Kauer Arcturus Update #7: Forklift Immortalization

I've been patiently waiting for the day when my future Kauer would be immortalized with Doug's signature "forklift" photos. Why? Because this would mean my guitar is complete - and it is!

Doug is giving it a week or so to settle in & make sure the setup is holding nicely, so we're about 2 weeks out until delivery!

One last one from hand model @_benjacob

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Kauer Arcturus Update #6: Bow to the Mastery

@jbnah yep. Gonna look great.

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John "Woody" Woodland changed the game for offset players in 2008 when his Mastery Bridge debuted. It was lauded as a miracle piece of a kit - a bridge that instantly made Jazzmasters and Jaguars viable options as "professional" guitars, and a step further from their terminal relegation as "quirky" guitars.

More recently, Mastery released the MV series of floating vibrato units as replacements for Fender guitars, and the OMV series, which uses a different footprint than the traditional offset vibrato, designed with smaller & custom builders in mind. 

This style of vibrato is my favorite; when set up right, there is none smoother. Plus, you've gotta love the extra string length behind the bridge, perfect for wind-chimey sounds and other noisemaking. My Kauer Arcturus is equipped with a Mastery Bridge and a Mastery Vibrato, and these were the final pieces of hardware needed to complete the guitar. See below:

Kauer Arcturus Update #5: Assemblage

Won't be long now. Body and neck have been mated! 

After receiving a coat of shielding paint in the cavity, its time for assembly and setup!

Here, the pinstriped pickguard and the McNelly pickups are in place. The Tahitian Coral finish really pops with that pickguard in place, doesn't it? 

Getting closer. Neck buffed and fitted. Love this color!

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Yep. This will do. @jbnah

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Kauer Arcturus Update #4: In The Buff

Coral Arcturus fresh from buffing. Trying a new clear and so far I'm very very pleased with it.

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This is one of the most time-consuming phases of guitar building. Once the clear coat has had time to cure (typically a few weeks), the finish then needs to be sanded, wet-sanded, and buffed to get that perfect high-mirror shine. I'd say Doug and his team did a bang-up job on this one!

We're gettin' close now...

Kauer Arcturus Update #3: The Heart of the Guitar; The Magnetism of McNelly

The heart of any electric guitar is the pickups (in my humble opinion), but winder extraordinaire Tim McNelly takes things a step further. Tim's pickups are hand-wound with innovation in mind, not emulation, and the same goes for the aesthetics; case in point, have a look at this "foil-top" humbucker set.

The pickups seen here - a Cornucopia (bridge) and Stagger Swagger (neck) - are en route to Doug Kauer and will ultimately be the heart of my still under-construction Kauer Arcturus

Introduction: Project Arcturus (and an existential GAS crisis)

The first photo of my future Kauer Arcturus!

After a major gear purge recently, I was left with some cash that I intended to put towards one super nice guitar and a backup bass to my Road Worn P-Bass. Since there isn’t much fun in a bass that will serve only as a backup, let’s talk about the former.

My only real criteria for this new guitar was that it be:

  • Something versatile
  • Something I could gig without reservation
  • Something with a vibrato; preferably either a Bigsby or a Jazzmaster-style floating vibrato.

Off I went, first in search of a semi-hollow that fit my needs. A Guild Starfire V or VI sat at the top of my list. I certainly wasn’t averse to a nice Gibson 33X with a Bigsby either.

The first guitar I tried was a 1993 Epiphone Sheraton, Nashville-produced in a limited run of 200. This is a rare, deluxe-appointed guitar. Though it didn’t have a Bigsby, I figured if I liked it enough, I’d add one. I didn’t like it at all. It had all the resonance of a cinder block. Next...

...on the list was a 1967 Guild Starfire V that I spotted on the wall at 30th Street Guitars, priced at a surprisingly-low $1200. It’d had a minor headstock repair at some point in its life. This guitar played beautifully. The action was very low - almost too low. I became smitten with it immediately.

In the past, this is the sort of guitar I would have bought on the spot. I’m a little older and a little wiser than I was, though, so I decided to sleep on it.

And for the next week, I went and played the guitar several times and slept on it several times and the little things began to gnaw at me. It would soon need a refret. The pickup volumes were unbalanced. Was it strung up with light gauge strings to save it from future issues resulting from the headstock crack? Would it always need to be strung up with light strings? Did the truss rod work?

It all made me wonder why I even bother with old/used guitars. To save a few bucks? Why was I even doing this? To have my fun and move on? Why was I even buying guitars in the first place? Have I really been cured of GAS? This, my friends, was no guitar hunt - this was now an existential crisis.

I scaled back my efforts and decided to have a good think before hastily committing. Flipping guitars wasn't any fun anymore - well, the buying part was, but not the selling part. I just don't have the time to hunt down guitar boxes and schlep them to FedEx. The more I pondered, the more I realized that I should go for something special and not settle for once. This was, after all, money I worked hard for. I should have something really cool to show for it in the end.

So, I decided to get exactly what I wanted, and make sure it was issue-free. And I would accomplish this by having one of the world's best guitar builders lovingly build it from scratch.

This redwood Kauer Arcturus was the inspiration behind my choosing a Kauer for my next guitar. 

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of playing one of Doug Kauer's instruments, Doug and his team have a stellar reputation for building high-quality instruments in very small batches. Ordering a guitar from Doug is no leap of faith. But why did I wait so long?

I tend to play it safe when choosing what brand of guitar to buy - not for reputation, but for concerns about resale value. Instruments from lesser-known builders simply do not hold their resale value like a Gibson or a Fender. This time is different, though. I'm all in. I want a keeper. 

The plunge has been taken. 

My future Kauer Arcturus will be based on the the one shown at left, which absolutely shot me dead the first time I laid eyes on it. 

Like this guitar, mine will have a pair of McNelly foil-topped humbuckers, an off-white pinstriped pickguard, and a Wenge fretboard.

Mine will be different in that it will have a Mastery Bridge, Mastery Vibrato, and will be finished in Coral - a classic Fender/car color that I adore. 

Doug has quoted me a few months on the build, and has maintained great communication thus far (Oh, and did I mention that his beautiful website is built on Squarespace? ). Stay tuned for more posts on my Kauer!