Commercial Photographer Peterborough ~ Vanquish Guitars
Vanquish Guitars which is synonymous with The Guitar Lounge in Peterborough is widely known as the place to go for musicians. Owner and master luthier at Vanquish Guitars, Adrian Hardman is incredibly knowledgeable about his trade and his handmade, custom guitars are recognised as exquisite pieces, winning many awards.
Adrian has allowed me to see the ‘behind the scenes’ at his workshop and watch him make one of his renowned custom guitars. Coming up with innovative methods for making his guitars, his process is highly specialised in order to achieve the finish and sound that Vanquish is known for.
SIGNATURE CUSTOM GUITAR BRIEF ~ VANQUISH ‘CLASSIC’
The guitar Adrian will be making is a Vanquish Classic. It’s an entirely new model by Vanquish, and not only that, but this guitar is a signature, custom spec of the Classic, destined to be played by a gigging musician. Already this new model is showing itself to be a popular guitar, attracting a lot of interest and the order book is filling up fast.
The specification for this signature custom guitar is a hollow bodied thin line, featuring:
- Mahogany back and neck
- Rosewood fretboard and headstock
- Shoreline gold top
- Faux maple binding
- F hole
- Bigsby Vibrato
Two types of wood have been chosen for the body (mahogany with a maple top). Adrian has already hollowed out the mahogany, then glued and clamped the thinner maple block to the mahogany. The two pieces together make up the main body of the guitar.
Using CAD and a CNC machine, Adrian produces his guitars to within one hundredth of a millimetre. He begins with cutting the neck pocket. The body contour is cut out with the same program, using a few graded passes which will be sanded down to make a smooth curve later.
Whilst the CNC machine is working, the size and angle of the F hole is tested by drawing it on in pencil. Once the position is decided it can be drawn up in CAD to create the correct profile for the CNC.
Meanwhile Adrian is meticulously sanding down another guitar using different grades of paper until the surface is completely smooth. Starting with a courser grade, the whole body is sanded by hand by wrapping the sandpaper around a small block of wood. This process is repeated with progressively finer grade paper.
For each different process of machining, Adrian changes the tool on the CNC machine. The tool is calibrated by testing the depth of the cutting tool using a pressure pad to ensure a consistent depth is cut each time. Adrian uses a CNC machine as it works with such precision, achieving the most consistent fit and closest connections possible between the wood.
He changes to a bigger tool to hollow out a place for the electrics and circuit board. A separate hole is made for the pick up switch. Now you can see inside the hollow body of the guitar.
The attention to detail in Adrian’s work fascinates me. Using an electric sander on the other guitar he is working on, he sands the surface until it feels like silk. The CNC has now cut layers down into the guitar to make a space for the rear electronics control cavity. Only a wafer thin piece of wood is left which Adrian removes by hand, so the tool doesn’t splinter the wood when it cuts through to the hollow of the body.
To connect the volume and tone pots to the circuit board, a deeper cavity is drilled. A small tool cuts slots for a circuit board which is yet another example of the absolute accuracy in Adrian’s work, and the reason Vanquish guitars have made a name for themselves as a top quality manufacturer.
The shape of the guitar is coming together – the edge of the body is cut with two different tools. One tool cuts the radius (the curved edges of the body) and the second cuts the depth of the outline.
Around Adrian’s workshop there are several other guitars, just some of those he is working on are below. Below is another signature custom guitar, with a custom pick guard designed by Adrian and his client together.
Adrian checks the guitar over and empties the shavings from the hollow body and turns the wood over so the outline can be engraved on the front. A complete outline has been cut into the back of the body.
The F hole has been drawn up in CAD and before it is cut into the wood it is double checked by engraving it into the surface. The CNC drills just millimetres into the wood, such a shallow engraving that the F hole, pick up holes and outline are drawn around in pencil to make them stand out.
The F hole is positioned perfectly first time, so using the biggest tool of the day the CNC thins the block of maple by cutting deeper into the surface. The shape of the body is drilled, as on the back, then the pick up holes are fully cut out.
Finally, the F hole is cut out in stages. Each pass of the tool cuts deeper into the wood until the hollow of the body is reached.
The machining stage of the body is complete, so next the neck will be machined and glued to the body. Adrian has a finished body ready for the next chapter by the end of the day. Placing P90s into the pick up holes we really got a feel for how it will look once it’s complete.
Next time I see Adrian he will be working on the mahogany neck and headstock, and rosewood headstock veneer and fretboard.
To find out more about Adrian’s guitars, visit www.vanquishsounds.com.