on my carving, as such finishes make my carvings look like cheap plastic. So, I went in the opposite direction. After sanding 2-3 weeks' worth of wiped-on finish off, I trusted my guts by switching to a cherry tinted Danish oil instead. I think that was exactly the right decision.
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.
Using my typical "J" logo, I've incorporated it into the overall theme of the guitar with this carved applique, neatly and permanently inlaid into the ebony faceplate.
Arcadia Skull and Roses Specifications
chambered walnut with bookmatched maple top, handcarved maple applique
Neck: bolt-on walnut angled 3x3 headstock, ebony faceplate, carved logo, dual-action trussrod
Fretboard: ebony, 12" radius, Mother of Pearl sidemarkers
Scale length: 24.625", 24 frets
Nut: graphite (options available), 1.7" width
Pickup: Searcy String Works
humbuckers w/wooden covers
volume, 3-way selector
Tuners: Wilkinson 3x3, Grover style
Finish: aniline dye, cherry-tinted Danish Oil and Tru-oil neck
Weight: 8 lb 2 oz
PRICE: $7,250 - includes basic hardshell case